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.

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Feeling and Foes

Scripture: Psalm 142, NLT

1 I cry out to the LORD ; I plead for the LORD ’s mercy. 
2 I pour out my complaints before Him and tell Him all my troubles. 
3 When I am overwhelmed, you alone know the way I should turn. Wherever I go, my enemies have set traps for me. 
4 I look for someone to come and help me, but no one gives me a passing thought! No one will help me; no one cares a bit what happens to me. 
5 Then I pray to you, O LORD . I say, “You are my place of refuge. You are all I really want in life. 
6 Hear my cry, for I am very low. Rescue me from my persecutors, for they are too strong for me. 
7 Bring me out of prison so I can thank you. The godly will crowd around me, for you are good to me.”

INTRODUCTION

This is a Psalm of David written while he was fleeing from Saul. He was hiding in a cave, either at Adullam or En Gedi. He was feeling down, alone, trapped, overwhelmed, afraid, unloved and unappreciated. Do you ever get to feeling down, alone, afraid, overwhelmed, trapped, unloved and unappreciated? I think most of us have spent at least one night in the cave a Adullam. Our emotions are strong and they play a big part in our life. We all have feelings and they are important to us but our feelings are not alway reliable. Feeling are fickle, they play to the circumstances. If the circumstances are good, they are good but if the circumstances go sour, they go sour also.

TRANSITION

Tonight we are going to talk about feelings and foes. Both are real and both can become a problem. The key to victory, to overcoming our foes and our feelings is TRUTH. Truth liberates us, it sets us free from the power of both foe and feelings. We sing the song “Always” a lot and it begins like this....”Our Foes are many, they rise against us, but I will hold my ground?”

So, I want to share with you some truths that will help you hold your ground but before I do, I want to share one story…

When Steve Tanner was at Shepherd’s in Atlanta, I visited him one evening just before sundown. When I came out of the clinic to get into my little Honda Civic, it was dark and foggy. Visibility was less than a hundred yards. One of the attendants had shared with me a way to get to I-75 without driving four miles down the ever busy Peach Tree Street. I followed my instructions to a T but there was some turning and twisting and my gyroscope got all out of wack. Those who know me know that I have a good sense of direction most of the time but when I got to the I-75 ramp the signs were wrong. South was North and North was South. I said to myself, “Either someone got these signs wrong or else they have moved down town Atlanta.” I had a decison to make,“Do I go with my feelings or do I go with the signs.” I remembered what Herman Griffin taught us in aerospace about flying a plane, “Always go by your instrument, never trust your feelings.” So I followed the signs and turned right but my feelings continued to screem, “You are wrong, you are going North.” The fog was so thick that I could not see the down town skiscrappers and my feeling continued to protest even after I turned West on to I-20. It was not until I passed the Six Flags exits that my gyroscope flipped back around and suddenly everything was where it was supposed to be.

The moral of the story: your feeling will betray you, don’t follow them. The word of God is our instrument: it sets our course and direction. We follow the word and our emotions will eventually catch up.

I. YOU ARE NEVER ALONE

Matthew 28:20…“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

John 14:16…And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.

Hebrews 13:5-6… Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” So we can say with confidence, “The LORD is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?”

We may be alone, even separated from those we love; we may be alone in a lonely place but we are not really alone, it just seems that way. The LORD is always with a believer. This is exactly what Jesus said, “I will be with you always.”

II. YOU ARE NEVER UNLOVED

John 3:16….For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 

I John 2:2….He [Jesus] is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” Jesus died for everyone on the planet and that certainly includes you.

The very heart and soul of the gospel is that God so loved the world, or He loved the world so much that He gave His son. I can, with full assurance and a good conscience, look any person in the eye and say, “God loves you, Jesus died for you.” You may not matter to anyone else, but YOU MATTER to Him.

Close to 30 years ago, we had a child in WEE Care by the name of Beth. Beth was a pistol. She acted out daily. The teachers were getting so frustrated with Beth that they asks me to speak with her. When I talked to Beth, she was unresponsive at first but as I continued to probe, I found the root of the problem: Beth was eaten up with insecurity. She was living in constant fear. Her father had abandoned her mom and her brother when Beth was six and now she was eight her little brother was four or five. Beths mom was lonely and she had been inviting men over to their trailor. She was not a prositute, she did not invite men randomly, but she had gone through two or three boyfriends in the space of a year. Beth picked up on the fact that these men did not care for her or her brother but saw them as extra baggage. She said, “I am afraid that I will wake up one day and my mother will be gone just like my daddy.” First of all, no child should have to live with this fear but her mom did not leave the impression that she was that stable and I was afraid for Beth and her brother myself but I did not let on. Beth was acting out in front of her mother just as she was in Child Care and that wasn’t helping. What was I going to tell this eight year old? “Yeah, your mom worries me too, I am afraid she may run off with one of these men and abandon you and your brother.” Although that is what I felt, it is not what I said. I said, “Beth look at me straight in the eye. I want to tell you something. There is someone who I know loves you very much and His name is Jesus.”

Beth was despisable. She acted so bad that no one wanted to be around her and I knew the workers were having trouble loving Beth and I had serious doubts about her mom but I knew at least one person loved Beth and that was Jesus.

I want you to understand that you and I are Beth, we are eaten up with insecurities. Yes, we put on a proud front but they are there lurking in the shadows of our soul but I can tell you for a fact, Jesus loves you in spite of your fears and flaws. His love is unconditional. It cannot be earned. It is a gift of grace.

III. FEELING ARE FICKLE, THEY CANNOT BE TRUSTED

I did not say that feelings are unreal, they are very real and they are important. We all want to feel good. I don’t know of anyone who wants to get over feeling good, do you? But there is a problem: feelings are not reliable and we cannot allow them to become our spiritual barometer.

Jeremiah 17:9…The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? 

AV…The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?

NIV…The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

NASB…“The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?

If you allow your heart to call the shots, you are in a heap of trouble. First of all your emotional life will become a roller coaster ride, up and down, up and down. When the circumstances are bad, you will feel bad. Our emotions are not the Engine, they are the caboose. The Engine is the FACT OF GOD’S WORD.

No only will following the heart get you into trouble emotionally, it will get you into trouble morally. Eve followed her heart, so did Sarah and look where it got them. The heart is going to take the easy route, the supposed short cut. God wants you to be happy. Jesus died so you could be happy but the way to happiness is not to follow the heart. The way to happiness is to follow Jesus. You can’t be happy a part from Him or a part from holiness and He is the only one who can make you holy.

Things We Need

Scripture text: Psalms 138, NLT

1 I give you thanks, O LORD, with all my heart; I will sing your praises before the gods. 
2 I bow before your holy Temple as I worship. I praise your name for your unfailing love and faithfulness; for your promises are backed by all the honor of your name. 
3 As soon as I pray, you answer me; you encourage me by giving me strength.
4 Every king in all the earth will thank you, LORD, for all of them will hear your words. 
5 Yes, they will sing about the LORD ’s ways, for the glory of the LORD is very great. 
6 Though the LORD is great, he cares for the humble, but he keeps his distance from the proud. 
7Though I am surrounded by troubles, you will protect me from the anger of my enemies. You reach out your hand, and the power of your right hand saves me. 
8 The LORD will work out his plans for my life— for your faithful love, O LORD, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for you made me.

INTRODUCTION

We are driven by our needs, it is human nature. When we come to church, we aren’t thinking about others or even the LORD, we are centered on our needs. This is what makes “Seeker” churches so successful. They use market place skills and they target the needs and desires of this current generation. They have thousands each Sunday while we have hundreds.

Tonights sermon is seeker friendly: I want to talk about our needs and how the LORD is ready to meet those needs.

I. FIRST OF ALL, WE NEED A POSITIVE ATTITUDE 

{Biblically speaking, a positive attitude is a thankful heart}

 I give you thanks, O LORD, with all my heart; I will sing your praises before the gods. 
2 I bow before your holy Temple as I worship. I praise your name for your unfailing love and faithfulness; for your promises are backed by all the honor of your name. 

Note first of all that David had a thankful heart. I am an Alabama fan and I have been convicted about the amount of anxiety I have over such silly things. I did a lot of praying last week and God answered my prayer and I am thankful. I didn’t watch the game {Iron Bowl} and I didn’t lose any sleep. I was thrilled with opportunity to preach Sunday night and I was focused on Sunday’s activities. That’s not me folks, that is God’s grace. You probably think I should be embarrassed to talk with the LORD about such trivial things as ball games: I am not. I talk to HIM about everything. There are worse things than being an Alabama fan such as gossip, slander, a critical judgmental spirit, greed and on and on but I just felt it was time for me to move on and from. Yesterday moring, I woke up giving thanks. All Alabama fans have more to be thankful for than we do to regret. Think about all the Teams that have never made it to a final four, or a National Championship. Why can’t I celebrate what the LORD has already done? That’s it, I can. I know everything is not perfect in your life but you can still be thankfull.


There is a man in this church who will remain nameless that was helping me a few years ago. He was giving me his time and his undivided attention. Later that week, I found out what was going on at his house. He was dealing with a problem that made mine look like a scratch. I went an appologized. I reprimanded him, “You should not have been helping me, you have problems of your own.” He shook it off with a grin. This is the kind of attitude that we need. We need a GRATEFUL HEART, a THANKFUL SPIRIT. If our heart is filled with gratitude to the LORD, our attitude will be POSITIVE.

