What’s Your Cardboard Say?
Sermon shared by Bruce Ball
Every Christian has their own personal testimony of change. What would yours be?
Today, I would like to talk to you about change. Not just any change, but the kind of change that is impossible to have … under our own power. I want to talk to you about a change in life brought about by something called faith. And I want to do it by talking about a lady who was the darkest of the dark, a lady no other person would ever want as a friend or public acquaintance. I want to talk about a lady who was a prostitute. Her name was Rahab.
Turn your Bibles to the second chapter of JOSHUA, and hold them there for a moment while I explain to you who Rahab was.
Rahab was, and still is, an example of God at work. Her salvation was not based on her character, for she had no real character. It was not based upon where she lived, as she lived in a city that was pagan and which engaged in rebellious activities. Her salvation was based upon her faith. And because she had true faith, God spared her the judgment she so much deserved.
Nature forms us, sin deforms us, the world conforms us, education informs us, but only faith has the power to transform us. Rahab is an example of that. She was living in spiritual darkness. She sold her body for money. She was living in depravity. She was on the fast track to hell where she would receive the punishment of eternity.
And then she was transformed. She was so transformed; she ended up marrying a prince of Israel. And this will show you what God’s grace will do for us. She became part of the bloodline of Jesus, because she was the great-great grandmother of King David.
She truly went from being a child of Satan to being a child of God. From shady lady to shining star; from disgrace to dignity through grace. She went from the house of shame to the hall of fame; from being a call girl to being a converted girl. She was truly the poster child for the ‘I WAS BUT NOW I AM’ testimonies.
God’s people had just wandered the wilderness for the last 40-years and now He commands them to take the land of Canaan for themselves. But between them and the Promised Land stands the mighty city of Jericho.
Joshua, who became the leader of the Israelites when Moses died, selects two men who go into the city. They meet Rahab and through their witness as God’s representatives, she is transformed by His grace.
In JOSHUA 2:1-11, we out what Rahab did for the men of God.
Joshua sent two men into the land so they could see what they might be up against when they went into the land. They were told to especially look around in the city of Jericho. So they did as they were told, and when they got to Jericho, they entered into the house of Rahab, a local prostitute.
Some people saw this and reported to the king of Jericho that there were two spies from the Israelite camp there to spy on the city. The king sent Rahab a message telling her they were spies and for her to send them out. When she got the message, she hid the spies on her roof, under a pile of flax.
She told the king’s messengers that they had indeed been there, but she had no idea where they came from, and at dusk they left through the city gates. She claimed she had no idea which way they went and encouraged the messengers to hurry and go out and try to find them.
Now, you have to know a little about the architectural scheme of the city. Rahab’s house was actually part of the wall that went around the city. So here it is, nighttime and the guards have left to go find them. So Rahab goes to the two Israelite men and tells them something that showed her faith.
She said that everyone there had heard of how the Israelites walked in God’s favor and they also knew that God had given them the land to be their own. She told them that she would help save them, but pleaded with them to spare her and her family because she helped them and had faith in their God. They agreed. So she took them to a window in her home that was actually in the wall, and let them down by a rope, thus saving their lives.
Out of all the people in Jericho, why do you think they went to Rahab’s home? Do you think it was just happenstance? NO! These men walked in the Spirit of God. It was the Holy Spirit who led them because they allowed themselves to be fully led. Do we allow ourselves today to be led by the Spirit, or do we choose instead to make sure we are in control of ourselves?
It was God who led them directly to the woman who would later become the bloodline of Jesus Christ Himself. That is a very intriguing story, but what does that mean to me and you today?
Claremore today is much like Jericho was then. It has many sinful people doing very sinful things within its borders. Even some of the city leaders are sinful people at heart. And just like God sent two messengers to a woman so her heart could be transformed; so she could go from I WAS to I AM; God wants you to go as messengers to other people outside this church so they, too, can be transformed by His grace. God wants them to have their own cardboard testimony, too. And He is expecting each one of us to help them have it.
We can see an example of how this works in ACTS chapter 8.
There was a wealthy Ethiopian eunuch who had gone to Jerusalem to worship. Now, at this time, the wells in the city were beginning to run dry so water was scarce. This eunuch found himself in the desert reading from the words of ISAIAH.
God looked down upon this man and saw a heart that was thirsty for God. So God went back toSamaria and found Phillip who was preaching an old tent revival. He put a calling in Phillip’s heart to go to this man. Phillip didn’t question whether or not he had heard God right. He walked in the Spirit. He knew the sound of His Shepherd, and he obeyed his Shepherd. He left a great harvest revival so he could talk to one man. That is the mark of a true servant of God. Instant obedience.
