Sermon delivered November 11, 2006 by Ch. Larry Smedley

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the King James Version KJV unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.

Who is the Greatest Soldier?

(RealAudio Version available)

Clarence Merritt: (Introduces our speaker)

It gives me pleasure to introduce to you Chaplain Larry Smedley, Retire Army. He had spoken to us May 19, 200. Chaplain Smedley, I'm glad to welcome you here to McDonald Road, you, your wife and your sister and brother-in-law.

Our speaker for today: Chaplain Larry Smedley, Colonel, US Army Retired.

To you veterans, thank you for standing, thank you for serving, I salute you.

This is a sermon about courage, one of the simplest and most straightforward virtues necessary, and therefore possible for every true and noble human life. This is a quality of that we admire by instinct. We need no teacher to tell us it is a fine thing to be brave.

The lack of courage is universally recognized as a grave defect of character. If in our own hearts we feel we want it, if we cannot find enough of it to enable us to face the dangers, to meet the responsibilities to fight the battles of life, we are not only sorry, but secretly we are ashamed. The absence of courage is a fault that few of us are willing to confess. We naturally conceal it, cover it up, and try to keep it secret to all but ourselves.

Let us pray together.

Dear Father, You who were known by the ancients as the Lord of Hosts, we bring you thanks for Your power over the lives of those which You have empowered in service of our nation. For all of the men and women who have given of their time, there honor and even their lives for the sake of freedom we offer praise and thanksgiving. It was through their efforts and You Grace that e persisted in freedom. We pray today, Father, that we might live to see a time when there will be no need for others to be known as veterans. We pray for the peace of our nation and of the world. We ask that You be gracious to all of those who are serving now, wherever they are in the world. We pray for Your blessings in our lives and as we now honor them and those who went before. May all who have served and who do serve receive You grace, Your Peace and Your blessings and strength through Your power and their faith. Amen.

I have know a lot of great men. I've known a lot of good leaders. My last duty assignment was at Fort McPherson, Georgia, and one of my congregation was Tommy Franks. I got to know General Franks very well, and his lovely wife. He was a very fine man. He proved to be a great general in the battlefields.

There have been many good leaders, many that you have known, many that you have met, many that I will leave off my list, but I want us to think for a few minutes of what makes a good leader as I list a few of history's larger-than-life leaders. The first one that comes to mind is the first great general we have in history: nebuchadnezzar. He come with a mixed bag, but what a man he was! He had power to rule the world. He had strength to surround himself with great men. He was truly a good warrior and leader and general.

Then there's Alexander the Great. Alex, what a man he was! He conquered the world while he was yet in his twenties. He cried because there was nothing left to conquer. A great leader. Powerful, strong. He could take an army of a quarter of a million and go up against one and a half million and win. How do you do that? How do you have the courage to tell those men, "Charge!" And when the battle was being blunted as it was against the Persians, hje took his horse and rode acorss the river over on the Persian side of the battle, and said, "I'm over here! Come on!" Alexander the Great. He conquered the world.

Cyrus. What a leader he was. He knew how to select good men to put in the right positions of honor and of service. Cyrus.

Julius Caesar, a good warrior. He became a ruler of all Italy and Rome because he was a great warrior. It was his warrior attributes, and knowledge and skills and ability on the battlefield that led him to become the Caesar that we know.

Now, there's a few others that you may not know or even like when you hear their names. Attila the Hun. The scourge of the earth he was called. The scourge of God. Attila the Hun. Just his name would cause people to tremble and fall on their face. He gave no quarter. He was willing ti kill mercilessly to accomplish his task. And yet, when Rome was at his hands and at his feet, the Pope came out and talked to him. No one know what they said, but when he got finished speaking to the religious leader of that day, Attila turned his army and left without sacking Rome. Genghis Khan, named Temogen by his mom. No man in history ever conquered more land mass territory or ruled over a larger number of people than Tamogen did. A true warrior. A strong warrior. He conquered the world. All the way up into Europe, China, Russia. Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan.

