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The Way We Were #2

The Truth Pulpit / Don Green
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June 11, 2024 12:00 am

The Way We Were #2

The Truth Pulpit / Don Green

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June 11, 2024 12:00 am

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Welcome to The Truth Pulpit with Don Green, founding pastor of Truth Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Hello again, I'm Bill Wright. It is our joy to continue our commitment to teaching God's people God's Word. Today Don is continuing with the second part of a message we started last time, so let's get right to it. Open your Bible as we join Don now in The Truth Pulpit. We see Paul here in Ephesians 4 warning us against that evil realm.

Look at chapter 6. Chapter 6, verse 10. Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. Christian, Paul says, you have to put on the armor of God because the devil has schemes against the devil. The devil has schemes against the people of God.

He has schemes against the truth. And if you are blithely ignorant and indifferent to that, if you're not on guard, you're very vulnerable to the attacks of the devil. So that he goes on and he says in verse 12, he says, for we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities. Against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

The battle is real. For the non-Christian, the battle is not only real. See, Christians war against that realm. Non-Christians are part of that evil realm.

They are soldiers in the army of Satan. You are a Christian. You once were like that. You were under his command. Satan was your general.

You were under the father of lies. And so your former life was one where you were enslaved by Satan, by the prince of the power of the air, which somehow indicates the sphere in which he operates. It's a sphere that we can't see.

It's a sphere that we cannot touch or hear. And yet it is very real in defining the reality in which we live. We have to have the revelation of God in order to know and to understand these things. And so what Satan does is a lot bigger than making it difficult for you to find a parking space at Walmart. The realm in which Satan works is he influences the world for evil. He establishes false religions. He establishes false philosophies. He blinds men to the truth. And he actively questions and undermines the word of God and insinuates doubtful thoughts in the mind against the word of God so that you'll listen to him rather than listen to what God has said.

Go all the way back to the Garden of Eden. Did God really say? Did God really say that? And the very question, the very question insinuates doubt about the fidelity and integrity of God. And the very question as soon as you entertain it at all makes you the judge of truth rather than God himself.

Rather than being subject to truth, now you're evaluating what God said or did not say. And so as we think about the devil, we should not be thinking in the foolish blow up things that people put in their yards at Halloween, not be thinking of a red suit, a pointy tail, and a pitchfork, a cartoonish figure. We're dealing with one of supernatural intelligence who knows the ways of men and knows how to influence them through false teaching. He's a false angel of light who generates ungodly philosophies and false religion which not only oppose God's truth, but deceive men into thinking that they are Christians when actually they are not. There are 1.25 billion Catholics in that category, beloved.

This is serious. And the conveyor belt that Satan has his minions on is a long conveyor belt of life that drops off into the abyss. And then they close their eyes in death. They open them into a realm of suffering as the rich man did in Luke 16. Said, what am I doing in a place of torment?

Father Abraham, send Lazarus, give me just a dip of water on my tongue to ease the pain of this flame. You see, beloved, the philosophies and false religions of the world which you once believed in one way or another in your dead ungodly mind, that's the outcome of it all. And you were enslaved by Satan and blinded by him as we'll see. Look at 2 Corinthians with me. It so happens that in the natural course of our weekly readings that we looked at this passage earlier was not planned that way by me, planned in the eternal decree of God as he outworks it in providence. Look at the contrast, 2 Corinthians chapter 4 verse 3. Even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing.

In their case, the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God. That's how you were once enslaved, beloved. If you're a Christian, as I speak to brothers and sisters I hope predominantly in this room, understand and remember that the things that you cherish now about the word of God, the things that you cherish now about Christ, about your hope in heaven, they did not always belong to you. You were not born into that realm. You were not naturally, you were not born a Christian.

Remember someone telling me that long ago. I was born a Christian. Nobody's born a Christian.

You have to be born again if you're going to be a Christian. But if you're a Christian now and you cherish these things, look back at the way you were and realize how you were enslaved to the devil who had blinded you to the glory of Christ, who fed the deadness of your heart toward the word of God. And everything that is precious to us now in the Lord Jesus Christ was something that we had no regard for beforehand. Oh, we might have loved our little bit of false religion in the social club of liberal churches maybe that we once belonged to, but don't confuse that with a genuine love for Christ, a flaming heart that longs for his glory and longs to see him more than anything else, a heart to whom Christ is more dear than life itself, which is why the past two millennia is washed in the blood of martyrs who prefer death to denying Christ. You see Satan blinded you to all of that, all of those glories of Christ. You didn't even see it.

