"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
(Matthew 13:44-46 ESV)
When Moses commands, "Choose life," it is part of a contract: If Israel keeps God's commands, then they will live. But what did Israel do? They did not keep His commands. They chose death. (As do we.) And what did God do because of their choice? He became flesh and died for the sins of the world.
If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them."
(Deuteronomy 30:16-20 ESV)
Christ commands His people, "Do not fear him who can kill only the body and have nothing more to do with you, but fear him who can destroy both body and soul in hell. To whom was He referring? Not the devil. Where does God ever say to fear the enemy? But He does say over and over and over again to fear only Him:
Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel! I am the one who helps you, declares the LORD; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.
(Isaiah 41:14 ESV)
("The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom"). And besides that, the devil does not rule in hell. He and his fellow fallen are bound in "chains of darkness" on a short leash until their final, eternal punishment in the "lake of burning sulfur, where the smoke of their torment rises forever."
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
(Matthew 10:28 ESV)
"My Utmost for His Highness"? God calls our good deeds "filthy rags" (and that's a serious euphemism). We have nothing to offer God. Our "utmost" is worthless. We're beggars. Christ Himself told His Apostles -- His Apostles -- "After you've done everything, you should say, 'We are unworthy servants. We were only doing our duty." And I've never yet met anyone -- including myself -- who's done "everything."
In judging a sermon -- or any other "Christian" message -- ask yourself: "Who is the actor, God or man?" "On whom is the focus, God or man?" Is the interpretation consistent with the Gospel? Is the message essentially, "Christ for us," or is something else? When the "greatest man born of women," John the Baptizer called the people of God to repentance, to whom did he point? Did he cry out, "Behold yourselves, participants/contributors in God's salvation!" or was his message, "Behold! The Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world!"?
It is human nature to want to find a way to play a part in our salvation, even when we say we don't. Man turns Gospel into Law, waters-down the Law, or denies their utter sinfulness.
But none of these lead to Life. Christ is Life, and He showed us the way: "Two men went into the Temple to pray, one a religious leader (Pharisee), the other one a tax collector, one of the worst and most despised sinners in Israel. The Pharisee stood up in front of the congregation and prayed, thanking God that he was not like other men, giving generously of his income and keeping His commands, unlike the tax collector.
But the tax collector stood off at a distance, refusing to look up, beating his breast, and praying, "LORD, have mercy on me, a sinner."
Christ asked, "Which of them went away justified [declared innocent]?"
The Sermon on the Mount: If you even want these things, you've broken the command (and Romans)
The only time a Christian should focus on us is in proclaiming the Law to show us our sins and our need for the Savior. Anything else is self-deception and a denial of the Word of God.
"If we say we have no sin..."