Sermons by Marlin Harless

HOUSEHOLD OF FAITH

THIS IS THE FIRST IN A SERIES OF SERMONS:
"ASSESSING CHANGE IN THE CHURCHES OF CHRIST"
THE THEME OF THIS STUDY:
THE TENDENCY OF MAN TO CHANGE WHAT GOD HAS CLEARLY REVEALED TO MAN:
TO BE HIS WILL AND PURPOSE!
By Marlin L. Harless

INTRODUCTION: Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden, historically, and dramatically Illustrates this remarkable truth! As a matter of fact, the entire Biblical Record reveals that man has never been, from day one, to the present, very enthusiastic or willing, to accept God's Message or Word at face value! To state it succinctly: Man thinks that he can improve upon God's Plan of Salvation, accordingly, some really think they are wiser than God!! Beloved, that is why the Lord's church is struggling with all sorts of spiritual problems, today: we are truly in Satan's grips of apostasy!!

I. NOTICE, THAT SATAN BOLDLY, AND CONVINCINGLY REVERSES GOD'S DECREE!! (Genesis 3:4) "And the serpent said unto the woman." "As God had preached to Adam, (Genesis 2:17), so Satan now also preaches to Eve" The object of Satan was to draw away Eve by his word or saying from that which God had said. "Ye shall not surely die." The devil's language gives the direct negative. Thus, the second step in his assault in allusion to which it has been thought our Savior calls Satan a liar (John 8:44).

Genesis 3:5) "For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof." Cf. the divine prohibition (Genesis 2:17), the exact terms of which are again used---a mark of growing aggressiveness towards the woman, and of special audacity towards God. "Your eyes shall be opened." Here it was designed to be ambiguous; like all Satan's oracles, suggesting to the hearer the attainment of higher wisdom, but meaning in the intention of the speaker only a discovery of their nakedness! "And ye shall be as gods"---that is, as the supreme deity---ostensibly a promise of divinity.

(Genesis 3:6) "She took of the fruit thereof, and did eat" Thus consummating the sin (James 1:15). "And gave also unto her husband" Being also desirous, doubtless, of making him a sharer in her supposed felicity. The first time Adam is styled Eve's husband, or man; perhaps designed to indicate the complete perversion by Eve of the purpose of her marriage with Adam, which was to be a helpmeet for him, and not his destroyer! "And he did eat." And so involved himself in the criminality of his already guilty partner; not simply being captivated with her allurements." ("Fondly Overcome Charms."---Milton, 'Paradise Lost,' Book 10), which (1 Timothy 2:14) is supposed to justify; but likewise as being "persuaded by Satan's impostures," which doubtless Eve had related to him. This much is distinctly implied in those scriptures that speak of Adam as the chief transgressor: "Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. For since by man came dearth, by man came also the resurrection of the dead, for as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (Romans 5:12; 1 Corinthians 15:21,22).

(Genesis 3:7) "The EYES OF THEM BOTH WERE OPENED." The fatal deed committed, the promised results ensued, but were opened to perceive that they were no longer innocent, and not the anticipated blessings. (1) The eyes of their minds (2) the eyes of their bodies to behold that they were not as they had been. Thus, (Genesis chapter (3) speaks clearly of this trio, Adam, Eve, and Satan, conspired together to change God's Word---his Plan for man---for themselves, and for others, forever!!

II. ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF MAN'S TENDENCY TO CHANGE GOD'S WORD, IS FOUND IN (LEVITICUS 10:1,2) "And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censor, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord." They---the newly ordained priests---had, with whatever good intentions, done what God had not commanded, and in doing it had done what he had forbidden!! Like Uzzah afterwards (2 Samuel 6:6,7), "And when they came to Nachon's threshing-floor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God."

They died for it, that others might fear to do the same! Will worship (Colossians 2:20-23) receives thereby an emphatic condemnation, and priests and people were taught, in a manner not to be forgotten, that "to obey is better than sacrifice" (1 Samuel 15:22c). Accordingly, let's note in detail, the above Colossian text: "Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though, living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (touch not; taste not; handle not; which all are to perish with the using); after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things indeed have a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body, not in any honor to the satisfying of the flesh".

