If You Want to Be a Real Christian. . .
If You Want to Be a Real Christian. . .
The Gospel of Matthew
Matthew 14:34 - Matthew 15:9
Sermon by Rick Crandall
(Prepared July 23, 2022)
*Please open your Bibles to Matthew 14. The Holy Spirit led Matthew begin this part of his Gospel by reporting on the government-approved murder of John the Baptist. Verses 13-14 tell us that when Jesus heard about John's death, "He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself. But when the multitudes heard it, they followed Him on foot from the cities. And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick."
*That same evening in vs. 15-21, Jesus fed all of those people, maybe more than 15,000, counting women and children. And He did that with just 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish! Then in vs. 22-33, God's Word tells us about the miracle Jesus worked when He walked on the stormy waves several miles out into the Sea of Galilee.
*At first the disciples screamed in terror because they thought Jesus was a ghost. But in vs. 27 Jesus tried to calm them and said, "Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.'' The Apostle Peter wanted more proof, so in vs. 28 he said, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.'' Jesus told him to come, and Peter started walking on the water too. But Peter quickly began to sink like a rock, because he started to focus on the storm more than His Savior.
*Then in vs. 30-32, Peter cried out, "'Lord, save me!' And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, 'O you of little faith, why did you doubt?' And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased."
*Jesus is Lord of all! He can calm any storm, and the Lord wasn't through with miracles that night. John 6:21 tells us that after the disciples received Jesus into the boat, it was immediately at the land where they were going! John Phillips called this "moving at the speed of thought," and there are several more examples in God's Word. But what a miracle! Jesus is Lord over all of time and space! (1)
*Today's Scripture shows us what happened next, and these verses help us understand what it means to be a Christian. Let's get started by reading Matthew 14:34 - Matthew 15:9.
*Are you a real Christian? I remember my mentor pastor, Herman Savoie, saying he wished that when we were saved God put some kind of mark on our forehead, so we would know for sure that we were saved. Of course, God doesn't do that. But there are some sure signs of being a Christian, and we can see some of them here in God's Word.
1. FIRST: REAL CHRISTIANS TRUST JESUS TO HELP THEM IN AMAZING WAYS.
*The last verses of Matthew 14 show us even more of the infinite power of Jesus Christ. In vs. 34-36 God's Word says:
34. When they had crossed over, they came to the land of Gennesaret.
35. And when the men of that place recognized Him, they sent out into all that surrounding region, brought to Him all who were sick,
36. and begged Him that they might only touch the hem of His garment. And as many as touched it were made perfectly well.
*Has God lost His power? Of course not! He is still the Almighty God that He always has been. And as Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 19:26, "with God all things are possible.'' Church: I am quite sure that miracles are happening to God's people every day somewhere in the world. All things are possible with God, so real Christians trust God to do amazing things in their lives.
*Now when it comes to healing, many times God does bring healing to our bodies. Most of the time He uses our natural healing process and the dedicated medical professionals He has given to us. But many times, we have seen God answer prayer, and go far beyond what they can do.
*On December 10th, 2008, I was waiting at St. Francis Hospital while Mrs. Jesse Williams was having back surgery. Her husband Tom and daughter Sue began to talk about their years in Ruston, where they went to Southside Baptist Church.
*The conversation turned to a terrible wreck involving the pastor and his wife. A delivery truck had run a stop sign and smashed into the side of the pastor's car. It killed a friend riding with them, and seriously injured both the preacher and his wife. Her pelvic area was crushed, but the people of the church began to pray, and God worked a miracle. In one x-ray the ball of her hip-joint was shattered. But in the very next x-ray, it had all come together whole. Wow!
*Of course, God doesn't always heal people. That's because our mortal bodies weren't designed to live in Heaven. And if God always healed people in this world, Heaven would be a pretty empty place. But when we receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we get the greatest miracle of all! We get the spiritual healing that lasts forever: forgiveness of our sins and an everlasting home with God in Heaven! On top of that, God promises to resurrect these earthly bodies that are growing older by the second. And one day we will have a perfect body like the Lord's resurrected body.
*Christians: This world is not our home. But God did work a healing miracle for that pastor's wife, and Sue said, "It was the first miracle I had ever seen." She reminded me that more miracles are on the way, both physical miracles, and infinitely more important spiritual miracles. Miracles of salvation and lives being changed. The Lord is still in the miracle working business today, and all good things are possible with Him!
2. SO, IF YOU WANT TO BE A REAL CHRISTIAN, TRUST JESUS TO HELP YOU IN AMAZING WAYS, AND START OBEYING GOD'S COMMANDS.
*The Lord was working all of those wonderful miracles. But in Matthew 15:1-6, the Pharisees showed up to make their petty complaint:
1. Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying,
2. "Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.''
3. But He answered and said to them, "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?
4. For God commanded, saying, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.'
5. But you say, 'Whoever says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me has been dedicated to the temple''
6. is released from honoring his father or mother.' "Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition."
