Monday, April 30, 2012

Good post on envy by Tim Challies.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Jeremiah 2:1-3:5


Jeremiah 2:1-3:5

First, God called Jeremiah to prophesy. Second, God told Jeremiah what would happen to Judah, using the picture of a boiling pot about to be poured out on the country.

Next, God gave Jeremiah a word to preach. In fact, God gave Jeremiah 5 messages about Israel breaking its covenant with God. The image God used is that of a wife who is unfaithful to her covenant with her husband, committing adultery. This is a common image and theme in the Bible. God is the groom or husband and Israel is the bride. God used Hosea’s marriage to demonstrate this theme.

This first message of Jeremiah runs from the first verse of chapter two through chapter three, verse 5. It is presented as a sort of law suit. The Lord told them how they violated the covenant, how he warned them and how they refused to repent and obey. Finally, he told them the consequence of disobedience. It is the kind of letter a lord writes to a vassal who is rebelling. For example, when Judah made a treaty with Assyria to be its vassal by paying tribute and obeying the Assyrian king, then rebelling, the king would send a message of warning. If that did not work, he would invade and punish the rebels.

Jeremiah 2:1-3 Remembering the Past

The first part of the message is addressed to Jerusalem. It was both the center of worship, for the temple was there, and the center of government, for the king was there. Jeremiah may have received his calling in his home town of Anathoth, just north of Jerusalem. He could have walked to town, found a prominent spot and begun to preach.

In these verses, God reflects on their relationship in the early days, as the husband of an unfaithful wife might. He remembered her devotion, love, and following. Israel was like a young bride, wanting to please her husband. The word for devotion here is “hesed” which means commitment to a covenant.

As a result of this covenant faithfulness, Israel was holy to the Lord. (3) He called them out of Egypt, He separated them from all the other peoples of the world to be his. He made a covenant only with them. While they were faithful to the covenant, God protected them and brought disaster on their enemies.

This is all in accordance with the terms of the covenant as spelled out in Deuteronomy 28. There is the description of the blessings of faithfulness and the curses of disobedience.

But notice again that God revealed his intent to relate to the whole world. He would not stop with Israel. Verse 3 says Israel was the first fruits of his harvest. This little statement foretells the coming of Christ centuries later to gather the rest of the harvest. That harvest is the calling of Gentiles into God’s kingdom. When God spoke to Jeremiah about Israel’s covenant, he was also looking forward to the day he would expand his message to the Gentiles. We are part of that group.

Jeremiah 2:4-37 The Lord’s Complaint

This long section begins the Lord’s complaint against Israel. He began with a rhetorical question in verse 5. He asked “what wrong did your fathers find in me that mean them leave me and go after worthlessness and become worthless?”

A rhetorical question is one you do not expect to be answered by the other person. Rather, you ask it to set up your argument or complaint. The answer to it is so obvious that it need not be answered.

This question is rhetorical because there is no wrong in God to be found. Psalm 100:5 says the Lord is good. Luke 18:19 says no one is good but God alone. He is holy and we are to imitate him in that. Be holy for I am holy. (1 Peter 1:15)

But Israel went away from God nonetheless. He did no wrong, but they left him and went after something worthless. Why? Because they were sinful men and women.

We do the same in the church today. We have access to the Lord through our relationship with Christ. He still has no faults. Yet, we leave him and pursue worthlessness. Worthlessness is anything that substitutes for God in our life.

For Israel, worthlessness took the form of a physical idol. But the idol is really a symbol of man’s desire to find worth, wealth and happiness without submitting to the Lord. We cut to the chase today most of the time. We leave God, or reduce him in priority, and pursue wealth or fame or power or fun.

You might, however, have a physical idol. You likely are not tempted to worship Baal. But you have a house or car or boat or something that means more to you than God.

Or you might simply re-define God to be the kind of God you want. You do not believe what the Bible says about him in some areas and you choose to believe something else about him. That is idolatry.

When Israel pursued worthlessness they succeeded. They became worthless. The same is true of us. This brings up a good point. Your worth is first of all your worth to God.

