Sun, Sep 23, 2007

AM I SAVED? PART 1 GENESIS 15:9-21

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Ministry of Pastor Joe Guglielmo teachings through the Bible, verse by verse for a better understanding of Gods Word.
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AM I SAVED?
PART 1
GENESIS 15:9-21
  

Please turn in your Bibles this morning to Genesis chapter 15 as we look at a very important topic, AM I SAVED?  I am going to break this study down into two parts. Part one will focus on THE WRONG WAY or the road to destruction. And part two will focus onTHE RIGHT WAY or the road that leads to everlasting life.

The reason we need to focus on this is because the church today is watering down the Gospel message, they are waving people down the path of destruction and, because it feels good, many are going down that dangerous path. Many of you may remember the sinking of the cruise ship back in April of 2007. What happened? What went wrong with this ship that 1,156 passengers and 391 crew members who were on this four-day Aegean Sea cruise had to flee for their lives, and two people died?  Listen carefully to what this report tells us on what went wrong. We are told:

Greece’s merchant marine minister said Tuesday that human error contributed to the sinking of a cruise ship off a resort island in the Aegean Sea last week, forcing the evacuation of nearly 1,600 people.

Two French tourists are feared drowned after the Sea Diamond hit submerged rocks just off Santorini island on Thursday, causing the ship to take on water and eventually sink.

Six crew members of the Greek-flagged ship, including the captain and chief mate, have been charged with negligence. The captain has told investigators he was caught unawares by a sea current that swept his vessel onto the well-marked and charted rocks, minutes before it was due to dock.

The Greek crew members have been released from police custody, but are still on Santorini, officials said. If upheld in court, the charges carry a maximum five-year sentence.

On Tuesday, Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis said that “most definitely there was human error” involved in the accident, without elaborating.

Thanassis Stavrakis, Associated Press Writer

            It is as Proverbs 14:12 tells us, There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.  Human error can be very deadly as we saw with the cruise ship story!  A few weeks back my wife and I stayed at a lighthouse that was converted into a Bread and Breakfast Inn. This lighthouse is located in an area called Five-Mile Point and the reason for that is simple.  There was a terrible shipwreck on this area of Lake Superior because this ship hit a sand reef that was about 2 miles off shore. The ship eventually broke apart and sank!  Thus, ships would stay about five miles from shore and that was the reason the lighthouse was built, to warn them of this danger.

            What I found interesting is that most of the lighthouses have been decommissioned, including Sand Hills Lighthouse.  The reason for this is that ships are equipped with sophisticated equipment.  The only problem is, as we saw with this cruise ship from Greece, is that they ignored the equipment they had and it lead to a deadly disaster at sea! You see, these submerged rocks didn’t just move there, they were there for a very long time and the area was marked, besides all this equipment this ship had to keep it away from the rocks and alert them to the rocks.  But they ignored the warnings, the danger or they were not paying attention, but whatever the case, they hit the rocks and that ship sank fast!

            I know, some of you are wondering what that has to do with us, but as you will see, they are very similar. You see, we to have a piece of very sophisticated equipment, a warning system you might say, to let us know if we are going off course, if there is danger ahead if we go down that path. That warning system is called the Word of God – the BIBLE! Now, you can ignore what God has said, you can even alter what God has said, but it won’t bring you to everlasting life if you do, only destruction, devastation! You must read, believe and apply what God has said to your life and it is in Him you will find everlasting life!

            In our study this morning we are going to look at this covenant that God made with Abram and see how this applies to us, the covenant that God made with us. Here in Genesis chapter 15 Abram just rescued Lot and many people that had been captured from the area of the Jordan Valley or Dead Sea, and their possessions that were taken. You see, four powerful eastern kings came and invaded this Jordan Valley. But Abram rises up with his 318 trained Special Forces you might say, and rescues them. But now he knows that there would be retaliation that would come down upon him by these four powerful eastern kings for what he did.  Thus, the Lord tells him to chill, not exactly the Hebrew translation, but we are told, “ . . . ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.’  Genesis 15:1. 

