Just a shorter note today, but could be a bit of a hard hit. Seems I’ve been in the Sermon on the Mount a lot lately. In Matthew 5:17 Jesus says he didn’t come to abolish The Law, but to fulfill it. Paul teaches in Galatians that The Law was a tutor designed to lead us to Jesus. The instructions of the Law then are purposeful. Jesus talks early in the sermon about our need to be “salty illumination”. That is we are to be flavorful and preserving in our lifestyle, and that people should see truth and life in the way we live. “You are the salt of the earth … You are the Light of the earth… a city on a hill“
You might think, “I’m not much of a preacher” or “I don’t have a position” or “I’m nobody, just a tiny light.” But a Tiny Light in a very dark place is still seen to point the way. A small city situated on a hill is still visible. A little salt in a very bland meal is appreciated. The Law wasn’t sent to bind, but to free us. It was not to cause death and judgment, but to give light and direction, to show we need God, and turn us away from Judgment and into LIFE. Jesus says in v17, I didn’t come to abolish… but to fulfill… then “whoever does and teaches these commands will be GREAT in the Kingdom”. The Purpose of The Law was to show how estranged we are from God. It’s always then about Reconciliation. That is our hope, that is our message, Reconciliation. v23 then is telling us, if you are in your spiritual activity, worshiping, confessing, praising, and there realize that you are out of relationship with your brother or sister…
Leave Your Gift There – worship is great, needed, but relationships are what matters. Jesus left heaven because WE were OUT of relationship with God. Jesus became ONE OF us, so that we could become one with God. How many times are you unwilling to go TO someone, become LIKE someone? That is often the only way to restore relationship.
First Go – that word, hypago – is in the present, active, imperative tense – that word means lead, get, go, go their way, lead on slowly, go back, get back – If we are down the road, but down the road without our brother or sister… we should have stayed and gotten right – if not then get back, get back, get back to where you once belonged – That’s what some preachers used to sing – and they weren’t even preaching JESUS> come on somebody – First Go
Be Reconciled – well you can’t be reconciled if you are down the road alone! Go their way, go back (present active imperative) Do it, you Must, do it, YOU do it, NOW – It is critical, it is urgent, it doesn’t happen by accident, so be intentional, purposeful. I read about that word, diallassomai – dia = to transition and allasso = to change one’s feelings toward – so, Be Reconciled, transition and change your feelings toward -whether one person is at fault, or both are at fault – Be Reconciled
With – This is NOT about getting over the hurt, or forgetting it, or even passively forgiving them and moving on – NO – This is about restoring the relationship. That means there WAS a relationship. This is brother or sister – this is someone you were in relationship with… this isn’t a random person. That has its own issues, and we should be kind, just, loving, but THIS is about RESTORATION of a Relationship.
First Go – Be Reconciled – WITH
Then Come and Offer Your Gift – Worship is not complete without Spiritual AND Personal Reconciliation in place. Without it, I don’t understand or apply what God has done for me. I cannot come to God and celebrate my perceived reconciliation with him if I am knowingly unreconciled with my brother or sister because then I don’t know what I think I know!
Jesus is in the upper room, in Luke 22:27 he says who is greater, the one at the table or the one serving? Well, Greatness is about position and timing and fulfilling purpose, but the obvious answer that they understood was Jesus was greatest among them and yet, 1) he submitted to the Father and 2) He SERVED them. It is what he did because it was why he was sent.
In the same timing, John 13:3-17 is the real-world example of what Jesus was doing and why, and it personified Paul’s teaching in Philippians 2:6-11. In Paul’s explanation, he says Jesus, who is God, emptied himself, did not think it offensive to become a human, a servant. He took up humanity, in all of its limitations and our sin-created unattractiveness, if you will, and he humbled himself, the role of, the responsibility of a servant – even with death as the end game. Why? Because it is what we needed. When you truly SERVE, you SERVE. You Meet the need. I you don’t fill the need, you didn’t serve. The need for us was death, a sacrifice, a perfect life, and Jesus served the need. So, then in John13 in the upper room, same thing. The disciples came in one-by-one, dust and dirt covered sandal feet. In their custom, the house servant would wash the guests’ feet. But if there was no house servant, the FIRST guest who arrived would wash all the others’ feet. None of the disciples had filled the need. There they were reclining at dinner, and Jesus did what was true about his work on earth, what Paul said in Philippians two – He…
Took off his outer garment – he laid aside his glory – He wrapped a towel, that is
he took the nature of a servant and washed their feet. The need was met.
Then he put back on his robe and took his seat – and Paul says God has highly exalted him.
So, who is greater? The one who fulfills their purpose. They were worried about position and Jesus says, timing will take care of position. If you back up to v24 it says a dispute arose among them about who should be considered the greatest – This was a far too common discussion among the disciples. It was actually in my devotion from last week. Jesus says OTHERS argue over these things and they then call themselves Benefactors – a Title – the word euergetes = Doer of God – That was their title not their action. That was an example among the Greek Rulers. And Jesus says, “it must not be like that among you – in other words, we should DO GOOD – not just be called that as a title.