When God says they did not say “where is the Lord”, he means they did not seek the Lord. The Lord refers back to the great act of redemption as he often does. He referred to his redeeming them from Egypt and guiding them to the “promised land”. They did not think of that and seek God to deliver them.

Today he would say I called you out of the world of sin to be saved, yet you do not call on me or seek me.

When they did come to God’s land, they defiled it by being as sinful as the people he displaced for them. (7) This land of Canaan was God’s land, a sacred place he devoted to himself. (Leviticus 25:23) The Canaanites defiled it by sin and he drove them out. The Israelites defiled it by sin and he drove them out.

The Lord focused on three groups of people: priests (8), shepherds (rulers) and prophets. These people were all charged with leading the people in covenant obedience. Instead, they went astray and led the people astray.

The equivalent today would be pastors, teachers and elders or deacons. God charged each with care and feeding of his people. We have seen that in Paul’s writings. Yet, today, these officials lead God’s people astray.

For example, consider Carlton Pearson. He attended Oral Roberts University, was mentored by Oral Roberts. He was licensed and ordained in the Church of God in Christ.

He started a church, the Higher Dimensions Evangelistic Center. It grew to several thousand members. He was on television. He appeared with famous preachers at stadium events. Pearson had one of the most watched TV programs on the Trinity Broadcasting Network.

Then, Pearson believed God appeared to him and spoke to him and he quit believing in hell. He became a universalist, one who believes everyone goes to heaven. He called it the gospel of inclusion. His denomination declared him a heretic. But some followed him and eventually his church joined a Unitarian Church. So, he led a group of people to reject hell, then to reject the deity of Christ and the existence of the Holy Spirit.

So, what was the outcome of Israel’s rebellion? God said he would contend with them, their children and grandchildren. (9).

God warned the Israelites before. He had already brought disaster on them to get their attention. He pointed this out in verses 14-18. Enemies laid their land to waste, destroyed their cities and took away their land and people. Yet they did not repent

He sent them prophets, but they killed them. (30) In Matthew 23:37, Jesus called Jerusalem the city that kills the prophets.

In addition to idolatry, Israel was guilty of injustice to the poor. (34) When our relationship to God is broken, we break our relationships with people.

Since they did not repent, God determined to bring judgment upon them. (35) He determined to punish them and neither Egypt nor Assyria could keep them safe from the Babylonians. This is the final curse for disobedience. Deuteronomy 28:49 says “The LORD will bring a nation against you from far away, from the end of the earth…until you are destroyed.”

Here are some points to consider from this passage:

 God keeps his covenants

 Man cannot satisfy God’s requirements on his own

 Man needs God’s grace

 Man needs a savior

Friday, April 27, 2012

There is nothing easier than getting into a right relationship with God except when it is not God Whom you want, but only what He gives. If you have only come the length of asking God for things, you have never come to the first strand of abandonment, you have become a Christian from the standpoint of your own. 'I did ask God for the Holy Spirit, but He did not give me the rest and the peace I expected.' Instantly God puts His finger on the reason--you are not seeking the Lord at all, you are seeking something for yourself." ~ Oswald Chambers

 I do not need to add anything to that.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Jeremiah 1 continued

Jeremiah’s job (his calling) was to go where God sent him (7) and say what God told him to say.

Jeremiah, however, was hesitant.  Like Moses and Jonah, he tried to resist God’s call.  His response is in verse 6.  He said he was too young and did not know how to speak. I am not critical of him.  He was a young man when God told him he would be a prophet to the nations.  That is a big job for a young man.

Jeremiah sounded like Moses, who said “I am not eloquent” and “I am slow of speech and of tongue” (Exodus 4:10).  But God called him anyway.

God did the same with Jeremiah.  So, we see a dialog between God and Jeremiah about this call.  God’s response is in verses 6-8.  He told Jeremiah not to say he was too young, but to go and to speak what God commanded.  Jeremiah would not thwart God’s purpose.  In later chapters he will refer to his inability to remain silent.    