            In other words, Abram was not to fear because God was in control and the promises He made to Abram would come to pass.  But Abram wondered how this could be since he had no children, only a servant by the name of Eliezer, was he the one who would inherit the land? And the Lord once again spoke to Abram and told him,

“ . . . ‘This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.’”  Genesis 15:4.

            And Abram believed God, but he also wondered how this would be done. That is where we will pick-up our study this morning, in Genesis chapter 15, starting in verse 9, and let’s see what the Lord has for us as we study His Word.

GENESIS 15:9-21

            To us this may seem kind of strange but it was a way that a contract was established. Now, if you go and close on your house, don’t go and split some animals in two and make the buyer and you walk through them, PETA would not be happy!  But that is the way they did it back then, it was a legal binding contract!

            Now here’s the thing, when this covenant was established, where was Abram? He was sleeping or at beast groggy from sleeping. He did not partake in the signing of this covenant you might say. Then who was there, who made this covenant?  It was the Lord who passed through and thus, this is not a bilateral covenant or a two-party covenant that is based on the faithfulness of both parties. It is a unilateral covenant based on the faithfulness of God, and God alone! Therefore, God would make the descendents of Abram as the stars in the sky, as the sand in the sea, He will give them the Promise Land, why?  Is it because they deserve it? Not at all, it is given to them because God has promised it to them, and He is faithful, they were not!

            There is another covenant promised by God that is not a bilateral covenant or based on the faithfulness of both parties and that is the New Covenant that is established in the shed blood of Jesus – our salvation! The problem we see today is that many add works to salvation. Yes, God saved us but now we must maintain our salvation or we are out!  If that were true, if our salvation was based upon our faithfulness, if it was a bilateral covenant, none of us would be saved!

            Listen to what Paul said in Galatians 1:6-9, I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.  Paul repeats himself so no one misses his point.  If you add anything to the gift of salvation you are accursed, anathema!

            Also, Paul said in Galatians 2:20-21, 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. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.Folks, Jesus did not die in vain, He died so we can live. It is a free gift of God given to us – it is grace!  We don’t deserve it, but because of God’s promise to us and His faithfulness, He gives it to us and all we must do is believe it by faith!

            Folks, make no mistake about it, if we enter into eternal life by works, then it is based upon our fulfilled promise of living a certain way, of doing good works.  Some of you may remember the men’s organization called Promise Keepers that got its start back in the 1990’s. And they came up with Seven Promises of a Promise Keeper that men were suppose to keep. The program attracted thousands of men before dying out. Now, why did it die out? Folks, we have a hard enough time following what God has said in His Word and now we are adding more promises to keep! It failed because we fail!

            Now let me clarify something, because the first Promise Keepers did not take place in the 1990’s, but a long time ago. The Bible tells us that the first Promise Keepers event took place after the exodus from Egypt, in the wilderness, where we are told in Exodus chapter 24,So Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the judgments. And all the people answered with one voice and said, ‘All the words which the LORD has said we will do.’ And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD. And he rose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars according to the twelve tribes of Israel. Then he sent young men of the children of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD. And Moses took half the blood and put it in basins, and half the blood he sprinkled on the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, ‘All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient.’ And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words.’  Exodus 24:3-8.

            Isn’t that wonderful, all the people agreed, they promised to keep the Words of the Lord. How did they do at this first Promises Keepers gathering?  Not too well as you will see.  As Moses is on Mount Sinai getting the commandments of God we are told in Exodus 32:1-6, Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, ‘Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ And Aaron said to them, ‘Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.’ So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf. Then they said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!’ So when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, ‘Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD.’ Then they rose early on the next day, offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.

You see, they failed!  Now, let me ask you this, were they sincere with their promise to God? I believe they were!  Did they mean to keep the Words of God? I believe that they did!  Then what happened?  The flesh happened, it got in the way of them fulfilling the promise they made to God.  Paul, in Romans chapter 7, starting in verse 15, put it like this,For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. . . . O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Romans 7:15-19, 24.

