Preaching the Gospel, Preparing a People

Three Words of Courage

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Three Words of Courage

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Three Words of Courage

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In this sermon we explore three words of courage that might save your life. Being this kind of person will serve you well in fighting the good fight of faith.

Transcript

Our title today, Three Words of Courage. Three words of courage. The great American statesman, Daniel Webster…. Are you familiar with Daniel Webster? Not the Webster Dictionary, but Daniel Webster. Daniel Webster was one of the foremost statesmen in American history. He served as Secretary of State under three different Presidents. And when Daniel Webster was asked about what was the most important thought in his life, and what did he keep before him always? And his response was, “The most important thought that ever occupied my mind is that of my individual responsibility to God”. My individual responsibility to God. That, he said, was ever in his mind. That was ever in his thinking. I'm sure that was ever in the mind of Christ as He came to do the will of the Father and to fulfill the mission that God sent Him here to do. And I wonder if that is what is foremost, always, in our minds? That we might fulfill our individual responsibility to God? That responsibility occupies our minds.

Now, to Romans 14:11-12 Romans 14:11-12 [11] For it is written, As I live, said the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. [12] So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
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. We mentioned there, in the beginning, with regard to the scripture today, that would tie in with the sermon. In Romans 14:11 Romans 14:11For it is written, As I live, said the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
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Romans 14:11-12 Romans 14:11-12 [11] For it is written, As I live, said the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. [12] So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
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– For it is written: “As I live, says the Lord, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.” So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God

Everyone shall give an account of himself to God. We live in an age of no accountability. And, in fact, they have tried to develop a society in which the natural consequences of whatever act it might be is no longer relevant in that we will prevent it from happening, or if it does happen we will tolerate it. We will develop some kind of program for you to overcome it, or whatever it might be, but we will not condemn the behavior. But this says that we will give an account for every action to God. In other words, whether you like it – believe it or not – you are responsible – I am responsible – first and foremost to God. Which means that the ultimate accountability…. Who are you ultimately going to give an account to? It's not going to be to me or any other man. It's not going to be to your parents, not going to be to your wife or your husband. It's going to be to you. The ultimate accountability for your actions, for my actions, will be to God.

Let's note further the words of the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:10 2 Corinthians 5:10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he has done, whether it be good or bad.
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– forward a few pages there to 2 Corinthians 5:10 2 Corinthians 5:10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he has done, whether it be good or bad.
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2 Corinthians 5:10 2 Corinthians 5:10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he has done, whether it be good or bad.
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– For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. 

Of course, we oftentimes quote the scripture from 1 Peter 4:17 1 Peter 4:17For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
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, where it talks about judgment is now on the house of God – that we are daily standing before the judgment seat of Christ. This is our day of judgment. This is our day to live under the government of God. So, what is responsibility all about, if we're going to define it? It's the state of being accountable, or to blame for something – the fact of being accountable, giving an answer for, or to blame for something – something you have done. Remember our title is Three Words of Courage. We may not come to those until the very last moment. 

Choices are the stuff that life is made of. Sometimes we say that time is the stuff that life is made of. Make the most of your time. And of course, time is the substance that life is made of. But when it comes to the direction of our life, the choices that we make is the stuff that life is made of. Your choices determine your future and you are accountable for your choices. In the process of coming to baptism, we stated that we were willing to forsake all and enter into a covenant of sacrifice with God and Christ and each member of the body of Christ. 

Let's look at Psalm 50. Sometimes we forget that Psalm 50, with regard to the covenant of sacrifice, this is probably the only place in the Bible where you will see this exact term used. The first few verses here in Psalm 50 – much of the book of Psalms is devoted to prophecy, and notice the prophetic setting here: (Dr. Ward is actually reading Psalms 49:1 Psalms 49:1Hear this, all you people; give ear, all you inhabitants of the world:
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-6 here) 

Psalms 49:1-6 Psalms 49:1-6 [1] Hear this, all you people; give ear, all you inhabitants of the world: [2] Both low and high, rich and poor, together. [3] My mouth shall speak of wisdom; and the meditation of my heart shall be of understanding. [4] I will incline my ear to a parable: I will open my dark saying on the harp. [5] Why should I fear in the days of evil, when the iniquity of my heels shall compass me about? [6] They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches;
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Hear this, all ye people; give ear, all ye inhabitants of the world: Both low and high, rich and poor, together. My mouth shall speak of wisdom; and the meditation of my heart shall be of understanding. I will incline mine ear to a parable: I will open my dark saying upon the harp. Wherefore should I fear in the days of evil, when the iniquity of my heels shall compass me about? They that trust in their wealth. And I'm reading chapter 49. Why didn't you tell me? I knew something didn't sound right. Because I said it talks about prophecy and the coming of God, Jesus Christ.

