Tuesday, November 26, 2013

"The Secret To Becoming Bold & Beautiful" 2 Corinthians 3:12-18 Message #19

The invitation to dine with a Pharisee was not something Jesus and his disciples received everyday.

The disciples were a bit surprised. He was not. 

Once inside the small but adequate compound, Jesus sat down on the floor and reclined around the mat set out with food and drink.

News that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house got around the town fast and uninvited locals entered the compound and as was customary sat down along the wall to just watch and listen.

This didn’t bother Simon the Pharisee one bit as it just meant more people to watch him derail this itinerant preacher and turn his false teaching into mishmash.

Having people crash this Pharisee’s dinner party didn’t bother Jesus either.  They were all there by divine appointment to see something that would change their lives.

The party was in full-swing when all of a sudden the attention of the people along the wall as well as the men around the table was drawn to the small and narrow doorway of the room.

For there she was.  The men all knew her.  Not that they had all been with her but most had desired her.

But that was before she met Jesus.  Once she met Jesus she changed.  She used to be an immoral woman, a harlot, but not anymore.

But, regardless, of the change that took place in her life after she met Jesus—the fact is she was still a woman with a reputation and for her to enter this house—the house of a religious leader was a really bold move.

Why was she there?  What did she want?  Was she just another curious onlooker or did she have a reason for crashing the party?

It didn’t take long to find out, as once her eyes adjusted to the dark room and she saw Jesus—she made her way to Him without a word.

She was carrying a very expensive looking alabaster jar that smelled of very fine perfume—obviously the reward of many years of saving her ill-reputed earnings or perhaps a gift from her parents long ago before she became “The Immoral Woman”.

Simon, the Pharisee, who had an eye for such treasures knew that an alabaster container like the one she was carrying filled with perfume was worth a great deal of money—so why was she carrying it into his house, why was she approaching Jesus, and why was she crying?

And then she did the most amazing thing.  She knelt down at Jesus’ feet and began to clean them with her tears and then unbelievably dried His feet with her long hair.

And then she began kissing His feet as though He were someone precious , cherished, and adored whom she treasured.

The audacity of this woman—the nerve to interrupt his dinner party with such revolting, outrageous, daring, and unflinchingly bold behavior!

But then, she did the absolutely unthinkable.  She took the alabaster vial of perfume and wastefully poured it all out upon Jesus’ feet.

It was a careless, unthinking, reckless act in Simon’s eyes.  To waste so much money on the feet of this teacher—what was she thinking?

And to be so bold as to cause such an extremely emotional, over the top, uncalled for, and extravagant scene in front of so many people—What possessed this woman to do something like this?

That was Simon the Pharisee’s question and quite frankly it’s a good question. 
But before she could answer it—Jesus did.

And what was Jesus’ answer? 

Quite simply, her boldness, her extravagant demonstration of love, her over the top demonstration of affection for Jesus, and her willingness to recklessly pour out onto Jesus’ feet what had to be her most treasured earthly possession was all the result of hearing Jesus say—and neither do I condemn you—you are forgiven—go and live out your life in peace.

That is essentially the story of Luke 7:36-50.

And it leads us right into our study today which comes out of 2 Corinthians 3:12-18.

Let’s read the passage.

This week we took Nancy’s dad to Rutland to do some shopping and we stopped in at the Ponderosa Steak House for lunch.

As we were sitting there eating, I was facing the TV and saw a soap opera come on called The Bold & The Beautiful.

And of course, the scenes that accompanied the theme song were all of beautiful women, handsome men, lots of money, vissages of power, and the epitome of a life of worldly influence, luxury, and self-satisfying pleasure.

And this idea of what it means to be “bold and beautiful” must be appealing to people because since its premiere on March 23, 1987, the show has become the most-watched soap opera in the world, with an audience of an estimated 26.2 million viewers.

Now it may interest you to know that God also talks about what it means to be bold and beautiful.

And I know it won’t surprise you to know that what He sees as “bold and beautiful” has nothing to do with what Holywood tells us it is all about.

But what may surprise you is what it takes for a person to really become “bold & beautiful”.

Well, that is what Paul is explaining to us in 2 Corinthians 3:12-18 beginning with becoming bold.

He begins in verse 12 by telling us what produces boldness in life and it has nothing to do with money, power, good looks, nice clothes, prestige, or worldly treasures.

He writes:  “Since we have such a hope, we are very bold.”  (ESV)

And what Paul is talking about is that knowing Christ has fully absorbed the totality of God’s wrath toward us who have believed in Christ for the forgiveness of our sin—gives us a great confidence to live our lives boldly, confidently, powerfully, unselfishly, and even extravagantly so as to make much of Christ among those who don’t.

That’s what Paul is saying in verse 12.

And what does he mean when he uses the word “bold”?

The Greek word he uses is parrhsia (parresia) which is talking about living an openly bold and confident life for the cause of Christ.

And the “boldness” Paul is talking about is our willingness to venture out, take risks, and do the right thing or say the right thing at the right time, regardless of the barriers, challenges, fears, or even rejection we may encounter.

It is speaking the truth, and living the truth without letting fear of the consequences or results paralyze or compromise you.

