The Church At Ephesus

The Letter to Ephesus {CSB}

2:1 “Write to the angel of the church in Ephesus: Thus says the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand and who walks among the seven golden lampstands: 2 I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate evil people. You have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and you have found them to be liars. I know that you have persevered and endured hardships for the sake of my name, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first.Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet you do have this: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

“Let anyone who has ears to hear listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

Introduction

The church of Ephesus would be your typical of some churches today. Matter of fact, I think this church is Ephesus but before you stone me, let me confess: I believe that DBC is also an Ephesus.

Listen to what Jesus says about this church…

  • This Church was active... It is a vibrant church. “I know everything you are doing and have done.” {CEV} There parking lot was full, their calendar was full, activities never ceased, they were hard workers and busy as beavers. This is not a bad thing: I know churches that don’t have any activity rather than a meeting on Sunday morning but we need to hear Jesus out of this one.
  • This Church is Orthodox…they do not tolerate heresy. The Nicolaitans mentioned in verse 6 were heretics and Ephesus gave them the boot so they moved on to Pergamum and Thyatira.
  • This Church is Steadfast…It is a strong church. They have endured many difficult circumstances and have emerged stronger than ever.
  • This is a Relentless Church…They don’t quit, they don’t give up or in [v.3]

Transition…the infamous BUT

Jesus said, BUT I have something against you. What on earth could it be?

  • The Church is Vibrant
  • The Church is Orthodox
  • The Church is Strong
  • The Church is Tenacious and Persevering

What more could you want?

You have abandoned the love you had at first.

What is this love: I am convinced it is LOVE FOR JESUS which embraces and loves others. What is missing is proper motivation. We do good things but we have forgotten why we do them. MOTIVE is everything in the Kingdom of God. Paul said you can speak every language, know every mystery and even give away all your belonging and even your life but if your motive is not love, there is not profit in it for you.

Jesus knows everything, He knows our heart and our motives and He desires that we be driven by a passionate love for HIM. LOVE FOR JESUS is to be our driving force.

DOES JESUS REALLY DESIRE THAT WE LOVE HIM: ISN’T OUR OBEDIENCE AND SERVICE ENOUGH?

LORD willing I will answer this question but before I do, let me ask you a personal question?

Husbands, does it matter to you if your wife loves you. Is her obedience and service enough to please you?

What about you wives: is it enough for your husband to provide for you and give you every dime he makes?

No, you want to be loved unconditionally. You want your spouse devotion and service to be driven by love.

SANCTIFICATION

When I was a child, I obeyed my parents part of the time but the only reason I obeyed them at all was because I feared the consequences. My childish love for my parents was a need-love. I needed them. I found my security in them. As I got older, I needed them less and less but my love for them increased more and more. I was in my late 20’s or early 30’s before I had a heart to heart talk with my daddy. It was not that daddy didn’t want to talk to me, I wasn’t ready, mature enough to understand what he had to say.

In the later years of their life, I loved them in a more mature way. It wasn’t a need love, it was much purer than a need-love. I wanted to honor them and make their life easier if possible. I loved them for who they were warts and all. ISN’T THAT THE WAY PARENTS WANT TO BE LOVED?

We were created in the IMAGE OF GOD and there is some likeness. Jesus wants our unconditional love. He wants us to love HIM for who He is and not just what He did for us. He wants our love to grow and to mature until nothing in our lives is greater than our love for Jesus.

PERHAPS THERE IS A DOUBTING THOMAS IN THE AUDIENCE…

Go with me to John 21…look at verse 15

15 When they had eaten breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”

Did you catch that? Jesus did not ask Peter if he was willing to serve or had he been teaching the SS class. He didn’t even say, “Peter, are you tithing?” Bible Study, ministry, tithing…all these things are important but that is not the question that Jesus ask. The question is…DO YOU LOVE ME?

In John 6, Jesus feeds the multitude fish and hush puppies until their stomachs are fully satisfied. Jesus then slipped away from the crowd because they were about to try to force Him to be their king. Jesus went off to Himself, the disciples got in a boat and went to the other side of the lake. Jesus joined them in the wee hours of the night when he came across walking on the water. The next day, the multitudes kept looking for Jesus until they found Him but Jesus told them: You are looking for Me because you want to see more miracles and have some more free fish and hush puppies, not because you believe in Me.

BOTTOM LINE: These people didn’t love Jesus. They were following Him for the benefits. Just like folks who move from church to church until they get all the free benefits. Oh, they admired Jesus, they admired what He could do but they were not willing to commit their lives to HIM.

Jesus want us to LOVE HIM with all of our heart, mind, body and strength. He wants us to Love him so deeply that nothing matters more than His glory and honor.

Conclusion

Go back one chapter in John to chapter 20 and you have the story of Mary Magdalene. I love this story. Mary went to Jesus tomb expecting to find His dead lifeless body. When she got there, His body was not in the tomb. Mary was frantic. She ran back and got Peter saying…“They have taken my Lord from the tomb and I don’t know where they put HIM.” Peter and John check out the empty tomb and then return to the upper room. Not Mary, she stood outside the tomb weeping, she wasn’t going anywhere till she could see a body, a dead lifeless body. As she was weeping, she decided to take a second look, this time two angels were in the tomb. They asks Mary why she is crying and she says to them, “They have taken away my LORD’s body and I want to know where they have put Him.

Let’s stop here and consider Mary’s motives: what can a lifeless, dead Jesus do for Mary? The answer: Absolutely nothing. A dead savior could do nothing but she didn’t care, dead or alive, she loved HIM. She was going to make sure His lifeless body was properly cared for. This is the kind of devotion and love Jesus wants. Mary didn’t love Him for what He could do, she loved Him for who He was and what He had already done for her.

The good news is: Mary found the body and it was full of life.

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A High View Of God

Psalm 5[a

For the director of music. For pipes. A psalm of David.

Listen to my words, Lord,
    consider my lament.

Hear my cry for help,
    my King and my God,
    for to You I pray.

3 In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
    in the morning I lay my requests before you
    and wait expectantly.

For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness;
    with you, evil people are not welcome.

The arrogant cannot stand
    in your presence.
You hate all who do wrong;

    You destroy those who tell lies.
The bloodthirsty and deceitful
    you, Lord, detest.

7 But I, by your great love,
    can come into your house;
in reverence I bow down
    toward your holy temple.

Lead me, Lord, in your righteousness
    because of my enemies—
    make your way straight before me.

Not a word from their mouth can be trusted;
    their heart is filled with malice.
Their throat is an open grave;
    with their tongues they tell lies.

10 Declare them guilty, O God!
    Let their intrigues be their downfall.
Banish them for their many sins,
    for they have rebelled against you.

11 But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
    let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
    that those who love your name may rejoice in you.

12 Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous;
    you surround them with your favor as with a shield.

Introduction

In the Parable of the STEWARDS, those to whom their master entrusted money, the third servant has a low view of his master. Let’s pick up the story in Matthew 25…

“Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

2“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

As you can see, the servant had a very low view of his master. Some folks have a low view of God but David was not among them…King David a lofty view of God. What David believed about God affected his life. It stands to reason that God is going to bless, to favor those who have a high view of HIM.

