Date: October 29, 2000

Bible Text: Acts 10:9-16 |


If you have your Bibles, turn in them to Acts chapter 10. We’ll be reading verses 9 through 16. It’s been good to see so many who were saved during our fall campaign continuing to come to church. It’s good to see you coming out Sunday morning, Sunday night, Thursdays. If you’re newly saved, or maybe you’ve rededicated your life, I don’t have to read your mind or look at you to know what’s happening. You are stumbling. You are having problems. You’re not the Christian you want to be. That happens to everybody. Keep on going; keep on coming to church. Read your Bible and pray, and God will deal with you about other things. Pretty soon you’ll become a soulwinner. Pretty soon you’ll do other things.

Acts chapter 10 beginning with verse 9, "On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour: And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance, And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: Wherein were all manner of four-footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And there came a voice to him, Rise Peter; kill, and eat. But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven."

What a jumble of self-will and reverence, of pride and humility. "Not so, Lord." There are times when we need to say, "No." But it should never be in the same phrase with, "Lord." We should never tell God, "No." And yet even though we don’t do it with our mouth, many times we do it with our lives and with our actions.

If you read about Peter, you’ll see that he was always what we might call a "blunderer" in his early days, and he never really grew out of it. We have nothing to talk about, though. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people call Him, "Lord," and then say, "No," to Him. We profess to believe the doctrine that He’s the God of the universe. Yet, when we don’t want to do something, we’ll say, "No." Maybe we’ll mask it by saying, "I don’t agree with the preacher." Or, "I’m going to quit that church." Or, "I don’t like what he said." But in reality, we’re saying, "No, Lord. I like my wine. I like my beer. No, Lord. I want my time. I’m just made this way; I cuss every once in a while. I’m not like those church people. No, Lord." Now you can make any excuse you want, and you can say it’s the preacher, you can say it’s the church; but you’re not saying, "No, Fairhaven," or "No, Roger." You’re saying, "No, Lord." And so again, we shouldn’t look down on Peter.

If we’re saved, we’re made perfect through salvation. However, we must so often cry in repentance, "Lord, what is man that thou are mindful of him?" It’s with our speech that we so often betray ourselves. How many times have you heard people say, "I wish I could eat my words. I wish I wouldn’t have said that." We’re going to look at Peter’s strange expression, "Not so, Lord," this morning. I want all of us to see what we can learn from it.

The first point I have is that the old man remains in the Christian. Now, I think most of you understand this. But I want you to really think about it. We’re Christians, and our godliness ought to dominate our lives. But turn in your Bibles to Romans 7, and we see that the old nature still survives. The old nature is crucified, but it’s slow in dying. We are renewed sinners, but we’re still sinners. This passage, in Romans 7:15, speaking about the Apostle Paul, is puzzling to some people. We look at him as the greatest preacher, the greatest missionary, and the greatest evangelist. But he says, "For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I."

Isn’t that the story of our lives so often? We could read the whole passage, but I don’t want to take the time. Jump down to verse 19, "For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do." Do you ever feel like that? You determine to do something right, or you say, "I’m never going to gossip again as long as I live." And you catch yourself in the middle of gossip, and you don’t even have the courage to verbally say, "I’m wrong." "That which I want to do, I don’t do." We say, "I’m going to win souls. I’m going to witness to everybody that I can." But we forget.

That’s what we’re talking about today. Drop down to verse 23, "But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am!" Do you ever think that way? I do. "Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" If you’re sitting here and you don’t have any empathy with that, it’s because you’re already dead. I’m not saying you’re going to hell, but I’m saying you’re so far gone, you’re so calloused, that you’re not even trying. Because anybody who’s trying stumbles. I’m not trying to encourage you to stumble, but I’m trying to encourage you to pick yourself up and brush yourself off. "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin."