Folks, I don’t care how many contracts you sign, how many promises you make, how many vows you promise to keep. You can keep promising and promising and promising but you have forgot the flesh factor! That is not to say we can sin all we want, that is obviously not the right heart attitude. You see, we serve the Lord out of love, not for salvation. And yet, what we are seeing happening today in many churches across America, in the Emergent Church movement, is that works surpass grace, the free gift of God for our salvation!  That we must now work our way into heaven, it is no longer the grace of God.

Let me give you a few examples to show you what I mean and I am not trying to offend anyone, I am just telling it like it is and if I don’t offend you right away, hang in there, I am bound to!  Former Catholic James G. McCarthy who founded Good News for Catholics with an aim to convert Catholics to faith in Jesus Christ apart from a works salvation wrote:

For the Roman Catholic, eternal salvation involves a lifetime of doing, working and striving. The Catholics must keep the commandments of God and of the Church.  He must receive sacraments and performs acts of piety. He must do good works.  His eternal salvation depends on all of these.

- James McCarthy, The Gospel According To Rome, p. 69

            But some have disagreed with what he says about the Catholic Church, they do not believe they teach a salvation by works. One person wrote: “After Reformation, the sixteenth century ecumenical council of Trent reaffirmed Catholic Church position that we cannot reach salvation by our own works, i.e. without God’s Grace and that God’s Grace is not facilitator but necessity for our salvation.”

            Now he may believe that, but it is not what the Catholic Church teaches nor is it what the Council of Trent said!  Listen carefully.

            The Catholic Catechism teaches the following:

            “Raised up from sin, the sinner must still recover his full spiritual health by doing something more to make amend for the sin: he must ‘make satisfaction for’ or “expiate’ his sins. This satisfaction is called ‘penance’” (Para. 1459).

            And,

            “The Church, who through the bishop and his priests forgives sins in the name of Jesus Christ and determines the manner of satisfaction . . .” (Para. 1448).

            According to the Catholic Catechism,

            “It is through the sacrament of Penance that the baptized can be reconciled with God and with the Church . . .” (Para. 980).

            The Catholic Catechism teaches that,

            “Reading Sacred Scripture, praying the Liturgy of the Hours and the Our Father –every sincere act of worship or devotion revives the spirit of conversion and repentance within us and contributes to the forgiveness of sins.” (Para. 1437).

            The Catholic Catechism teaches that we may obtain eternal life through our life and actions,

            “ . . . ‘we all rise together and offer prayers for ourselves . . . and for all others, wherever they may be, so that we may be found righteous by our life and actions, and faithful to the commandments, so as to obtain eternal salvation.”  (Para. 1345).

            And yet, Paul tells us in Galatians 3:10-11, For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.’ But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for ‘the just shall live by faith.’  We cannot obtain salvation by our good works, we receive it by faith in Jesus Christ, it is a free gift of God. Paul put it like this in Romans 6:23, For the wages of sin is death, but the [free] gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

            Now, in regards to the Council of Trent, you tell me if they believed in a salvation by grace or by works. We are told:

            “If anyone says that after the reception of the grace of justification the guilt is so remitted and the debt of eternal punishment so blotted out to every repentant sinner, that no debt of temporal punishment remains to be discharged either in this world or in purgatory before the gates of heaven can be opened, let him be anathema (cursed).” (Council of Trent, Session vi, can. 30).

            “If anyone says that the justice received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works, but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of it increase, let him be anathema (cursed).” (Council of Trent, Session vi, can. 24).

            And this is clearly stated for us by Father A. Tanquerey, who is a former Professor of Theology at Old St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore. He wrote:

            Christ’s satisfaction is of infinite value and power. However, de facto punishment is not removed unless the reparations of Christ are applied to us: but this actually happens through the Sacraments and through the Sacrifice of the mass, and also through faith which works by means of love.

            Although the reparation of Christ in itself was perfect and universal, it is necessary for adults to imitate the suffering Christ and to make satisfaction with Him for their sins, if they wish to be saved. This statement is certain; it contradicts the declaration of the Protestants that faith alone is sufficient in order that the reparation and merits of Christ be applied to us.

