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The Greatest Mistake Ever Made | Sermon March 31, 2024

Updated: Jun 23

The Greatest Mistake Ever Made

 

Scripture: Luke 16:19-23; First Peter 3:18-20; 4:5-6; Matthew 28:1-2      

 

Happy Easter Strangers Rest! How many of you have ever heard of or seen the movie the “Greatest Story Ever Told”?  Well, if you haven’t, it’s the story about the life of Christ and this morning I will share how this story came to be because of the greatest mistake that was ever made. The title of my message this morning is “The Greatest Mistake Ever Made” and it is not your traditional Easter message.

 

I am going to start by reading a Scriptures from two versions of the Bible that might seem disconnected from the Easter story. But I promise to connect the dots throughout this message. Hopefully you all received a copy of the Scriptures I will reference this morning. I never want to quote something from the Bible and people question whether or not it’s really in there. For those of you watching via live stream, we will begin with Second Corinthians 4:3-4. I will be reading first from the New King James version. It says, “(3) But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, (4) whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.”

 

Now I want to read it from the Amplified Bible. It says, “(3) But even if our gospel is [in some sense] hidden [behind a veil], it is hidden [only] to those who are perishing; (4) among them the god of this world [Satan] has blinded the minds of the unbelieving to prevent them from seeing the illuminating light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (Second Corinthians 4:3-4, Amp)

 

All of us have heard many Easter sermons during our life time. Most of the sermons focused on Christ’s death and resurrection which is what Easter is all about. If you are a child of God, the only reason you are a child of God is because you heard and believed the story of Christ’s birth, death and resurrection, and then accepted Him as your Lord and Savior. You are sitting here today as a child of God because you know this story. But, do you realize that the reason we have been afforded the opportunity to become children of God is because of the greatest mistake that was ever made? What I want to accomplish in this message this morning is to share with you what the mistake was and then explain to you, beyond a shadow of a doubt, why it was the greatest mistake ever made.

 

So let me give you the cliff notes version of the back story that led up to this mistake. Ezekiel 28:11-19 describes the story of Satan’s fall from heaven (in the text he’s called the king of Tyre). When you read the story, you find that Satan was, and remains to this day, a physically beautiful, handsome specimen of an angel. I mean if you were to see him, he would make you look twice. All those images of a red tailed devil with horns and a pitchfork that we typically associate with him are not based on Scripture. The Bible does not record anywhere that Satan’s image was changed when God banished him from heaven. He was the head angel and because of his beauty and position he came to believe he could rule heaven as well as the Creator Himself.

So, the first mistake that Satan made, which was a very bad one, was to think he could overthrow the One who created him. And what made matters worse was that he convinced a third of God’s angels to join him. Strangers Rest, these were angels who knew God. These were angels who had bowed before Him in worship and adoration. This should tell you a lot about the depth of Satan’s ability to deceive us. I believe that many in the Church just don’t truly understand that no one is better at deception than he is. Jesus was present for all of this and said in Luke 10:18, “…..I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” 

 

Satan makes the decision to try and take over heaven and rebels against God. He was defeated and kicked out of heaven which created within him a vendetta against God. So what does he do? When God creates man, Satan sees how much God loves man so he decides to destroy that relationship. Satan knew that God had told man not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and Satan knew, on a personal level, what happens when someone deliberately disobeys God. So he hatched a plan to get God’s creation, Whom He loved dearly, to rebel against Him and it worked. When man fell in the Garden, he unknowingly transferred the authority that God had given to him to Satan. Satan could now interact with this world in a way that he couldn’t before man chose to sin. When God pronounced judgment against Satan, He made the following statement in Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” (Genesis 3:15)  God told Satan that his time was limited and that the woman’s Seed, His Son, would restore order. Why does this verse say, “the woman’s seed”? We know that a woman does not produce seed. The seed comes from the man. God tells Satan “I will put the Seed, My Son, in the woman and He is going to wreck your world!” Now you need to hear this: Satan heard what God said, but based on his actions He did not fully believe what God said or understand what God meant.

