“You can’t Lose… Unless You refuse”

Sermon for April 24, 2016

For the congregations at 10 a.m.& Noon at

Redland church of the Nazarene, on the Campus of the Rainbow Academy

(audio of actual delivery -- from the "Noon" service at:

 http://redlandnazarene.net/mediaplayer.cfm?id=143#item143)

Will you Join Me In prayer, Please?

Father God, great and Gracious and HolyYour Kingdom Come, Your will be done, Father, Here and Everywhere.

We thank you that we can gather like this for fellowship and worship.  Speak thru your ministers, Lord,amongstease Open our minds and our hearts to your words; take away any distractions or blocks to your words and will for us.

In Jesus’ name we pray it, AMEN!

I’m excited to be here!

God has, literally, given me a heart for telling people the Good news, the Gospel, about what it takes to win, or at least survive, this game of life.

When I say God has “literally” given me a heart… I mean it… If you haven’t already heard that story-- there’s a link to my web-site on your bulletin insert for sermon notes, and my testimony’s there, or just see me after services, and we’ll work something out… it’s my job.

I’m amazed it’s my job… because I was one of God’s enemies, somebody who ignored His rules and Laws, bound for Hell, and now… I’m here.

But, There’s still many people lost and losing the game, or trying to make up their own rules for it, and I have a heart, now, to tell them:

The Game is rigged! You can’t lose… unless you refuse!

We can call life a game, because it has rules and laws and winners and losers.  But the Good News, the Gospel truth is:

The Game is rigged, for our benefit!  

We can’t lose… unless we refuse!

But this “game of life” is actually… A game of “Life, and Death”

So it’s important to remember: The Game is rigged! You can’t lose… unless you refuse!

I said the Lord is very good to me, and He is… I’m not only a walking bundle of miracles, I’ve been dead and revived more than once, and He’s carried me thru some really tough times… God just does nice things for me,

(Slide: Whoever does not love does not know God, because, God is love.  -- 1 John 4:8)

He says it’s because he Loves me… and I don’t understand that, but I believe it.

God is Love, and He loves me --- and You! 

One of the nicest things He’s done for me, is my wife, Evelyn.  She Loves me, too, and I don’t understand that, either, but she does.

One of the ways that I know that is, she shares her experience, strength and hope with me.  One of those experiences is about rules and laws…

Some years ago, never mind how many…

(Opening and closing upraised right hand while continuing to speak, signing “Five”, four times… congregation laughs)

When her nephew Daniel was about five, he was helping her wash and detail her car.

As little Daniel was helping wash the interior of her car and started to use his soapy rag on the windows, Evelyn says:  “Don’t get soap on the windows”.

She said she could see Daniel thinking about it, for quite a while, and finally he says…

“You could put soap on the windows if you want too… it’s your car.”

Now the point of the story, is that a lot of the time, we don’t understand the rules and laws.  Sometimes, we think they’re just made-up, that we change them “if you want to”, not laws of nature, something that’s not going to change except by the grace and will of God.

But, all of us, young and old, all of us have trouble understanding the rules and laws that govern this game life and death game we’re in.  Sometimes we think, “I can do that if I want to, it’s my life.”  Sometimes we think the rules and the laws are wrong… because people make bad laws all the time.  And sometimes we just don’t understand … Sometimes we CAN’T understand:

God said, thru the Prophet Isaiah, in Isaiah 55:8:

 “8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways --” declares the Lord.  9

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways.

 

One of the world greatest physicists and mathematicians, who was also a devout Christian, Sir Isaac Newton, humbly talked about His lack of understanding of God’s Laws, saying he was like a little boy on the beach, finding smooth stones and pretty shells, while the vast ocean of truth was undiscovered next to him.

I wish more of our modern scientists had that kind of humility.

And If I claimed to know and understand all the rules and laws of God, I’d be like a boy walking on Miami Beach and claiming to know all about the Atlantic ocean, and all about Israel, too, beyond the ocean, because I found some smooth stones and pretty shells , and met a Jewish person from Nazareth.

But I’ve got good news… that Jewish person, in fact several Jewish people and some gentiles, too, have shared the Gospel truth about some of the most important rules and laws of Nature’s God.  And they say:

“The game is rigged, and we can’t lose, unless we refuse”

We don’t have to know all the rules and all the laws and we don’t have to understand them… Just like I don’t have to know the all the rules and laws of aerodynamics and mechanical engineering to get on an airplane and have somebody fly me to Israel to see it for myself. But, I would have to trust the people who built the plane and the pilot that is flying it.

I wouldn’t have to know them personally, because, I’m not talking about a long term relationship with them, just about getting to where I want to go. But when it comes to the ultimate in long-term relationships, when it comes to where we’re going to spend eternity…

We do need to have a personal relationship with the one who built this world, the one who created all the rules and the laws that run it -- the One who’s flying it thru space and time.

Remember that scripture we looked at about His thoughts and His ways?