The Lord did encourage Jeremiah by telling him not to be afraid of the people, for God would be with him and deliver him.  He did not tell Jeremiah it would be easy.  And it was not easy.  But he promised to be with him and deliver him. 

Usually, we do not know why God chose the person he did.  But those he chose he empowered. 

The Lord continued his calling in verses 9 and 10, telling Jeremiah how God had equipped him to be his prophet.  First, he gave Jeremiah an object lesson.  He touched his mouth with his hand.  Then, he said he had put his words in Jeremiah’s mouth. 

This is the essence of being a prophet.  The prophet spoke God’s word to the people.  They often began their sermons by saying “thus says the Lord” or “the word of the Lord” is this.  God was telling Jeremiah, do not worry about your age or qualifications, I have already made you a prophet. 

Then, in verse 10, the Lord told Jeremiah about his authority as a prophet.  The Lord set him over nations and kingdoms to build them up and tear them down. The Lord would do this.  But Jeremiah would preach the word of the Lord and, thereby, be the agent of God’s will and work.

We will see several things that show Jeremiah as a type of Christ.  Here is one.  Jeremiah has authority over the nations to declare their downfall.  He declared also the restoration of Judah.  Jesus was given authority over every thing in heaven and earth.  (Matthew 20:18) He declared condemnation for sin and the beginning of the kingdom, the restoration of all things.

Two Visions To Reinforce The Calling

God gave Jeremiah two visions.  The first was to show God would accomplish his word.  The second was to show what the word was: the destruction of Judah at the hands of Babylon.

The first vision is recorded at 1:11-17.  God showed Jeremiah an almond branch.  The Hebrew word for almond is very similar to and sounds like the word for watching.  God’s point was that he did not just send his word out with a prophet, sit back and wring his hands hoping it all worked out.  Rather, he watched over his word to perform it.  When he said it he meant to do it. 

The Lord told the same thing to Isaiah.  He said “so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it”. (Isaiah 55:11) Jeremiah could have confidence to preach the word God gave him, knowing that God would do what he said.

The second vision is recorded at 1:13-19.  God showed Jeremiah a boiling pot facing away from the north.  The boiling pot symbolized the disaster that would come from the north, which we know was Babylon.  The pot had not yet boiled over, but when it did the hot, boiling water would pour out to the south.  And so Babylon would come against the city and rule it because Judah had forsaken the Lord by worshipping idols or other gods.

But Jeremiah was to continue his work as prophet.  He was to get up and dress up for work. (17) It reminds you of Ephesians 6:11 “put on the whole armor of God”. 

The Lord reiterated his command to speak every thing he said.

God’s call to Jeremiah ended with another call to faithfulness.  You can tell God knows neither his message nor his messenger will be well received.  But Jeremiah should remain faithful to deliver the message.  He was not to be dismayed before his enemies, or God would dismay him before them. (17)  God calls us all to believe and publicly confess him. (Romans 10:9-10) The prophet, of course, have a greater commitment. 

God promised to protect him against kings, officials, priests and peoples. (18) He used two metaphors to portray this:  an iron pillar and a bronze wall. 

These people would oppose Jeremiah.  They would fight against him. (19) But they would not prevail, because God would deliver Jeremiah.

We saw Paul in 2 Timothy express the same thought, but from the vantage point of one who was finishing his mission.  He wrote “But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me…) (2 Timothy 4:17)

That instruction is good for us today.  Jesus said he would be with us always, to the end of the age.  (Matthew 28:20)  He says  said he would never leave us or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

We are starting a new study this week. We will study the book of Jeremiah the prophet. It might be a bit long, but it should be rewarding.

Jeremiah 1:1-9

The Autobiography

Jeremiah served as God’s prophet to Jerusalem in its last days before defeat by Babylon and exile. The first nine verses of the book serve as an introduction to Jeremiah’s life. It is a short autobiography. What does it tell us?

First, it tells us that Jeremiah was the son of Hilkiah. It shows us he was a real person with a lineage know to his original readers. He was not a fictional character.

Second, Jeremiah was a priest. As a priest, he knew the law of the covenant. He taught it and participated in leading worship.

