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HOW QUICKLY THEY WENT ASTRAY...HOW QUICKLY WE GO ASTRAY

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

21 JANUARY 1996

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Exodus 15:22-27
Matthew 4:12-25
            27:22
Luke 2:19, 51
Romans 8:19
1 Corinthians 1:10-18
            2:16

If you ask them, the majority of the people in this country would say that they believe in God.

They may believe that He exists, and even that He made them, but very few believe enough to make Him Lord of their lives.

People even become members of churches, but never gain enough faith to make Jesus their Lord and to have a heart's desire to follow Him all the days of their lives and beyond.

Most people's vision is limited to the immediate, and not to the future.

Most people over spend for what they want today, and put little or nothing away for tomorrow.

Do you remember how we talked about Mary, the mother of Jesus, treasuring in her heart all the things that were said about her son (Luke 2:19, 51)?

19. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.

51. And He went down with them, and came to Nazareth; and He continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all these things in her heart.

Mary "banked" her valuable things for a future day: the really valuable things, the spiritual things that pay the way for our eternal stay in heaven.

But relatively few people do this.

This morning we are going to look at people who failed to "bank" the things of God, and who focused only upon the immediate situations for their own immediate gratification.

Let's begin by looking at Exodus 15:22-27.

The event described here occurs just after the Hebrew people had witnessed all the miracles in Egypt and had just crossed through the midst of the Red Sea.

22. Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness and found no water.

23. And when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter; therefore it was named Marah.

24. So the people grumbled at Moses, saying, "What shall we drink?"

They saw Moses stretch out his hand over the Sea, and they saw the power of the Lord as the waters were divided.

They saw, but they spent what they saw.

They saved none of it for the future.

They treasured none of it in their hearts so that they could think about it over and over again and be able to use it in the future.

So, now they resort to grumbling at Moses.

If they had treasured what they had seen, they would have come to Moses and said to Him, "Call upon the Lord our God, and pass your hand over the bitter waters, that the Lord our God may make them sweet, for we have seen His power and His love and know He can do all things."

But they didn't do that; they just grumbled.

How quickly they went astray.

So, what did Moses and the Lord do?

25. Then he [Moses] cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree; and he threw it into the waters, and the waters became sweet. There He made for them a statute and regulation, and there He tested them.

They’ve already failed a big test, what about the ones to come?

26. And He said, "If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the Lord, am your healer."

In other words, put what the Lord tells you in the treasure chests of your heart and mind, so that those things will be there whenever you need them.

27. Then they came to Elim where there were twelve springs of water and seventy date palms, and they camped there beside the waters.

Even in the midst of His stubborn people, God still shows His love and grace.

Let's go on now and look at people’s reactions to a series of situations in Jesus' life (Matthew 4:12-25):

12. Now when He heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee;

13. and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali.

14. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, saying,

15. "The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,

By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles--

16. "The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great light, And to those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, Upon them a light dawned."

The great light is Jesus, or the enlightenment He presented to the people.

They saw the light, perhaps not quite as spectacularly as the opening of the Red Sea, but they saw nevertheless.

But how did they perceive what they saw?

17. From that time Jesus began to preach and say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

18. And walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen.

19. And He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men."

20. And they immediately left the nets, and followed Him.

Peter and Andrew saw the light and followed.

21. And going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them.

22. And they immediately left the boat and their father, and followed Him.

They, too, left their nets and followed the light.

23. And Jesus was going about in all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.

24. And the news about Him went out into all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, taken with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them.

25. And great multitudes followed Him from Galilee and Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan.

These people also saw something else besides the light; they saw the miracles before they followed.

Did they really believe and accept Jesus as their Messiah?

Perhaps some did, but as with the Hebrews in the wilderness, many were only there for the show, not for a life-changing experience.

They weren't storing the spiritual things in their hearts and souls; they were there only for the entertainment value, and to be cured by what they probably perceived as "magic."

Why do I say this?

Note what we are told in Matthew 27:22 about the multitude just three years later:

22. Pilate said to them, "Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?" They all said, "Let Him be crucified!"

Note carefully that it says, “they all said” and not, “many said”; but that “all said, ‘Let Him be crucified!’ ”

For them to be able to say such a thing, Jesus could never have been their true light.

Jesus could never have been their Lord and Savior.

Jesus was only their short-term entertainment, and now He could be disposed of.

How quickly they went astray!

Paul had a similar experience in Corinth.

He began his ministry there in about the year 50, some 23 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

And, only three to five years later, note what he wrote back to them, in 1 Corinthians 1:10-18:

10. Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree, and there be no divisions among you, but you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.

If they all had stored the treasure of the Gospel within themselves, there would have been no divisions among them, for they would all have had the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16).

16. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that He should instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.

Paul continues (1 Corinthians 1:11-18):

11. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe's people, that there are quarrels among you.

12. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, "I am of Paul," and "I of Apollos," and "I of Cephas," and "I of Christ."

They're living in their pride of life, each one wanting to be seen as more important than the other person.

None of this is of Christ, or of any of the disciples mentioned.

13. Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

14. I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius,

15. that no man should say you were baptized in my name.

16. Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other.

In effect, Paul is saying to them, "What are you doing? You're focusing only upon the rituals and the physical aspects. You lack the spiritual meaning and the true light."

17. For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, that the cross of Christ should not be made void.

You don't have to be an entertainer to bring people to Christ.

You may bring people, even a whole crowd, but that doesn't mean that they will believe and be changed into a new being in Christ Jesus our Lord.

How quickly they went astray!

18. For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

What is the word of the cross to us?

What do you think the word of the cross means, and what do you think it means to the majority of the people in our community?

We all have seen the light.

We all have heard the truth.

Then why have so many of us gone astray?

Could we, too, be part of the problem, because we're not careful enough about our life-style?

Each of us needs to carefully evaluate our own life, and consider whom we are really following.

Is it Christ, or the devil?

Are we sometimes flitting back and forth between them, as we do when we flip channels on our TV sets?

We, too, need to repent and begin to more fully follow Jesus, as did His apostles.

How quickly most of us have gone astray!

However, the highway to heaven is right before us, and all we have to do is begin to wholeheartedly walk upon it and work harder at not going astray.

The choice is ours.

We have all been given the knowledge.

But do we have the wisdom to accomplish it?

Are we the loving and compassionate peacemaking children of God for whom the whole of creation anxiously awaits? (Romans 8:19)

The choice is ours.

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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