You didn't even know. And yet God came to you by grace in the gospel. Somewhere in your heart it echoed. God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. Jesus said, come to me, drink freely of the waters of salvation. I'll forgive all of your sins if you repent and believe in me paraphrasing, you know, summarizing biblical teaching of the call of Christ. And Satan hid you from all of that.

He blinded you to all of that. And you've been delivered from that. Look over at 2 Corinthians chapter 11. I would be sympathetic and could understand somebody wandered in off the street today, hearing some of these things for the first time or having it strike them for the first time, saying, I'm not sure it was really all that bad. I think that you're exaggerating for the sake of pulpit effect.

I'm not exaggerating. I'm uttering words of sober truth about the realm from which you have been delivered from the way that you once were. Look at 2 Corinthians chapter 11 verses three and four as we think about this realm of evil spirits that blind men to the truth and lead them astray with false religion. Actually, let's start in verse one because I want to say something here as well. I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness.

Do bear with me. Paul says, For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. He's writing to this church, which he founded. To believers that once had believed his teaching, loved him, but were now turning away from both, both from the message and the messenger. And Paul's heart is filled with concern over this flock to which he is writing. So much so that he says, I'm afraid.

Boy, we won't go there. Paul says, But I am afraid that as the serpent who is the devil and Satan. As the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. What Paul is saying here is, I gave you the truth. You started grounded in the gospel, but now you are showing an openness to false religion. You are consciously straying away from the truth that was once and for all delivered to you. You're showing an openness to men who abuse you and mislead you and lie to you. And he says, that fills my heart with fear. I'm afraid that your openness to false teaching shows that perhaps the truth of the gospel never actually took root in your souls.

I won't claim to know in fullness what Paul is describing about that pastoral concern, but I know a little bit about it. I know a little bit about it, beloved, of seeing people who seem to have an interest in the truth and then just turn and walk away from it. Flame for a while, kind of like, you know, you used to have those charcoal fires, and you'd pour on the lighter fluid and light it, and it'd flame up really big. Then it'd go out five or ten minutes later. The fire never kept root. It didn't continue to burn.

It was never really a fire at all. It was just an outward display of something else. Elders, pastors, beloved, this is the realm of fear that we often live in. What is happening with that person? Look at their life. They once were interested. Now I can't even get a hold of them. They once proclaimed how much they love truth.

Now there's no sign of it. I'm afraid that what I thought once was true when I received someone, I'm just speaking generally, not making this personal, when we received someone into membership, when we baptized them in the waters of baptism, and what we thought was real, subsequent life shows wasn't really the case. Because if you start truly in Christ, you continue in Christ, because God completes the work that he begins. And to walk away is a sign that false conversion is real.

They went out from us, but they were not really of us. The apostle John said about those false teachers in the first century, 1 John 2, 19. You see, in these realms and these things worry a true pastor. They worry a true elder.

You lose sleep over these things at night. And that's what Paul is saying. Paul says, I'm afraid for you that Satan has a foothold in you that maybe shows that the work was in vain. He spoke that way to the Galatians also. And he says, he goes on in verse 13.

Actually, start in verse 12. He says, what I do, I will continue to do in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. He says, these men say that they're pastors. These men say that they're apostles, looking at the first century, that they're doing the same thing that I'm doing, Paul says. He says, I'm going to work to undermine their claim because it's not the same.

They're from completely different realms. He goes on to say, verse 13, for such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.

And so these new men come in and they're presenting a new message and people think, oh, that's the truth and they follow after it. Not recognizing that behind the mask, behind the light is an angel, not an angel of God, but an angel of Satan, an angel of deception. And whether it's atheism or false religion or devil worship, Satan blinds men to biblical truth so that they will not receive the gospel.

He's behind entire systems of thought, entire philosophies to obscure Christ, to sound plausible enough that people by the deception set aside the truth and thereby show that they were never redeemed to begin with. Go back to Ephesians chapter two with me. See, this is where we all once were. And if you've been saved out of that realm, you've been given a precious gift, haven't you?

You've been given something greatly valuable. Paul, at the end of verse two of Ephesians two, says he speaks to the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. They would kill God if they could. All of Paul's point here in these three verses in Ephesians chapter two, Paul's whole point is that you shared in that manner of life. If you're a Christian, that's what you once were. Even raised in a Christian home, you were born into the world with a sinful heart.