Even so Peter, a great apostle, the great preacher, was still Peter. If I had never read this text and somebody told me what Peter had done and what Peter had said and they asked me, "Who do you think that Bible character was," it would be easy to answer. I think it would be for you also. Because that was Peter’s history. Thomas was "Doubting Thomas," wasn’t he? We know his problem. "I won’t believe that He rose from the dead unless I take my finger and stick it in the holes in His hands, and take my hand and stick it in the hole in His side." That was his problem. John was loving, but, oh, was he a firebrand! He was loving, but remember when he said, "If these people don’t want to accept You, call down fire and destroy them." They all had their problems.

But the point I would make is that the man is still the man. Once we’re saved, we do have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. Let me encourage you with that. The Bible says He’ll give you wisdom, He’ll give you power, He’ll give you knowledge, He’ll give you strength. Oh, do we have an advantage over the unsaved! We can stop drinking if we want to stop drinking. We can stop smoking if we want to stop smoking. I’m not trying to give anybody an excuse to go on in sin. We have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, but we’re still a man. And as long as we’re alive, there is going to be a battle. We still have the same traits we had before we were saved.

Billy Sunday was known for preaching about booze. Taverns were (literally) shut down, and he had a lot to do with doing away with booze in America. But, in his old life before he was saved, he was a drunkard. And it is said that when he was fighting this booze, if there were some reason (and there shouldn’t normally be one) to go in where booze was served, maybe someone was in there whom he was trying to help, he would never go in. He would send someone who had never had a problem with booze to pull that guy out. You say, "Why?" Because he had enough sense to know that he could be tempted by it, and so he stayed away from it. That’s what we have to understand.

We have to be wise enough to know what we are. Somebody once said, "Know thyself." Until you know yourself, you’re never going to be able to help yourself. When we are saved, we are greatly changed. We have a new heart. We have a new song. But we still have an inclination to do evil. The old man is not dead. That’s why we believe in what we call "separation." The closer we get to the world, the easier it is to fall. And that’s why I say, "Come to church." That’s why I say, "Pray," and that’s why I say, "Read the Bible."

People say, "Well, you can have a little bit to drink." No! The very people who say you can have a little bit to drink will be the ones who will say, "We don’t know which person is an alcoholic." They call it a "sickness." The Bible calls it a sin. They say, "We don’t know which person is an alcoholic," so why be idiotic enough to drink? Stay away from it! Some of you new Christians are struggling with cigarettes. You fight it, and you fight it. God will give you the strength. God will give you the victory. He does have the power.

Let me encourage you. You look at Christians and say, "Well, they’re all good, pure men." Well, they are all men saved by grace, and they have had these problems with drink or cigarettes, and whatever else that you have problems with. But God gave them the strength to overcome it. The point I’m making today is, "Get away from it!" That’s why you should get away from your old friends. Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean you should be rude. You should try to get them to come to church; but if you live your life right, they will get away from you. Don’t listen to their dirty stories—witness to them and try to bring them to church. If you drink Coke in the bar with them, though, pretty soon that’s not all you will be drinking.

Here is Peter, the one who preached that great sermon at Pentecost when 3,000 were saved and baptized. But he’s also the same one who rebuked the Master and said, "Be it far from thee, Lord." Remember what Jesus said to him? "Get thee behind me, Satan." What a contrast! Here again in our text he’s saying, "I’m not going to kill and eat this. I’ve never done it before." He’s contradicting the Lord. Remember when the Lord brought in a basin and a towel, and Peter said, "…dost thou wash my feet?" He was astonished at the example of humility that the Lord was going to show. And he said, "Thou shalt never wash my feet." What a mouth! But remember the change of heart he had when Jesus said, "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me." Peter said, "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head." He’s the same disciple who contradicted the Master when Jesus said, "All ye shall be offended because of me…" And Peter says, "Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended." Well, you say, "What brass!" But that was Peter.

Let me say something I’ve learned through the years. Your strong points are also your weak points. What made Peter a great preacher, and I’m sure a great soulwinner, made him "run at his mouth" too much. Never get proud. Never say, "Look what I did. Look at that soul I got saved. Look at the response from my Sunday School lesson." Peter, as much as he grew, was the same man with the same weaknesses he had before the Holy Spirit dwelled in him. He rebuked, refused, and contradicted, "Not so, Lord."

