Sunday – May 29, 2016 New Series ”The Book of Genesis”

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Genesis 1:1
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

A surveyor must always begin from a point of reference. So, too, history must start at some definite place of beginnings. The Bible is, through and through, a historical revelation. It is the account of God’s activity in history. As such, it must have a beginning. The book of Genesis gives us our historical point of reference, from which all subsequent revelation proceeds. In this book we find the “roots” of the inhabited world and the universe, of man and nations, of sin and redemption. Also, we find the foundation of our theology. I would consider Genesis as the starting point of all theology.

Genesis is particularly crucial in the light of the doctrine of progressive revelation. This doctrine attempts to define the phenomena that occur in the process of divine revelation. Essentially initial revelation is general while subsequent revelation tends to be more particular and specific.

Let me try to illustrate progressive revelation by an examination of the doctrine of redemption. The first promise of redemption is definite but largely undefined in Genesis 3:15: “He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” Later in Genesis we learn that the world will be blessed through Abraham (12:3). The line through which Messiah would come was through Isaac, not Ishmael; Jacob, not Esau. Finally in Genesis we see that Israel’s coming ruler will be of the tribe of Judah: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples” (Genesis 49:10). Later on we learn that Messiah will be the offspring of David (II Samuel 7:14-16), to be born in the city of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). Literally hundreds of prophecies tell in greater detail, the coming of the Messiah.

I would like to suggest that we approach the book of Genesis as the book presents itself to us. I believe the first verse makes clear the way we must approach the entire work .This account either explains it all or it does not explain it at all. Some books begin, “Once upon a time … ” and when we find such an introduction we immediately understand that we are reading a fairy tale. Genesis 1:1 is totally different. The mood is authoritative and declarative.

The claim implied by this verse is much like that of our Lord when He presented Himself to men. No one can logically tip their hat to Jesus Christ as a “good man,” “a wonderful example,” or a “great teacher,” He was either Who He claimed to be (the Messiah, the Son of God), or He was a fake and a fraud. There is no middle ground, no riding the fence with Jesus. Jesus does not deserve mere courtesy. He demands a crown or a cross.

Sunday – April 3, 2015 Revelation 22 verses 6 to 21 “Famous Last Words”

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Revelation 22:20-21
He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.”

There are perhaps no more significant and awesome words in Scripture than those of this epilogue. The wonderful book of Revelation ends with the manifold testimony of the voices of the angel, Jesus, the Spirit, the bride, and John. These verses are full of encouragement, declaration, warning, and response to God. They are tremendously significant; may we read them with care and attentiveness. Listen to these words in terms of your entire life. Examine your lifestyle, purposes, goals, priorities, and commitment to God in the light of His faithful Word, and the soon coming Savior.

In contrast to the many human viewpoint foundations or cunningly devised fables upon which men try to build their lives stands the faithful and true Word from God. Man’s viewpoint without the Bible is left to be built on speculation, human reason, and experience, all of which are very unreliable due to man’s condition in sin, his short life span, his deductive thinking, his constant tendency to interpret facts with his presuppositions, his limited experience and the amount of knowledge he can retain and use. All of this makes man’s human viewpoint ideas about as reliable as a lily pad for a foundation, especially in spiritual matters. This is why the Book of Revelation is so important for Christians to study and understand.

Jonathan Edwards, called American’s greatest theologian, had a set of resolutions. One of them is this: “Resolved: Never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.” We should always live every moment of every day as if Christ were coming now! That’s the only way to live. Are you ready for Jesus’s return? Do you need to share your faith with someone? Do it now! Do you need to be reconciled to someone? Do it now! Do you need to serve the Lord and His people? Do it now! Do you need to be faithful in your financial stewardship? Do it now!

The last words of the Bible are soaked with grace. John exclaims, “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen” (22:21). God wants to make absolutely sure that “grace” (charis) will have the last word. Grace is God’s unconditional kindness offered to someone who doesn’t deserve it. God’s grace provides faith for the unbelieving reader and faithfulness for the believing reader (cf. 1:4). Grace…don’t live on earth without it. Grace…don’t leave earth without it.

Has God changed you as a result of our study through Revelation? Has He shown you His grace? Do you know Him more? Do you love Him more? I pray that this is so.

Sunday – March 27, 2016 Rev. 21:1 to 22:5 “It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This”

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Revelation 21:1-3
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.”

