Whose Report Will You Believe

April 5, 2020                                                                                                                                              Pastor Walter Porter

WHOSE REPORT WILL YOU BELIEVE?

 

Isaiah 53:1-12 & Psalms 23:1-6 (NKJV)

Beyond any doubt, the most powerful, influential people on earth do not occupy elected offices, run industries, or control the government.  The most influential people are people of faith.  The single most important thing in a person’s life is faith in God.  Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith…” (NASB)   Only by faith in Jesus can a person be saved, have his sins forgiven and receive eternal life with God in heaven.  Faith is an important subject in the Bible.  The word, “Faith”, is used more than 300 times in the New Testament. 

So, the first thing we need to do is define faith.  Faith is the greek word, “pistis” (pees-tee), which means:   “believing what God through Christ has done for mankind, resulting in the transformation of man’s character and way of life”.  Also, faithful is the greek word, “Pistos” (pees-tos), which means:  “full of faith, firm, without wavering, blameless, irreproachable, assure of, and steadfast in duty to Christ and His promises or Word”.

Revelation 2:10b says, “But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life.”

Romans 1:5 says, “Through Christ, God has given us the privilege and authority to tell people everywhere what God has done for them, so that they will believe and obey Him bringing glory to His name.”

Galatians 2:20 says, “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.”

Romans 14:23b says, “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”

Galatians 3:26 says, “For you are all children of God through faith in Jesus Christ.”

2 Corinthians 5:7 says, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”

James 2:14-24 says, “What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?  Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?  So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.  Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”  You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.  How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?  Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?  You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete.  And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God. So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone.”  There is a certain amount of responsibility or duty for people of faith.

1 Peter 1:5a says, “(We) are protected by God through faith…”

Hebrews 11:6a says, “And it is impossible to please God without faith.”

1 John 4:17-18 says, “And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect.  So we will not be afraid…, but we can face Him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this worldThere is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear…”

Revelation 12:11b says, “And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die.” 

Church, fear is a liar!  We do not know God if we are not confident He will protect us in every circumstance!  We do not bow down to the idol of fear!  It might help for us to remember what fear really is:

                        False

                        Evidence

                        Appearing

                        Real

 

Luke 8:50b says, “Fear not:  believe only…”  We have a duty to our belief!  Remember, one of the definitions of “faithful” is being steadfast in duty to Christ and His Word.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.”

Proverbs 4:22 says that God’s Word is “Health to a man’s body.”

Exodus 23:2a says, “You must not follow the crowd in doing wrong.”

Hebrews 2:14-15 says, “Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood.  For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death.  Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.”

2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

Ephesians 5:1 says, “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are His dear children.”

1 Peter 2:21 says, “For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you.  He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.”

As we look at the closings of schools, cancellations of sporting events, celebrations being rescheduled and even churches closing, we have to look at “what is at the heart of these unprecedented drastic measures that have been taken?” What is it that we are trying to stop?

What is it that we are afraid might happen? What is it that has so many people worrying? Is there really an unseen enemy out there that we can’t control that is out to get us? Are the leaders of this world humbled by the reality, that no army in the world can stop it, and that stockpiles of nuclear weapons cannot deter it?

Are we ourselves humbled by the reality that we are nowhere near as independent and confident of the control we have over our own lives than we did just one month ago. Things that we thought were going to be our greatest moments in championship basketball games, state tournaments, and even March madness basketball tournaments, have gone in an instant like a puff of smoke.

Our vacation plans to Disneyworld, Dollywood, and the beaches have all changed, with no input from us. For all the boasting of what we were going to do and how we were going to do it, has now been changed.

There are things we thought last month that nothing was going to stop us from doing.  Then all of a sudden our plans were changed because of an announcement by some government official. The old folks knew what they were saying when they said, “If it be the Lord’s will.”

As we are faced with a situation that has bloomed into a crisis, every one of us is confronted with the issue, of “Whose report are we going to believe? God or man?”   What do we want our leaders to protect us from? What will happen if they fail? What are we willing to do or become if this thing continues? What freedoms will we give up?

One thing is for sure, we must appear to God like sheep scattered on a hill trying to figure out which direction to run. Thanks to the spread of information and disinformation on social media, some sheep are terrified, and their own fear may kill them.