            In Scripture Christ clearly states that no one is saved unless he takes up his cross; St. Paul teaches that we cannot be crowned unless we suffer with Christ. Therefore, although Christ’s passion is complete in itself, it must be made complete by us since, as His members we must be fashioned after Him, our Head.

            According to reason, an adult must prepare himself for justification by various acts and must persevere in the state of grace. But all this presupposes the cooperation of each individual in expiating his own sins and in persevering in good.

- Father A. Tanquerey, A Manual of Dogmatic Theology, vol. ii, p. 80

            Folks, I am not picking on the Catholic Church, all I am saying is that if you believe that the New Covenant is a bilateral covenant, based on the faithfulness of God and you, that you have to work your way into heaven, you are dead in your trespasses and sins and are on the road to destruction! It truly may seem right for man to earn his way into heaven, but it is wrong, it is the way of death!

            And now for the Protestant Church, they too are joining in with a works salvation. I told you, I am an equal opportunity offender here.  And please understand this, the Catholic Church does not see us as brothers in the Lord, if you believe in a salvation by grace alone, you are an anathema or cursed, you are not saved!  And yet many Protestant Church leaders have signed documents that we are one. In fact, some of these Protestant Church leaders are saying that the Reformation went too far. Yes, I guess it did in that the Catholic Church martyred millions of believers for their faith in Jesus Christ! And yet the Protestant Church is joining with the Catholic Church and they too are believing in a works theology of salvation!

            Will Sampson, who is pastor of the Emergent Church Community in Kentucky called Communality, wrote:

            “A rallying cry of the Protestant Reformation was sola Scriptura, or Scripture alone. And while this doctrine may have arisen as a necessary corrective to abuses of church leadership in the Reformation period, it is in full effect today. Preachers speak of the Bible as an instruction book or as the only data necessary for spiritual living. But this diminishes some critical elements of theological knowledge. . . . Sola scriptura also tends to downplay the role of God’s Spirit in shaping the direction of the church.”

            I find that interesting, because what we see in early church is that the Spirit of God through the Word of God directed the church, but lets not be confused with the truth! He goes on to say, “Suggesting that God is doing something that may not conform to our previous understandings requires us to think more broadly.”

            I thought the broad way lead to death and the narrow road – through Jesus Christ leads to life, everlasting life? It does!  But listen to what he goes on to say:

            [A]nother major delta in the church, the Protestant Reformation, the belief in justification by faith alone caused in large parts of the church to split off from what was the global unified church. . . . Some would argue that these splits were necessary to correct false understandings of what it means to be the people of God. . . . So if by our actions we say that being right is more important than being together, what does that say about the God who formed our communities or how that God wishes to interact with contemporary humanity?”

            In other words, all roads lead to God, don’t let our differences get in the way, being right is not important, just being one is!  Sounds like the one-world religion is coming together, doesn’t it? Roger Oakland warns us by saying:

            This theological shift is challenging the premise of the 16th century reformation, suggesting that unity and works is more important than the Gospel or justification by faith. Even Rick Warren is talking this way.  Regarding what he calls a new reformation, Warren states:

            “I’m looking for a second reformation. The first reformation of the church 500 years ago was about beliefs. This one is going to be about behavior. The first one was about creeds. This one is going to be about deeds. It is not going to be about what does the church believe, but about what is the church doing.”

            A reformation that gives more credence to works and deeds than beliefs and doctrine is flawed right from the get go. With proper beliefs and doctrine, works and deeds will follow. But not so the other way around. Good deeds are not always an indication of true godliness . . .