Psalms 50:1-5 Psalms 50:1-5 [1] The mighty God, even the LORD, has spoken, and called the earth from the rising of the sun to the going down thereof. [2] Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God has shined. [3] Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him. [4] He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people. [5] Gather my saints together to me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.
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The mighty God, even the Lord, hath spoken, and called the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof. Out of Zion – remember Zion symbolizes the church in verse 12, 22, and 3 – Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined. Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him. He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people. Ultimate accountability. Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice. And when we go under the baptismal waters we say that we are burying the old man. We are sacrificing the old man. We are putting him to death. We are being raised to newness of life. And in that baptismal counseling and in the baptismal ceremony, we are affirming that we are willing to forsake all and enter into this covenant of sacrifice. 

So, now we want to look at Luke 14:25 Luke 14:25And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said to them,
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. This area right here I always read when counseling anyone for baptism.

Luke 14:24-33 Luke 14:24-33 [24] For I say to you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper. [25] And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said to them, [26] If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. [27] And whoever does not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. [28] For which of you, intending to build a tower, sits not down first, and counts the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? [29] Lest haply, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, [30] Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. [31] Or what king, going to make war against another king, sits not down first, and consults whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that comes against him with twenty thousand? [32] Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends an ambassador, and desires conditions of peace. [33] So likewise, whoever he be of you that forsakes not all that he has, he cannot be my disciple.
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For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper. And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. So, we affirm this when we enter into that covenant of sacrifice when we're counseling for baptism. And baptism symbolizes and signifies that we are putting that old man to death and raised to newness of life. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sits not down first, and counting the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him. How many people have started out and laid the foundation; gone through all that they have gone through, and then yet after so many years, they turn away? Now this covenant – and what we're talking about does not require giving up every family member and even your own. It doesn't require that you have no contact with your family members, but it does require some sacrifice on it. As we continue here, we notice what it says – verse 30 saying: This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sits not down first, and consults whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he send an ambassador, and desires conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsakes not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

Now sometimes that might even require giving up every family member and even your own life, because it says that if you're not willing to be able to forsake all, we go back to verse 26:

V-26 – If any man come to me, and hate – love less by comparison to God - not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. Do we really believe that? As I said earlier, that doesn't mean you cut off your association with them, but when it comes down to whether you're going to obey God or compromise with God's word, you cannot compromise with God's word. 

In recent years, how many people who entered into this covenant of sacrifice broke their covenant because of the influence of a loved one? I know, even in this area, that as the last major split was taking place, that many people said, “Well, our children want to go here because that's where the sports program is. That's where the teens are going, so we want to be with our family. We don't want our teenagers to be cut off. We don't want our teens to be disappointed.” Whether or not a family member does this, that, or the other, it has to do with what we…do we have that urge, that desire, to be ever responsible to God and to Christ and each member of the body of Christ to be willing to follow God? See, it might be a parent, it might be a wife, it might be a husband, as it says here in scripture. These are not my words. I try to expound on the word of God. It might be a grandchild. It might be a friend that caused them to quit or to keep one foot on the dock and the other foot in the boat, as so many have tried to do. Oh there is not much difference between this, that, and the other. And we addressed that to some degree last Sabbath in the sermon in which many of you apparently did not tune in. They think that God approves of some kind of syncretic mix of various beliefs and yet be one hundred percent with the organization they profess to be a part of and support. 

Most people do not really give much thought to the choices they make. They are dragged through the portals of life each day – by the winds of the day – not really giving much thought to their actions. It is a great miracle and honor that God has bestowed upon you and me to be called into His marvelous light. What an honor that is. What a blessing that is. That sets you apart from the rest of the world. God closes. God opens. He blinds and He gives sight.

Let's go now to John 14:37 John 14:37
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. In John 14:37 John 14:37
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. I don't know what is wrong with my transferring this. It's John 12, I'm pretty sure. I have to go by memory and not my notes. In John 12:37 John 12:37But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him:
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. I know where I want to go. 