It is not living a perfect life but it is living life looking forward at future opportunities to make much of Christ as you keep focused on God’s promises instead of living life in the past looking back in the rear view mirror at your past as you keep fixating on your sin.

It is living life as one who has been forgiven and who knows it and believes it.

You see that is why the formerly immoral woman was so bold—she knew she had been forgiven.

She wasn’t dragging her past behind her anymore.

She had been freed from her sin, the eternal consequences of her sin, and the fear of God’s judgment for her sin and this caused her to live boldly—to respond to Jesus boldly—and extravagantly.

If we understand what Paul is saying here—we will understand that the reason why Christians do not live openly bold, confident, generous, and extravagantly responsive lives for Jesus is because we really haven’t come to terms with the fact that Jesus has said—“And Neither do I Condemn You.”

And in the story in Luke 7, the immoral woman whom Jesus forgives does not feel this need to leave town, get a new identity, hide her face, or not go into public places.

She has been forgiven by God Himself and thus is not afraid to live her life out in the open.

And that’s what forgiven people do!

They don’t have to find another job, leave their marriage, move across town, find a new grocery store, or exile themselves from church.

They who believe Jesus’ words and embrace the forgiveness He offers are able to live life and live it boldly for Him.

They don’t have to hide behind a false veneer of self-righteousness, pretending to God, themselves, and everyone around them that they have it altogether and are not struggling with sin in their lives.

They demonstrate what John Piper refers to as “gutsy guilt” in that they believing the promises of the Gospel are fully confident that even on their worst days—when it would appear to anyone watching that they looked more like an unbeliever than a believer—that God still loves them, still forgives them, still accepts them, and will finally and ultimately deliver them.

That is what the prophet Micah is talking about in Micah 7:7-9 when after sinning in some fairly significant way against the Lord he states:

7) But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation.  My God will hear me.
8) Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy.  Though I fall I will rise; Though I dwell in darkness, the Lord is a light for me.

9) I will bear the indignation of the Lord.  Because I have sinned against Him, Until He pleads my case and executes justice for me.  He will bring me out to the light.  And I will see His righteousness.

Listen, those believers who are living weak, anemic, spiritually powerless, and really veiled lives are believers who do not truly know and understand the ramifications of the Gospel.

They really struggle with believing God has or will forgive them and thus they are spiritually powerless.

Furthermore, they don’t know who they are in Christ nor what Christ has done for them and it shows in their spiritually toothless lives.

If you understand who you are in Christ you will be bold for Christ!  That is what Paul is saying here!

And then in verses 13-17, in what is really a sort of a side note, Paul makes the point that people who do not know Christ and His forgiveness cannot understand this. 

The truth of the New Covenant of Grace is veiled to them so that they simply cannot see what God is offering them in and through Christ—which is freedom from sin, sin’s guilt, sin’s power, sin’s penalty, and ultimately, sin’s presence so as to live a life free from fear.

But according to verse 15, this veil lies overs people’s hearts.

“Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts.”

Thus, the problem is not an intellectual problem—it is a heart problem.

People don’t understand the Gospel and their need for Christ because because of their hard hearts.

Left to themselves, apart from the work of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life, no one will desire Christ because of their hardened spiritual disposition.
Has the veil been lifted from your heart?  Are you attracted to Him?  Do you love Him and desire Him more than life itself?  Do the Scriptures speak to your heart?  Does the Gospel we are talking about and have been talking about since I came here make sense to you?  Then praise God.

Or maybe you answered “no” to those questions but you wish you could honestly say “yes……I wish I loved Christ the way you talk about—I wish I was attracted to Christ—I wish the Scriptures spoke to my heart—I wish the Gospel made sense to me—I wish I could feel and think the way you do about Jesus.”

Then pray and ask God to remove the veil covering your heart.

And if you, in complete sincerity, ask Him to do this—He will.

The promise of Scripture is that when anyone turns to the Lord—they become a new creation in Christ.  That is what Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself . . . ”

In other words, when we come to Christ we become a brand new creation in Christ because the veil of our hard heartedness toward God is removed and now instead of running from Him we run toward Him.

And all of this is from God—it is His doing—he is the One working in our hearts to accomplish this.

And when people finally turn to the Lord they begin to grow in Christ and in their understanding of the ramifications of the Gospel and see that they are indeed free from their pasts and their sins and the eternal condemnation for their sins.

That is what Paul means in verses 16 and 17 when he writes:

“But whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil [of spiritual hard-heartedness] is taken away.  Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty.”

What is liberty?  It is freedom!  It’s the Greek word, λευθερα (eleutheria) and it means—are you ready for this?  It basically has the idea of “freedom to do what is right and pure”.

In other words, whereas before salvation we were enslaved to our sin and its consequences—once we turn to Christ for salvation, God frees us from our sin, from its eternal damnation, and from our inability to please Him.

Now as believers we are freed from our spiritual blindness and deadness that made it impossible to want to please God and to in fact please Him.
But not only that—we are not only given the freedom to now please God—we are given the freedom to pursue God, know God, experience God, and enjoy God.

And as we experience, see, and enjoy more and more of God so as to see His glory in and throughout our lives we end up becoming like Him. 

Paul makes this point in verse 18.