Third, Jeremiah lived in Anathoth. This little town was located about three miles north of Jerusalem. Joshua allotted the land in the area to the tribe of Benjamin, but he allotted the town to the priests, the descendants of Aaron. (Joshua 21:18) Aaron was Moses’ brother and the first high priest.

The first three verses frame the time period of Jeremiah’s ministry. Verses 2 and 3 tell us Jeremiah prophesied during the reigns of Josiah, Jehoiakim and Zedekiah.

Verse 2 says Jeremiah began to receive the word of the Lord in the 13th year of Josiah’s reign. We can use that to date his ministry. Josiah began to reign in 640. Therefore, Jeremiah became a prophet in 627, which about the same time Josiah began his reforms. Jeremiah’s preaching was not popular with the people or the priests, but Josiah probably protected him. They both wanted to return Judah to faithful observance of the covenant with God.

Josiah was killed in battle with the Egyptians when he tried to cut them off from aiding the Assyrians against the Babylonians. Josiah was the last faithful king of Judah. His successor Jehoiakim was not faithful to the covenant and led Judah to further decline. It is no surprise then that Jehoiakim hated Jeremiah and his preaching.

Jehoiakim ruled from 609 to 598. He resisted Babylon and turned to Egypt for help. Babylon invaded in 605 and took captives into Exile, including Daniel and his friends. (Daniel 1:1-2) They invaded again in 597 and took more captives, including Ezekiel.

Zedekiah succeeded Jehoiakim. Babylon attacked again, destroyed Jerusalem and took all but the poorest into exile. Jeremiah stayed with the exiles.

Under the governor, some other Jews revolted and had to flee to Egypt for safety. They took Jeremiah with them against his will. It is the last we hear of him in the book.

The Style of the Book

The book is somewhat complicated. It contains several types of literature including autobiography, poetry, written records of oral sermons, written sermons, history, messages to individuals and condemnations of foreign nations.

To complicate matters further, the book is not arranged in chronological order. Likely the writings were composed at various times in Jeremiah’s ministry, collected and put in this form. The original audience was likely the Jews in exile. Remember Daniel referred to reading it to know the time of the end of the exile. (Daniel 9:2) Those Jews would know their history well enough to understand when each part was written.

Jeremiah is very theological. He presents God as sovereign, promise\covenant keeping and gracious to the repentant. He presents man as sinful, both Jew and Gentile. He shows God will judge sin. He shows that man’s sinful heart will not and cannot obey God. Therefore, God will bring a new covenant in which he will change the hearts of men and women.

There are other themes, but we will talk about them when we come to them.

Having introduced himself and the time period in which he served, Jeremiah discussed his call. This is found in verses 4 through 10.

The first thing that we learn, and that Jeremiah learned, is that God chose Jeremiah to be his prophet before Jeremiah was conceived and born. The Lord told him “before I formed you in the womb I knew you”. (5) The Sovereign Lord decrees what will happen in the future. He knows it because he decrees it.

In Isaiah 46:9-10, the Lord said “I am God and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying my counsel will stand and I will accomplish all my purpose.”

Yet, God did not just know about Jeremiah. He knew Jeremiah. Before the time he did it, God purposed that Jeremiah would be born, would serve him as a prophet and be consecrated to him. God used three different words to make his point here: knew, consecrated and appointed.

I believe the word “knew” here means not just knew of, but, in effect, chose. God chose or purposed that Jeremiah would be his prophet before Jeremiah was born. He emphasized that by saying he appointed him. He also consecrated him, or set him aside to be a prophet. All of this was done by God in his will and for his purpose before Jeremiah had a will.

Jesus said he was consecrated and sent. (John 10:36)

It reminds me of Paul’s calling. Paul said God “set me apart before I was born” in Galatians 1:15. And of course Paul referred to God’s choosing of all believers in this fashion: “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world” Ephesians 1:4. In Romans 8:29 he said “for those whom he foreknew he predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son”. God did not make anything up as he went along. He had a purpose to accomplish before he ever made the world and knew how he wanted to do it.