John 12:37-47 John 12:37-47 [37] But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: [38] That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke, Lord, who has believed our report? and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? [39] Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, [40] He has blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. [41] These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spoke of him. [42] Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: [43] For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. [44] Jesus cried and said, He that believes on me, believes not on me, but on him that sent me. [45] And he that sees me sees him that sent me. [46] I am come a light into the world, that whoever believes on me should not abide in darkness. [47] And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.
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But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: That the saying of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Isaiah said again, He hath blinded their eyes…. You see, the fact that your eyes have not been blinded, you see the light, you have been called into God's marvelous light. …that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. These things said Isaiah, when he saw his glory, and spake of him – that's referring back to Isaiah 6, where Isaiah had the vision of God sitting on His throne. Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him. But because of the Pharisees – because of peer pressure. That's what gets so many people today is peer pressure, and “Everybody else is doing it, and why shouldn't I?” And, “What's wrong with it? But because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. Jesus cried and said, He that believes on me, believes not on me, but on him that sent me – on God the Father. You can't have the Son without the Father. You can't have the Father without the Son. And he that sees me sees Him that sent me. I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believes on me should not abide in darkness. And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. See, God has the power to blind people to the truth and He also has power to give sight. He blinded some. He gave sight to some. And by grace are you called. You've been called into His marvelous light. It is a calling that is beyond description. 

Now Satan can only blind people. He cannot give them light. We look at 2 Corinthians 4:4 2 Corinthians 4:4In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine to them.
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now. In 2 Corinthians 4:4 2 Corinthians 4:4In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine to them.
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, we will read that Satan is the god of this present evil age. In 2 Corinthians 4:4 2 Corinthians 4:4In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine to them.
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…we'll probably read verse 3 to read into it. 

2 Corinthians 4:3-4 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 [3] But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: [4] In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine to them.
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 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost - that are being lost. In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them. You see, before we were called into God's marvelous light, we all walked according to the power of the course of this era, of this world – this spirit that now works in the children of disobedience – the prince of the power of the air, Satan the devil, as it talks about in Ephesians 2:1-2 Ephesians 2:1-2 [1] And you has he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; [2] Wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience:
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In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. Satan has no power to give light and life. He is the prince of the power of the air. The spirit of Satan and the carnal mind work hand in hand. The Bible and studies on human nature, human behavior. In other words, both the Bible and both studies on human behavior show that there are four main responses that people use to avoid taking responsibility.

Once again, if we go back to Daniel Webster's quote, the most important thought that ever occupied my mind is that of my individual responsibility to God. So the Bible, along with other studies that humans have made in the field of sociology and psychology, have identified main responses that people use to avoid taking responsibility. And they go hand in glove with what it says in the Bible – that is, some of these studies. What is the first response that people often use to avoid taking responsibility? What was Adam and Eve's first response after they had sinned? It was to hide from God. They hid from God, and they made clothing out of fig leaves. And we'll read about that. Let's go to Genesis 3:8 Genesis 3:8And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
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. In Genesis 3:8 Genesis 3:8And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
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, we will see that, after they had sinned, God began to look for them in the Garden. He had instructed them not to take of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – not to partake of that tree and take to themselves the prerogative of deciding good and evil. And after they had sinned, let's read verse 7.

Genesis 3:7-10 Genesis 3:7-10 [7] And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. [8] And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. [9] And the LORD God called to Adam, and said to him, Where are you? [10] And he said, I heard your voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.
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And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked – now nakedness also symbolizes – of course, you can be physically naked – not have on clothing – but nakedness also symbolizes sin in the Bible. They knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. So there may be a double entendre here – a dual meaning – that physically, they realized they were naked and wanted to cover up, but they realized they had sinned and they wanted to cover up, as we read in verse 8. And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord – they thought – the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. So one of the first responses that we have – human beings have – when they have sinned and done something wrong – they don't want anybody to know about it – is to deny it – try to cover it up, as did Adam and Eve when they hid themselves in the Garden and sewed the fig leaves to cover their physical nakedness – trying to hide themselves from God. 