 

That is the background that gets us to the Easter story. When you read the final chapters of the Gospels, you find that the Easter story starts with Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem – which we celebrate annually as Palm Sunday – the Sunday before Easter. Next, we find Judas plotting with the chief priest and scribes to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, the price of a common slave. Jesus, knowing that His time was near, celebrates the Passover with His disciples and institutes the Lord’s Supper. Then He goes to the garden of Gethsemane to pray, asking God to remove that cup from Him, but proclaiming that He would do the will of His Father. Jesus walked this earth as a man and He felt everything that we feel so He was not looking forward to dying a horrible death on the cross. When they arrested Him, the clock starts ticking. He is placed on trial and after Pilate sought a way to release Him, He was sentenced to death at the request of the crowd of people who chose Barabbas, a murderer, instead to be freed.

 

After being mocked, beaten, and spit upon, He was marched to Calvary’s hill to be put to death. He was so weak that the soldiers selected a black man from the crowd, Simon the Cyrene, to carry His cross the rest of the way. When they got there they nailed spikes in His wrists and through His feet causing Him great pain. Then they dropped the cross into a hole and stood Him high. This was a horrible death as the person dies by suffocation. It would get so difficult to breathe that the prisoners would push up with their feet to take a breath. This is the reason that towards the end that they broke the legs of the two thieves who were crucified with Jesus – to hasten their death. They did not break Jesus’ legs as He had already died. Strangers Rest, Satan had just made the Greatest Mistake That Was Ever Made. He orchestrated the death of Jesus and let me tell you why this was the greatest mistake ever made.

 

When Jesus took His last breath, He did not go to sleep and rest as some people think that happens when one dies. No. He went to two different places – Paradise and hell. Please understand that Paradise was not located in heaven. Jesus told the story of Lazarus and the rich man. In the story Lazarus was a beggar that the rich man had ignored. I want to read what was recorded in Luke 16:22-23. It says, “(22) So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. (23) And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.” Abraham was in Paradise and this is where Lazarus went when he died. Paradise was the place the righteous dead went to prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection. It was a place of rest and comfort, just as the rich man had witnessed with Lazarus. Now we need to understand that the story of Lazarus and the rich man was not a parable because Jesus didn’t say it was. So, we must believe that Jesus meant exactly what He said. But even if it was a parable, it would still prove the existence of Paradise and hell because Jesus never told a parable to illustrate a lie; they were told to illustrate spiritual truths. Lazarus went to Paradise while the rich man went to Hades. So let’s continue.

 

Now when Jesus was on the cross and the thief beside him repented, He told the thief in Luke 23:43, “….Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” So, the first place that Jesus “visited” immediately upon His death was Paradise and the repentant thief went there with Him. The second place that Jesus went to was Hades or hell. Jesus went to Hades to preach to the spirits held there! First Peter 3:18-20 tell us, “(18) For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, (19) by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, (20) who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.” The spirits in prison were not the righteous dead. They were the fallen angels who had rebelled against God. Jesus proclaimed His victory over them. Can you imagine how the fallen angels felt once they fully understood the mistake they had made? Now consider how Satan was celebrating his victory over Jesus.

 

Imagine, if you will, Satan sitting on his throne in hell watching his devils celebrate his greatest achievement. He’s just returned from witnessing the death of his greatest enemy – Christ. He now had Christ where he wanted Him, in Paradise – still separated from God. Satan understood that those in hell could not cross over to Paradise and those in Paradise could not cross over into hell. And the best part was that neither could ascend into heaven to be in God’s presence. Christ was dead and now he could pick up where he’d left off before Christ began His ministry. Can you see Satan thinking about the things Christ had done to derail his plans; how he tried to kill Christ when he was a small child and failed; how he had tempted Christ three times trying to get Him to cross over to serve him and failed? In Satan’s mind, killing Christ was the only way to ensure that his kingdom would continue to exist.

Can you see how happy he was when he was finally able to find a vessel, in the form of Judas, who was willing to help facilitate Christ’s demise? Can you see him welcoming Judas in hell and congratulating him on a job well done as Judas was escorted to a cell where he would be tormented until the Day of Judgment? Can you see the total jubilation he experienced when Christ was nailed to the cross; took his last breath and was now with him beneath the earth? Remember, Satan, as the god of this world, can influence people to kill, just like he influenced the religious leaders to demand that Pilate crucify (kill) Jesus. Can you see the smile on his face as he’s thinking about his victory? Christ was dead; there was no more to be done. Can you see Satan passing out cigars? Can you hear the corks popping on the champagne bottles and the jubilation that follows? He was a very happy fallen angel.

