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Watch 2022 online sermons » John Bradshaw » John Bradshaw - Lawless

John Bradshaw - Lawless

John Bradshaw - Lawless
John Bradshaw - Lawless

This is It Is Written. I’m John Bradshaw. Thanks for joining me. It’s a slice of paradise, really. Just 35 minutes by plane from Miami, Florida, is Nassau, the capital city of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. The Bahamas is made up of more than 700 islands and islets, starting east of Florida and stretching down to north of Cuba, and along almost to Turks and Caicos, north of Haiti. Tourism rules in the Bahamas, and it’s easy to see why. What’s not to love? The weather here is as close to perfect as you could possibly want. Average annual high temperature: 84 Fahrenheit. That’s 29 Celsius. Average annual low: 21 Celsius, 70 Fahrenheit. There are 30 or so inhabited islands in the Bahamas, a number of privately held islands in addition. Nassau is on New Providence Island, which would fit inside Rhode Island 15 times.

It was here in the Bahamas in 1492 that Christopher Columbus first landed in the free world. He landed at an island that became known as San Salvador. Some believe it’s the same San Salvador that exists today. Others believe otherwise. Four hundred thousand people live in the Bahamas, 70 percent of them in Nassau. And as beautiful as it is, it’s a place with a colorful past. Three hundred or so years ago, in the early 1700s, the Bahamas was a haven for pirates. Men like John Rackham operated out of New Providence Island. They called him Calico Jack owing to the colorful clothing that he wore. He ended up being hanged. He was associated with a couple of female pirates. Female pirates were rare in the Caribbean. And Bonnie and Mary Reed were ruthless.

The pirate Henry Jennings was based in the Bahamas. In 1715, 11 of the 12 ships that made up a Spanish treasure fleet were lost in a hurricane near what’s known today as Vero Beach, Florida. Jennings had been a privateer, essentially a legal pirate, and he attacked the salvage ships and made off with a lot of wealth. Jennings based himself here in Nassau. He teamed up with another private, another former privateer, a man named Benjamin Hornigold. Hornigold actually retired from piracy, which is something not every pirate did. But before he retired, he took an aspiring young pirate under his wing, a man named Edward Teach. Teach was born in England, maybe in Bristol. He worked on ships, and eventually became a privateer. Teach, if that was his actual name, became a pirate during what was known as the Golden Age of Piracy. And he was known as Blackbeard.

The Bahamas was perfect for pirates, owing to its proximity to the shipping lanes of the Atlantic. And it was here that Blackbeard created a legend. It’s not that Blackbeard was the deadliest or the most prolific pirate that ever sailed. But he knew how to strike fear into men. He called himself Blackbeard after his big, black beard, which he braided with ribbons and then somehow set matches or cloth or fuses in that he would set alight, making it look like his beard was on fire. Blackbeard terrorized people. Some sailors said they believed Blackbeard was the devil himself. Near Martinique in the eastern Caribbean, Blackbeard seized a French ship, La Concorde, which he renamed Queen Anne’s Revenge.

Now, as long as his victims didn’t put up a fight, Blackbeard didn’t kill or maim them. But if they resisted... not good. He even defeated a royal naval vessel. He was quite a sailor. A pirate ship’s flag would often contain a depiction of an hourglass, the inference being that a pirate’s life was short. Blackbeard died while still a young man, aged somewhere between 35 and 40. He was killed by authorities in North Carolina. His severed head was placed on a pike and publically displayed as a warning to other would-be pirates. In 1996, the remains of Blackbeard’s ship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, were found just off the Carolina coast.

So what does it take to be a pirate? You know, today pirates are kind of romanticized. And the fact is, they were thieves, murderers. Pirates were terrorists. Fourteen of the 16 men apprehended when Blackbeard was taken were transported to Williamsburg, Virginia, and hanged. They were tough times. Modern piracy is still a major maritime problem that costs lives as well as billions of dollars a year in losses. The waters off the coast of Somalia have seen a lot of piracy in modern times. The Strait of Malacca, dividing Singapore and Malaysia from Indonesia, continues to be a piracy hotspot.

