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Daily Devotion November 2020
Good morning. Give thanks to the LORD; for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/1QE0IzebclQ
Complete the Verse & Name the Book: But Peter and the apostles answered and said, “We must obey God . . . (completion at the end)
Yesterday, Pastor Michael’s text for his sermon “Signs and the Son of Man” was Matthew 24:1-35. COVID has a lot of people thinking about end times. Thinking about end times is nothing new; the disciples asked Jesus about end times.
“As Jesus was leaving the Temple grounds, his disciples pointed out to him the various Temple buildings.” (verse 1)
The disciples were looking at the Temple with eyes of tourists because they didn’t get to visit Jerusalem often. The Temple was made of marble, and a lot of it was overlayed with gold. It was the dominant structure in Jerusalem. With the sun hitting it, it looked brilliant. Some of the foundation stones of granite or marble were 40 feet long and weighed 100 tons. The porches were held up by 37.5 feet pillars with a circumference so large it would take three with arms extended to be able to reach around a single pillar.
This statement would be inconceivable to the disciples. There was a Jewish apocalyptic belief that said at the end of the world, when the Messiah would come, there would be great destruction on the earth, and the only building left standing would be the Temple. They viewed the Temple as being indestructible—it was the house of God.
”Later, Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives. His disciples came to him privately and said, “Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will signal your return and the end of the world?” (verse 3)
The disciples know that the destruction of the Temple would take a catastrophic event. They want to know when this event would take place. They are also asking Jesus when he is going to return to the earth.
Through all the ages we have had end times speculation. Much has been said about the chain of events that will lead to the end of the world and the return of Christ. All predictions that have set dates have turned out to be false. Jesus never intended us to set dates. This goes against his words.
Jesus told them, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many.” (verses 4-5)
Jesus is saying to watch out for imposters. Many will tell how one event relates to another event and how the events relate to the end of the world. Knowledge of end times will be claimed in Jesus’s name. Jesus doesn’t want his disciples falling for those falsehoods. We are to be on our guard and not believe everything we read or hear no matter who is writing or saying it.
The topic of end times leads to a lot of hysteria and hype. We might hear, “COVID is all part of the end times. The end of the world is near!” When we think the sky is falling, we stop thinking. Jesus is saying, “Think! Be on your guard! Pay attention! There’s going to be lots of deception.”
The only way there will be peace on earth is with the second return of Jesus. Therefore, we can expect there to be wars. Wars are just one of the signs that the end of the world is coming.
“Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world. But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.” (verses 7-8)
We shouldn’t pay attention to what people say about end times; we need to pay attention to what Jesus says about end times. We are in the end times now. They began when Jesus ascended into heaven. We’ve seen war. We’ve seen famines. We’ve seen earthquakes. These are the beginning of birth pains. We are in the end times, but we don’t know where we are on God’s timeline, and it’s not for us to know. One thing we know for sure: We are closer to Christ’s return today than we were yesterday.
Birth pains involve apocalyptic language that uses symbols, word phrases, and pictures to represent something else in a general or broad manner. Women experience birth pains prior to a baby being born. At the first sign of birth pains, it doesn’t mean the baby is ready to be born right then. It just means the birthing process has started. It might even be days until the baby is born. In the same respect, when we see wars, famines, and earthquakes, we know the process that will result in the return of Christ has started.
As time goes on, more and more people will hate Christians. Those who reject Jesus will reject us. In order to save themselves, many will turn away from following Christ. Jesus said, “If you cling to your life, you will lose it, but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.” (Matthew 10:39) Some Christians will betray other Christians.
There will be less kindness, gentleness, goodness, generosity and there will be more hatred and self-centeredness. Jesus said, “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!” (Revelation 2:4) Jesus is warning us ahead of time so we won’t be the ones who let our love grow cold. These are all signs of end times.
We are saved by faith alone in Jesus. If we stick with him to the end, we will be saved.
“The day is coming when you will see what Daniel the prophet spoke about—the sacrilegious object that causes desecration standing in the Holy Place.” (Reader, pay attention!) “Then those in Judea must flee to the hills. A person out on the deck of a roof must not go down into the house to pack. A person out in the field must not return even to get a coat. How terrible it will be for pregnant women and for nursing mothers in those days. And pray that your flight will not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For there will be greater anguish than at any time since the world began. And it will never be so great again.” (verses 14-21)
What Jesus referenced concerning Daniel can be found in Daniel 9:7, 11:31, and 12:11. Apocalyptic prophecy often has a near fulfillment and a far fulfillment. The destruction of the Temple was a near fulfillment—in their generation.
In 167 BC, the abomination that causes desolation was Antiochus IV Epiphanes. He was a Roman ruler who set up an altar to Zeus in the Temple and sacrificed pigs on that altar. It was an abomination to the Israelites and he caused desolation by destroying the Temple.
There was a new Temple that King Herod built. Jesus said that Temple would be destroyed, and it was in 70 AD. The Jewish War took place in 66-70 AD when Israel rebelled against Roman rule. Rome laid siege to Jerusalem, and it was one of the worst sieges in all of history. There were 1.1 million people that died in that siege. In addition, 97,000 people were taken captive. The food ran out in Jerusalem and mothers became so desperate to survive, they ate their infants. That was truly an abomination! When the Romans broke through the walls, they took no plunder because the houses were full of dead and decaying bodies. They were stacked in rooms because there was no place to bury them. Just as prophecy concerning the destruction of the Temple was fulfilled in 167 BC, Jesus was saying it would be fulfilled again, and it was in 70 AD.
“Then if anyone tells you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah,’ or ‘There he is,’ don’t believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones. See, I have warned you about this ahead of time.” (verses 22-25)
There are going to be more and more false messiahs and false prophets as the end of time approaches. They will do magic tricks and people will see them as miraculous acts. False messiahs and false prophets will deceive many with their words and actions.
“So if someone tells you, ‘Look, the Messiah is out in the desert,’ don’t bother to go and look. Or, ‘Look, he is hiding here,’ don’t believe it! For as the lightning flashes in the east and shines to the west, so it will be when the Son of Man comes. Just as the gathering of vultures shows there is a carcass nearby, so these signs indicate that the end is near.” (verses 26-28)
People will know when the Messiah comes back. Jesus will come out of the clouds and be visible to everyone. His coming will not be silent or a secret.
“Immediately after the anguish of those days, the sun will be darkened, the moon will give no light, the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then at last, the sign that the Son of Man is coming will appear in the heavens, and there will be deep mourning among all the peoples of the earth. And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” (verses 29-30)
There’s a distinction between the signs of the end times and the coming of the day of the Lord. The second coming of Jesus will be with power and great glory. It will be very different from his first coming in a manger.
When Jesus comes again, you will know it because you will see him in the sky, you will hear the trumpets, you will see the angels, you will see him in power and glory, and all the believers will be gathered together. It will be an event that cannot be missed. The whole world will see him and many will mourn because those who haven’t believed in Jesus will realize he is the Messiah, but it will be too late to repent and receive him as Lord and Savior.
“Now learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branches bud and its leaves begin to sprout, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things, you can know his return is very near, right at the door.” (verses 32-33)
It’s like when a family is on a long trip together and the kids ask, “When are we going to get there?” The parent might say, “We’re very near.” What does that mean? Does it mean only five minutes more? Does it mean an hour? Does it mean five hours? The parent knows what the term means, but the kids don’t. It’s the same with the return of Jesus. God knows what near means; we do not.
Jesus did not say he was coming back in the generation of the people who were hearing him speak. He said, “this generation will not pass from the scene until all these things take place.” What things? The signs of the end times have taken place. Jesus was saying the people hearing him speak would see the signs of the end times before they passed away. Jesus didn’t say he was coming before that generation died; he said they would know he was coming by the signs they saw.
The Temple does not endure forever, but God’s words endure forever. Believe the words of God. We are in the end times. We’ve been in them for over 2,000 years. The return of Christ is imminent. Pay attention to the signs. Jesus is the Savior of the world. Believe in him today; tomorrow may be too late.
Verse Completion: . . . rather than men.” Acts 5:29 (NASB)
Good morning. Give thanks to the LORD; for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/tg551q9wt1o
Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but. . . (completion at the end)
Is a person who prays the sinner’s prayer assured they will get to heaven no matter how they live after saying the prayer? Does a person who has received Jesus into their life have a license to sin and still be okay because the blood of Jesus covers all their sins? Sometimes Scripture verses like John 10:27-30 are used to support this belief. Here are the words of Jesus:
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”
The argument someone might use is “Since no one can snatch me away from Jesus, I’m safe no matter what I do. I can sin all I want because I’m safe in the arms of Jesus.” Notice earlier what it says in this passage: My sheep listen to my voice, and they follow me. If we are listening to the voice of Jesus and following him, then we aren’t looking for opportunities to sin against him.
Let’s take a look at the message God gave to Ezekiel to give the people of Israel in Ezekiel 33:10-20:
“Son of man, give the people of Israel this message: You are saying, ‘Our sins are heavy upon us; we are wasting away! How can we survive?’ As surely as I live, says the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of wicked people. I only want them to turn from their wicked ways so they can live. Turn! Turn from your wickedness, O people of Israel! Why should you die?
“Son of man, give your people this message: The righteous behavior of righteous people will not save them if they turn to sin, nor will the wicked behavior of wicked people destroy them if they repent and turn from their sins. When I tell righteous people that they will live, but then they sin, expecting their past righteousness to save them, then none of their righteous acts will be remembered. I will destroy them for their sins. And suppose l I tell some wicked people that they will surely die, but then they turn from their sins and do what is just and right. For instance, they might give back a debtor’s security, return what they have stolen, and obey my life-giving laws, no longer doing what is evil. If they do this, then they will surely live and not die. None of their past sins will be brought up again, for they have done what is just and right, and they will surely live.
“Your people are saying, ‘The Lord isn’t doing what’s right,’ but it is they who are not doing what’s right. For again I say, when righteous people turn away from their righteous behavior and turn to evil, they will die. But if wicked people turn from their wickedness and do what is just and right, they will live. O people of Israel, you are saying, ‘The Lord isn’t doing what’s right.’ But I judge each of you according to your deeds.”
What we do matters to God. We will be judged according to our deeds. I don’t want God to find sin in my deeds. I like how Pastor Michael says to keep a short account with God. In other words, when sin enters our life (and it will), we need to repent of that sin right away. Repenting means turning 180 degrees from the way we were going. Sin was taking us one direction, but true repentance takes us in the opposite direction. We don’t repent and continue down the same path we were traveling when we sinned. When we sin, we are not listening to God’s voice and following him. We should be sorrowful for our sin, repent, and follow hard after God rather than look for another opportunity to sin.
Notice what Paul says in Romans 6:1-18:
Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.
Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.
Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. 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. 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.
Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. Thank God! Once you were slaves to sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living.
The blood of Christ does not give us a license to sin; his blood is far too costly and precious. When we become Christians, we do an “about, face” (to use a military term)—we turn to face the opposite direction we were facing. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:17:
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
We no longer crave to commit sinful acts; we crave to please Jesus—our Lord and Savior. When we sin, may we join David in praying:
Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me—now let me rejoice. Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.(Psalm 51:7-12)
A license to sin would never appeal to a disciple of Christ.
Verse Completion: . . . dwelling on it separates close friends. Proverbs 17:9 (NLT)
Good morning. Give thanks to the LORD; for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/uurY-GHKBO0
Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Submit therefore to God. Resist . . . (completion at the end)
Yesterday, Dr. Michael Wedman taught from 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 with a study “Life of God” from the Fireside Fellowship headquarters.
Jesus said, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:34-35). Unfortunately, many churches today are not defined by the love they have for one another.
In this 1 Thessalonians passage, Paul wants us to know what it means to love one another. Chapter 4 begins with the topic of sanctification: walking with God in purity, holiness, and rightness. Sanctification is having every aspect of life submitted to the control of the Holy Spirit. It involves humbling oneself before God, recognizing the lordship of Christ, and allowing the Holy Spirit to guide, direct, teach, and grow us in faith. Last week was about living the sanctified life concerning sexual relationships. This week is about living the sanctified life as we love one another:
But we don’t need to write to you about the importance of loving each other, for God himself has taught you to love one another. Indeed, you already show your love for all the believers throughout Macedonia. Even so, dear brothers and sisters, we urge you to love them even more.
Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business, and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. Then people who are not believers will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others.
Love is a huge topic in the New Testament because in our own sinful nature we don’t love each other, we love self. The love spoken of in this passage is phileo love or brotherly love; it’s the kind of love shown to the family of God. Ephesians 1:5 says: God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. Ephesians 2:19 says: So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. Galatians 6:10 says: Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.
We are to show love to those who are part of the body of Christ. We are adopted into the body of Christ, his family, when we choose to follow Christ as or Lord and Savior. We are taught by God to love each other as we walk with God, as we pray, as we gain understanding, as we get to know God more. God shapes and molds our character. We have the Holy Spirit who is with us and in us. The Holy Spirit teaches us; he guides us into all truth. He reminds us of the words of Jesus.
Sanctification is not about works. We don’t try harder to be sanctified. Sanctification involves submission to Christ. As we walk with Jesus, we become more and more like Jesus.
The brotherly love of the Thessalonians reached out to others beyond who they gathered with, beyond their neighbors, beyond Thessalonica, and even beyond Macedonia and Achaia. Our goal is to encourage other believers in Christ no matter where they are.
Growth in the Christian life never ends. It doesn’t stop because we have reached a certain age or level. We press on. When we put ourselves first, it means someone else is second, third, or last. Paul knows how easy it is in churches to allow friction to enter in. Friction can lead to conflict which leads to division, strife, complaining, yelling, and anger. Love avoids all these problems. Jesus said: “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:35).
We are to make it a goal to live a quiet life. When we set a goal, we set up a bullseye and get to work. We attempt to hit the bullseye over and over. Often we miss, but we don’t give up.
Paul taught the Thessalonians that the return of Jesus was imminent, it could happen at any time. They were living in the end times and so are we. The end times began when Jesus ascended into heaven. When a person is suffering, heaven sounds very inviting. What happened in Thessalonica was there were people who expected Jesus to return right away so they stopped working and became idle. As they became idle, they started minding other people’s business and gossip was the result.
Gossip and love don’t go together. Gossip is untruths packaged as if they’re truths. When we speak negatively about our brothers and sisters in Christ, we are not loving them. We aren’t showing affection, concern, or commitment. Gossip is destructive and deceitful. It ruins churches. It ruins relationships. A person is not a peacemaker when he stirs things up with gossip. Grumbling, complaining, and gossiping about others does not show love. Those who choose to do these negative things are not following God’s command.
We need to be encouragers to our family members, to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Oppression should come from outside the church, not inside the church.
Those who weren’t working, because they were waiting for Christ’s return, ran out of supplies and were looking to the church to give them what they needed. Paul was telling them they needed to work. In 2 Thessalonians 3:11-13 Paul said: Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and meddling in other people’s business. We command such people and urge them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and work to earn their own living. As for the rest of you, dear brothers and sisters, never get tired of doing good.
Those who don’t work don’t eat. We can’t expect the church to take care of our needs when we don’t lift a finger to take care of them ourselves. Brotherly love is not expecting others to take care of our needs. We can’t be taking advantage of the generosity of others. Disciples of Christ should never be parasites—living off of others. Paul here is addressing laziness; he not talking about people who are unable to work.
A Christian attitude does not say “I won’t work for less than $25 an hour because it’s not worth my time” and then show up at the church door asking for assistance. In Thessalonica the words “work with your hands” would have received some pushback because the Greeks believed that manual labor was below them. Paul is challenging their pride. That kind of pride does not show brotherly love. It’s not walking with Christ in uprightness, holiness, and purity. Paul is saying to be productive. Work to meet your own needs.
In America we have a retirement system. What do we do when we retire? Too often we are idle, and we get together with other idle people. The danger is the gathering together can end up in gossip and being busybodies—knowing everybody else’s business. We need to be productive in retirement. One way to do that is help out in the different ministries of the church. There is no retirement from walking with Jesus.
We are to be people who seek peace in our relationships and are productive in our relationships. We are to add to God’s Kingdom. We are to love each other so we win the respect of outsiders. We need to be walking in the new nature, and it should be evident to others. When we live a life of holiness, purity, and rightness, when we are known as a person who tells the truth, when we are known as a person who can be trusted with money, when we are known as a person who isn’t a gossiper, when we are known as a person who doesn’t fly off the handle and get angry easily, when we are known as a person who isn’t selfish, when we are known as a person who shows brotherly love, that respects others, that puts others first, that looks to the interest of others, that cares about others, that is concerned about others, that is committed to the well-being of others, then we will be more respected by others.
As Christians we want to be known for our love. God can make it happen.
Verse Completion: . . . the devil and he will free from you. James 4:7 (NASB)
Good morning. Happy Thanksgiving! Give thanks to the LORD; for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/6by5eux1rMs
Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Those who mock the poor insult their Maker; those who . . . (completion at the end)
Today, we will conclude the review of Timothy Keller’s book, The Prodigal God. It is based on the parable Jesus shared with the Pharisees and teachers of religious law in Luke 15:11-32 commonly referred to as The Prodigal Son or the Parable of the Lost Son. Primarily using quotes from the book, Chapter Seven, “The Feast of the Father,” will now be covered.
Jesus’s parable of the lost sons ends in a party-feast that represents the great festival of God at the end of history.
Jonathan Edwards said: “There is a difference between believing that God is holy and gracious, and having a new sense on the heart of the loveliness and beauty of that holiness and grace. The difference between believing that God is gracious and tasting that God is gracious is as different as having a rational belief that honey is sweet and having the actual sense of its sweetness.”