The next response used so often is justification – instead of taking responsibility, to justify. Justification can be – can be – the first step toward becoming bitter. The steps to bitterness are usually, first of all, to be scornful – to sit in the seat of the scornful. “Well, why did you do that? Why did they say that? Why didn't they do this? Why didn't they say that instead of what they said?” Of course, there is a time, and we are told to search the scriptures daily whether these things be true. There is always that personal responsibility. I'm not going to have to give an answer to you before God. But you need to look at the scriptures and see whether what I say, or any minister says, is true. That responsibility will always be upon us. In times past, it says in Acts 17, God winked at their ignorance, but now has commanded all men everywhere to repent. So, sitting in the seat of the scornful leads to cynicism. The cynic is one who, basically says, “Nothing is going to turn out right anyhow, so why bother?” And then, cynicism oftentimes leads to bitterness. Bitterness is a terrible state to be in. And taking on a state of bitterness is sometimes analogous to justification. Bitter people believe they are justified by being bitter. Let me say that again. Bitter people believe they are justified by being bitter. It becomes their identity. Their reason for being. “Well, do you understand what they did to me? Do you understand what he said/she said/they said back then? Well, I'll never forget that.” Well, maybe you won't forget, but you can certainly forgive it. And we are commanded to forgive it. In fact, the Bible clearly says, in Matthew 6, if you will not forgive your brother, then God will not forgive you. 

So, let's look at Proverbs 14:10 Proverbs 14:10The heart knows his own bitterness; and a stranger does not intermeddle with his joy.
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. Proverbs 14:10 Proverbs 14:10The heart knows his own bitterness; and a stranger does not intermeddle with his joy.
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– a very insightful scripture with regard to bitterness and what it is. 

Proverbs 14:10 Proverbs 14:10The heart knows his own bitterness; and a stranger does not intermeddle with his joy.
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The heart knows his own bitterness. The heart knows his own bitterness. He feels good in his bitterness. He feels he's justified for being bitter. And a stranger doth not inter meddle with his joyI enjoy being bitter. You can be negative only so long as you convince yourself that you are entitled to be bitter.” I'm entitled to be bitter. I'm justified by being bitter.” Unhappy individuals will always be found explaining and elaborating on the profound unfairness of their situation. Ancient Israel was consumed with murmurs and complainers. In fact, God had to drag them to the Promised Land. By the time that they had come to the third month; they sent out the spies to spy out the Promised Land. They came back with the evil report. They had tested and tried God ten times, as it says in Numbers 14. 

The following story provides an insight into bitterness, and also the remedy for it. This is a true story. It will take me a little time to read this. It's a true story.

In 1985, Fleet – that was his first name, F-L-E-E-T – Maull – M-A-U-L-L…. In 1985, Fleet Maull began serving a 14 year sentence for drug trafficking. During his incarceration – his jail time – he completed a PHD in Psychology, authored a well-received book, became an ordained priest, founded a prison hospice program, launched a non-denominational network – a non-profit organization that supports prisoner rehabilitation through contemplative spirituality. Of course, that's sort of Eastern mysticism. I'm just reading you what he did. 

Today Maull works as a peace activist and personal effectiveness coach lecturing at leading universities and corporate boardrooms in high risk areas, like Rwanda and the Middle East, and what he calls the forgotten world inside our jails and prisons. Of course, the US has more people in jail per capita than any nation basically on the face of the Earth. I read – this has been awhile since I read this statistic that, basically, one out of thirty-something people in the US are in jail. You might do the math on that and see if it's true or not. That seems high to me.

Maull has plenty of wisdom and experience to share, but he sums up his core message in a single phrase – responsibility. The title is Three Words of Courage. Maull believes we create everything that is happening in our lives, good and bad. We've already seen that to some degree from scripture. It's only when we accept complete responsibility that we take the giant step from childhood to adulthood. Self-responsibility is the key to personal effectiveness in every sphere of life. You may choose to embrace the psychology of helplessness and victimhood – and that's why so many people have done today – everyone, basically – view themselves as a victim. And there are two broad philosophies that are clashing at the present time. One is that somebody else; or the government, can solve your problems if you get the right political leader in office. The other says, let's give the individual the know-how and the wherewithal to help himself, then he is responsible. These two ideologies – and that's just a very brief view of it – have been clashing in this nation – and probably in the whole world – ever since human beings were created. I'll read that sentence again. Yet many choose to embrace the psychology of helplessness and victim hood, preferring to explain all their struggles in terms of the actions of others. Like you, I meet many middle-aged men and women who are still grumbling and complaining about earlier unhappy experiences who are still blaming their problems on other people or the – quote – breaks. They are angry with their parents. They are fuming at an old boss, still simmering over their ex-spouse. They are trapped in the past and can't get free. How many people, in the church, are trapped in the past? They won't let the past go. They won't accept that God has removed, if you repent, your sins as far from you as east is from the west. Yet, the great enemy of success and happiness is negative emotions. Of course, many times I've talked about the four great enemies of faith. And the four great enemies of faith are also part and parcel of negative emotions. What are those four great enemies of faith? Anxious care. Fear. Doubt. And human reasoning. So he goes on: The great enemy of success and happiness is negative emotions. Fear, self-pity, envy, jealousy and anger hold us back, tie us down, and suck the joy out of our life.