Although it happens less than it did a few years ago, people are still killed or taken hostage by pirates. Some hostages are held for years. Ships are still seized. This isn’t a game. Pirates were a law unto themselves, had no regard for the rights or the safety or the welfare of others. They took what they wanted, when they wanted, and how they wanted. You know, we still see lawlessness today. We see it in the streets, where people rob and assault and murder. Do we see lawlessness in business? Sure we do. There are unscrupulous business people who, through one means or another, take advantage of others. You don’t need to go too far to find unscrupulous doctors or lawyers or athletes. We still see lawlessness today. But lawlessness in the church: does that happen? Yes, it does. I’ll tell you more in just a moment.

Nassau, on New Providence Island in the Bahamas, was home to a lot of pirates in the early 1700s, during what’s now referred to as the Golden Age of Piracy. At that same time, Ben Franklin was just a boy. Johann Sebastian Bach was composing beautiful music in Europe, and George Washington wouldn’t be born for about 15 more years. Blackbeard sailed these waters. This pirate of the Caribbean and of the Atlantic called this place home for about two years, and during that time, he terrorized a lot of people. Pirates lived, or live, outside the law. They are lawless. You have to be lawless to pursue an ocean vessel, forcibly board it, take what you want, and then take hostages or simply kill people. Lawlessness. But what’s really astonishing is that we find lawlessness in the church.

Let me explain. Britain’s Telegraph newspaper reported that just six of the Ten Commandments are important to British Christians today. The paper said, "Most Christians in Britain believe that four of the commandments are not 'important principles to live by.'" So which ones made the grade? "Honor thy father and thy mother"? That commandment is one the people want to keep. Murder? Still wrong. Adultery? Still morally unacceptable. Stealing? Let’s keep that commandment. Lying? People don’t want lying. That commandment remains. And interestingly enough, coveting still considered taboo. But the majority of British Christians who responded to this poll said that the first four commandments are principles that we can do without, principles that we don’t need to live by today.

So what are these four old-hat commandments that just don’t relate to life anymore? Well, let’s look at them. The first one, Exodus 20, verse 3, where the Bible says, "You shall have no other gods before me". Apparently, not relevant today. Now, keep in mind, this is in the land of George Whitefield, John Wesley, William Tyndale. Believers saying, "We don’t need this anymore". Second commandment, Exodus 20 and verse 4: "You shall not make for yourself a carved image, any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them..." Apparently, that’s something that we can live without, along with the third commandment. Look at that with me, Exodus 20 and verse 7: "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain". Apparently, that’s something that we can do without.

Now, there’s one more. Remember? Believers in Britain have said that this is something we don’t need to live by today. Look at it with me, Exodus 20, verses 8 through 11: "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it". So how would that look, having other gods before God? Well, it makes the Bible a nonsense. You can not love God with your whole heart, soul, mind and strength, and have another god before God.

Okay for believers to bow down and worship graven images. That doesn’t even make sense. This is where you need a rolling-your-eyes emoji. Don’t take the name of the Lord in vain. Evidently, that doesn’t matter anymore. You know, what’s interesting about this is that the commandments that are still important are the ones that deal with what other people do to you. But when it comes to disrespecting God, evidently that just doesn’t matter so much. Fourth one: "Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy". You’d really let that go in today’s pressure-cooker world? Jesus said in Mark 2:27, "The Sabbath was made for man". Isaiah said don’t trample on God’s holy day in Isaiah 58. And over and above all of that, Jesus said in John 14:15, "If you love me, keep my commandments". First John 3, verse 4, says that "sin is the transgression of the law". Many translations express that as, "Sin is lawlessness".