Jesus’s salvation is a feast, and therefore when we believe in and rest in his work for us, through the Holy Spirit he becomes real to our hearts. His love is like honey. His love can become more real to you than the love of anyone else. It will lift you up and free you from fear like nothing else.
The ultimate purpose of Jesus is not only individual salvation and pardon for sins but also the renewal of this world, the end of disease, poverty, injustice, violence, suffering, and death. The climax of history is not a higher form of disembodied consciousness but a feast. God made the world with all its colors, tastes, lights, sounds, with all its life-forms living in interdependent systems. It is now marred, stained, and broken, and he will not rest until he has put it right.
The inevitable sign that you know you are a sinner saved by sheer, costly grace is a sensitive social conscience and a life poured out in deeds of service to the poor. Younger brothers are too selfish and elder brothers are too self-righteous to care for the poor.
God did not create a world with blindness, leprosy, hunger, and death in it. Jesus’s miracles were signs that someday all these corruptions of his creation would be abolished. Jesus hates suffering, injustice, evil, and death so much, he came and experienced it to defeat it and, someday, to wipe the world clean of it. Knowing all this, Christians cannot be passive about hunger, sickness, and injustice.
To survive and grow, individuals must eat and drink regularly. That’s what we must do with the gospel of the grace of God. We must personally appropriate it, making it more and more central to everything we see, think, and feel. That is how we grow spiritually in wisdom, love, joy, and peace.
Religion operates on the principle of “I obey—therefore I am accepted by God.” The basic operating principle of the gospel is “I am accepted by God through the work of Jesus Christ—therefore I obey.” Believing the gospel is how a person first makes a connection to God. It gives us a new relationship with God and a new identity.
We habitually and instinctively look to other things besides God and his grace as our justification, hope, significance, and security. We believe the gospel at one level, but at deeper levels we do not. Human approval, professional success, power and influence, family and clan identity—all of these things serve as our heart’s “functional trust” rather than what Christ has done, and as a result we continue to be driven to a great degree by fear, anger, and a lack of self-control. You cannot change such things through mere willpower, through learning Biblical principles and trying to carry them out. We can only change permanently as we take the gospel more deeply into our understanding and into our hearts. We must feed on the gospel, as it were, digesting it and making it part of ourselves. That is how we grow.
Paul said, “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). Paul is taking them back to the gospel. He is saying, “Think on his costly grace—until you want to give like he did.”
The solution to stinginess is a reorientation to the generosity of Christ in the gospel, where he poured out his wealth for you. You don’t have to worry about money, for the cross proves God’s care for you and gives you all the security you need. Jesus’s love and salvation confers on you a remarkable status—one that money cannot give you.
What makes you faithful or generous is not just a redoubled effort to follow moral rules. Rather, all change comes from deepening your understanding of the salvation of Christ and living out the changes that understanding creates in your heart. Faith in the gospel restructures our motivations, our self-understanding, our identity, and our view of the world. Behavioral compliance to rules without heart-change will be superficial and fleeting.
The gospel is therefore not just the ABCs of the Christian life, but the A to Z of the Christian life. Our problems arise largely because we don’t continually return to the gospel to work it in and live it out.
Over the years I have heard many people say, “Well, if I believed that I was saved by sheer grace, not because of my good works, then I could live any way I wanted!” But this is to live as if Jesus’s parable had only the lost younger brother and not the lost older brother. God’s grace is free, yes, but it is also costly, infinitely so. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was appalled at how many in the German church capitulated to Hitler in the early 1930s, and in response he wrote his great work The Cost of Discipleship. There he warned about the dangers of what he called “cheap grace,” the teaching that stresses only that grace is free, so it doesn’t really matter how we live. The solution, he said, was not to return to legalism, but to focus on how seriously God takes sin and on how he could only save us from it at infinite cost to himself. Understanding this must and will profoundly reshape our lives. We will not be able to live in a selfish, cowardly way. We will stand up for justice and sacrifice for our neighbor. And we won’t mind the cost of following after Christ when we compare it to the price he paid to rescue us.
In Jesus’s parable of the sower, the only group of people who produce changed lives are not those who have worked harder or been more obedient, but those who “hear the word of God and understand it” (Matthew 13:23). Bonhoeffer insisted that people whose lives remained unchanged by God’s grace didn’t really understand its costliness, and therefore didn’t really understand the gospel. They had a general idea of God’s universal love, but not a real grasp of the seriousness of sin and the meaning of Christ’s work on our behalf. Martin Luther said, “We are saved by faith alone [not our works], but not by faith that remains alone.” If we truly believe and trust in the one who sacrificially served us, it changes us into people who sacrificially serve God and our neighbors. If we say “I believe in Jesus” but it doesn’t affect the way we live, we haven’t truly understood or believed in Jesus at all.
We live in a culture in which the interests and desires of the individual take precedence over those of the family, group, or community. As a result, a high percentage of people want to achieve spiritual growth without losing their independence to a church or to any organized institution.
Another reason people stay away from churches is they are filled with elder brothers. Yet staying away from them simply because they have elder brothers is just another form of self-righteousness. Besides that, there is no way you will be able to grow spiritually apart from a deep involvement in a community of other believers. You can’t live the Christian life without a band of Christian friends, without a family of believers in which you find a place.
C. S. Lewis said, “Friendship exhibits a glorious ‘nearness by resemblance’ to heaven itself where the very multitude of the blessed increases the fruition which each of us has to God. For every soul, seeing Him in her own way, doubtless communicates that unique vision to all the rest. The more we thus share the Heavenly Bread between us, the more we shall have.”
Lewis is saying that it took a community to know an individual. How much more would this be true of Jesus Christ? Christians commonly say they want a relationship with Jesus, that they want to “get to know Jesus better.” You will never be able to do that by yourself. You must be deeply involved in the church, in Christian community, with strong relationships of love and accountability. Only if you are part of a community of believers seeking to resemble, serve, and love Jesus will you ever get to know him and grow into his likeness.
Jesus’s great Parable of the Prodigal Son retells the story of the entire Bible and the story of the human race. Within the story, Jesus teaches that the two most common ways to live are both spiritual dead ends. He shows how the plotlines of our lives can only find a resolution, a happy ending, in him, in his person and work. Jesus says, “I am the Bread of Heaven.”
Jesus tells us that both the sensual way of the younger brother and the ethical way of the elder brother are spiritual dead ends. He also shows us there is another way: through him. And to enter that way and to live a life based on his salvation will bring us finally to the ultimate party and feast at the end of history. We can have a foretaste of that future salvation now: in prayer, in service to others, in the changes in our inner nature through the gospel, and through the healed relationships that Christ can give us now. But they are only a foretaste of what is to come.
Verse Completion: . . . rejoice at the misfortune of others will be punished.Proverbs 17:5 (NLT)
Good morning. The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/LQPWbSfJIz0
Complete the Verse & Name the Book: For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, . . . (completion at the end)
Today, we will continue with a review of Timothy Keller’s book, The Prodigal God. It is based on the parable Jesus shared with the Pharisees and teachers of religious law in Luke 15:11-32 commonly referred to as The Prodigal Son or the Parable of the Lost Son. Primarily using quotes from the book, Chapter Six, “Redefining Hope,” will now be covered.
There seems to be a sense in which we are all like the younger brother. We are all exiles, always longing for home. We are always traveling, never arriving. The houses and families we actually inhabit are only inns along the way, but they aren’t home. Home continues to evade us. Many of us have fond memories of times, people, and places where we felt we were truly home. However, if we ever have an opportunity to get back to the places we remember so fondly, we are usually disappointed. Home is a powerful but elusive concept. The memory of home seems to be powerfully evoked by certain sights, sounds, and even smells. But they can only arouse a desire they can’t fulfill. What we remember turns out to be itself a remembering.
Jesus has given us more than a moving account of individual redemption. He has retold the story of the whole human race, and promised nothing less than hope for the world.
In the beginning of the book of Genesis we learn the reason why all people feel like exiles, like we aren’t really home. We are told there that we were created to live in the garden of God. That was the world we were built for, a place in which there was no parting from love, no decay or disease. It was all these things, because it was life before the face of God, in his presence. There we were to adore and serve his infinite majesty, and to know, enjoy, and reflect his infinite beauty. That was our original home, the true country we were made for.
Unfortunately, we wanted to live without God’s interference, and so we turned away, and became alienated from him, and lost our home for the same reason the younger brother lost his. The result was exile. We have been wandering as spiritual exiles ever since. That is, we have been living in a world that no longer fits our deepest longings.
Though we need love that lasts, all our relationships are subject to the inevitable entropy of time, and they crumble in our hands. Even people who stay true to us die and leave us, or we die and leave them. We may work hard to re-create the home that we have lost, but, says the Bible, it only exists in the presence of the heavenly Father from which we have fled.
It is no coincidence that story after story in the Bible contains the pattern of exile. The message is that the human race is a band of exiles trying to come home. The parable of the prodigal son is about every one of us.
By the time of Jesus’s ministry, many in Israel realized that despite the return from Babylon, the nation was still in exile. Injustice and oppression, loss and affliction still dominated national life. The final homecoming had not yet happened. Many, therefore, began to pray to God for it, but they conceived of it as a national, political liberation for Israel. It was thought that the Messiah, the king who would redeem Israel, would be a figure of great military strength and political power. He would come to his people, be recognized and received by them, and then lead them on to victory.
Then Jesus appeared, and nothing about him fit their expectations. What had happened? Jesus had not come to simply deliver one nation from political oppression, but to save all of us from sin, evil, and death itself. He came to bring the human race Home. Therefore he did not come in strength but in weakness. He came and experienced the exile that we deserved. He was expelled from the presence of the Father, he was thrust into the darkness, the uttermost despair of spiritual alienation—in our place. He took upon himself the full curse of human rebellion, cosmic homelessness, so that we could be welcomed into our true home. Because Jesus paid the penalty for our sin with his death, he has achieved victory over the forces of death, decay, and disorder that keep the world from being our true home. Someday he will return to make this victory complete.
At the end of the story of the prodigal sons, there is a feast of homecoming. So too at the end of the book of Revelation, at the end of history, there is a feast, the “marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19). The Lamb is Jesus, who was sacrificed for the sins of the world so that we could be pardoned and brought home. This feast happens in the New Jerusalem, the City of God that comes down out of heaven to fill the earth (Revelation 21-22). We are told that the very presence of God is in this city, and so is, remarkably, the tree of life, whose leaves now effect “the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2). The tree of life, of course, was in the Garden of Eden. At the end of history the whole earth has become the Garden of God again. Death and decay and suffering are gone. The nations are no longer at war. “He will wipe every from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain—for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
Jesus will make the world our perfect home again. We will no longer be living “east of Eden,” always wandering and never arriving. We will come, and the Father will meet us and embrace us, and we will be brought into the feast.
Verse Completion: . . . according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 2 Corinthians 5:10 (NASB)
Good morning. The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/qipJcM5k_mI
Complete the Verse & Name the Book: We throw the dice, but . . . (completion at the end)
Pastor Del McKenzie has been speaking about “Godly Character Qualities.” So far he has covered the following: gentleness, humility, integrity, and endurance. Yesterday, he spoke about responsibility.
We have many character qualities. Some of them are positive and some of them are negative; some are godly and some are ungodly.
Responsibility is essential if we are going to be like Jesus. Jesus was responsible. In John 6:38 Jesus said, “For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will.” Right before Jesus was betrayed, arrested, and killed, he prayed, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (Matthew 26:39b) Jesus was responsible to do what he came to earth to do even to the point of death on a cross.
If we are going to live a life that has a positive influence on those around us, we need to be people who are responsible. Don’t pray to be used; pray to be useable. If we are useable, God will use us. If we are not useable, God will not use us.
When a person is responsible, they are answerable to themselves: what they think, what they do, what they say, what they feel. Responsible people don’t come up with excuses for errors made. They don’t blame others.
When a person is responsible, they are answerable to God. They recognize him as King. Paul said, “All honor and glory to God forever and ever! He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17) We are accountable to God. We need to recognize him as the King of our lives. We will give an account to him for what we do, what we say, what we choose to dwell on in our minds, our motives, and our beliefs.
When a person is responsible, they are answerable to other people: our spouse, our family, our friends, our business partner, those who work under us.
The opposite of responsibility is evasion. Evasion is part of our fallen nature. Adam blamed Eve and circumstances for his sin. He did not take responsibility for it. Our culture is full of evasive people. Winston Churchill said, “The price of greatness is responsibility.” Only those who develop responsibility become great people. Tied in with responsibility is trustworthiness, dependability, and reliability.
There is no help for the person who won’t accept responsibility—the person who makes excuses, alibis, and blames others. The irresponsible person wants others to change; they don’t want to change. They look for a scapegoat. Irresponsible people don’t want help.
Why should we desire to be responsible people?
1. To honor, glorify, and please God (see 1 Timothy 1:17 above). This should be the cry of our heart. He is King of kings, Lord of lords, and immortal.
2. To be ready to give an account to God. Philippians 2:9-11 says: Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 2 Corinthians 5:10 says: For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body. We won’t be giving an account for others; we will be giving an account for ourselves. We are free moral agents. We can make whatever choices we want, but we are responsible for those choices. The excuse, “The devil made me do it,” won’t fly. The devil may try to entice us to do evil, but we make the choice.
3. To be a quality person. An evader has a poor quality of life. Their life doesn’t count for God or eternity.
How does denying responsibility happen? It started with the fall in the Garden of Eden, and it has been passed on. Irresponsibility permeates our culture. Some people say, “I answer to no one but myself.” Some people use, “I answer to Christ,” as an evasion tactic. We do answer to Christ, but we also answer to those Christ puts in our lives. Some say, “God doesn’t expect me to be perfect,” but he does. Jesus said, “But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48) We can only be perfect through Jesus.
Some people say, “Church leadership isn’t spiritual so I don’t need to be responsible to them.” This is an example of evasion. When we enter into a relationship, we have a responsibility to that relationship.
How do we develop responsibility?
1. Determine our circle of responsibility: spouse, children, neighbors, friends. Make a list of people you are responsible for, and make a list of people you are responsible to. We are responsible to leaders, partners, God.
2. Determine our level of responsibility: primary and secondary. We are responsible to our neighbor but not to the same degree as our spouse.
3. Make a commitment to accept responsibility. Don’t make excuses. Excuses are an attempt to cancel responsibility. We need to keep our word. If we make a commitment, we need to keep it. If we tell a lie, we make a commitment to correct the lie. People should be able to count on us, to rely on our word. The world is filled with people who can’t be counted on. They never seem to come through in the clutches. They break promises and substitute alibis for promises. They show up late or not at all. They are confused, disorganized, and their lives are a maze of unfinished business. Why? Because they have never developed the character quality of responsibility.
4. We do what should be done rather than what we want to do. No one can make us do wrong.
May God enable us to be like Jesus and develop the character quality of responsibility.
Verse Completion: . . . the LORD determines how they fall. Proverbs 16:33 (NLT)
Good morning. The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/-yb0apR1isU
Complete the Verse & Name the Book: and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any . . . (completion at the end)
Yesterday, Pastor Michael shared his sermon “Hypocrisy and Judgment” based on Matthew 23:13-39. In this passage of Scripture we have a story told by Jesus about the Pharisees. There are two types of stories: comedies that end well for the main character(s) and tragedies that don’t end well for the main character(s). The Bible has both types of stories. David and Goliath is a comedy. The story of King Saul is a tragedy.
The story we find in this passage is a tragedy. It’s the last time Jesus denounces the Pharisees prior to his death. Jesus wants people to know he is the way, the truth, and the life. He wants people to know he is the Messiah. He wants people to know God in a relationship, to have forgiveness of sins, to have salvation, and to have everlasting life.
The Pharisees are the opposite of Jesus. They are hypocrites—actors, pretenders. They know about God, but they don’t know God; there’s no relationship with God. They believe acts of righteousness make them good before God. They promote legalism—following the laws. The Pharisees had it wrong. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Jesus gives seven woes in this passage. Woes are terms of judgment that include God’s wrath (see Revelation 18). In addition, when Jesus uses the word, he does it with a sense of sorrow. Jesus knows God’s wrath against the Pharisees is coming, but he’s not happy about it. When we see our children suffering the consequences of their bad choices, we are sorrowful. We wish they would have chosen to act differently. Jesus wanted the Pharisees to humble themselves. He didn’t want them or anyone else to perish. Jesus wants everyone to come to repentance.
The first woe is found in verses 13 and 14:
The Pharisees aren’t opening the door to worship God; they are shutting the door. By rejecting Jesus, the Pharisees are rejecting God. The Pharisees are doing all they can to lead people away from Jesus. They are trying to destroy Jesus.
The second woe is found in verse 15:
The Pharisees were missionaries of evil. They were winning converts to legalism. In essence, they were teaching people how to walk away from God. They led people down a road of works to earn salvation. The Pharisees don’t tell the truth, they don’t know the truth, and they don’t live the truth. They promoted deception. They promoted Satan who is the father of all lies.
The third woe is found in verses 16-22:
“Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind men! Which is greater: the gift , or the altar that makes the gift sacred? Therefore, he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. And he who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.”
The Pharisees had an elaborate set of rules for when they could keep their word and when they could lie. They were good at loopholes. Jesus called them blind guides, blind fools, and blind men. How could a blind person guide someone along a path? The Pharisees taught people how they could not keep their word and still be okay. It’s as if they taught people they could lie as long as they crossed their fingers. Instead of being models of truth, the Pharisees taught people how to lie and deceive. Jesus taught others to make sure their words meant something. Jesus said, “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one (Matthew 5:37).” Jesus taught others to have words and actions that match each other—to be people of integrity.
The fourth woe is found in verses 23-24:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”
The Pharisees taught others to give a tenth of their produce. Most people were farmers, and they were to give a tenth of their income. Tithing, giving 10%, was an opportunity to give thanks to God. It was a way to acknowledge that God was the One who made the crops grow, who sent the rain, who kept the animals healthy, who watched over my family and me. Tithing acknowledged God as the Provider of my needs.