That’s why I ask you right now to ask yourself what your faults were before you were saved. What were your weaknesses before you were saved? Guard against them right now. Don’t ever think that they could never come back to haunt you. Guard against them all through your life. Parents, that’s why I stress to teach your children character. If your son or daughter doesn’t have character, he will fall, fail, and never accomplish what you would like to see in their lives. They need character to say, "No," to Satan. Character to say, "No," to their besetting sin.

If anyone says the old man is dead, you turn to them and say, "That’s a message from the devil." I know he’s not dead in my life. We’ve all had victories. If you’re in the battle, you will have victories. What does the Bible say? "Take heed. When you think you stand, take heed lest ye fall." But you don’t have to fall. Let’s say you’re a young Christian and you’re coming along, and you’re doing well. "I’m really doing it. I’m doing better than these others." You had better take heed.

Don’t you understand the devil wants you when you’re young before you become really strong? Peter was still Peter, and you are still you with two natures—the old and the new. Praise God, the new nature is more powerful, but you better be prepared. The devil is going to use the old nature. People think I’m crazy because I don’t have a television. But that’s the kind of thing I’ve done in my life to try and overcome the old nature. I didn’t want that stuff in my house. So 28 years ago, it went in the garbage can. You say, "Why?" Because I’m made of flesh.

There might be somebody here with the same fault as Peter—you’re blunt. He saw a vision. "Rise up and kill and eat." Without a moment’s deliberation he said, "Not so, Lord." I really believe if he had thought for about half a minute, he wouldn’t have said that. I like a strong, impulsive-type person, though.

Teddy Roosevelt said, "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcoming…"

The point I’m trying to make is that if you’re a Peter, don’t think that God doesn’t love you. I love people like this rather than people standing back, "I’m not going to come to work party because I’m not skilled." Or, "I’m not going to try and witness because I don’t know my Bible well enough." I would so much rather have somebody get out there and stumble.

That’s what Teddy Roosevelt was saying. It’s not the critic who is right. It’s the guy who is out there, maybe in the sweat, and blood, and dirt, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming. "…but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

I love that saying. If you’re out there in the battle, you’re going to have some failures. But brush yourself off and keep going! Don’t ever think you are going to be perfect, but strive for it. Strive to be a better soulwinner than you have ever been. Strive to be cleaner than you’ve ever been. Honestly strive for it. But watch yourself. At times you will speak too soon or say too much. It’s like that old illustration about gossipping. It’s like taking a feather pillow and shaking it out. The feathers go all over the neighborhood. Then you say, "I want to gather them up." You can’t gather them up. Watch yourself. You calm down in ten minutes, but the scar is there forever. When Peter got mad and cut that guy’s ear off, he had Jesus right there to heal him; but He’s not right here now. Watch yourself. If you’re made like Peter, make some goals in your life.

Secondly, the old man fights against gospel principles. Here Peter was fighting against doing away with the law. He knew that Christ by His death did away with the ceremonial law, but he didn’t want anything to do with it. He knew that Jesus had cleansed these things and taken away the bondage concerning these forbidden meats. But he said, "I’ve never eaten this type of thing before. I’ve never done that, and so I’m not going to do it now."

Some Christians are that way; they’re Pharisees. "Well I’ve never done that." You better look at the Bible and do it His way. Many quarrel with God on ceremonial grounds. Anybody who studies the Bible knows you are saved by faith. You are saved by grace through faith alone. And yet some will say, "I know the Bible says we’re saved by faith, but I believe you need to be baptized, too." Or they try to mix in the Eucharist, or good works, or confession, or the ordinances of men. Even some fundamentalists will say, "We’re saved by faith, but we don’t think a person should be baptized until we watch him for six months." We’re not living under the law but under grace. We need to believe it.

