“Reckoned As Righteous” (Genesis 15:6 sermon)

In the winter of 1738 Charles Wesley was serving as a missionary in America, but he wrote in his journal, he was seeking to convert the Indians, but who would convert HIM? He was earnestly seeking to be right with God, and get an assurance of salvation, but it was eluding him. He just did not feel at peace with God. In late February, Wesley got sick, and Peter Bohler, a Moravian missionary, visited him. He said, ‘Do you hope to be saved?”‘ Wesley said he did. Bohler asked him: “For what reason do you hope to be saved?” Charles Wesley answered, “Because I have used my best endeavours to serve God.” But Bohler simply “shook his head and said no more. I thought him very uncharitable,” Wesley continued, “saying in my heart ‘What! Are not my endeavours a sufficient ground of hope? Would you rob me of my endeavours? I have nothing else to trust to.”’ (John R. Tyson. Assist Me to Proclaim, Kindle 653-662)

Charles Wesley at that time was like many people are today — thinking that he might be saved by his “endeavours” — his good works; the things he could do for God. Maybe you are like him today. Maybe you’ve started off this year trying to be the best person you can be, so that you will find favor with God. If that’s what you’ve been thinking, then our verse for today is good news for you indeed! 

One of the great blessings of reading through the Bible together this year is that in the course of the year we will come across all of the greatest verses in the Bible at one point or another — and it will give me the opportunity to preach on many of these great verses this year. Our verse for today has to be considered one of those: Genesis 15:6, “Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.”

Genesis 15:6 is one of the Old Testament verses that is most often quoted by the authors of the New Testament (Romans 4:3, 4:20-22, Galatians 3:6, James 2:23). And rightly so, because this verse teaches us some of the most important truths about salvation. If you want to be “saved”: if you want to know that your sins to be forgiven, that you are right with God, and have a home in heaven, you need to understand what this verse is teaching us about being “Reckoned As Righteous.”

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“The Ruts of Righteousness” (Psalm 23:5 sermon)

I am currently reading a biography of Steve Jobs, the founder of the Apple computer company, and it is a very interesting life story. Jobs was not a Christian, as some of you may know, but there are really powerful lessons, both good and bad, from his life that we can profit from. One thing he said that was very thought-provoking: that in the first half of your life, you make your habits — then in the second part of your life, your habits make YOU!

That’s an interesting thought. The habits that we make in our lives are indeed very important — and they CAN end up either making or breaking us. 

We mentioned last week that Psalm 23 was one of the best-loved passages in the Bible, as it talks about how the Lord shepherds us. But verse 5 of the Psalm has an interesting turn of phrase that can challenge us as we wrap up this Christmas season and begin a new year this week. David says there that the Lord “leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” That is a very familiar phrase to many of us, but it also has a deep meaning to it. 

The word “paths” here, according to the venerable Brown/Driver/Briggs Hebrew lexicon, means “wagon tracks”, the place where the wagons have gone before, leaving their hard, beaten-down path — we might well call them “ruts”!  Many of us have been on an old dirt country road, where there were just “ruts” worn in the dirt from the cars driving on it over and over. 

We often speak of “being in a rut” as a bad thing — and it can be, for sure. But the Bible shows us here that there are also some good “ruts” we can be in. When David says: “He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake,” he’s talking about “good ruts.” He says the Lord leads him like a shepherd in “the ruts of righteousness.” So there are some “good ruts” we can be in: “Ruts of Righteousness.” Let’s think about some of the good “ruts of righteousness” for a few minutes:

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Family Gingerbread Contest 2021

Help us determine the winner of our annual family gingerbread house contest. Vote for your favorite from the six below. You can use any criteria you wish: just the one you like best. THANK YOU for helping us continue our annual tradition!

House #1: “Frosty & The Crooked Door”

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“Herald of His Advent” (Micah 5:2 sermon)

When Mark Twain visited the Holy Land in the 1860’s, he did not find Bethlehem to be very impressive.  In fact, he wrote later of its “mouldy domes and turrets” and disparaged its “noisy mob” and “leprous beggars.”  He said he was never so glad to get away from a place in his life.  And yet, years later he wrote to a fellow traveler on that trip, that he was glad that he had been to Bethlehem, and that it was indeed a special place to him, because despite all of its shortcomings, he knew that our Savior had been born there. 