*In this Scripture Jesus teaches us that Christians should honor God's commands over man's traditions. And Jesus gave the example of a sneaky, religious tradition that selfish, adult children used to avoid taking care of their elderly parents. But we should always honor God's commands over man's traditions.
*Yes, on some level all of us struggle against selfishness and sin. We still struggle against bad habits and bad attitudes. But real Christians are born again with a new nature from God, so as we grow in Christ, we will be more and more obedient to our Heavenly Father. Our lives should reflect the goodness of God more every day.
*It's funny how people in families resemble one another. My brother was taller than me, and he looked more like my dad. But our voices were so much alike that our mother couldn't tell which son she was talking to on the phone.
*There will always be some kinds of resemblance in families, and I'm not just talking about our physical appearance. I'm talking about the way we talk, our mannerisms, our quirks, our habits, and our attitudes.
*What's true about our earthly families is also true about God's Heavenly family: There will be a family resemblance, because saved people are literally born again by the Holy Spirit into the family of God. The Lord explained this to Nicodemus in John 3:3-6, where:
3. Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.''
4. Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?''
5. Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
6. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."
*"You must be born again," Jesus said. The reason why is because physical birth can only give physical life. Horses produce horses. Dogs produce dogs. And mortal people produce mortal people. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh."
*But "that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." In other words, "That which is given birth by God's Holy Spirit is spirit. The Holy Spirit produces a new kind of person by a new kind of birth: Spiritual birth that gives us God's eternal life. When we are born again, we get a brand-new nature, so we can, and we should begin to resemble our Heavenly Father.
*Ray Stedman explained, "When God's life becomes your life, you can expect many changes. It may take a while. There is growth involved. You are like a new baby at first, but watch: you cannot be the same person. You cannot go on the way you were. If you do, you have never been born again. When you get in touch with the life of God, things are going to be different." (2)
*If God is truly our Heavenly Father, then we will begin to think and feel and act the way He does. We should be less selfish and more caring about other people. There will be a family resemblance.
3. SO, IF YOU WANT TO BE A REAL CHRISTIAN, START OBEYING GOD'S COMMANDS. ALSO STRIVE TO AVOID HYPOCRISY.
*In Matthew 15:5-7 Jesus called the scribes and Pharisees out as hypocrites. Here the Lord told them:
5. . . "You say, 'Whoever says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me has been dedicated to the temple''
6. is released from honoring his father or mother.' "Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.
7. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you. . ."
*Hypocrites! -- The original word means someone who is just acting out a part. And the hypocrisy here was the Pharisees justifying their selfishness and sin. They were pretending to follow God, while they schemed up ways to make wrong seem right.
*They also harshly judged other people, when their own sins were far greater. Jesus warned us against this kind of hypocrisy in Matthew 7:1-5, where He said:
1. "Judge not, that you be not judged.
2. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the same measure you use, it will be measured back to you.
3. And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?
4. Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck out of your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye?
5. Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother's eye."
*We need to take care of our own sin problems first. My favorite illustration of this truth goes back to our daughter Katie's days in high school. They were studying Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic novel, "The Scarlet Letter." It was the story of Hester Prynne, who gave birth to a baby girl from an unknown father. After her daughter was born, Hester was punished by the Puritans for adultery. And part of her punishment was to wear a scarlet letter "A" for the rest of her life.
*As part of Katie's project, she wanted a way to show the hypocrisy of the Puritans who judged Hester. And Katie had a great idea: She got a handheld mirror and painted a big red "A" on it. Of course, the idea was: If you want to see someone who needs to be forgiven, -- just look in the mirror.
*And we may not need scarlet "A's." But there is a whole alphabet of other sins we could be guilty of. We all needed forgiveness. And Jesus met that need when He died on the cross for us. Jesus took our punishment. He paid the price for our sins. And now the Risen Savior offers forgiveness and eternal life to anyone who will turn to Him and trust Him as their Lord and Savior. But we must keep striving to avoid hypocrisy, confessing our sins to God, and repenting of any known sin in our lives.
4. IF YOU WANT TO BE A REAL CHRISTIAN, STRIVE TO AVOID HYPOCRISY, AND KEEP SEEKING THE LORD WITH ALL YOUR HEART.
*In vs. 7-8 Jesus revealed something dreadful about the scribes and Pharisees. Here the Lord cried out, "Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.'"
*Where is your heart today? Real Christians want a heart that is close to God. They long to be closer to God, and the great news is that God wants us to be closer to Him! James 4:8 gives us this promise: "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you."
*In Jeremiah 29:13, the Lord also gave this promise: "You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with ALL your heart."
*In Psalm 105:1-4, King David also said:
1. Oh, give thanks to the Lord! Call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples.
2. Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; Talk of all His wondrous works.
3. Glory in His holy name; Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the Lord.
4. Seek the Lord and His strength; Seek His face evermore.
*Seeking to get closer to the Lord is so crucial that David stressed it four times in two verses:
-"Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the Lord.