(Slide: “8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.  9“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways.  -- Isaiah 55:8-9)

Those were verses eight and nine from the 55th chapter of Isaiah. The prophet wanted to help us understand that we might not understand, because of what he’d written right before that, in verse seven:

Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts.  Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

What the prophet is saying about God’s Laws and God’s ways and God’s thoughts is:

The Game is rigged! You can’t lose… unless you refuse!

The game is rigged!

It’s not fair!

Let me say it that the way every little kid in the world says it, at one time or another:

(Arms akimbo, in a falsetto “childish” voice:)  That’s not fair!

There’s some pretty big kid’s that like to say that, too.

When Our Lord was here, walking along the beaches with us, He told several stories about that:

In the story of the prodigal Son, when the younger brother turned from his wicked ways and changed His mind about living by his own rules, His father welcomed him Home with open arms, and the eldest brother said:

(Arms akimbo, in a falsetto “childish” voice:) That’s not fair!

In the story of the Vineyard workers, the one’s that worked only a hour or two were paid the same as those who’d worked all day, and the ones who worked the longest said:

(Arms akimbo, in a falsetto “childish” voice:)  “That’s not fair”

Listen, Real grownups... so I’ve been told... Real Grownups understand enough about God’s rules and laws to know, life isn’t fair, and they’re are grateful for that.

God doesn’t give us what’s fair, by His own rules, He rigs the game for our benefit, so…

We Can’t Lose, Unless We Refuse

Children want justice, adults want mercy.

(Arms akimbo, in a falsetto “childish” voice:)  “That’s not fair”. 

(Arms raised towards the sky, in “normal” voice)“Thank God!

Is there anybody here that hasn’t heard of “Murphy’s law?”  Supposedly, Murphy’s Law is a Law of Nature:

“If anything can go wrong, it will”

There’s a corollary to Murphy’s law... a corollary is something that goes along with something else or naturally follows something else,

Like Salt and Pepper,

or Miami and Crazy Drivers or --

Me … and Evelyn …

Anyway, a corollary to Murphy’s law is “It will go wrong at the worst possible time”

“Whatever can go wrong will go wrong, and it will go wrong at the worst possible time.

Scripture says people have God’s laws “written in their hearts” and that’s obviously true.

Because, amongst all the books and websites with funny corollaries to Murphy’s Law, we see some that seem really true, and some that are paradoxes, thing’s that seem to contradict themselves, like the law of the Conservation of Filth:

“You can get everything dirty without getting anything clean, but in order to get something clean, you have to get something else dirty.”

That’s a paradox that points to the spiritual truth:

(Slide: 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  --2 Corinthians 5:21)

Jesus became sin so that we might be made clean.

God’s law says the wages of sin are death, and He didn’t change that law, He just paid the wages for us, He died for you and for me. 

You can be confused, you may not understand… but,

You can’t Lose unless you refuse.

He who had no sin, became sin, so that I didn’t have to die in my sin. 

It’s kind of paradoxical, huh?

Falls Church and Arlington, Virginia are suburbs of Washington, D-C., right next to each other, and the only way you can tell when you’ve left one and entered the other is, the street signs change color.

When you start seeing “Paradoxes” those are the signposts of the spiritual realm…

For example:

You’re aren’t saved by following the rules, but If you are saved and sanctified, you follow the rules. 

Because we’re not saved BY works, we’re are saved FOR works.

We can’t understand grace without the law, Just like we can’t be brave unless we’re scared. 

And can’t appreciate peace without knowing turmoil, Like we can’t appreciate food without hunger

Here’s a really big one: Your greatest victory will come when you surrender.

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” -- Luke 9:24

Another important paradox:

Refusing to choose is a choice.

Refusing is the way to lose, the only way (Matthew 23:37)

In the end , there’re only two groups of people:

Those who say to God, ‘Your will be done --’ Or those that refuse to do that –who follow their own rules. 

To them, God will say, ‘OK, Your will be done.’

Everybody in Hell, chose it.  But,

We can’t Lose, unless we refuse.

It’s another paradox that points to His Law: 

He loves you too much to force YOU to Love Him.

God, the Almighty creator of everything… has made a rule that you are free to refuse to follow His rules…

you are free to chose, to lose… Or you can choose to follow Him who is Love, and Live.

The Game is rigged! We can’t lose… unless we refuse!

Now, most of men’s rules and laws are based in fear.  We afraid we’re going lose or be denied something that we absolutely have to have, so we create rules and Laws to try to try prevent that.

If we don’t believe that He’s rigged the game for us, then we’re going to be afraid we’ll lose.

And, another paradox, we’ll be right –we will lose…

But we don’t have too.

(Slide: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”  -- John 16:33)

I’m not trying to say that we’re not going to have problems, In Fact, the Lord promised we would, but He’s also rigged the game so that we don’t have to be afraid of those troubles…

(Slide: Whoever does not love does not know God, because, God is love.  -- 1 John 4:8)

See, God is Love

God’s thinking and God’s “ways” –are based in Love, not Fear

He’s not insecure.

God’s laws aren’t for His benefit, they’re for Ours.

And the corollary to that is:  our obedience isn’t for His benefit, it’s for ours.