Although David was the king of Israel, he knew God was the KING of kings, the Holy and Righteous One who inhabits eternity. David knew that the Almighty was his Strength, his Rock, his Shield, his Strong Deliver. David was never defeated in battle and he knew that this was God’s doing.

Transition: note first of all

1. David’s Communion

1 Listen to my words, Lord,
    consider my lament.

Hear my cry for help,
    my King and my God,
    for to You I pray.

3 In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
    in the morning I lay my requests before you
    and wait expectantly.

David was not a perfect man but he was a passionate man and he had a strong habit of prayer. David knew when to pray…before the day’s activities begin. A king’s life is full of decisions and some are hard. David wanted God’s help, His divine intervention, His guidance, His wisdom. David knew that in his own strength, he would surely fail.

It is sad that his son and most of his descendants never came to realize this truth…David’s sons and grandsons were not as devoted to prayer as was He. They didn’t understand this basic truth: The arm of flesh will fail you–we dare not trust in our own strength.

2. DAVIDS CONVICTION

For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness;
    with you, evil people are not welcome.

The arrogant cannot stand in your presence. You hate all who do wrong;
    You destroy those who tell lies. The bloodthirsty and deceitful
    you, Lord, detest.

The Hebrew word of “Wickedness,” is resha` and it means a perverted righteousness. The wicked are they who twist God’s law. They twist and pervert it to meet their own desires and purposes. The wicked are they who use their own devices to get what they want whether it be money or power or the destruction of a rival. Wickedness is the opposite of righteousness. Thus the wicked are enemies of righteousness.

Evil is the Hebrew word raand it means bad, disagreeable, malignant, unpleasant, one who causes pain, unhappiness, misery to others, displeasing, worse than, unhappy, unkind (vicious in disposition).

The third word that we need to understand is translated “do wrong” in the NIV. The AV reads “Workers of iniquity”…The ESV and Holman reads “evil doers” which is the preferred translation for Calvinist.

Let’s list David’s conviction…

  • God is not pleased with wickedness
  • Evil people cannot approach Him
  • The arrogant cannot stand in His Presence
  • God hates all who do wrong or evil.
  • God detest those who thirst for blood and deceitfulness.

The only one that creates a problem for Christians is number 4, GOD HATES ALL WHO DO WRONG OR EVIL.

  • Technically, this would mean God hates us all because all have sinned and sin is evil. Does God hate both the sin and the sinner?
  • Jesus said in John 3:16 that God loves the entire world. We interpret everything through the lens of Christ who taught us to LOVE OUR ENEMIES, not hate them.
  • The Calvinist thing we evangelicals are wimpy at this point: They see God as an angry vengeful God who takes delight in the destruction or death of the wicked.
  • Make no mistake about it: there is coming a day when God’s wrath in full measure will be poured out on all who reject Christ but the bible makes it very clear that Christ died for sinners, those who do evil.

3. DAVID’S CONSECRATION

 7But I, by your great love,
    can come into your house;
in reverence I bow down
    toward your holy temple.

Lead me, Lord, in your righteousness
    because of my enemies—
    make your way straight before me.

The Hebrew word checed here translated ‘love’, translated ‘lovingkindness’ in NASB is one of those words that Barclay says in untranslatable. It could be translated ‘merciful kindness’ or ‘undeserved favor.’ It is clear that David understands that God will show mercy to those who humble themselves before HIM which is exactly what he is doing. David BOWS and BESEECHES. His hearts desire is to obey the LORD, to follow His guidance.

4. DAVID’S CENSURE

Not a word from their mouth can be trusted;
    their heart is filled with malice.
Their throat is an open grave;
    with their tongues they tell lies.

10 Declare them guilty, O God!
    Let their intrigues be their downfall.
Banish them for their many sins,
    for they have rebelled against you.

Paul quotes David from selected Psalms in Romans 3…
There is no one righteous, not even one;
11     there is no one who understands;
    there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned away,
    they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
    not even one.”
13 “Their throats are open graves;
    their tongues practice deceit.”
“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”
14     “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16     ruin and misery mark their ways,
17 and the way of peace they do not know.
18     “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

All are condemned a part from Christ because all have sinned. The Jewish Religious leaders did not view themselves as sinners, nor would they refer to themselves as wicked or evil but Jesus did…look at Matthew 23 for instance. Only Christ makes us RIGHTEOUS before God.

David is right in that NO REBEL HAS A FUTURE. You cannot rebel against God and hope to prevail. Sin by nature is destructive, Christ came to save us from its destructive power. Once a man determines to do things his own way, a part from Gods mercy, he seals his own fate. Sin will destroy him.

5. DAVID’S CELEBRATION

11 But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
    let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
    that those who love your name may rejoice in you.

12 Surely, Lord, You bless the righteous;
    you surround them with your favor as with a shield.

We cannot rejoice over evil, bloodshed, crime, war and all the things that are produced from man’s rebellion against God but we can rejoice that in CHRIST JESUS we have a shield from this evil that will eventually destroy all who are not in Christ {The ARK of safety}

Calm Assurance

Psalm 4

For the choir director: A psalm of David, to be accompanied by stringed instruments.

Answer me when I call to you,
    O God who declares me innocent.
Free me from my troubles.
    Have mercy on me and hear my prayer.

How long will you people ruin my reputation?
    How long will you make groundless accusations?
    How long will you continue your lies? Interlude
You can be sure of this:
    The Lord set apart the godly for himself.
    The Lord will answer when I call to him.

Don’t sin by letting anger control you.
    Think about it overnight and remain silent. Interlude
Offer sacrifices in the right spirit,
    and trust the Lord.

6 Many people say, “Who will show us better times?”
    Let your face smile on us, Lord.
You have given me greater joy
    than those who have abundant harvests of grain and new wine.
In peace I will lie down and sleep,
    for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe.

Introduction

Psalm 4 is a companion to Psalm 3: both are related to David’s distress when Absalom chased him out of Jerusalem, threatening his life and desiring his office. Psalm 3 is David’s morning prayer and Psalm 4 is his evening prayer. Before we get into the message, there are a couple of things that AMAZE me.

  • First, I am absolutely amazed at how God uses David to write these beautiful Psalms that inspire me. David was far from perfect, yet he writes the most beautiful poetry in the world. I marvel, I am astounded at how these hymns inspire and lift me and millions like me.
  • I am equally impressed that God can use our sorrow to touch the lives of others. David wrote these beautiful and inspiring hymns while he was in a state of distress. Is this amazing or what!
  • One other think I would mention is David’s spiritual disciplines. He begins, spends and ends his day with prayer. Awesome!

Transition

How did David weather this storm of distress?

Before I try to answer this question: let’s think for a moment about the conditions that caused David’s distress.

  • David’s life, job, security, family is being threatened by Absalom’s rebellion and Absalom has the support of the vast majority.
  • David has been the victim of a “Smear campaign. The democrats did not invent slander even though they seem to have a corner on the market. David’s reputation had been tarnished.
  • David is forced from his home; put to flight. Anyone of these things would cause distress but David faces all three.

How did David deal with this Crisis?

First: David Prayed

Answer me when I call to you, O God who declares me innocent.
Free me from my troubles. Have mercy on me and hear my prayer.

Dr. Jack Taylor said that we Baptist want to prayer so we can get on with the business, but PRAYER IS THE BUSINESS. Nothing is more important than prayer. My wife and I are in some distress as I speak. {Illustration: a rebellious child] In our distress, there is only one thing we can do…PRAY.