When you peel back the layers of our anxiety, what is at the heart of it all? What are we really worrying about? We are worrying about the possibility of dying. Fear of our own death, or fear of the death of those that we love is a genuine concern. Yet as believers we have the anti-dote to the fear of death: His name is Jesus Christ!  He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6).  Also, Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.  Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never die.”  (John 11:25-26) 

Can we really trust what Jesus tells us about death?   I think we ought to at least consider his opinion in that we know he died, and we know he rose again from the dead because over 500 eyewitnesses saw him at one time according to 1 Corinthians 15:6.

Jesus died on a cross, and he rose from the dead, because he knew each one of us was going to die. He knew that we would be afraid of death, because inside we know that we have done wrong, and that someday we are going to give an account for what we have done (Romans 14:10-12).

It was out of His love for us, that He gave us the words to remove the fear of death from us. He said in John 14:1, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.”

Today, more and more people are being troubled because they are forced to come face to face with: “I could get this coronavirus and die.”  They convince themselves they will be among the small percentage of people that die. They can take all kinds of precautions but they still have little control over what happens.

How should believers respond to any crisis in which the fear of death is out there? It begins with knowing that our hope is always to be rooted in God, because we were given this hope when we were saved according to Romans 8:24.  Ephesians 2:12-14 says, “In those days you were living apart from Christ,…and you did not know the covenant promises of God…You lived in this world without God and without hope…but now you have been brought near to Him through the blood of Christ.  For Christ Himself has brought peace to us.”

I want you to know, that God says, we are his sheep and the sheep of his pasture. God knew about the coronavirus 10 years ago and even a 1000 years ago. God knew about our days, before a single one of them came into being. Nothing has ever caught God by surprise.

God did not wake up and say, “Opps, I’ve got to change my plans for the church and for the world, because I forgot to take into account the coronavirus spreading all over the world in the year 2020.”

This is not the first virus or plague to enter the world. Have you ever considered the possibility, that God wants to use The Church, to show the world who He is by how we react to the coronavirus? Are we willing to talk with others about what the fear actually is with the virus? Are we willing to bring up the topic of death and what comes after?

When our friends and co-workers mention how worried they are about what’s going to happen next, do we join in with how worried we are too. Or will we remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:25-27, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?  Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?  Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

If the Lord is truly our shepherd, then is He not free to do with His sheep what He thinks is best?  As believers, are we to be afraid, or to worry about what the coronavirus might do to us? Do we believe that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes?(Romans 8:28)

Do we believe Jesus when He tells us that He is the good shepherd? We like to believe that means that Jesus is always going to surround us with good things that will make us comfortable in life. He’s going to lead us to lie down in green pastures where there is plenty of food for us to eat and be happy.

But then we choose to forget, that’s not the only place Jesus leads us, and that’s not the only role Jesus has for us. What is this talk about walking through the valley of the shadow of death or walking through the darkest valley?

Do we still look to Jesus then or is there something else we want to grab on to? This valley does not catch Jesus by surprise because the verses before it said that He was leading us along the right path when we arrived at this valley.(Psalm 23:3-4)

There are all kinds of valleys the shepherd leads us down. The valley of sickness, the valley of loneliness, the valley of pain and suffering, the valley of broken dreams or unfulfilled promises, the valley of unemployment and homelessness, the valley of the loss of a skill or talent, and the valley of the death of someone we love. Those are valleys we have no control over and yet the events of life seem to slide us into them whether we are willing to go or not.

Let’s just suppose for a moment that this coronavirus is being used by God to create a harvest of hearts that are open because of fear, anxiety and worry. Beyond the virus itself, people are going to worry about how they are going to pay their bills with their jobs being shut down or who will watch over their kids while they work.

How many of us are willing to be a lamb sent out among wolves for Jesus in this crisis?  Jesus knew if he sent out lambs among the wolves, some of those lambs were not going to make it back. Then there are other words of Jesus that sort of put us on the spot when we are all tempted to quarantine and isolate ourselves. What did he actually mean when he said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).    Should we only serve Jesus when it is safe to do so?   Have you ever stopped to think that maybe we run into a crisis to discover where our faith is rooted

What was it the Christians had during the plagues in Europe that caused them to head toward the sick and dying to help them, when everyone else was running away from them trying to save their own lives? Could it be they loved Jesus more than they loved their own lives? Could it be they believed the promises of Jesus even in the face of death itself?  Were they trying to love their neighbor as themselves?

Did they understand, their witness might be the final thing separating this person who was ill from entering eternity hopelessly lost, dying in their sins with no chance of a Savior to stand beside them at the great judgment?