Saturday, April 14, 2012


I had a nice day hanging out with my sweet wife today. We spent most of the day running errands such as grocery shopping. We did get to start the day with breakfast at Starbucks, eating oatmeal, drinking coffee and playing with the iPads. Also, a couple came in who are good friends and we got to visit them.

I did get some odd looks. We took her car in for some service. I sat in the waiting room reading a Bible commentary book in preparation for the new teaching series.

"Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil." Ephesians 5:15-16

Sunday, April 08, 2012


The Historical Fact

Christianity is focused on the certainty of Christ’s resurrection as a historical fact.

*All four gospels highlight it.

*The Book of Acts insists on it. (Acts 1:3, 2:24-35, 3:15, 4:10, 5:30-32, 13:33-37)

*Paul’s writings show the resurrection to be indisputable proof that the message of Christ’s status as Savior and Son of God are true. (1 Cor. 15:1-11, 20)

*The Book of Revelation portrays Christ as risen and reigning in heaven until the time of his return. (Revelation 5:5-14)

Jesus’ resurrection was not like the resurrection of Lazarus, who would die again. Rather, he received a remade body that was perfect, not aging or dying. It was eternal. And we will receive a body similar to it. The Bible calls it imperishable. It is a body that will be responsive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit rather than to sinful flesh. That is what is meant when Paul says it is a spiritual body.

It is not that the body is immaterial, or a spirit. It is a physical body. Jesus said he had flesh and bones. (Luke 24:39) He ate and drank with the disciples. (Acts 10:41) He appeared repeatedly to the disciples over 40 days to demonstrate that his body was physical and that he had been physically raised from the grave.

The Doctrinal Significance

(1) It is the justification or vindication of Christ (declaration of his righteousness over against the false claims of the religious leaders of his guilt) (Rom 1.1-4; 1 Tim 3.16).

(2) That Christ is declared righteous ensures the acceptability of his sacrifice and therefore our salvation (or justification) (Rom 4.25).

(3) It is the prophetic declaration of our own resurrection from the dead (1 Cor. 15).

(4) It is the power of the resurrection (the work of the Spirit) that enables us to walk in the newness of life (Rom 6.1-4).

Discussion of the Doctrinal Significance

(1) It is the justification or vindication of Christ (the Father’s declaration of his righteousness over against the false claims of the religious leaders of his guilt) (Rom 1.1-4; 1 Tim 3.16).

Jesus was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead. (Romans 1:1-4) He was vindicated by the Spirit. (1 Timothy 3:16). By the resurrection, the Holy Spirit declared that Jesus was who he claimed to be, the Son of God, and that he was innocent of the charges against him.

(2) That Christ is declared righteous ensures the acceptability of his sacrifice and therefore our justification (Rom 4.25).

Jesus presented himself to the Father as a sacrifice for our sin, securing eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:11-12) His righteousness is counted to us who believe in his resurrection, for he died for our sins and was raised so that we may be justified through faith in him. (Romans 4:22-25).

(3) It is the prophetic declaration of our own resurrection from the dead (1 Cor. 15:20-23).

Jesus was raised from the dead as the first of many. (1 Corinthians 15) The Bible uses the term “first fruits”, an allusion to the Old Testament concept of taking the first of a crop, the first fruit, and offering it to God. His resurrection is the sign and the guarantee of our resurrection. His resurrection showed his power and victory over death. (Acts 2:24) 1 Peter 1:3 says we have been born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

(4) It is the power of the resurrection (the work of the Spirit) that enables us to walk in the newness of life (Rom 6.1-4).

Our old self died with Christ. That is why its power to enslave us is destroyed. Not only did we die with him, we were raised with him. We live in resurrection power. We died to sin, we now live to God in Christ. Our baptism into his resurrection gives us power to conquer sin and live to glorify God in Christ.

God works in us with the same power he worked to raise Christ from the dead. (Ephesians 1:19-20) So, it is bad for you to say you do not have the power to defeat sin in your life. The greatest power of all is at work in your life.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

2 Timothy 4:6 et seq

I love this quote:

"My life's calling remains the same: I exist to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ. Pray that I will spend and be spent for this till I can speak and write no more."