Second: He Calmed Himself With the Assurance of God’s Sovereign Love.

You can be sure of this: The Lord set apart the godly for Himself. The Lord will answer when I call to him.

Charles Spurgeon said, “The sovereignty of God is the pillow upon which we lay our heads at night.” I don’t know much but one thing I do know is that God is in absolute control and I am not. My daughter pays no attention to anything I say; she is destroying her life and I seem forced to watch but I know that God is in control. He can bring good out of bad. He can turn sorrow into joy just like He turned water into wine. David knew that God chose and anointed him to be king. This was God’s choice, not David’s. David had the assurance that he would be king as long as God willed it so his only prayer was “Thy will be done.” On the other hand, Absalom was a manipulator. He was using deception. He was using people to get what he wanted. He did experience a moment of glory but a moment was all God could spare.

David was a godly man in the sense that he was going in a godly direction. Absalom was a worldly man and he was going in a worldly direction. David knew that he was under the influence of God’s grace. This gave him calm assurance that everything would be alright. In the end, things would work out.

Third: David had A Solid Quiet Time

Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Think about it overnight and remain silent.

Remember, it was David who wrote Psalm 46, “Be still and know that I am God.” We live in a age of noise, business and everyone seems to be on a frantic pace. If seems like the world and the devil have conspired together to destroy peace and quiet. If we are not in the noise of a busy workplace, we are in the noise of traffic and then we come home and turn on the TV because the quiet unnerves us. We AMUSE ourselves to death so we will not have to MUSE. We cannot think deep thoughts about God in a den of racket and we refuse to get alone with God. David knew that when we get in a hurry, we respond rashly and make bad matters worse. Why don’t we pull away from the noise, be still and get along with God. It is okay to be angry at sin but we cannot give way to our anger. If our anger is out control, it will lead to more sin.

I read this past week the story of Potiphar and Joseph. Potiphar had the most valuable slave in Egypt: Joseph could do everything. Potiphar only concern was what he was having for dinner. Potiphar’s wife was a floozy and she lied to her husband about Joseph’s behavior. Potiphar went into a rage and did the most foolish thing he had ever done: threw Joseph into jail. He did not act rationally, he acted in anger and haste.

Fourth: Understand Everything Is Grace

Offer sacrifices in the right spirit,  and trust the Lord.

David lived under the old covenant: you could not approach without a priest and a sacrifice. No one was to enter God’s presence without a sacrifice. Man is a sinner deserving of death: the sacrificial animal dies in our place, we enter only with the blood of the innocent sacrifice. David’s appeal is not based on merit. He is coming to God via the sacrifice. We cannot approach a holy God in our sinful condition. God demands perfection. Jesus came and lived a perfect life in our behalf, now we enter God’s presence in Christ {covered by His blood}.

FIFTH: Trust God

Offer sacrifices in the right spirit,  and trust the Lord.

The song writer said it best, “take your burdens to the LORD and leave them there.” Cast all your care on Him because He cares for you. Don’t worry about anything but pray about everything. The bottom line is: You can’t fix it. David could not fix his problem and he was a king. I certainly don’t have the ability to fix my problems. In Luke 18 Jesus said, “There are some things that people cannot do, but God can do anything.” There are some things you cannot fix; all you can do is trust God to fix them.

Conclusion

What is the result of a calm assurance in God?

Many people say, “Who will show us better times?”
    Let your face smile on us, Lord.
You have given me greater joy
    than those who have abundant harvests of grain and new wine.
In peace I will lie down and sleep,
    for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe.

  • God’s Favor [Grace]
  • God’s Joy
  • God’s Peace.

Triumphant Faith

Scripture: Psalm 3

O Lord, I have so many enemies;
    so many are against me.
So many are saying,
    “God will never rescue him!” 

But you, O Lord, are a shield around me;
    you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.
I cried out to the Lord,
    and he answered me from his holy mountain. 

I lay down and slept,
    yet I woke up in safety,
    for the Lord was watching over me.
I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies
    who surround me on every side.

Arise, O Lord!
    Rescue me, my God!
Slap all my enemies in the face!
    Shatter the teeth of the wicked!
Victory comes from you, O Lord.
    May you bless your people. 

Introduction

Psalm 3 was written by David. He wrote this Psalm when Absalom chased him into the wilderness. Absalom deceitfully won the hearts of the people and his coup was highly successful in terms of numbers. The majority was backing Absalom and that includes the Elders. The odds were against David; he was supported by a small number but they were devoted followers of the king.

Transition

The Psalm is divided naturally into four stanzas with 2 verses in each stanza.

  • Verse 1-2–The Problem
  • Verses 3-4–The Protection
  • Verses 5-6–The Peace
  • Verses 7-8–The Petition
  • O

I. The Problem

O Lord, I have so many enemies; so many are against me. So many are saying, “God will never rescue him!” 

  • So many enemies. This word enemy here can be translated adversary or foe. Those who oppose us and what we are trying to accomplish. But it can also be translated trouble, distress, affliction and sorrow. All of these would apply to David’s situation. Can you imagine the sorrow and distress that such a situation would cause: your own son, your own flesh and blood trying to take your job, your legacy and your life.
  • So many against me. Against is a preposition and synonymous with enemy. David had a great host against him. Absalom had won the hearts of the public. David’s popularity was suffering. He had not paid attention to his son nor what he was doing. By the time this coup comes to the surface, David realizes his unpopularity. This has to be a traumatic experience. I don’t think anyone, deep down, wants to be unpopular. One thing I have never appreciated is those people who come to me and tell me how hated or disliked I am by certain people. What purpose does that serve?
  • So many saying “God will not rescue [yeshua] him.” They were saying in essence, David is beyond saving. He is a hopeless case.

II. THE PROTECTION

But you, O Lord, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high. I cried out to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy mountain. 

  • Hallelujah: God is our shield. David speaks of God being his shield often: [Psalm 18:2] The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. [Psalms 28:7] The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped.
  • The Shield was a very vital part of the warrior’s armor. It would be suicide to go onto the battle field without a shield. David believed in divine protection and so do I. I have doubts about some things but one thing I do not doubt is God’s protective shield. Folks, no one knows my vulnerability or at least all of them. I stand before you as a living example of someone whom God has protected. I have survived two coups and even more threats. A man of some wealth vowed to ruin me and he would have had not God protected me.
  • Nothing humbles us like utter humiliation and this is what David faced. Not only did David need physical protection, his confidence and courage needed protecting. David avowed to the LORD, “You are my glory and the One who holds my head high.” Humiliation can cause us to lose our confidence.

III. THE PEACE

I lay down and slept, yet I woke up in safety, for the Lord was watching over me. I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies who surround me on every side.

  • David fled Jerusalem in the dark of night. He crossed the little Kedron brook with his small band of followers and passed through the very valley that Jesus would use as a garden for prayer. David is a good example of practical obedience: he trusted the LORD but he also did what he could to save himself and a part of that was flight. He put distance between his small army and that of Absalom’s. He traveled all night and all day before camping in the Jordan valley. Probably near Gilgal. Then they moved on to the East bank and Mahanaim, a mountain retreat in Gilead.
  • There is no question that David is exhausted and that he needs rest. He considers his night of sleep a gift from God and he attributes it to the peace that God grants to those in distress.
  • Like Peter in prison, David was able to sleep amidst unpleasant circumstances. {Personal testimony}

IV. THE PETITION

Arise, O Lord! Rescue me, my God! Slap all my enemies in the face! Shatter the teeth of the wicked! Victory comes from you, O Lord.  May you bless your people. 