And here in the American army we had George Patton. Some of you might have even served with him. What a leader he was! He was another man, when he found the war was not going the way he wanted, and the battle wasn't happening the way he wanted, that he just went across to the other side of the enemy lines and said, "I got here. You get over here." A real leader. He marched across Europe. Nobody believed he could do what he did there. The only thing that stopped him was the supply lines ran out of fuel. George Patton.

Great leaders! Strong leaders. Successful, everyone of them.

Are they the pure warrior? Nay. I say, "Nay." Turn with me to Revelation 12. Revelation 12:7- 9. And there was war in heaven. Michael and His angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels.

And prevailed not; neither their place found any more in heaven.

And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. Who was the pure warrior?

Great respect was given to Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander the Great, Cyrus, Caesar, Attila the Hun, Tamogen, George Patton and many others. There's not enough time to list them all. Great respect, great honor. In many case, great fear. But the pure Warrior, the true Warrior, the One that everyone should emulate, the One that everyone should know about, the One that everyone should follow is not on that list. He served long before they did; outshone them in their greatest hour; strong and alive today and serves well. The pure Warrior.

The warrior that receives the greatest honor in this nation is a warrior who is willing to give his life for his country and his fellow soldier, sailors, airmen and marines. The pure warrior gave his life.

Let's just stop for just a moment and picture a scene. The scene is a courtroom. We come in through the back, we're spectators. We sit in the audience section. Up on the left side in front of us is where the defendant is and where his lawyers are. On the right is the prosecutor. Back behind, sitting up high is the judge. Ove on the right in the left or right or left is the jury. They're to listen to all of the facts, sort thought everything they hear and come to a conclusion and a decision. That decision can only be 'guilty' or 'innocent.' There are no other options. Either defendant is either 'guilty' or 'innocent.'

Our prisoner will rise and face the jury. As He does, we note His appearance. He doesn't look like much. He's been abuse recently. His cuts and lacerations on His body, Jis clothes are soaked with blood. Surely He must be guilty, for no innocent man would be brought into court looking like that. A pure warrior would walk in with a uniform that would be outstanding, that would dazzle your eyes, with a posture and a grace and a strength that wopuld command your respect. But here he stands, head bowed, bloody, bruised, tattered, torn, beaten, spat upon, cursed at, the prisoner.

And so the judge turns to the jury, and he says, "Men and women of the jury, have you reached a verdict?"

"We have, your honor. We know what our verdict is. We're ready to proclaim it publicly."

"Then let each person speak his findings."

The jury has been called to be polled. Every individual must stand and face the defendant and proclaim their individual verdict.

The first one we see is a religious leader, clothed in fine robes and garments. He's respected in his community. An upstanding person. Everybody respects this man. He's wealthy, elegant, know his history, knows his scriptures. Something is a little different about him today, though. His fine raiments have been torn, been ripped. His name is Caiaphas. He's asked, " what is your verdict?" He looks at the defendant, but then he looks down a little bit ashamed as he says, "Guilty."

Next, a soldier who is on the jury is polled. He stands as a soldier; straight and tall, feet together, hands at his side, ready to render his verdict as he's called. The soldier is then asked, 'What is your verdict." He slams his fist down on the rail and says, "Guilty." No hesitation, no delay, "Guilty."

The next is a very educated man, a professor, a doctor of theology by trade. He stands there with all of his finery and his knowledge and his wisdom. You have to respect this man as he looks. But he whispers his verdict and the judge has to say, "Speak up. We cannot understand you." Nicodemus then looks at the defendant and he whispers, "He's guilty."

Next we have Herod, a king. This is a man who definitely has fear around him. Everybody is afraid of him. They're afraid of what they can do to them, what he will do to them, what he might take from them or require of them. Herod, the imposter. Herod, pretender to the throne. He has taken what didn't belong to him and he commands it by fear. He does not want anyone who possibly could take his throne away from him. He has not problem saying, "This man is guilty, your honor. He deserves death, your honor. Take him from here and put him to death, right now. So say I, king Herod."

