Sermon delivered May 5, 2001 by Pastor Donald J. Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version NIV unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.

The Devil's Favorite Text

I read a story of a man who was dressed in a clever devil costume. He was walking to a Halloween party when suddenly it started to rain real hard. He ran for cover. The only building nearby was a church and they were having a small service with a dozen elderly people. He went right in and the door led right into the sanctuary. Within seconds the people panicked and they ran for the doors. Quickly the room was evacuated except for one unfortunate woman who had fallen and was trapped beneath the feet of this man. With fear and trembling she looked up at the "devil" and she said: "You know I've been on your side all my life!"

You smile at this story because you think Devil never goes to church. That's what you think. You think he never reads the Bible, don't you. I want to tell you that I think the devil has the Bible memorized. I believe he even has some favorite texts. Do you have some favorite texts in the Bible? I do. Do you think the devil does? I think he does, and I would like to share some of his favorite texts with you that I think that he might just enjoy.

Come with me to Revelation 3. You might say, "How could he have a favorite text in Revelation?" Verse 5. This is a text that gets more Christians discouraged than a lot of them. Revelation 3:5 says: He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and His angels.

Now, I can see why the devil might like this text because it says that I must overcome to qualify. When I look at my life I say, "Let's see, how many sins am I working on now? I'm working on five sins right now! I just don't have all of them overcome. Until I conquer all five, I really have no hope of salvation because my name will be blotted out of the book of life according to this text. How many of you right here this morning cal say that you have totally overcome all sin in your life? The Bible says that we haven't. How many of you are perfectly patient? If you haven't overcome all sin, then when are you going to do it? It has to happen. Listen to this theorem. Three points.

  1. Only total overcomers qualify for eternal life. That's what the text says.
  2. I am not a total overcomer yet,
  3. Therefore I am lost eternally. Can you see why that would be a favorite text of the devil?
  4. Since I am lost anyway, I might as well live it up. It doesn't matter if I go to church. I'm going to eat and drink and dance and drug and do it all. I might as well.

The Devil loves texts that discourage Christians. Here is another of his favorites.

Come back here to Isaiah. This has to be a favorite of the devil. And I used to believe this. I don't know who told me this text meant what I thought it meant. Isaiah 59:2. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear. I used to believe this: that if I had any sin in my life my prayers don't get past the ceiling. God isn't going to listen to me if my life is full of sin or if I am a sinner or I haven't overcome sin. And until I'm sin-free and get rid of this sin in my life, God will not even hear my prayers.

This sounds like I must stop sinning before I can get God to help me. God will not hear my cries for assistance until I become perfect. Let's suppose the horn on my car is broken. I pull up to the garage and the sign says: "Honk your horn for service." I don't have any horn. It is an impossible situation. I need help in overcoming my sins and God won't even hear me until I have overcome all my sins. That's what this text sounds like.

Here is another favorite of the old devil. Come over here to Hebrews in the Bible. This has to be a favorite text of the devil. Hebrews 10:26 (KJV) For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, In the New International Version says, If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left,.

Once you find out that it is wrong to use a certain swearword for instance, if you wilfully speak that word ever again, at that moment there is no sacrifice for you, no forgiveness for you. In fact your future is described in the next verse: Hebrews 10:27. but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. You're an enemy of God. One wrong word, once you have learned the truth, once you have actually learned what the situation is and you slip back into an old habit, and you wilfully choose t do that one more time, you will condemn you will be condemned to hell fire and there you will be consumed as an enemy of God. That just has to be one of the devil's favorite texts

It is so hard to keep from sinning. It seems like the downward road to hell is paved with black Ice. It's hard to keep from going there once it's started. Let's suppose you realize it's a sin for you to yell and scream at your children or at your wife or at your husband. Once you're convince that that isn't really right, that is wrong, a few days later you are tempted and you yell again. There is no more forgiveness for you. That's what this verse sounds like. No sacrifice for sin is left anymore for you. The raging fires of hell are waiting for you. This just has to be one of the Devils favorite verses.

Here is another of the Devil's favorite texts: Hebrews 12:4. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. Therefore you are condemned.

Let's assume you are trying to overcome a sexual sin. Something very private in your life. You've tried everything. But you keep falling into this same sin. This text sounds like the only way to overcome is to kill yourself. Dead people can't sin!