You know, there is a country song that says something like, “Lord, drag me through the knothole of life.” It would be better not to have to be dragged through the knothole of life than you go in. God has an open door for those who listen to Him. 

He goes on: Whether your problem is joblessness, addiction, overspending, obesity, or a damaged personal relationship, you move closer to a solution the moment you say “I am responsible” – three words of courage. It is impossible to say those words and still feel angry. The very act of taking responsibility short circuits and cancels – cancels out – negative emotions. Every time you blame someone else or make excuses, you give your power away. You feel weakened and diminished without the acceptance of complete personal responsibility and no progress is possible. On the other hand, once you accept total responsibility for your life, there are no limits to what you can do and have. Yet many would rather train for the Boston Marathon in three feet of snow than say three simple words – I am responsible. Why? Psychologists say human beings have a natural propensity to accumulate pride and shun regret. Now the book of Proverbs has a lot to say about pride. Pride goes before a fall is one of the Proverbs. Whether we recognize it or not, we tend to take responsibility for the positive elements in our lives and attribute unfavorable developments to others or circumstances. That is not to say there aren't times when our lives are significantly influenced by outside forces. Many times they are. But even if that is the case, you still have to overcome them and keep going.

Maybe you're a great worker who lost his or her job due to a corporate downsizing or the poor economy. Maybe your parents really were poor role models, but victims don't create change. Victims don't create change. It's only when you choose to focus on what you can do and how you should act that you gain power. Businesses and other organizations today are looking for people who are willing and able to think, are self-directing, self-managing, who respond to problems proactively rather than merely waiting for someone else's solutions. Remember now, this is a man who was sentenced fourteen years in prison because of drugs.

People who set goals, make plans, establish measures, they are the ones that get results. Responsibility changes everything. It means you own your thoughts, impulses, feelings and actions. I am responsible. You're accountable for the consequences they bring and the impact they have on others. This is not a burden. It is a privilege and an honor to take ownership of your actions. It creates freedom and control. It gives meaning to life. Self-reliance is a great source of personal power. We create ourselves, shape our identity, determine the course of our lives. But what we are willing to take responsibility for? Want to change your life and solve your problems? Starting today, say three simple words: I am responsible. Carpe diem. Latin for seize the day. Now is the time. Now is the time to take responsibility for your life.

Another great enemy, and another strategy people use for not taking responsibility is rationalization. Rationalization is self-deception. It is an attempt to create a plausible explanation for wrong action. Rationalization is the same as human reasoning. And I might add to that there is a condition there. Human reasoning, apart from the word of God, is a great enemy of faith. Remember the four enemies of faith? I named them once already. Anxious care, fear, doubt and human reasoning. 

Now let's look at Matthew 16, and we will see here that human reasoning is a great enemy of faith and is also an enemy of responsibility. 

Matthew 15:5-11 Matthew 15:5-11 [5] But you say, Whoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatever you might be profited by me; [6] And honor not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have you made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. [7] You hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, [8] This people draws near to me with their mouth, and honors me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. [9] But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. [10] And he called the multitude, and said to them, Hear, and understand: [11] Not that which goes into the mouth defiles a man; but that which comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.
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And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. And what this illustrates is that human beings – and we're all falling into this trap – tend to think of the physical side of things first, not the spiritual. And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. Then Jesus said unto them, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.” And they reasoned among themselves – see, human reasoning – saying, “It is because we have taken no bread. That's why he said that.” Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread? Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? Verse 11: How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? In other words, their teaching was leavening. It puffed up.

Human reasoning leads to also creating God over in your own image, instead of taking responsibility for…. Let's say you've decided you don't really need to keep the Sabbath, or if you have done something that someone takes you to task for, and you say, “Well, the God that I serve, He wouldn't expect me to do such and such.” And, it may be in conflict with the scripture what you have just said. So human reasoning can lead to you creating God over in your own image. That is, making God out to be what you want Him to be and thus approving of your actions. And they say things like “The God I know would not do whatever action they took. He wouldn't condemn that.” And so, in effect, they are saying that God puts His stamp of approval on whatever I do. That is one of the greatest problems that we have, especially among…. We have a whole – hundreds, even thousands of young people – and young people are those, let's say, under 50 – that grew up in the church. Some have been baptized, many have not been baptized. And they tend to make God over in their image. Yes, they have seen double standards in the church. They have seen behavior; the wrong behavior; of leaders. They have seen, they have heard, and we can go on and on with. You know, none of that changes one word in here. It doesn't change a word. The word of God is true, and it stands forever, and it will not change.