  • It is a brief but sincere prayer, “Rescue [Save] me, my God.” It reminds us of Peter’s prayer on the lake, “Save me LORD.” It is not the length of the petition but the sincerity that counts.
  • “Slap my enemies in the face.” David didn’t want Absalom’s life but he did want to save face. David asked God to do what he could not. David was not in a position to slap his enemies.
  • “Shatter their teeth,” is a little stronger but again it speaks of a blow to the face, not death.

Conclusion

Victory comes from you, O Lord. May you bless your people. 

As believers, we always have to keep the end in mind. In the present, things are far from perfect but ultimately, God will set everything right through Jesus. We may lose a few battles along the way but we are not going to lose the war.

Psalm Two

CORONATION OF THE SON
1 Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth take their stand,
and the rulers conspire together
against the Lord and his Anointed One:
3 “Let’s tear off their chains
and throw their ropes off of us.”
4 The one enthroned in heaven laughs;
the Lord ridicules them.
5 Then he speaks to them in his anger
and terrifies them in his wrath:
6 “I have installed my king
on Zion, my holy mountain.”
7 I will declare the Lord’s decree.
He said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have become your Father.
8 Ask of me,
and I will make the nations your inheritance
and the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You will break them with an iron scepter;
you will shatter them like pottery.”
10 So now, kings, be wise;
receive instruction, you judges of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with reverential awe
and rejoice with trembling.
12 Pay homage to the Son or he will be angry
and you will perish in your rebellion,
for his anger may ignite at any moment.
All who take refuge in him are happy.
— Psalms 2:1-12 (CSB)

Psalm 2…NLT

Why are the nations so angry?
    Why do they waste their time with futile plans?
The kings of the earth prepare for battle;
    the rulers plot together
against the Lord
    and against his anointed one.
“Let us break their chains,” they cry,
    “and free ourselves from slavery to God.”

But the one who rules in heaven laughs.
    The Lord scoffs at them.
Then in anger he rebukes them,
    terrifying them with his fierce fury.
For the Lord declares, “I have placed my chosen king on the throne
    in Jerusalem,
[a on my holy mountain.”

The king proclaims the Lord’s decree:
“The Lord said to me, ‘You are my son.
    Today I have become your Father.
Only ask, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance,
    the whole earth as your possession.
You will break[d them with an iron rod
    and smash them like clay pots.
’”

10 Now then, you kings, act wisely!
    Be warned, you rulers of the earth!
11 Serve the Lord with reverent fear,
    and rejoice with trembling.
12 Submit to God’s royal son,[e or he will become angry,
    and you will be destroyed in the midst of all your activities—
for his anger flares up in an instant.
    But what joy for all who take refuge in him!

Psalm 2 Contemporary English Version (CEV)

The Lord’s Chosen King

1 Why do the nations plot,
    and why do their people
    make useless plans?
[b
The kings of this earth
    have all joined together
    to turn against the Lord
    and his chosen one.
They say, “Let’s cut the ropes
    and set ourselves free
!”

4 In heaven the Lord laughs
as he sits on his throne,
    making fun of the nations.
The Lord becomes furious
    and threatens them.
His anger terrifies them
    as he says,
    “I’ve put my king on Zion,
    my sacred hill.”

7 I will tell the promise
    that the Lord made to me:
“You are my son, because today
    I have become your father.
Ask me for the nations,
    and every nation on earth
    will belong to you.
You will smash them
    with an iron rod
    and shatter them
    like dishes of clay.”

1Be smart, all you rulers,
    and pay close attention.
11     Serve and honor the Lord;
    be glad and tremble.
12 Show respect to his son
    because if you don’t,
the Lord might become furious
    and suddenly destroy you.
But he blesses and protects
    everyone who runs to hi
m.

INTRODUCTION

You may find this hard to believe but Psalm 2, over time, has become my favorite Psalm. He holds a unique distinction: He is one of thirteen MESSIANIC PSALMS and one of ten ROYAL PSALMS. To put that in a nutshell, it is about JESUS our LORD and King and His eventual rule over all the earth. It is a prophetic Psalm, it is future to us but History to God. It has not happened but it is going to happen.

Transition: Four Stanzas

  • First Stanza–verses 1-3…The Voice of Defiance coming from the world
  • Second Stanza–verses 4-6…The Voice of Derision coming from heaven
  • Third Stanza–verses 7-9…The Voice of Triumph coming from the Messiah
  • Fourth Stanza–Verses 1–12…The Voice of Wisdom and Warning coming from the word of God.

VOICE OF DEFIANCE

  • Verse 1…WHY ARE THE NATIONS SO ANGRY? The rage of the nations [goy]. The picture is of an animal in a rage because it is being restrained. When I was a young boy, we had goats on our farm. Daddy did not keep them long because they are defiant and destructive creatures and they stink. He tied a billy goat to a tree one day and the goat went into a rage…butting his head against the tree until he broke both horns and his head was bleeding.
  • WHY DO THEY WASTE THEIR TIME WITH FUTILE PLANS? Another word for futile is useless. It is a pure waste of time to rebel against God: there is no future in such rebellion. The Goat was not going to butt down the tree to which he was tied. All his angry struggling was in vain.
  • THE CONSPIRACY AGAINST THE ANOINTED ONE: JESUS, lead by kings and rulers, encouraged by them. This was demonstrated by Annas, Caiaphas, Pilate and Herod. They all conspired against the Jesus.
  • THE VOICE OF DEFIANCE….”Let us break their chains,” they cry, “Let us free ourselves from slavery to God.”

During the French Revolution, one of the anarchist scaled the Cathedral of Norte Dame and pulled down the cross that was on top. He brought it to the ground and broke it into pieces, then he proclaimed to the cheering crowd, “We will pull down every vestige of God’s authority over us.” Someone a bit wiser yelled from the crowd, “What are you doing to do about the stars; are you going to pull them down two.”

“There is no future for those who rebel against God.” …Jack Bailey

THE VOICE OF DERISION

  • The ONE who rules Heaven laughs, He scoffs. It is not a CELEBRATIVE laughter but CONTEMPTUOUS laughter. A few months back our daughter and son-in-law were foster parents for a month. My son-in-law is a big man who is closer to three hundred pounds than two. The foster child was a tiny four year old but he knew how to trash talk. He would threaten my son-in-law with awful threats like…“I’m going to kill you and gut you like and animal.” My son-in-law would look at him and laugh, “Yeah, right!”
  • Our GOD has no insecurities. He cannot be threatened. He never takes our schemes and plots to overthrow His Kingdom seriously. The bunch of blow hard’s in Washington D.C. think they are running things when in truth, they are in control of nothing. Remember Jesus before Pilate and the conversation they had in John 19:10-11…

“Why won’t you answer my question?” Pilate asked. “Don’t you know that I have the power to let you go free or to nail you to a cross?” Jesus replied, “If God had not given you the power, you couldn’t do anything at all to me. But the one who handed me over to you did something even worse.”