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.  For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”  (ESV)

You see when we grow in our understanding of the Gospel and the ramifications of the Gospel so as to truly embrace it, believe it, and live boldly in it—so as to experience and enjoy God through it we will find ourselves being transformed by it into the image of Christ Himself—which is beautiful!

Can you imagine standing before the throne of God one day and hearing the angels commenting to themselves on how much you look like Christ?

Well, believe it or not, that is going to happen!

In fact, it is happening right now—You, if you are a believer in Jesus, are becoming like Him—from one degree of glory to another—as you grow in your understanding of what God really did for you when He sent Jesus to die for you—so as to believe it to be true of you. 

Thus, the key to becoming bold & beautiful as believers is believing what God says is true about you in Christ not what you think or others think is true of you!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

"God's Greater Pleasure Is Forgiving Us" 2 Corinthians 3:5-11 Message #18

She was married, but not to the man in whose arms she had been found.
Suddenly the door had burst open. Instantly she was in the grasp of angry men who dragged her — and her forbidden secret — out into the street—into the open for all to see.

“Adulteress, Whore, Slut!” The names pierced her like an arrow. Scandalized, loathing looks bored into her.  Her life was undone in a moment, mostly by her own doing. And it was about to be crushed. They were talking about stoning her!  She wanted to beg God for mercy—But God’s verdict on her case was clear: “If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman and the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel.” (Deuteronomy 22:22).  She was going to die!

There was no time to think. She was being half pushed, half pulled and dragged through Jerusalem toward the Temple. She felt despised and rejected and noticed people would not even look at her. Suddenly she was thrust in front of Him.

A man behind her yelled, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. . . Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such a woman. What do you say?”

The Teacher said nothing.  He looked at her, then at her accusers. Then he bent down and began to write in the dirt while she—completely exposed, guilty, condemned, and without any hope—stood silent, whimpering, and quietly begging God for mercy under her breath.  

Why was he writing in the dirt?  Men on either side of her were clenching brutal stones.  Impatient prosecutors were waiting for His ruling. The Teacher stood back up. She held her breath, all eyes were on Him now.  “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her,” he said.

The crowd’s jeers and cries for death hushed to whispers. Confused, she risked a quick glance at Him. He was writing in the dirt again. She heard murmurs and disgusted grunts around her. Then shuffling.  She heard the stones drop harmlessly onto the ground and then they all left—leaving her alone with Him.

He looked at her with compassion and respectfully addressed her as “Woman” instead of the shameful titles the others had called her. Then He asked her, “Where are they?  Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go and from now on sin no more.”

But why would the very God Who ordained this Law and its penalty of death overturn it like this?

This woman’s crime was real, her guilt was real.  She was caught in the very act of having sex with a man who was not her husband. And God, through Moses, commanded that anyone who did this was to be executed. But God the Son simply said, “Neither do I condemn you.” 

Now, if God violates his own commandment and lets the guilty go unpunished—it makes Him an unjust judge. But God cannot be unjust.  So how could he possibly let this woman caught in adultery go unpunished without condemning her?  

Well, the fact is, God fully intended for this sin of adultery to be punished to the full extent of his law.  God was not letting her sin slip by.  He was going to exact punishment.  There would be an execution and it would be brutal. But she would not be the one executed.  She would not bear the punishment for her sin. She would go free.  Jesus would be punished in her place. 

So, could it possibly be that the words he wrote in the sand were from Isaiah 53:5-6?

But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all”.

You know, every one of us is this woman.  Oh, it may not be adultery but it is something. Our horrible sins, our shameful lusts, our destructive tongues, our murderous hatred, our corrupting greed, our covetous pride — all stand exposed before God as starkly as this woman's sin did in that Temple courtyard.  Our condemnation is just as deserved as hers.  And yet, if you are trusting Christ to save you from God’s just wrath for your sins, Jesus speaks these same stunning words to you: “Neither do I condemn you.” 

But, why and how?

Because He was condemned in your place.  All your guilt has been removed. No stone of God’s righteous wrath will crush you because Jesus was crushed for your sins on the cross by God the Father.

Jesus was the only one in the crowd that day who could, in perfect righteousness, require the woman’s death. And he was the only One who could, in perfect righteousness, pardon her. Mercy triumphed over judgment for her at great price to Jesus. And the same is true for us who are trusting in Jesus.

And this story taken from John 8:1-11 illustrates the powerful truth of 2 Corinthians 3:5-18 that there is something that honors, exalts, magnifies, pleases, and glorifies God more than punishing sinners who rebel against His pure, impeccable, perfect, and righteous Holy Law.  And that which brings God greater pleasure, honor, joy, happiness, praise, and glory than condemning sinners for their sins is forgiving sinners who will embrace Christ as their only means of salvation. That is what Paul is talking about in 2 Corinthians 3:5-11 when he contrasts the lesser glory of the Law of the Old Covenant with the greater glory of the Grace of the New Covenant.
Turn there with me.