It says in James 1, with whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. That's James 1:17-18 James 1:17-18 [17] Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no ficklenss, neither shadow of turning. [18] Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
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. So they made God over in their image. And a lot of people think that you can delay making, you are convicted, so many people out there who have been associated with the church. They know that what we are saying and what we are preaching is the truth. They know it somewhere in the recesses of their consciousness or, and yet they rationalize, justify, and say, “Well, I guess I'll have to wait until the second resurrection.” And then we have people who go along with that. You know, how much do you have to be convicted of before you're responsible for it? I don't have the exact answer for that, but God knows.

Another response is blaming others. Blaming others. Notice, back again in Genesis, what Adam and Eve did. Adam blamed God He blamed the devil for their actions when God confronted them. I think we left off in verse 10. We'll read it again.

Genesis 3:10-14 Genesis 3:10-14 [10] And he said, I heard your voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. [11] And he said, Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded you that you should not eat? [12] And the man said, The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. [13] And the LORD God said to the woman, What is this that you have done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. [14] And the LORD God said to the serpent, Because you have done this, you are cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; on your belly shall you go, and dust shall you eat all the days of your life:
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And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.  And he said, Who told thee that thou were naked? Have thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou should not eat? And the man said, The woman whom thou gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. It's all her fault! So Adam blamed Eve. And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. So she blamed the devil. And then God punishes both the serpent and Adam and Eve. First of all He says to the serpent: And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life. And I'm not going to go into all the implications of this, but there was some kind of curse on the devil at that time. And what happened to Adam and Eve? They were cast out of the Garden and cut off from the tree of life. Basically, humanity was cut off from the tree of life until Jesus Christ came on the scene. I said the majority of humanity, not everyone. God's Spirit worked with a lot of people through the ages after Adam and Eve.

Those who shirk their responsibility generally cannot take correction. Which is oftentimes a form of self-righteousness. So let's go to Proverbs 15:10 Proverbs 15:10Correction is grievous to him that forsakes the way: and he that hates reproof shall die.
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. This thing about responsibility; hopefully you're beginning to see that it encompasses just about everything. 

Proverbs 15:10 Proverbs 15:10Correction is grievous to him that forsakes the way: and he that hates reproof shall die.
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Correction is grievous unto him that forsakes the way: and he that hates reproof shall die. In your mind you may believe you're doing everything right and yet someone may correct you and you're put off by their correction. Self-righteous and self-justification are handmaidens. Self-righteous is deceitful because in a person's heart – now listen to this – I've fallen to prey to this, have you ever? He or she may say, “I've got all that I can do and yet you say that my doing might not be according to God's word.”

And people talk about Job and his self-righteousness. Even God told Satan that Job was perfect and upright. He was a perfect and upright man. Let's look at Job 1:7 Job 1:7And the LORD said to Satan, From where come you? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.
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. Right there after, before, the book of Psalms, after the book of Esther. We have Job 1:1 Job 1:1There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.
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Job 1:1 Job 1:1There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.
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 – There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil. Now did God agree with that statement? Verse 7, well, let's read 6:

V-6 – Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves – sons of God can refer to angels, in this case it does. Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them. And the Lord said unto Satan – the Lord said unto Satan – did that ever sink in? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. Of course, it says in 1 Peter that he walks around as a roaring lion seeking who he may devour. And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that fears God, and eschews evil? He gets away from it. And then Satan challenged God, and said, “Well, Job does it because You have blessed him so. You take away the blessing and he will curse you to his face.” And you know the story that Job was afflicted from head to toe eventually, and Job, finally he blamed God for his condition. But we see from what we just read Job was doing things right, as confirmed by God. We just read it. But yet Job did not understand that regardless what happens to us, God must be justified and man judged. You can be doing things right, and yet when the test comes, you may falter. And when Job's great test came, he winds up blaming God, even though before that, God even said…and we read it. 

