Thornleigh Seventh-day Adventist Church (Sydney, Australia)

Home > Online Magazine > Online Magazine: Edition 54 - Summer (Dec-Feb) 2013/14 > Could He - Would He (by Pr David Weslake)

Could He - Would He

by Pr David Weslake

 
My mother had a daughter and four boys.......three of them idiots (now lovingly recalled). They stood around an old Jawa motorcycle that I had restored from bits I had retrieved from under an old house on Norfolk Island. Now the two older idiots were back from Sydney on school holidays and the younger idiot was watching on. To prove my worth as a motorcycle restorer I climbed aboard and proudly announced that on the third kick it would burst into life. I wasn't let down as the 1956 model Jawa contentedly purred with an idle that produced an ignition and combustion every 10 seconds.

The eldest idiot thought it would sound a lot better at full throttle, so he grabbed a fistful and the old Jawa just came alive in an instant. The problem was that the throttle needle inside the carburettor popped out of the main jet and stuck full open.

Now the Jawa started building revs like it was on the starting grid of a Moto GP race and went from 6rpm to 26,000rpm in less time than it takes to think. My problems started when turning off the ignition key did not produce a result. So a stick was found and the spark plug lead was knocked off but so happy was the Jawa screaming that it wouldn't shut up. Now I had a real problem so we turned off the fuel but still it revved with increasing tenacity.

With no fuel and no spark we were convinced it was no longer a machine but a possessed robot. The youngest idiot thought that if he jammed it in first gear it might stall and finally cease barking which he proceeded to do. But the bike was on its main stand and now, as well as the engine about to destroy itself, the rear wheel was spinning faster than a jet turbine.

Well of course, there is nothing else to do but introduce idiot number three who sensibly thought that if he pushed the bike of it's stand it would stall and come to rest somewhere on Norfolk Island.

I knew in an instant that to be on board that bike with three idiots as spectators was a mistake......and oh how I wished I could take it all back and start again. To cut a painful story short I survived the brush with death and the fight with the lemon tree that lay directly in the path of a motorcycle that was trying to be the next shuttle to the moon.

We laugh about it now, not too funny at the time though, and sad to say I have been in that same situation many, many times since, when a stupid choice has lead to sad regrets. And I want to ask you about your life. How do you handle life when you realise a choice you have made, a remark you have passed, a joke told or laughed at, a television program or movie watched does not reflect the character of Christ you and I as Christians are meant to be imitating.

What I am going to talk about here is 'wilful sin'. I was once involved in a forum, where this subject was discussed. And as a young impressionable man I was confused in the end with the discussion because for as many who were passionately putting forward the merits of God's grace there was an equal number who made it abundantly clear that God could not and would not save a wilful sinner. So, I am hoping to answer that question here because I'm not so sure that God makes a distinction.

There are four individuals in the bible that I particularly want to focus on. The first is Jacob. You will recall that his grandfather Abraham had been chosen by God to be the father of his chosen people. We can read about that in Genesis 15:1-6:

"After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:

'Do not be afraid, Abram.
    I am your shield,
    your very great reward. '

But Abram said, 'Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit[c] my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?" 3 And Abram said, "You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.'

Then the word of the Lord came to him: "This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir." 5 He took him outside and said, "Look up at the sky and count the stars-if indeed you can count them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring[d] be."

Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness."

Abraham indeed does have a son to Sarah, in their old age and he is named Isaac. The promise is then carried on through Isaac, and Rebekah falls pregnant with twins but the two babies are uncomfortable in the womb and we read in Genesis 25:21-26 that:

"Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, "Why is this happening to me?" So she went to inquire of the Lord.

The Lord said to her,

"Two nations are in your womb,
    and two peoples from within you will be separated;
one people will be stronger than the other,
    and the older will serve the younger."

When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau. After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau's heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them."

We don't know a lot about their upbringing but what is clear is that both boys knew something about this prophetic blessing. Later in that same chapter you read the story of the sale of Esau's birthright to Jacob for the price of a pot of stew. Now not only does Jacob have the prophetic blessing he also has the rights of the eldest child. Esau no longer has any claim on the family estate.

It is clear that Rebekah has a hand in what happens next......but when I read this story I ask myself 'What were they thinking?' Here we have the family product of miraculous births, from Isaac to Jacob. God has demonstrated his existence, he has spoken to the people, they know his will....and yet Jacob on the bidding of his mother sets out to deliberately deceive his father....what was he thinking?

You know, this story pulls me up sometimes....And I have to ask myself "Am I really any better?"

Well you can read what happens in chapter 27 and I urge you to do so when you are able. Jacob does in fact successfully trick his father into thinking that he is not a goat but Esau and receives the only blessing Jacob has to give his offspring.

The story goes on. Jacob flees to his uncle Laban because Esau vows to kill him but on the way he has this fascinating dream. He has an encounter with God. Now I get very confused at this point. What kind of God would continue to uphold a commitment to a man long ago dead through a deceiver like Jacob?

Let's read about it. Genesis 28:10-22:

"Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the Lord, and he said: "I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you."

When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it." He was afraid and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven."

Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. He called that place Bethel, though the city used to be called Luz.

Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father's household, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God's house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth."

Jacob has an encounter with God. And in this dream God reveals to him the plan of redemption. In this dream Jacob sees a ladder. A connection from heaven to earth and God says"  All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring"

Jesus is the ladder. It is through Jesus Christ that God has reconnected to His people and no other way and it is the only way.  And so through this dream Jacob is converted, and vows to serve God.

But like all good stories of journeys with God.....if only we could be true to ourselves and Him, there are more failures in store. Chapters 29, 30 and 32 have it all. More deception, by the Uncle this time as Jacob is tricked into marrying Leah.

And I often wonder if God allowed this to happen to Jacob so that he could get a taste of what it felt like to be deceived.  And I wonder too if God allows things to happen to me so that I can make an effort to be more kinder, generous and loving because I know what it's like to be on the receiving end of my failures.

The story continues and Jacob prepares to meet Esau. And we get a glimpse here of what Jacob has been living with all these years....a guilty conscience!  What we read in chapter Genesis 32:7-12, is both sad and refreshing.

"In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups, and the flocks and herds and camels as well. He thought, "If Esau comes and attacks one group, the group that is left may escape."

Then Jacob prayed, "O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, Lord, you who said to me, 'Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,' 10 I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two camps. Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. But you have said, 'I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.'"

Have you ever prayed prayers like that......I have! You know that feeling you get when you have done all you can and now there is nothing left but to pray......something you should have done years ago! You know that feeling of doing something all in your own power to achieve something only to realise it is futile. I remember back to when my daughter Kara was born and we faced the prospect of raising a child with a disability. I prayed a prayer like that...of guilt, of fear, of helplessness and God honoured and answered those prayers.

But the struggle isn't over yet, for after giving instructions to his now large family and with gifts prepared for his betrayed brother he crosses the ford of Jabbok. And now this strange and interesting encounter takes place.

Let's read Genesis 32:22-28

"That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, "Let me go, for it is daybreak."

But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go unless you bless me."

The man asked him, "What is your name?"

"Jacob," he answered.

Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome."

Have you ever asked who was this man? Well I believe that Jacob had an encounter with Jesus Christ. Yes I can tell you from experience that before conversion there is always a struggle. It may be the past, it may be family, it may be from broken relationships, it may be a life of neglect. But whatever it is, there is always a struggle because until the 'I' in sin is replaced by the 'O' from the Son, life will always be a struggle.

And Verse 28  fascinates me because Jacob is commended for his struggle and has overcome. What does it mean?  "because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome."

Well, for me I think he worked it out. For years he had lived with what he did to his father and Esau and it had clearly played on his mind. He realised he had not only deceived his family and himself but also God. And the God of the Universe the creator of all things who wrestles with the consciences of all individuals in the world, who read the mind of Jacob was able to say 'I bless you ......well done my good and faithful servant' and Jacob saw God for who he truly was. A God of Love, a God of compassion, a long suffering God of mercy and forgiveness!

You know when I review the account of Jacob's life there are no accidental sins or sins of ignorance recorded. They are deliberate, premeditated and calculating but he was part of God's chosen race.......and so are you so take heart my brothers and sisters in Christ and spread the word it's good news.

The second character I want to study is found in three of the New Testament gospels. I'm going to read the account from Mark 5:5-20 and the passage in my bible is titled;

Jesus Restores a Demon-Possessed Man

"They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.

When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, "What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God's name don't torture me!" For Jesus had said to him, "Come out of this man, you impure spirit!"

Then Jesus asked him, "What is your name?"

"My name is Legion," he replied, "for we are many." And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.

A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. The demons begged Jesus, "Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them." He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.

Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man - and told about the pigs as well. Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, "Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you." So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.

This is not the first time Jesus has driven out a demon from a human being but I suggest that perhaps this was the worst case. What kind of life is this man living. Unable to be kept in chains, one of the gospel accounts has him running around naked and if you lived near the tomb stones, night and day you would hear the screams from this crazy individual as he raced around and slashed himself. For me, totally impossible to imagine but Jesus has an encounter with this man very early in his ministry.

But what I want to do is stir your imagination to the life before demon possession. How was this man living? How did he get involved in this lifestyle? Was it drugs?, was it party games with sťances and Ouija boards, was it repeated sessions with fortune tellers, taro card readers and the like. Was it a teenage rejection of a religious life.....The reality is I don't know but somehow this man has an encounter with Jesus Christ and the evil spirits are driven out.

My message is simple. Don't write anyone off. While there is breath there is hope. An encounter with Jesus Christ can be life changing. Which brings me to the final two people I want to consider in this study.

Two thieves were crucified with Christ. One on His left and the other on His right.  And the gospel of Matthew records this awful scene.

Matthew 27:41-44

In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. "He saved others," they said, "but he can't save himself! He's the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, 'I am the Son of God.'" In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

And the human in me says that these guys got what they deserved, to be crucified for their crimes. And in the midst of this agony for Christ the insults fly from those either side. But something happens. The Holy Spirit is active on these men and a struggle is taking place. And this God of love now hanging from a tree is doing all he can to save until the last breath leaves Him. And in this extraordinary act of love for those who put him there.....my sin, your sin deliberate or otherwise responds to the insults of the thief like this:

Luke 23:39-43

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!"