 

Now I want you to understand something that is very important for all of us to remember. Satan is not omniscient, omnipresent, or omnipotent. Satan knows the words in the Bible better than any of us, but that does not mean he truly believes or truly understands the depth of the spiritual truths within them. Remember how he twisted the words in Genesis chapter three when he tempted Eve? Remember how he twisted the words in Matthew chapter four when he tempted Jesus? He knows what is captured in the text of Scripture, but his understanding is limited. Let me give you an example. Satan knew that Psalms 16:10 recorded “For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.” If Satan had believed and understood this verse as we do now, there is no way he would have done what he did. There would be no celebration because God had already spoken that Jesus would not remain in hell. Strangers Rest, God put this in writing! If Satan had believed and understood this, at least he would have tried, unsuccessfully, to put measures in place in case Jesus attempted to break out. Then when you read what was recorded in Psalms 22, the whole chapter foretells of Jesus’ death and resurrection. It talks specifically about the nails being driven into His hands and feet and His bones not being broken. It speaks of Jesus crying out to His Father and it concludes with His resurrection and reign. Again, God put this in writing! Had Satan believed and understood this, do you think he would not have had Jesus crucified? If Satan had known and believed that Christ’s death would lead to his end, I believe that he would have dispatched his devils to ensure that nothing ever happened to Jesus. He would have made sure that Jesus lived to be very old man – but he didn’t. 

 

Strangers Rest, the devil is not omniscient – he does not know everything! Yes he knows what the words are in the Bible, but at the time that Jesus walked the earth, I do not believe that he believed or understood the prophecies pertaining to Him. The devil is smart and crafty so it would not make sense for him to do anything that would ultimately hurt him, regardless of how much pain he could cause his enemy in the process. And that brings me to this point: since he is not all knowing, he cannot read our minds. He has to wait for us to open our mouths or act to give him ideas about how he can attack us and some of us are giving him a lot of ideas every time we open our mouths. How many times have you talked about his success in using someone to get on your nerves? How many times have you told him he has successfully irritated you to the point where you are not willing to forgive any longer? I will talk more about that next Sunday. We give him ideas of things to use against us when we speak the words and then we wonder why we have to deal with some things that happen to us.

 

Do you remember what Jesus said in Luke chapter six about the relationship between our hearts and our mouths? He said, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45) When you speak “good treasures” you give Satan absolutely nothing to use against you. On the other hand, when you speak “evil treasures” – words that are inconsistent with who you are as a son and daughter of God, he will pounce on them with a vengeance! And one last thing before I move on; he is not omnipresent. He cannot harass you while he is harassing me. So if we are both claiming he is doing something to us at the same time, one of us is wrong. He cannot occupy more than one place at a time and he has much greater things to do with his time than harass us. But he does have legions of devils to do his bidding while he takes care of more important things – like going to before God and making accusations against us based on what his devils are reporting back to him. Here is my point, Satan knew what was in the Bible but he did not believe or understand that the depth of the impact of his decision to kill Christ.

 

Let me get back on track. So Jesus is dead and while the devil is celebrating, he receives word that Jesus is actually not confined to Paradise as he thought. In fact Jesus is walking around Hades like He owns the place – which He does – and preaching the Word! Can you see it? Can you see how the Scriptures that held prophecies about Christ now come flooding back to his mind? Can you see his face as he realizes that not only will he not keep God’s Son as a trophy in hell, but he is about to lose big? Jesus was preaching to the souls in hell, proclaiming His victory, and those souls were now realizing exactly what they would be missing out on. And why was Jesus preaching to those souls? It’s because our God is a righteous God. Peter tells us the following in First Peter 4:5-6, “(5) They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. (6) For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.” After His preaching was completed and it was time to depart, Jesus went next door to Paradise, packed up His people and said “Let’s go.” Psalms 68:18 prophesied this about Jesus, “You have ascended on high, You have led away captive Your captives….” Paul also quoted this in Ephesians 4:8. When Jesus left hell He took everyone in Paradise with Him – Paradise was no longer needed. Can you see that? Can you see the righteous souls Satan took pride in holding waving at him as they left? Can you see Satan asking himself, “What have I done?”