The rich young ruler, who came to Jesus in Matthew 19:6 Matthew 19:6Why they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.
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, asked Jesus what must he do to inherit life. And Jesus responded, “Keep the commandments.” And the young ruler said, “This I have done from my youth.” And Jesus said, “If you would be perfect go and sell all that you have and give it to the poor.” And the rich young ruler went away sorrowful because he had much goods. See he could not rend his physical goods, much less his heart. Yet, ostensibly he was doing things right. So all along the way you have to understand that you are responsible. And if bad things happen to good people, you don't blame God. God is the master potter. We are clay in His hands. He knows what He is doing. Do you remember the sermon that I gave? It might have been two or three years ago? The difference between sponge and clay. I had a sponge in my hand and I had a piece of Play-Doh representing the clay, and I took that sponge and I squeezed it like that and it conformed to where I squeezed it. And then when I let it go it sprung right back to it's original shape. And with the the clay, you can squeeze the clay and it retains it's shape. In fulfilling our responsibility to God, we have to trust Him that He knows what He is doing.

Let's look at Isaiah 64. Isaiah 64, and along about 7 or 8.

Isaiah 64:8 Isaiah 64:8But now, O LORD, you are our father; we are the clay, and you our potter; and we all are the work of your hand.
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But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand. See, God knows what He is doing. In fulfilling our responsibility to God, we must become living sacrifices – not a dead sacrifice, a living sacrifice.

Let's go to Romans 12:2 Romans 12:2And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
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and follow up on this and try to give more meaning to what Paul says here in Romans 12:1-2 Romans 12:1-2 [1] I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. [2] And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
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Romans 12:1-2 Romans 12:1-2 [1] I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. [2] And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
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 – I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice. You see, we come up out of the baptismal waters affirming that we're putting the old man to death, raise to newness of life. Holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. That word reasonable ties in with logical. It's just logical what your expected – it's reasonable service. And that service is the same as really being responsible. The Greek word latria, that is translated as service means to render worship and service to God according to scripture. Okay, so a living sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. In other words, it means to render worship and service to God according to scripture. It is the same as saying – you might call it – your reasonable responsibility. It is reasonable to expect for you to be responsible, for me to be responsible to worship and serve God according to scripture. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind – that is, done through the power of the Holy Spirit that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of GodI cannot impress enough on each one of us to heed the words of the apostle Paul and be conformed to the image of God's dear Son.

Back to Romans 8:29 Romans 8:29For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
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– back a page or two to Romans 8:29 Romans 8:29For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
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Romans 8:29 Romans 8:29For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
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For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son – the stamped image – that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Prototocos – firstborn – the first one resurrected from the dead to spirit life having lived as a human. Do we understand, as the Thessalonians came to understand, that what we are preaching here is not the word of man? Occasionally, you say, “Well, that's just your opinion.” I don't believe it's just the word of man, but the word of God. Obviously in speaking, at times, people make errors, and you are told to prove everything to see if it be true.

Let's go to 1 Thessalonians 2 now. 1 Thessalonians 2:13 1 Thessalonians 2:13For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when you received the word of God which you heard of us, you received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually works also in you that believe.
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. So, do we understand, as the Thessalonians came to understand, what Paul tried to make clear to them? What we try to make clear, and it seems somehow we don't quite get it? That we tend to judge too much what the messenger and not the very word of God. See, it is the word of God that we are trying to transmit and to explain, expound and encourage everybody to get on board, to be fired up about, to be zealous about, as we will see in a few minutes. 

1 Thessalonians 2:13-16 1 Thessalonians 2:13-16 [13] For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when you received the word of God which you heard of us, you received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually works also in you that believe. [14] For you, brothers, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for you also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: [15] Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: [16] Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins always: for the wrath is come on them to the uttermost.
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For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually works also in you that believe. For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: Who both killed the Lord Jesus – it's what the Bible says, contrary to what the Pope says. Who both killed the Lord Jesus. Of course, there was a book written by a person called, The Real Jesus. He made a statement that the Jews didn't kill Jesus, but when you sentence someone to death and turn Him over to be executed, here's what scripture said. Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: Forbidding us to speak to the ethnos, nations - Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins always: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost. Of course, they've been, basically, blinded until the time of restitution. 

It says in Zechariah 12:10 Zechariah 12:10And I will pour on the house of David, and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look on me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.
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Zechariah 12:10 Zechariah 12:10And I will pour on the house of David, and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look on me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.
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– ...they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they will begin to mourn. 

