AGCC Sun. a.m. 3/12/00

TEXT:     Ex. 1:8-14; 6:5-13; 12:8; I Cor. 10:11; Lk. 15:10


The world's attitude toward bad times is "Forget the past" … but everything we see in the Bible says, "don't forget the past, remember where you have come from." 1. We see this in the communion service - "this do in remembrance of me" … remembering the death of Christ for us. 2. Multiple times in the Old Testament God reminded Israel how they had once been slaves … and in the Passover celebration they were to eat bitter herbs as a reminder of those bitter days of slavery … so they wouldn't forget what they once were! a. Why? So often in the wilderness when they forgot their past slavery they wanted to return to an Egypt that they remembered as "wonderful" and full of all kinds of goodies like melons, leaks, etc. … all because they forgot what their slavery was really like! b. The Apostle Paul had reminded the Corinthians that they were once drunkards, sexually impure, thieves, slanderers, greedy, "…and such were some of you. But you were washed…." (I Cor. 6:9-11) Paul was reminding them not to make them feel guilty but to remind them what they left behind so they didn't go back to it. It was important to remember for this reason. We are to remember the past in order that we not repeat it! We are not to remember it in order to make ourselves feel guilty about it again, but to keep before us the slavery of that time so that we are not tempted to return to it. In fact, In Christ the past painful events can actually enable us to be even stronger for God in the present and future … ILLUS: When they first manufactured golf balls, they made the covers smooth. Then it was discovered that after a ball had been roughed up one could get more distance out of it. So they started manufacturing them with dimpled covers. So it is with life; it takes some rough spots in your life to make you go your farthest. -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 12. PROP. SENT:      The Bible teaches us that it is important to remember the slavery of sin so that we are not attracted to return to it, we are to remember what God has delivered us from so we can appreciate the great grace given us in Christ.