Heaven seems almost inconceivable. As a young child I can remember attempting to comprehend time without end … infinity. Now I realize that heaven is even beyond that which I failed to fathom as a child, for heaven is the end of time; in heaven there is no time at all. The human authors of the Bible who have attempted to describe the beauties of heaven give evidence of their frustration at striving to depict an existence in a dimension beyond the grasp of mere mortals:… but just as it is written, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

I have heard it said, giving a description of heaven in human words is more difficult than an Eskimo going to Hawaii, and then on his return trying to describe a pineapple to his people. Heaven is an important subject for Christians, not only because it is a pleasant topic to investigate, but because it is so vital to our faith. The fear of hell and eternal torment may be a strong incentive for salvation, but it is not the basis for our hope and faith. In the Bible heaven is the ground of our faith and hope.

In John 14, our Lord spoke of returning to His Father, where He would “prepare a place” for us. We naturally tend to think that “going to heaven” means our going far away to that place which our Lord is preparing; but it is more accurate to think of heaven as coming to us, for the New Jerusalem will come to the (new) earth, according to the scriptures. In this sense, heaven is more earthly than we sometimes think.

But the greatest disservice I can do is to leave the impression that the joys of heaven are assured for everyone. In each of the last three chapters of Revelation, the fate of the true believer and the unbeliever is contrasted. Those who have chosen to reject Jesus Christ as God’s only provision of righteousness, of forgiveness for sins, and of entrance into heaven, will not spend eternity with God. I urge you to not put this message down without searching your own heart. Have you come to see yourself as a sinner, deserving of God’s wrath? Have you acknowledged Jesus Christ to be the sinless Son of God, Who died in your place, bore your sins, and offers you His righteousness? You may have the assurance of spending eternity with God if you but receive, by faith, the gift of salvation through His Son.

Sunday – March 20, 2016 Rev. 20:1-15 “Pay Day is Some Day”

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Revelation 20:1-3
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time.”

Revelation 20 is one of the greatest and most important chapters of the Bible. It presents in summary the tremendous series of events that encompass the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth. Many Bible teachers believe that it is in this future period that many Old and New Testament prophecies will find their ultimate fulfillment. However, the view that Revelation 20 is speaking of a literal thousand-year reign of Christ is also one of the most controversial and a bewildering array of diverse interpretations that may be found in regard to this passage.

The term millennium, a Latin word meaning one thousand years, is the term that has come to be used of the thousand-year period spoken of in this passage. The term “millennium” is found six times in verses 2-7. The Premillennial View is the view that Christ will personally return and reign on earth for one thousand years. The prefix “pre” expresses the view that Christ returns first, then literally reigns on earth. It also views Christ as fulfilling all the Old Testament prophecies literally in a kingdom on earth. The premillennial view is the result of a literal interpretation of Revelation 20, a view held by even the very early church fathers of the first and second century.

The Amillennial View is the most popular modern view. The prefix “A” simply means a denial of the Millennium and the literal reign of Christ on earth and seeks to make the Book of Revelation a spiritual allegory. Satan was bound at the first coming of Christ and the present age between the first and second comings of Christ is seen as the fulfillment of the Millennium. Its adherents are divided. Some believe the Millennium is being fulfilled now on earth, and is equivalent to the kingdom of God in you. Others believe it is being fulfilled by the saints in heaven. It may be summed up in the idea that there will be no more Millennium than there is now, and Christ’s second coming is immediately followed by the eternal state.

Paul teaches us that the Old Testament Scripture and God’s dealing with Israel do have spiritual analogies for the Christian life. Scripture is full of such analogies and types, but the significance is based on the literal historicity of the event whether past or future. It is never a means to deny its literal meaning or fulfillment. Scripture abounds in allegories, whether in the form of types, symbols, or parables. These are accepted and legitimate ways to teach and communicate spiritual truth. However, there is a great deal of difference between such use of allegories and allegorical interpretation. In one you have the illustration and application of spiritual truth based on literal interpretation and historical fact. In the other, you have disregard for the literal meaning and historical fact based on the literal method of interpretation and in its place an allegory is set up based on the interpreter’s own fancy.

 

Sunday – March 13, 2016 Rev. 19:1-21 “Getting a Handle on Hallelujah”

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Revelation 19:11-15
And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses.”