Mint, dill, and cumin would be things grown in a personal garden. They would not be things that would be sold for a profit. The Pharisees were so “righteous” they even tithed on their mint, dill, and cumin.
Jesus agreed that a tithe should be given. It is good to acknowledge God as the Provider of our needs. It’s good to express our thanks through a tithe. However, the tithe shouldn’t be given at the expense of justice, mercy, and faithfulness. The Pharisees were deceitful, crooked, spiteful, judgmental, and treacherous. They couldn’t be trusted. They made a big deal out of tithing even their mint, dill, and cumin, and yet their hearts were wrong. They were so focused on the minute laws involved in legalism and neglected to get their hearts right with God.
The fifth woe is found in verses 25 and 26:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”
Jesus is pointing out that the Pharisees want to look good on the outside (by praying on the street corners, fasting, giving), but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. They try to impress God with their good deeds, but they are not dealing with the sin that’s in their lives.
The sixth woe is found in verses 27 and 28:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”
People who are greedy, self-indulgent, hypocritical, and wicked are not people whose hearts are right with God. They are people who say, “Look at me! Follow me! I’m important! I want power. I want position. I want prestige. I want control. Look how amazing I am!”
Jesus is saying this on Tuesday of the Passover. People are coming to Jerusalem in droves. The tombs were outside Jerusalem, so people would have to pass by them in order to enter Jerusalem. Something that would keep a person from participating in the Passover would be touching a dead body or the tomb of a dead body. If a person inadvertently leaned up against a tomb, that person would be unclean for a full week.
The Pharisees would take lime and wash the tombs prior to Passover so the tombs would be white and easy to see. Jesus was telling the Pharisees they were like the whitewashed tombs—clean on the outside but unclean on the inside. Nothing on the outside matched what was inside.
The last woe is found in verses 29-36:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!
“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation.”
Satan was called the serpent, and Jesus is calling the Pharisees snakes. Their forefathers killed the prophets, and the Pharisees are trying to kill Jesus. They are clearly no better than their forefathers. At the leadership of the Pharisees, Peter was killed, James was killed, Paul was flogged, and Stephen was stoned to death. Jesus is telling them they will be judged for what they did.
The death of Zechariah is found in 2 Chronicles 24:20-22. Chronicles was the last book of the Hebrew Old Testament. Jesus was saying that from the beginning in Genesis to the end in Chronicles, the blood of the prophets is on their hands. The Pharisees were no better than their forefathers.
The Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD, so it was about 30-35 years from the time Jesus said these words to the time when they were fulfilled.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to the desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ “ (verses 37-39)
Jesus is telling the Pharisees that the prophets were sent to them because God wanted them to know God and follow him, but they kept rejecting him. God wants people to come to salvation, receive forgiveness for their sins, and have everlasting life. The tragedy was they were not willing. Perhaps these are the saddest words in the whole Bible. God wants the world that is chained in sin to know who he is.
Jesus will return to earth to judge. Our names will either be in the Book of Life or not. Those who are willing to follow Jesus will have their names in the book. Those who reject Jesus will not have their names in the book. They will experience hell which is everlasting separation from God. Jesus doesn’t want that separation to happen. He longs for us to come to him.
Your life doesn’t have to end in a tragedy; repent and follow God. Believe in Jesus. Receive him as your Lord and Savior. We have a choice: open the door and receive Jesus or shut the door and reject him. Revelation 3:20 has the following words of Jesus: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”
Verse Completion:. . . mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.Revelation 21:4 (NASB)
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/ukF__x-Xd0E
Complete the Verses & Name the Book:
· Kind words are like honey— . . .
· There is a path before each person that seems right, but . . . (completions are at the end)
On Thursday, Dr. Michael Wedman continued Fireside Fellowship with a study of “The Holiness of God” based on 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8:
Finally, dear brothers and sisters, we urge you in the name of the Lord Jesus to live in a way that pleases God, as we have taught you. You live this way already, and we encourage you to do so even more. For you remember what we taught you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.
God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin. Then each of you will control his own body and live in holiness and honor—not in lustful passion like the pagans who do not know God and his ways. Never harm or cheat a fellow believer in this matter by violating his wife, for the Lord avenges all such sins, as we have solemnly warned you before. God has called us to live holy lives, not impure lives. Therefore, anyone who refuses to live by these rules is not disobeying human teaching but is rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.
Paul is transitioning into teaching here. He has chosen some topics to address. Perhaps he chose the topics because he observed some people struggling with these issues or he knew they would be matters they would struggle with given the culture they lived in. It’s also possible that Timothy encouraged Paul to cover these topics.
As disciples of Christ, our goal is to live lives that please God. Prior to this we lived to please ourselves. The ways of the world are different from the ways of Jesus. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” When we become disciples of Christ, we are born again. The Holy Spirit regenerates us and gives us a new nature. Titus 3:5b says, “[God] washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.” Ephesians 4:1 says, “Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.” Romans 12:1-2 says: “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
In the book of Acts we find that one of the first names for Christianity was the Way (see 9:2 and 19:9). There is a way that pleases Christ, and it’s a different path from the world. Paul knows the Thessalonians are following Christ, but he wants to help them follow Christ even more. Sometimes it’s not what we do that’s wrong, but the attitude in which we do it. Paul is urging, encouraging, and trying to convince the Thessalonians to live in a way that pleases God.
Paul knows that it’s not in our nature to press on and pursue holiness. It takes work, and sometimes we are spiritually lackadaisical. Our nature is to try and get away with what we can get away with. We tend to drift to the boundary of God’s will and hang out there rather than being in the very center of God’s will. Philippians 3:12 says: “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.” Paul doesn’t want to be satisfied with a casual Christian life. He wants to know Jesus more and more.
It is God’s will that they be sanctified. Sanctified means to be holy, to be pure, to be blameless, to be like Jesus. Sanctification involves being set apart from the old life of sin unto the new life of perfection in following God. 1 Corinthians 1:2 says: “I am writing to God’s church in Corinth, to you who have been called by God to be his own holy people. He made you holy by means of Christ Jesus, just as he did for all people everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.” We are sanctified because we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. We are given a new nature. The other part of sanctification is learning to live in the new nature. Jesus sets us apart so we can learn to walk as people set apart. 1 Corinthians 6:11 says: “Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” It’s important for us to walk in a way that is different from the world.
The first topic Paul chooses to address is sexual immorality. Why did Paul choose this topic to start with? The Thessalonians have come out of the Greek culture which is a free-thinking culture: freedom of thought, speech, gathering together, action, and love. Greek culture allowed for sex outside of marriage. God’s plan for sex involved one man and one woman in a marriage relationship.
Greek thinking looked at women as an object of sexual desire. Demosthenes, the Athenian orator, wrote: “We keep prostitutes for pleasure; we keep mistresses for the day-to-day needs of the body; we keep wives for the begetting of children and for the faithful guardianship of our homes.” Sex outside of marriage was an accepted act in their culture. Those who had lived this lifestyle had quite an adjustment to make when they accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Paul is giving this topic top priority. Sanctification must start in the home with sexual purity. One of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control. Humans should behave differently from animals.
Lust involves emotions overcoming the mind. The mind becomes a slave to the emotions. There is a loss of the will. This can happen with the emotion of anger when anger overcomes the mind and a person does something they would never do if they were thinking clearly. Paul is saying that we have to get our bodies under control. We can’t allow our emotions to take over our body. There are three reasons why we don’t practice sexual immorality:
· We know God. We know truth. We know what is right and what is wrong. We know we are to be holy because God is holy.
· We don’t wrong another person by causing them to sin against God. We are to lead people to God, not lead them away from God. We don’t please ourselves; we please God. Sexual immorality takes advantage of people. It is done to gain a personal advantage over another. It’s not doing what’s best for them.
· God punishes those who commit sexual sin. The punishment may not come in the form of a lightning bolt, but punishment is involved. In 1 Samuel we read of David’s sexual sin with Bathsheba. Psalm 51 is David’s response to being confronted by the prophet Nathan about David’s immorality:
Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night.
Here is part of David’s punishment—continual torment over what he had done. His sin could not be hidden from God.
Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just. For I was born a sinner—yes, from the moment my mother conceived me. But you desire honesty from the womb, teaching me wisdom even there.
Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me—now let me rejoice. Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.
Another part of David’s punishment was his joy was taken from him, and he was broken. David’s sin resulted in guilt, shame, a crushed spirit, lost joy, and alienation from God.
When we sin, we have to confess that sin and repent of it. Only then can the healing process begin.
God didn’t call us to be impure but to live a holy life. Jesus didn’t die on a cross for us so we could live in the old life. He didn’t give us a new life so we could ignore it and live the old life. He gave us the new life so we could walk in the new life—in holiness, in purity, and at peace with God. When we reject God, we reject the Holy Spirit. If we reject the Holy Spirit, we are rejecting a way of life that lives according to God.
We need to be sanctified people who live pure and holy lives in every area of life. Galatians 5:16-26 says:
So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.
When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.
Sanctification is not something we do by ourselves. Jesus sanctifies us by giving us his Holy Spirit who regenerates us. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 says:
Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful.
If you find yourself struggling with sexual sin, submit to the Lordship of God in your life. Allow the Holy Spirit that is within you to give you the quality of self-discipline that he might free you and return to you the joy of your salvation.
Completions to Verses:
· . . . sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.
· . . . it ends in death. Proverbs 16:24-25 (NLT)
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/59LllKcyqJg
Complete the Verse & Name the Book: But many who are first will be last; and . . .(completion at the end)
Today, we will continue with a review of Timothy Keller’s book, The Prodigal God. It is based on the parable Jesus shared with the Pharisees and teachers of religious law in Luke 15:11-32 commonly referred to as The Prodigal Son or the Parable of the Lost Son. Primarily using quotes from the book, Chapter Five will now be covered.
What do we need to escape the shackles of our particular brand of lostness, whether it be younger-brother or elder-brother? The first thing we need is God’s initiating love. Notice how the father comes out to each son and expresses love to him, in order to bring him in. The father ran to his son before his son could confess. It’s not the repentance that causes the father’s love, but rather the reverse.
The father also goes out to the angry, resentful elder brother. Even the most religious and moral people need the initiating grace of God. Jesus is addressing the religious leaders who are going to hand him over to the Roman authorities to be executed. Yet in the story the elder brother gets not a harsh condemnation but a loving plea to turn from his anger and self-righteousness. Jesus is pleading in love with his deadliest enemies.
Pride in his good deeds, rather than remorse over his bad deeds, was keeping the older son out of the feast of salvation. The elder brother’s problem is his self-righteousness, the way he uses his moral record to put God and others in his debt to control them and get them to do what he wants. His spiritual problem is the radical insecurity that comes from basing his self-image on achievements and performance, so he must endlessly prop up his sense of righteousness by putting others down and finding fault.
What must we do, then, to be saved? To find God we must repent of the things we have done wrong, and we must also repent of the reasons we ever did anything right. We must repent of the sin of seeking to be our own Savior and Lord. We have to admit we have been seeking to get around God or get control of God.
Prior to Jesus telling this parable, he told two other parables: The Parable of the Lost Sheep and the Parable of the Lost Coin. In all three parables something is lost—sheep, coin, and son. In each the one who loses something gets it back. And each of the narratives ends on a note of festive rejoicing and celebration when the lost one is returned.
There is, though, one striking difference between the third parable and the first two. In the first two someone “goes out” and searches diligently for that which is lost. The searchers let nothing distract them or stand in their way. By the time we get to the third story, and we hear about the plight of the lost son, we are fully prepared to expect that someone will set out to search for him. No one does. It is startling, and Jesus meant it to be so. By placing the three parables so closely together, he is inviting thoughtful listeners to ask: “Well, who should have gone out and searched for the lost son?” In the story of Cain and Abel, God tells the resentful and proud older brother: “You are your brother’s keeper.”
It’s the elder brother in the parable who should have gone looking for his younger brother. What the elder brother should have said is, “Father, my younger brother has been a fool, and now his life is in ruins. But I will go look for him and bring him home. And if the inheritance is gone—as I expect—I’ll bring him back into the family at my expense.”
Imagine someone has seriously damaged your reputation. You have two options. You could make him pay for this by going to others, criticizing and ruining his good name as a way to restore your own. Or you could forgive him, taking on the more difficult task of setting the record straight without vilifying him. The forgiveness is free and unconditional to the perpetrator, but it is costly to you.
Mercy and forgiveness must be free and unmerited to the wrongdoer. If the wrongdoer has to do something to merit it, then it isn’t mercy, but forgiveness alwayscomes at a cost to the one granting the forgiveness. The younger brother’s restoration was free to him, but it came at enormous cost to the elder brother. The father could not just forgive the younger son, somebody had to pay! The father could not reinstate him except at the expense of the elder brother. There was no other way. But Jesus does not put a true elder brother in the story, one who is willing to pay any cost to seek and save that which is lost. It is heartbreaking. The younger son gets a Pharisee for a brother instead.
But we do not. We have a true elder brother in Jesus. He didn’t just go to the next country to find us; he came all the way from heaven. He would have been willing to pay any amount of money to get us, but instead he ended up paying for us with his life; that’s how great our debt was!
The point of the parable is that forgiveness always involves a price—someone has to pay. There is no way for the younger brother to return to the family unless the older brother bore the cost himself. Our true elder brother paid our debt, on the cross, in our place. There Jesus was stripped naked of his robe and dignity so that we could be clothed with a dignity and standing we don’t deserve. On the cross Jesus was treated as an outcast so that we could be brought into God’s family freely by grace. There Jesus drank the cup of eternal justice so that we might have the cup of the Father’s joy. There was no other way for the heavenly Father to bring us in, except at the expense of our true elder brother.
The key difference between a Pharisee and a believer in Jesus is inner-heart motivation. Pharisees are being good but out of a fear-fueled need to control God. They don’t really trust him or love him. To them God is an exacting boss, not a loving father. Christians have seen something that has transformed their hearts toward God so they can finally love and rest in the Father.
Jesus Christ, who had all the power in the world, saw us enslaved by the very things we thought would free us. So he emptied himself of his glory and became a servant (Philippians 2). He laid aside the infinities and immensities of his being and, at the cost of his life, paid the debt for our sins, purchasing us the only place our hearts can rest, in his Father’s house.
Knowing he did this will transform us from the inside out. Selfless love destroys the mistrust in our hearts toward God that makes us either younger brothers or elder brothers.
We will never stop being younger brothers or elder brothers until we acknowledge our need, rest by faith, and gaze in wonder at the work of our true elder brother, Jesus Christ.
Verse Completion: . . . the last, first. Matthew 19:30 (NASB) See also Mark 10:31
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/oDYfzLdsRKA
Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Pride goes before destruction, and . . .(completion at the end)
Today, we will continue with a review of Timothy Keller’s book, The Prodigal God. It is based on the parable Jesus shared with the Pharisees and teachers of religious law in Luke 15:11-32 commonly referred to as The Prodigal Son or the Parable of the Lost Son. Primarily using quotes from the book, Chapter Four will be covered.
What does it mean to be spiritually lost? In the parable, the younger brother’s lostness is clearly seen when he ends up in the pigsty. He has run out of friends, money, and resources because of his self-indulgent, undisciplined, and foolish behavior. He realizes he has lost his way.
When the younger brother returned home, the older brother became angry, resentful, and bitter. Elder brothers believe that if they live a good life they should get a good life, that God owes them a smooth road if they try very hard to live up to the standards. When things go wrong for older brothers, they feel they don’t deserve it after how hard they’ve worked to be decent people. When things go wrong and older brothers know they have been falling short of the standards, they become furious with themselves and are filled with self-loathing. They might swing miserably back and forth between the poles of “I hate Thee!” and “I hate me.”
Elder brothers’ moral observance is results-oriented. The good life is lived as calculated ways to control their environment. They expect their goodness to pay off, and if it doesn’t, there is confusion and rage. When they see others doing better than themselves, they ask, “Why this person and not me? After all I’ve done!”
Elder brothers base their self-images on being hardworking, or moral, or members of an elite clan, or extremely smart and savvy. This inevitably leads to feeling superior to those who don’t have those same qualities. In fact, competitive comparison is the main way elder brothers achieve a sense of their own significance. Racism and classism are just different versions of this form of the self-salvation project.
If a group believes God favors them because of their particularly true doctrine, ways of worship, and ethical behavior, their attitude toward those without these things can be hostile. Their self-righteousness hides under the claim that they are only opposing the enemies of God. When you look at the world through those lenses, it becomes easy to justify hate and oppression, all in the name of truth. Elder brother self-righteousness not only creates racism and classism, but at the personal level creates an unforgiving, judgmental spirit. Because the older brother does not see himself as being part of a common community of sinners, he is trapped by his own bitterness. It is impossible to forgive someone if you feel superior to him or her.
If the elder brother had known his own heart, he would have said, “I am just as self-centered and a grief to my father in my own way as my brother is in his. I have no right to feel superior.” Then he would have had the freedom to give his brother the same forgiveness that his father did. But elder brothers do not see themselves this way. Their anger is a prison of their own making.
The older brother shows that his obedience to his father is nothing more than duty. There is no joy or love, no reward in just seeing his father pleased. Elder brothers live good lives out of fear, not out of joy and love.
A business model might be: “Tell the truth—because it’s to your own advantage.” However, what happens when telling the truth would cost you dearly? What happens when telling a particular lie would be stupendously advantageous to you? At those points, your motivation for honesty will evaporate. Some of the biggest corporate scandals of the last decade have involved devout, prominent church members.