II. WE NEED CONFIDENCE WHICH MEANS WE NEED A QUIET TIME

{David was not a perfect man but he was a praying man}
3 As soon as I pray, you answer me; you encourage me by giving me strength.
David was a great leader because he had a positive attitude and a bold confidence. Where did these two strengths come from? David tells us in verse 3, his strength came from the LORD. As he relates later in the Psalm, “It was the power of God’s right hand that saved him.” {v.7}
Early into Jesus ministry, His disciples associated His strength with His quiet time. This was made obvious when they came to him and said, “LORD, teach us to pray.” Note, they did not say, “LORD, teach us to preach, to heal, to cast out demons, etc.” They ask Him to teach them the art of prayer because they associated His power with His prayer life. There was one black man in my seminary class. He was a tall, dignified, astute and gracious man. He peached one night at the Seminary chapel and he preached on prayer. He said one thing I have never forgotten–“Where there is much prayer, there is much power, where there is little prayer, there is little power.” The reason I have seen so little power in my life and ministry is that I have done so little praying.
Folks, I need my quiet time. I need it as much as I need a place to sleep or something to eat. I go to bed at night thinking about my QT the next morning. My confidence and strength does not come from within me, nor do I draw from my experience, althought that helps. THE LORD IS MY STRENGTH AND MY SALVATION. He is the bubbling spring that I drink from.
David could not have accomplished what he did without confidence. A leader must have confidence. If you lose your confidence, it is over. David was surrounded by enemies. The Jebusites still lived in the land along with six other nations, most of them Canaanites in orgin. These people did not want a united kingdom, a strong Israel. They wanted a divided and weak kingdom so they could do as they pleased.
We too are surrounded by enemies, the world, the flesh and Satan. His goal is to destroy our confidence and he was use whomever is available to do the job. All God’s servants have to be wise as serpents. The serpent’s enemy is mankind: 99% of the people you met hate snakes and the other 1% are devil worshippers {just kidding}. Snakes are still around in abundance because they know how and when to stay out of sight. They have mastered the art of hiding.
Criticism is like the ice that builds up on the wing of a plane: if you don’t do something about it, learn to defrost or deflect it, it will bring you down. Your wings are your confidence: when the devil is able to destroy your confidence, your flight is over, you are coming down. This is exactly what he did to Elijah. He used Jezebel to accomplish his mission. Elijah got so discouraged that he quit. His only assignement after the Jezebel fiasco was to find and anoint his replacement. NO ONE CAN AFFORD TO LOSE THEIR CONFIDENCE and the LORD is the source of our strength and our confidence.

III. WE ALL NEED HOPE 

{We need the ability to look beyond our present circumstances}
4 Every king in all the earth will thank you, LORD, for all of them will hear your words. 
5 Yes, they will sing about the LORD ’s ways, for the glory of the LORD is very great. 

David lived among pagans. They worshipped idols and idols were everywhere. Idols were repulsive to David, He knew that God deserves all the worship and praise. Although God was not being praised by other kings in David’s day, David was able to look beyong his present circumstances to a day when all kings would praise God. As we look back over history, we learn that since David’s time, there have been fewer and fewer pagan kings. This move away from pagan worship has been accelarated since the Reformation. Most of Europe’s kings have been Christians, as least in name. But there is coming a time when every king will give God glory.

IV. WE NEED ASSURANCE

6 Though the LORD is great, He cares for the humble, but he keeps his distance from the proud. 
Though I am surrounded by troubles, You will protect me from the anger of my enemies. You reach out your hand, and the power of your right hand {Jesus} saves me
8 The LORD will work out His plans for my life— for your faithful love, O LORD, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for you made me.


I love CHRISTMAS and I wanted to preach a Christmas message but to this point the LORD has not given me a new one. But meditating on the verses above brought the incarnation to mind.
  • David is right: THE LORD IS GREAT, infinitely great, greater than any of us or all of us together can imagine. You could put every great intellects in the world along with all the great scupturers and they would not be able to make a image in God’s likeness or anything close. God is transcendent, like the Stars but moreso. There is an infinite gap between who He is and who we are. The earth itself is but a speck to God which would make us a microspeck, yet….
  • GOD REACHED OUT HIS HAND. He sent His son, born by Mary. The Word became flesh and pitched His tent among us. Wow! The incarnation blows my mind…God becoming one of us to save us from our sin and the destruction that come with our sin.
  • THE POWER OF HIS RIGHT HAND SAVED ME. Who is seated at God’s right hand? Psalm 110:1….”The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.” Peter repeated mentioned the fact that Jesus is now seated at the right hand of the father seven times[Acts 2:25,33,34; Acts 3:7, 5:31, 7:55,56]. Paul said in Romans 8…Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Jesus has interceded in our behalf…He has taken a position between us and hell and He is the only one capable of keeping us safe and secure.
  • THE LORD WILL WORK OUT HIS PLANS…and He has a plan for your life. Jeremiah 29:11 comes to mind, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” David Livingston the great missionary believed in the PLAN, he said, “I am immortal until the will of God for me is accomplished.” We need this same assurance; it would relieve us of a lot of useless anxiety.

CONCLUSION

To wrap it up: we need, desperately need:

  1. A Grateful Attitude
  2. A Strong Confidence
  3. A Vibrant Hope
  4. A Bold Assurance

God can give us these things, if we humbly asked. The greatest miracle, other than our atonement just may be prayer.

The Plant, The Worm and The Wind

SCRIPTURE: Jonah 4:1-10, NLT

1 This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry
2 So he complained to the LORD about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, LORD? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love {unrelenting, unconditional}. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. 
3 Just kill me now, LORD ! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.” 
4 The LORD replied, “Is it right for you to be angry about this?” 
5 Then Jonah went out to the east side of the city and made a shelter to sit under as he waited to see what would happen to the city. 
6 And the LORD God arranged for a leafy plant to grow there, and soon it spread its broad leaves over Jonah’s head, shading him from the sun. This eased his discomfort, and Jonah was very grateful for the plant. 
But God also arranged for a worm! The next morning at dawn the worm ate through the stem of the plant so that it withered away. 
And as the sun grew hot, God arranged for a scorching east wind to blow on Jonah. The sun beat down on his head until he grew faint and wished to die. “Death is certainly better than living like this!” he exclaimed. 
9 Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died?” “Yes,” Jonah retorted, “even angry enough to die!” 
10 Then the LORD said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly.
11 But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”

INTRODUCTION

As we come to the close of our study in Jonah, there is so much I want to say but out of respect for you and the blessed Holy Spirit, I will discipline myself to share what I feel is most important.
  • Jonah is indeed a flawed character which reminds us that God can use whomever He pleases, however He pleases and whenever He pleases. The book reminds us that the MESSAGE is greater than the messenger.
  • The book of Jonah is about God’s redemptive mission to save the world.
  • The book of Jonah affirms God’s sovereign control over His creation. God is in absolute control of every element and every creature: He hurled the storm, He directed the fish, He caused the plant to spring up, He sent the worm to kill the plant, He sent the wind to bring discomfort to the rebellious prophet. God is in control: there is no need to panic. His KINGDOM will come. His will is going to be done.
  • Warren Wiersbe points out some interesting contrast between Jonah and Jesus
    • Jonah was willing to die for his sin–Jesus was willing to die for yours and mine
    • Jonah ministry was to one city–Jesus ministry is to the entire world
    • Jonah’s obeyed reluctantly because he feared God–Jesus obeyed willingly because He loved the Father.
    • Jonah did not love people–Jesus loved the world and died for sinners
    • Jonah waited outside the city and prayed for his enemies damnation–Jesus died on a cross outside the city and prayed for God to forgive His enemies.
  • In the book of Jonah, God has the first and last word.

TRANSITION: TONIGHT WE WANT TO LOOK AT THREE THINGS….

I. FIRST: JONAH’S ATTITUDE

This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry
2 So he complained to the LORD about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, LORD? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love {unrelenting, unconditional}. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. 
3 Just kill me now, LORD ! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.” 
4 The LORD replied, “Is it right for you to be angry about this?” 


Jonah is angry: anger is the emotion we fell when our expectation for justice is not met. Jonah believed that God was in error. He should not have forgiven the Ninevites because they deserved judgment.


James 1:19-20– Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angryHuman anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.


There is a good anger and a bad anger but most of the time our anger is not good. There is a thing called righteous indignation [Jesus in John 2]. Paul told the Ephesians, “Be angry and sin not.” Matthew Henry said, “The only way to be angry and not sin is to be angry at sin.”


Jesus got angry when He saw others being treated unjustly but Jonah anger is personal: he feels that he is the victim of the injustice. It is the anger that arises when we don’t get our way. Jonah is mad because God doesn’t agree with him and did not cooperate with him to carry out his will.


Anger is the frustration of not getting the desired results that we wanted.


Anger is a two sided coin: On one side their is rage but flip it over and you find self-pity. Note what Jonah said, “I am so angry I could die.” Both rage and self-pity are disparaging, they diminish and depreciate us. Rage is a gross waste of energy and nothing makes us appear smaller in the eyes of others than self-pity…poor pitiful me.


God asked Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry?”

II. JONAH’S POSTURE

5 Then Jonah went out to the east side of the city and made a shelter to sit under as he waited to see what would happen to the city. 
6 And the LORD God arranged for a leafy plant to grow there, and soon it spread its broad leaves over Jonah’s head, shading him from the sun. This eased his discomfort, and Jonah was very grateful for the plant. 