The last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation, is in many respects the capstone on the doctrine of the second coming of Christ. This truth is introduced in the first chapter with the pronouncement in Revelation 1:7 “BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen”. Most of the book of Revelation consists in exhortations and predictions in view of the Lord’s return and unfolds in more detail than any other portion of Scripture about the great tribulation which will precede the second advent.

The great tribulation is climaxed by the vision which John records in our text of Revelation 19. In this, Christ is pictured as coming from heaven on a white horse accompanied by the armies of heaven to claim His right as King of kings and Lord of lords to judge the wicked earth. The resulting description provides the graphic detail of the destruction of the armies which had been previously gathered in a final gigantic world war. All of these armies oppose Christ at His second coming. Not only the armies, but the world ruler and the false prophet are destroyed, and ultimately resulting in the beast and the false prophet are cast alive into the lake of fire.

This glorious event is the prelude to the establishment of the millennial kingdom of Christ. The early verses of chapter 20 of Revelation indicate that Satan will be bound and cast into the bottomless pit to remain inactive for the entire thousand years of Christ’s reign on earth. The vision which John sees is given specific interpretation, namely, that Satan is so bound that he will not deceive the nations. He will remain bound for a thousand years and after this will be loosed. This interpretation makes impossible the spiritualization of this passage as many have done in an attempt to eliminate the millennial reign of Christ. In the verses which follow, the millennial kingdom is established.

Psalm 146:10 reminds us, “The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the Lord!” Wicked people may think that God does not reign, but the Lord scoffs at them (Ps. 2:1-4). This God who reigns is our God and we are His people. Therefore, our praise should begin here on earth, as long as we have life and breath, and will continue forever and ever.

Sunday – February 7, 2015 Rev. 14:6-20 “The Grim Reaper & Grapes of Wrath”

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Revelation 14:18-19
Then another angel, the one who has power over fire, came out from the altar; and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, “Put in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, because her grapes are ripe.” So the angel swung his sickle to the earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of God.”

I heard of a pastor who was talking with a colleague about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The colleague said, “Well, if that’s the way God really is, then I’m not going to believe in Him!” That is strange logic. Not believing in God doesn’t make Him go away. Yet I’ve often heard people dismiss God’s judgment by saying, “I believe in a God of love. He would never judge anyone, except maybe the worst of the worst of sinners.”

Or, some will say, “I don’t believe in the Old Testament God of judgment. I believe in Jesus, who never condemned anyone.” Really? Jesus spoke more often and more graphically about hell than anyone else in the Bible. He used the story of Sodom’s destruction to warn about the final judgment when He returns (Luke 17:29-32). The entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, reveals a God who will bring judgment on sinners, but who shows mercy to those who repent of their sins and trust in Him.

What John is told to write is a beatitude in the preceding verses, a pronouncement of blessing or divine happiness upon those individuals who comply with certain truths or principles of Scripture, but always on the basis of grace. In Scripture a beatitude is always seen as a reversal of man’s viewpoint by setting forth God’s viewpoint, values, priorities and ideas. To the unbeliever, obeying the beast and worshipping him is more blessed than death; even slavery is better than death. For many death is feared, viewed as an unknown, or the end. But to believers, God’s viewpoint and the promises of His Word teach the direct opposite. To accept the beast is to forfeit trusting in Jesus Christ and so to forfeit eternal life. But death is never the end, it is only the beginning. This life is a place of preparation because our choices and works follow us into eternity.

Jesus didn’t come and die on the cross just to give us warm, fuzzy feelings about God’s love. He offered Himself to pay the penalty for sin that we deserved to rescue us from the wrath to come (1 Thess. 1:10). God’s past judgments – the angels who sinned, the world under the flood, and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah – are there to warn us that God will surely judge all that have sinned against Him. The preservation of Noah and the spiritual redemption of the thief on the cross at Jesus’ crucifixion give us the hope that if we trust in Christ and turn from our sins, God will mercifully spare us from the judgment to come. Believe in Jesus Christ and you will not perish, but have eternal life.

Sunday – January 24, 2015 Revelation 13:11-18 “The Beast Redux”

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Revelation 13:18
Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six.”

Ever since John, the servant of God, wrote the Book of Revelation and mentioned the number 666, people have been trying to figure out the meaning of the mark of the beast. The number is mentioned in Revelation 13:16-18. Because the beast’s number will have something to do with the Antichrist’s name, scholars have been busy working equations to figure which world leaders have had names equaling 666 in some way. Depending on how you figure it, 666 can be made to add up to just about anyone’s name.