Elder-brother obedience only leads to a slavish, begrudging compliance to the letter of the law. It is one thing to be honest and avoid lies for your sake, but it is another to do so for God’s sake, for truth’s sake, and for the love of the people around us.
Honesty born of fear does nothing to root out the fundamental cause of evil in the world—the radical self-centeredness of the human heart. If anything, fear-based morality strengthens it, since ultimately elder brothers are being moral only for their own benefit. They may be kind to others and helpful to the poor, but at a deeper level they are doing it either so God will bless them, in the religious version of the elder brother, or so they can think of themselves as virtuous, charitable persons, in the secular version of it.
Elder brothers are under great pressure to appear, even to themselves, happy and content. This is the reason that sometimes highly moral elder brothers will blow up their lives and, to the shock of all who know them, throw off the chains of their obligations and begin living like younger brothers.
The elder brother demonstrates a lack of the assurance of his father’s love when he says, “You never threw me a party.” As long as you are trying to earn your salvation by controlling God through goodness, you will never be sure you have been good enough for him. You simply aren’t sure God loves and delights in you.
A sign of lack of assurance is when criticism from others doesn’t just hurt your feelings, it devastates you. This is because your sense of God’s love is abstract and has little real power in your life, and you need the approval of others to bolster your sense of value. You will also feel irresolvable guilt. When you do something you know is wrong, your conscience torments you for a long time, even after you repent. Since you can’t be sure you’ve repented deeply enough, you beat yourself up over what you did.
But perhaps the clearest symptom of this lack of assurance is a dry prayer life. Though elder brothers may be diligent in prayer, there is no wonder, awe, intimacy, or delight in their conversations with God. Prayer can be petitions, confessions, and adorations. The deeper the love relationship, the more the conversation heads toward the personal, and toward affirmation and praise. Elder brothers may be disciplined in observing regular times of prayer, but their prayers are almost wholly taken up with a recitation of needs and petitions, not spontaneous, joyful praise. The main goal of an elder brother’s prayer is to control his environment rather than to delve into an intimate relationship with a God who loves them. Elder brothers don’t go to God and beg for healing from their condition. They see nothing wrong with their condition, and that can be fatal. If you know you are sick you may go to a doctor; if you don’t know you’re sick you won’t—you’ll just die.
There are many people today who have abandoned any kind of religious faith because they see clearly that the major religions are simply full of elder brothers. They have come to the conclusion that religion is one of the greatest sources of misery and strife in the world. And guess what? Jesus says through this parable—they are right. The anger and superiority of elder brothers, all growing out of insecurity, fear, and inner emptiness, can create a huge body of guilt-ridden, fear-ridden, spiritually blind people, which is one of the great sources of social injustice, war, and violence.
It is natural for younger brothers to think that elder brotherness and Christianity are exactly the same thing. But Jesus says they are not. In his parable, Jesus deconstructs the religiosity that is one of the main problems with the world.
Elder brothers have an undercurrent of anger toward life circumstances, hold grudges long and bitterly, look down at people of other races, religions, and lifestyles, experience life as a joyless, crushing drudgery, have little intimacy and joy in their prayer lives, and have a deep insecurity that makes them overly sensitive to criticism and rejection yet fierce and merciless in condemning others. What a terrible picture! And yet the rebellious path of the younger brother is obviously not a better alternative.
Jesus wants us to take a radically different approach, but what is it? Jesus deliberately left someone out of this parable. He did this so that we would look for him and, finding him, find our own way home at last.
Verse Completion: . . . haughtiness before a fall. Proverbs 16:18 (NLT)
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/LGAdaGbmfFs
Complete the Verse & Name the Book: By this all men will know that you are My disciples, . . . (completion at the end)
Today, we will continue with a review of Timothy Keller’s book, The Prodigal God. It is based on the parable Jesus shared with the Pharisees and teachers of religious law in Luke 15:11-32 commonly referred to as The Prodigal Son or the Parable of the Lost Son. Primarily using quotes from the book, Chapter Three will be covered.
Jesus uses the younger and elder brothers to portray the two basic ways people try to find happiness and fulfillment: the way of moral conformity and the way of self-discovery. The elder brother illustrates the way of moral conformity. The Pharisees believed salvation came through strict obedience to the Bible. In this view, even in our failures we must always measure up.
The younger brother illustrates the way of self-discovery. This paradigm holds that individuals must be free to pursue their own goals and self-actualization regardless of custom and convention. In this view, the world would be a far better place if tradition, prejudice, hierarchical authority, and other barriers to personal freedom were weakened or removed.
The person in the way of moral conformity says: “I’m not going to do what I want, but what tradition and the community wants me to do.” The person choosing the way of self-discovery says: “I’m the only one who can decide what is right or wrong for me. I’m going to live as I want to live and find my true self and happiness that way.” If you criticize or distance yourself from one, everyone assumes you have chosen to follow the other, because each of these approaches tends to divide the whole world into two basic groups. Each group says, “If you are not with us, you are against us.” The message of Jesus’s parable is that both of these approaches are wrong. His parable illustrates the radical alternative.
In this parable the father represents God. Both of the brothers are alienated from the father. The father has to go out and invite each of them to come into the feast of his love. The story comes to an unthinkable conclusion—the elder brother is left in his alienated state. The bad son enters the father’s feast but the good son will not. The lover of prostitutes is saved, but the man of moral rectitude is still lost. We can almost hear the Pharisees gasp as the story ends. It was the complete reversal of everything they had ever been taught.
The elder brother gave his reason for not joining in the celebration: “Because I’ve never disobeyed you.” The elder brother is not losing the father’s love in spite of his goodness, but because of it. It is not his sins that create the barrier between him and his father, it’s the pride he has in his moral record; it’s not his wrongdoing but his righteousness that is keeping him from sharing in the feast of the father.
Both sons wanted the father’s goods rather than the father himself. However, while the younger brother went far away, the elder brother stayed close and “never disobeyed.” That was his way to get control. His unspoken demand is, “I have never disobeyed you! Now you have to do things in my life the way I want them to be done.”
The hearts of the two brothers were the same. Both sons resented their father’s authority and sought ways of getting out from under it. They each wanted to get into a position in which they could tell the father what to do. Each one, in other words, rebelled—but one did so by being very bad and the other by being extremely good. They both were using the father for their own self-centered ends rather than loving, enjoying, and serving him for his own sake. This means that you can rebel against God and be alienated from him either by breaking his rules or by keeping all of them diligently.
You can avoid Jesus as Savior by keeping all the moral laws. If you do that, then you have the “rights.” God owes you answered prayers, and a good life, and a ticket to heaven when you die. You don’t need a Savior who pardons you by free grace, for you are your own Savior.
This attitude is clearly that of the elder brother. Why is he so angry with the father? He feels he has the right to tell the father how the robes, rings, and livestock of the family should be deployed. In the same way, religious people commonly live very moral lives, but their goal is to get leverage over God, to control him, to put him in a position where they think he owes them. Therefore, despite all their ethical fastidiousness and piety, they are actually rebelling against his authority. If, like the elder brother, you believe that God ought to bless you and help you because you have worked so hard to obey him and be a good person, then Jesus may be your helper, your example, even your inspiration, but he is not your Savior. You are serving your own Savior.
Both brothers believed that their father’s wealth, not love, would make them happy and fulfilled.
Elder brothers obey God to get things. They don’t obey God to get God himself—in order to resemble him, love him, and delight him.
Here, then, is Jesus’s radical redefinition of what is wrong with us. Nearly everyone defines sin as breaking a list of rules. Jesus, though, shows us that a man who has violated virtually nothing on the list of moral misbehaviors can be every bit as spiritually lost as the most profligate, immoral person. Why? Because sin is not just breaking the rules, it is putting yourself in the place of God as Savior, Lord, and Judge just as each son sought to displace the authority of the father in his own life.
Even though both sons are wrong, the father cares for them and invites them both back into his love and feast. This means that Jesus’s message, which is “the gospel,” is completely different spiritually. The gospel of Jesus is not religion or irreligion, morality or immorality, moralism or relativism, conservatism or liberalism. Nor is it something halfway along a spectrum between two poles—it is something else altogether.
The gospel is distinct from the other two approaches: In its view, everyone is wrong, everyone is loved, and everyone is called to recognize this and change. Elder brothers say good people, like them, are in and the bad people are out. Younger brothers say the open-minded and tolerant people are in and the bigoted, narrow-minded people are out. Jesus says the humble are in and the proud are out. The prerequisite for receiving the grace of God is to know you need it. People who think they are just fine are moving away from God.
Though the older son stayed at home, he was actually more distant and alienated from the father than his brother, because he was blind to his true condition. Because the elder brother is more blind to what is going on, being an elder-brother Pharisee is a more spiritually desperate condition. No one had ever taught anything like this before.
Verse Completion: . . . if you have love for one another. John 13:35 (NASB)
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/BRx35QQtVPw
Complete the Verse & Name the Book: People may be pure in their own eyes, but . . . (completion at the end)
Today, we will continue with a review of Timothy Keller’s book, The Prodigal God. It is based on the parable Jesus shared with the Pharisees and teachers of religious law in Luke 15:11-32 commonly referred to as The Prodigal Son or the Parable of the Lost Son. Primarily using quotes from the book, Chapter Two will be covered.
Jesus’ story might best be named the Parable of the Two Lost Sons. It is a drama in two acts, with Act 1 titled “The Lost Younger Brother” and Act 2 “The Lost Elder Brother.” The story begins with a shocking request by the younger son to have his share of the estate. In those days when a father died, the oldest son received a double portion of what the other children inherited. If a father had two sons, the older son would have received two-thirds of the estate and the younger son would have received one-third.
To ask for his inheritance while the father was still alive was a sign of deep disrespect. It was the same as wishing the father dead. The younger son was saying, essentially, that he wants his father’s things, but not his father. His relationship to the father has been a means to the end of enjoying his wealth.
A traditional Middle Eastern father would be expected to respond to such a request by driving the son out of the family with nothing except physical blows. The father doesn’t do anything like that. He simply divided his property between them. The wealth of the father would have primarily been in real estate, and to get one-third of his net worth he would have had to sell a great deal of his land holdings. Back then, people’s very identities were tied up in their land. To lose part of your land was to lose part of yourself and a major share of your standing in the community.
The younger son gets his inheritance and squanders everything in an out-of-control lifestyle. When his money is gone and he ends up working in a pigpen, he comes to his senses. He decides to return to his father and admit that he was wrong and that he has forfeited the right to be his son. But he intends to ask his father to make him like one of his hired men. This is a very specific request. Servants worked on the estate and lived there. Hired men lived in local villages and earned a wage. The son wanted to make restitution to his father by learning a trade from his father, earning a wage, and begin paying back his debt. That was his plan.
What happened was when the son was still a long ways off, his father ran to him. Distinguished Middle Eastern patriarchs did not run. It wasn’t what dignified pillars of the community did, but this father does. He falls upon his son kissing him.
The son tries to give his father his proposal, but the father will hear none of it. He has the best robe, his own robe, placed on his son. This is a clear sign of restored standing in the family. The father was saying, “You are not going to earn your way back into the family. I am going to simply take you back. I will cover your nakedness, poverty, and rags with the robes of my office and honor.”
The servants are told to prepare a feast of celebration. It would include the most expensive meat, the fattened calf. Likely the entire village was invited. There was a huge feast with music and dancing.
What a scene! The father has yet to deal with the much more complicated and poisonous spiritual condition of the elder brother. So far the message is the following: God’s love and forgiveness can pardon and restore any and every kind of sin or wrongdoing. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done. It doesn’t matter if you’ve deliberately oppressed or even murdered people, or how much you’ve abused yourself. The younger brother knew that in his father’s house there was abundant “food to spare,” but he also discovered that there was grace to spare. There is no evil that the father’s love cannot pardon and cover, there is no sin that is a match for his grace. The Father’s love and acceptance are absolutely free.
While Act 1 shows us the freeness of God’s grace, Act 2 will show us the costliness of that grace and the true climax of the story.
We saw how the younger son disgraced his father in Act 1, and Act 2 shows us how the older brother disgraced his father. He refused to join in the celebration. He remained outside the door, publicly casting a vote of no-confidence in his father’s actions. This forced the father to speak to his older son, a demeaning thing to have to do when you are the lord of the manor and host of a great feast. He begins to plead with his elder son to come in, but he continues to refuse.
The older son is upset about the cost of all that is happening. By bringing the younger brother back into the family, his father has made the younger brother an heir again, with a claim to one-third of their (now very diminished) family wealth. In addition, the older brother feels like he has worked himself to death while the younger brother has done nothing to earn anything. The older brother is looking for justice. He feels like he should have been consulted about what should take place. He insults his father by being disrespectful. Instead of saying “esteemed father” he says the equivalent to “Look, you!” In their culture such behavior is outrageous. A modern-day equivalent might be a son writing a humiliating tell-all memoir that destroys his father’s reputation and career.
How will the father respond to the older brother’s behavior? A man of his time and place might have disowned his son on the spot. Instead he responds again with amazing tenderness. “My son,” he begins, “despite how you’ve insulted me publicly, I still want you in the feast. I am not going to disown your brother, but I don’t want to disown you, either. I challenge you to swallow your pride and come into the feast. The choice is yours.”
Then the story ends! Why doesn’t Jesus finish the story and tell us what happened?! It is because the real audience for this story is the Pharisees, the elder brothers. Jesus is pleading with his enemies to respond to his message. What is the message? In short, Jesus is redefining everything we thought we knew about connecting to God. He is redefining sin, what it means to be lost, and what it means to be saved.
Verse Completion: . . . the LORD examines their motives. Proverbs 16:2 (NLT)
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/4hWs5nDEfEM
Complete the Verse & Name the Book: The kingdom of heaven is like as treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid; and from joy over it he . . . (completion at the end)
Yesterday, Pastor Michael gave us a stirring message “The Humble and the Exalted” based on Matthew 23:1-12. A relatively new occupation these days is that of a fact checker. Usually, their job entails checking the validity of what political leaders say. In our day and age, it’s very difficult to distinguish what is true and what is false. We live during a time of falsehood, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise since Satan is the father of lies. His goal is to get people to believe that which isn’t true. When we come right to it, our culture is not that different from the culture at the time of Jesus.
The Pharisees taught falsehood. They were the religious political leaders of the day. Their job was supposed to be that of telling others how to be in a right relationship with God and others, but they weren’t doing their job. Jesus came along and spoke the truth since he was Truth itself.
It’s frustrating when you know something is false but someone is proclaiming it as truth. Jesus heard the Pharisees doing this. He wanted to clear things up by speaking the truth. He wanted people to know the truth and be able to tell when lies were being told to them.
The Pharisees want to spin things in such a way that it will appear Jesus is wrong. They try three times to do this, but they are unsuccessful each time. The Pharisees were hoping to promote their own agenda. In order to do this they needed to suppress the truth.
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
“Everything they do is done for men to see. They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’
“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
Jesus has decided to expose the Pharisees for who they are—false teachers. The teachers of the law are part of the Pharisees. Their specific function within the Pharisees is to study the law day and night. They are the lawyers of Scripture. What they say about Scripture becomes the law. The job of the rest of the Pharisees is to spread that law to the people.
Sitting in Moses’ seat means they have the authority to teach God’s word. Moses was a prophet, and prophets repeat the words of God. The Pharisees believed Moses passed his authority to Joshua who passed his authority to the judges who passed it on to the prophets who passed it on to the Pharisees. The Pharisees believe they are the ones who have the authority to tell others about God.
When Jesus said they sit in Moses’ seat, he is being descriptive, not prescriptive. Jesus is describing the present condition; he is not saying whether it is right or wrong. Prescriptive would be saying how things should be, and it does involve a judgment.
It’s interesting that Jesus would say, ”So you must obey them and do everything they tell you.” Clearly, Jesus is not saying, “When the Pharisees say, ‘Jump,’ ask, ‘How high?’” This is tied to sitting in Moses’ seat. Jesus was saying, “When they proclaim God’s words (not their own words), when they are in front reading the Scriptures, you must listen to the words they are saying. You must do what God’s word tells you to do.” God’s word is always God’s word regardless of who the messenger is. In this case Jesus is against the messengers. Notice his words: ”But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.” Jesus did not want the listeners to emulate the character of the Pharisees. Even though the messenger is faulty, God’s word is still true. The Pharisees could read Scripture, but they couldn’t live Scripture. They would twist Scripture to meet their agenda. We can do the same thing today; we read Scripture that goes against the way we are living. We take truth and squeeze and twist it to fit into a mold that suits us. The result is falsehood.
The Pharisees believed and practiced that salvation comes by works. They believed salvation was all about the law. They were legalists. There were 613 laws in the Old Testament, and the Pharisees had hundreds of laws surrounding those laws. They might say, “Since this law says this, let’s write ten more laws so we don’t break this law.” They taught God’s laws, but, in addition, they taught their own laws. They felt like obeying their laws was most important because if their laws were being followed, then God’s laws were being followed. “If you obey our laws, you’re obeying God’s laws. If you break our laws, you’ll be breaking God’s laws.” The Pharisees twisted the truth so their laws became more important than God’s laws. The result was they became more important than God.
We can get caught up in legalism today, too. You may have heard, “Wear your Sunday best to church. Don’t go to dances. Don’t go to movies. Don’t play cards. Don’t play sports on Sunday.” That’s all legalism that does not come from the Bible. Those are manmade rules that are made to be followed so God’s rules aren’t broken. Legalism says follow the do’s and don’ts. Legalism is alive in churches.
We believe that what we do impresses God. We think, “The more works I do, the better person I am, and the better I am before God.” We think our righteousness (our rightness before God) comes from what we do. We say, “Look at all I do for God. Look at me!” Jesus said to not do what the Pharisees do. The Pharisees made life burdensome with all their laws. The Pharisees weren’t there to help or encourage others to know God. Laws were a higher priority than people. The Pharisees made people feel like they never measured up to God’s expectations.