You can find fault in the messenger, but you cannot fault the flawless word of God. The word of God is flawless. One can listen to a lot of TV evangelists – many of them speak with power and eloquence – but they are blinded to the light of the glorious gospel. And I cannot impress upon each one of us the danger of dabbling in other belief systems, trying to mix it with scripture, as in the case of the various Messianic movements. I was watching the news this morning and there was this advertisement of Johnathan Cahn's, Harbinger 2. Obviously, there is some truth in it, and historical facts that it has warning about the direction that this nation is going. But, when it comes to salvation, understanding who is God and what is God – the great questions of life – do we have an immortal soul or we don't have an immortal soul? I read to you last week what he gave as the formula for salvation. 

If we go back to the first century in the time of Jesus, there were three main schools of learning located at Jerusalem. Gamaliel was one of the great teachers there. Paul sat at the feet of Gamaliel. Tarsus – Paul was from Tarsus – Tarsus is in Asia Minor. And Alexandria, which is in Egypt. Those were the three great learning centers in the ancient Mediterranean world. And there were, of course, learned scholars, philosophers, and scribes who taught the law. Whereas the apostles were, for the most part, from the working class – Jesus Himself was a carpenter's son. In today's language, they would consider them to be country bumpkins.

Let's go to Acts 4. We see through the power of God's Spirit and understanding you can have; David said, “Oh how I love Your law. It is my meditation all the day. Through this meditation, learning, and so on, of Your law, I have more wisdom than the ancients.” In Acts 4:8 Acts 4:8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said to them, You rulers of the people, and elders of Israel,
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. I would encourage you to read Acts 2, 3, 4, 5 without stopping. Just read through it and see what you get. Breaking in on this, the backdrop to this is the healing of the lame man that was at the entrance there to the temple. Peter, James, and John came along and healed this lame man who evidently had been there about forty years. Everybody knew it. And he was healed. And the apostles were caught, called into question for this. They were even held overnight. I don't know if they were actually jailed or not, but they were held overnight to appear before the council the next day to give answer. And what we're picking up here is Peter's answer. 

Acts 4:8-16 Acts 4:8-16 [8] Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said to them, You rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, [9] If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the weak man, by what means he is made whole; [10] Be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him does this man stand here before you whole. [11] This is the stone which was set at nothing of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. [12] Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. [13] Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus. [14] And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. [15] But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, [16] Saying, What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle has been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it.
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Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead. Who raised Jesus from the dead? The God of our fathers. You can check that out in Exodus 3. Even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone - Jesus Christ - which was set at nothing of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus. And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council – so the council now goes into executive session – they conferred among themselves, saying, What shall we do to these men? For that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it. So they lectured them, threatened them and let them go. Now in Acts 5, they were about to kill them when Gamaliel intervened, and so after beating them, they let them go. 

Jesus and the apostles sit in contrast to the teachers of the day. You see, there are men who are preaching in the various churches and religious organizations of the day who would be more eloquent speakers and whatever, and may have more historical information and whatever, than many of us have, but they are yet to understand the plan and purpose of God. Jesus and the apostles sit in contrast to the teachers of the day. Jesus taught them as one having authority. Jesus took responsibility for cleaning out His Father's house. Now look at this act. We talk about – people talk about – the mild-mannered Jesus. He wouldn't do this and He wouldn't do that. I mean He was just like a little wimp. In John 2:12 John 2:12After this he went down to Capernaum, he, and his mother, and his brothers, and his disciples: and they continued there not many days.
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John 2:12-17 John 2:12-17 [12] After this he went down to Capernaum, he, and his mother, and his brothers, and his disciples: and they continued there not many days. [13] And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. [14] And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: [15] And when he had made a whip of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables; [16] And said to them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise. [17] And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of your house has eaten me up.
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After this he went down to Capernaum, he, and his mother, and his brethren, and his disciples: and they continued there not many days. And the Jews' Passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables; And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise. And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up. The zeal of your house has eaten me up. So Jesus took responsibility for boldly preaching and teaching the word of God.

Look back in Matthew 23:23 Matthew 23:23Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought you to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
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. Jesus set us an example that we should follow in His steps. 

Matthew 23:1-2 Matthew 23:1-2 [1] Then spoke Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, [2] Saying The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat:
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Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. And so many times throughout Matthew 23, you see, “Woe unto you scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites.” Jesus took responsibility for cleaning out the Father's house. He took responsibility for preaching the gospel boldly. 

What about us? Can we say us? Can say with Jesus and the apostles, “the zeal of your house has eaten me up. It has consumed me?” Can we affirm what Daniel Webster affirmed? “The most important thought that ever occupied my mind is that of my individual responsibility to God.” The three words of courage are, “I am responsible”. The three words that might save your life are, “I am responsible”. Carpe diem. Seize the day.