You little children, you young people, understand that you have to be born again, that I'm describing you even if you're outwardly obedient to your good Christian parents. If you have not repented of your own sin and recognized your own sinfulness and come to Christ, you're part of this evil realm yourself, even as you go through looking like such a cute little kid. But it's more than that, beloved. It's not just that you were captive to evil powers. It's not just that the world enslaved you, Satan enslaved you, because that's all external, right?

The world and Satan, this is outside of you, influencing you. There's a third aspect of your captivity to evil powers, and it's this. Your evil desires enslaved you. Your own desires enslaved you. Yes, absolutely, you were subject to external forces beyond your control.

The world, the devil. But you were also subject to internal forces beyond your control. Sin was in you, evil was in you, and it controlled you and directed you like one of the marionette puppets and just juggled you along its lines as it saw fit to do. Look at verse 3. Paul says, among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, there it is, the passions of our flesh. And understand, understand, beloved, when Paul here talks about the passions of the flesh, he's talking about much more than illicit sexual behavior and sexual lusts and desires.

It certainly includes that, but it's much, much broader than that. So we have to understand the fullness of what he says here. Look at Galatians. Turn back just a couple of pages in your Bible to Galatians chapter 5. What are these matters of the flesh, the passions of our flesh, of which he speaks? Well, let Scripture interpret Scripture. Galatians chapter 5 verse 17. For the desires of the flesh are against the spirit, and the desires of the spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other to keep you from doing the things you want to do. Verse 19.

Now the works of the flesh are evident. Sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry. Think about, you know, false religion. Sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies.

He says that's not a comprehensive list. There are things like these, other things like these. I warn you as I warned you before that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Look, look, a love and a devotion to alcohol, an angry combative spirit, a complete inability to have any kind of harmonious relationships with others, divisions. These things and a thousand others like them, jealousy, coveting, I want what he has, I hate the fact that he has what I don't have. All of these things bubbling like a cauldron in the human heart, occasionally bubbling forth for others to see but being the reality of your heart inside. You know, I look back to my life before Christ and what an angry carnal man I was.

It wasn't that, it wasn't that a lot of people saw that. You know, we can put on a good show, but the reality of what's percolating in your heart shows the realm to which you belong. So why are there wars? Why do prisons overflow? Why are there broken families? Why does divorce proliferate? Why is there abortion? Why do pastors preach by the day and commit adultery by night?

I had correspondence just this week with someone overseas saying, help me understand this. Why do authorities abuse their power? Why do rich people never have enough? Why do adults gratify their lusts on defenseless children?

Why do people die from meth and from fentanyl? Why do men and women persist in unproductive or destructive habits? Why do they attack the people that love them the most? Evil desires inside the heart showing the realm to which they belong.

A realm captivated by the world, captivated by Satan, with a heart that is in full alignment with all of those evil forces. And so with evil minds, unsaved men hate Christ, they hate his righteousness, they don't care about those things. And beloved, the whole point of everything that Paul is saying here as he writes to Christians is that your life was flowing from that same fountain. That's what you once were like.

It's an ugly picture, isn't it? And here's the question if we're going to have a Christian mind, if we're going to think rightly about true salvation, here's the question that people don't want to go to because the answer to this question has consequences. In light of the fact that you were captive to evil forces, the world, Satan, your own desires, not just as a victim of these things, but as an active, willing participant in it all. That's the thing. That's the thing, beloved. You were on the receiving end of these things, yes, but you embraced it.

You welcomed it. And here's the question. You don't expect a holy God to overlook all that, do you? Do you think that a holy God is going to look on that and not express His judgment and displeasure against it?

You see, this brings us to our second point this morning. It's not just that you were captive to evil powers, but you were condemned by God. You were condemned by God. God is righteous. As the choir sang earlier this morning, He is holy, holy, holy. The eye of sinful man, His glory cannot see.

God is righteous, and He is opposed to all of these things that we've been speaking this morning. Look at Ephesians chapter 2 verse 3 with me again. Paul says, you were carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and you were by nature children of wrath like the rest of mankind.

Oh, oh, it causes shivers in me just to read it and to think about it in light of everything that we've said. This is your nature. You're an object of wrath.

This is your nature. You belong to the rest of mankind. At least you did as a non-Christian. This is what God sees, and this is what God condemns. Children of wrath means that our very nature was under the wrath of God. Children of wrath means that before Christ saved you, you deserved judgment. And as I like to say, we have to go all the way with what Scripture means when we read these things. Scripture is not simply saying that you did not deserve to go to heaven.