We aren’t saved by our obedience to Him, we are saved by His love for us, we are saved by His Grace.

He wrote His most important rules and laws in our hearts,

so that we might come to chose to love and obey Him.

Our ability to chose comes from Him:  Obedience comes from love and produces love.

 

That’s one of his laws that we can understand– the Law of Reciprocity

“What goes around, comes around”

Scripture puts it this way:

(Slide:  38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  -- Luke 6:38)

Give, and you will receive.

By God’s rules life’s not a “zero sum” game –you want more of, give it away

Put out it out and it comes back.

Money problems?

Tithe… and see what happens.

Share your experience, strength and hope and get… More valuable experience, greater strength, more enduring hope.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)

(Slide:  For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  – Matthew 6:14)

Love and Be Loved, Forgive and be Forgiven, Forgive someone that’s hurt you in their willfulness, forgive yourself, and see what happens in your spirit.

This law of reciprocity is an important one and it has many more related laws, corollaries, than we have time to look at, but I’ve listed some scriptures that show them, there in your “sermon notes” insert, and recommend some study so that you can see how the Lord has rigged the game for your benefit.

This Book (the Bible), read with the help of the Holy Spirit, contains everything we need to understand about God’s Rules and Laws for us and some good examples of what it means to follow them, and what it means…

to lose.

The rules and the laws are the signposts that guide us down the road to Him -- and you won’t be lost if you follow them…

One of those Jewish Beach-walkers I mentioned earlier, Peter… Peter showed us a lot about faith and confusion and misunderstanding and he also showed us what I call “Peter’s road to Love”, a road to Him who is Love.

Peter was fond of his own understanding of the Law, until God changed him.  There’s lot’s of examples, but one of the most famous ones is Peter walking on water… he saw the Lord do it and he did it, too, until he thought:

(Slide: But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” -- Matthew 14:30)

“the rules says you can’t walk on water” and he began to sink.

… he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Then he drowned…

No… the Lord saved him! 

And he learned some really important rules and laws of God that he shared with us as signposts…

In the first chapter of second Peter, starting in the fourth verse,

he speaks of God promises and faithfulness, and he tells of the road that leads to God, who is Love.

He says we start at faith, Confidence in the Character of God, the one who made the rules

and to that we add Goodness,

and then Knowledge (holds up Bible)

Self-control,

Perseverance --

Godliness

Mutual Affection

And Finally, we arrive at LOVE,

Which is to say, GOD

Right in the middle of Peter’s roadmap, he points us to a Law of God that is very important:

The Law of Perseverance.

 “Keep… On… Keepin’… On…”

(Slide:  7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”  - Matthew 7:7)

Don’t give up, don’t quit…

Keep asking, Keep seeking, Keep knocking.

I got an Army story about perseverance.

There’s a badge that some Soldiers in medical specialties can earn, the Expert Field Medical Badge.

It’s very hard to get , about 83 percent of the people who try for it, fail, more than four out of five.

You got to survive a 120 hours of tests, grueling tests in medical skills and soldier skills and many other mentally and physically demanding skills and tasks.  Last April, 46 soldiers out of a group of 239 that, made it to the final test, a 12-mile March, in three hours or less, so part of it’s got to be a run, carrying a 35-pound pack and about than 25 pounds of gear.  And this is after all the other stuff, so they’re exhausted.

So when Captain Sarah Cudd was trying to finish and win the badge, She wasn’t running, she was barely walking…

(CPT Sarah Cudd, USA, earns the EFMB)

Somebody said “Don’t touch Her!”, because the Army’s rules say she had to finish without help.

You think Sarah would've been a loser even if she’d kept falling and struggling until the time ran out?

No! She’d only been a loser if she quit.

Our rule-maker and our Law-giver sees your heart, He judges your intent , it’s in the book.

No matter how heavy your load, no matter how many times you stumble and fall, if you keep trying…

He will touch you … He will even lift you up and carry you where you need to go, like He has me…

He has re-written the rules so that…

We can’t Lose, unless We refuse.

He will lift you up when you’re sinking in confusion and despair, He promises.

And One of the Laws of the universe is that God cannot lie.

Believe it and travel, from faith, following the laws of reciprocity and perseverance to Love,

which is God Himself.

Just follow the signposts, and keep on keeping on,

You can’t help but cross the finish line, because, in the end, when you can’t go any further,

He will lift and carry you Home, Just like He did for Peter, Just like he did for Me,

because that’s how He’s rigged the game for you and me…

We can’t lose, unless We refuse.  

(Prayer and Altar Call)

Quoted and referenced Scriptures (in the order of reference):  1 John 4:8; Isaiah 55:6-9;  Romans 2:14-15;  2 Corinthians 5:21;  Matthew 23:37;  Matthew 20:25-28;  John 16:33;  Luke 6:38;  Proverbs 15:1;  Matthew 6:14;  Matthew 25:29;  Luke 12:47-48;  Colossians 3:12-14;  Ephesians 4:32;  Matthew 7:7;  Matthew 22:36-40;  Matthew 14:30;  2 Peter 1:4-8;  Micah 6:8-9