Audio Sermon – Don’t Be a Hater

A sermon I preached at Rocky River Baptist Church in Siler City on March 16, 2014

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Sinners and NCAA Basketball

*Note of warning – If you do not have a sense of humor about the Carolina-Duke basketball rivalry, you may want to avoid reading today’s devotional.

 

Of all the horrible things that are happening on this planet and in our own state of North Carolina, nothing is more upsetting to us right now than the fact that there is no local basketball team left in the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament heading into the sweet sixteen. (Side note – Congratulations to the North Carolina Tar Heel women’s team who are still alive in the sweet sixteen in their tournament.) The weeping and gnashing of teeth has been great in the triangle this past weekend.

Some of us like to play up the local rivalries and paint them in terms of the greater struggle of good vs. evil. Depending on your loyalty, Roy Williams is either a feisty southern mountain boy who tells it like it is or a washed-up, disingenuous hillbilly. On the other side, Mike Krzyzewski is a foul-mouthed Chicago Yankee who terrifies the refs, the ACC and NCAA into submission or… I can’t quite think of any other way to say it. And poor NC State fans are just praying the Mark Gottfried is finally the answer to getting them back in the game.

These brand loyalties among local college teams and fans create great drama. They provide us with a community sense of pride and friendly rivalry. And to tell the truth, they distract us from some real problems that are too scary and unsolvable.

NCAA basketball and football generate a lot of money through television contracts. We have seen lately, more dramatically than ever, that when money is involved, corruption is inevitable. Every successful program seems to be tarnished with scandal sometime in its history.

And that’s because human beings are sinners, every one of us, no exceptions. (Well, maybe Dean Smith, but we all know he’s in a class by himself.)

Seriously, no exceptions. As much as we want to believe in the good will of others, the reality is that each of us is subject to corruption. For many of us, the desire to be liked or to seem like a good person keeps us from doing things we might be inclined to do that are wrong. But when we think others won’t find out, we are willing to cheat and steal and lie to get what we want.

The Bible talks about this in the powerful words of Paul from Romans chapters 7 and 8. “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep doing… Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!… Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…”

“Who will rescue me?” “Thanks be to God… there is now no condemnation…” That is the good news!

Love in Christ,
Greg Burriss, Pastor
Rocky River Baptist Church
Siler City, NC

Genuine Repentance

News media love a good scandal. We have become used to the sight of a celebrity appearing on television or sending out a tweet to apologize for some transgression. Celebrity ministers are not immune. Recently mega-church pastor Mark Driscoll became the latest in a long line of high-profile pastors to feel the need to apologize after being caught in a scheme to inflate his book sales numbers.

We have become so used to these apologies that we are mostly skeptical of their sincerity. Some people think that if someone apologizes then a Christian is obligated to forgive that person and not remind anyone of that sin. We need, however, to make an important distinction. There is a big difference between making a verbal apology and repenting of sin.

Most people do express regret when they have been caught doing something they should not do. How can we tell the difference between the regret of getting caught and real repentance over the sin?

First, we need to acknowledge that we can never know the heart of another person. When Jesus tells us not to judge others, He is reminding us of this truth. I do not believe Jesus was telling us that we should never evaluate situations or people. We cannot live in this world without making judgments. He was reminding us that final judgment is reserved for God, and we need to be humble in our own judgments. We need to recognize that we could fall as easily as the person we are judging. We have to evaluate. It is not our job to condemn.

Second, we can only evaluate a person’s actions, not their words or their intentions. When a husband beats his wife, and immediately tells her that he is sorry, this is a cycle that repeats itself often in an abusive home. Saying he is sorry is not repentance. He is only manipulating the person and the situation. The church needs to speak out and say that such behavior is wrong. The wife is not to blame when her husband hits her or curses her. We see from his actions that he is not sorry for what he did. Real repentance produces real desire to change the sinful behavior.

Third, real repentance makes restitution to the ones who were wronged. In the gospel of Luke, when Zaccaheus was confronted with his sin in the presence of Jesus, he proved that he was really sorry by offering to repay any money he had taken wrongly.

Fourth, real repentance welcomes genuine accountability. When we say we are sorry but also want to cover up the action, we are not interested in improving ourselves, but in preserving our reputation.

Ultimately we cannot know if a person has really repented in his or her heart. But we can tell by his actions whether or not he is serious in his desire to make amends and change. Just because we say we are sorry, that does not mean that there is real sorrow and a desire to fix what we have broken.

The good news is that when we really repent of our sins, the New Testament promises that God “is faithful and just to forgive our sins” in Christ.

Love in Christ,

Greg Burriss, Pastor

Rocky River Baptist Church

Siler City, NC

Who Knows Where Malaysia Flight 370 Is?

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is missing. A massive search is underway. Frightened family members and friends are gathering, desperate for information. Every aviation investigation expert is engaged to give commentary on some news program. In a world where we can log onto our computer and look at our own backyard with Google satellite images, it is hard to understand how a passenger jet can disappear.

But no one knows where Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is. No human, that is. Wherever those 239 people are now, God knows. As we hear the news of this disaster, we think about what it must be like to be one of those on that jet. How scary was it? Or is it? What desperation did they feel? Even though we do not know these answers, and we may never know the answers, God knows. God was there. If any passenger was terrified and cried out to God, God was there.

Many of us are living right now with a quiet desperation in our hearts that no one, or very few others know about. The journey of our lives has gone off course. We feel ourselves hijacked by circumstances beyond our control. Or we see ourselves plunging into an ocean of trouble that we cannot avoid. We do not see any island of refuge or hear any response to our desperate SOS.

But God sees. He has been at your side all along. He is waiting for you to rest in Him, trust in Him and turn to Him for help. He sees and knows where you are and why you are there. He has not turned away from you even if you are in that place because you have sinned. His love is deeper than the ocean, broader than the sky and even more present than Google satellites.

You are not forgotten.

Love in Christ,

Greg Burriss, Pastor

Rocky River Baptist Church

Siler City, NC

Lent

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday. This marks the beginning of the season of Lent on the traditional Christian calendar. Not all Christians participate in Lent. Over the years many Baptists have refused because they believed it was a Catholic practice. Now, more and more Baptists are discovering Lent as a very meaningful spiritual experience.

Lent is an ancient tradition. The purpose is to encourage Christians to make a sacrifice that honors the sacrifice of Jesus and reminds us of what Jesus suffered on our behalf. If this is done with the right attitude, it can be a very meaningful way to prepare your heart for the experience of Good Friday and Easter.

A common way to participate in Lent is to give up something that you really enjoy during the period that begins with Ash Wednesday and ends with Easter. Sometimes people give up minor things such as soft drinks or chocolate. Sometimes people use the time to give up something more substantial, as a way to begin to quit, for example, cigarettes.

However we choose to participate, the important point to remember is that this is a time set aside to really pay attention to how Christ suffered for us. Every time you want a cola and don’t let yourself have one, you think of Jesus and what He sacrificed for you.

God created the pleasures of this world. If we use them in a godly way, God is pleased that we do use them. But God also wants us to remember that we are not made for the pleasures of this world. Jesus sacrificed His very life to save us. Can we give up something that will show Him our love and appreciation? That will help us learn the true pleasure of God’s kingdom.

Love in Christ,

Greg Burriss, Pastor

Rocky River Baptist Church

Siler City, NC