Monday, April 29, 2019

Heaven's Heros #6: Samson: Broken Hero

Samson: Broken Hero

Text: Judge 16:22-31

Introduction: Uncle Bob's Tale

A teacher gives her fifth-grade class an assignment, to get their parents to tell them a story with a moral. The next day, the kids come back and one by one begin telling their stories.

Kathy says, "My father's a farmer, and we have a lot of egg-laying hens.  One time we were taking the eggs to market in a basket on the front seat of the pickup, when we hit a bump in the road and all the eggs went flying and broke and made a mess.  The moral to the story is 'Don't put all your eggs in one basket."

Then it is Lucy's turn: "Our family farms too, but we raise chickens for the meat market.  We once had a dozen eggs, but when they hatched, we got only 10 live chicks.  And the moral to this story is, don't count your chickens before they're hatched."

Then Johnny is on the spot: "My daddy told me this story about my uncle Bob.  Uncle Bob was a pilot in Vietnam, and his plane got hit.  He had to bail out over enemy territory and all he had was a bottle of whiskey, a machine gun and a Kabar knife.  He drank the whiskey on the way down so it wouldn't break, and then he landed right in the middle of 100 enemy troops.  He killed 70 of them with the machine gun until he ran out of bullets, then he killed 20 more with the Kabar until the blade broke, and then he killed the last 10 with his bare hands!"

"Good gracious!" says the horrified teacher.  "And what kind of moral did your daddy tell you as a result of that horrible story?"

"Don't mess with Uncle Bob when he’s been drinking!"

You’re probably wondering how in the world the story is going to lead to the sermon, but I’m way ahead of you. You see, Uncle Bob is what you would call an anti-hero. He does heroic things but he’s kind of a jerk. And that pretty much describes our Heaven’s hero today. Samson.  Now you may not think calling Samson a hero is justified, but consider that he is included in the Heaven’s Hall of Fame in Hebrew 16.

Hebrews 11:32 And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:

There it is, Samson is in Hall of Heroes. So lets take some time this morning and consider why that is the case. Samson’s inclusion in the list of great Biblical heroes was not because of his birth and it was certainly not because of his misspent life. The reason we find Samson in Hebrews 11 is because of his death.

His Suffering Judges 16:23-25

23  Then the lords of the Philistines gathered them together for to offer a great sacrifice unto Dagon their god, and to rejoice: for they said, Our god hath delivered Samson our enemy into our hand. 24  And when the people saw him, they praised their god: for they said, Our god hath delivered into our hands our enemy, and the destroyer of our country, which slew many of us. 25  And it came to pass, when their hearts were merry, that they said, Call for Samson, that he may make us sport. And they called for Samson out of the prison house; and he made them sport: and they set him between the pillars.

Samson’s Suffering

He had been captured and the Bible notes that he was bound with bronze shackles, normally it would have been ropes or leather but his reputation was too great to allow the risk. His eyes were put out. This was usually done to captives of great importance. The greater their renown the more dangerous they were and the greater the humiliation they must endure. It was done with a red hot rod of iron, so that he would never see again and the wound would be categized and the bleeding kept to a minimum. He was then turned into an animal, like an ox or the lowest slave grinding out grain in the prison house.

After a time the Philistines had a holy day to worship their God Dagon.
Dagon was a fish God, since the Philistines were a sea-going people whose power was derived from trading in the Mediterranean. He was usually depicted as a being with the upper body of a man but a lower body of a fish. What we would call a Merman.

At the festival Samson was brought out to “make sport” of. The Bible is not specific, but it would usually involve any activity that would seem the most humiliating to a once great enemy now reduced to a blind animal. People would taunt him with insults and challenges. He would be pelted by throw objects. They would have hime fight against small weak opponents, like children or dwarves.

Understanding Heroes

I’ve said that Samson becomes a hero only with his death, but that death would include this humiliation and suffering that he was made to endure. We find throughout scripture that Heaven’s Heroes must learn the lesson of suffering.

True heroes whether they be in the military or in the church are men and women who have learned that victories are never easy and that they must endure suffering and hardship no matter the cost.
Heroes are missionaries who give up their homes and lives to go where God sends them and they suffer. Heroes are pastors who despite opposition, betrayal, poor wages, and poor attendance keep on preaching the word of God. Heroes are soldier who after enduring enemy fire come home to endure fire from their own countrymen, they suffer but they do not quit and what they endured brings them to place where the hero is born.

Illustration: A Flag of Rags except from POW and Senator John McCain.