As time has passed, we have lost the true meaning of the mark of the beast. Even though it is clearly defined as a mark that will be placed upon the right hand or forehead, a number of people throughout history have attached new and even weird meanings to the number 666. The number has become trivialized by its repeated association with its every random occurrence. Some folks have believed the beast’s number was to be a certain year. Because of this, the year 666 AD was at one time considered the date for the advent of the Antichrist. When that date came and went without incident, many began to anticipate the year 1666 with dread. Nostradamus pointed to the year 1999 as an inverted 666 year.

A number of people have superstitions or phobias about this number. Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobiacs is the term for people who fear the number 666. I once met a person who refused to ride in a car that had a license plate with 666 on it. Another person I know adds a stick of gum or something to his purchases if his check-out total at the store is triple six in any way. When President and Mrs. Reagan moved out to California, their house number was, you guessed it, 666. They had it changed to 668. Any time a bill numbered 666 is produced by a governing body like the UN or Congress, prophecy watchers give the document a good going-over to see if it has a connection with end-time events.

We may have to allow for the occasional sovereignty of God in His attempt to warn folks of the evils of this world. If there’s a wayward Christian at a convenience store buying a dirty magazine or a bottle of booze and the register rings up $6.66, I couldn’t think of a better number for God to use to get that person’s attention. Now on the other hand, the next time you receive your insurance bill and upon opening it, you discover it comes to $666.00 or you realize you’ve used 666 cubic feet of water – don’t go pulling your hair out. Unless it has a direct connection to the Antichrist or is some special message from God, 666 is just another number that randomly comes up.

Sunday – January 17, 2015 Revelation 13:1-10 “Enter the Beast”

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Revelation 13:1-4
Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names. And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority. I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed. And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast; they worshiped the dragon because he gave his authority to the beast.”

Remember that this is still a parenthetical section describing one of the key forces, kingdoms, and personages of the Tribulation. The Bible has much to say about the plans, schemes and even the theology of our adversary.  In essence, what we have in prophetic Scripture is the rise of the beast and the false prophet is nothing short of the “trinity from hell” in that both are the product of the machinations of that old serpent, the devil or Satan.

Satan in fact as his own trinity – the devil, the beast, and the false prophet (Revelation 16:13). He has his own church, “a synagogue of Satan” (Revelation 2:9). He has his own ministers, “ministers of Satan” (2 Corinthians 11:4-5). He has formulated his own system of theology “doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1). His theology is a counterfeit of the systematic study and understanding of God. He has established his own sacrificial system; “The Gentiles…sacrifice to demons” (1 Corinthians 10:20). He has his own communion service, “the cup of demons…and the table of demons” (1 Corinthians 10:21). His ministers proclaim his own gospel, “a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you” (Galatians 1:7-8) to mislead the world. He has his own throne (Revelation 13:2) and his own worshipers (Revelation 13:4).

So Satan has developed a thorough imitation of Christianity, viewed as a system of religion. In his role as the imitator of God, Satan inspires false christs, self-constituted messiahs (Matthew 24:4-5). He employs false teachers who are specialists in his “theology,” to bring in “destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them” (2 Peter 2:1). They are adept at mixing truth and error in such proportions as to make error palatable. They carry on their teaching surreptitiously and often anonymously. He sends out false prophets. “And many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many” (Matthew 24:11). He introduces false brethren into the church, who “had sneaked in to spy out our liberty…in order to bring us into bondage” (Galatians 2:4).

As followers of Jesus Christ we cannot allow our hearts and minds to be distracted by what appears to be the real thing. This is why it is so important that each of us take to heart and put into practice the admonition of the apostle Paul when he exhorted us to “test all things; hold fast what is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). May we  be people of discernment and wisdom in order to distinguish between what is of God and what is counterfeit.

Sunday – December 27, 2015 Revelation 10:1-11 “The Bittersweet Book”

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Revelation 10:9-11
“So I went to the angel, telling him to give me the little book. And he said to me, “Take it and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.”  I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it, and in my mouth it was sweet as honey; and when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter.”