Some temptations abate as we grow older but some increase in intensity and one of those temptations that gets stronger with time is our “comfort.” We want to be comfortable. I am not an exception to the rule.


There are two things wrong with Jonah’s posture. [1] Like so many professed believers today, Jonah’s posture is passive…he is sitting and waiting.


Don’t get me wrong folks but I have very little patience with these bible study groups who want to meet and indulge their appetite with more knowledge when we are not putting into practice what we already know. If you have a bible study group that is involved in ministry, missions and evangelism, that is a horse of a different color: I applaud such. What we Baptist like to do is meat, eat, blow and go…but we go home to our recliners. We don’t go to the hurting or to the lost. The Reforms are just as guilty of taking this passive position. They want to leave everything to God. Listen folks, God expects us to do what we can. He gave us brains and spiritual gifts so that we could serve others.


[2] Jonah is not only sitting and waiting: he is engrossed in his own comfort. He had made his comfort a top priority.


A part of my doing this series out of Jonah was God prodding me to move out of mycomfort zone.


I am not comfortable with interrupting the lives of others. I have some neighbors who want to be left alone and I want to leave them alone but God is prodding me out of my comfort zone. I had a lot of anxiety over the Block Party: would the weather be permitting, would anyone show up? I finally just had to pick a time and date and say, “LORD, I can’t control weather or people so that part is up to you.”


What is God prodding you to do this week? Teach, go on a mission trip, share Christ with a co-worker or neighbor or to give sacrificially, more than you can afford.

III. JONAH’S RELATIONSHIP TO THE LORD

But God also arranged for a worm! The next morning at dawn the worm ate through the stem of the plant so that it withered away. 
And as the sun grew hot, God arranged for a scorching east wind to blow on Jonah. The sun beat down on his head until he grew faint and wished to die. “Death is certainly better than living like this!” he exclaimed. 
9 Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died?“Yes,” Jonah retorted, “even angry enough to die!” 
10 Then the LORD said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly.
11 But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”

What is the old saying, “God called me to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.” Well, God sent a worm to afflict Jonah, to destroy his comfort. There is a purpose for everything, even worms.


If God can use a worm, a plant, a fish and a rear end like Jonah, surely He can use me or you, amen!


Jonah got mad at God again: [1] First He was angry that God did not destroy Nineveh and [2] now because He allowed the worm to destroy Jonah’s shade, or comfort. This is a sermon within itself but I am going to move on for the sake of time.


Jonah fell in love with the plant. It was a 24 hour affair and he was upset when the plant died. He was not upset by the people of Nineveh dying. He cared more about the plant than he did people. It is OK to love plants and even to talk to them but they are not more important than people. How do we get our priorities so out of whack?


How is it that we get so bogged down in the mire of this temporal world that we become enslaved to it cares and passions. Think of the world as a pit of quick sand and we are in it up to our shoulders. We spend all our energy trying to survive. We have nothing left for God. I one time, we owned a huge house with a huge yard [5 arces]. I had one little riding mower. It took forever just to cut the yard. [the bigger the swing set the more bolt and nuts there are to keep tight]. Now we don’t own a house but we are freer to go and to give. [story of Wang from Ruth Graham Lotz]

CONCLUSION

Did you know that repentance is mutual: We repent and then God repents. We turn from sin and then God [because He is merciful] turns from His wrath. The book of Jonah is about mutual repentance. The Ninevites turned from their sin and violence and God turned from His wrath. 


WHAT DO YOU AND I NEED TO REPENT OF THIS WEEK, TONIGHT?

  • Is our prejudice greater than our love for people, especially those who are not like us and who threaten our way of life?
  • Are we all tied up with earthy cares, so much so that we are not free to serve God.
  • Do we need to repent of our anger and frustration and asked God to fill us with love rather than anger and resentment. {Remember, Jonah’s disobedience robbed him of the joy of leading such a great crusade}
  • How close are we to Jonah’a attitude and how close are we to Christ. Who do we resemble most?

When we decide that we want to be more like Jesus and less like Jonah, we will have REVIVAL is some form. WHY NOT TONIGHT?                                                                                                              

 

“Who Knows?”

Scripture: Jonah 3:1-10, NIV

1 Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: 
2“Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” 
3 Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it.
4 Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” 
5 The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. 
6 When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. 
7This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. 
8 But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. 
9 Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.” 
10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

INTRODUCTION

The book of Jonah is about God’s redemptive purpose in this world and that is for all men to come to know Christ. We know because of Jesus teaching, that all will not repent but it is God’s will that all have the opportunity to repent. God wants the gospel shared with the world.

In Matthew 24:14, Jesus said, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

God said to Israel through Isaiah the prophet…“I, the LORD, have called you to demonstrate my righteousness. I will take you by the hand and guard you, and I will give you to my people, Israel, as a symbol of my covenant with them. And you will be light to guide the nations.”

PROBLEM! The Jews misinterpreted their call: they did not want to share the gospel. They believed that God’s grace was for them alone. When God called Jonah to go to Nineveh, Jonah refused, he did not go because he didn’t want to.

Why do we not witness, why do we not share the gospel? [We don’t want to, we don’t have a desire to]

Jonah ran from God which you can do: You can run but you cannot hide–God sought him out and brought him to repentance via the fish. He gives Jonah a second chance.

QUESTION: Why didn’t God get someone else?

  • Jonah had the courage to do the job
  • God wanted to use the prophets experience as a part of his message
  • God loved Jonah

Warren Wiersbe, who is very good at researching the history of these events suggest… 

  1. The ‘FISH STORY’ could have very well preceded Jonah…the story got to them before Jonah did. In other words, there was an eye witness who saw the fish spit Jonah on the beach. They saw Jonah unwrapping the sea weed from his body.
  2. Jonah had lost his complexion. After being in the belly of the fish, submerged in gastric juices for three days has bleached Jonah to an albino white. He looked like a ghost.

TRANSITION: Tonight, my first point is…

I. THE MESSENGER [V. 1-3]

1 Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: 
2“Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” 
3 Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it.
  1. Jonah is a Jewish prophet Jonah son of Amittai {my truth}, the prophet from Gath-hepher. [2 Kings 14:25]
  2. Jonah means “Dove.” The Jews believed the dove was a peaceful but feeble bird. Jonah was indeed a feeble bird and it is possible that he did not like confrontation. But God knew him and he knew Jonah had what most of us lack: raw courage.
  3. Jonah was not a perfect instrument: he was imperfect, flawed, even bigoted.
  4. Jonah was not the news, he was the news boy. He was not the message, he simply delivered the message.
  5. The Ninevites never discussed Jonah, they did talk about the message.

II. THE MESSAGE [V.4]

4 Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” 

  1. “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!” Eight words in English, five in Hebrew. Can you believe it, a five word sermon. [the kind my family would love]
  2. The sign…Jesus said Jonah was a sign, a sign of what. A sign is an uncommon phenomenon. The star was a sign to the wise men but the heavens are filled with stars. The star they saw was uncommon. Jonah was not common. Can you imagine how stunned the Ninevites were when they seen an albino Jew walking down main street.
  3. Message was from God. It was not Jonah’s message.
  4. Paul said, For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power [dü’-nä-mēs] of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.

III. THE MESSAGE BELIEVED [v.5]

[v.5] The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. 

  1. Note: the Ninevites did not believe in Jonah, they believed in God.
  2. The Ninevites believed across the board from the greatest to the least.
  3. Jonah could not reach the entire city but his message was shared, it swept through this huge city like wild fire. [huge city, three days just to walk through it]
  4. Their faith lead to repentance, put on sackcloth. Repentance is a change of mind–they changed their minds about God, about sin, about life.

IV. THE MESSAGE OBEYED [v.6-8]

6 When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. 
This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. 
8 But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. 
  1. The King stepped down from his throne and sat in ashes and dust.
  2. He issued a proclamation: fast and pray.
  3. Let everyone give us their evil way and their violence. No testimony greater than a changed life.

CONCLUSION

Look at verse 9, “Who knows.” Will God send a great REVIVAL in three weeks…WHO KNOWS?  I do know that God is sovereign and He can move upon people by the power of His Spirit. I pray for the Ruach to sweep across this land, convicting us of sin, stirring us to pray and to repent like the Ninevites.

2 Chronicles 7:14…Recipe

If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

My pastor use to refer to this verse as the Recipe for Revival but technically, there is no such thing. We cannot work a revival up and we cannot pray one down. God and only God, can send REVIVAL….

BUT

When God’s Spirit moves, He will move us to pray. Before every revival in history, people got a burden to pray. You see this here in Jonah. Every revival in history has also been accompanied by the preaching of the word…which you have here.

WHAT IS GOD DOING IN AMERICA TODAY?

He is at work. I’m not saying “I personally know what He is doing,” but He is at work. Did you hear the President’s speech last Friday. Be honest, did you ever think that we would hear that kind of speech from the president?

I’m with the King of Nineveh, “Who Knows” what God will do?

Just remember this: He is a CREATOR, not a DUPLICATOR…Our awesome God seldom does the same thing twice.

  • Only one Garden of Eden
  • Only one Flood
  • Only one Red Sea
  • Only one Calvary
  • Only one Pentecost
  • Only one Revival like Nineveh

So, I am not praying for another Pentecost: I am asking God to do something fresh. I’m just longing for Him to move among us and stir us, to give us a burden to pray and to give us the spirit of repentance because I don’t see either.

Do you have a burden to pray? [I will gladly meet with you]

Do you have a spirit of Repentance?