Verses 5-11 focuses our attention on the fact that the Old Covenant which essentially was contained in the Law of God as recorded in the Old Testament was a covenant of condemnation. It was a covenant of condemnation because no one was able to perfectly keep God’s Law and therefore no one was acceptable to God. But even though no one was able to keep God’s Law and thus no one was acceptable to God or pleasing to God—this covenant still reflected the glory of God. It was glorious in that it presented the perfect holiness and righteous character of God. But, it was a fading glory because it was unable to adequately reveal the fullness of God’s glory and the fullness of God’s Person and character.

Back when I was in Boot Camp I remember the day when I saw my Drill Instructor walking with his wife and small children. He was smiling, laughing, and holding his children’s hands as they walked through a parking lot past our barracks. I was simply amazed. Actually, I was dumbfounded and really a bit flabbergasted.  I simply could not imagine that this man who had become the epitome of anger, rage, and brutality to me over several weeks of Boot Camp had another side to him that I had never seen nor experienced. I really never imagined that this man was capable of love. You see, I thought I knew him but I really didn’t know all that there was to know about him. There was a side to him that stunned me even more than the side I had come to know.

Well, that is what verses 5-11 are saying about God and His two covenants.
The first covenant—the covenant of Law is stunning because it reveals the perfect righteousness and holiness of God. And it demonstrates God’s ferocious hatred and anger toward anything or anyone who would dare to transgress His Law.

In this sense, the Old Covenant is glorious.  It is like gazing at an enormous erupting volcano that is spewing forth fire, boiling lava, and black smoke that will destroy anything in its path. It is glorious in that it serves the purpose of revealing the absolute power and majestic dignity and divine splendor of the Sovereign King of the Universe Whose very word is Law and cannot be broken.

But, as great and as glorious as this Old Covenant is and as powerful and as awesome as it makes God appear—it is a fading glory that is immensely exceeded and colossally surpassed by the glory of the New Covenant—Which reveals the fullness of God’s glory in that it demonstrates His great and super-abounding compassion, grace, and mercy in His promise to forgive anyone who has broken any of His Laws any number of times to any degree—if they will only run to Christ for forgiveness and salvation.

Thus, in the Old Covenant, the Law of God, we see a perfectly correct but partial picture of God while in the New Covenant, the Gospel of God—we see a perfectly correct and complete picture of God in terms of how He has chosen to relate to sinners for His glory and their eternal joy. That is what Paul is saying in 2 Corinthians 3:5-12.

And the reason Paul makes mention of Moses using a veil to hide the residue of God’s glory that his face reflected after being in God’s presence when he received God’s Law back in the Book of Exodus is because he is using it as an illustration of what man-made religion does—

Man-made religion tries to hide the fact that trying to please God and appease God through our own merits and efforts in trying to keep His Law is an effort in futility.

Man-made religions that appear beautiful, spiritual, and even godly but which teach that people must earn or merit God’s good pleasure through their own good works and attempts to keep God’s Law are veiling the truth.

Christianity is not religion.  Christianity, correctly understood is not a person trying to appease or please God so as to earn acceptance with God.

And Paul uses Moses as an illustration of religion here saying that just as he tried to cover up the truth that the glory his face was reflecting was fading and had in fact disappeared—so does man-made religion!

Religion has no glory because it has no power to do anything about our sin problem.

But the New Covenant does!

Now, if the Old Covenant which is comprised of the Law of God which includes the Ten Commandments is inferior to the New Covenant of God’s grace toward sinners through Christ—why did God create it? Why did God establish His Law and the Old Covenant in the first place? Why did He go to so much trouble and time to inaugurate a covenant which He never intended to last?

This is the same question Paul asks and answers in Galatians 3:19 where he writes:

“Why, then, was the law given? It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins . . .” (NLT)

In other words, the purpose of the Law of God or the Old Covenant is to reveal to people that they have violated God’s Laws and thus are sinners and are indeed accountable to God for their violations of His Law.

Just a few verses later in Galatians 3:22, Paul writes that the Law was given to not only show that everyone has sinned but that everyone is being held as a prisoner waiting to be judged for the Laws of God they have broken:
“the Scriptures declare that we are all prisoners of sin”.

In Romans 3, Paul goes into even greater detail about why God gave His Law in the Old Covenant. He begins in Romans 3:19 and continues through verse 20 where he writes:

19) “Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God.”

20) “For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.”

So, that’s why God gave the Old Covenant through the giving of His Law—It was intended to reveal just how bad and how bad off mankind is when it comes to how God sees us. The Law of God was established for one purpose and that purpose was to show us how sinful we are.  It was never established to save us! It was meant to drive us to the cross where we find Christ Who died and paid the penalty for our sins so that we can be forgiven.

Listen to Romans 3:21-28.

21) But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago.

22) We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.

23) For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.

24) Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.

 25) For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past,

26) for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.

27) Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith.

28) So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.

Do you see the difference between the Old and the New Covenants?

The Old Covenant demonstrates God’s righteousness in condemning sinners whereas the New Covenant demonstrates God’s righteousness in forgiving sinners who will trust in Christ alone for the forgiveness of their sins.

And thus, the New Covenant is more glorious than the Old because it reveals the heart of God in a way the Law cannot. Whereas the Old Covenant reveals God’s love of holiness, righteousness, purity, and perfection—the New Covenant reveals God’s love for sinners.

