February 2017 Prison Sermon
by Jim Carmichael
Good evening and thank you for having me, and praise be to God that we can gather here, and praise His Name, and learn His word.
I would like to start this evenings lesson with a story, one I’ve heard before, and possibly you have as well…
After a few of the usual Sunday evening hymns, the church’s pastor once again slowly stood up, walked over to the pulpit, and gave a very brief introduction of his childhood friend. With that, an elderly man stepped up to the pulpit to speak, “A father, his son, and a friend of his son were sailing off the Pacific Coast,” he began, “when a fast approaching storm blocked any attempt to get back to shore. The waves were so high, that even though the father was an experienced sailor, he could not keep the boat upright, and the three were swept into the ocean.”
The old man hesitated for a moment, making eye contact with two teenagers who were, for the first time since the service began, looking somewhat interested in his story. He continued, “Grabbing a rescue line, the father had to make the most excruciating decision of his life: to which boy he would throw the other end of the line. He only had seconds to make the decision. The father knew that his son was a Christian, and he also knew that his son’s friend was not. The agony of his decision could not be matched by the torrent of waves. As the father yelled out, ‘I love you, son!’ he threw the line to his son’s friend.”
“By the time he pulled the friend back to the capsized boat, his son had disappeared beyond the raging swells into the black of night. His body was never recovered.”
By this time, the two teenagers were sitting straighter in the pew, waiting for the next words to come out of the old man’s mouth. “The father,” he continued, “knew his son would step into eternity with Jesus, and he could not bear the thought of his son’s friend stepping into an eternity without Jesus. Therefore, he sacrificed his son. How great is the love of God that He should do the same for us.” With that, the old man turned and sat back down in his chair as silence filled the room.
Within minutes after the service ended, the two teenagers were at the old man’s side. “That was a nice story,” politely started one of the boys, “but I don’t think it was very realistic for a father to give up his son’s life in hopes that the other boy would become a Christian.”
“Well, you’ve got a point there,” the old man replied, glancing down at his worn Bible. A big smile broadened his narrow face, and he once again looked up at the boys and said, “It sure isn’t very realistic, is it? But I’m standing here today to tell you that THAT story gives me a glimpse of what it must have been like for God to give up His son for me. You see . . . I was the son’s friend.”
We are all the friend, the other boy, and God has thrown us a life line, wanting to pull us from the current of death, the life line is His own Son, but when it is thrown to us, we can’t just believe the line is there and will automatically wrap around us and pull us to safety, no, we must do something, we must reach out and grab that line, and hold on tight, and you might even consider kicking you feet a bit as He reels you in from the deep.
John 6:44 “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.
Tonight’s lesson is difficult for some people, and it is based upon a passage that causes much debate and controversy, but shouldn’t.
Hebrews 6:4-6… 4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. (NKJV)
The key word here is impossible….
Hebrews 6:4-6… clearly states if you were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, experienced Christ, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit which means you have gained salvation… but then you turn from it, you put Christ to shame… you crucify Christ again…. There is no repentance for you. This destroys the false doctrine of once saved always saved, for an unsaved person cannot have been enlightened, or tasted the heavenly gift (joy of salvation) or become a partaker of the Holy Spirit unless you have been saved. And an unrepentant person cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
And that word, gift is a Holy, beautiful Gift from God, and that Gift is eternal life through the sacrifice of His own Son, and only a very foolish person would reject, or make lite of this gift.
If you gave up the life of one of your children, say your only child so another person could live, how serious would you want the surviving person to appreciate that gift that cost you so dearly?
Think on this, both boys came out of that water, a form of baptism, both to eternal life… no life was sacrificed, but one was gained.
Let’s consider the steps to salvation:
Those who seek salvation must start by believing which comes through hearing, confess their sins, repent those sins, confess Jesus to be Lord and Savior, be baptized, then added to the church, and finally receiving the gift of the HOLY SPIRIT. And, then proceed to stay in the word, and obeying the commands of Christ.
So, I want to look at the four types of People in regards to salvation tonight.
First: those who reject Christ from the get go, and are lost from the start. No discussion needed here, it is self-evident.
2ndly those who believe a false doctrine and accept the lie that baptism is not necessary for salvation, And all you have to do to be saved is confess Jesus is the Christ,
2 Thessalonians 2:10-12… 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (NKJV)
What does this mean… they received the truth, but had rejected it, and what is the one specific truth that will save them mentioned in scripture?
1 Peter 3:21 There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ
Antitype: something that is represented by a symbol.
Baptism is going into the water a worldly man, but coming out a changed man ready for eternal life.
In plainer English, when we are baptized, we are symbolically dying, and then being resurrected into the new man.
I wanted to point this out, what is the one action, the one truth that clearly states saves them?
And, if we consider the steps to salvation, belief through hearing the word, confessing we are sinners, repenting that sin, turning from it, confessing Christ is Lord and Savior, and now is where the lie sets in for the false teachers… the next step is baptism, and then you are added to the church and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
In today’s world, there are many preachers preaching that baptism is not necessary, yet in every passage concerning baptism, not one states it is not necessary for salvation, and most of them state the need for baptism.
This is a lie being taught in the world today, and now let’s look at the 2nd part of that verse:
(2nd Thessalonians) 11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
What is the great lie?
First, baptism is not necessary for salvation when it is clearly stated in the bible that it is, and secondly, that once saved always saved, yes, but saved for what? Heaven or the outer darkness?
There are multitudes of people out there today who believe that once they confess that Jesus is the Christ, that is all they must do, and they can go right back to their merry old ways, in other words continue to take pleasure in unrighteousness.
That simply is not the truth, and leads to destruction. One might ask how guilty a person can be if that is what they are taught when first entering the narrow path, but ignorance is no excuse.