   In the final years of our imprisonment, the North Vietnamese moved us from small cells with one or two prisoners to large rooms with as many as 30-40 men to a room. We preferred this situation for the companionship and strength we could draw from our fellow prisoners. In addition to moving us to new quarters, out captors also let us receive packages and letters from home. Many men received word from their families for the first time in several years. The improved conditions were a result of public pressure put on the North Vietnamese by the American public.

   In our cell was one Navy officer, Lt. Commander Mike Christian. Over a period of time Mike had gathered bits and pieces of red and white cloth from various packages. Using a piece of bamboo he had fashioned into a needle, Mike sewed a United States flag on the inside of his shirt, one of the blue pajama tops we all wore.

   Every night in our cell, Mike would put his shirt on the wall, and we would say the pledge of allegiance. I know that the pledge of allegiance may not be the most important aspect of our day now, but I can tell you that at the time it was the most important aspect of our lives.

   This had been going on for some time until on of the guards came in as we were reciting our pledge. They ripped the flag off the wall and dragged Mike out. He was beaten for several hours and then thrown back into the cell.

   Later that night, as we were settling down to sleep on the concrete slabs that we our beds, I looked over to the spot where the guards had thrown Mike. There, under the solitary light bulb hanging from the ceiling, I saw Mike. Still bloody and his face swollen beyond recognition, Mike was gathering bits and pieces of cloth together. He was sewing a new American flag.  - John McCain. From the files of Leadership.

Transition: Now that is an American hero but what happens next in Samson life is what makes him a Hero of Heaven.

His Sorrow  Judges 16:26-28

26  And Samson said unto the lad that held him by the hand, Suffer me that I may feel the pillars whereupon the house standeth, that I may lean upon them.27  Now the house was full of men and women; and all the lords of the Philistines were there; and there were upon the roof about three thousand men and women, that beheld while Samson made sport. 28 And Samson called unto the LORD, and said, O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.

Suffering, Sorrow, Surrender

Samson rests upon the pillars. This was probably an ancient amphitheater made from wood not stone as the movies and books usually show. The main support pillars were made of massive timbers and stood directly underneath the main beams which held up the structure of the roof or balcony.
Samson, humiliated, degraded and broken begins to pray.

Do you realize that in the Bible record, this is the first time he had never prayed before a battle. He had always taken it for granted that his God-given strength would be there, that he would be victorious, that his enemies would fall, but all that self-confidence was now gone. Samson in humility and desperate need prays to the God of Israel. He turned to God acknowledging Him as the source of all that Samson had once had and had now lost.

“O Lord GOD, remember me I pray they and strengthen me I pray thee, only this once O God.”
Look closely at what Samson says. He calls out Lord, this is the word Adonay. It means my lord, my master.

Notice in the KJV the word God is all in caps. This signifies the personal name of God. Samson calls out to Jehovah.  

He calls out, not based upon his birth as an Israelite, nor his position and title as a Judge but he calls out based upon a personal relationship with God. “Adonay, Jehovah remember me.”

Understanding Suffering

Your suffering or struggle may not be as acute as Samson, but it may seem just as impossible to overcome.

Many people simply think that endurance alone will bring them to the other side of the suffering. Others simply seem to get used to it and accept it as their own lot in life. Others come to a place they can’t go on any longer and they quit.

Some quit their families, some quit the ministry, some quit the church and some even quit life.
How do you find the strength you need? The story of Samson shows you turn in your weakness to God’s strength, in your defeat to his promise of victory, in your pain to his hope.

But you must call out, you must repent, you must acknowledge Him as Lord and God.
This is done the first time at salvation but must be done over and over if we are to strong enough to make it.

Scripture: 1Thessalonians 3:4  For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation…

2 Timothy 2:12  If we suffer, we shall also reign with him…

2 Timothy 3:12  Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

Illustration: I Am One of Them

 This is a cheerful world as I see it from my garden under the shadows of my vines. But if I were to ascend some high mountain and look out over the wide lands, you know very well what I should see: brigands on the highways, pirates on the sea, armies fighting, cities burning; in the amphitheaters men murdered to please applauding crowds; selfishness and cruelty and misery and despair under all roofs. It is a bad world, Donatus, an incredibly bad world. But I have discovered in the midst of it a quiet and holy people who have learned a great secret. They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They are masters of their souls. They have overcome the world. These people, Donatus, are the Christians--and I am one of them. - Cyprian, third-century martyr

His Strength Judges 16:29-31

29 And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left.30 And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life. 31 Then his brethren and all the house of his father came down, and took him, and brought him up, and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the buryingplace of Manoah his father. And he judged Israel twenty years.

Surrender Brings Strength

He wraps his arms around the pillars and the Bible says he bowed himself with all his strength. He then prays his last prayer, “Let me die with the Philistines.”