The tendency is for legalism, though. If you’re here and you say, "Oh, I know the Bible teaches that, BUT the way I was raised, baptism is included in free grace." No! THAT’S WORKS! Anything that you feel you must do to be saved is works. The Bible says, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." Our problem is we want to boast. "I was baptized." "I was confirmed." "I did this, I did that." If you have anything to do with your salvation, you’re going to hell. Let me say that again. If you personally have anything to do with your going to heaven, you’re on your way to hell. It’s only through Him. He paid it all. Jesus paid it all; all to Him we owe. God says that all our good works are as filthy, smelly rags.

We’re just plain sinners. Praise God, just as a diseased man is fit to be healed, as a drowning man is fit to be rescued, as a poor man is fit for alms, a sinful man is fit for forgiveness. Jesus wants us to come. Now if you are here and you’re not saved, He wants you to come empty-handed. Feeble, sinful. Just receive Him. Christ didn’t die for saints. Christ isn’t in the business of bringing men deserving of salvation to heaven; He’s in the business of bringing undeserving men to heaven. So don’t try to make yourself better. You come even as you are. "Just as I am, without one plea…" That’s how you come. There are so many like Peter when he said, "Not so, Lord, I got baptized as a child." "Not so, Lord, I’m a member of such-and-such a church." "Not so, Lord, I take communion every month." "Not so, Lord." Sorry to say, if you say that, you are going to go to hell. You’ve got to do it His way.

The third and last point is the old nature shows itself in many ways fighting against God. Some people have persuaded themselves what the Bible should say. Today, for instance, abortion is a huge political debate. People will say, "I don’t want to go to that church because they are against abortion." God is against abortion! Like it or not, God is against abortion! I don’t care what politicians say, and I don’t care what the Supreme Court says, God says that life begins at conception, and that baby is real.

I’ve got a grandson. My daughter is carrying him. His name is Ezekiel. That’s a good name, isn’t it? You tell her he’s not alive. He’s kicking, and squirming, and eating. He’s alive! Aren’t our laws silly? You take a gun and shoot that little fetus, and they’ll prosecute you for murder. But yet if a doctor pulls the baby out of the womb at about nine months and stabs it to death, it’s not murder. It doesn’t matter what the politicians say. God says he’s alive. I pray for that unborn grandson every day. Don’t say, "I don’t like these Baptists." It’s not Baptists! It’s God. It’s the Bible.

The same thing could be said about women’s liberation. People say, "I don’t agree with that church." Don’t use the church as a "straw man." The Bible says the man is to be the head of the home even as Christ is the head of the church. Can you get any stronger than that? Read your Bible. Men, you’re to be the priest of the home. You take the place of Jesus Christ! You say, "You just said I’m a sinner and I fail and am not worthy." Who said you’re worthy? You’re to take your responsibility. This is similar to spanking children. "Well, I don’t think you ought to spank children." Why don’t you believe you ought to spank children? Because the government says it? Because welfare says it? Because the news media says it? What about the Bible? The Bible says spank them while they’re young, "while there is hope." The Bible says don’t "spare for his crying." The Bible says, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it," and then tells us how to do it; and a big part of it is spanking them. You say, "I don’t know if I agree with that." Get in your Bible. I challenge you. Come to me with your Bible and prove me wrong, and I’ll get up in the pulpit and say, "I’ve changed my position. The Bible says something else."

We have to go by the Bible; and when we don’t go by the Bible and say, "I disagree with Roger Voegtlin," or, "I disagree with Fairhaven Baptist Church," we’re saying, "Not so, Lord." Please don’t misunderstand me. Someone could pull that out of context. I’m saying you are using me as a straw man. Get in the Bible! "But," I hear, "you don’t know my husband. You wouldn’t want to follow him." This same Peter said that even if he’s unsaved you are to obey him. You say, "You’re just taking a few scriptures…" No, we could take all the scripture in the Bible that has to do with the family, and it would say this over and over again. Get in Ephesians 5. If you doubt what I’m saying about raising your family, get into Proverbs, get into Ephesians, get into Peter, get into Matthew. Don’t say, "Not so, Lord."