When you take all these pet verses that the devil must like so well and you put them all together, your hope of being saved seems about zero. Satan wants to discourage you and make you give up and drop out and join him in evil lostness. Well, let's examine these texts a little closer and see their true significance.

What about the text that says that God will not even hear our prayers until we are sin free? Does God only answer the prayers of the sinless? Look at Jonah 2:1,2 Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God out of the fish's belly, and said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and He heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and Thou heardest my voice.

Was Jonah perfect at this point? No. In fact why did Jonah even pray? Because of a changed heart? Had he real had a conversion here? No. Jonah prayed "by reason of my "affliction." Because he was being afflicted, it hurt down there. The stomach acid of that whale was hurting him. That's why he prayed. Did God hear Jonah's prayer? Yes, He did. Obviously He did. God does hear the prayers of sinners? Obviously He does.

So what does Isaiah 59:2 mean where it says that God won't even listen to me until I've become sin-free? Well, Psalm 66:18 (KJV) gives the answer. I want you to see this. You might even want to circle this. Psalm 6:18 (KJV). If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me The NIV says: If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; What does that mean? That means something very special. If you cherish it, you love it. Did David have any sin in his life? Yes, he did. Did God listen to David's prayers? Yes! Psalm 66:19. But God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer. God listened to David, and David had sin in his life. Never does the Bible say you must be sin- free before God will listen to you. This does not say that. Jonah was not sin-free. Certainly, David was not sin-free. Otherwise no prayer would ever be answered.

And, why is that? We are all sinners. I want you to see something you might have missed in Romans 3:23. for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. So, you knew that verse. But I want you to see the two halves of this verse.

  1. "All have sinned." What verb tense is that? It's in the past tense. Have we all sinned in the past? Yes we have.
  2. "All fall short." What tense is that? It's present tense.

The Greek text indicates that all people still continue to fall short of God's glorious perfection, of His completely reflecting His Image. Don't miss that. "All have sinned in the past and all continue to fall short. Right today. How many? The head elder of the church, the pastor. None of us are perfect. We all have sinned. We all continue to fall short of God's glorious perfection, of completely reflecting His image. We just don't quite make it.

God does hear the prayers of His people because we are all sinners. We all have been sinner. We all are sinners. But only those who cherish sin in their heart will not have their prayers heard. Do you cherish your sin? do you regard your sin?

If that's the way you feel about that sin, then obviously your prayers don't get past the ceiling. What would the opposite of that be?

That's the position you want to be in, because then you are going to get help. You don't cherish it, you hate it.

If I sin and continue to sin how can I ever be saved? How will I ever get perfect enough to make it? The truth is that we are not saved by our behavior: We are saved by His behavior. None of us can ever be sin free...enough to merit eternal life. You just can't do it.

A minister had a small white Highland terrier that he valued very much. He kept spotlessly clean by frequent bathing, washing, brushing, and powdering. The dog was as white as a marshmallow. A beautiful dog. One night a winter storm dropped a fresh blanket of snow on the countryside, and the next morning the whole world seemed to glisten under the splendor of the morning sun. As the clergyman stood gazing out his window, he saw a drab-looking dog walk across the snow. He thought, "Whose dog is that?" The dog came right to him and it happened to be his dog. Then he realized it was his own well groomed terrier! It didn't look so good. It was as clean as always, but against that dazzling background that dog appeared dirty.

In much the same way, our corrupt nature is clearly revealed when our lives are measured by the absolute standard of Divine holiness. When you get in the presence of Jesus, you'll find out what your real nature is. We are measured by the absolute standard of Divine holiness. The Bible says that "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." We make a favorable impression when compared with the people down here on Main Street, but none of us can stand up against the pure whiteness of the character of Christ.

Isaiah 64:6 (New Living Translation) We are all infected and impure with sin. When we proudly display our righteous deeds, we find they are but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall. And our sins, like the wind, sweep us away. What is our righteousness like? Filthy rags. We're all infected, we're all impure with sin.

If we are ever going to be saved, we will be in heaven courtesy of the righteousness of Jesus. He is our Savior. His righteousness become our righteousness. Our works will never purchase heaven.

Ephesians 2:8,9 (KJV) For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. Also in the NIV. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works so that no one can boast. We are not saved by our works. Works could never attain eternal life.