But, lest we think that God pits the Old Covenant against the New Covenant as enemies—we need to think again. For there cannot be a New Covenant without an Old one. There cannot be good news without bad news. And the fact of the matter is, the Gospel of Jesus Christ—the Gospel we must believe to come to God includes both bad and good news. It includes the bad news of the Old Covenant which shows us that we are condemned sinners so as to drive us to the only answer there is for our lost and condemned state. It drives us to the good news of the New Covenant which is: God will forgive anyone who will come to Him through Jesus.

And this good news reveals God’s heart and intentions to anyone, even the worst of sinners who have committed the most heinous of crimes against Him.
It is God’s pleasure to forgive anyone who will come to Him through His Son the Lord Jesus!

Listen, the Bible is super abundantly clear--No one, absolutely no one will go to heaven because they have been good enough.

Like the fictitious story told about the religious man who died and was standing outside the gates of heaven as the angels were looking over his paperwork. The angel in charge told the man that to enter heaven he had to have accumulated 1000 merits of good behavior while on earth. The man thought to himself—oh—that’s all.  I should get in easily with merits to spare in his own estimation he had lived a good and religious life.

The head angel then began his evaluation. He said, I see that you were a good and faithful husband—that earns you 1 point.  The man gulped hard. Secondly, I see that you were a faithful church member for over 40 years—that earns you another point. The man began to sweat. Third, it looks like you gave regularly and generously of your finances to charities and to the poor—that is worth another point.  And the man became weak in the knees. He had never realized that the standards were so high and that his good works would be taken so lightly. Finally, he blurted out, “At this rate, I’ll only make it into heaven by the grace of God.” To which, the angel put down his paperwork, and said:  “Congratulations, come on in.”

We are not brought into a right relationship with God through our good works nor are we kept in a right relationship with God through or good works. We are saved and we are kept saved by trusting in Christ whose good works, perfect life, death on the cross, and resurrection have been applied to our account.

As Paul writes in Ephesians 2:8-9:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Friday, November 15, 2013

WHAT IT TAKES TO STAY IN THE FIGHT 2 Samuel 10:9-14 (Veteran's Day 2013)

Very few have ever heard the name Roy P. Benavidez.

Yet, when he died on November 29, 1998 over 1,500 people attended his funeral to say goodbye and flags across the country were ordered flown at half-mast.

Later on September 14, 2000 the U.S. Navy named a ship after him.

And when the late President Ronald Reagan told the story of Sgt. Benevidez to reporters at a press conference before awarding him the Medal of Honor on February 24, 1981 he prefaced it by saying "you are going to hear something you would not believe if it were a movie".

And here is his story.

On the afternoon of May 2, 1968, Sergeant Roy Benavidez, an Army medic serving with the Green Berets near the Cambodian border was attending a prayer service around a jeep with several other soldiers. Suddenly, shouts rang out from a nearby short-wave radio. "Get us out of here!" someone screamed. "For God's sake, get us out!"  He also heard ''so much shooting, it sounded like a popcorn machine.''

The radio distress call came from a 12-man Special Forces team -- that had been ambushed by North Vietnamese troops at a jungle site a few miles inside Cambodia. Being the only medic nearby and with an evac helicopter getting ready to take off, Benavidez didn’t take the time to retrieve his M-16 but armed with only a knife grabbed his medic bag and dashed for the helicopter preparing for the rescue attempt. Airborne, they spotted the twelve soldiers in a tight circle surrounded by over a hundred enemy troops—some within 25 yards of the Americans' position. The chopper dropped low, ran into withering fire and quickly retreated. Spotting a small clearing 75 yards away, Benavidez told the pilot, "Over there, over there."

The helicopter reached the clearing and hovered 10 feet off the ground. Benavidez offered up a quick prayer and  jumped out of the helicopter with his medic bag and began running the 75 yards towards the trapped men. Almost immediately, Benavidez was hit by an AK-47 slug in his right leg. He stumbled and fell, but got back up convincing himself that he'd only snagged a thorn bush and kept running to the brush pile where the American soldiers lay dead and wounded. An exploding hand grenade knocked him down and ripped his face with shrapnel. He audibly began to pray, got up again and staggered to the men—Four of whom were dead.

Benavidez began to treat the remaining eight wounded soldiers who were in two groups separated by a few feet.  Binding their wounds, injecting morphine and, ignoring NVA bullets and grenades, he also passed around ammunition that he had taken from several bodies and then armed himself with a Russian AK-47. Then Benavidez directed air strikes and called for the Huey helicopter to a landing nearby. While calling in support he was shot again in the right thigh, his second gunshot to his right leg.  Inspite of being wounded twice in the leg as well as in the face and neck he singlehandedly dragged the dead and wounded from the first group aboard the chopper.

The chopper lifted a few feet off the ground and moved toward the second group, with Benavidez running beneath it, providing protective fire by firing a rifle he had picked up at the enemy’s positions. Then spotting the body of the team leader Sergeant First Class Wright and knowing he had classified documents on his person--Benavidez ordered the other soldiers to crawl toward the chopper while he retrieved the classified radio codes and call signs.  As he shoved the papers into his shirt, a bullet struck him in his stomach and a grenade shattered his back.  At the same time the helicopter, barely off the ground, crashed, its pilot shot dead.