As the strength of God rushes back into his body, the pillars crack and the with the supports removed the building collapses, like a house of made of children’s blocks.
The Bible makes note of this fact, “The dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life.”

Samson’s greatest victory was the one that came after he had surrendered to his God, he gave his life in the final battle, but it was now a life that had been wholly given over to God. And in the power of God he accomplished more with that surrender and God’s strength than everything he had done in his own strength before.

Understanding Strength

We have already talked about suffering, sacrifice and strength. You cannot rise to success in any field without these experiences but in God’s service they are very foundation of great service.
In God’s service there must be a losing of ourselves so that we may come to a full reliance upon God. Just as we see with Samson, Peter, Paul, John or any of the great heroes of the Bible.
Finally, there is this necessary element in true service to God, the willingness to lose your life in Him and for Him. When we come to that place, then it will be true for us just as it was for Samson, “In our death to ourselves and our life given to Him, we will do more than in all our life without that sacrifice.

Scripture: Romans 6:3-6, 11 3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: 6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.  11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

Conclusion: I Am A Soldier

I am a soldier in the army of my God;
The Lord Jesus Christ is my Commanding Officer.
The Holy Bible is my code of conduct.
Faith, prayer and the Word are my weapons of warfare.
I have been taught by the Holy Spirit, trained by experience, tried by adversity and tested by fire.

I am a volunteer in this army and I have enlisted for eternity.
I will either retire from this army at the rapture or die in this army;
I will not get out, sell out, be talked out or pushed out.
I am faithful, reliable and dependable.

If my God needs me, I am there.
If He needs me in Sunday School to teach children, work with youth, help with adults or just sit and learn,
He can use me, because I am there.

If He needs me in church Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday, revival or special services, I am there.
I am there to preach, teach, sing, play, pray, work or worship.
God can use me because I am there.

I am a Soldier. I am not a baby.
I do not need to be pampered, petted, primed up, pumped up, picked up or pepped up
I am a Soldier. no one has to call me, remind me, write me, visit me, entice me or lure me.

I am a Soldier. I am not a wimp.
I am in place saluting my King, obeying His orders, praising His name and serving in His Kingdom.
No one has to send me flowers, gifts, food, cards, candy or give me handouts.

I cannot have my feelings hurt badly enough to turn me around.
I cannot be discouraged enough to turn me aside.
I cannot lose enough to cause me to quit,

I am a Soldier, I am committed, I will win.
My God will supply all my needs.
I am more than a conqueror, I will always triumph.
I can do all things through Christ.

Devils cannot defeat me. People cannot disillusion me,
Weather cannot weary me. Sickness cannot stop me.
Battles cannot beat me.  Money cannot buy me.
Governments cannot silence me and Hell cannot handle me.
I am a soldier. I am committed. Even death cannot destroy me.

When my commander calls me from this battlefield
He will promote me and then bring me back to rule this world with Him.
I am a Soldier in the army and I am marching, claiming victory.
I will not give up, I will not turn around.
I am a Soldier marching Heaven bound.

I am a Soldier. Will You stand with me?

Friday, April 26, 2019

Philippians: Christ Centered #4 - Christ Our Goal

Christ Our Goal - Philippians 3:1-4:1

Power Point Link
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Warnings against Legalists 3:1-3

Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe. Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.

Vs. 1 What does the opening statement of this chapter mean?
Paul is simply saying he is not voicing a grievance toward them but giving a warning to keep them safe.

Vs. 2 Paul gives three descriptions of those he is warning about.  What are they?
Dogs, in the Ancient East these were scavengers and raiders not pets.
Evil workers, those whose work is the promotion of evil.
Of the concision, a bitter play on words, instead of circumcision the mark of a Jew he calls them cutters, mutilators of the flesh.

Vs. 3 Who does Paul say truly belongs to those of the circumcision?
They who worship God in spirit, rejoice in Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh.

What extreme is Paul warning us about, even today?
Legalism, where works of our flesh are the means by which we approach God and earn His favor. Baptism, The Lord’s Supper, Church Membership or any other physical work or action cannot bring me to salvation nor make me closer to Christ.

Paul’s Past, Present and Future 3:4-11

 Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:  Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;  Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,    And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:  10   That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.

Vss. 4- 6 What point is Paul making by using his past life as an example?
That if anyone should or could trust in work done in the flesh it would have been Paul.

Vs. 7 Yet, what is Paul’s conclusion about those works?
He counts them as loss, wasted.

Vs. 8 What has Paul exchanged his works and Hebrew pedigree for?
The excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus as Lord.