The Pharisees wanted others to see them as models for how they were to be. They felt like they were the most right before God because of all the laws they followed. Phylacteries were little leather boxes that contained four passages from Scripture: Exodus 13:1-10, Exodus 13:11-20, Deuteronomy 6:4-6, and Deuteronomy 13. These were Scripture passages that said to serve God and put him first. Phylacteries were strapped to the wrist or forehead. They were reminders to put God first, and they served as a message to others that here is a person who puts God first. Exodus 13:9-10 says:
This observance will be for you like a sign on your hand and a reminder on your forehead that the law of the LORD is to be on your lips. For the LORD brought you out of Egypt with his mighty hand. You must keep this ordinance at the appointed time year after year.
The phylacteries were reminders of what God had done for them bringing them out of slavery and into the promised land. They were reminders of their relationship with God and how much God loved them. It’s questionable that God was directing them to wear phylacteries. Anything that would remind them to love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength would be a good thing. The Pharisees made it a law to wear phylacteries on the wrist or forehead. The phylacteries of the Pharisees were bigger and flashier than the typical phylacteries. They wanted others to see how pious they were.
The tassels on the garments comes from Numbers 15:37-41. There were tassels attached to the bottom of certain garments. The purpose was the same as the phylacteries—a physical reminder to serve God and God alone. The Pharisees made their own tassels longer and flashier than the typical tassels. They wanted people to say, “Wow! Look how pious they are!” The tassels and phylacteries evolved from reminders about God to statements that said, “Look at me! Look at what a religious person I am!”
Pharisees loved to sit at the head table at banquets. They wanted to be on the left or right of whoever was having the banquet. Their attitude was, “I’m so good; I should be up front where everyone can see me.” Do we do anything like that in churches today? Sadly, we do. We have big fancy chairs on the platform for the “important people” to sit in. We have choirs that are in the front for everyone to see. The attitude seems to be, “If you’re in the choir, then you are really somebody!” We get off base. It’s not about our honor.
The Pharisees loved public recognition—being called Rabbi. They liked to be big players in the community. They weren’t there for people—to help them, encourage them, lead them closer to God. Jesus doesn’t want people to become like the Pharisees. He doesn’t want the people believing that what the Pharisees are doling out is truth. He doesn’t want them thinking that some people are better than others. Just because one person is more schooled than another, that does not make them better than another person. That includes pastors. Just because a person is a pastor doesn’t mean that the pastor’s prayers are more effective than another person’s prayers.
Jesus told us not to call anyone “father.” He was not saying we shouldn’t use the word in place of the word “dad.” This goes back to 2 Kings 2:11-12:
As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them apart.
Here we have Elisha calling Elijah his father. He calls him that because it’s a sign of respect and a sign of recognizing the authority Elijah had that was given to him by God. This only appears in this one verse—12. The Pharisees wanted to be called father, because they wanted the same authority and respect Elijah had. They wanted people to recognize that their authority and words come from God. They wanted people to think they were like Elijah. The Pharisees wanted the power and position that Elijah had. That’s why Jesus said to not call anyone father. Jesus didn’t want the people thinking the Pharisees had power and authority. Only their Father in heaven has power and authority. Jesus wanted the people to listen to God before they listened to men. Jesus wanted the people to experience a relationship with God themselves.
We need to get rid of favoritism in the church. We need to stop thinking God looks down on us with more favor because we hold some position in the church. Hopefully, the only reason we hold a position is we have given ourselves over to God to be used of God through his power, strength, and wisdom to do what God wants to do. We are clay pots—cracked and leaking. It’s only by the power of God in us that we can be where we are. It’s never appropriate in the church to say, “Look at me. Look what I do. Look at what I’ve accomplished.” There’s no room in the church for comparisons. We should never hear, “I’m better than you. I would never do that. I volunteer more than you. I give more money than you.”
What appears to work in the kingdom of man does not work in the kingdom of God. In God’s kingdom those who humble themselves will be exalted. 1 Peter 5:5b-6 says:
All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
God is against anyone who says, “Look at me!” God will humble us. Our responsibility is to say, “Here I am. I’m nothing special. I am this creation you made. I am broken. I have sin in my life. I get things wrong. I mess things up. But I’m here. If you can use me in your kingdom to lead others to you, then use me.” This is completely the opposite of how the Pharisees prayed. We need to be humble servants because it’s not about us; it’s about Jesus. It’s not about us being lifted up; it’s about Jesus being lifted up.
The truth is Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through him. The truth is we need to be humble people and then God will exalt us by using us. The truth is we have to stop comparing ourselves to others and thinking we’re someone when we’re not. The truth is it’s all and only about Jesus.
I normally don’t include Pastor Michael’s prayer at the end, but his prayer really touched my heart. It’s my prayer, too:
“Jesus, I first want to say, ‘Forgive me. Forgive me for my sin of pride and arrogance thinking I am something, that I’m important, that you need me, that I’m better than others. Forgive me for the sin of pride and arrogance.’
“Jesus, I recognize that I am nothing, that I’m not special. I am broken. I’m a vessel that leaks out your Holy Spirit and needs to be filled daily. I get things wrong. I head in the wrong direction sometimes. Jesus, I humble myself before you. I ask that you would use me, and fill me with your Spirit. For whatever purpose you have in my life, I pray that I would be used—not for my glory, not for my benefit, not for me to say, ‘Wow! Look at me,’ but only for me to say, ‘Look at you; look at Jesus.’
“Jesus, build your kingdom. Be lifted up through me, through us, through this church. We ask and pray in your name, Jesus. Amen.”
Verse Completion: . . . goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field. Matthew 13:44 (NASB)
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/A3IUqz10ARE
Complete the Verse & Name the Book: If you listen to constructive criticism, you will . . . (completion at the end)
Timothy Keller wrote the book that was used in our Home Teams this past year, The Prodigal God. It is based on the parable Jesus shared with the Pharisees and teachers of religious law in Luke 15:11-32 commonly referred to as The Prodigal Son or the Parable of the Lost Son. Today will start a summary of the book primarily using quotes from the book. Let’s begin with a definition: Prodigal means recklessly extravagant or having spent everything.
There are two brothers in this story. Each of them represents a different way to be alienated from God, and a different way to seek acceptance into the kingdom of heaven.
The targets of this story are not “wayward sinners” but religious people who do everything the Bible requires. Jesus is pleading not so much with immoral outsiders as with moral insiders. He wants to show them their blindness, narrowness, and self-righteousness, and how these things are destroying both their own souls and the lives of the people around them.
The original listeners were not melted into tears by this story but rather they were thunderstruck, offended, and infuriated. Jesus’s purpose is not to warm our hearts but to shatter our categories. The story reveals the destructive self-centeredness of the younger brother, but it also condemns the elder brother’s moralistic life in the strongest terms. Jesus is saying that both the irreligious and the religious are spiritually lost, both life-paths are dead ends, and that every thought the human race has had about how to connect to God has been wrong.
More and more people today consider themselves non-religious or even anti-religious. They believe moral issues are highly complex and are suspicious of any individuals or institutions that claim moral authority over the lives of others. Despite the rise of this secular spirit there has also been considerable growth in conservative, orthodox religious movements. Alarmed by what they perceive as an onslaught of moral relativism, many have organized to “take back the culture,” and take as dim a view of “younger brothers” as the Pharisees did.
So whose side is Jesus on? He is on the side of neither the irreligious nor the religious, but he singles out religious moralism as a particularly deadly spiritual condition. In general, religiously observant people were offended by Jesus, but those estranged from religious and moral observance were intrigued and attracted to him. In Luke 7 Jesus meets a religious person and a sexual outcast. In John 3-4 Jesus meets a religious person and a racial outcast. In Luke 19 Jesus meets a religious person and a political outcast. In every case it was the outcast who connected with Jesus and the elder-brother type does not. Jesus’s teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day.
Churches today tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people. The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church. That can only mean one thing. If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did. If our churches aren’t appealing to younger brothers, they must be more full of elder brothers than we’d like to think.
Verse Completion: . . . be at home among the wise. Proverbs 15:31 (NLT)
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/v8hwit5TtZQ
Complete the Verse & Name the Book: By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God, than to . . . (completion at the end)
Yesterday, Dr. Michael Wedman taught about the “Love of God” based on 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13:
May God our Father and our Lord Jesus bring us to you very soon. And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows. May he, as a result, make your hearts strong, blameless, and holy as you stand before God our Father when our Lord Jesus comes again with all his holy people. Amen.
The first three chapters deal with Paul’s close relationship with the Thessalonians. He’s thankful God called him to preach the gospel to them. He’s thankful that the gospel is powerful, providing salvation. He’s thankful God chose them to be objects of his love. He’s thankful the Thessalonians responded to the gospel and are now maturing in the Lord. He’s thankful for their good reputation as he travels around. However, Paul is concerned that they might fall away from the faith with all the persecution and suffering they are experiencing because they are following and serving Jesus. Paul wants them to press into Jesus to know him more. Paul is delighted when he receives the good report from Timothy about the Thessalonians’ spiritual well-being. Knowing this he prays a three-fold prayer for them.
First, Paul starts off by saying, “May God our Father and our Lord Jesus . . .” He treats them as one. In John 10:30, Jesus said, “The Father and I are one.” We get to know the Father through the Son.
Paul wants all the obstacles removed that would prevent the Thessalonians and Paul from seeing each other. Paul wants God to clear the way so they can be reunited. Acts 19 and 20 tells that they were able to get together about two years later.
James 4:13-15 says:
Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.”
Paul and James are saying the same thing: If the Lord wills, we will get together again. We can make plans, but only if it’s God’s will will those plans come to fruition. Proverbs 19:21 says:
You can make many plans, but the LORD’S purpose will prevail.
In essence, Paul prayed, “I want to be in Macedonia, but, God, where do you want me to be?” Paul’s plans are submitted to God and are subject to God’s approval.
The second part of Paul’s prayer is “And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows.” The Thessalonians were known for their love, and Paul is praying that their love will continue to grow. Philippians 3:10-14 says:
I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!
I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead. I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
What counts for Paul is his love for Christ today—not his love for Christ yesterday. It doesn’t work to take a break from serving God and loving others. There’s no such thing as having “arrived” spiritually; it’s an ongoing experience. We never retire from being Christians. Paul wants them to be so full of love that it overflows to those around them. Love isn’t something we conjure up. We aren’t called to love people in our own strength. On our own, we want to be the recipients of love. With Christ in us, we want to give love to others. Matthew 22:37-40 says:
Jesus replied, “ ‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
Our love needs to overflow to other believers. Galatians 6:10 says:
Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.
Our churches ought to be places of love for one another—not judgment, not harshness, not divisiveness, not disunity, not arguing, not fighting, not slandering, not grumbling, not complaining. If any of these negative characteristics listed exist in us, we need to grow in love more. We need to find practical ways of letting God’s love overflow into the lives of other people—especially those in the faith. We want them to be strengthened and encouraged so their love will overflow to others. Churches need to be places of overflowing love where people are kind, gracious, gentle, and honest.
Love that reaches beyond disciples of Christ is part of the Great Commission. This kind of love extends to our enemies. As our overflowing love spills onto them, they will want to know the Jesus that we know.
The third part of Paul’s prayer is, “May he, as a result, make your hearts strong, blameless, and holy as you stand before God our Father when our Lord Jesus comes again with all his holy people.”
Their hearts have to be strong to stand up to the persecution they are experiencing. The verb is ongoing so God will give strength after strength after strength. It’s the same idea mentioned earlier but here it is overflowing strength instead of overflowing love. It’s the kind of strength that stands firm under pressure. It’s faith that stands strong and is not tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine.
We use the word heart as the seat of our emotions, but in Greek it is the center of our whole being—decision making, determination, emotions; it’s everything that makes a person who they are. Paul wants them to be strengthened in their decision to follow Christ and in their resolve to follow Christ. Paul wants them to become more and more like Christ—look like Christ, sound like Christ, attain to the perfection of Christ. Paul doesn’t want the Thessalonians to become laissez-faire about their faith. Paul knows they will not be perfect, but he wants them to strive to be as perfect as they can be. He wants them to be as close to Christ as they can be. The goal should be perfection rather than spiritual mediocrity. We need to join Paul in saying, “I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us (Philippians 3:14).”
Peter said, So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy (1 Peter 1:13-16).”
How do we live like this? Galatians 2:19-21 gives us the answer:
For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God. My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.
We are able to be like Christ by the power of Christ in us. When we submit to God, then it’s no longer my works, my strength, my abilities, my talents; it’s nothing I bring to the table. The force of our will does not make us look like, act like, and be like Christ. What makes us look like, act like, and be like Christ is the force of our submission to Christ. If we have any chance of living a life that is holy and blameless, if we have any chance of pleasing God, it’s by recognizing that we need Christ in us to overflow in us daily.
Jesus knows what’s going to come into our lives today. We have our plans for the day, but God may change those plans and go in a different direction than what we were planning. When that happens, God gives us everything we need to live in Christ as our day goes in a different direction. No matter what happens, we aspire to be like Jesus.
Paul knows Jesus is returning. He is encouraging the Thessalonians to live such blameless lives so that when he returns, they won’t have anything to be ashamed of. If we live as if Christ is here, we won’t have to do anything differently to prepare for his coming. We ask ourselves: Would I say this if Christ was beside me? Would I do this if Christ was beside me? Would I walk into this place if Christ was beside me?
Does my life overflow with love for God and love for people? Are people able to say to me, “I’m going to imitate you as you imitate Christ”? Am I spilling love to all those around me? Am I living as if I am expecting Christ’s return today?
Verse Completion: . . . enjoy the passing pleasures of sin; Hebrews 11:24-25 (NASB)
Good morning. Thanks to all the Veterans for their service in the military: Marshall, Steve, Ron, Gordon, Jerry, Jeff, Ken, Ed, Mike, Erin, Kelly, Travis, Tom, Larry, Wendall, Jim, Bill R., Bill T., Bill S., Pat, Quentin, Ray, and anyone else I have inadvertently left off the list (please let me know so I can include you next year). We honor you today!
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/j9lYl8_S76w
Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Do to others as . . . (completion at the end)
Red flags serve as warning devices when there’s potential danger ahead. I used to live in Spokane Valley, but I worked at Fairchild Air Force Base which was at a higher elevation. In the winter, I would look for red flags that would warn me of slick roads. Black ice was not uncommon on the roads. The ice would be there, but it couldn’t be seen. One of the red flags I picked up on was the grass along the side of the road would be white with frost. As I gained elevation, there would be a point where the grass would turn from its seasonal color to white. At that point I knew the water that was on the road was probably ice.
One day, as I was on my way to work, I had noticed the red flag of white grass so I knew I was most likely driving on black ice. I was in the fast lane and noticed a car approaching rather quickly from the rear, so I moved to the right lane. The car went by me. This was in the early seventies and the car had a jacked up rear end and very wide tires on the back. Not long after it passed me, the car began to fishtail back and forth. The driver lost control, and the car crossed the middle grassy area on the freeway, crossed the two lanes of opposing traffic, and went over an embankment on the far left side of the freeway. The driver either wasn’t aware of the red flags that morning or he chose not to heed their warnings. Both are important. Ignoring either can be costly. The cost for this driver could have been his life.
Are there spiritual red flags that we should be aware of and heed? There are many. Yesterday, we took a look at false prophets. When we know what to look for, we are better prepared to deal with those who would lead us astray. Let’s start by taking a look at some characteristics in people that should be red flags to us.
1. Love only themselves
2. Love money
5. Scoff at God
6. Don’t obey their parents
8. Nothing is considered sacred
12. No self-control
14. Hate what is good
15. Betray friends
17. Love pleasure rather than God
18. Act religious but reject the power that could make them godly
All these red flags are found in 2 Timothy 3:1-5. What do we do when we see these red flags? We stay away from people who have these characteristics (see verse 5). Of course, we expect these characteristics in those who have not been transformed by the power of God. We don’t stay away from them if we are trying to lead them to Jesus. On the other hand, if a person professes to be a follower of Christ and demonstrates these characteristics, we need to stay away from them lest we become influenced by them.
Another red flag is when we spot those who would “split hairs” over verbiage. 2 Timothy 2:14-19 says:
Remind everyone about these things, and command them in God’s presence to stop fighting over words. Such arguments are useless, and they can ruin those who hear them.
Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth. Avoid worthless, foolish talk that only leads to more godless behavior. This kind of talk spreads like cancer, as in the case of Hymenaeus and Philetus. They have left the path of truth, claiming that the resurrection of the dead has already occurred; in this way, they have turned some people away from the faith.
But God’s truth stands firm like a foundation stone with this inscription: “The LORD knows those who are his,” and “All who belong to the LORD must turn away from evil.”
One of the ways people abuse the Bible is arguing to prove their point. So often the quarrel is over words—splitting hairs over certain words rather than concentrating on the basic truth that is being taught. So often the arguments are over trivial issues that boil down to semantics. In order to handle God’s Word correctly, we have to be most concerned about the truth being taught more than the words used to teach the truth. In the early seventeenth century, Rupertus Meldenius said, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” We always have to speak the truth in love.
Let’s keep our eye out for red flags that would hurt our spiritual growth. When the Holy Spirit points them out, let’s heed his word.