And what happened? Through his absolute faith in God, he also went from I WAS to I AM.
The Bible is filled with shady people, those who have lived in the world, totally immersed in their own sinful acts. And it is so very easy for us to look down our noses at them – until we come face to face with the realization that we were just like they were.
There is another story of a sinful lady in JOHN, chapter 4. We know her simply as the woman at the well. Again, do you think it was pure coincidence that she happened to be there at the same time Jesus happened by? Let me give you a hint; God doesn’t deal with coincidence, He deals with purpose.
First of all, you have to understand that over and over again, God told the Israelites to not intermarry with the Gentiles around them. And what did they do? They married the Gentile women, didn’t they? And there happened to be many half-breed Jews. Many of them settled in an area called Samaria.
The Israelites considered the Samarians lower than dogs. And during those days, a good Jew would never travel through Samaria. And a rabbi such as Jesus would never be caught dead being there, or even talking to one, especially a woman with a reputation that was as bad as hers.
Scripture says Jesus needed to go through Samaria. Why do you think that was? It was because He knew that there was a heart there that needed to be saved. And how did she react to the words of Christ? She had an instant change of heart and ran back to town to tell everyone about the saving grace of our Lord. So much for the I WAS part of her life, she was now thoroughly entrenched in the I AM part of her life. She received what too many of us today do not receive; conviction from the Holy Spirit. This woman was like Rahab … convicted by the word of God.
Napoleon was riding before his troops one time and his horse bolted. It began to run out of control and a young private risked his life to jump in front of the horse, grab its reigns, and slow it down.
When Napoleon had regained his sitting position on the saddle, he told the private that he was now the Captain of his Life Guard. The private went back to the Life Guards and the officer ordered him back in his ranks. The newly promoted private refused, telling the officer he was now in command of them. The officer ordered the young man arrested. When Napoleon rode by, he asked what was happened and the officer told him. Napoleon ordered the boy released and promoted.
Why did the young man become so obstinate and refuse to obey the officer? Because his emperor had said something, he believed it, and for him that settled it.
God’s word has changed many lives throughout history, and it continues to do so today. His word is absolute truth and in that word lies the salvation for our souls. How do I know? Because my God said it, I believe it, and that settles it.
Your faith is your personal response to the word of God.
In the King James Version, ROMANS 10:17 says,
‘So then, faith cometh by hearing and hearing from the word of God.’
In he Contemporary English Version, it says,
‘No one can have faith without hearing the message about Christ.’
It is vital that you learn to listen to the soft whisper of God; that your heart be tuned in to the word of God; that you find regular time every day to spend alone talking to Him and listening to Him. And it is most important that you saturate your soul with His word; for faith comes by hearing the word of our Lord God. And His word is the Bible.
Going back into JOSHUA 2:21b, we see where the two Israelite men told her that they would keep her safe if she tied a scarlet line in the window they crawled to safety through. What does that remind you of?
Do you remember reading in EXODUS chapter 12, about when God led the Israelites out of Egypt? Just before they left, what did God tell them to do? He told them to paint their doorposts with the blood of the lamb they had slaughtered. He said when He saw that blood, He would spare all those inside.
And the two men Jewish men told her that when they saw the red line, they would spare all who were inside. Why? Because she had showed her faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the true God of Israel.
That same scarlet sign is threaded all the way through the Bible, from GENESIS all the way through REVELATION.
When Abraham was going to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice to God, we see that God provided a ram to be slaughtered instead.
We see many smoking altars in the Old Testament, and as the blood was shed, you hear God saying over and over and over again, ‘Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission for sin.’
We see that scarlet chord in the Cross of Calvary. As Jesus allowed Himself to be hung on that cross, as His precious life’s blood drained from His tortured body, we see the redemption of our sins.
The Bible teaches that all have sinned and in their carnal nature, have come short of the glory of God. Rahab sinned; the woman at the well sinned; you and I have sinned. But what can wash away our sin today? Would the blood of a ram do the trick? Today, nothing will cleanse us of our sin except the shed blood of Jesus.
There is no other way. How do I know? The bible says so, that’s how.
I JOHN 1:7says,
‘The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin.’
Because of Rahab’s transformation, she is not known as a harlot she was, but as the great-great grandmother of King David, which she became through faith. She is forever listed in the bloodline of Jesus; listed in God’s Hall of Fame; spoken of by James as an example of those who are justified. But she is never mentioned again as a prostitute.
If somebody you work with, or maybe one of your neighbors were to describe your life up until now, how would they do it? To help them describe you, would they list your most active sins or would they mention the faith you have in the Lord God?