 

Jesus did all of that some two thousand years ago but I want to close by sharing with you, as it pertains to each one of us who accepted Christ as our personal Savior, why Satan made the greatest mistake ever made. I want to take you back to what Paul wrote to the Corinthian Church. He told them the following and I will be reading from the Amplified Bible: “(3) But even if our gospel is [in some sense] hidden [behind a veil], it is hidden [only] to those who are perishing; (4) among them the god of this world [Satan] has blinded the minds of the unbelieving to prevent them from seeing the illuminating light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (Second Corinthians 4:3-4, Amp) When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, they gave Satan the authority, if you will, to influence man’s sin nature, which is powerless to resist him, to do whatever he wanted here on earth. Satan became the god of this world and everyone born into sin (all of us) were therefore subject to him through our flesh. When Satan killed Jesus, he literally ended his own rule over anyone who chose to accept Christ as their personal Savior.

Strangers Rest, we are no longer sinners and because of this, he no longer has any control over us. This is the first thing he lost when he made his greatest mistake – his authority over the person who accepted Christ as Lord and Savior. I could have said his greatest mistake was losing his authority over “everyone” who accepted Christ. But, I want you to see what he sees. Each time one person accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior – that is one more time that he is reminded of how much he screwed up. Remember I told you that Satan was not omnipotent? He has absolutely no power over a child of God. This is why he must convince us to yield to him because in truth we do not have to. When Jesus rose from the dead He said, “….All authority (all power of absolute rule) in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.”  (Matthew 28:18, Amp) Satan lost all authority over everyone who accepts Christ as Lord and Savior. So Peter says that he continues to blind the minds of the unbelieving in his attempt to keep them from the love of Christ. That is why our jobs are so important. We must live the life before the unbelieving in such a way that their minds begins to open to the possibility that there is something better for them. 

 

Ok, let me bring this all home. Hebrews chapter ten beginning at verse sixteen records the following, “(16) THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THEM AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS INTO THEIR HEARTS, AND IN THEIR MINDS I WILL WRITE THEM,” (17)  then He adds, ‘THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE.’” (Hebrews 10:16-17) Satan ruled because of the power that sin held over us and his complete access to that sin. When Christ rose from the dead, that power was forever broken over those of us who accepted Him as our Lord and Savior. God made a new covenant with us where His laws are now on our hearts. And here is the best part: when we sin and repent, God forgives us. And just like the sacrifice that the Israelites burned every year for their sins was turned to ashes and remembered no more, God said that He would remember our sins no more. He has turned our sins into cinders – he blotted them out of the records and has given us a brand new covenant. He did this because He loves us and wants us to have a relationship with Him – He is not looking for a reason to destroy us. So you can take comfort in the fact that whatever sin you repented from – meaning that you stopped doing it and asked God to forgive you, it has been forgiven and God does not remember that you ever did it. Praise God! So if there are times when you remember your past and feel bad and you go back to God to tell Him about it, God literally does not know what you are talking about. When He forgave you He washed you clean and forgot all about it. (Next week we will talk about the one remaining requirement necessary for that forgiveness after repentance.) 

 

We celebrate Easter because Jesus died on a cross for our sins, not His. The greatest mistake that was ever made was the devil’s decision to kill Jesus. For those of us who have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, his mistake was to our benefit. This is the one time that we can say, “Thank you.” His greatest mistake opened the door for his total defeat. If there is anyone here under the sound of my voice who has not accepted Jesus as your personal Savior, that choice is currently the greatest mistake that you are making. That is one mistake that outweighs everything that you have ever done or will ever do in your life. You see, God is willing to forgive all of your sins and make you clean and worthy of a relationship with Him because of His Son dying on a cross. However, if you refuse His Son, you are telling God you want to keep your sins, your mistakes, which will separate you from Him for all eternity. Knowing that Christ suffered a horrible, painful death for your sins and mine, so that He could free us from the chains of sin, I am asking you, on this Easter Sunday, will you accept Him as your Lord and Savior? You have made a lot of mistakes in your life; please do not let this one be the greatest mistake you will ever make. Let today be the day that you accept God’s free gift of eternal life with Him in heaven.

 

Until next time, “(24) Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, (25) to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.”  (Jude 1:24-25) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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VISION: 

“Til all the ransomed church of God is saved to sin no more"

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