  • The Kings of the earth think they are in control but God is in control
  • Yahweh declares: “I have placed My Chosen King on the throne.” In reality, we have not seen this but it is history because God has already made His choice and His choice is JESUS. There is nothing the world can do about it!

THE VOICE OF TRIUMPH

  • This voice is that of the Anointed One, the Son
  • It is not the voice of Pride. Jesus does not talk trash. It is the voice of supreme confidence. He fully believed in the FATHER’S PROMISE.
  • The earth and its kingdoms will one day belong to Christ [v.8]
  • The MEEK SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH
  • Jesus authority will not be challenged. He will rule with an iron scepter and he will be ruling jars of clay. A clay pot is no match for a rod of iron. Iron shatters clay.

THE VOICE OF WARNING

  • “Be warned you rulers of the earth” [v.10]
    • ACT WISELY
    • SERVE THE LORD WITH REVERENT FEAR
    • REJOICE WITH TREMBLING
    • SUBMIT TO THE SON {Pay homage} The most literal translation is “Kiss the Son.” [AV, NIV, RSV, ESV and many others] But you do not kiss a king on the face: you kiss his feet if you are a servant and his hand if you are a subject. It is an act of utter humiliation and complete submission.
  • Suppose you ignore this warning…
    • He, the Son, will be angry
    • You will be destroyed

The only refuge from the True King of kings is refuge in HIM…Ya’akov

The Good Samaritan

Scripture: Luke 10:25-37, NIV

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” 
27 He answered, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ ; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” 
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” 
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 
31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.
32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 
33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 
34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 
35 The next day he took out two denariiand gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ 
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

INTRODUCTION

Everyone loves stories and Jesus was the master at story telling. Luke records at least four stories that are not found in the other gospels: The Good Samaritan, the Rich Fool, The Prodigal Son and the Rich Man and Lazarus. The Story of the Prodigal is the most renown in all the world and the story of the Good Samaritan is not far behind. Everyone knows what it means to be a good Samaritan. There are hospitals name GOOD SAMARITAN. Franklin Graham relief organization is the SAMARITAN PURSE.


This is a simple story with a simple meaning. Origen, the Catholic scholar, interpreted it as an alegory but it is not an alegory. It is a simple story that even a lost man can understand. Jesus told it for the benefit of a Jewish Lawyer who was lost in religion. This story is a favorite for the left because they think Jesus was advocating socialism and the distribution of wealth but nothing could be further from the truth.


A very simple way to understand the story is to see the four groups or four kinds of people involved:

  1. There is the man who fell among robbers–he is the victim
  2. There are the robbers or thieves–they represent the villians
  3. There are the religious leaders, priest and Levite–the apathetic
  4. There is the Good Samaritan–the compassionate

The story center around the victim, the man beaten and left to die and how the other three respond. In their response, we see three philosophies of life.

I. THE ROBBERS–WHAT YOURS IS MINE AND I AM GOING TO TAKE IT

In spite of what our friends say on the left, there is evil in this world and there are vicious people out there who will do you bodily harm. One liberal said, “The problem here is not the crime, it is the deeper social ills behind the crime. We must uncover and dig out the roots of social injustice that made these men steal. There is a Greek word for this thinking…Balogna. These men were not stealing in order to feed their starving families and I can prove it. Look at verse 30… A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A man is singular, robbers or thieves is plural. There was more than one robber. Thieves and robbers have always run in packs so they over powered this man. Had robbery been their only motive, they would have tied him up and left him but not only did they strip him, they beat him and left him to die.


Folks, I don’t care what the liberals say, there are mean, evil and violent people in our world and they will hurt you for their own sick pleasure. Are we so niave to think that criminals are concerned about hurting others. First of all, being robbed is painful but being beaten half to death is worse.


A liberal was debating Dr. Jerry Falwell on national TV. He told Dr. Falwell there was no such thing as evil and that men are not depraved. Dr. Falwell asked him, “Do you have locks on your doors at home?” The lib said, “Yes, of course I do.” Dr. Falwell said, “Then you must believe in evil, why else would you lock your door.”

II. THE PREIST AND LEVITE–WHAT MINE IS MINE AND I AM GOING TO KEEP IT

Sad to say, both of these men were church men and probably on their way to the temple. Priest were the religious leaders of the day, the descendants of Aaron. They were your teachers and worship leaders. The Levites were the temple care takers. Both were involved in the activities of the church. Both should have been concerned about the hurting man but both passed by indifferently. The priest barely slowed his pace. The Levite did go closer for a better look but he too, hurried off to church.


There is an old adage–put a mouse in front of a cat and you will find out if you’ve got a cat. Put a hurting person in front of a Christian and you will find out if you have a Christian. As Christians, we are supposed to care.


I want you to picture the victim as he lies beside the road in his own blood. He may be semi-conscience but he is dying. The beating and the lose of blood have taken its toll. Without intervention, he will die. What if his eyes were open, like when they do a root canal: you can see and hear but can’t move. What if he saw the priest out of the corner of his eye or the Levite. He was bound to think…help is coming but they looked and passed on by.


Have you ever had your heart broken? Perhaps you suffered through a painful divorce. Maybe you were the rejected one. When the people who are supposed to love us and care for us don’t care, it hurts. 


Hurting people want help but they don’t want to be exposed. The man was laying there naked; they had taken his clothes. He was lying in his blood and shame. He wanted help but he did not want to become a spectule or a side show. Let me tell you what can hurt worse than the clubs of the robbers, the indifference of those who are supposed to care.

III. THE GOOD SAMARITAN–WHAT IS MINE IS YOURS AND I AM GOING TO SHARE IT

Folks, the key to abundant living is good stewardship. Paul told the Ephesians in 4:28,  He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who is in need. Jesus said in Acts 20:35, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Let me give you the JEV…Life is a lot more fun when you are on the giving end rather than the recieving end. I had much rather be Santa as the kid.


Ministry always involves a sharing of resources and the Good Samaritan was lavish in his ministry. He used his time, his energy, his resources [oil, wine, animal] and his money to help this hurting man. He has no concern for the cost or for being reimbursed for his expenses.


If you go back up to verse 2 in this chapter, Jesus says, “The harvest is truely great but the laborers are few.” The harvest is great, it is just not the harvest we envision. We are looking for folks who are hungry for the gospel and want to be saved: these folks are hard to find but there is a harvest…the fields are littered with hurting people. They are everywhere. Hardy a days goes by that I don’t encounter a hurting person.


The time to express the love of Christ for our friends and relatives is when they are down. This man was lying there helpless–he was open to someone lending a hand.

CONCLUSION

A junior high students approached his teacher in the hall way with a problem, as he was telling the teacher his problem: the teacher pulled a quarter from his pocket and said to the kid, “Here is a quarter, go call someone who cares.” All the other kids laughed but the kid needing help just ducked his head and walked away. I am sorry to say, that I witnessed this event and did nothing about it. I already had a bad reputation for meddling in school affairs and I kept silent.

I’m not picking on school teachers, there are preachers who don’t care. Of course we preachers and teachers are held to a higher standard, we are supposed to care. Every believer and follower of Christ is supposed to care.