No, I'm not perfect. That despicable, lukewarm false modesty. What Scripture is saying is more than you didn't deserve to go to heaven. Just that negative statement. Scripture is making the positive statement. You deserved to go to hell forever and ever and ever. Before Christ saved you, beloved, you deserved judgment. And God's wrath is not an angry tantrum. It's not a sudden flash of anger like we have sometimes in our sinful natures, and you lash out.

God's wrath is a settled opposition that is the outflowing of His holy character, a settled opposition to sin that will one day express itself in judgment. Beloved, God is holy. He is not passive and indifferent when people live according to the course of the world, the course of Satan, and the course of their own evil desires. He's not indifferent to that. He doesn't wink at it. He's not an indulgent grandfather who looks on naughtiness and says, That's okay.

It's not a big deal to me. He's not passive while people transgress His law and deny Him as Creator and Lord. It incites the outgoing of His holiness against all that is imposed to Him, and that's the realm in which you once lived.

That's the way that you were. God punishes sin now, and He will punish it eternally on the final day. Now, beloved, this truth is severe.

I acknowledge that. But does it not, my Christian friend, does it not make you appreciate the fact that God saved you from all of that? Now, the key question for us as we get ready to depart here, this realm, this captivity to evil powers of the world, Satan, and your own evil desires, of being a child of wrath under the opposition of God, here's the question I would have each one of you walk out with contemplating. Have we described today the way you were?

Or have we described the way you are? My Christian friend, let's take a peek ahead to next Sunday, just briefly, verse 4. Remember Paul's writing to Christians. He says this is the way you were, but God. But God, you having no power to change your own nature, you having no power to deliver yourself, you being hostile to God and a child of wrath, you being like that, but God.

If we're going to understand true salvation, we must know that the whole issue pivots on this phrase, but God. You did not save yourself. You were not righteous.

You could not have saved yourself. The reality is, but God. But God, being rich in mercy because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ. By grace you have been saved and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace and kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Christian friend, we end on that hopeful note of the reality of what God has worked in your heart.

You were like this. That is the way you were, but now you're no longer dead in sin but alive in Christ. Now you're no longer enslaved to this world in Satan. You're free in Christ, a slave of a different master.

Now you're not a child of wrath but a child of God. Do you want to know true salvation? Embrace everything that Scripture says about the way you were. Look up to the mercy of God, the cross of Christ, and realize that in the wrath that He inflicted on Christ God was acting to deliver you from your sin in a way you did not deserve and that you could never have accomplished on your own. Do you want to know true salvation?

Think about yourself biblically in the way that you were and then contemplate that Christ died to cleanse you from that guilt, to free you from that captivity, to overcome the world, to defeat Satan, and to realize that in Christ, if you are a Christian, all of that guilt and condemnation has been washed away. You've been delivered from that realm and placed and transferred into the kingdom of God's beloved Son. True Christians can rejoice.

True Christians do rejoice at that. My friend, what about you? Have we described the way you were or the way you are? Have you turned from sin and given your life to Christ?

Let's pray. Lord, as we look back, we shiver at the way we were. As Christians, we look at the way things are now, and we praise your majestic name and give you all of the glory for our salvation in Christ. Sift and search by your Spirit each individual heart, each one before us, that they might truly answer that question.

Is this the way I was or is this the way that I am? Guide them in the truth to that answer and then, Father, lead them accordingly by your Holy Spirit to the consequences that that answer deserves. In Jesus' name, amen. That's Don Green here on The Truth Pulpit. And here's Don again with some closing thoughts. Well, my friend, thank you for joining us here on today's broadcast of The Truth Pulpit where we love to be teaching God's people God's Word.

And I just want to send a special invitation to you. If you're ever in the Midwest area, come to see us at Truth Community Church. We're on the east side of Cincinnati, Ohio. We're easy to find, easy to get to. We have services at 9 a.m. on Sunday and 7 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesday evening for our midweek study. You can also find us on our livestream at thetruthpulpit.com.

That's thetruthpulpit.com. But we would love to see you. And if you do happen to be able to visit us in person, do this if you would. Come and introduce yourself to me personally. Fight your way through the people and tell me that you listen on The Truth Pulpit and that you're here visiting. I would love to give you a word of personal greeting. So hopefully we'll see you one day in person at Truth Community Church. You can find our location and service times at thetruthpulpit.com. I'm Ron Green, founding pastor of Truth Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. Thank you so much for listening to The Truth Pulpit. Join us next time for more as we continue teaching God's people God's Word.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-06-11 04:57:58 / 2024-06-11 05:09:21 / 11

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