Verse Completion:. . . you would have them do to you.Luke 6:31 (NIV) See also Matthew 7:12
Good morning. This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/u88AiyFKJ6g
Complete the Verse & Name the Book: A gentle answer deflects anger, but . . . (completion at the end)
Years ago I used to think how easy the people had it with the prophets in the Old Testament. All they had to do was listen to the prophets and do what they said, and life would go well. If Pharaoh would have listened to Moses the first time Moses spoke, he could have saved himself and his people a lot of grief. It’s so easy: listen to the prophets, do what they say to do, and life is good. On the other hand, if the words of the prophets were not listened to and heeded, life turned bad. We have an example of this in Jeremiah 25:2-12:
Jeremiah the prophet said to all the people in Judah and Jerusalem, “For the past twenty-three years—from the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah son of Amon, king of Judah, until now—the LORD has been giving me his messages. I have faithfully passed them on to you, but you have not listened.
“Again and again the LORD has sent you his servants, the prophets, but you have not listened or even paid attention. Each time the message was this: ‘Turn from the evil road you are traveling and from the evil things you are doing. Only then will I let you live in this land that the LORD gave to you and your ancestors forever. Do not provoke my anger by worshiping idols you made with your own hands. Then I will not harm you.’
“But you would not listen to me,” says the LORD. “You made me furious by worshiping idols you made with your own hands, bringing on yourselves all the disasters you now suffer. And now the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: Because you have not listened to me, I will gather together all the armies of the north under King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, whom I have appointed as my deputy. I will bring them all against this land and its people and against the surrounding nations. I will completely destroy you and make you an object of horror and contempt and a ruin forever. I will take away your happy singing and laughter. The joyful voices of bridegrooms and brides will no longer be heard. Your millstones will fall silent, and the lights in your homes will go out. This entire land will become a desolate wasteland. Israel and her neighboring lands will serve the king of Babylon for seventy years.
“Then, after the seventy years of captivity are over, I will punish the king of Babylon and his people for their sins,” says the LORD. “I will make the country of the Babylonians a wasteland forever.
This prophecy was fulfilled approximately 50 years after it was given. Jeremiah prophesied that the Jews would suffer 70 years of rule by the Babylonians, and then Babylon would be punished. This is exactly what happened. So simple: do what the prophets say and prosper or don’t do what they say and suffer the consequences.
But was it all that simple? What about false prophets? Not all prophets could be trusted. That complicates things! Jeremiah and God had some things to say about the false prophets in Jeremiah 23:9-36:
My heart is broken because of the false prophets, and my bones tremble. I stagger like a drunkard, like someone overcome by wine, because of the holy words the LORD has spoken against them. For the land is full of adultery, and it lies under a curse. The land itself is in mourning—its wilderness pastures are dried up. For they all do evil and abuse what power they have.
“Even the priests and prophets are ungodly, wicked men. I have seen their despicable acts right here in my own Temple,” says the LORD. “Therefore, the paths they take will become slippery. They will be chased through the dark, and there they will fail. For I will bring disaster upon them at the time fixed for their punishment. I, the LORD, have spoken!
“I saw that the prophets of Samaria were terribly evil, for they prophesied in the name of Baal and led my people of Israel into sin. But now I see that the prophets of Jerusalem are even worse! They commit adultery and love dishonesty. They encourage those who are doing evil so that no one turns away from their sins. These prophets are as wicked as the people of Sodom and Gomorrah once were.”
Therefore, this is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says concerning the prophets: “I will feed them with bitterness and give them poison to drink. For it is because of Jerusalem’s prophets that wickedness has filled this land.”
This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says to his people:
“Do not listen to these prophets when they prophesy to you, filling you with futile hopes. They are making up everything they say. They do not speak for the LORD! They keep saying to those who despise my word, ‘Don’t worry! The LORD says you will have peace!’ And to those who stubbornly follow their own desires, they say, ‘No harm will come your way!’
“Have any of these prophets been in the LORD’S presence to hear what he is really saying? Has even one of them cared enough to listen? Look! The LORD’S anger bursts out like a storm, a whirlwind that swirls down on the heads of the wicked. The anger of the LORD will not diminish until it has finished all he has planned. In the days to come you will understand all this very clearly.
“I have not sent these prophets, yet they run around claiming to speak for me. I have given them no message, yet they go on prophesying. If they had stood before me and listened to me, they would have spoken my words, and they would have turned my people from their evil ways and deeds. Am I a God who is only close at hand?” says the LORD. “No, I am far away at the same time. Can anyone hide from me in a secret place? Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and earth?” says the LORD.
“I have heard these prophets say, ‘Listen to the dream I had from God last night.’ And then they proceed to tell lies in my name. How long will this go on? If they are prophets, they are prophets of deceit, inventing everything they say. By telling these false dreams, they are trying to get my people to forget me, just as their ancestors did by worshiping the idols of Baal.
“Let these false prophets tell their dreams, but let my true messengers faithfully proclaim my every word. There is a difference between straw and grain! Does not my word burn like fire?” says the LORD. “Is it not like a mighty hammer that smashes a rock to pieces?
“Therefore,” says the LORD, “I am against these prophets who steal messages from each other and claim they are from me. I am against these smooth-tongued prophets who say, ‘This prophecy is from the LORD!’ I am against these false prophets. Their imaginary dreams are flagrant lies that lead my people into sin. I did not send or appoint them, and they have no message at all for my people. I, the LORD, have spoken!
“Suppose one of the people or one of the prophets or priests asks you, ‘What prophecy has the LORD burdened you with now?’ You must reply, ‘You are the burden! The LORD says he will abandon you!’
“If a prophet, priest, or anyone else says, ‘I have a prophecy from the LORD,’ I will punish that person along with his entire family. You should keep asking each other, ‘What is the LORD’S answer?’ or ‘What is the LORD saying?’ But stop using this phrase, ‘prophecy from the LORD.’ For people are using it to give authority to their own ideas, turning upside down the words of our God, the living God, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
In 2020 we have the words of Jesus to guide us and lead us in truth. Nevertheless, as in the days of Jeremiah, we have an abundance of people who do not speak the truth. There might even be church members who say, “God told me . . .” when God did not tell them what they said. Our standard is the word of God. When what someone says conflicts with what the Bible says, we know they are a “false prophet.” They are not someone we should be listening to.
I’m thankful for Pastor Michael who knows the Bible well and shares the whole message of the Scriptures with his church. In Jeremiah’s time, there were many who wanted only to hear good reports from the prophets. If the prophets told them good things were headed their way, they were all ears. If the prophets told them disaster was headed their way, they wanted to get rid of the prophet. How it was then is not unlike how it is now. People want pastors to tell them things that will tickle their ears. They want to hear that blessings are headed their way. If the pastor talks about sin, repentance, humbling oneself, being a servant of all, and he says persecution and suffering can be expected as disciples of Christ, people are ready to get rid of the pastor or go to a different church.
Let’s be people who are open to hear what God has to say to us through his word and his true messengers. Let’s be people who act on those words.
Verse Completion: . . . harsh words make tempers flare. Proverbs 15:1 (NLT)
Good morning. This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/tXQpDDcrN-w
Complete the Verse and Name the Book: The last enemy that will be abolished is . . . (completion at the end)
Yesterday, Pastor Michael answered a lot of questions with his sermon “Questions and Answers” based on Matthew 22:15-46. There are groups of religious leaders that are trying to trap Jesus into saying something that will incriminate him or discredit him. Jesus has finished telling three parables to the Pharisees that are about the Pharisees where he exposes them for who they are—hypocrites.
Jesus has made it very clear that he is the Messiah. If the Pharisees believed Jesus was the Messiah, that would put an end to their power. Three times the Pharisees try to trap Jesus with his words. Their first attempt is found in verses 15-22:
Then the Pharisees met together to plot how to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested. They sent some of their disciples, along with the supporters of Herod, to meet with him. “Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You teach the way of God truthfully. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. Now tell us what you think about this. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
But Jesus knew their evil motives. “You hypocrites!” he said. “Why are you trying to trap me? Here, show me the coin used for the tax.” When they handed him a Roman coin, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
His reply amazed them, and they went away.
The Herodians were funded by King Herod. They are pro Herod, pro authority, pro Rome. King Herod got his funding from the Romans. It’s interesting that the Herodians and the Pharisees are getting together to conspire against Jesus because the Pharisees hate Rome. If the conditions were right, the Pharisees would rebel against Rome in a heartbeat. The Pharisees believe they are the chosen ones to rule the Jews. They despise Herod and Roman rule. The Herodians and Pharisees come together because their hatred for Jesus is more intense than their hatred for each other. Together, they want to destroy the reputation of Jesus.
They begin with flattery. They want Jesus to believe he is in the company of friends. They want him to drop his guard. However, Jesus knows their evil intent. He knows they are aggressively against him and want to destroy him. Jesus calls them hypocrites. Hypocrites are actors.
The question of paying taxes comes up. The Pharisees hated paying taxes to Rome. If Jesus says that taxes shouldn’t be paid, that could be considered treason against the Roman Empire, and the Herodians could immediately have him arrested. If Jesus says the taxes should be paid, that would be an issue, too. The Roman coin would typically have the image of Caesar on it with the words “Lord and God.” The Pharisees held that even being in possession of such a coin was idolatrous because of the image and inscription; paying the tax was equivalent to worshiping Caesar. Either way Jesus answered the question he would be in trouble for either being a traitor to the Romans or for promoting the worship of Caesar instead of the worship of God.
When shown the coin, Jesus asked whose image and inscription was on it. When told it was Caesar’s, Jesus said, “Well, then, give it to Caesar since it belongs to Caesar.” It’s like going to a potluck dinner where the name of the person who prepared the dish is written on the bottom of the container. When the potluck is over, the container is washed and returned to the person whose name is on it. The person returning the container to the rightful owner would not say, “If I give this to the person whose name is on it, then I’ll be worshiping that person. I better give this container to God instead.” That would be ridiculous. The coin has Caesar’s image and inscription so give it back to him.
Some things belong to God, and those things need to be given to him: honor, respect, worship, authority, your life. Give to Caesar what’s his, and give to God what’s his. We can follow the authority of mankind and still worship God. Romans 13:1 tells us:
Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.
We can pay taxes, obey laws, and pray for our leaders knowing God has established them. Part of our worship to God is obeying the authorities as long as what we are told to do is not in conflict with what God has told us to do.
The second attempt at tripping Jesus up came from the Sadducees. Verses 23-33 say:
That same day Jesus was approached by some Sadducees—religious leaders who say there is no resurrection from the dead. They posed this question: “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies without children, his brother should marry the widow and have a child who will carry on the brother’s name.’ Well, suppose there were seven brothers. The oldest one married and then died without children, so his brother married the widow. But the second brother also died, and the third brother married her. This continued with all seven of them. Last of all, the woman also died. So tell us, whose wife will she be in the resurrection? For all seven were married to her.”
Jesus replied, “Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God. For when the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage. In this respect they will be like the angels in heaven.
“But now, as to whether there will be a resurrection of the dead—haven’t you ever read about this in the Scriptures? Long after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had died, God said, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ So he is the God of the living, not the dead”
When the crowds heard him, they were astounded at his teaching.
The Sadducees came from the aristocracy and wealthy people of Israel. They held the position of Chief Priest. They had a lot of power. They were willing to compromise with Rome in order to keep their power and position. They did not accept the laws and teachings of the Pharisees. The Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the dead; the Sadducees did not. The Sadducees only accepted the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) as God’s word. They were in conflict with the Pharisees over their beliefs. Nevertheless, the two groups come together united by their hatred of Jesus.
The Sadducees wanted to trip Jesus up by getting him to say that the other books of the Bible were from God, too. If Jesus said that, then he couldn’t be the Messiah because the Sadducees were the ones in the know; they were the Chief Priests, after all. The Sadducees wanted to discredit Jesus, so they made up the story of the lady who had seven husbands. Since they don’t believe in the resurrection of the dead, they asked Jesus whose wife she would be in the resurrection since she had seven husbands during her lifetime. They base this off of Deuteronomy 25:5-10. There’s no indication that this obscure law was actually followed by the Jews.
The Chief Priests held the highest religious office and were considered to know spiritual matters more than anyone else. Yet Jesus told them they were in error because they didn’t know the Scriptures or the power of God. That was a strong, confrontational statement against the Sadducees—they didn’t know the Scriptures and didn’t know God. To know God and his power, we must know his word. We have to approach God with a humble heart, but the Sadducees decided what to believe and not believe. They wouldn’t believe anything outside of the Pentateuch. We do the same thing when we say, “I like what that verse says, so I’m going to accept that verse as truth. I don’t like what this other verse says, so I’m not going to accept it as truth.”
Since the Pentateuch didn’t say anything about a resurrection, the Sadducees said there couldn’t be a resurrection. Jesus explained to them that heaven is not like earth. In heaven there is no need for marriage.
A common phrase found throughout the Pentateuch is, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Jesus uses the Pentateuch to show the Sadducees their error. If God is the God of Abraham, that means Abraham is alive—he’s resurrected.
The third attempt to trip Jesus up came from an expert in the law. Verses 34-46 say:
But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees with his reply, they met together to question him again. One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”
Jesus replied, “ ‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
Then, surrounded by the Pharisees, Jesus asked them a question: “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?”
They replied, “He is the son of David.”
Jesus responded, “Then why does David, speaking under the inspiration of the Spirit, call the Messiah ‘my Lord’? For David said, ‘The LORD said to my Lord, Sit in the place of honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies beneath your feet.’ Since David called the Messiah ‘my Lord,’ how can the Messiah be his son?”
No one could answer him. And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.
The expert in the law wants Jesus to say, “Some laws are more important than others, so don’t worry about the lesser laws, just follow the greater laws.” This would indicate that there are some laws that can be broken, and it’s sin while other laws can be broken, and it’s not sin. Some sins would separate a person from God but other sins would not. They are attempting to get Jesus to be heretical. At first it sounds like Jesus is falling into their trap saying some laws are more important than others. Jesus takes them to Deuteronomy 6 where the essence of Judaism is expressed in the Shema found in verses 4-9:
“Listen, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
Jesus is also taking them to Leviticus 19:18:
“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.”
The basis of all the commandments, all 613 laws that the Pharisees came up with, is love God and love others. When these two commandments are followed, everything is being fulfilled. With the answer Jesus gave, he is not trapped, discredited, or tricked.
The whole point of challenging Jesus with these three questions was to discredit him as being the Messiah, so Jesus has a question for them regarding the Messiah, “Whose son is he?” They said he was the son of David. That was a safe answer as the Messiah was to be from the line of David—a human that could trace his ancestry back to David. Notice they did not say, “The Son of God.”
Jesus quoted from Psalm 110, a Messianic psalm. Verse 1 says:
The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit in the place of honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies, making them a footstool under your feet.” They knew David was talking about the Messiah when he said, “The LORD . . .” David was proclaiming that the Messiah was God—the Son of God. If King David says to his son, “You are my Lord,” then who is this son? He must be greater than just an ordinary son. He is clearly the Son of God. Jesus was saying to the Pharisees, “You know that the Messiah is the son of David and the Son of God. You know that the Messiah is God with skin on. You know it, but you’re unwilling to accept it. If I am the Messiah, that means I am the Son of God and not just the son of David.”
If they admitted that Jesus was the Messiah, that means they would have to admit they were wrong and repent. They did not want to repent. They wanted to get rid of Jesus.
Sometimes we won’t admit that we are wrong; we won’t admit that Jesus is the only way to salvation. The world is aggressively against Jesus. Satan is aggressively against the gospel and all those who promote the gospel. Sometimes we want to believe what we want to believe. Sometimes we want to pick and choose who has authority over our lives. We reject that which costs us or makes us change and transform. What we like we accept as being from God. We need to come to the point where we admit God is right and we are wrong. We need to come to the point where we ask for forgiveness, give up pride, and humble ourselves before God.
Jesus is fully God. He is fully our Savior. He is fully our Lord. A transformed life begins by saying, “Jesus, you are God, and I am not. Forgive me of my sins. I humble myself before you. I ask you to be my Savior and my Lord. Help me to walk with you.”
Verse Completion: . . . death. 1 Corinthians 15:26 (NASB)
Good morning. This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/P86tfWZWwoo
Complete the Verse & Name the Book: A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body; jealousy . . . (completion at the end)
Today, I’d like to share an article written by Dennis Johnson titled “Seven Applications of Revelation” (Ligonier https://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/seven-applications-of-revelation/):
Why did God give us the book of Revelation? If you had asked me this question when I was a young Christian, I might have said, “To help us discover when Jesus will return to earth,” “To help us make sense of events in the Middle East,” “To give us nightmares about the tribulation so that we don’t get lax and miss the rapture,” “To give Christians something to argue about,” or, simply, “To confuse us.” My answer today is different: God gave the Apocalypse shown to John in order to bless us — to do us good, to convey His grace, to fortify our hearts. In Revelation, God promises His blessing seven times (a symbolically significant number): to those who hear and hold Revelation’s message (Revelation 1:3; 22:7), who die “in the Lord” (14:13), who stay awake and alert (16:15), who attend the Lamb’s marriage supper (19:9), who share the first resurrection (20:6), and who wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb (22:14; see 7:15).
God gave the book of Revelation neither to tantalize nor to satiate our curiosity about His hidden timetable but rather to arm us for the spiritual conflict that we face every day. At the end of my commentary on Revelation, Triumph of the Lamb, I asked, “What should this book do to us?” Below are the answers I offered in response to this query, and I believe they show how Revelation should be applied.
REVELATION HELPS CHRISTIANS SEE OUR SITUATION IN ITS TRUE PERSPECTIVE
Appearances can be deceiving. We often gauge how “the war” is going by the way things look to us today based on headlines about political and economic trends or global crises. The paradoxes in Revelation’s visions remind us that “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Christ’s cross looked like the slaughter of a helpless lamb, but it was actually the triumph of Judah’s Lion (Revelation 5:5-10). When faithful martyrs shed their blood, their foes seem to have conquered (11:7; 13:7). In fact, the martyrs are the true victors who vanquish Satan “by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death” (12:11).