Consider this: the discipline of daily life makes one a saint, another a more determined sinner. The discipline of suffering softens one heart, hardens another the difficulties of religious belief makes one the more submissive, another an unbeliever! God is the joy of the believer and the misery of the infidel. And so we may suppose that it will be hereafter!! The presence of God will be the exceeding great reward of those who have sought after him, and that same presence would be the torture of those who have not submitted their wills to His!!! It may be that this in itself will be sufficient to constitute the punishment of the unrighteous in the world to come!!

III. MAN'S TENDENCY TO CHANGE GOD'S WORD IS FURTHER ILLUSTRATED BY THE REPORT OF THE SPIES (NUMBERS CHAPTERS 13, 14). The spies' report: they said of the land, "Surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it, "The people be strong," The cities be walled, and very great, we saw the children of Anak there" (Numbers 13:27,28). Possibly ten of the Twelve spies "brought up an evil report of the land" (verse 32). This evil report discouraged the people. "All the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried" (Numbers 14:1). They said, "let us make a captain ,and let us return into Egypt," (verse 4). But Joshua and Caleb said, "it is an exceeding good land, a land which floweth with milk and honey" (verses 6-8).

"But all the congregation bade stone them with stones" (verse 10). "And the glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle of the congregation before all the children of Israel." God said, "I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them," (verse 12). And Moses prayed to Jehovah! My friends, hear me, are you listening? Moses said, "Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of thy mercy" (verse 19). Moreover, the Lord said, "I have pardoned according to thy word" (verse 20). This is another example of "God's people changing his Word" and, thus, changing God's Plan for man---at least, they changed God's Word as far as they were concerned, and nearly destroyed the nation of Israel!

IV. BALAAM, THE MERCENARY PROPHET, WAS TYPICAL OF MANY MEN TODAY: HE HAD A SEVERE CASE OF MEGALOMANIA, BEING BOLD AND DARING, HE IMPRESSES ME AS ONE WHO REALLY ENJOYED PLAYING GAMES WITH GOD!!! (Numbers 22:5, 6) Balak was king of the Moabites, and he said to Balaam the prophet "behold, there is a people come out from Egypt: behold, they cover the face of the earth, and they abide over against me: come now therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people; for they are too mighty for me"

"And God said unto Balaam, thou shalt not go with them; thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed. But Balak was persistent, for he said to Balaam, I will promote thee unto very great honor, and I will do whatsoever thou sayest unto me: come, therefore, I pray thee curse me this people." Moreover, Balaam said, "If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord my God, to do less or more" (Numbers 22:12, 17, 18).

Accordingly, Balaam is determined to curse the people for Balak's sake. And all the while Balaam is lusting after Balak's house full of silver and gold!! Why? Because Balaam was a mercenary prophet!! (Numbers 22:32) "And the angel of the Lord said unto himbehold, I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before me:" (Numbers 22:33) "And the ass saw me, and turned from me these three times: unless she had turned from me, surely now also I had slain thee, and saved her alive."

(Numbers 22:35) "And the angel of the lord said unto Balaam, go with the men: but only the word I shall speak unto thee, that thou shalt speak" (Numbers 23:8) Balaam asked, "How shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed? Or how shall I defy, whom the Lord hath not defied?" (Numbers 23:20) Balaam said to Balak, "behold, I have received commandment to bless: and he hath blessed; and I can not reverse it."

(Numbers 24:10) "And Balak's anger was kindled against Balaam, and he smote his hands together: and Balak said unto Balaam, I called thee to curse my enemies, and, behold, thou hast altogether blessed them these three times." Beloved, consider the following very carefully: Balaam persists in his desire for Balak's house of silver and gold!! Moreover, Balaam discovers that he is in a spiritual strait jacket---something like what Jesus quite often did for the scribes and Pharisees: he painted them into a corner!! Like many preachers today, Balaam is breathing heavy, and perspiring---he is miserable in his quest to play games with God!! What can we say, then, for Balaam? We can say, he will lose, like all men who contest God!!!