- Roger Oakland, Faith Undone, p. 49

            Then what about the cross of Jesus Christ? Again Roger Oakland warns us:

            In an interview, Brian Mclaren questioned the idea of God sending His Son to a violent death, calling it “false advertising for God”;

            “[O]ne of the huge problems is the traditional understanding of hell. Because if the cross is in line with Jesus’ teaching then – I won’t say, the only, and I certainly won’t say even the primary – but a primary meaning of the cross is that the kingdom of God doesn’t come like the kingdoms of this world, by inflicting violence and coercing people.  But that the kingdom of God comes through suffering and willing, voluntary sacrifice. But in an ironic way, the doctrine of hell basically says, no, that’s not really true. That in the end, God gets His way through coercion and violence and intimidation and domination, just like every other kingdom does.  The cross isn’t the center then. The cross is almost a distraction and false advertising for God.”

            What an extraordinary example of faith under attack and the consequences of thinking outside the box. If McLaren is right, all those who have ever lived and believed in Christ’s atonement have been misled and wrong. McLaren has taken the freedom to reconstruct what faith means by distorting the Scriptures, or worse yet, saying the very opposite of what the inspired word of God says. This is blasphemy!  MCLaren also states:

            “And I heard one well-known leader, who- I won’t mention his name, just to protect his reputation. ‘Cause some people would use this against him. But I heard him say it like this: The traditional understanding says that God asks of us something that God is incapable of Himself. God asks us to forgive people. But God is incapable of forgiving. God can’t forgive unless He punishes somebody in place of the person He was going to forgive. God doesn’t say things to you – Forgive your wife, and then go kick the dog to vent your anger. God asks you to actually forgive.  And there’s a certain sense that, a common understanding of the atonement presents a God who is incapable of forgiving. Unless He kicks somebody else.”

            To further back up McLaren’s rejection of the message of Christ’s atonement through His blood, we look to Episcopal priest Alan Jones. In his book Reimagining Christianity, Jones carries through with this idea that God never intended Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross to be considered a payment for our sins:

            “The Church’s fixation on the death of Jesus as the universal saving act must end, and the place of the cross must be reimagined in Christian faith. Why? Because of the cult of suffering and the vindictive God behind it.

            “The other thread of just criticism addresses the suggestion implicit in the cross that Jesus’ sacrifice was to appease an angry God. Penal substitution  [the Cross] was the name of this vile doctrine.”

- Roger Oakland, Faith Undone, p.192-193

            How can this happen? Why is this happening?  I believe there are two reasons. The first is that Christians and so-called Christians don’t know the Word of God and thus, they can fall prey to these doctrines of demons!  Let me ask you this, how many churches do you know in town teach their congregation verse-by-verse through the Bible? I bet you can count them on one hand!  That is sad and that is why America is biblically illiterate!  And people just don’t care, give me what I want, make me happy and life is good!  No it is not! Secondly, Satan wants people to take their eyes off the finished work of Jesus and place it upon themselves and to do that, keep them out of the Word of God so these vile doctrines will be accepted!  Folks, all the promises you make before God to do good, all the good works you do, amount to nothing in regards to your salvation!

            And folks, this is serious. According to George Barna over 55% of Christians believe that a good person, if they do enough good deeds for others, we don’t know how much, will earn them a place in heaven!  That was back in 2004 and I believe in 2007 that number is even higher as the Seeker Friendly Church waters down the Gospel, they can’t talk about sin; The Purpose Driven Church uses translations to prove their doctrine that are not according to the Word of God; and now The Emergent Church is on the move and they do away with the Word of God and go by experience and this has made people so Biblically illiterate that they will believe anything and many are heading for Hell and not Heaven if they believe the false gospel that is being preached!

            Next week we will look at AM I SAVED? We will focus on THE RIGHT WAY, and that is by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone as Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:8-9,For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.  It doesn’t get any clearer than that, not by works folks!  We need to stand strong in the days we are living in as the apostasy in the church is growing.  The church of Laodicea is here! 

Let me close with this, don’t make promises to God for eternal life but receive the promise of God for eternal life that is only found in Christ, the New Covenant that is found in His shed blood!  It is the finished work on the cross of Calvary; it is finished as Jesus said! Paul put it like this, For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.  II  Corinthians 1:20-22. Praise the Lord for the grace that He has extended to us through Jesus Christ!

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