You’ve heard the old adage, “You are what you eat.” Well, it’s actually true. When you eat a burger, your body metabolizes it. It assimilates and converts it to energy and the building material to create flesh and bone. That burger eventually becomes a part of your body, whether you like it or not. You bear it on your body. The same ought to be true with God’s Word. You should begin to act and look more like Jesus Christ. Every day and in every way, people ought to be able to say: “I’m becoming more like Christ.”

This angel tells John that this book “will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.” This is a sweet and sour scroll. God’s Word can be bittersweet and hard to digest. Sometimes God’s Word can give us heartburn; other times it is sweet to the taste. We must understand that prophecy and Scripture, as a whole, is bittersweet. There are sweet promises in the Bible, but there are also bitter warnings. God’s Word can bring joy to our heart but at times it brings sorrow. It both blesses us and burdens us. People get excited about studying prophecy. Unquestionably, there are some exciting things about this book — a sweet taste. But it also burdens the believer about his unsaved family and friends and is a stern warning of judgment to come to the unbeliever.

This revelation was pleasant at first because it was a revelation from God. Please note that John tastes God’s revealed Word. It is not enough to see the book in someone’s hand or even to know what it contains. We must assimilate it and digest it. Too many Christians do not make the Word part of their inner being. Yet, our privilege as believers is not only to read the Bible but also to assimilate it into our lives. God won’t force-feed us with His Word; rather, He exhorts us to take it from His hand, eat it and assimilate it into our lives. The Word of God is the food of the Christian. It is compared to bread (Matt 4:4), milk (1 Pet 2:2), meat (1 Cor 3:1-2), and honey (Ps 119:103).

Still, as John meditated on it and comprehended the fearful judgments that it predicted, he became distressed. Have you ever experienced the sweet and bitter dimensions of God’s Word? We read of God’s love and mercy toward us, His eternal plan of salvation, His promise to give us a future and a hope, and the assurance of eternal life. That’s sweet. But then the Word also speaks directly to areas in our lives that may require change. Maybe your behavior or lifestyle dishonors God and is in direct violation of His Word. Maybe you have excused a bad attitude or a critical spirit in your life. At times, God’s Word can be a painful tool of correction. But it is always redemptive. It is always for our good. I would suggest to you that you haven’t really learned the Word until you live the Word. So how are you living? What difference has the book of Revelation made in your life?

Sunday – December 20, 2015 Christmas Message

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Luke 1:46-48
“And Mary said: “My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.”

Mary’s hymn of praise overflows with information about the attributes of God. But it’s not dry, academic information. Mary exults in God as she considers what He has done in choosing her to be the mother of the Savior. She calls Him “God my Savior,” because Mary knew she was a sinner; since no one but sinners need a Savior. Everyone who realizes they need a “Savior” understands they are lost and alienated from God because of the sin they personally have committed. We don’t just need a little boost from God to set things right or a few tips on how to succeed in life. Savior is a radical term that implies that we are helplessly, hopelessly lost unless God in His mighty power intervenes to rescue us.

Mary refers to God’s power when she speaks of how, “He has done mighty deeds with His arm,” referring to His scattering the proud, who would scoff at the notion that they needed a Savior. Pride is a heart attitude of self-sufficiency, not humility. The proud person thinks that he doesn’t need God. God is mighty in mercy to the humble, but mighty in judgment toward the proud. Mary also teaches that God’s name is holy. His name refers to His person, the sum of His attributes. To be holy means to be set apart. In this context, it refers not only to God’s absolute moral righteousness, but also to His being set apart as the only sovereign authority over people. He is to be held in highest esteem and to be feared because He is holy.

Thankfully, Mary does not leave us with just these attributes of God, or we would not dare to approach Him. She goes on to emphasize God’s mercy, “His mercy is upon generation after generation toward those who fear Him … He has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy.” Mercy tells us of God’s compassion due to our misery as sinners. His mercy is on those who recognize His holiness and bow in reverence before Him. It was His mercy that caused Him to send the Savior. How wonderful would it be if everyone acknowledged their need of the mercy of the Lord like Mary did?

You can’t pick and choose which attributes of God you like, and ignore the rest. God isn’t operating a religious cafeteria. You come to Him His way, as a guilty sinner needing a Savior, or not at all. If you repent of your pride and selfishness and sin, and come to the cross, He will pour out His tender mercy on you. If you proudly cling to your own righteousness and self-sufficiency, God will send you away empty. And if God sends you away empty, you are absolutely empty. You don’t want to go into eternity empty, without God’s mercy. Come to the Savior this Christmas.