Consider Balaam's messianic prophecy, (numbers 24:17) "I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Scepter shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth." Thus, Balaam miserably failed in his attempt to change God's word, however, his failure to change God's word, certainly was not because he didn't try!!

V. STILL, ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF MAN'S TENDENCY TO CHANGE GOD'S WORD, IS THE CHURCH AT EPHESUS! (REVELATION 2:1-7). In the message to this church, Christ commended them for their good works, and reproved them for their sins! (Revelation. 2:4). "Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee: because thou hast left thy first love." What happened at Ephesus? The text indicates that this church was doing all the things that any faithful church of Christ should be doing, except for their slackening love!!

Our lord said, "I know thy works, and thy labor, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: and hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast labored, and hast not fainted" (Revelation 2:2,3). Today, this church would put many professed Christians to shame!! Look at the text carefully, and brood over it, and meditate upon it!! It appears that their zeal for militantly opposing evil was very strong and pleasing to the Lord; and, at the same time their love was elapsing or slackening: "Their leaving their first love" which is Jesus Christ!! Beloved, consider the ultimatum: fix it, or else!!! They didn't fix it, and, alas, the Candlestick Was Removed!!! (Cf. Matthew 28:18).

Suffice it to say, that the church at Ephesus became so preoccupied with opposing evil in others, (and we absolutely must do that), accordingly, their love and ardor for Christ began to cool, and to finally freeze!!! Consider this, the lapse of love in the church at Ephesus originated within the church. There was no enemy from the outside that caused the problem!! They changed the word of God by changing their attitude toward Christ!! (Cf. church of Christ at Madison, Tenn.). Beloved, one of the greatest problems the church has ever experienced is this: many professed Christians are not satisfied with God's spiritual arrangement of things: his plan of salvation in particular; and even the name which the church wears!!! Some professed Christians think Christ built a Trojan type of church which man must change to make it acceptable to men!!!

Moreover, we do have some great politicians in the church of Christ: if they don't like something God has said, they just disregard it---pretend that it is nonexistent! For example: look at what has happened to church discipline: it is rarely taught and preached. Why?? Beloved, there is one reason, namely, many professed Christians have changed their minds on this subject, too! Compare (Acts 5:1-11; 2 Thessalonians 3:6,14, 15).

Our Lord gave the church at Laodicea the following censure: "because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me" (Revelation 3:17,20). My friends, there is no evidence that even one of them opened the door of their heart!! Obviously, this church had locked Christ outside the door of their hearts!! Beloved, even Christ cannot save those who despise and reject Him!!

CONCLUSION: Are you a Christian? Have you heard the gospel? Not the denominational version of it, but Christ's version of it? Are you aware of the fact, that you "must obey the gospel," if you ever intend to be saved? Just how long has Jesus stood at the door of your heart, six months, 5 years, 20 years, 50 years, or possibly longer? Do you think he might be tired of waiting?

Why not let him enter by yielding to his loving invitation: "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28). To be saved: you must do the following: a. Hear the gospel, (Romans 10:14), b. Believe the gospel, (Mark 16:16), c. Repent of sins, (Acts 17:30), d. Confess faith in Christ, (Acts 8:37), e. Be baptized for remission of sins, (Acts 2:38). f. Be faithful until death, (Revelation 2:10). My friends, we do not have one moment to spare, because, "now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2c).

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

1. King James Version of Bible, The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible, Fifth Improved Edition

2. The Pulpit Commentary

3. The American College Dictionary

4. The American Heritage Dictionary

5. Theological Dictionary of The New Testament

6. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology

(E-Mail address: mlharless@kvinet.com). Dear reader: In the event you should find mistakes or errors in this sermon, misspelling, scripture references, etc., please inform me of the same, at your earliest convenience! Telephone: (304) 247-6895). Thank you! MLH.



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