The Celebration of Life

Scripture: John 11 {Selected}

INTRODUCTIONS

Those of you who have attended COLS that I am involved in know that John 11 is my favorite chapter and I use it a lot at Celebration of Life Services but I have always had a desire to share it with the Sunday morning crowd…so here goes.

I. A COMMON PROBLEM

1 A man named Lazarus was sick. He lived in Bethany with his sisters, Mary and Martha. 
2 This is the Mary who later poured the expensive perfume on the Lord’s feet and wiped them with her hair. Her brother, Lazarus, was sick. 
3 So the two sisters sent a message to Jesus telling him, “Lord, your dear friend is very sick.” 

II. A STARTLING PROPHECY–“Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death.”

 4 But when Jesus heard about it he said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.” 

III. AN ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE–“Lazarus has fallen asleep.”

11 Then he said, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but now I will go and wake him up.” 
12 The disciples said, “Lord, if he is sleeping, he will soon get better!” 
13 They thought Jesus meant Lazarus was simply sleeping, but Jesus meant Lazarus had died. 
14 So he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 

15 And for your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there, for now you will really believe. Come, let’s go see him.” 


We humans have a problem: we view everything through the lens of time… We even project time into our thoughts of heaven but there is no time in eternity…if there was, there would be a starting time and finishing time. Jesus had His feet on earth but His head was in heaven: He could see both worlds. He could see the future as well as the past. Think of it as a continium…At present [Lazarus is sick]…then Lazarus dies…Future, Lazarus is alive and well. Death is a barrier for us–we can’t see beyond it–but it was not barrier for Jesus. What appears to be death to us is simple sleep to Jesus…a temporary state of repose…everyone dies but we do not stay dead. Yes, from our perspective, death seems and appears to be final but not from God’s.

IV. AN INFINITE POWER–“I AM the resurrection and the life.”

Notice the focus of Mary, Martha, the disciples and the mourners. They are focused on circumstances, problems, grief, sickness, mystery of unanswered prayer, dates, promises, prophecies about the future. There is nothing sinful about focusing on the great resurrection day in the future unless we are more focused on the date than we are the person of Christ.

Look with me if you would at these verses…

  • Verses 2-27–Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.” 
  • Verse 33–When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. [NASB,  He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled] The first of these two words [anger in NLT] means to snort with anger, to groan with displeasure or to sigh with chargrin. The second word means to be agitated, stirred up, troubled or distressed. To my knowlege, used only here in reference to Jesus.
  • Verse 38 —Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. 

Over the years, hundreds have tried to discount Jesus emotional state at the tomb: some have even said that it was due to his grief that Lazarus was dead and others believe that he felt emphathy for Mary and Martha but this is clearly not the case. JESUS IS RIGHTEOUSLY INDIGNATED over the unbelief of the entire bunch. No one there believes a thing He has said…He told Martha plainly, “Your brother will rise again.” He told His disciples plainly, “This sickness will not end in death.” And yet no one believes. Martha did not believe…When Jesus told them to roll the stone aways…she protested…”By now he stinks.”

What does this tell us? Unbelief is offensive to God. Hebrews 3:12–Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heartof unbelief in departing from the living God.

  • It was unbelief that kept Israel from the land of promise.
  • It was unbelief that caused the Jewish Religious Leaders to call for the crufixion of Christ.
  • It is offensive to God when we mistrust His word or even doubt it.

CONCLUSION

Let me tell you what I love about this story….No one in the cemetery that evening believed that they would be eating supper with Lazarus that night: no one but Jesus. Not even Mary or Martha believed that Jesus was the Resurrection and the Life. When Jesus commanded them to roll the stone aside, Martha protested….”By now there is a stink.”


It doesn’t matter what you think or what you believe about any given situation. The Jewish mourners believed that Jesus had failed his friends. The disciples believed that Jesus was committing suicide by returning to Jerusalem. Not one soul in this story believed that Jesus was going to raise Lazarus by the power of His spoken word. Practically all believed that Jesus was a healer but even Mary and Martha believed that He had showed up too late.


Here is what is important: God had a sovereign plan and Jesus carried that plan out. God intended to get glory this day and He did…in spite of the unbelief.

ARE YOU NOT GLAD THAT OUR IMPOTENCE AND FAILURE PUTS NO RESTRAINT OR RESTRICTIONS ON GOD’S OMNIPOTENCE.

Hallelujah, HIS Kingdom is going to come and His will is going to be done because it has been spoken and in spite of man’s sin, wickedness and unbelief—it will happen.

The Man, The Moment And The Message

1 This letter is from Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ. I am writing to God’s chosen people who are living as foreigners in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. 
2 God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and His Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed Him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. May God give you more and more grace and peace. 

Introduction

  • I Peter has become a favorite to me. I don’t know how this happened, but over time, it is the first book I read when ever I begin reading a new translation. This has been going on for some five or so years. If we fast forward to I Peter 5:12, I think we will find out why this has happened in my life. Here Peter says…

  •  I have written and sent this short letter to you with the help of Silas, whom I commend to you as a faithful brother. My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you that what you are experiencing is truly part of God’s GRACE for you. Stand firm in this GRACE. [Grace is the theme]

  • In this message, I wish to introduce our study in I Peter: one that I pray will be encouraging and uplifting. If you get a small percentage of what God has given me in the preparation of these messages, you will be blessed. I love this letter.
  • Speaking of this letter: when we get mail, the first thing we do is to see who it is from. If it is from a close friend or loved one, we give it special attention, don’t we. This brings us to the MAN.

THIS LETTER IS SPECIAL BECAUSE IT IS FROM PETER THE APOSTLE

I. THE MAN: PETER THE APOSTLE

v.1…This letter is from Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ. {Silas wrote it but Peter dictated the content. I Peter 5:12}

  • Note: It was from Peter the Apostle, not Simon the fisherman, but Peter the Apostle {a messenger, a delegate, one sent out} of Jesus Christ is writing to encourage these persecuted believers in the Northern part of Asia Minor, modern day Turkey and he does so with gentleness and grace. I think my love for this letter is the grace that exudes from Peter’s words. Oh how I love GRACE because it was grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved. How precious does that GRACE appear when I read and meditate on the Epistle of I Peter.
  • Think with me for a moment, how did Peter come to know the marvelous grace that he writes about? Peter was the first to confess Christ but he was also the first to deny HIM. Shortly after confessing Christ, he attempts to rebuke Jesus. One minute Peter is exclaiming the truth and the next minute he was acting as an agent of Satan. So we are talking about impetuous Peter, the man who only stopped talking long enough to change feet. We are talking about the oldest of the twelve who lead them boldly but also failed them miserably. We all know the story of Jesus renewing Peter after the resurrection. It was Peter who preached at Pentecost and it was Peter who became the leader of the church. So this letter is written some 30 years later. Peter is not an old man but he is probably in his early 60’s. He knows what it is like to fail and be restored. He has been growing in grace for 30 years.
  • This letter is not just from anyone, it is from Peter the Apostle: one who witnessed the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This Apostleship and eyewitness account was a passing thing. These folks understood that in a few years, there would be no eye witnesses left, many of the twelve had already departed this world and Peter was only months away from his departure. Peter himself was awaiting trial under Nero who was possibly the most vile man who ever ruled the empire. He was a sexual pervert and had a touch of insanity.
  • To get a letter from an Apostle is one thing, but to realize that he is a dying man adds weight to his words.
  • I think the main thing we need to understand about the author of this letter is his experience in GRACE. After denying Jesus for the third time, I imagine Peter felt like he was finished but Jesus did not write him off although he did a terrible thing.
  • Jesus heard the denials but He did not reassess or disclaim His call on Peter’s life. Had our LORD been merely human, He might have said, “I made a mistake choosing Peter. He has too much pride and too big of a mouth. I will never be able to use him. I should have chosen John to be their leader. Peter is not cut out for this.”
  • NO! This is the great thing about GRACE. Jesus knew in advance that Peter would fail, it was Peter who didn’t see it coming.
  • Jesus changed his name from Simon [to hear from] to Peter [rock] because He knew what He could make out of this impetus and temperamental Galilean fisherman. Jesus transformed this loud mouth into a flaming witness. He transformed the impetus fisherman into a rock solid leader. He transformed a fisher of fish into a fisher of men. Only Jesus could do such a thing.
  • If there was anyone on the face of the earth who could talk about Grace from experience, it was Peter.