The Perfect Storm

Scripture: Jonah 1:1-16

1 The LORD gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai {my truth}: 
2 Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.” 
3 But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the LORD . He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the LORD by sailing to Tarshish. 
4 But the LORD hurled a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to break the ship apart. 
5 Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship. But all this time Jonah was sound asleep down in the hold. 
6 So the captain went down after him. “How can you sleep at a time like this?” he shouted. “Get up and pray to your god! Maybe he will pay attention to us and spare our lives.”
7 Then the crew cast lots to see which of them had offended the gods and caused the terrible storm. When they did this, the lots identified Jonah as the culprit. 
8 “Why has this awful storm come down on us?” they demanded. “Who are you? What is your line of work? What country are you from? What is your nationality?” 
9Jonah answered, “I am a Hebrew, and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.” 
10 The sailors were terrified when they heard this, for he had already told them he was running away from the LORD . “Oh, why did you do it?” they groaned.
11 And since the storm was getting worse all the time, they asked him, “What should we do to you to stop this storm?” 
12 “Throw me into the sea,” Jonah said, “and it will become calm again. I know that this terrible storm is all my fault.” 
13 Instead, the sailors rowed even harder to get the ship to the land. But the stormy sea was too violent for them, and they couldn’t make it. 
14 Then they cried out to the LORD, Jonah’s God. “O LORD,” they pleaded, “don’t make us die for this man’s sin. And don’t hold us responsible for his death. O LORD, you have sent this storm upon him for your own good reasons.” 
15 Then the sailors picked Jonah up and threw him into the raging sea, and the storm stopped at once! 
16 The sailors were awestruck by the LORD ’s great power, and they offered him a sacrifice and vowed to serve him. 

INTRODUCTION

Jonah was a character to say the least: He was certainly different.
  • Jonah is one of the most popular books in the bible. Practically everyone loves the book of Jonah and there is a reason: Jonah had a bad attitude. He is a unique creature who did not fear God or love people. It is easy for us to feel superior to Jonah.
  • Jonah was such a rear end that we don’t mind comparing ourselves to him. I know my attitude is not right but at least, I’m not as big of a jerk as Jonah.
  • Jonah is the only prophet not quoted in the N.T. Jesus spoke of him but did not quote him.
  • How many verses have you memorized from Jonah?
  • How many people do you know with the name Jonah?
  • Jonah is popular but for the wrong reasons. He is more of a villain than a hero. No one worships Jonah. No one idolizes this prejudiced prophet.
  • Yet God, Yahweh, used this misfit to ignite the greatest revival in human history. Unparalleled even in modern times. Jesus Himself did not see such a massive response. Billy Graham has never had a revival like Nineveh. There is only one way to explain the REVIVAL at Nineveh–God!
  • The Revival is a fact but the glory does not go to Jonah or his five word sermon that is 8 in English: “Forty days from now, Nineveh will be destroyed.”
  • I’m not professing to be better than Jonah. I am timid compared to Jonah, I don’t have his boldness or audascity.  Jonah was a ball of courage: he feared nothing. True: he hated Gentiles, especially Assyrians but he was not afraid: [1] to rebel against God [2] storm [3] Sea [4] To go to Nineveh which would be like me going to Iran and telling them that God was about to destroy them.

Today, we are going to talk about a PERFECT STORM, a storm that God hurled in Jonah’s direction. What makes this a perfect STORM? I am glad you ask..

I. IT ILLUSTRATES THE LORD’S MESSAGE

The LORD gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai {my truth}: 
2 Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.” 

Jonah’s commission was to take God’s message of judgment to Nineveh. The text of his simple sermon is…”In forty days, Nineveh will be destroyed.” There are conequences to sin…The wages of sin is death, physical and spiritual. People need to be warned concerning these consequences which ultimately is spiritual death and hell.

I was saved at age 9 and my primary motive was to escape hell. I grew up in a very conservative Christian home and attended a bible preaching church so I had heard about hell all my life and I knew for certain that I did not want to go there. As we will see in this chapter, fear is the basic instinct that drives us to God. God used a violent storm: not only to get Jonah’s attention but to bring the pagan sailors under conviction.


The sailor aboard this vessel that Jonah was on were heatherns. They believed in multiple gods. Many sailors in this part of the world believed in dagon, the Philistine fish god. When this violent storm hit, these sailors feared for their lives. They all began crying out to their gods but the storm was getting worse. Their prayers were ineffective. Had there been no storm, there would have been no fear; had there been no fear, they would not have awakened Jonah who told them about the real God. It was their fear of perishing in the storm that drove them to Jonah who told them about the One True God who hears and answers prayer.


Verse 14… Then they cried out to the LORD [YHWH], Jonah’s God. “O LORD,” they pleaded, “don’t make us die for this man’s sin. And don’t hold us responsible for his death. O LORD, you have sent this storm upon him for your own good reasons.” They are no longer praying to a idol, they are praying to the one true God.


THE FIRST TENENT OF THE GOSPEL IS JUDGMENT…ACCOUNTABILITY FOR OUR SINS

I know what you are thinking: Bro. Jack, shouldn’t we first announce that God loves them? I know where you are coming from but God told Jonah to announce JUDGMENT. It is true that God loved the wicked Ninevites and they were indeed a wicked and cruel lot. They were inhuman, savages who were not content to steal and kill, they enjoyed torturing people before finally executing them. They were the scum of the earth. You would be hard pressed to find a worse sort which is one reason Jonah despised them. Yes, God loved them and that is why he sent Jonah but there are consquences to sin and that is the A part of the gospel.

II. THE STORM REVEALS OUR HUMAN CONDTITION

The SAILORS represent the lost world…they are fearful, pagan, ignorant, and in desperate need of salvation. The words of Philip Bliss come to mind… The whole world was lost in the darkness of sin, The Light of the world is Jesus! We are living in a world that does not know Jesus. Jesus has commissioned us to get the gospel to them.


JONAH, unfortunately represents the CHURCH. Where is Jonah? He is below deck fast asleep. He is sleeping through the storm. As Matthew Henry said, “The devil has rocked him to sleep in carnal security.” Jonah is indifferent to the needs of the sailors. He knows the TRUTH but he is sleeping on it. These men are going to drown in a lost condition if Jonah doesn’t tell them the truth. The truth, apart from correct theology which Jonah has, is that Jonah doesn’t care. While the heatherns are on deck praying, Jonah is below sleeping.

The greatest problem with the gospel these days is not the message. The gospel still has power: the problem in not the content or the message, the problem is that we do not want to share it with those who need it most.  When it comes to sharing the gospel, we have cold feet and cold hearts.


Although he did not intend to, Jonah did bear witness to the sailors. He didn’t say that much but what he said was effective… “I am a Hebrew, and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.” Jonah said, I worship Yahweh, the God who made made the sea and the land. But what he said was enough. Every man on the ship was saved.

That is not much of a witness: matter of fact it is pitiful but God used it. While I was in Seminary, I pastored a very small church in East New Orleans. I was doing a follow up visit on a profession of faith and I encountered an angry mom. When I told her that her daughter had been saved, she too offense. She informed me that her daughter had been raised right and did not need saving. I saw that she was upset and I began back peddaling trying to get off her front porch but I couldn’t leave without telling this woman the truth. I told her that every person was a sinner and that we all needed salvation in Christ. Trust me, it was not a slick presentation. My mouth go dry and I struggled to find the words. I felt so bad about my presentation that I pulled over to the side of the road and cried. The next Sunday, the mom was in church sitting by her 16 year old daughter. She didn’t look happy. You can imagine my surprize when she responded on the first verse of the invitation. God had been dealing with her and she wanted to be saved. This sweet lady has been my friend now for 46 years. She is 90 years old and still lives in New Orleans.

III. THE STORM INSPIRED A PRAYER MEETING

Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help…

The sailor were shouting to their gods but they were getting no results. The captain went below to wake up Jonah…“How can you sleep at a time like this?” he shouted. “Get up and pray to your god! Maybe he will pay attention to us and spare our lives.” Is this amazing or what? A pagan sea captain is trying to wake up a preacher and get him to pray. “This is no time for a nap, get up and pray.”


I was listening to a sermon on YouTube and the preacher told of a church in Texas who was in earnest prayer about a honky-tonk that was going to open in close proxsimity to the church campus. They were praying specifically for God to intervene and stop the club from operating. Sure enough, a few days after the club opened it was struck by lightening and burned to the ground. The owner of the honky-tonk had heard about the church’s prayer meeting and he sued the church. When they got to court, the church denied having anything to do with the destruction of the honky-tonk. The judge looked at them in confusions and said, “I’m a bit puzzled…here before me is a church that says it does not believe in prayer and an owner of a honky-tonk who says he does.”

Not only do we need to believe that prayer works, we need to be praying instead of sleeping through the storm.

IV. THE STORM MANIFESTED GOD’S AWESOME POWER

You might say the theme of the book of Jonah is GOD’S AWESOME POWER…Jonah, the reluctant witness, gives a simple and very brief presentation and everyone on board is saved. How did this happen. Well, it began with prayer and that lead to confession and then Jonah shared the TRUTH and then God displayed His awesome power by calming the storm immediately. As soon as Jonah hit the water the wind died and it was calm. The sailor were speechless. They stood there in awe and amazement. They realized that Jonah was serving the only true God and they all professed faith in HIM right there on the spot.