Now, let’s not make the mistake of thinking that this is just a British thing. Some years ago, Reuters reported that Americans were more familiar with the ingredients of a Big Mac than they were with the Ten Commandments. For example, more people could recall that a Big Mac contained two all-beef patties than knew there was a commandment that said, "Thou shalt not kill". Fewer people were able to recall "Honor thy father and thy mother" than knew that a Big Mac contained a pickle. More people could remember Bobby and Peter from the Brady Bunch than knew that there was a "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy".

Now, admittedly, this was not a survey of just Christians. But still. Years before he became known for his run for the U.S. Senate, Roy Moore was a circuit court judge in the state of Alabama. He hung the Ten Commandments on the wall of his courthouse. It sparked controversy. Later, as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in the State of Alabama, Moore had a 5,000-pound granite monument of the Ten Commandments moved into the Supreme Court building. Now, that was controversial as well. It was eventually ruled that that monument had to go.

Moore went as well, but not before thousands of people demonstrated in support of that monument of the Ten Commandments. At that demonstration, one man shouted at the top of his voice, "Get your hands off our God". So it’s interesting. We seem to have this very two-faced relationship with the Ten Commandments. On the one hand, we acknowledge they were given by God, but on the other hand, masses of people, including many Christians, aren’t sure they really need to be kept. So which is it? Now, if the answer is that the Ten Commandments ought to be kept, then that gives rise to another really important question. I’ll have that in just a moment.

Thanks for joining me on It Is Written. I’m in the Bahamas, once upon a time a haven for pirates. Not good people, pirates. They were thieves, killers, mercenaries. They were outlaws, not cartoon characters, not caricatures. They were lawless. In the 1900s, the Bahamas was a haven for freed slaves. The royal navy resettled here thousands of slaves who’d been liberated from slave ships. American slaves and black Seminoles escaped here from Florida. And slaves on board U.S. domestic ships, which had sheltered here in the Bahamas owing to bad weather, were freed here as well. These are actual ruins of homes of former slaves. Slavery was lawlessness. And lawlessness challenges the church. Antinomianism teaches that, because of grace, because we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, we then therefore do not need to obey the law of God. Which is madness, of course. There’s a world of difference between what happens in a person’s life in coming to salvation and then what takes place in a person’s life once that person has received salvation.

Now, it is true, we are saved one way: by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. That’s right. And that is a wonderful truth. There is nothing that you can do to earn salvation. It is a gift given you from God. You accept it; you rejoice in it; you believe that Jesus died for you and that through the death of Jesus Christ your sins are forgiven. But once a person comes to faith in God, once God enters a person’s life and that faith journey continues, well, what does that look like? David told us in Psalm 40 and verse 8, when he said, "I delight to do Your will, O my God, Your law is in my heart".

The question isn’t, should we live with or without reference to the Ten Commandments. The answer to that question is obvious. The bigger question is, how do you keep the Ten Commandments? You know, when Jesus said, "If you love me, keep my commandments," He was not saying, if you love me, then prove it by going ahead and keeping the Ten Commandments. No, what Jesus was saying was, "If you love me, then you will keep the Ten Commandments because that’s what happens when I dwell in you". When your heart is given to God, obedience becomes an inevitability.

Now, I recognize that statements like that, obedience being an inevitability, can be cold comfort to some people. If you’re stuck in sin, if you’re going backwards instead of forwards, if you’re not progressing spiritually, those are difficult words. The battle is real. Undoubtedly you’ve experienced it. You might be caught in the middle of it now. So, let’s consider what Paul wrote to the Romans, chapter 7, verse 14: "For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin". Carnal. Fleshly. Like the Spanish word for meat, "carne". Paul says, "I am carnal". So why is that a problem? He explains in Romans 8, verse 7: "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be". You notice that? Paul says, "I am carnal".