II. THE MISSION: ENCOURAGE BELIEVERS TO STAND FIRM IN GRACE

My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you that what you are experiencing is truly part of God’s grace for you. Stand firm in this grace. [I Peter 5:12, NLT]

Now a word about the people to whom Peter is writing. Scholars are divided concerning their ethnicity: some believe he was writing to Jewish Christians, other think Gentiles but it really doesn’t matter. He uses three words [all in verse 1] to identify these people:

  • Elected/Chosen {eklektos} [selected, chosen, picked out]
  • Strangers {parepidēmos} [Pilgrims, aliens, used again in 1 Peter 2:11]
  • Scattered {diaspora} [dispersed, spread out]

In the Greek they come together in the above order… Πέτρος ἀπόστολος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐκλεκτοῖς [elect] παρεπιδήμοις [strangers, aliens] διασπορᾶς [dispersed] Πόντου Γαλατίας Καππαδοκίας Ἀσίας καὶ Βιθυνίας

NOTE:

  • These scattered believers [not living in the bible belt] are like strangers or foreigners. They are being called to live counter to their culture which was very pagan.
  • There must be no attempt assimilate or blend in and this will [Romans 12:2… Do not conform to the pattern of this world, 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]…undoubtedly  lead to persecution. They had already experienced some but Peter, who was in Rome, knew that it was going to get worse and it did. [Nero]
  • Peter understood that a call from Christ is a call to suffer and much of this letter is about suffering. [I Peter 2:21, F]
    21 For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. 
    22 He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. 
    23 He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.
    24 He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right.
  • When Christians do what is right in a pagan culture, they are going to suffer for doing good. David Green had to take on the Federal Government who tried to force him to provide funds for abortions in his company’s health insurance. He refused. Ultimately, he was favored in a Supreme Court Ruling but not until he had spent millions, not to speak of the loss of time. All Muslim businesses were given a free pass but the Obama administration targets Christian businesses.
  • Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cake shop in Lakewood, Colo., declined to make a cake for the wedding celebration of two gay men in 2012. Phillips told the couple that he would make a birthday cake but could not make a cake that would promote same-sex marriage due to his religious beliefs. Two lower courts ordered Phillips to serve gays but he carried his cause to the Supreme Court. Two of the Supreme Court justices were outraged at a comment made by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission…. who said, religion  has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, including slavery and the Holocaust." You have to understand where these civil rights groups such as the ACLU are coming from...Rich, agnostic Jews, in the mold of Ciaiphas, who hate Jesus. These talking pundits have made slavery, the holocaust and civil rights for sexual perverts the only three sins. It is OK to kill a baby but its immoral to honor the memory of George Washington because he owed slaves.
  • The ACLU along with every civil rights group I know always target Christians. If religion was really their target, they would go after Muslims and Orthodox Jews.
  • Long story short, we live in a Christ hating world and those of us who identify with HIM are going to suffer for it. It is not a matter of if but when...we are going to suffer for Christ.
  • The recipients of this letter had suffered but things were going to get worse and Peter is simply alerting them to get ready.

III. THE MESSAGE: SUFFERING NOW BUT GLORY TO COME

Peter says in verse 2, God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and His Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ

  • Note first of all that the TRINITY is at work in our behalf...God the Father chose us, the Holy Spirit is sanctifying us [making us holy] and Jesus made it all possible by dying for us. All of this is God's work in our behalf and it is according to His eternal plan.
  • Like Jesus, we are called to suffer but just as his suffering lead to glory, so will ours.
  • Jesus had the ability to look beyond the pain: the writer of Hebrews said...            "We fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
  • This is why Peter said in the closing of his letter [I Peter 5:12]...My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you that what you are experiencing is truly part of God’s grace for you. Stand firm in this grace. 
  • You might say, "God's gracious plan for you." Jesus coming was a part of a plan. His suffering and death were according to a plan. Our suffering is no different, it is according to God's plan. There is a purpose in our suffering.
  • Peter said at Pentecost, speaking of Jesus....  this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. 
  • Peter says in chapter 4... Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in His suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world

CONCLUSION

Suffering is never pleasant but it is necessary for our sanctification. Suffering is God's refining fire, his smeltering furnace. Do you want what Jesus wants? Does your heart beat with His? If you answer yes then I know you have suffered.


Greed is no respecter of persons: never doubt that poor people can be just as greedy as the rich. We want to take possession of things. We measure people by the kind of house they live in, the clothes they wear, the cars they drive and their annual income or their net worth. This fallen world has a seductive power that can get to any man. In my life time, the only folks that I have seen OVERCOME THIS WORLD were those who suffered. People who have suffered intensely don't care for this world nor the things in it. They don't fight over land lines and inheritances because they see beyond this world. What was it that destroyed their love for this world? I can tell you, it was suffering. If you look closely into the lives of the great saints, you will see they all have something in common: they suffered.


As a very young pastor, I stood along side a family who watched their 8 year old son depart this world due to Cystic Fibrosis. Just minutes before his passing, I heard his dad say, "I would give everything I have in this world, for just one more day." I had enough sense not to articulate my thoughts but my thoughts were: "that's crazy, he is terminally sick, he cannot get well, why would you give everything you have for one more day?" I was young and ignorant and not fully convinced that life doesn't consist in the abundance of things one possesses. But the suffering, broken hearted dad didn't care for the things in this world. He loved his son and wanted to spend one more day with him. This man became one of the best friends I've ever had. He came to my defense when no one else would. He had more courage than anyone I've ever known. The LORD promoted him in November of 2009--He died like he lived, without fear. How did he get this way? By suffering. Peter got thrown into the same smelting pot as did Jesus and it bonded them together. I've seen the same think happen when we fellow believers suffer together.

My best friends are not those I played ball with or those I did business with, it is those I suffered with. I am not saying that suffering is pleasant, I am saying it has a purpose and the outcome for a believer is glorious. Hope is looking beyond the pain and seeing the glory that is waiting.

May you be encouraged by this word from God.

 

 

The Invisible God

Scripture: Malachi 2:17

17 You have wearied the LORD with your words. “How have we wearied him?” you ask. You have wearied him by saying that all who do evil are good in the LORD ’s sight, and he is pleased with them. You have wearied him by asking, “Where is the God of justice?”