Coughing blood, Benavidez made his way to the downed Huey and pulled the wounded from the wreckage, forming a small perimeter. As he passed out ammunition taken from the dead, the air support he had earlier radioed for arrived. Jets and helicopter gunships strafed threatening enemy soldiers while Benavidez tended the wounded. Enemy fire continued to pummel the already wounded soldiers so that several of the wounded were hit again, including Benavidez.  Finally, another evac helicopter landed. "Pray and move out," Benavidez told the men as he helped each one aboard.

As he carried a seriously wounded soldier over his shoulder a fallen North Vietnamese soldier stood up, swung his rifle and clubbed Benavidez in the head breaking his jaw.. Benavidez fell, rolled over and got up just as the soldier lunged forward with his bayonet. Benavidez grabbed it, slashing his right hand, and pulled his attacker toward him. With his left hand, he drew his own bowie knife and stabbed the enemy soldier but not before receiving bayonet wounds to both his arms.

Now wounded 37 times Benavidez dragged the other wounded soldier to the chopper. Upon reaching the aircraft, he saw two enemy soldiers rushing the helicopter from an angle that prevented the aircraft door gunner from firing upon them.  Benavidez picked up an enemy weapon and wiping the blood out of his eyes fired upon them—killing them and saving this second helicopter full wounded troops.

With little strength remaining, he made one last trip to the clearing and came back with the unit’s wounded Vietnamese interpreter. Only then did the sergeant let the others pull him aboard the helicopter. Blood dripped from the door as the chopper lumbered into the air. Benavidez was holding in his intestines with his hand. Bleeding almost into unconsciousness, Benavidez lay against another badly wounded soldier and held his hand until they got to the base camp.

Once the medevac chopper landed the dead and wounded soldiers were unloaded and examined one by one.  Sergeant Benavidez could only hear what was going on around him. He had over thirty seven puncture wounds. His intestines were exposed. He could not see as his eyes were caked in blood and unable to open. Neither could he speak, his jaw broken, clubbed by a North Vietnamese rifle. But he knew what was happening, and it was the scariest moment of his life, even more so than the earlier events of the day.  He had been placed in a body bag presumed dead. As the doctor bent over to zip up the body bag. Benavidez did the only thing he could think of to let the doctor know that he was alive. He spit in the doctor's face. The surprised doctor reversed Roy's condition from dead to "He won't make it, but we'll try".

Sergeant Benavidez spent almost a year in hospitals recovering from his injuries. He had seven major gunshot wounds, twenty-eight shrapnel holes and both arms had been slashed by a bayonet. Benavidez had shrapnel in his head, scalp, shoulder, buttocks, feet, and legs. His right lung was destroyed. He had injuries to his mouth and back of his head from being clubbed with a rifle butt and inspite of this—he never quit!

And whereas not every person who has put on the uniform of this country has paid the price Sgt. Benevidez did—if they are veterans—they are veterans because they too did not quit. You can’t become a veteran by quitting.  Veterans are those men and women who stuck with it and finished their course. And today we are going to be talking about what it takes to stay in the ring and not quit. Whether, the fight you are in is a tough marriage, a difficult family situation, a difficult ministry, a challenging problem at school, a difficult person at work, a besetting sin that won’t let go, some life style or health changes that need to be made, or having to deal with some pain in your life—perhaps physical or emotional—how do we keep on keeping on and move forward and not quit when life is tough and our circumstances are not fun?

Let’s turn to 2 Samuel 10 and find out.

In 2 Samuel 10, King David has just dispatched some of his servants to console and encourage a young crown prince named Hanun on the death of his father who was the King of the Ammonites. Hanun, however under the influence of his counselors, believed David had sent these men to spy out the land in order to take advantage of the transition of power that was taking place so as to overthrow Hanun’s new reign. So, Hanun arrested David’s servants, shaved off half of their beards and cut off their robes at hip level and sent them back to David. While the humiliated men were enroute to Jerusalem, David was made aware of the situation and ordered them to stay in Jericho until their beards grew back.

Knowing they had offended and angered King David, the Ammonites prepared for war with Israel by hiring mercenaries to assist them in case war did break out. The mercenaries of choice were the Arameans or the Syrians as we know them today--who had a grudge to take care of with David for an earlier battle in which David’s soldiers killed 18,000 of them in the Valley of Salt (2 Sam. 8:13).

Well, they were right—David was not a man to fool with and he did not take kindly to the actions of the Ammonites and so he ordered up Joab and The Mighty Men or the Special Forces of Israel’s Army to respond deploying them to Rabbah, the fortress capital city of the Ammonites. Now—interestingly enough—2 Samuel 10:7 literally reads that David sent out all the host of the mighty men. 

It is important to understand that Israel did not maintain a huge standing army. Instead King David relied upon a small standing army of full-time soldiers that could be supplemented by thousands of reserves in time of emergency. It is possible that a portion of this smaller standing army is the army David deploys to deal with this situation. If so, this smaller force would be terribly outnumbered by ththe Aramean mercenaries who numbered 33,000 and Ammonite Army stationed primarily in and around the capital city of Rabbah.