I. BITTERNESS OF SLAVERY       Ex. 1:8-14; 12:8

A. Tensions     1:8-13 1. Belonging to God does not mean exemptions from painful experiences. a. Too many Christians become callous and backslide when troubles hit. b. This is due to a faulty understanding of the life of faith. c. The life of faith does not exempt us from suffering … Jesus declared "that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." (Mat 5:45) equality in suffering and blessings! 2. The Israelites did not understand that God's allowance of suffering was actually a tool to make them stronger! a. For people of faith trials actually develop their character, it does not destroy it. b. This is precisely what James meant in James 1:2-4 "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." 3. The truth is that the farther a nation drifts away from God the more difficult it may be for those who embrace God … this is precisely what happened to Israel after the Pharaoh who knew Joseph had died. a. This trend may continue if we don't see a spiritual revival. b. We should not think it strange that believers are persecuted, even Jesus said we should expect persecution even as He had. (John 16:33) 4. Though it is difficult to accept, the truth is that suffering teaches us better how to live for God than prosperity does. ILLUS:"One thorn of experience," wrote Lowell, "is worth a whole wilderness of warning." The apostle Paul learned from his thorn, and if we choose, we may learn from ours. It all depends on the attitude we decide to take. -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997). B. Trials     1:14; 12:8 1. Israel actually flourished though great suffering was put upon them by the Egyptians. a. For the believer God works everything out for our good … again a promise found in Romans 8:28. b. While it may be difficult to see at the moment, suffering in the hands of God is an instrument of growth, not of destruction. 2. The fact is that Christians will find a great deal of suffering in this world just like everyone else, what makes us different is in how we perceive suffering and our reactions to it and the fruit that comes from it. 3. Pain makes us more cautious … a function of our natural body to protect us from foolish choices that could do irreparable damage if we didn't feel that pain. ILLUS:I believe in getting into hot water; it keeps you clean. G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936) - Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entry 11435. 4. Here is where the bitter herbs come in (12:8) … God wanted them to eat bitter herbs every year to remind themselves of the bitter slavery they once knew as slaves … they were not to forget that painful slavery lest they be tempted to return to it. a. Too often Christians fail to remember the painful life of sin and then begin to compromise their Christian life and slowly slide back into sin. b. Israel in the wilderness forgot how bad their slavery was, they even "remembered" how "good" they had it in Egypt and so longed to go back there when things got tough in the wilderness. c. The truth is that slavery is horrible, and we must not forget it! 5. Why remember the past? To appreciate the present and the future and not repeat the past! ILLUS:A powerful ruler built a great palace. Among the rooms was one that was always locked. He called it the Chamber of Memories. Every day he visited that room, but no one else was permitted inside. Finally one day the servants got a peep inside the locked room. There was no silver, no gold, no precious jewels. All they saw was a humble shepherd's robe; the one the king had worn before he came to the throne. The Lord's Supper reminds us of what we were before Christ found us and how far we have come. -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997). II. BELIEVING & SALVATION     Ex. 6:5-13; I Cor. 10:11; Lk. 15:10 A. Transformation     Ex. 6:5-13 1. The Israelites didn't think God cared or heard them, but in reality He had heard them and cared a great deal. a. He would transform them from a colony of slaves to a powerful nation that would be feared by all the other nations of the Earth. b. God in the process will also bring judgment on all the other nations for their insolence and evil. 2. Even though Moses told them God was going to deliver them they at first don't believe him. a. They thought as slaves, not as children of God. b. God however has a plan … which will minister to them and reveal God to the Egyptians … c. In this sense they were free already, but because they thought of themselves as slaves they continued to doubt God's love. d. Moses had to not only convince Pharoah to let Israel go, he had to convince Israel that they were going to be set free by God! ILLUS:Harry Houdini, the famed escape artist from a few years back, issued a challenge wherever he went. He could be locked in any jail cell in the country, he claimed, and set himself free in short order. Always he kept his promise, but one time something went wrong. Houdini entered the jail in his street clothes; the heavy, metal doors clanged shut behind him. He took from his belt a concealed piece of metal, strong and flexible. He set to work immediately, but something seemed to be unusual about this lock. For thirty minutes he worked and got nowhere. An hour passed, and still he had not opened the door. By now he was bathed in sweat and panting in exasperation, but he still could not pick the lock. Finally, after laboring for two hours, Harry Houdini collapsed in frustration and failure against the door he could not unlock. But when he fell against the door, it swung open! It had never been locked at all! But in his mind it was locked, and that was all it took to keep him from opening the door and walking out of the jail cell. Zig Ziglar -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 225. 3. God had to show Israel that His power frees them, their minds still enslaved them even when God promised them freedom. a. God would transform them from a people of slavery to a kingdom of mighty warriors. b. This transformation however would have to start in their own minds. c. Paul tells us in Rom. 12:2 "but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will." 4. When we accept Christ the first thing we notice is that we think differently. a. No longer guilty for past sins we are free to enjoy God's love and favor. b. We no longer look at the things of this world from a worldly point of view but now from an eternal point of view. 2 Cor 5:16-17 "So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" 5. This is an ongoing process, even Israel discovered this. B. Test     I Cor. 10:11 1. Why record all these stories about Israel's life in the Old Testament? a. To give us an example to learn from. b. To learn from their successes and failures so we don't have to repeat them. 2. This was the point of the bitter herbs eaten at every Passover -- to remember so they don't repeat the past errors of their former way of life. a. Also to remember the painful life of slavery so as not to return to it. b. It is good that we remember the painful past of sins, not to again feel guilty for those sins, but to learn from the experience so we don't repeat it. 3. These tests could make them better or worse, they would have to choose. ILLUS:It is impossible to drive in the wrong direction and arrive at the right destination. -- Croft M. Pentz, The Complete Book of Zingers (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1990). 4. God had hoped that the memory of slavery would be adequate to purge Israel's desire to move in the wrong direction in the future, and eating those bitter herbs each Passover celebration would help reinforce this. C. Treasure     Lk. 15:10 1. While remembering the bitter experience of slavery was important, so was celebrating the new life of freedom! a. All the angels in heaven rejoice over one person's salvation. b. The release from slavery was a wonderful experience, and while the bitter herbs were used as a reminder of the bitter experience of being a slave, it was only part of the celebration, so was the joyful freedom that came … but that is a future message in this series. 2. Israel was God's treasure, we are God's treasure when we are saved. 3. Too often we get bogged down in trying to understand all the theology of salvation, and while that is a good study, it is the joy of being free that is the focus of salvation. ILLUS:Henry Ward Beecher said that a man who was starving to death would not go into the laboratory to try and figure out how wheat germinates in the soil nor demand a chemical analysis of bread. So those who are really conscious of their need for forgiveness are not concerned with the mechanics of the atonement, but only concerned that they themselves are the recipients of its effects. -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997). 4. The starving soul for freedom may not comprehend everything about the nature of salvation or even how it all works, but when we find the "bread of life" in Christ it only matters that we no longer feel the pangs of hunger … Christ nourishes the soul and that is what matters most! a. The bitter herbs reminded them of their suffering in slavery … BUT b. It also revealed the joy of freedom that was now theirs by God's great delivering power. 5. How about you? Do you know the joy of freedom from sin's slavery … are the bitter herbs ONLY now a reminder or is it your ONLY experience … Christ can make it merely a reminder if you come to Him today. CONCLUSION:    The bitter herbs used in every Passover celebration was to remind the believer of the bitterness of slavery. Why was this so important? Every time Israel forgot how bitter their slavery was they longed to return to Egypt. Why any Christian would desire to return to a sinner's lifestyle is beyond belief! Remember, Christ frees us from sin's slavery! Make the bitter herbs a memory and not a mistake!