This quote is from John Piper, looking at what he will do in ministry in the last stage of life.

In our Scripture passage, the apostle Paul looked at the very end of his life as well. Yet he was further along than Piper. He was in jail. He faced execution. He sensed the nearness of his death. Here is what he said about it in 2 Timothy 4:6-8 (ESV):

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Paul said the time for his departure was near. Isn't that a great way to put it? It is not a picture of gloom and doom. Rather it is a picture of moving on to something else. He saw moving on as a good thing because it meant he would complete his suffering and go to Jesus.

He was likely tired. He had suffered greatly. All of the beatings, imprisonments, deprivations, travel and hardship had taken their physical toll. His body was spent.

His emotions may have been spent, too. He suffered persecution from his own people, the Jews. His friends abandoned him at this trials. He suffered loneliness when he sent his friends and disciples away to minister, depriving himself of their company.

He had to be tired of prison. Roman prisons were not like ours today. He may have just been put in a large hole in the ground with others. It would be wet and cold. Nothing makes you more ready to move on than having discomfort or pain in this life.
So, Paul thought of death as a departure. Prison was like an uncomfortable waiting room in a bus station. Execution was the mode of transportation. His destination was Christ's fellowship in heaven. He would see his Master and receive his reward.

Remember his words to the Philippians? He knew he had more ministry to do, but was ready to go. In Philippians 1:21-23 he said:

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.

Paul did not fear death. He looked forward to it as the means to be with Christ.

The process had already begun. In verse 6, Paul said he was already being poured out like a drink offering. The Old Testament drink offering was an offering of wine brought with the burnt offering or grain offering. The priest poured it out on the altar as an offering, a sacrifice to God. Paul thought of his execution not only as a departure, but as an offering to God, a sacrifice of himself for the glory of God.

Notice here that Paul used the passive tense. He said he was being poured out. I think he means that God was doing the pouring. It was the Lord’s will to use his death to the Lord’s glory. Remember Jesus’ words to Ananias about Paul’s calling. In Acts 9:16, he said “I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” Jesus called Paul to suffer. He preordained his suffering. And Jesus did it for the sake of his name. This is the same as saying “for his glory”. Jesus intended to gain glory, to be glorified, in Paul’s suffering and, ultimately, in the death of Paul.

One reason Paul looked forward to being with Christ is that he knew he had faithfully completed the task God assigned to him. He “kept the faith”. Paul used two sports analogies to illustrate his point: (1) he finished the race and (2) fought the fight. He was at the end of his course.

In verse 7, Paul said he had kept the faith. He believed Jesus and he stayed faithful to him. The test of salvation is continued faithfulness. People do not lose their salvation. Rather, people who are not saved, whether or not they hang out in a church, often leave, especially if the gospel is regularly preached. We are often surprised by this. 1 John 2:19 says “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.”

The Bible gives us this fact many times. Here are a few.

1. Matthew 10:21-22. Jesus said believers will be hated, "But the one who endures to the end will be saved."

2. Colossians 1:21-23. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard ...

3. Hebrews 3:13-14. Exhort one another every day as long as it is called 'today', that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have shared in Christ if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end.

4. Revelation 2:10. "Be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life."

Paul said he measured success in his life by whether or not he had kept “the faith”. So, what does it mean to keep the faith? If we were to measure our lives this morning by this standard, as Paul did, how would we do it? How would we know we kept the faith?

Keeping the faith means we believe what Jesus said (and what his apostles taught about what he said) and we demonstrate that by our confession and our practice. In other words, we demonstrate keeping the faith by what we say and what we do.

First, this means we believe Jesus died to obtain the Father’s forgiveness for our sins. Jesus said, "The Son of Man came… to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). Paul wrote “…while we were still sinners Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” (Romans 5:8-9).

Second, we believe that we have eternal life. Jesus said, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16).

And when I say we believe these things, I mean we have confidence in Jesus to do these things, not just that we know the Bible says these things.