To properly understand the devil's favorite texts we must know what sin is and what sin is not. Sin is not just bad conduct. That's a symptom. Romans 14:23 ...everything that does not come from faith is sin. So, sin has more to do with than just what a muscle can do. Sin has something to do with a lack of faith can't do. Sin is anything detached from God. We come into this world apart from God. We are all sinners.

Jesus said in John 16:9 (NLT) "The world's sin is unbelief in me." The chief sin in the world is not even an action. For example: It is a sin not to trust in Jesus.

Sin originates in the mind. Bad actions are the result of sinful thoughts. That's where sin starts. So, sin is not trusting in Jesus. Isn't that really what sin is? I am a person who is very hard to trust. I have a hard time trusting things. If I were to climb up one of these towers, three hundred feet tall, and walk out there on that little ledge, and the man hands me the end of that bungee cord, do you think Don Gettys could ever jump? I couldn't do it. I could never trust that bungee cord. I have a hard time trusting. And yet, that's what I need to do to be saved. I need to trust in Jesus.

Sin originates in the mind. 1 John 3:4 (KJV) Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. Have you ever heard that text before? "Sin is the transgression of the law." By what? By your muscles? or your mind? Transgression by the heart or by the body? The mind is the chief transgressor of the law. The physical breaking of the law is just the result of sin springing from the mind or heart.

So where is the real battle? Amazingly, the real battle is not against physical sins. The main problem is not the symptom of alcohol, or women or some other physical sin. The higher battle is fought in the mind. That's where we need to be fighting sin: in the mind. The real sin is to try to attempt to live apart from God and do it ourself. We need a relationship with Jesus. That's what we need. If you focus on your relationship with Jesus, the sins will take care of themselves. That's the secret. We attempt to surrender our lives to physical things instead of to Jesus. We need to surrender our lives to God and allow Him to direct us. Who do you want to be in charge of your life? Do you want to be in charge? I don't. I want God to be in charge of my life. I want Him to direct me. I want to surrender my life to Him.

So, our salvation is not predicated on our behavior. Salvation is based one hundred percent on a relationship with Jesus. Romans 3:20 (KJV). Therefor by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight. It is not what you achieve, but in Whom you believe. That is the secret. Good works have nothing to do with obtaining our salvation. But they have everything to do with our response to our salvation. Good works are important for salvation, but that's the response. Good works are a loving response on our part for what Jesus did on the cross for us.

So back to the Devils favorites:

Revelation 3:5. "You must overcome to qualify." That's true! But what must you overcome? We must overcome our inclination to live a life separate from God.

1 John 5:4,5 - for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

Satan would have us misunderstand Hebrews 10:26 - where it says: If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, To me this means that If I willfully live a life apart from God there is no more forgiveness for me. That's what it means to me. If I choose to end that relationship with Jesus. That's what is important: that connection, that vibrant daily living with Jesus.

Rather than fighting the symptom of the sin, why don't you try to focus on Loving Jesus, on learning more about Jesus. Try to trust Jesus more fully. Seek friendship with Jesus. God isn't wanting heaven inhabited with sterling perfectionists as much as He wants it to be inhabited by His friends, the people who love Him. Our Goal must be to seek a deep and lasting relationship with Jesus. Then the sin problem will be solved.

Make no mistake about overcoming. As a pastor, I want total victory over sin. I want to be an over comer. I want my members to be victorious. But that's not what saves you. We're saved by His righteousness. And the way to achieve that goal is through a dynamic spiritual relationship with Jesus.

Victory comes not from trying but from dying to self and letting Jesus take up occupation of our heart. Triumphant Christians do not fight for victory; we celebrate the victory that Jesus has already won. The victorious life is Christ's business, not yours. If you believe in Jesus and give yourself to Jesus and trust Jesus, then His victorious perfect life will be accounted to you. Galatians 3:6 (KJV) Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.

On the final Judgment day, when my name is called, Jesus will say something like this: "Don is my own son. He and I have a very good relationship together. I love Him with all my heart. I told Don that I would represent him when his case came up. He did not even come today. You're going to have to deal with me." That's what happens. And, so, you focus on being a friend of Jesus and all the things of the world will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and His grace.

Hymn of Praise: #334, Come, Thou Fount of Every
Scripture: Ephesians 2:8-9
Hymn of Response: #340, Jesus Saves

010505Don Gettys#497
(Righteousness by Faith)
Sources: Morris Venden,   SDA Bible Commentary.

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