Like Blackbeard. Or Calico Jack. Lawless. Paul goes on: "For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death"? Can you see yourself in that picture, unable to do the things that you really want to do, doing the things that you know you should not? See yourself in that picture? Somebody upsets you.

You know you shouldn’t retaliate in a negative way, but you do it anyway. You know you shouldn’t claim that deduction on your taxes, but you claim it anyway. You’re in a relationship that you know you shouldn’t be in. Seems like it’s impossible for you to get out. You feel hatred toward somebody and you know you should feel otherwise, but it’s like you’re stuck there, and there’s nothing you can do to shake off these things that you don’t even want to be doing. So what do you do? Wouldn’t it be something if Romans chapter 7 ended with Paul’s desperate cry, "Who shall deliver me from this body of death"? I am extremely glad that it does not, that Paul answers that question in the next verse, Romans 7:25, where he says, "I thank God, through Jesus Christ my Lord"!

You want a way out of lawlessness? Jesus is that way out. You want a way out of slavery to the old life? Jesus is that way. And when He comes into your life, gives you a new heart, new impulses, new desires, then you can say with Paul, in the very next verse, Romans 8 and verse 1, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit". Moments ago, Paul is saying there is no good thing in him, that he is carnal, that he's not subject to the law of God. Moments later, there is now no condemnation.

Now, here’s how you can have that experience. Accept Jesus Christ into your life. Tell God you want to live for Him, and that you need Him to do it in your life because you can’t do it yourself. It’ll change your life. And if you’re already a believer, but you’re not experiencing God’s power, this is for you as well. Get God’s Word into your mind, and it’ll mold you, and it will shape you. You’ll have a new mind. Spend a little less time with Netflix, a little less time on the internet, and more time with God. You can’t possibly love a God that you don’t know, and the more you know God, the more you’re gonna want to know God. Take time to pray. Talk to God. That’s where the power is. You want to connect with God. It’s so important that you do. Take time to talk with God every day, morning and evening, and as you go about your day.

You know how a doctor is going to advise a patient that he or she needs to make changes, stop smoking, stop drinking, cut down sugar, cut down fat, cut red meat. You know how that goes. God does the same to us in our personal and in our spiritual lives. He says, there might be some people you need to cut out of your life, stop associating with, because they’re dragging you down. There might be some places that you just don’t want to go anymore. Stop frequenting the bars and the clubs. There might be some channels that you need to change or some websites that you don’t want to visit any longer. There might be changes that need to be made. And when you make those changes, you prevent Satan from taking your heart off in another direction, and you reserve your heart for God and for the influences of God.

Now, where’s the power for that going to come from? It’s going to come from God. Philippians 4 and verse 13 says, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". And that’s the truth. You see, there is a battle raging, and it’s a battle against self. God calls you, but your selfish self demands expression. God calls you but your selfish self wants to do its own thing. God calls you, and you chafe against that. You say, "No, but I want to go my own direction". But when you surrender to God, when you allow God to take your heart, you allow God to make you a new person. Paul said, "If anyone is in Christ, that person is a new creature". A new creature! "Old things are passed away, all things are become new". So how is it with you? Would you let God make you new? All new. When God has your heart, He’ll change you. You’ll start to love the things God loves. You’ll look at life a whole new way. You’ll begin to live as a child of God.

Our Father in heaven, we thank You that there is a power greater than the power of our selfish selves. There is a pirate within each one of us; we are lawless outside of the power of God. So I pray that You would take our hearts and make them Yours. Let Jesus, through Your Holy Spirit, dwell in us. I pray that You would subdue that selfish self that wants to go its own way, and guide us in the way that leads to the cross and that leads to eternal life. We thank You today that You love us so much that You gave Jesus to die for us, that through faith in Him we might be made new. That we might love what You love, and that our lives would merely be the outworking of Your will. And that Your principles, even Your commandments, would be carried out in our lives. Change our hearts. Make us Yours. We thank You today, for we claim You and we praise You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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