The same thing could be said about giving. I feel so sorry for some of you people. We’re not turning to a lot of scripture because we’d be here all day, but the Bible says we are to give Him the firstfruits. And what do some of you do? You get tight, and you give nothing. You say, "I’ll give to Him later." What are you saying? "I don’t believe what God says." You’re saying, "Not so, Lord, I know better than you." You know better than this Bible? I challenge you, open up your books. Let’s see how your finances are doing, see how your life is doing. How are your blessings coming? "Not so, Lord. I know more than you, Lord." YOU DO NOT! And if you can’t trust Him with a bunch of filthy, dirty paper—don’t tell me you trust God. And don’t complain to me when the problems come. Well, you say, "I can endure anything but that. I can do anything but that." No, no, no.

The old nature at times fights against duty. I’ve seen girls who were faithful to church, soulwinners, clean, separated, doing everything right. All of a sudden, though, one loses her heart over some guy who’s either not saved or not right with God and she marries him. She is saying, "Not so, Lord," and it disannuls everything. The devil will do anything to get you off track. You can be the finest girl, the purest girl, with the best of motives, the best soulwinner, the hardest worker, but you marry the wrong guy, and it’s over. If you make one big, solid decision, and you say, "I will drink. I will marry that wrong person. I will sin," I’m not saying you are not saved—you are on your way to heaven—but that life that could have been so wonderful is just a mess until you die.

In our natural self we’re also prone to quarrel with the Lord concerning suffering. I mentioned money, but pain, the death of a loved one, or sickness could be the problem. "I can endure anything but this." Listen to me. God knows what is best for His children. That’s why when you hear of somebody with a very serious sickness I always say that you ought to pray first of all and much more so that God is close to them. In this last series of illnesses with Mrs. Gaus and Mark, what a testimony they were! Both said, "Pray for me, Preacher, that God is with us. That’s all I care about. Live or die, I want God. I want to know God is with us!" And that’s it.

Remember when Joseph brought his sons to be blessed by his father, Jacob? He sat them down in order, and very quickly Jacob crossed his hands and blessed them in a cross-handed fashion. In other words, the one who wasn’t supposed to be blessed as the firstborn, was. Right away Joseph said, "Not so, father, you’re doing wrong." No, no. God guided his hands. Many times God comes to bless us in a cross-handed fashion. It may be finances, it may be health. It may be job related. Don’t say, "No, God, no." Don’t say it! Don’t say, "I can’t take it." Don’t beg God to take it away. Just beg, "God, be with me." Because in most cases that’s what He wants. He wants us to look up.

Many great blessings come in a cross-handed manner. And when it comes, we need to bow our heads, silence our tongues, stop judging almighty God, and do what God wants us to do. Don’t miss the blessing. Go where God wants you to go. Don’t miss the opportunity. He’s the Omniscient One. Saying, "Not so," takes you off the path. You go wading through the swamps, you get lost in the forest. Again, you don’t lose your salvation, but it’s like you are just crawling through a spiritual desert. Don’t say, "Not so." If you have, come to God and gain forgiveness. He wants to forgive you. Then get back to where you were. Just get as close as you can to the place where you were when you said, "Not so, Lord." Promise you’ll never do it again, and pray every day for guidance.

If you’re here and you’re not saved, don’t say, "Not so, Lord," about salvation. Titus 3:5 says, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost." How are you saved? By faith. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." You forget the Eucharist. You forget baptism. Baptism is good; we baptize. Communion is good. We partake in communion. But it has nothing to do with salvation. Everybody who is saved ought to join a church, but it has nothing to do with salvation.

How are you saved? The Bible is full of the plan of salvation. Romans 10:9 says, "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." Thou shalt be saved; this is God speaking. You WILL be saved if you believe in your heart and confess with your mouth. And then he repeats it again. "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." If you believe in your heart that you’re a sinner and Jesus Christ died for you, turn to God, believe in your heart and confess with your mouth, "Lord, I’m a sinner. Save my soul." God will save you. That’s Bible. Don’t say, "Not so, Lord."


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