Candlelight on the Eastern Shore
Candlelight on the Eastern Shore
A couple of weeks ago, my family celebrated Thanksgiving in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. It was a great time. A few days into the trip, the family wanted to get out and walk along the busy main street of Gatlinburg. Many of you here have been there before. It is a tourist trip to say the least. Lots of shops and trinket stores line the streets. It is fun. One of the more popular attractions is Ripley’s Believe It or Night Odditorium (spelled with an odd because of it’s contents).
Ripley was a newspaper man who specialized in cartoons. He parleyed his career in newspapers to a television show which would feature odd artifacts from around the world. Ripley was an odd bird to say the least.
On one occasion in the 1930’s, Ripley visited Africa where encounter a witch doctor. This witch doctor possessed an odd idol. Ripley called it the African Hate god. This Hate god was not just any god. It had a particular purpose. People in surrounding villages could come to the witch doctor and ask him to hex a family member, former friend or an enemy. This hex could be that hard luck or even death would be delivered to the intended target. To seal the deal, the witch doctor would pray and then hammer a nail into the wooden idol. You can see, the African Hate god has been nailed dozens and dozens of times.
There is something interesting about driving nails into wood.
You know there is a thought in American society that God hates us. It’s true. When you look around the world, you might think that God hates humans. From fires, to earthquakes to unexpected deaths, where is God. For some of us it feels as if God Himself is nailing hate into the wood of our humanity.
Let me show you another trinket that was given to me a few years ago.
This is a wooden cross. Two thousand years ago, a much larger wooden cross was made. That wooden cross took 3 nails. Brothers and sisters, those nails driven by hate actually translated into the most marvelous act of love for all humanity. You see, God does not hate humans, He has made a way to save humans by driving 3 nails into wood.
Let me tell you a story.
Genesis tells us that God created everything. When God was finished He proclaimed that all He had done was good. God created man in the beginning to think freely and to love Him. However, in the same book, man choose a different path. Adam and Even choose to rebel against God and not obey him. The bond between man and God had been severed. The first sin had been committed and that sin separated us from God.
Isaiah 59:2 NLT
It's your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.
Adam and Eve’s sin was passed down through generation to generation. Somehow their sin in the garden attached itself to our DNA and we are all rebellious sinners. The Bible tells us that there is a penalty for sin. Because God is just, He must punish rebellion.
For the wages of sin is death…
Because of our willful disobedience from the garden till now, we must die.
It is a sad story. But that is not where the story ends. God is just, but He is also love. So, God plans a worldwide rescue in the form of sending His Son Jesus to the earth. Jesus was perfect in every possible way. Jesus lived on this earth for 33 years and His last act on earth was to sacrifice Himself on our behalf on the cross. Even though we deserved death for our sin, God choose to pour out all His anger and wrath on His Son. Yes, we will still physically die, but this physical death does not have to be the end. We can live spiritually, eternally with God forever.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
God allowed 3 nails to be driven into a wooden cross, not out of hate, but out of love.
One of the many things I love about Christmas is the gifts. We all love getting and giving gifts. Well friends, when we give and receive gifts it is a reminder of the tremendous gift that Jesus gave to us.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life.
The greatest gift God wants to offer you today is eternal life.
Remember, Salvation’s Gift Is
Titus 2:11 NLT
For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people.
Ephesians 2:8 NLT
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God.
Romans 8:38-39 NLT
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow - not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below - indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Brothers and sisters, would you like to receive God’s free gift today? Are you trying to find joy, peace, security all on your own? Are you tired of feeling empty and alone? Have you been thinking that there is just something missing in your life? Have you ever asked Jesus to step into your life and change you from the inside out? Have you ever asked Jesus to save you from God’s wrath and punishment?
Friend, you two choices today.
1. You can trust Jesus, call out to Him and be saved. In doing so, your punishment was transferred to Him. God will not need to punish you because Jesus has already covered your debt. He has paid your penalty. In doing so, you can live with Him forever in heaven.
1 Peter 2:24
“And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.”
2. Your second choice is to pay for your sins on your own. You can try to be good, do good things, be nice to people but it won’t be good enough. You cannot be good enough to please God. If you choose to pay for your sins yourself then you will experience two deaths. First, you will experience physical death. Second you will experience spiritual death. Spiritual death is the complete separation of you and God forever. Complete separation means that you will exist in a place called hell. It is a place that was not created for you but rather for demons. However, we can choose to go there by denying the death of Jesus and the Lordship of God in our lives.
So, what is your choice?
Today if you declare that you want to know Jesus, that you love Jesus and that you desire to obediently follow Jesus, repeat these words in the quietness of your heart and mind.
Father, I know that I have broken your laws and my sins have separated me from you. I am truly sorry, and now I want to turn away from my past sinful life toward you. Please forgive me, and help me avoid sinning again. I believe that your son, Jesus Christ died for my sins, was resurrected from the dead, is alive, and hears my prayer. I invite Jesus to become the Lord of my life, to rule and reign in my heart from this day forward. Please send your Holy Spirit to help me obey You, and to do Your will for the rest of my life. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.”
How To Respond
Friends, in your order of worship, you will see an insert. Today, if you made a decision to follow Christ, please fill out that card completely. I want to personally contact you to help you grow in your decision. I want to talk to you about baptism and how you can plug into the church. You will see that there is also other decisions that you can make. If you would like to know more about our church or if you have recommitted your life to Jesus, we want to know about it.
In just a moment, the ushers will come and they will pass the plate down your row. Please put your decision card in that plate so that we can pray for you and contact you about your decision.
Music For Ushers To Collect Cards