But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong."

Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."

Jesus answered him, "Truly, I tell you today, you will be with me in paradise."

This man removed the 'I' from sin and replaced it the 'O' of the Son.

This is both beautiful and sad. There is a passage that says 'Heaven rejoices when a sinner repents and is saved' but I want to tell you that on this day there were tears of joy and tears of sadness. For the same Holy Spirit who plead with both criminals, was rejected by one and accepted by the other. To me it is clear that both these men had a knowledge of Christ. The passage we read indicates this. 'Aren't you the Messiah?' is more a statement of 'You are the Messiah' and the other one asks him 'Don't you fear God?'

How many times had these criminals had the opportunity to go straight. How many times had they previously rejected the call of the Holy Spirit? But the sad fact of life is that as it was in the days before the flood so it will be before the second coming of Jesus Christ and God said then as recorded in Genesis chapter 6. 'My Spirit will not contend with man forever' and this sinner who had the grace of God at his fingertips chose to die unsaved. Oh what a tragedy when to be saved and enjoy a perfect sin free eternity lay within his grasp.

One of the jobs I do every week at home is put out the garbage. It happens every Thursday night and the garbage truck arrives every Friday morning around 5am. Now there have been times when I have laid in bed and out of the corner of my ear I hear the garbage truck coming. The monotonous sound of the mechanical wizardry collecting garbage. Then half asleep I realise I have forgotten to put out the rubbish.....so half naked stumbling around in the dark I race to the bins scramble through the spring loaded gate, wake all the neighbours with the commotion and arrive at the kerbside to see the garbage truck disappearing over the hill.

Confession and repentance is like putting out the garbage of our lives.  David knew what it felt like to be free and in the Psalms chapter 32:1-5

Oh, what joy for those
      whose disobedience is forgiven,
      whose sin is put out of sight!
Yes, what joy for those
      whose record the LORD has cleared of guilt,
      whose lives are lived in complete honesty!
When I refused to confess my sin,
      my body wasted away,
      and I groaned all day long.
Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me.
      My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.

Finally, I confessed all my sins to you
      and stopped trying to hide my guilt.
   I said to myself, "I will confess my rebellion to the LORD."
      And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. (NLT)

My friends I urge you to replace the 'I ' from sin 'O' from Son. Take the 'I' of selfishness out and replace it with the 'O' for others because this is what Jesus, the Son of God is all about.

Galatians 1:3-5 says

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

The name Charles Colsson may not mean much to any of us but to many prisoners in US prisons he was their life saver. In 1973 he became a Christian, whilst serving as an aid to President Nixon in USA. He was well known as being Nixon's 'Hatchet Man' .  Slate magazine writer David Plotz described Colson as "Richard Nixon's hard man, the 'evil genius' of an evil administration.

On July 9 1974, Colsson was sent to gaol for the part he played in the cover up of what became known worldwide as the 'Watergate Scandal'.

During his time in prison, Colson had become increasingly aware of what he saw as injustices done to prisoners and shortcomings in their rehabilitation; he also had the opportunity, during a three-day furlough to attend his father's funeral, to pore over his father's papers and discover the two shared an interest in prison reform. He became convinced that he was being called by God to develop a ministry to prisoners with an emphasis in promoting changes in the justice system.

On April 21, 2012, Colson died in hospital "from complications resulting from a brain haemorrhage".  Among the news reports of his death were the comments of his friends, colleagues and political opponents best summed up by this short paragraph.

"He played political hardball for keeps. He was ruthless. He wanted to win at all costs and he had a reputation as a person who wanted to win at all costs ... I think if he's going to be remembered for anything, he's going to be remembered as a person who had a complete turnaround in his life.

"God gifted Chuck Colson in incredible ways, and he gave it all back to the kingdom for Christ. We were honoured to work with him and help carry his message to a hurting world, and I am grateful to have gotten the chance to meet and know Chuck. His passion, focus, energy, stamina, drive, and commitment made everyone who came in contact with him a better person and a better warrior for Christ."

Like the thieves on the cross Charles Colson had to make a choice for or against Christ. He chose for. Despite his sin, his guilt and imprisonment, he asked for, and accepted, forgiveness from Jesus and devoted the rest of his life to the service of God.

If you could look into this much of my life that God sees on a daily basis you would petition to have me banned from this pulpit for I have no qualification to be here. But what I have learned and I urge you to learn too are two verses from scripture that sum up all the words of this wonderful book.

1 John 1:9-10

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us."

My friends, the only thing that will keep us out of heaven is sin. The only way to heaven is acceptance of Jesus Christ, God's Son who gave up his life so that we might live. I encourage you and urge you to replace the 'I' in sin with the 'O' of the Son and live life to the full......forever!

Home > Online Magazine > Online Magazine: Edition 54 - Summer (Dec-Feb) 2013/14 > Could He - Would He (by Pr David Weslake)