I know you are probably thinking: this is jail house religion or boot camp religion or fox hole religion– I have no way of knowing how many of these sailors were sincere but they prayed to Yahweh the ONE true God. I have no idea what they sacrificed but had it not been acceptable, I think the scripture would tell us and they vowed to serve the LORD. I would have been thrilled just to get them praying instead of cursing.

GOD GETS ALL THE GLORY

Let me tell you what is wonderful about the book of Jonah: “God gets all the glory”. God called the prophet, God gave him the message, God sent the storm, God convicted the sailors, God transformed the sailors, God sent the fish, God showed mercy to the rebellious prophet, God got him to his location, God moved the Ninevites to repentance. God did it all. Greatest Revival in history and God did it through a rebellious, hard headed, back slidden preacher.

I am going to say something that you might find shocking: we are not going to work a revival up, I can’t preach one down nor conjure one up. None of our formula’s will work. I believe with all my heart that REVIVAL is a sovereign act of almighty God: He and He alone can ignite spiritual renewal or awakening. I do confess that history bears witness to the fact that REVIVAL is accompanied by prayer but this prayer is a part of the revival itself. The sailors prayed, the wicked Ninevites prayed but who moved them to pray? When God stirs us up to pray? Is God about to do something in our generation?  I don’t see that burden today. Prayer meeting are no longer popular.

When I see people burdened to pray, I know God is up to something.

The sobering question today is: How many of us really want REVIVAL? How many of us want to see the fire fall and burn up everything that is not like Jesus? How many of us want to see God do something that we can’t explain?

Perhaps a better question is: How many of us are willing to make a vow tonight, a vow to serve Yahweh. Tonight, I am going to challenge you to do just that: to make a public vow to serve the LORD. When I was growing up we called this a rededication, something we don’t do anymore and I think this is one reason we do not have REVIVAL

The Sailor’s prayed: the Ninevites prayed but both did more than pray. Both repented and made vows to serve the LORD. 

If We Could Visit Heaven

Scripture: Revelation 21:1-7, NLT

1 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.
2Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
3And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.
4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
5 Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”
6 And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.
7 He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.

INTRODUCTION

In November of 1986, I went with a delegation from Alabama to Nigeria, in the elbow of Africa. This nine-day visit changed my life completely. I bought a 35mm camera before departing and I took over a hundred pictures but my slides did not do Africa justice and I finally threw them in the trash. No description you can give will convey to others what you have seen with your own eyes.


How many of you have seen pictures of the grand canyon? How many of you have actually seen the grand canyon? I saw video of the Niagara Falls many times but when June and I visited the falls 1996, the sight took my breath. I stood there in awe and amazement and I tell everyone I see, “You have got to go to the falls.”


The same principle applies to heaven. I have never had a vision of heaven like John. God allowed John to stick his head through one of the portholes and take a quick glance and it changed Johns life forever.

I am sure that a visit to heaven would change us all…

I. A VISIT TO HEAVEN WOULD REASSURE OUR HEARTS THAT GOD IS ON THE THRONE

Africa was chaos, pure choas and it hasn’t changed. From what I understand, it is worse. But there is also chaos here, just not as much. In heaven, there is no chaos–there is perfect law and order because God is enthroned in every heart.

My father had a series of strokes before he departed this world. Back in 1994 he was in the hospital at Athens and I went up to see him on a Thursday night. Bill Clinton was the newly elected president and I had grown a full beard in protest. For some reason, Daddy had to explain the beard to everyone so when I walked into his semi-private room, he immediately began explaining to his room-mate why I had the beard. His room mate was black and his pastor was sitting by his bed. I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer but I knew that black people are block voters and they vote democrat no matter who is running but Daddy would not hush. I tried in vain to change the subject but he was relentless….”My boy doesn’t like Clinton and he will not shave until Clinton is out of office.” By now, I am embarrassed and looking for a hole to crawl into. The black man’s pastor rose to his feet and he stood at least 6’8″, he was a giant of a man. I thought, “Oh no, he is going to pile drive me into this concrete floor.” He walked straight to me and I am thinking, “Gee, thanks Dad, you are about to see your son executed.” He reached out with his huge arm and grabbed my head and pulled it right up to where I was facing him. My heart stopped beating, I was terrified, then he said, “Son, don’t you be worrying about Bill Clinton. He is not in charge. My LORD Jesus is on the throne.” I’m too scared to speak but I was thinking, “hallelujah.” When I got my composure, I said, “I knew that but God sent me hear tonight so that you could remind me of the fact.”

This black pastor reassured me of something I knew…Jesus is in absolute control…God is on the throne. Everything is going according to plan. There is no panic, no chaos in heaven.

II. A VISIT TO HEAVEN WOULD REKINDLE OUR CHRISTIAN JOY

I know you know a lot of Christians, do you know any happy ones. I’ve been serving church since 1970 and I can tell you, there are a lot of unhappy Baptist. A visit to heaven would cheer us up. There is no sadness in heaven and what this earth needs, what this church needs, what you need is a little heaven. There are plenty of folks who want to give us hell but very few who want to give us heaven.

Dallas Willard was a great theologian and apologist of the last century. He was promoted on May 8th, 2013. His last words were to his granddaughter, before they took him into the surgery that he did not survive, he looked at Larissa and said, “Give them heaven.”

Many, many years ago I heard George W. Truett tell the story of John D. Rockefeller’s grandsons. Their grand dad went to work for 50 cents a day back in 1855 as a book-keeper in Cleveland, Ohio. But by the turn of the century, he would be the richest man in America, worth over 300 billion dollars. John D. Senior was raised poor and his parents talk him the value of hard work, honesty and prudence. John D. Rockefeller hated waste and that was the key to his success. Long story short, he didn’t want his grandsons corrupted by inherited wealth so he sent them to the iron orchards of Oklahoma where they had to work on oil rigs. He made them hire on under pseudonymous names and they had to work at entry-level jobs but the boys had a blast. They sang, cut up, joked and even whistled as they worked. It was irritating to others who hated the dirty gruesome job. Finally, one of the foremen, complained to the boss–“What with these kids, they have a good time, they enjoy this hard and grimy work, they even sing while they work. The boss, who knew the truth said, “You would be singing to if you knew that one day all this would belong to you.”

III. A VISIT TO HEAVE WOULD REVIVE OUR HOPE

Just this past Friday, I made a special trip to Huntsville Hospital to share the gospel with a young woman age 37. She has two children and a husband who will not work. In the last five years, she has lost both parents and battled two forms of cancer: ovarian and bladder. The treatment for the cancer has destroyed her kidneys and now she is on dialysis. She is hoping for a transplant but the chances are slim.

Week before last, I talked with a Daddy who had lost a son to suicide. The boy had medical issues, relational issues and he was head over heals in debt. He reached a point where he saw no way out and he took his own life.

I know a number of grandparents who are raising their grandchildren because their parents are on drugs. I know several who have used their life savings to rehab their children only to see the child go right back to the addiction. There are a lot of situations that seem hopeless.

Years ago, I had a friend named Charlie. Charlie was unique, he was a pistol but he had a stroke, a massive stroke. He could not talk, he could not walk, he could not feed himself. The stroke left him totally helpless. Charlies was a prodigal, he had lived on the wild side and the stroke left him with nothing. His mom wanted him to go to their family doctor and have test run and so they went. The doctor obliged them, knowing nothing could be done. After four or five days in the hospital, the doctor came to Charlie’s room and said, “Charlie, I am sorry, there is nothing I can do. There is no hope of you getting better.”

I felt so sorry for Charlie. I didn’t like the doctor telling him there was no hope. I had shared Christ with Charlie and he had affirmed his faith by gripping my hand. I went to his bedside and said, “The doctor is wrong Charlie, there is hope and that hope is in Jesus.” I began talking to Charlie about heaven.

If we could visit heaven, it would rekindle our HOPE!

IV. IF WE COULD VISIT HEAVEN, IT WOULD REASSESS OUR EARTHLY POSSESSIONS

I am sure you’ve heard the fable of the miser who converted all his wealth to gold bullion so he could take it with him when he died. The story goes that when he got to heaven was those bags of gold that St. Peter questioned him, “What in the sacks?” The old miser opens one of the sacks and Peter exclaimed: “You brought pavement, why would you bring pavement to paradise.”

We are supposed to love people and use things but we have it backwards: We love things and use people.

I know some of you are campers. You are not shocked when you pull into a camp ground and see tents or trailers, campers but what if you saw a couple drive in with a load of lumber and start building a house on a camp site? Would you say, “Wow, that is a good idea, I wish I had thought of it,” or would you think, “those people are nuts.”

For too many are trying to build a permanent home on a camp site.

V. A VISIT TO HEAVEN WOULD REAFFIRM OUR FAITH THAT SALVATION IS BY GRACE

I am running out of time so let me cut to the chase. Imagine on our visit to heaven, we interview some of the saints that are there. Lets start with Moses the Law Giver…Moses you had some unique experiences, you did some powerful things. You were God’s servant and God’s friend… Moses would then interrupt: “Jack, I am not here because of what I did for God, I am here because of what He did for me.”

Then I stop Peter, “Peter, you were one of the twelve and the leader of the church. You even died as a martyr for your faith in Christ…” but Peter would interupt…”Jack, I am not here because I died for Christ but because He died for me. Jack, I was ransomed by the precious blood of Christ, the perfect Lamb of God, without spot or blemish.”

Every testimony would be the same….JESUS…JESUS….JESUS…GRACE…GRACE…GRACE!