 INTRODUCTION

I like the GWT version of verse 17, I think it puts everything in perspective…You have tried the patience of the LORD with your words. But you ask, “How have we tried his patience?” When you say, “Everyone who does evil is considered good by the LORD. He is pleased with them,” or “Where is the God of justice?”

This brings up an age-old argument: Can God’s patience be exhausted? Does God get tired of our constant complaining? Before we attempt to answer these questions, let’s establish some fundamental things that we do know about God.
  1. God is not Apathetic. He is im·pas·si·ble in the sense that our emotions do not rule Him nor change His essential nature but at the same time, He does feel our pain. At Laarus tomb, Jesus wept with Mary and Martha. Isaiah said of Jesus, “He was a man of sorrows, acquainted with our grief.” The word acquainted means to know or learn by experience. Impassibility means to be incapable of suffering or feeling pain. Jesus laid this myth to rest. God does feel our pain but don’t ask me to explain, I can’t explain it and yet I believe it. This is what I call the paradox of faith.
  2. So we can say with confidence, God is not Apathetic but neither is He pathetic or at the mercy of man’s emotions. In other words, our emotions do not rule Him. We are sinners in the hand of an angry God, not the other way around…God in the hands of angry sinners. We are at His mercy.

So the same paradox exist when it comes to God’s patience. God can not run out of patience because He is infinite and there is no end to His resources. Surly you do not believe that God is limited in any capacitySo in one sense, the answer is no, God doesn’t run out of patience. In other words, our constant complaining will never transform God into an impatient God. But when we flip the coin to the other side, God does have an allotted degree of patience for each one of us. In this sense, His patience can be exhausted as it was with Sodom and Gomorrah and the children of Israel in the wilderness

This fact makes it unwise to presume on God’s patience or mercy. God did grow weary of the Israelites incessant complaining and He sentenced them to 40 years of futility in the wilderness. So, there is a line that can be crossed and once it is crossed, there is nothing but judgment.

In today’s text, the Israelites are making the same mistake that their forefathers made in the Wilderness, they are trying God’s patience, which is never wise.

The situation reminds me of a story told by Bill Patterson. It is the story of Robert Shelton. Robert Shelton lost his job but only after he had exhausted the patience of his employer. Robert had been warned repeatedly about being late for work and about his lack of productivity when he was at work. His boss even enrolled Robert in a program to improve his job performance but Robert made no attempt to learn from the training. He continued to do what he had always done until the day he was called into the office and handed a pink slip. Robert went ballistic. He was outraged. He began a tirade of complaints beginning with his supervisor whom Robert said, “Had been unclear on instructions.” Then Robert lashed out t his co-workers, accusing them of conspiring against him. Then he made excuses…his assigned task was beyond his abilities and training. Robert blamed everyone except the guilty party, Robert.

The Jews of Malachi’s day were a lot like Robert…they blamed everyone except themselves. The truth is, they brought much of their suffering upon themselves. They were their own worst enemy but would not confess it and for such people there is no help.

The Jewish Problem

  1. Oppression from foreign domination

  2. Surrounded by hostile neighbors

  3. Injustice and exploitation {Economic}

  4. Skepticism and indifference {Spiritual}

Three Areas Where We Have To Be Careful of Exhausting God’s Patience

I. NUMBER ONE IS ATTITUDE

Irresponsible people believe that bad circumstances validate a bad attitude but nothing could be further from the truth. God expects each of us to have a good attitude no matter what our circumstances. Joseph had a good attitude in bad circumstances and so did Daniel and Nehemiah. How would you like to be a slave? Those three handled in pretty well, did they not.

Circumstances on this earth are never going to be ideal. I am a fan of the Jesse Stone murder mysteries. Jesse Stone is the police chief of Paradise, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston. Actually Paridise, Massachusetts is is fictional. It does not exist. The definition of Paradise is an ideal place of extreme beauty, delight, or happiness where everything goes beyond expectation. We are not going to find that here on earth. We must do the best we can in less than ideal circumstances. As Erma Boombeck was fond of saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonaid.”

The Jews had a bad attitude not because circumstances were bad but because their thinking was bad. They had some stinking thinking. They were blaming God. They accused Him of being partial to the wicked. Their complaint was that He was not holy, that He was lacking in moral judgment. When our attitude is bad, it is the result of bad thinking or theology.

God is holy, moral and good. He is not the enemy. When we reach the point where we accuse Him of being the problem, we have a problem.

II. THE SECOND PROBLEM IS OUR TONGUE

Complainers are vocal by necessity. People who complain are outspoken. Do you remember the Israelites in the wilderness–they murmured and complained constantly. They grumbled in their tents…

Exodus 16:2…I have heard the Israelites’ complaints. Now tell them, ‘In the evening you will have meat to eat, and in the morning you will have all the bread you want. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God.’”

Number 14:27…“How long must I put up with this wicked community and its complaints about me? Yes, I have heard the complaints the Israelites are making against Me.”

What was the result of their complaining in Numbers 14….The Lord told Moses to tell them...”I am going to do just as you have suggested, you will die in the wilderness.” Be careful what you say, the LORD is listening.

III. THE THIRD PROBLEM IS THEIR SIGHT OR INSIGHT

They have not acknowledged what God has already done. They refuse to see His goodness and mercy. They were released from Babylon by a miracle of grace. They did not gain their independence via a war, it was given to them and yet they could not see God’s goodness.

God had made the Jews some precious promises through the prophets.

  1. They would return to the homeland and the temple be rebuilt
  2. The LORD Himself would visit the Temple
  3. Israel would have a time of prosperity and peace
  4. Israel would have promonence in the world

The first promise had been fulfilled but they were waiting impatiently on the others. Malachi’s word to them in chapter 3 is…God is going to keep His promises, He will come to His Temple but when He does, you will not recognize Him and they didn’t. So we are talking about spiritual blindness, a sight problem.

Conclusion

“Where is the God of justice?” The Jews were asking. Sounds exactly like their forefathers who is Exodus 17:7 said, “Is the LORD among us or not.” The Israelites craved a God they could see, they wanted a visible manifestation. Yahweh cannot be seen. We don’t have a lens or scope big enough to see Him. He is the invisible God. I think it was Josie who asked about this a few days ago. Christ is the image of the invisible God. [Colossians 1:15]  Paul said to Timothy, Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever.

We are not to question God’s presence merely because we do not feel it, sense it, or see it. Jeremiah 23:23-24…. “I am a God who is everywhere and not in one place only. No one can hide where I cannot see them. Do you not know that I am everywhere in heaven and on earth?” You don’t have to feel His presence, or sense His presence–you simply have to believe the truth–He is present. It is impossible for Him not to be present.

Growing up in church, I never go to go out to the bathroom during a service. Once the service started, we were planted. If we moved, there were consequences. One Sunday night mother had a headache and so she stayed behind, the rest of us went on the church. My daddy slept soundly once the preacher got started and since mother was not there, I seized the opportunity to go out during a service. I eased out and daddy never opened his eyes so I head for the foyer. Our building had those saloon doors that open both ways and I hit them almost on a run, but there sitting behind them was mother. I did a quick 360. She was there all the time but I didn’t know it.

Bottom line: Jesus said, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.” It is a simple matter of faith–do you believe what Jesus said?