But, it is also possible that this “host of mighty men” were those mighty men of valor—King David’s elite “special ops” fighting men—mentioned in 2 Samuel 23:39, which numbered only 37 men—setting the scene for what potentially could end up being a slaughter.

Regardless of the odds and probably not aware that the Ammonites had brought in 33,000 Aramean mercenaries to help them—Joab marched his small army 45 miles from Jerusalem to Rabbah, which, today is known as Amman, Jordan. According to archeologists, the city was located on the highest of seven centrally located hills at an elevation of around 3500 feet.
The city was a fortress city and was referred to as “The Citadel” by the Greeks who conquered it years later. And it was against this fortress city that Joab led his men.

Again, probably not realizing that 33,000 Aramean mercenary soldiers had joined the fight—Joab positioned his troops below and outside the city. But, no sooner had he done this than the Aramean soldiers emerged from the canyons below Joab’s troops and formed a battle line behind him. Joab’s small army was now surrounded. They were, in effect, between a rock and a hard place with no way of excape.

So, with that background, let’s pick up the story in 2 Samuel 10:9-14 and as we do I hope we will learn something about what it takes to stay in the fight when there is no way out and no way of escape.

Note the first phrase of verse 9.  “Now when Joab saw that the battle was set against him . . .”

Joab knows that he and his men are in dire straits—they are on the enemy’s home turf, overwhelmingly out-numbered, their  enemy holds the high ground, and they are being encircled in the rear by another army of well-trained, battle-hardened, and revenge-seeking Arameans and the nearest reinforcements are at least eight hours away. 

In other words, Joab and his very small army are in a seemingly impossible situation between a rock and a hard place and really have no where to go.
Yet, Joab does not panic nor do his men. Instead of turning and running or running up the white flag of surrender at the first sign that his army is in really big trouble—Joab stops, thinks, and puts together a plan as though he really thinks his desperately out-numbered, out-maneuvered, and out-resourced Army has a chance against these odds.

Back in WW2 at the Battle of the Bulge when the 101st Airborne Division was surrounded by the German Army in the city of Bastogne, Belgium the Germans sent four couriers demanding the full surrender of the 101stThe reply they received from Brig. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe, the 101st's artillery chief and acting division commander was: “Us surrender--Nuts—not when we have you right where we want you.”

I think this was Joab’s attitude as well.  If there is a battle to fight and a battle worth fighting—let’s get on with it and let God’s will be done but let’s not quit. And here is what Joab did to prevent himself and his men from giving into despair, discouragement, depression, despondency, and a sense of hopelessness and gloom at their bleak and really dismal circumstances.

1.   He took charge and provided leadership.  (9)

Joab didn’t waste any time forming a committee, a think-tank, a task force, or an advisory council. He didn’t ask for a show of hands, take a poll, or get a consensus. And while none of those things are necessarily wrong in and of themselves, in times of crisis—that which gives people confidence, stability, and hope are leaders who can see the situation, identify the problem, make a quick assessment of his resources, and deploy them for the greatest advantage possible. And that’s what Joab did.

And that is what we need to do to when facing dire straits. See the situation clearly and realistically, identify the real problem, assess your resources, and deploy them for the greatest good.

2.   He prioritized the challenges facing him and deployed his resources accordingly.  (9-10)

Joab dealt with the greatest threat and the biggest problem first.  He realized immediately that his greatest threat was not the Ammonites defending the city above him but rather the Aramean mercenaries coming up and forming a battle line below him. Joab knew they were the better trained, more experienced, and more extensively armed soldiers.

So, he immediately chose and deployed his best men to deal with the greatest challenge facing them. He wisely, did not waste his big guns on the smaller problems.  He matched his resources to the challenges facing him.

So, having to fight on two fronts, Joab divides his force and positions his best men against the mercenaries while putting the remainder of his men under the command of his brother Abishai to face the Ammonite stronghold.

Many times our failure to deal effectively with the challenges of life are the result of failing to deal with the big issues for the simple reason that they seem so ominous and intimidating. We put off our big decisions—we ignore our relationship issues—we neglect those nagging major problems facing us—hoping they’ll somehow go away.

But they don’t and in the end we find out that it took more energy to ignore and hide from it than to deal with it.

Big problems don’t get easier to handle by ignoring them—they only grow worse.

3.   He was willing to ask for and offer help.  (11)

Joab did not fall into the trap of thinking he had to solve or deal with this potentially catastrophic situation on his own.
He leaves room for the possibility that he may not be able to effectively deal with the Aramean forces aligned against him.

And so, he tells his brother who is commanding the other half of the Army to be ready to come and help if they see that help is necessary. Note that he does not tell his brother to be ready to help if I call for you. He essentially says—if it becomes apparent to you that I am floundering and about to be overwhelmed come to our aid and help us.

Joab knew there was simply is no room for pride in this situation.
But not only does he ask for help if needed—he offers the same help to his brother and his forces if they need it. And obviously, the offer of such help when facing such an indomitable foe would put Joab and the troops he had chosen to deploy against the Aramean mercenaries in an even more precarious situation but it was the right thing to do. He is not merely thinking about himself and the huge challenge—really the greater challenge before him—he makes sure his brother understands that they are in this fight together and must help each other if they are to survive.