VI. A VISIT TO HEAVEN RELIEVE OUR ANXIETIES OF DEATH

Physical death is an illusion, at least to we humans. Remember the story of Jairus Daughter in Mark 5…

Jesus is on His way to Jarius house to heal his daughter but friends coming running up to Jairus and say, “Your daughter is dead. There’s no use troubling the Teacher now.” Jesus overheard them and said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.” When they got to the house, the profession mourners were weeping and wailing until Jesus interrupted, “What’s going here, why all this commotion and weeping. You folks act like someone died, the girl is not dead, she is sleeping.”

So the professional mourners who see death daily are convinced that the girl is dead: Jesus on the other hand is convinced that she is not dead. He said, “She is sleeping.” and He went in the house and woke her up with these simple words, “Little girl, get up!”

What we see, dread and fear is nothing more than a nap. I plan to take one this evening and I do not dread it.


Two sisters lived in Western Europe, one lived in Germany and the other in Austria. The one is Austria was sick and dying. The sister in Germany wanted to see her one last time but the only way of travel was the train and it went through a long tunnel. She was terrified of tunnels and darkness but she wanted to see her sister desperately so she booked passage. She worried about the tunnel for days before the trip began. By the time she boarded the train, she was totally exhausted but still afraid.  By God’s providence, she sat down by a younger Christian woman and she shared her fear with this Christian lady. She open her bible and began to read out of Psalms. The scripture worked like medicine and the anxious woman drifted off to sleep and slept for three or four hours. When she woke up, the first thing she ask her new-found friend was, “How much further to the tunnel?” The young woman smiled with delight, “We went through that tunnel two hours ago.” All that dread and fear and it all boiled down to a short nap.

Five Kings In A Cave

Scripture Text: Joshua 10:1-8

Adoni-zedek, king of Jerusalem, heard that Joshua had captured and completely destroyed Ai and killed its king, just as he had destroyed the town of Jericho and killed its king. He also learned that the Gibeonites had made peace with Israel and were now their allies.
2 He and his people became very afraid when they heard all this because Gibeon was a large town—as large as the royal cities and larger than Ai. And the Gibeonite men were strong warriors.
3 So King Adoni-zedek of Jerusalem sent messengers to several other kings: Hoham of Hebron, Piram of Jarmuth, Japhia of Lachish, and Debir of Eglon.
4 “Come and help me destroy Gibeon,” he urged them, “for they have made peace with Joshua and the people of Israel.”
5 So these five Amorite kings combined their armies for a united attack. They moved all their troops into place and attacked Gibeon.
6 The men of Gibeon quickly sent messengers to Joshua at his camp in Gilgal. “Don’t abandon your servants now!” they pleaded. “Come at once! Save us! Help us! For all the Amorite kings who live in the hill country have joined forces to attack us.”
7 So Joshua and his entire army, including his best warriors, left Gilgal and set out for Gibeon.
8 “Do not be afraid of them,” the LORD said to Joshua, “for I have given you victory over them. Not a single one of them will be able to stand up to you.”

INTRODUCTION

Five Amorite kings conspire against Joshua and Israel. They join forces to attack and destroy the people of God. The good news is: there conspiracy failed and Joshua [a type of Christ] prevailed. Understand what is going on here: the Israelites are in the land but they have to fight to keep it. It is a fact of life, although we are saved, we can still become enslaved just like the children of Israel in Egypt. It is not God’s will for us to live in bondage to sin and Satan. In Israel’s case, there bondage did not alter who they were, they were God’s chosen people but they were enslaved to Pharaoh, a type of the flesh. They were not free to worship or serve Yahweh. God working through Moses delivered them from Pharaoh and lead them into the wilderness for training but  even though that had vivid images of Pharaoh’s death in their minds, they still thought and acted like slaves. It is God’s will to deliver us from the power of sin.

Dr. James MaHoney in his book, JOURNEY INTO FULLNESS, said, “If I could teach a new convert only one truth it would be this fact; your battle with Satan is not over when you get saved, it’s just beginning.” Simply because you gave your heart to JESUS, does not mean that Satan walks away and abondons his plan to destroy your life. Whereas it is true that he cannot touch your soul, he can still wreck your life, destroy your testimony and rob you of peace and joy. Satan doesn’t spend his time with those walking in darkness, his hatred is for the children of light. He hates Jesus and he hates all those who follow Jesus.

In today’s scripture {story}, the Israelites have already won decisive victories at Jericho and Ai but the natives of the land, the Amorites are not happy with their presence. So they conspire to defeat the Israelites and re-enslave them.

The five kings represent the stronghold of the flesh that rear their ugly head and try to dominate us and keep us from living the victorious Christian life. Jesus said in John 10:10, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” It is not God’s will for us to live as slaves to sin and our fleshly nature. 


Let me inform you or remind you that we are in a war and it is a spiritual war. Paul said to the Ephesians 6:12…We are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

It is a spiritual war. Paul also told the Corinthians… We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. {2 Corinthians 10:3-5, NLT}

It is a spiritual war which means, we cannot see our enemy but he is there and he is real: his goal is to enslave us, destroy our testimony and disable our ability to worship God and serve others. 

Paul made it emphatically clear in Romans 6…

11 So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.
12 Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires.
13 Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God.

14 Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.


When Jesus died, He broke sins grasp on our lives so that we no longer have to serve sin or bow to the power of sin.  We should consider ourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. We cannot let sin control the way we live; we must not give in to sinful desires of the flesh. BUT these sinful desires are there embedded in our flesh and trying to destroy our peace and joy. The presence of sin in our flesh and the world creates a struggle, a war, a spiritual war. As surely as Joshua and the Israelites were in a war, you and I are in a war.
These five kings are symbolic of the POWERS OF THE FLESH that conspire together to enslave and destroy us.

I. THE FIRST KING IS PRIDE

The first king is Adoni-zedek {At-a-knee-sedek}. Adoni means LORD and sedek means rightousness. Together, they mean “Lord of Righteousness”. This king was neither LORD nor righteous but he thought he was. He was not filled with righteousness, he was filled with himself…he was reeking with pride.

Pride is the mother of all sins. There is no sin without pride. Pride turned Lucifer into a demon. Pride is no respector of people. It tempts the good as well as the evil. There is no greater pride than to glory in our morality or accomplishments. Right in the middle of PRIDE is the unbended, stiff necked I [ego].

The following is a list of prideful features: only the Holy Spirit can help us see this inordinate pride that lurks in the shadows of our life: as I list them, examine yourself in the very presence of God. Are you ever conscious of:

  • A secret spirit of pride—an exalted feeling in view of your success or position; because of your good training or appearance; because of your natural gifts and abilities. An important, independent spirit?
  • Love of human praise; a secret fondness to be noticed; love of supremacy, drawing attention to self in conversation; a swelling out of self when you have had success.
  • The stirrings of anger or impatience, a touchy, sensitive spirit; a disposition to resent and retaliate when disapproval of or contradicted; a desire to throw sharp, heated flings at another?
  • Self-will; a stubborn, unteachable spirit. A headstrong disposition.
  • A critical or judgmental disposition.
  • A peevish, fretful spirit; a disposition that loves to be coaxed and humored?

Since humility is the chief Christian virtue, the one upon which all ministry, evangelism and missions is carried out; it stands to reason, pride is our greatest foe. We must constantly guard against pride. Sin itself is deceptive and pride is the most subtle of them all. It can be present in our life and us not even know it. Pride is the one disease that everyone knows a man has except the man himself. It can cause the greatest to fall.

II. THE SECOND KING IS GREED

Greed, like jealously, is an unpopular sin: no one ever confesses greed. Does this mean no one is greedy? Does this mean that none of us have been enslaved by greed? You know better. The greed bug or virus lives inside every person. There is no exception.


Giving is down across the nation and across the board. The average protestant gives only $10 per Sunday, a little over 500 per year. I don’t know of anyone making less than $5,000 per year. In a recent Barna survey, 69% of protestants said they were giving less and it is reflected across the nation. Mega churches had some increase last year but the average church did not. Yet, go to an Alabama or Auburn football game and observe the money being spent.


Robby Gallaty, the author of this years January Bible Study book is a pastor in Tennessee. A church member came to him and said, “Pastor, I want to volunteer to do the sheetrock work on the new building. I cannot afford to tithe and this is my way of giving back to the church.” The wise young pastor said, “Since you have confessed that you do not tithe, do you mind if I share with you what the bible says about this subject.” Reluctantly, the man agreed and the Pastor opened his bible to Malachi 3:10…

Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!

He said the LORD is challenging you to put Him to the test, so do you have a financial problem or a faith problem? The young man thought for a few moments and then confessed, “I guess I have a faith problem.”

Attendance at our church is sporadic to say the least because on any given Sunday, we will have a dozen families on vacation. I’m not talking about their only vacation of the year, I am talking about the first of twelve. Our pastor has challenged us to commit 48 Sunday to DBC. There is no telling what we could do if we were faithful to attend and faithful to tithe. Why don’t we?

If you are not proactive, if you do not attack your greed, your greed will ultimately control your life and with it will come many sorrows.

III. THE THIRD KING IS PLEASURE [hedonism]

We as a society have gone nuts over entertainment and pleasure. We are becoming a nation of hedonist. Like Esau, we live for pleasure. I don’t have anything against sports or entertainment these things are not to be our driving passion. Like Esau, we are more focused on happiness than we are holiness. Entertainment is to be one aspect of our life but not life; it is not to be our god.