REVELATION SHOWS OUR ENEMIES IN THEIR TRUE COLORS
Our enemy is stronger and savvier than we are: “the great dragon … that ancient serpent … the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world” (12:9). But the seed of the woman has come, conquered the Serpent, and ascended to heaven (12:5). Satan can no longer accuse: his charges have been silenced by Christ’s sacrifice (12:10-11). Frustrated over his defeat at the cross, Satan vents his wrath against the church on earth (12:12-17). His weapons are violent persecution (the Beast), plausible deception (the False Prophet), and seductive pleasure (the harlot Babylon). The sovereign state, civil religion, and luxurious indulgences may seem to be “saviors.” Don’t be fooled: they aim to destroy. Revelation’s symbolism peels back the façade that often hides the grotesque hollowness of Satan’s counterfeits.
REVELATION REVEALS OUR CHAMPION IN HIS TRUE GLORY
As its title promises, this truly is “the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:1). It unveils Jesus and fixes our hearts and hopes on Him. He is the hero of each dramatic scene. He is the Son of Man foretold in Daniel 7, luminous in divine glory, who by His resurrection seized death’s keys and now walks among His churches. He is Judah’s Lion who conquered by being slain, redeeming people from all the earth’s peoples. He is worthy of worship from every creature everywhere. He is the Captain of heaven’s armies, riding into battle against His and our enemies, defending beleaguered saints, and finally destroying the Dragon and his beasts. Our Champion lifts our weary hearts with His promise: “Surely I am coming soon.” We reply: “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (22:20).
REVELATION ENABLES US TO SEE OURSELVES IN OUR TRUE BEAUTY
Jesus’ messages to the churches of Asia show that His fiery eyes (1:14; 2:18) see us accurately, commending our faithfulness but exposing our flaws (chaps. 2-3). Nevertheless, as mottled as the church’s spiritual complexion is now, our Bridegroom loves us and will not rest until He presents us to Himself “as a bride adorned for her husband” (21:2), clothed “with fine linen, bright and pure” (19:8). Revelation paints our coming wedding in such vivid colors that we long to pursue now the loveliness that will then be fully ours (1 John 3:2-3).
REVELATION SUMMONS US TO ENDURE AS WE SUFFER
Revelation was originally addressed to Christians who were suffering for their faith. They experienced poverty, slander, prison, and even death (2:9-10, 13). Writhing in his death throes in the aftermath of the cross, the Dragon escalates his assault against the saints until Christ returns to consummate history. Jesus does not promise a painless escape from this war of the ages. Instead, He promises His presence as the one who is “alive forevermore” (1:18). In response to that promise, we must heed the King’s call to patient endurance (1:9; 2:2-3, 10, 13, 19, 25; 3:8, 10; 13:10; 14:12).
REVELATION CALLS US TO STAY PURE WHEN COMPROMISE INVITES
Some of the first-century churches, like many churches in the twenty-first century, faced a subtler threat than persecution. Satan, the father of lies, tried to mislead believers through purveyors of false teaching (2:15, 20). Material comfort and compromise with the paganism of the surrounding culture also proved alluring (2:14; 3:17). Such insidious assaults on wholehearted allegiance to Christ are still with us. Against the Devil’s lies and invitations to idolize pleasure and prosperity, Revelation calls us to keep our hearts and lives pure as befits those who will be the Lamb’s white-robed bride (3:4-5, 17-18; 7:9, 14; 14:4; 19:7-8; 22:14-15).
REVELATION ENCOURAGES US TO BEAR WITNESS AS GOD WAITS
Lest Revelation’s summons to endure and stay pure incline us to withdraw into bunkers, hiding from the dangerous and defiling world, we need to heed Revelation’s encouragement to bear witness to “the testimony of Jesus.” Our word martyr is derived from the Greek word meaning “witness” (martys, 2:13). John was on Patmos “on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (1:9). The church is symbolized in two witnesses who announce God’s word, sealing their testimony with their blood (11:4-12; 13:7). Christ’s witnesses suffer not in timid silence but for their bold declaration that Jesus is Lord of all. Through our testimony, God is fulfilling the vision of Revelation 7: “Behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb … and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb!’” (7:9-10).
God gave us the book of Revelation not only to inform our minds but also to transform our lives. It gives us insight into the realities of our situation, our enemies, our Champion, and our true identity, and it calls us to patient endurance, hopeful purity, and courageous witness.
Verse Completion: . . . is like cancer in the bones. Proverbs 14:30 (NLT)
Good morning. This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/UuuZMg6NVeA
Complete the Verse & Name the Book: It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than . . . (completion at the end)
Yesterday, Dr. Michael Wedman taught from 1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:10 a lesson titled “Faith of God.”
Dear brothers and sisters, after we were separated from you for a little while (though our hearts never left you), we tried very hard to come back because of our intense longing to see you again. We wanted very much to come to you, and I, Paul, tried again and again, but Satan prevented us. After all, what gives us hope and joy, and what will be our proud reward and crown as we stand before our Lord Jesus when he returns? It is you! Yes, you are our pride and joy.
Finally, when we could stand it no longer, we decided to stay alone in Athens, and we sent Timothy to visit you. He is our brother and God’s co-worker in proclaiming the Good News of Christ. We sent him to strengthen you, to encourage you in your faith, and to keep you from being shaken by the troubles you were going through. But you know that we are destined for such troubles. Even while we were with you, we warned you that troubles would soon come—and they did, as you well know. That is why, when I could bear it no longer, I sent Timothy to find out whether your faith was still strong. I was afraid that the tempter had gotten the best of you and that our work had been useless.
But now Timothy has just returned, bringing us good news about your faith and love. He reports that you always remember our visit with joy and that you want to see us as much as we want to see you. So we have been greatly encouraged in the midst of our troubles and suffering, dear brothers and sisters, because you have remained strong in your faith. It gives us new life to know that you are standing firm in the Lord.
How we thank God for you! Because of you we have great joy as we enter God’s presence. Night and day we pray earnestly for you, asking God to let us see you again to fill the gaps in your faith.
Sometimes we forget that the epistles are letters written to people known by the author—people they have spent time with; people they love; people they care about; people they want to see grow in the faith. We might be tempted to read the epistles as history or theology, but we can’t forget that these are personal letters. Earlier, Paul said there were people who were objects of God’s wrath, but the Thessalonians are not; they are loved by God.
After Paul left Thessalonica, he had no way of interacting with his friends there except through letters—there was no Skype, Facetime, texting or emails. Paul felt orphaned from them. We have the expression “out of sight; out of mind” but that was never the case with Paul and the Thessalonians. They have not been erased from his memory. He has an intense longing for them.
He tried to see them but was blocked by Satan. We don’t know exactly how Satan did that. Perhaps plans were made for a visit, but the plans fell through (someone got sick, something came up that needed immediate attention, the weather turned bad, etc.). What we do know is Satan does not want the gospel to spread. He wants to stamp out the gospel. There’s no way Satan wanted Paul to go back and strengthen the faith of the Thessalonians. Thessalonica was a tough place to be a Christian with the suffering and persecution taking place there. Satan is real, and he is working hard to block the gospel of Jesus Christ. Satan wants to block people from receiving Christ. For those who have received Christ, Satan’s goal is to lead them away from Christ.
At the very core of Paul’s life was Jesus only, Jesus always, and Jesus ever. Ancient Greeks awarded laurel wreaths to the victors in the Olympics. What Paul considers a victorious life is to see the faith of others growing, being strengthened, and standing firm in Jesus. Paul didn’t live for riches or a great retirement; Paul lived to see others grow in Jesus. Paul wanted to know if others were falling away from God or falling toward God. Persecution can cause us to press into Jesus, or it can cause us to fall away.
Timothy was a dear friend to Paul yet he was willing to send Timothy to Thessalonica. Paul put what’s best for others above what’s best for him. He wants the Thessalonians to be strengthened and encouraged in the faith by having Timothy there with them. All of them are targets for persecution but particularly Paul because he powerfully preaches the gospel. People who have Christ at the center of their lives are dangerous to Satan. Satan does all he can to discredit, destroy, and get them out of the way. The cost of following Jesus is persecution from Satan. John 15:18-25 have the following words of Jesus:
“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you. They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the one who sent me. They would not be guilty if I had not come and spoken to them. But now they have no excuse for their sin. Anyone who hates me also hates my Father. If I hadn’t done such miraculous signs among them that no one else could do, they would not be guilty. But as it is, they have seen everything I did, yet they still hate me and my Father. This fulfills what is written in their Scriptures: ‘They hated me without cause.’ “
John 16:33 continues with the words of Jesus: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
The Kingdom of God is in direct opposition to the kingdom of Satan, so we can expect persecution from Satan when we are part of God’s kingdom. We need to stand strong because God overcame and is overcoming the world. 1 John 4:4 says:
But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.
Do we feel that our lives would be in vain if people didn’t hear the gospel, respond to the gospel, and stay with the gospel? That’s how Paul felt. Paul was passionate about his faith. Are we passionate about our faith?
What Paul taught is very similar to what Peter taught. In 1 Peter 5:8-11 we find:
Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.
In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. All power to him forever! Amen.
Timothy brought a good report to Paul about the Thessalonians. The Good Newscan be translated the gospel. The Good News is alive and well in their lives. They are alive in their faith and walking in love. It means a lot to Paul when Timothy tells him the Thessalonians love him and miss him because Paul is used to people being against him and wanting to tear him down. Satan knows if he can discredit Paul, he can discredit the gospel. Paul is concerned that people will believe the slander, lies, and rumors about him and fall away from the faith. However, he is greatly encouraged by the good report Timothy brings him from Thessalonica: their faith is firm, Paul’s labor was not in vain, lives are changing, the gospel is growing, the Kingdom of Jesus is expanding. The news energizes Paul.
When we experience something spectacular, we might say, “This is living! This is what it’s all about!” Paul says that the epitome of life for him is to know that the gospel of Jesus Christ continues to produce disciples who continue to produce disciples who continue to produce disciples . . . The gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God for the salvation of all people for everyone who would believe and receive him.
Paul’s heart is overflowing with gratitude and thankfulness. He is so thankful for the message he received from God, and he’s thankful that the message he has shared with others is taking root in their lives. The faith of God in others is so important to Paul.
Let us pray to be conduits for each other, conduits of the Holy Spirit living in us, to encourage one another, to strengthen one another, to build up one another, that there would be nothing lacking in our faith together.
Verse Completion: . . . for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 19:24 (NASB) See also Mark 10:25
Good morning. This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/PpjBOmJUahs
Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Laughter can conceal a heavy heart, but . . . (completion at the end)
As of this writing, the election is over but we don’t know the final result of the election. Today, I’d like to share an article by Andy Stanley called “What Christians Should Do if their Candidate Loses the 2020 Election.” Pastor Andy is the founder and senior pastor of North Point Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia. He is a television host, podcaster, and author of more than twenty books. Here is what he had to say:
Nothing divides like politics, because nothing divides like fear. But what exactly, in the context of our current election, are we afraid of? https://time.com/5904504/political-ideology-division/
The answer is the same for everyone at the macro level: we fear loss. We are afraid of losing control, safety, power, opportunity, status, rights, freedom. White people fear what might happen. Brown and Black people fear what has already happened and what might happen next. We all fear the unknown. With political ads peddling fear around the clock, we gather in our political corners. https://time.com/5831013/coronavirus-lack-of-control/
Neighbors divide by way of yard signs. Families divide over political reporting, factual or not. And church congregations find themselves split down party lines, inside and outside the church walls. https://time.com/5837693/should-churches-reopen-thinking-about-exile/
None of this divisiveness is pleasant, but a lack of unity among Christians is especially troublesome. Apparently, Jesus saw this coming. Not the election, but the division. In fact, he made it a matter of prayer after he ate his final meal with his disciples.
Jesus was about to die, yet he was most concerned about unity among his followers. “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message that all of them may be one.”
In the first century, “all of them” meant Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, slaves and freemen, tax gatherers and those from whom taxes were gathered, the educated and the uneducated. Everybody. In the 21st century, it means Republicans and Democrats, the privileged and underprivileged, the Independent, the undecided, the Libertarians, the Black and brown and white, the married, single and divorced. Everyone.
In that conversation with his disciples, Jesus basically said, “Look, I’m about to leave. Here’s one thing I don’t want you to forget: I’m giving you a new command to replace all the other commands, and it’s very simple. Love one another. As I have loved you, you’re to love one another.” Jesus said the world would know they were his followers by the way they loved one another. He didn’t long for his followers to be unified in politics or campaign talking points, only in love.
Why would we as followers of an eternal king allow ourselves to be divided by temporary political systems, leaders or platforms?
Your political candidate will win or lose based on how American citizens vote on a Tuesday in November. But the church wins or loses, the community wins or loses—and in some way our nation wins or loses—based on how Christians love each other. That’s why Jesus said we must not allow anything or anyone to divide us. As we consider candidates and policies, there is one question Christians must not neglect in their decision making: “What does love require of us?” https://time.com/5901749/how-to-vote-in-2020-election/
Our hope is not in the perfect political party. Our hope is the message and teaching of Jesus. During our oh-so-short history as a nation, both of our current political parties and their leaders have gotten it wrong; they have failed us morally; they have failed us in terms of their leadership. Why would we as followers of an eternal king allow ourselves to be divided by temporary political systems, leaders or platforms? And why would we allow ourselves to be divided by fear? Jesus’ most oft-repeated command was fear not, fear not, fear not. Instead, we must love one another as we struggle and sacrifice for the unity Jesus prayed for.
I have two suggestions for Christians during the days before and after this election. First, pray like Jesus prayed. Let’s pray for oneness among Christians. Second, find a way to love someone with whom you disagree politically. Listen, learn and love unconditionally.
If you’re thinking, “Well, I don’t even know anybody I disagree with politically,” that’s a problem. Can I push a little bit? Maybe that’s why you’re so convinced you’re right. If you’re thinking, “I can’t understand how anybody could believe that,” then you just made a confession. There’s something you don’t understand, and you can seek understanding. I invite you to seek out an opportunity to unconditionally love someone with whom you disagree politically.
Christians can disagree politically, but we must love unconditionally and pray for unity. Fear should not fuel our actions. Love is the power we need, and love must fuel both our conversations and choices. The gospel will spread just as Jesus intended when we, Christians across America, are willing to humble ourselves and seek unity in love.
Verse Completion: . . . when the laughter ends, the grief remains. Proverbs 14:13 (NLT)
Good morning. This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/PuAjUul-iUM
Complete the Verse & Name the Book: So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or . . . (completion at the end)
On October 25, we had the privilege of hearing Bryce McFadden speak on “Growing in Gratitude” based on Luke 17:11-19. Bryce is the Dean of Reach Training Institute in Arlington, WA, that is designed to raise up leaders for ministry. Jesus said, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields” (Matthew 9:37). If you would like more information on the school, go to: https://www.rtinorthsound.com
We are living in a time of history like never before. There are so many divisive issues that can cause us great concern. We can become distracted, disturbed, distraught, and even filled with despair. We can find ourselves nursing judgmental attitudes and anger. We can whine and complain. We can also be convicted by God and confess our failures and go back to the One who created all things—the One who is still Lord of all. Be encouraged. God is not caught off guard. He’s not confused. He is still our ever present help in trouble. He brings one down and exalts another. He is sovereign in power, and all is subject to him. “The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the LORD; he guides it wherever he pleases”(Proverbs 21:1). God has established his throne in the heavens and his kingdom rules over all. “You can make many plans, but the LORD’S purpose will prevail”(Proverbs 19:21).
As bad as it can get in this world, for the one who knows Jesus Christ, life on this planet is the worst it is ever going to get. Revelation was not written to frighten us; it was written to encourage us. When we read to the end, we know it ends well! The final victory belongs to God. His Kingdom prevails.
Sometimes it seems like God is teaching me new things, but often he is reminding me of things I have learned but forgotten or am not practicing. Some time ago, I realized I was listening to far too many voices—especially those on social media. I found I was allowing life’s circumstances to steal my joy away from me. My attitude looked less like an oasis of refreshment and rest and more like Death Valley. I was becoming negative, pessimistic, and discouraged. I was letting current culture shape my thoughts and attitudes rather than letting God’s Word renew and reshape my mind.
Let’s take a look at the story of the ten healed of leprosy in Luke 17:11-19:
As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, he reached the border between Galilee and Samaria. As he entered a village there, ten men with leprosy stood at a distance, crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
He looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy.
One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan.
Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And Jesus said to the man. “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.”
It appears there were nine lepers who were Jews, and one was a Samaritan. They were standing at a distance from Jesus because those were the rules governing lepers. There was no cure for the disease, so when people got the disease, it was a death sentence for them.
In the Old Testament if a person was suspected of having leprosy, that person would have to go to the priest and be examined. After seven days of quarantine, the person would have to be reexamined by the priest. If found to have leprosy, the person would be cast out of society. Leviticus 13:45-46 says:
“Those who suffer from a serious skin disease must tear their clothing and leave their hair uncombed. They must cover their mouth and call out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as the serious disease lasts, they will be ceremonially unclean. They must live in isolation in their place outside the camp.”
Lepers were to keep six feet away from people, and if there was wind there would need to be at least 100 feet. If a leper failed to call out, “Unclean,” it was within the law to throw stones at the leper to keep the person away. Life as a leper was difficult: living with a death sentence, isolated, no cure, outcast from society, never able to send your kids off to school, never able to welcome them home from school, never able to attend a wedding, never able to hold a baby, never able to feel an embrace or a kiss. To survive, a leper would have to beg.
Physically, leprosy takes quite a toll on the body: foul smell, infection, gangrene, loss of fingers, toes, noses, ears. Lepers were vulnerable to rats that could eat body parts while the leper slept. Leprosy deadens the nerves. The fact that we feel pain and hurt is actually a gift from God. Yet pain is a gift nobody really wants.