The picture stands, something is very wrong with this Man. He's a little shaky, a little fearful, a little conflicted in His appearance. As his decor is presented before the jury it's as if He can't say anything, like he can't speak. His name is Judas, and finally he whispers out, "Guilty, your honor." And then with tears and pain he falls to the ground crying, "And yet I have sinned, I have betrayed innocent blood." Judas.

Here's one we've been waiting for. Mr. And Mrs. Citizen. That's us. This is our turn. We get a vote in the process. We, each of us are a member of the jury. We each have an opportunity to stand up and say, "Guilty," or "Innocent." And don't forget, it takes only one innocent vote. One! It all it has to be, and the defendant must be released. You cannot convict Him unless everyone votes, "Guilty." "What is your verdict, Mr/ and Mrs. Citizen? What is your decision? Do you choose to let this prisoner go free, or is your verdict such that the Person is condemned to death?" If we say, "Crucify Him, Crucify Him!! He is guilty. He must die!" We had an opportunity. We had a vote. We had a choice. We had a chance to say, "Innocent. Let this innocent Man go free." But we didn't do that. We said, "Guilty," just like everybody before us.

This next one I've been waiting to hear because, quite frankly, he's an intimidating person, probably the most educated there, the greatest experience and knowledge, and knows the defendant very well. They've been together in good times and bad times. But, as Satan is asked for his verdict, you must remember there is a kingdom at stake, "Will it be his, or will it be mine," he says. "I know He's innocent. There isn't any question about that. He's innocent. I know it. But there is a kingdom at stake. So Satan says, "Guilty. One thousand years, thousands and thousands of years, an unknown number of years, yet He's guilty. In the wilderness we struggled, He's guilty. There are souls to win. It's He or me. A battle is being waged to determine Who is the most pure warrior. I must win that battle. I cannot afford to lose it. He's guilty.

Number eight, a simple man. Not a very nice man named Barabbas. "Not a problem to me. Guilty."

Pilate stand up next. He washes his hands in water, scrubbing away all of the filth and evilness. Scrubbing away responsibility and judgment. Wanting to turn that over to the religious leaders of the Jewish people. Not to be held responsible. But, he's the leader. He has to make a decision, "He's guilty."

Now, here's on that I know very well. The Centurion comes to attention. He's a commander of troops, and officer, leader of men, knows a pure warrior when he sees him. "He's guilty, sir." "I know he's guilty.

Number eleven. Peter. Peter is the one who said, "I will never betray You, Lord. I will never leave You, Lord." There in the garden he took the sword and cut off Malchus' ear. Peter: "I will not forsake you." Peter: "I know not the Man." Truly he does not know Him. He voted "Guilty."

Folks, there's one more juror. It only takes one. One to release this prisoner and set Him free. One last juror. And that is God Himself. Surely He will say the word: innocent. He knows that He's innocent. He understands this very well. Surely He's going to say, "Innocent." He looks at each juror, each one, as He polls the jury Himself, the other eleven, and at the multitude of citizens. He looks at every one of them and then He must answer. He looks at you and me. Then He turns and looks at the cross. Difficult as it was, it became easy. The plan had been laid. The agreement had been made. God Himself stood and said, "Guilty." The cross: guilty. The sentence of death is upon Him: guilty. The damnation of the world is upon Him: Guilty. Every man's hell is upon Him: Guilty. Would you trust in God? Guilty. Was our sentence only God's verdict of His own Son could save us. The guilty verdict.

2 Corinthians 1:9 - 10 say, But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in Whom we trust that He will yet deliver us. Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God, the Creator of the earth must be found "Guilty" for you and me to live. It wasn't fair, it wasn't fair. But He took our penalty, and He took it for us. He was found "Guilty," there to die upon the cross.

 Hymn of Praise: #647,  Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory
Scripture: Psalm 17:8

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