-Seek the Lord. . .
-And (seek) and His strength. . .
-Seek His face evermore."
*God wants us to seek Him with all our hearts, because He wants to connect with us in a close, personal way. Jim Irwin realized this in a most unusual place. Jim was one of only 12 men who have ever walked on the moon. Even as a child, he had a dream of going to the moon. And because of this dream, Jim first became a test pilot for the Air Force. Then he became an astronaut.
*Jim Irwin flew on Apollo 15, and on July 26, 1971, he fulfilled his dream of walking on the moon. Jim was the seventh man to accomplish that feat.
*But while he was standing on the moon, looking back at our world the size of a blue marble, Jim Irwin felt the presence of God like never before. And Jim said: "When I looked out and saw the earth, only as big as a little marble, I thought, 'How big am I? I'm just a speck of dust, if that big compared to the universe. And yet, this little speck has the capacity to know God! To know the One who holds the universe, to know His love, and have His direction.'
*For the first time, I saw, -- felt God's love for the earth. I realized then that God loved that little blue marble, that little planet. He loved all the billions of people on it, and He loved me! I realized at that moment that my relationship with Jesus Christ was the most precious thing I had."
*It was an experience that literally changed Jim's life. He left the space program and devoted himself to telling people about the life changing power of Jesus Christ. By the time of his death in 1991, Jim Irwin had told countless people about Jesus, and many of those people put their trust in the Lord.
*Jim Irwin was absolutely right when he often told them that "Jesus walking on the earth is more important than man walking on the moon." (3)
*The God who touched Jim Irwin's heart on the moon, wants to touch our hearts right here and now. And He will! -- If we will seek Him with all our hearts. But where is your heart today? Do you have a heart for God?
5. IF YOU WANT TO BE A REAL CHRISTIAN, KEEP SEEKING THE LORD WITH ALL YOUR HEART. AND YOU WILL DISCOVER REAL HOPE.
*Real Christians have real hope! But this was not so for the scribes and Pharisees who rejected the commands of God and the cross of Jesus Christ.
*In vs. 8-9 the Lord basically quoted His own words from Isaiah 29:13. It was there that the Lord spoke through the Old Testament prophet and said, "These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.''
*The word picture behind that word "vain" is someone trying to chew and gnaw their way through something else, without success. They keep on trying to gnaw their way through, but they will never make it. Their efforts are all in vain.
*But real Christians discover real hope. What kind of hope is that? Pastor James Chandler gave a great explanation. One Thanksgiving when he was a little boy, James got asked to say the family prayer. And in that prayer, he said, "Dear God, I sure hope the Oakland Raiders make it to the Super Bowl!"
*James remembers that prayer, because he learned that it "wasn't really appropriate." And he said, "As I grew, I also learned that real hope is not the kind of hope I mentioned in my prayer. Real hope is not a wish, but confidence in a certainty." (4)
*I like that definition: "Real hope is confidence in a certainty." Real hope, godly hope, biblical hope, is joyful confidence in something that is certain. That is the kind of hope Paul was talking about in Romans 5:1-2. There Paul told Christians that "having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God." Later in Romans 15:13, Paul prayed for us to have more hope, and there he said, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."
*This kind of godly hope led Gilbert Beenken to say, "Other men have a hopeless end. But Christians rejoice in endless hope!" And Christians: We surely do have real hope! But there would be no hope at all without the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ! (5)
*Do you have real hope today? Have you received the crucified and risen Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? Call on the Lord to save you today.
*Then keep trusting Jesus to help you in amazing ways. Start obeying God's commands. Keep striving to avoid hypocrisy. Keep seeking the Lord with all your heart. And thank God for the sure hope we have in Jesus Christ! You can get started right now, as we go back to God in prayer.
(1) EXPLORING 1 CORINTHIANS by John Phillips, Kregal Publications, Grand Rapids - "There Will Be a Change of Dimension - 1 Corinthians 15:36-42a - Downloaded to "Bible Study 6" from Olive Tree Bible Software, Inc.
(2) Online sermon: "Born of the Spirit" by Ray C. Stedman - Series: The Gospel of John - John 3:1-16 - Message No: 8 - Catalog No: 3838 - Date: May 15, 1983 - http://www.pbc.org/system/message_files/4182/3838.html
-Adapted from "In Other Words" - Winter 2001 - Produced by Dr. Raymond McHenry - www.iows.net
-Dave Dean, "Now is Your Time to Win," p. 122 - Source: Sermons.com sermon "There's God In Them There Hills" by James Merritt - Psalm 19:1-14 - Collected Sermons, James Merritt, ChristianGlobe Networks, Inc., 0-000-7892
(4) Sermon Central illustration contributed by James Chandler
(5) Gilbert Beenken - Source: "Dynamic Illustrations" - Jan, Feb, Mar 2001 - Topic: Hope