Jesus is the only hope for these lepers. After he heals them, he sends them to the priest for confirmation of their healing. Jesus healed in a variety of ways. In this case, the lepers were healed as they turned to go to the priest.
The irony of this is that instead of the Jewish lepers returning to Jesus, it’s the despised Samaritan. He is deeply grateful and praised God in a loud voice. He threw himself at the feet of Jesus in gratitude and reverence. When Jesus told him, “your faith has made you well,” the word well in Greek is the root word from which we get the word salvation. It’s safe to assume the Samaritan received healing beyond the physical healing. Jesus referred to his faith, and faith is a spiritual quality, not a physical quality. It’s one thing to be physically healed, but it’s quite another thing to be spiritually healed, rescued, saved. The Samaritan’s gratitude leads him to worship Jesus.
When we express gratitude to God, we are expressing our faith in God. We aren’t acting as if life is coincidence or chance or good luck or good fortune or good karma. It’s acknowledgement that God is good. This is one of the blessings we have been given as a follower of Christ; we have someone to thank. Gratitude is one way we worship our Creator.
We live in an ungrateful world. John Maxwell humorously stated, “The instant we are born we already owe someone for nine months of room and board, and we never really pay that back.” Francis Schaeffer said, “The beginning of man’s rebellion against God was and is the lack of a grateful heart.” Romans 1:21 says:
Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused.
2 Timothy 3:1-2 says:
You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred.
As believers we can be free to express gratitude to God in any circumstance. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says:
Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
Is this really possible? We have an example of it in Acts 16:22-25:
A mob quickly formed against Paul and Silas, and the city officials ordered them stripped and beaten with wooden rods. They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape. So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks.
Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening.
Expressing thanks can change how you feel about your circumstances. Gratitude improves relationships, makes a person feel better physically and emotionally, enhances empathy for others, and improves sleep. Gratitude changes a person. It’s not happy people who are thankful; it’s thankful people who are happy.
When we express gratitude, we cultivate a greater recognition of God’s activity in our daily lives. Psalm 92:1-2 says:
It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to the Most High. It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning, your faithfulness in the evening.
Why love in the morning and faithfulness in the evening? Why not the other way around? Before I do anything in my day, I am proclaiming that God loves me, I’m accepted by God, that he values me and pursues me. Because I am loved, I can look back on my day and see places where he was faithful, where he cared for me, where he provided for me, where he blessed me. With a grateful heart I can give God thanks.
Gratitude naturally grows and flows out of a heart centered on Christ. Colossians 2:6-7 says:
And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.
Don’t allow the enemy to steal your joy. Exercise your faith and express gratitude to God instead. Put your mind and focus on Christ. Say a prayer that starts out, “God, today I want to thank you for . . .” Like the Samaritan who returned to Jesus to thank him for healing him, we, too, can return to Jesus again and again thanking him for all he has done—for being so good.
Verse Completion: . . . we may drift away from it. Hebrews 2:1 (NLT)
Good morning. This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/3kxWMq7gGF8
Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Wealth from get-rich-quick schemes quickly disappears; wealth from hard work . . . (completion at the end)
Pastor Del McKenzie has been sharing with us Godly Character Qualities. So far he has spoken about gentleness, humility, and integrity. Pastor Del has allowed God to develop these character qualities in him over his 83 years of life. Yesterday, he shared his thoughts on the quality of endurance.
An old hymn has what should be the cry of the heart of God’s people:
1. Oh! to be like Thee, blessed Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
Oh! to be like Thee, oh! to be like Thee,
Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
1. Oh! to be like Thee, full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wand’ring sinner to find.
2. Oh! to be like Thee, lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer, others to save.
It’s God’s purpose and plan for us to become like Jesus. We are to be changed into his likeness by developing his character. Hebrews 12:1-4 says:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people, then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.
If we want to be like Jesus, we have to learn to develop the character quality of endurance. Endurance is a habit of continuing in the situation or task that God has brought to us or put us in. We stay in the situation until God terminates it.
Once a task has begun,
Don’t quit until it’s done.
Endurance is the ability to withstand pain, stress, fatigue, or opposition and accomplish God’s will. We give our best to the task. 2 Timothy 4:5 says:
But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.
Endurance is to continue on courageously while under fire. Endurance is completing a task in spite of all the obstacles that come at us. Endurance is pursuing what should be pursued.
The opposite of endurance is simply giving up, caving in, or quitting. Luke 18:1 says:
One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up.
Fifty percent of the marriages in America now end in divorce—people simply give up. One or both of the people in the marriage give up due to the many challenges that are involved in a marriage.
The dropout rate is high in our schools. Kids find it hard to find good jobs and often end up becoming addicted to drugs.
There are those who quit their jobs and those who quit church. Less than ten percent of pastors stay with their job through their entire career.
There are those who started to read the Bible and then quit. There are those who started a consistent prayer life and then quit.
All these people instead of enduring, continuing, or pressing on, decided to quit.
Let’s take a look at the example of Jesus as we look at endurance. He spent all night in prayer. That takes a great deal of strength, courage, and endurance! It’s not an easy thing to do. Jesus also fasted for forty days. Again, a great deal of strength, courage, and endurance is needed to accomplish this. Jesus went to Jerusalem knowing he would be persecuted, humiliated, and put to death, but he endured everything—the physical suffering, the emotional suffering, and the spiritual suffering. Jesus didn’t give up, surrender, cave in, back up, or back down; he endured.
Galatians 6:9 says:
So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.
What we sow we will reap. If we plant giving up, we will harvest giving up. If we plant endurance, we will harvest endurance. It’s possible for us to become weary in our job, our marriage, taking care of our bodies, and many other things. When we become weary, we can feel like giving up, but we can’t give up in doing good. We need to be faithful in reaching out to people, encouraging them, caring for them, praying for them, loving them. We can’t give up in doing good.
Weariness, fatigue, not getting results as quickly as we’d like, and losing motivation are all enemies of endurance. We have to conquer these enemies through Jesus who gives us the victory. Philippians 3:14 says:
I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
Jesus said in Luke 9:62:
Hebrews 10:39 says:
But we are not like those who turn away from God to their own destruction. We are the faithful ones, whose souls will be saved.
Romans 15:5 says:
May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus.
God gives us the ability to have endurance when things get tough, and it seems like everything is against us. Endurance is not a matter of us pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps, conjuring it up, or working it out on our own. Endurance is a matter of trusting Jesus and looking to him—allowing Jesus to have his way in our lives.
How do we develop endurance?
· We draw on God’s resources. Paul said, “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.” (Philippians 1:21) “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) The Holy Spirit can take the endurance of Jesus and make it real to us. We can rely on the ministries of the Holy Spirit. We can rely on God’s word. “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” (Hebrews 4:12)
· We bring our weaknesses to the Lord. This requires honesty on our part. We need to admit and confess when we have quit. We need to talk to God about it. We take back any ground that has been given to the devil. When we give up, we give ground to the devil. We take back the ground we gave to the devil, and we give it to the Holy Spirit.
· We ask God to help us keep the big picture of life: Whatever we sow is what we will reap.
· We establish our goals and our purposes: our walk with Jesus, our study of God’s word, our pursuit of holiness.
· We do the unpleasant things first when we feel like giving up. We face the hard things.
· We share our needs with a prayer partner or coach. We ask God to stamp his image on our hearts: “Lord, stamp your image of endurance on my heart.”
Verse Completion: . . . grows over time. Proverbs 13:11 (NLT)
Good morning. This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/RLXRzwdFlYw
Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and . . . (completion at the end)
Yesterday, Pastor Michael spoke on “Invitations and Responses” based on Matthew 22:1-14. Jesus told the Parable of the Great Feast when he was in Jerusalem about a week before his death. At this point, Jesus has clearly declared he is the Messiah, the son of David. He has cleared the money changers from the Temple and has healed the lame and the blind. Jesus is the Savior of the world.
The Pharisees and leaders of the Law believe the claims of Jesus to be blasphemy. The Pharisees have become very upset because the tables have turned and it’s no longer all about them; it’s now all about Jesus. The Pharisees attempt to dismantle Jesus and trip him up. Jesus has already given two parable that expose the Pharisees for who they really are, and now Jesus gives a third parable against them:
Jesus also told them other parables. He said, “The Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a king who prepared a great wedding feast for his son. When the banquet was ready, he sent his servants to notify those who were invited. But they all refused to come!
“So he sent other servants to tell them, ‘The feast has been prepared. The bulls and fattened cattle have been killed; and everything is ready. Come to the banquet!’ But the guests he had invited ignored them and went their own way, one to his farm, another to his business. Others seized his messengers and insulted them and killed them.
“The king was furious, and he sent out his army to destroy the murderers and burn their town. And he said to his servants, ’The wedding feast is ready, and the guests I invited aren’t worthy of the honor. Now go out to the street corners and invite everyone you see.’ So the servants brought in everyone they could find, good and bad alike, and the banquet hall was filled with guests.
“But when the king came in to meet the guests, he noticed a man who wasn’t wearing the proper clothes for a wedding. ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how is it that you are here without wedding clothes?’ But the man had no reply. Then the king said to his aides, ‘Bind his hands and feet and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
What is Jesus wanting us to know through his parable? He wants us to see how the Kingdom of Heaven operates. The parable is about God and his Son.
Have you ever attended a lavish wedding where all the holds were pulled out? It’s quite an experience! The most extravagant wedding attended by Pastor Michael occurred in India. The hotel where he stayed was the location of some elaborate weddings. Pastor Michael went out on the grass where there were myriad lights, fountains, ice carvings, cauldrons filled with scented water with flowers and candles floating on top, balloon archways, flowered archways, tents with beautiful rugs and ornate couches and chairs, and a special tent with beautiful high back chairs in vibrant colors where the bride and groom would sit and people would take pictures. Throughout the area, there were places set up where a variety of food and drinks were available. Everybody in attendance had beautiful wedding garments made of silk in beautiful vibrant colors. The banquet itself was beyond description with all the meats and spices. There seemed to be no limit to what foods were available to eat.
In the parable, this is the type of wedding the guests have been invited to. Invitations were sent out long before the wedding of the king’s son. The invited guests were people the king and his son wanted to be at this special occasion.
In India, weddings are not set to occur at a set time. It’s unlike America where we might say the wedding is at 4:00 and the reception is at 6:00. Invitations in India are sent out for the day of the wedding, and people arrive throughout the wedding day.
In the parable, the servants are sent out to remind the guests that the wedding is happening today. However, the guests refused to come! They turned down the original invitation and now they are turning down the personal invitation. The king and his son are highly insulted. In Verse 4 the third invitation is sent out basically saying, “Dinner is ready.” Again, the invited guests do not come to the wedding feast. In fact, some of the guests seized the servants, mistreated them, and killed them. The message these guests sent out by their actions was clear: “I have better and more important things to do. Not only do I not want to go to your wedding, but I am opposed to going to your wedding! I am opposed to your message of ‘Come.’”
The message is very similar to the Parable of the Evil Farmers found in the previous chapter of Matthew 21:33-46. The Parable of the Two Sons, the Parable of the Evil Farmers, and this Parable of the Great Feast are all three against the Pharisees, chief priests, and the teachers of the Law—those who were rejecting the Kingdom of God because they were rejecting the Son of God who was Jesus.
The Pharisees knew the servants who were sent to invite guests to the feast was Israel. It was the job of the religious leaders (Pharisees, chief priests, teachers of the Law) to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah, but they had not done that. What they had done is reject the Messiah and treat Jesus with contempt. The religious leaders were the invited guests who seized his messengers and insulted them and killed them. They were the ones who seized the prophets of old who said, “Repent for the Kingdom of God is near.” The religious leaders didn’t want any part of it.
We are surprised in Verse 7 when the king became enraged and sent his army and destroyed the murderers and burned their city. We expect God to be a God of love, but here we see God’s wrath being poured out. God is gracious and patient, but there comes a time when his wrath gets poured out. In this parable, the invitation was sent out three times. It’s only after the messengers are seized, insulted, and killed that God pours out his wrath. 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16 says:
For some of the Jews killed the prophets, and some even killed the Lord Jesus. Now they have persecuted us, too. They fail to please God and work against all humanity as they try to keep us from preaching the Good News of salvation to the Gentiles. By doing this, they continue to pile up their sins. But the anger of God has caught up with them at last.
The time comes when the wrath of God is poured out on sin, ungodliness, and on those who try to prevent those who are trying to come to salvation. The message of the parable is the Kingdom of God is coming. Will you accept the invitation to become part of it or will you reject the invitation? For those who accept the invitation, there is a banquet. For those who reject the invitation, there is wrath.
In this parable, those who were given the original invitation represent the Jews. When the Jews turned down the invitation, the invitation is extended to the Gentiles, and the Gentiles come. Notice how some who came were good and some were bad. The Pharisees (and a lot of people today) believed that only good people are chosen by God—those who have a certain level of morality, goodness, or impressiveness. Those who didn’t deserve to be invited to the banquet were invited. Earlier we saw that those who thought they deserved to be invited were not worthy of being invited. Mark 2:17 says:
You are never too bad to come to Jesus. It’s never too late to come to Jesus. Everyone is invited to the banquet.
One time in India, Pastor Michael had not received an invitation to a wedding, but when the father of the groom met Pastor Michael, he said, “You are welcome to stay for the banquet.” The father didn’t know Pastor Michael and yet he extended that invitation. Pastor Michael was not family; he was not a friend of the family. Pastor Michael was a foreigner and yet he was given an invitation by the father. On top of that, the father even invited Pastor Michael to sit with him at his table! Not knowing if Pastor Michael was good or bad, the father invited him to sit at a place of honor—the father’s table.
In Verse 11 we see where the king noticed a man was not wearing wedding clothes. He is clearly out of place. When asked by the king as to how he was able to enter the wedding celebration without wedding clothes, the man was speechless. Why is the man not wearing wedding clothes? Why is there an expectation for wedding clothes to be worn? Why is the king highly displeased with the man?
Jesus is talking about the Kingdom of Heaven as he tells this parable. The place of outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, is hell. We need to know how one enters the Kingdom of Heaven and how one ends up in the kingdom of hell. Revelation 19:5-9 says:
And from the throne came a voice that said, “Praise our God, all his servants, all who fear him, from the least to the greatest.”
Then I heard again what sounded like the shout of a vast crowd or the roar of mighty ocean waves or the crash of loud thunder: “Praise the LORD! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. Let us be glad and rejoice, and let us give honor to him. For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb, and his bride has prepared herself. She has been given the finest of pure white linen to wear.” For the fine linen represents the good deeds of God ‘s holy people.
And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” And he added, “These are true words that come from God.”
When Jesus returns to earth, there will be a wedding supper of the Lamb. All those who have their wedding clothes on will be able to enjoy everlasting life with Jesus. 1 Timothy 2:4 tells us that God wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. God doesn’t want anyone to perish. God wants everyone to come to the wedding feast of the Lamb—to his Son, Jesus. In the parable, everyone was invited. Everyone is extended an invitation to salvation, so what is up with the man without wedding clothes?
When Pastor Michael packed his suitcase for India, he did not pack any wedding clothes because he wasn’t planning on attending any weddings. However, when he visited the site of a wedding, he felt out of place because he didn’t have clothes that matched the guests at the wedding. Pastor Michael felt conspicuous and very underdressed. When the father of the groom invited Pastor Michael to his table, Pastor Michael felt uncomfortable due to his attire and said, “Thank you so much for your kind and generous invitation, but I’m not dressed for it.”
The father said, “We’ll find you something to wear.”
The people in the parable who were invited at the end weren’t expected to have wedding clothes. They would be given wedding clothes to wear. They were told, “You show up to the wedding, and you will be given wedding clothes so you fit in with the rest of the guests.” Somewhere along the line, this one man in the parable said, “No, I don’t want your clothes. I reject your clothes.” And the man tried to slip into the wedding. Isaiah 61:10 says:
I am overwhelmed with joy in the LORD my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom dressed for his wedding or a bride with her jewels.
We’re not expected to go to God’s wedding banquet in our own clothes. We’re not expected to go in our own goodness. We’re not expected to go in our own morality. We are able to go to the wedding banquet that God the Father has prepared for Jesus his Son through the robes and the clothing that Jesus gives us. Galatians 3:26 says:
For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes.
Jesus is telling this parable to the Pharisees and others to let them know that the way into the Kingdom of Heaven is through Jesus. It doesn’t matter how good or how bad you have been; just show up and God will give you wedding garments. Jesus will give you the robe of righteousness. He is the only One qualified to hand out robes. John 14:6 has the following words of Jesus:
Acts 4:12 says of Jesus:
“There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”
We come to salvation, we come to everlasting life, we get into the wedding banquet of the Lamb through receiving Jesus as Lord and Savior. We take his garments upon ourselves. No one gets into the wedding feast on their own merits. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Sin has a penalty that separates us from God. We are not worthy to go to the wedding feast on our own. We don’t have the right clothes because we have been separated from God by our sins. Nevertheless, God invites us to his banquet table because Jesus paid the penalty for sin by dying on the cross and rising from the grave on the third day. You have been given an invitation to attend the wedding feast. Are you going to accept that invitation or turn away from it? Jesus said, “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” (Revelation 3:20)
If you have never responded to God’s invitation, pray this prayer:
“Jesus, I know I’m not worthy. I have sin that separates me from you. Jesus, I know you died on the cross for me. I believe you were raised again on the third day. I know you are offering me everlasting life. You want me at the wedding feast. Jesus, come into my life. Forgive me of my sins. Grant me those wedding garments, because I want to be at the feast with you. Help me, Jesus, to learn from you and walk with you. In your name, Jesus. Amen.”
Verse Completion: . . . certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)