Americans spend 6% of their income on entertainment. Not bad, right. That is almost twice what we give to charitable causes. The average church member gives only $10 per week or about $500 per year. When spend far more than $500 dollars on cable TV, not to speak of internet, Nexflix, computer games and etc. We all need a little entertainment but we don’t need to be entertained all the time.

IV. THE FOURTH KING IS ADDICTION

There are a wide range of addictions; not just drugs and alcohol. Porn is addictive and so is gambling: we will get to pornography in a moment. Right now, I want to talk about a huge problem in today’s society and that is substance abuse.

In the USA, we spend 700 billion dollars a year on substance abuse: this includes loss of work and rehab. Drug abuse is epidemic; if you don’t believe me, visit our Morgan County court house and observe what is going on in our court rooms. I would venture to say, 90% of the cases are drug related.

Young people listen to me, 90% of those addicted to drugs began by smoking and drinking. There are a wide range of drugs on the streets: marijuana, heroin, Crack Cocaine, Stimulates, prescription drugs, Opiates, Cocaine, Tranquilizers, PCP {Angel Dust, anesthetic, sedatives, hallucinogens and inhalants. Yet the number one problem continues to be alchohol. Every 53 seconds, someone is killed in an alcohol related accident. One out of every three automobile accidents is alcohol related. We spend 300 billion dollars a year trying to clean up the mess that alcohol leaves behind. You can visit the FOUNDRY or any drug rehab facility you choose and you will discover that alcohol is the number one drug problem in America. You will not hear the truth on Channel 19 or from the Decatur Daily, they profit from the advertizements but Alcohol is extremely costly to the tax payer and society as a whole.

Patrich Means an expert on drug addiction said recently, “When we want something badly enough, we’ll deceive whomever we have to in order to get it.” All sin is decietful by its very nature but addiction is extremely deceitful. Those addicted always convince themselves of two lies: {1} I don’t have a problem {2} I can handle this on my own. I don’t need intervention.

Satan is a clever stratigest, he is fighting to control your mind, the way you think. He wants you to think that your situation is hopeless, you are too far gone, you cannot change. He wants to trap you in toxic shame and endless regret. If you allow him to, he will make your life a living hell. He will engulf you with guilt and shame. Guilt is related to what we do but shame is how we feel about ourself and it is toxic, it can poison your entire system.

V. THE FIFTH AND FINAL KING IS LUST

Lust like greed is prevelant yet seldom confessed. Every 98 seconds, someone is sexually assaulted in America and young people are often the victims. Pornography is rampant thanks to the internet. Porn is one click away. Some estimate that 37% of internet sites are porn related. Some estimate that there are 260 million different porn outlets on the internet. Porn is highly addictive. The two addiction I fear most are porn and gambling. I had childhood experiences with both and I know what they can do. I stay as far from them as possible.

Conclusion

You will never get victory over these kings until you follow the biblical example in Joshua 10:22-26

22 Then Joshua said, “Remove the rocks covering the opening of the cave, and bring the five kings to me. 

23 So they brought the five kings out of the cave—the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon.


[1] Bring them out of the darkness into the light


24 When they brought them out, Joshua told the commanders of his army, “Come and put your feet on the kings’ necks.” And they did as they were told.


[2] In obedience to Christ command, take authority over them


25 “Don’t ever be afraid or discouraged,” Joshua told his men. “Be strong and courageous, for the LORD is going to do this to all of your enemies.”


[3] Exercise courage…this takes guts which is why most folks try to keep their sins hidden. They lack the courage to confess, to be honest.


26 Then Joshua killed each of the five kings and impaled them on five sharpened poles, where they hung until evening.


[4] Give your sin, shame, addiction to Jesus, He will execute them for you.

Victory is accomplished by His glorious grace…verse 25 “The LORD is going to do this.” You and I will never be able to execute the powers of the flesh, we don’t have the stomach for it but Jesus does and he will carry out the execution the moment we surrender our will to Him.
A family had a little dog get hit by a car. The dog was injuried internally and could not recover. The vet told the family, the dog must be put to sleep, it is the only humane thing to do. The children began crying and the dad said, “I don’t think I can do it.” The vet said, “You don’t have to. I will do it for you but you have to give me permission. Sign this sheet paper, say good bye to your pet and walk out. I will do the rest.”

BOTTOM LINE: “Do you want to be free to worship and serve Christ? Or do you prefer to be a slave to your sin?

Irresponsible Priest

Scripture Text: Malachi 2:1-9, NLT

1 Listen, you priests—this command is for you!
2 Listen to Me and make up your minds to honor my name,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “or I will bring a terrible curse against you. I will curse even the blessings you receive. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you have not taken my warning to heart.
3 I will punish your descendants and splatter your faces with the manure from your festival sacrifices, and I will throw you on the manure pile.
4 Then at last you will know it was I who sent you this warning so that my covenant with the Levites can continue,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
5 “The purpose of my covenant with the Levites was to bring life and peace, and that is what I gave them. This required reverence from them, and they greatly revered Me and stood in awe of My name.
6 They passed on to the people the truth of the instructions they received from Me. They did not lie or cheat; they walked with Me, living good and righteous lives, and they turned many from lives of sin.
7 “The words of a priest’s lips should preserve knowledge of God, and people should go to him for instruction, for the priest is the messenger of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
8 But you priests have left God’s paths. Your instructions have caused many to stumble into sin. You have corrupted the covenant I made with the Levites,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
9 “So I have made you despised and humiliated in the eyes of all the people. For you have not obeyed me but have shown favoritism in the way you carry out my instructions.”

INTRODUCTION

Chapter two of Malachi is an indictment against irresponsible priest: they were not doing their job. They were not living up to their call. They were accursed in the Mosaic sense. Note Malachi’s words in verse 2….

Listen to Me and make up your minds to honor my name,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “or I will bring a terrible curse against you. I will curse even the blessings you receive. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you have not taken my warning to heart.

The curse Malachi is referring to is in Deuteronomy 28…

15 “But if you refuse to listen to the LORD your God and do not obey all the commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come and overwhelm you:
16 Your towns and your fields will be cursed.
17 Your fruit baskets and breadboards will be cursed.
18 Your children and your crops will be cursed. The offspring of your herds and flocks will be cursed.
19 Wherever you go and whatever you do, you will be cursed.
20“The LORD himself will send on you curses, confusion, and frustration in everything you do, until at last you are completely destroyed for doing evil and abandoning me.


The word Moses uses in Deuteronomy 28 for curse is kel·ä·lä’ and it comes from the root word kä·lal’ which is a very interesting word. It means to treat lightly, to trifle, to water down, to lightly esteem, to treat something holy as common. The priest were taking worship too lightly, they were taking their responsibilities too lightly, they were trifling with holy things and in so doing, they were dishonoring God’s name.

Dr. Page Kelly, whom Joe David knows personally, wrote the Broadman Laymen Commentary on Malachi: Dr. Kelly says: “Humanity’s highest duty is to hallow God’s name.” Needless to say, these levitical priest were not treating God’s name with reverence and respect.

I imagine someone in the congregation today is asking this question–“What does the irresponsible Levitical priest have to do with me, I am not a priest.” My answer would be, yes you are. If you are saved and under the blood–Jesus Christ has made you a priest….

I Peter 2:9

 But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.


Jesus has changed everything. The Levitical priesthood is history, passe, they don’t exist anymore but Jesus transformed the Levitical Priest into Royal Priest. Every believer is a priest but we do not go back to Levi, we go back to Christ our High Priest. We do not serve a patriarch, we serve the King of kings, thus we are Royal Priest.

The GOOD NEWS is– Jesus made us priest and we have all the privileges of a priest. Actually we have much more than the Levitical Priest: we can approach the throne of grace any time day or night. BUT the BAD NEWS is–we also have all the responsibilities of a priest. About now, you are thinking, “Oh no, I thought he was going to be preaching to himself.”


In verses 8-9, Malachi levels five complaints against the priest. Let’s look at those and then draw some parallels.

8 But you priests have left God’s paths. Your instructions have caused many to stumble into sin. You have corrupted the covenant I made with the Levites,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
9 “So I have made you despised and humiliated in the eyes of all the people. For you have not obeyed me but have shown favoritism in the way you carry out my instructions.”
  1. They had strayed from the path. The ESV reads, “You have turned aside from the way.” [The way being God’s way] When we turn aside from His way, we turn to our way.
  2. They had become a stumbling block–They caused man to stumble into sin.
  3. They had corrupted the Levitical Covenant by violating it. They were not living up to their call.
  4. They had not obeyed the LORD.
  5. They were showing favoritism.

One other thing before we get to the heart of the message….What are the inherent responsibilities of the priest? They are listed in verses 5-7…

5 “The purpose of my covenant with the Levites was to bring life and peace, and that is what I gave them. This required reverence from them, and they greatly revered Me and stood in awe of My name.
6 They passed on to the people the truth of the instructions they received from Me. They did not lie or cheat; they walked with Me, living good and righteous lives, and they turned many from lives of sin.
7 “The words of a priest’s lips should preserve knowledge of God, and people should go to him for instruction, for the priest is the messenger of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
  1. They were to convey life and peace.
  2. They were to reverence and stand in awe of God’s name.
  3. They were to pass on God’s instructions.
  4. They were to live lives of integrity [no lying or cheating]
  5. They were to walk with the LORD.
  6. They were to embrace right and turn away from sin.
  7. They were to turn others from sin.
  8. They were to preserve the knowledge of God before the people.
  9. They were to be people you could go to for help and instruction.
  10. They were to be God’s messengers.