Whatever it was, I want it for my own life. I want it for the people of this church. I want it for today’s body of Christ. We have a hope promised to us that goes beyond the concerns of this world.

The psalmist did not stay in the valley of the shadow of death. He went on to write, “I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”  It’s good to use all the hand sanitizer you can, but that’s not where your deliverance is. Your deliverance is in the fact that God is with you.

But because God is sovereign, and we have voluntarily given our lives to Him through Christ, if God desires to use us through receiving the corona virus, then we say, your will be done. The psalmist says God’s rod and staff they comfort him. God’s rod and staff comes in many different forms.

Listen to the many forms we find in the book of Hebrews 11:35-38, “Women received their loved ones back again from death.  But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection.  Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons.  Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated.  They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.”

How many of you would choose the corona virus over being flogged, sawed in two or put to death by the sword for the cause of Christ? Is God still in control or not?  God chooses in His mercy who will live and who will die! (1 Samuel 2:6)  Is God not free to decide how our lives would best glorify Him?

The Apostle Paul once wrote, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)   Is that where we are in our hearts today? Do we really believe that Jesus is going to be there for us? It is an illusion to think we can determine how long or short on earth our time is going to be.

If we quarantined every person in the world that has the virus, we still are no more in control of our lives than we were one month ago. For we are still going to die someday and will have to give an account of our lives to God. We just won’t have the news media and social media constantly reminding us that we should be worried because we could be next.  Matthew 10:28 says, “Do not fear those (things) which kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul:  but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

How does God expect to use us in response to the worry and fear that has spread through our nation and the world? Will we see this as an opportunity to reach out and serve those who are affected by this situation directly or indirectly? Will we show a confidence in Christ for our future, that the world has not known, by not joining in the panic?

Will we become bolder in our witness of God actually being in charge of our lives? Will we be willing to continue to embrace those who are being cast aside?

When Lepers had to be isolated by going through the streets yelling unclean, Jesus voided the isolation ban and touched them. When sinners were declared to be religiously unclean, Jesus went and touched them so that they could be healed. The woman who had a disease for 12 years, said, “If I could just touch the hem of his garment, I can be healed.”(Matthew 9:21)   We lose something in the Church, when we can no longer reach out and touch each other.

Even if we think the coronavirus is a great enemy, the psalmist concluded in Psalm 23:5-6, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows with blessings.  Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” We should be able to celebrate what God has done for us even with the coronavirus around us.

There is a verse in the bible that used to be sung entitled, “Whose report will you believe?  We shall believe the report of the Lord.” They can say what they want to say about the coronavirus, I still believe God is sitting on throne of heaven and God’s plans and purposes will still be accomplished.

 

CONCLUSION:

This is who we are in Christ:  1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a perculiar people; that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

Jesus is building His Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it; Jesus has given us the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 16:18-19).    Luke 10:19 says, “I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy…”  Church, we have the authority!    John 14:12-14 tells us that believers will do the works that Jesus did, and even greater works because Jesus is now with the Father.

Job 22:28 states that, “You shall decree or declare a thing, and it will be established for you”.  So, decree and declare that no weapon formed against you and your family in any way shall prosper and every tongue that shall rise against you in judgement shall be condemned (Isaiah 54:17).   This is our right as believers! 

Deuteronomy 31:6 says, Be strong and courageous!  Do not be afraid and do not panic…For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you.  He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

Joshua 1:7-9 says, “Be strong and very courageous!  Be careful to obey all the instructions…Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left.  Study this Book of Instruction continually.  Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it.  Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.  This is my command—be strong and courageous!  Do not be afraid or discouraged.  For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

*The the ol’ saying goes, “It takes a village”, and it is no different when putting together a message.  First and foremost, I thank God for His Word and the Holy Spirit who guides me throughout the process.  All Scriptures are from the New Living Translation Bible, unless otherwise noted.  I also want to acknowledge the following:  Word Search 10, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, Hebrew—Greek Key Word Study Bible and Mr. Spiros Zodhiates for all of his excellent insight, NIV Application Commentaries, Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, The Holman Bible Commentary, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, and Sermon Central of which numerous pastors have so graciously shared their insight and wisdom.  Just as the song, ‘Nobody’ by Casting Crowns so eloquently puts it:  ‘I’m just a nobody trying to tell everybody all about Somebody who saved my soul.’   It’s all about Jesus and I pray you will be blessed!



Speak Life Challenge