This morning we are going to be looking at Micah 5:2, which is a “Herald of the Advent.”  “Advent” is a word which describes the coming of a great person – and. in this most famous case in Micah, the coming of Jesus Christ to earth. 

Just a little background on the prophet Micah and his book: Micah lived about 750 years before the time of Christ – about the same time as the prophet Isaiah.  Micah lived in a time in which the people of God had turned away from Him, and were serving false gods, living in all kinds of sin, and they were about to be judged for it by the Babylonians.  Some of Micah’s and Isaiah’s prophecies were about the judgment that was about to come – things were about to get pretty ugly in their land.  But amidst all of the darkness of their prophecies, there was good news: a Messiah was coming, who would save us and make us right with God.  Micah 5:2-5 is one of those bright spots in the book; let’s look at its message for us:

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“In The Word 2022” (Ezra 7:10 message)

A few years ago they came out with an interesting list, of the books that people most frequently lie about reading, in order to appear well-read!

The top four were George Orwell’s 1984, (42%), Tolstoy’s War and Peace (31%), James Joyce’s Ulysses (25%) and, of all books — the Bible (24%) which is pretty ironic, that people would LIE about having read the Bible! If they HAD really read the Bible all the way through, they would have come across the 9th Commandment, which tells us not to bear false witness!

Well I don’t know how many of us here today have ever read all the way through the Bible, but I hope that by the end of 2022, you will be able to say that you did. It is a big deal – to know that you have read entirely through THE single greatest book in all the world. 

As a young man, Bill Tolar was an atheist, and he was very proud of his intellectual ability. But one day he was asked by a friend, since he was so intellectual, if he had ever read through the world’s #1 best-selling book of all time? He asked, what IS the best-selling book of all time? His friend told him it was the Bible. When Bill heard that, he wanted to read it just so he could say, for his own intellectual pride, that he had done it. But as he read the Bible, God’s Spirit began to work in him. He later said I began to realize that if this book was right, my life was wrong. And he ended up giving his life to Jesus as his Savior — and went on to become one of the most amazing professors, at Southwestern Baptist Seminary in Ft. Worth.   

God does great things when we get into His word. So I hope you’ll join us January 1st as we begin a year-long journey reading through the Bible together as a church family, “In The Word 2022.” To help us prepare for that, I want us to look at the commitment that Ezra, one of the great men of God in the Old Testament, had to the word of God, which we find in Ezra 7:10:

“For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.” (Ezra 7:10)

God used Ezra in a great way, and one of the reasons He could, was because Ezra had developed some habits in his life, in the scriptures.

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“Confidence On That Day” (II Timothy 1:12 sermon)

Author Dane Ortlund wrote: “When my two-year-old Benjamin begins to wade into the gentle slope of the zero-entry swimming pool near our home, he instinctively grabs hold of my hand. He holds on tight as the water gradually gets deeper. But a two-year-old’s grip is not very strong. Before long it is not he holding on to me but me holding on to him.” (Dane Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly, loc 807)

I love that picture of a man holding his child by the hand and keeping him safe as he wades into deeper water. It’s a great picture of what GOD does for us. If you are a Christian, you can be confident that God is holding you by the hand and He is keeping you, and NOTHING can separate you from Him. That’s the truth that is expressed in our verse for today: 

“For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.”

Paul, who was writing from prison, says he has confidence, even in his suffering, because he KNOWS God is guarding what he has entrusted to Him. How could he have such confidence? How can WE have it today?

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“Those Who Are Rich” (I Timothy 6:17 sermon)

When our son David was little, we were teaching him and his brother Paul some of the “good old kids songs,” like, “The B-I-B-L-E, yes that’s the book for me!” And so one day we had them sing for the old VCR camera, and David proudly sings, “The B-I-B-L-E, yes that’s the book for YOU!”  I’ve always laughed about that, because that is exactly what a lot of people do with the Bible — they want make it apply to everyone EXCEPT themselves. It’s for “YOU” — not for “ME”!  