Third, we believe Jesus works for us and in us as we live for him. Jesus said, "My grace is sufficient for you; my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 112:9) Paul wrote “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ”. (Philippians 1:6) He also wrote “it is God who works in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure”. (Philippians 2:13)

We believe Jesus can do these things, wants to do these things and has the power to do these things.

We confess all these things if we believe. By confess I mean we say we believe them. We believe Jesus said them and that he will do them and we say that to ourselves and to others.

But we not only confess these things, we live them out. I am still struck by the simple clear word of my pastor a few weeks ago when he said if our belief does not change the way we act, we do not really believe no matter what we say.

Many people say they believe what Jesus said, but they act as though they do not. Here is a quick example. Jesus said the Father would not only give eternal life to believers, he would provide for their earthly needs. Many of you know this quote by memory. Jesus said “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)

“These things” in this passage include clothing, food and drink, the necessities of life. He assured us the Father knows we need these things. He made us, he knows we need food, water, clothing and shelter.

Jesus’ point was that the Father wants us to pursue as the most important thing the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness. If we do that, Jesus said the Father would provide the necessities of life.

We say we believe that. But what do we do? We spend all our time getting the necessities of life, plus some luxuries. We spend little or no time pursuing the kingdom of God and his righteousness.

We say we trust God to provide, but we stay awake at night and lose sleep over whether we will get what we need. Or we live in panic and fear. Or we will not take a job God presents us because we do not trust him to provide enough for us through that job.

I am not saying this is always easy. I think it gets easier the more you do it. I do not think Paul said it was easy. In fact, he used the metaphor of a fight or a race. Both of those are struggles. Both require endurance.

I would love to say I had run a marathon. I would love to have the medal and a picture of myself at the finish line wearing it. But I do not get the medal if I do not finish the race. I can run 20 miles and quit. Everyone will say “nice try”. But I do not want to hear “nice try”. I want to hear “welcome to eternal life. Well done”.

Your biggest obstacle to finishing well is your self, your self -loving, sin-loving, world-loving self. You must submit it to Jesus over and over and ask him to change it into a righteousness seeking selfless spirit. You pursue it by faith. Jesus provides it by grace.

Yes, you will be opposed by the world. When you love Christ’s kingdom more than the world, you become the world’s enemy. Jesus said “You will be hated by all for my name’s sake.” Luke 21:17

In the alternative, the world seduces you by appealing to your sinful self. In verse 9, Paul wrote that Demas abandoned him because he was in love with this present world.

You will be opposed by the devil. He is not that keen on your transformation. 1 Peter 5:8: “Your adversary the devil prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

But, your old self is the first big ugly giant that must be slain.

Paul said he ran the whole race. He finished. He was faithful. He believed Jesus for eternal life, but also for the ability to get him through this life intact. He was able to proclaim that Jesus was faithful through it all. He said “But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. “And because he had, there was a crown of righteousness laid up for him. (8) The crown here is eternal life. His faithfulness to the end was proof of his salvation and the result was eternal life.

So, this task of believing Jesus and trusting him and his word lasts until the end of your life. There is no retirement except death. If you are faithful until the end, you get a crown of righteousness on “that Day”, the day of Christ’s coming and judgment. (8)

Thursday, April 05, 2012


Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance:that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried...

1 Corinthians 15:1-4
Acts 2:22-23

Peter preached his first sermon, saying:

"Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know-this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

Good Friday is the observance of the crucifixion of Jesus. Here is part of the historical account in the Gospel of John.

John 19 (ESV)

Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him.

And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands.

Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing tthe crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!”

When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!”

Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.”

The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.”

When Pilate heard this statement, zhe was even more afraid. He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?”

Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”
From then on Pilate sought to release him,

but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar's friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.”

So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!”

They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!”

Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?”

The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.”

So he ndelivered him over to them to be crucified.

So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”

Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’”

Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.”

This was to fulfill the Scripture which says,“They divided my garments among them,

and for my clothing they cast lots.

So the soldiers did these things, but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.