We are commanded to study the scripture, and to be ready to defend the scripture.
2 Timothy 2:15 – Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
Acts 17:11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
We are to search the scripture to see if what we are being taught is true, you don’t take my word for it, or Jim’s or anyone else’s you search the scriptures for yourself, make sure what you are hearing is true.
When I first came to the church as an adult, the very first preacher I ran into was a very nice fellow, and I really liked him, and set in his church for 3 years, but he told me from the very get go that nothing else was required after I told him I believed Jesus to be the Christ.
I asked him what I needed to do next and he said nothing… that’s all there was to it… I didn’t buy into that, common sense told me there was nothing special about believing something that was true, what is the reward in that, I know I have a white car…. What benefit should I receive from that? Not getting into the wrong car at the store?
Even the demons believe and shutter…
James 2: 19 You believe that God is one. Good for you! Even the demons believe that, and shudder!
In any case I studied the bible, and I studied various commentaries, and concluded, just saying I believe in Christ was not the end of it, but the beginning; , a very clear path to salvation is outlined for us, and including staying on the narrow path according to our action.
What does that mean?
The following speaks of the “The Engrafted Word“ Automatically I think of the effect of having something grafted and it rings out a change for the better.
James 1:21-25 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. 22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. 23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: 24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. 25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
The following is from a sermon by Chris Herd who worked as a “Horticultural Consultant” before becoming a Church of Christ Preacher.
With grafting you begin with a wild root stock and you take a cutting from a specific species of plant and graft it into the wild rootstock. What eventuates from that exercise is a completely new plant, as it is no longer a wild plant but has taken on the form of what was grafted onto it. A useless plant becomes something very effective and useful through the art of grafting
Consider this, something that has become useful, must be used, or is not useful, a hammer that is not used is just a trinket. It would be like an oxymoron.
John 15:10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. 11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and [that] your joy might be full. 12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
1 John 2:3 By this we can be sure that we have come to know Him: if we keep His commandments. 4 If anyone says, “I know Him,” but does not keep His commandments, he is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But if anyone keeps His word, the love of God has been truly perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him:
Revelation 21: 27 But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes[a] an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
If we say we believe in Christ and do not do as he commands, we are liars… and what did He command? Be baptized, and not only that to take the word to the world teaching them the word, teaching them to follow His commands, and baptizing them….
I want to look a little closer at this issue of Baptism, for it is truly the dividing factor between the true church and false church.
We must receive the gift of the HOLY SPIRIT… when does this occur? After baptism, even for Christ it was after He was baptized that He received the gift of the HOLY SPIRIT.
Being identified with Christ means being identified with his body, the church. This is described in Acts 2:41 where those who were baptized were added to the church.
…Those who believed…were baptized and added to the church that day. ...
Consider this: Matthew 3:16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, He went up out of the water. Suddenly the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and resting on Him.
“It was after His baptism, Jesus came up out of the water and the Heavens were opened and the HOLY SPIRIT descended upon Him like a dove”
This second group never followed through, were never added to the one true Church, having never received the gift of the HOLY SPIRIT, and therefore have no reason to expect salvation to have occurred.
Ephesians 4: 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.… And there is only one path to God, to Salvation; Jesus Christ
John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
I like things to be orderly, it’s simply easier to understand, by the previous verses we now understand that it is after baptism, which is the symbol of dying and being resurrected as was Christ, one is added to the church (The true church, which is the body of Christ) and then receives the gift of the HOLY SPIRIT Just as Christ was baptized, and after He came out of the water He received the gift of the HOLY SPIRIT…. Salvation for that person has been established
In addition consider this, when Adam and Eve fell what exactly died? We know it the spirit, no longer an eternal spirit, so what needs to be “fixed” or “repaired” …. The spirit… not the body, it is temporary, returns to the dust, not the soul, that is the product of body and spirit… the only thing left is the spirit, and again, when do we received the gift of the Holy Spirit? When are we changed? When are we grafted in? After we are added to the body of Christ, which comes after baptism.
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. …
So at this point we have looked at two types, those who reject Christ from the beginning, and are lost from the start, 2nd the group who hears and believes in Christ but go no further… again lost because they didn’t complete the steps to salvation.
The third group, the most pitiful of all: people who learn the truth, know the truth, follow through, believe, repenting their sins, confessing Christ to be Lord and Savior, being baptized, added to the church, receiving the gift of the HOLY SPIRIT and then deny Christ, turning their backs on the truth, and follow the lie. This person has obtained salvation, he can expect eternal life, just not in heaven, for there can be no un-repentant people in glory, the only other option is the outer darkness.
They cannot be forgiven, or if they are preaching a false doctrine that denies the need for baptism, they are rejecting the truth that will save them, and then like the pharaoh their hearts are hardened, they follow the lie, reject the savior, and spend eternity in hell.
We must strive to be a part of that fourth group, those who follow through the steps to salvation, and continue the narrow path of salvation, turning from all evil ways, resisting the temptations of the world, and obeying the commands of Christ until we will someday hear those words so sought after: Well done good and faithful servant.
2 Timothy 3:10
You, however, have observed my teaching, my conduct, my purpose, my faith, my patience, my love, my endurance,
A Call to Persevere in Faith
Hebrews 10:19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus,
20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body,
21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God,
22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,
25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left,
27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.
28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
29 How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?
30 For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] and again, “The Lord will judge his people.”[e]
31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering.
33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated.
34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.
35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.
36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.
37 For,“In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.”[f]
38 And,“But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.”
39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.
Thank you for your time, and may God go with you this week, if any here have not been baptised, I would strongly urge you to do so, if any of you are in need of prayer, please come forward as we sing the closing hymn.