We too, must not allow our own personal challenges so consume us that we fail to see the challenges of others and offer our help even when it seems that by offering our help we are making ourselves even more susceptible to failure, loss, or even destruction. And like Joab, we must be willing to accept help and in fact make it known that we want help when things become too big for us to handle alone.

4.   He was properly motivated.  (12)

The funny thing about the right motivation is it snowballs, creates confidence, and has the ability to propel us towards greatness. Motivation unleashes pent up desire and potential we never knew we had. It opens the lens for us to see the possible in the impossible and to thrive in the midst of circumstances most find difficult to survive. Furthermore, proper motivation is contagious

Joab knew this and so in verse 12 he reminds his troops of why they are there on that battlefield in the first place.

He urges them to be strong and to show themselves courageous for the sake of their people and the cities of God in which God’s people lived and manifested the character and the glory of God. Joab knew that the results of this battle would have a direct impact upon God’s people—even those not engaged in the battle who were sitting peacefully back at home. He reminds his troops that how they fight this battle and how this battle ends will either benefit or harm the people of God.

And the same is true of us.  We don’t face our challenges and fight our battles in a vacuum.  All that we do or don’t do—all that we say or don’t say—whether we run or fight—whether we quit or stick-it-out has an impact on someone for better or worse.

So—we are to fight our battles whatever they may be not so much with us in mind as much as with our families, our church family, our friends, and the people God has brought into our lives to minister to in mind. And this is hard because we are much more geared to engaging in and fighting battles for our own sake and our own agendas rather than the sake of others.

Secondly, Joab reminded his men that they were to be strong and fight bravely for the sake of the cities of God or God’s cities—which was almost used as a figure of speech for the “glory of God” since the cities of the ancient world were thought to have been built and exist for the glory and pleasure of whatever god the people worshipped.

Thus, what Joab is doing is motivating his men to be strong in battle and not give into their fears and quit but to stay and fight—even in an impossible situation, against unbelievable odds—for the sake of God’s people and God’s glory and God’s honor.

So—how we face our challenges and fight our own seemingly impossible battles affects God’s people and God’s glory?

Quiting—whether it is giving into your fears, your sin habits, your feelings of inadequacy, the crushing weight of depression, or your track record of failures—just can’t be an option!

Running out on your commitments, leaving a less than satisfying marriage, bailing on your obligations, finding the easy way out, and deserting your post—whatever and wherever that may be can’t even be a consideration—not if you want to benefit others and glorify God.

5.    He left the outcome of his decisions and the battle in God’s Hands.  (12c)

What does it mean when Joab says—“and may the LORD do what is good in His sight?”

It means that Joab had made a strategic decision for the sake of God’s people and God’s glory and he did not know how it would turn out.

He had no special revelation from God on this issue. He had to make a decision on the basis of the facts presented to him and some sanctified wisdom.

He had to risk or run.

He did not know how it would turn out. So he made his decision and he handed the results over to God.  And this was the right thing to do and it is also the right thing to do today when we are in similar situations.

Listen, this is the only attitude to have when facing tough decisions in life and especially in the battles you are fighting. This is the kind of attitude that frees us to make decisions and take action when we are not sure of all the facts because it is the kind of attitude that all the while willing to do its duty and engage whatever issues it is facing is also trusting God with the results.

6.    He faced his impossible circumstances head-on.  (13-14)

Then in verse 13--after reminding his troops of why they were fighting and after committing the battle and its results to God’s sovereign will—Joab orders his men to charge headlong into the Aramean lines.

The Bible says—“they drew near” to the enemy.  In other words they charged the enemy and took the battle to them and apparently with such ferocity that the enemy turned and ran.

In other words, instead of trying to avert or run from the enemy—they—for the sake of God’s people and God’s glory charged their enemy.

As Robert Frost wrote: “The best way out is always through.”

And the enemy was so caught off guard by the boldness and the courage of Joab’s men that they ran.

One army fighting for the glory of their God and for the benefit of God’s people won the day, the glory, and the joy--while the other fighting for its own self-preservation ran away and lost everything.

God’s approach to problem solving is pretty simple and straight forward—Face them head on, never turn your back on them, don’t quit, and you’ll make headway.

Quit, turn and run and you’ll end up hurting others, dishonoring God and having to face the same problems another day.

Ultimately, Joab’s story, just like Sgt. Roy P. Benavidez’s story, and “yes” even our impossible stories are all pictures of the Greatest Story ever told.

You see, Jesus is a veteran.  He is a warrior who came and fought and died on the battlefield—giving His life for the souls of men. And He won the fight by staying in the fight and never quitting. And Hebrews 12:2 tells us that Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, went to the cross, despised its shame, finished his fight, and won the victory over hell for every person who would believe in Him and He did it all for the joy set before Him—the joy of seeing people rescued from sin and the joy of seeing His Father glorified.

That’s why we stay in the fight—for the sake of God’s people—our families, our loved ones, our friends, and our church family and ultimately for the glory of our God.

Pursuing the Glory of Christ as though He were the most important pursuit in all the world--Because He Is!

" Looking for the Blessed Hope and the appearing of The Glory of our Great God and Savior, Christ Jesus." Titus 2:13