How does Paul now describe his old works when compared with his relationship with Jesus?
He calls them dung, refuse (Grk - skubalon) the out casting of the body.

Vs. 9 Paul states goals for his relationship with Christ, what are they?
To win Christ, be found in Christ, to know Christ.

Vs. 10 How will Paul come to a greater knowledge and relationship with Jesus?
By casting off his former legalism and earthly privileges, he would be able to know Christ, the power of Christ’s resurrection, and the fellowship of His Sufferings being made conformable to his death.

Vs. 11 How does Paul describe the intensity He will have as he strives for these goals and the resurrection?
By any means possible, a statement of humility not his ability. He is willing to do all, suffer all and lose all in order to be gain more of Christ, to know him and be conformed to Him even through suffering.

What must I understand to see these same relationship goals achieved in my life?
It is not working harder in my physical abilities, it is drawing closer to Christ through sacrifice, suffering and service.


Thinking specifically about ourselves how can we….
Be found in Christ
Know the power of His resurrection,
Know the fellowship of His suffering,
Be made conformable to His death?

Striving toward the Prize 3:12-16

Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.

Vs. 12 Paul says he has not attained (we would say arrived) or is already perfect (complete, fulfilled) but he is working at it (follow after).  What is Paul’s overall goal?
To apprehend that for which I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.  He desires to achieve in his life the full design and purpose for which he was called by Christ on the Damascus road.

Paul says this is not true yet but he is trying to see it happen.  What is he doing in order to “apprehend?”
I count not myself to have apprehended, (Grk. – katalambano, used in classic Greek for colonists taking land) He never believes he is at the goal, never becomes satisfied.
Forgetting those things which are behind, He is not bound or stopped by the past.
Reaching forth unto the things which are before, He looks to the future.
I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Jesus Christ.  He runs with his eye on the prize and his body straining toward the finish line.


How can the same philosophy of Christian life apply to us today?

Vss 15-16 What is Paul’s last appeal?
To those who are perfect (mature) be thus minded (have the same goals) and if in anything you are otherwise minded (not convinced of these goals) God will reveal this unto you (God will convince you). Nevertheless (no matter what) whereto we have attained (wherever we are at in our relationship with Christ right now) let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same things (lets be united in our walk and in our goals).

Warning against Libertines  3:17-19

Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)

Earlier in the chapter Paul warned of legalists, those who would use physical means to become spiritual, now he warns of those who are just the opposite. 
How does Paul describe these “enemies of the cross?”
their end is destruction, their god is their belly, their glory is in their shame, they mind earthly things.

What kind of people are these?
They were practicing antinomianism (against the law) or libertines, people who believed that since God’s grace covered every sin then they could sin all they wanted to.  They gave themselves to sensual pleasure, this was their true god.

Citizens of Heaven 3:20-4:1

For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.  4:1 Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.

Vs. 20 Paul uses the same word (conversation) he used in 1:27, what is he saying to the Philippians?
He reminds them that they are citizens of heaven and should therefore act like it. As those who are looking toward heaven, not the earth, with intense longing for our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Why would this be an argument against the libertines?
If they were truly citizens of heaven they would act accordingly, realizing who and what they represent while on this earth.

How does Paul then answer the argument about the body given over to sin because of grace?
Paul says that same body is to be changed to be like Jesus’ glorious body, thereby subduing all things unto himself. We should not be serving the body but Christ who is greater than that vile body.

4:1 What is the conclusion Paul reaches?
Therefore, they should stand fast in the Lord

This same admonish is found in the first chapter of the book and its use here marks this as the completion of the doctrinal portion of the book.

Philippians 1:27
 Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;

We see the great affection Paul had for the Philippians in the six terms of endearment he calls them. What are they?
1. My brethren,
2. Dearly beloved,
3. my longed for,
4. my joy,
5. my crown (Grk. Stephanos – wreath given to winning athletes)
6 My dearly beloved. Used twice.

How were the Philippians Paul’s Crown?
They were part of the reward, the crown he would receive in heaven.

Application: What is your answer to those who say, “Once saved always saved is just a license to sin.”

What would you say to someone who does not believe it is necessary to stop an immoral practice or habitual sin since “God will always forgive me.”


Paul’s warnings against the legalists and the libertines is just as needed today as it was in the Philippians time. People, their motives and their actions haven’t really changed when it comes to religion. Some treat everything and everyone with an iron rod of rules, while others ignore who they are supposed to be and the One they are supposed to represent and love.

To Paul both were wrong. Our actions, our life, our philosophy for life is not determined by religion or rules but by a right understanding of Jesus Christ and my connection to Him.  Everything we do, think or plan must be shaped by striving for the prize of our calling by Jesus Christ.