And some of us might be tempted to do that with our scripture passage we have today. It begins with the words, “Instruct those who are rich …” and so many of us might be tempted to think: “Well, ‘the rich,’ that’s for someone else, not for me!” But let’s look at to whom these verses are addressed, and how we need to apply them. There are some really good, practical applications for ALL of us in these verses. 

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“Justification by Faith” (Romans 1:17 sermon; Reformation Day 2021)

There are some days on the calendar that everyone knows are important:

— December 25th everyone knows is … Christmas.
— January 1st … New Year’s Day.
— December 31st? Cheryl’s birthday!

And today, October 31st, is a memorable date as well. Many people celebrate it as “Halloween,” or “All Saints Eve.” But it is also another very important day in history, that too few Christians are aware of, and that is that October 31st is also “Reformation Day.” “Reformation Day” is the day in 1517 that Martin Luther kicked off what historians call the “Reformation” of the Church in Europe when he nailed his 95 theses, or theological propositions, onto the door the Wittenburg church. He did this in response to the preaching of men like Johan Tetzel, whom the Roman Catholic Church had sent to Germany to preach and sell what they called “indulgences”: that if you paid a certain amount of money to help build the Cathedral in Rome, you could buy yourself or a loved one out of so many years in purgatory. In fact, Tetzel preached, “As soon the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs!” Martin Luther had done a lot of soul-searching, and scripture-searching (as we will see in a minute) and he believed that what Tetzel was preaching was false; that we are not saved from the fires of purgatory (or hell) by buying “indulgences” of by any other good work, but that we are saved by faith in Jesus and what He did on the cross for us, alone.

When Luther posted his challenge that day, it was an important event in Church History, and every Christian should be aware of it, because out of it came the emphasis that all evangelical churches hold to today: that we are not justified before God by our own good works and deeds, but by faith in Jesus alone. So today we’re going to be looking at the scripture that God used to change Martin Luther’s life, and give him that understanding of “justification by faith.” The scripture is Romans 1:17, where it says, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”

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The Lord’s Supper: The Sacrifice Remembered (Matthew 26:26-29 sermon)

One of the newer monuments in Washington D.C. is one commemorating our soldiers who fought and won the Second World War. Among other elements, the memorial contains panels with bronze engravings of scenes from the war: soldiers loading artillery pieces, paratroopers jumping out of an airplane, troops landing at D-Day — all of which serve to remind us of the sacrifices which were made to preserve our freedom.

This morning we here at First Baptist Angleton will be observing anther memorial, as we participate in the Lord’s Supper. This memorial helps us to remember the sacrifice that brought about our spiritual salvation: the sacrifice of the body and blood of The Lord Jesus Christ. Before we share in the Lord’s Supper this morning, I want us to look at some important things that Jesus explains to us about the meaning of this memorial, from Matthew 26:26-29, when He first initiated this memorial with His disciples:

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“The Lord Our Provider” (Philippians 4:15-23 sermon)

I’ll never forget the time, just after Cheryl & I had graduated from seminary; I only had a part-time job, and we didn’t have any prospects of finding a full-time church yet; we had just had our first child, and we were really struggling financially. We had just paid the electric bill — and now the rent was due, and we did not have the money for it. I had literally no idea what we were going to do. The next day, in the mail, we received a letter from Oklahoma from a high school friend of Cheryl’s. She said God had just laid it on her heart to send us a check — and that check “just so happened” to be the exact amount of the rent that we couldn’t pay!  God provided for us in an amazing way — which is just what our verse for today promises: “My God shall supply all your needs, according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” 

Philippians 4:19 is one of those verses that are so familiar to us, and which so many of us love — and rightly so.  But as we saw last week, sometimes we can take the promises of God out of context, which sometimes happens with this scripture as well. So let’s look at what God promises to us here, and then some important conditions that go along with it: 

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