I am going to simplify things for you: our basic responsibility as PRIEST are two-fold: [1] We stand before God in behalf of men [2] We stand before men in behalf of God. The first responsibility has to do with prayer and worship and the second involves our witness and ministry.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, let me ask you some questions:

  1. Are you walking daily with the LORD. Are you on His path or your path?
  2. Are you faithful in your ministry to HIM. {standing before him in prayer}
  3. Have you become a stumbling block. People are watching you and me. Who do we need to apologize to today? {Because we’ve been a bad example}
  4. Are we living up to the responsibility of our calling, or are we shirking our responsibilities as a PRIEST?
  5. Are we obedient? Will you be willing to OBEY God during the next five minutes?
  6. Are we loving our neighbor as we love our self… we cannot be instruments of life and peace unless we love each other and treat each other fairly.

    I close with a story to illustrate the point:

In the book, “A Promise Kept”, is the story of Robertson McQuilkin, a former missionary and seminary president who gave up his post because his wife Muriel had Alzheimer’s disease. He dedicated himself full-time for as long as the Lord deemed necessary to take care of his wife. He wrote of traveling with his her:

Once our flight was delayed in Atlanta and we had to wait a couple of hours. Now that’s a challenge. Every few minutes we’d take a fast-paced walk down the terminal in earnest search of what? Muriel had always been a speed walker. I had to jog to keep up with her.

An attractive woman executive type sat across from us, working diligently on her computer. Once when we returned from an excursion she said something without looking up from her papers. Since no one else was nearby I assumed she had spoken to me, or at least mumbled in protest for our constant activity. “Pardon?” I asked. “Oh,” she said, “I was just asking myself, ‘Will I ever find a man to love me like that?'”

McQuilkin turned to the woman and said, “Oh yes, you can find a man like that. You can find a man like that, because I’ve found a man like that. The only reason I love my wife the way you see me loving her is because the man Jesus first loved me. The only resources I have to draw upon to love my wife the way I do are the resources He gives me. Mirrored in my relationship here with my wife you can see the faithful love of God for me.”


We share life and peace in our love and ministry to others: it is the strongest aspect of our witness. May God help us to be responsible priest who share life and peace with others.

The Bottom Line

Scripture Text: Malachi 1:6-11, NLT

6 The LORD of Heaven’s Armies says to the priests: “A son honors his father, and a servant respects his master. If I am your father and master, where are the honor and respect I deserve? You have shown contempt for my name! “But you ask, ‘How have we ever shown contempt for your name?’
7 “You have shown contempt by offering defiled sacrifices on my altar. “Then you ask, ‘How have we defiled the sacrifices? ’ “You defile them by saying the altar of the LORD deserves no respect.
8 When you give blind animals as sacrifices, isn’t that wrong? And isn’t it wrong to offer animals that are crippled and diseased? Try giving gifts like that to your governor, and see how pleased he is!” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
9 “Go ahead, beg God to be merciful to you! But when you bring that kind of offering, why should He show you any favor at all?” asks the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
10 “How I wish one of you would shut the Temple doors so that these worthless sacrifices could not be offered! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “and I will not accept your offerings.

11 But my name is honored by people of other nations from morning till night. All around the world they offer sweet incense and pure offerings in honor of my name. For my name is great among the nations,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.


INTRODUCTION

A little background is necessary for understanding the message tonight. Malachi was speaking to the post-exilic Jews. These are the Jews who spent 70 years in Babylon and now they have been back in the home land for about 80 years. When they returned, they expected some hard times. The infrastructure of the country had been destroyed. The land was occupied by several ethnic groups and none of them like Jews. Plus they are forced to pay high taxes to Persia and their is oppression going on within the Jewish community. The rich Jews were taking advantage of the poor. 


I had someone say to me a few weeks back, “One thing about it, the Jews look out for each other.” I gently corrected him: nothing could be further from the truth. The Jews are notorious for taking advantage of each other. Read the book of Nehemiah if you want proof or do a study of the Temple activity during the time of Christ. It was a corrupt money making scheme that profited wealthy Jews like Annas and Caiaphas. There have always been poor Jews. Even today, there are poor Jews, many of them in Eastern Europe and there are middle class Jews. It is a small minority who are extremely rich and when I say extreme, I mean extreme. This very small group of Jews control the gold in the world today. They owe all nine banks in the Federal Reserve system.


So what we have is a group of Jews who are disillusioned and disappointed. They thought things would improve with time but they were actually getting worse. They were focused on their circumstances {which we are prone to do} and they were blaming God. The fact that they blamed God for their circumstances lead them to have a “Bad Attitude.”


It is hard, if not impossible to isolate a bad attitude. It affects everything we do and say. It permeates our entire life. It affects relationships. A bad attitude can destroy a marriage, a family or a church. We will save that discussion for a later date: tonight we want to talk about how their BAD ATTITUDE affected their worship.


You cannot have a bad attitude and good worship. Our attitude has everything to do with our worship. Before God accepts an offering, He examines the heart. Motive is everything.


That is my sermon tonight: a bad attitude destroys worship but we are going to do two more things {LORD willing} before we go: [1] Look at the example in Malachi and [2] Tell you a life story that illustrates the same problem.


How do we know the Jews had a bad attitude? We look at their offerings. You can tell everything you need to know about a person by looking at what they give to God.

7 “You have shown contempt by offering defiled sacrifices on my altar. “Then you ask, ‘How have we defiled the sacrifices? ’ “You defile them by saying the altar of the LORD deserves no respect.
8 When you give blind animals as sacrifices, isn’t that wrong? And isn’t it wrong to offer animals that are crippled and diseased? Try giving gifts like that to your governor, and see how pleased he is!” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
9 “Go ahead, beg God to be merciful to you! But when you bring that kind of offering, why should He show you any favor at all?” asks the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.

10 “How I wish one of you would shut the Temple doors so that these worthless sacrifices could not be offered! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “and I will not accept your offerings.


As you can see, the Jews were bringing God contemptible offerings. They were bringing blind, cripple and diseased animals. With the diseased animals came a defiled or unclean sacrificial meal which was a part of their worship.


Years ago, some 25 years or so, back when most of our furniture was early attic, it came out of someone’s attic, a man called me and invited me to his home, a new home. He said he knew that I had mentioned using used furniture and he had some if I wanted it. I assumed it was stuff in good condition. I admit that most of our furniture at that time was used. We either bought it second hand or someone gave it to us. But it wasn’t ratty, you could see the springs in the couch. When I got to his house, he was gone, {how convenient} so one of his daughters took me to the garage and showed me the furniture. I was shocked. You could see the springs in the couch. Everything there was a piece of junk and ready for the dump. I was embarrassed because his daughter must have noticed the shock on my face and I lost it. I said, “You tell your dad, he can get someone else to dispose of his junk, I am not interested.” There is a long story behind this story but I’ll save it for another day. My question is: would you offer junk to your preacher? Would you want to insult the man who had feed you spiritually. I baptized his wife and two of his daughters. I visited his parents and grandparents up until their death.

Would you give your pastor a shoddy, worthless gift, something you would not have in your house. Malachi ask the Jews if they would give their sick animals to their governor?Of course not! My question is why?

The answer is obvious: they had more respect for their governor than they did for God. The bad attitude comes from a lack of respect and without deep reverential respect, there is no worship. This is why the LORD says in verse 10…“How I wish one of you would shut the Temple doors so that these worthless sacrifices could not be offered!


But I want you to look at the next line, this is the BOTTOM LINE…10 “How I wish one of you would shut the Temple doors so that these worthless sacrifices could not be offered! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “and I will not accept your offerings.

Folks, if our worship is displeasing to God, we have failed and failed miserably. There is no use in our congregating and going through the motions if our aim, our goal is not to PLEASE HIM. Once again, it all boils down to respect or lack thereof.


I got a job in the 7th grade. I didn’t find the job, the job found me. A man in our church hired me to ride a 4 row planter. My job was to pull the markers and watch all the seed hoppers, to make sure the seed was dropping properly. It was a dusty job but I loved it. My employer was a big man in more ways than one. I guess he was about 6’1″ or so and weighted about 230. He was the Tax Assessor at the time and we didn’t see him much. I worked with his dad and his two sons. The oldest son was our supervisor. I worked for him throughout my school years and loved every minute. Not one time did I ever talk back to him or even speak in a disrespectful tone. The only bad thing about this story is that it reveals my sin. Mr. James was a respected man in the community: everyone thought highly of him and that included me. I don’t know what it was about him, but I wanted to please him. When he talked, I listened. When he gave a command, I obeyed.


What’s strange about the story is such behavior was out of character for me. I didn’t listen to my dad. When he gave me a command, I argued. What’s worse, he allowed me to argue. It brings me emotional pain to be honest with you and it has taken years for me to be honest with myself. The difference was in the matter of respect: I had great respect for Mr. James and very little for my own daddy. I am not saying this is a good thing, I am just saying this is the way it was. You might say I feared Mr. James but not daddy. It was not a cringing fear. I was never afraid that Mr. James would hurt me or abuse me but never the less, I didn’t take any chances. I didn’t want to give him a reason to take a limb to me. I wanted to please him. I worked hard to please him.


THIS IS THE BOTTOM LINE

Our bad attitude, our pitiful and self-centered worship all stems from a lack of respect. We do not fear God. Our greatest aim is not to please HIM and it should be. Give me a penny for your thoughts: what were you thinking when you walked in here tonight? Did any thought of pleasing God cross your mind?