We are offered 100% of the blessings of heaven, but we must do one thing before we can take ownership of them. We must believe in the One who makes them available. His name is Jesus, and He is the Christ.
Mind you, I did not say we must believe He exists. That does nothing to save your soul. The devil and all the demons know Jesus exists, but none of them have humbled their hearts and accepted His Lordship over their lives. None of them will serve Jesus by doing those things Jesus wants us to do. And if we ‘just’ acknowledge Him, it does us no good, either.
The Greek word ‘pestuo’ means ‘believe’, but their definition goes much further than ours to describe what is necessary for Jesus Christ. It does not mean mere intellectual acknowledgment of, nor does it mean to have an emotional experience that Jesus is the Lord. Pestuo means to have a total trust in, to feel absolutely assured in, and to fully accept to the extent that the belief changes your life.
When you say that you believe in Christ, do you really understand what you are saying? Do you give your total trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross? Do you believe that Jesus died and paid for every sin that you have ever committed in your life?
When you say you believe in Jesus, do you really believe that He is still alive and is no win heaven, waiting to come back and gather you up to be with Him? Do you really believe and trust in the fact that He arose from the grave to defeat sin and death for your sake?
When you say you believe in the Savior, are you saying you totally trust in Him alone for your eternal salvation? Are you actually saying you are totally devoted to Him, even more so than you are to your friends and even your family? Are you fully committed to what He offers you rather than committed to what the world might offer you?
What I have just described to you is not only what you should feel towards Christ, but what you need to feel towards Christ. I have just described what is necessary for your eternal salvation. Nothing less will do. You must be totally focused on Jesus; you must be fully humbled; and you must let Him be your number one priority in life.
The problem with most folks is that they ‘kind of’ believe, but they don’t totally believe. They don’t understand and don’t do anything to get that understanding. We aren’t really all that serious about our personal relationship with Jesus, are we?
In REVELATION 3:16, it gives us a warning that is so severe, it should shake every Christian to the core and instantly change our entire life completely. What is that warning? It is a warning about what I have been talking about.
‘So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.’
I know you don’t like hearing really strong messages, and most preachers don’t like preaching them anymore, but that shows just how far we have walked away from God.
I have looked all through the Bible and cannot find one example of where a prophet, or man of God, or disciple, or anyone else called to talk about the Lord did so in a soft way so as not to offend the listener. It is my personal belief that men of God who are called to tell others about salvation had better let the listener know just how important it is that they get it right!
Jesus is saying we had better be totally on fire for Him because anything less will not be acceptable. We had better change our perspectives and become less self-centered and more Christ-centered.
It is time that Christians in America become dead serious, or we will seriously end up dead in our sins. I think all of you will agree that we are in more trouble today than we have ever been in before, and it is time to take the blinders off and start seeing things the way they are, not the way we wish they were.
In REVELATION 3:20, we find the words to the letter Jesus had John write to the church in Laodicea. That church had lost its focus on the Lord and began to have all kinds of sinful things happen. Most of us have heard the verse where Jesus stands at the door and knocks, and if anyone hears His voice and opens the door, He will come in and dine with us.
But Jesus wasn’t just talking to the individual Christian who had gotten lukewarm, He was also knocking on the door of the church that has gotten lukewarm. He was knocking on the door of every church in America and on the door of every Christian’s heart in America.
In the early days, we find that Christians were persecuted severely. They were hunted down like animals and killed in the most disgusting of ways. They were sawed in half while still alive. Their bodies were piled up on street corners, covered with oil, and burned – so they could have lights at night. They were skinned alive, and much more. Yet, what did they do? They kept the faith and died for their beliefs.
Today’s churchgoers say they can’t go to church because the price of gas is too high, or they can’t do the things they want, so they quit or change churches. Today’s churchgoers claim to be holy Christians, but refuse to even talk to others around them, even in their same families.
These things are a complete distortion of what God wants. They are self-centered and are considered lukewarm. If this offends you, I am sorry, but I will not compromise the truth of God for any man for any reason. And neither should you.
You can say, I WAS, and some of you can even say I STILL AM. But what counts with God is to not just say I WAS, but to say, ‘Through Christ, NOW I AM.’
Won’t you come forward this morning? God loves you just as you are, but He wants more from your life than what you used to give. God wants all of you, so you can have all of Him. Jesus is waiting for you now as we sing.
CARD BOARD TESTIMONIES
To see what these are, go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RvDDc5RB6FQ
(After everyone had shown their cardboard testimonies and sat down, I continued with the sermon ….)