Who is greater?
And Jesus says I am the one who SERVES – diakoneo – it’s the verb of the same root where we get our work deacon – I am among you as one who serves – He is Lord, Creator, Savior, but among you as – this is a constant reminder, regardless of title, ability, or notoriety, I am among you as… I need this – pastor, leader, even because I tend to like to be private, keep to myself, and I also struggle with needing recognition, but I am among you as a servant
Then he says: I bestow on you a Kingdom, just as my Father bestowed one on me. What is that? It is Inclusion and Provision – that you may eat at my table They were worried about a seat at the table, and he says, don’t worry about your seat. You will have a seat, but for now serve. Remember the prophesy about the coming Messiah, Jesus, Luke 1:32-33 he will be great… called Son of the Most High… will give him the throne of David… He will reign and the Kingdom will not end… And he says, I’m going to have a seat for you at the table to eat and drink, have inclusion and provision, with me. But Jesus is saying, everything has a time. Don’t fight over recognition in the temporary kingdoms. You serve NOW and I will place you at my table, I will have a role for you in my eternal Kingdom, and yes you will even have ruling greatness. But
Just as you stood with me in trial – stand with me in service. Then you will stand with me, sit with me, sup with me in the Kingdom.
Let me point out just one other thing: back up in this chapter. This argument over greatness comes on the tail end of the Lord’s final supper with them before his crucifixion. They are in the upper room, sharing a time of Passover remembrance. They are hearing a word of promise, body and blood, a coming Kingdom. Then Jesus says that one of them will betray him, and they start arguing over who would be, and that lead to who is greatest, and they missed the whole point. Can’t you just see/hear them – acting like we might be very familiar with – “well I would never betray him… I’m his most faithful one… I love him more than you… I’m greater, I will have a better seat… I’m the best servant…”
Careful, as we serve that we stay focused on the service and let Jesus take care of the Kingdom and Kingdom Rewards and Recognition.
Matthew 5:48 Jesus says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect”. I read this and then went to Genesis 17:1 – Abraham is 99 years old and God says, “I am God Almighty. Live in my presence and be blameless.“
In Matthew 5, Jesus is giving what we call “the Sermon on the Mount” – he is casting a big vision – not of the unreachable but of the “Normal Life”. He takes the commandments and applies them to our heart and intention in vv21, 27, &28. He talks about 2nd Mile Ministry, and then the closing section he is talking about loving your neighbors, but more, loving your enemies. That love, embraced and lived out makes us “children of God” in action. The sun shines on the evil and the good. Rain falls on both the righteous and the unrighteous – Love sees no reward, no relationship, it just sees people in the imagine of God as worthy and in need of love – So, LOVE and then he concludes by saying “be perfect, therefore, as your Father in Heaven is perfect”
We hear that word, “perfect” and we exclude ourselves thinking it doesn’t apply to us, it’s just wishful thinking, but that word (teleios) is about completeness, maturity, that kind of perfection. so
Finish – love your enemy AND your neighbor
Be Mature – Grow Up – if you only (v47) greet your brother and sister, what are you doing that is out of the ordinary even pagans do that.
Be Complete – love like the Father loves, give like the Father gives. If you only love those who love you… where is the reward in that? God is making us to be “out of the ordinary”. This is “Ordinary” that sin created, which is selfish and dying. He wants us to be selfless, complete, mature, Alive! And THAT is Normal – in the Kingdom of God in Christ
Matthew 20:22 – you don’t know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink
Often we don’t know what we are asking the Lord. We’ve all seen or read stories of a genie, “I wish for…” And we all think, “wouldn’t it be great if I had _______________”. But sometimes the literal fulfillment might not be what we thought. There is an important principle, “every change, changes every THING.”
There is an “old school” way of praying that we need to come back to, “Lord if it be your will.” “Lord, I’d like you to move in this way, but bring about your best.” How did Jesus pray, “not my will but yours be done.” There is a slice of Christian Culture that says, “If I just have enough faith.” They believe that somehow it all comes down to man’s faith. But in that scenario we are assuming that 1) We know best 2) we know the by-product. It then is always important that we have faith, 1) in God’s Ability, 2) in God’s knowledge, 3) in God’s wisdom, 4) in God’s goodness, 5) to follow and trust God with the outcome.
So, here Jesus says, “you don’t know what you are asking.” When you back up to v20, Momma Zebedee brings her boys to Jesus and says, “Promise that my boys can sit on your right and left in the Kingdom.”
And Jesus says, “You don’t know what you are asking.”
Kingdom reward DOES have earthly struggles. What she asked is like me saying, “promise me that I can WIN the Marathon I just signed up for, my first.” Yeah, the problem is, there is a price to be paid to prepare. There is an effort necessary to complete that task. I may not have the capacity for that task, even IF I do the work. I know of marathon runners that HAVE the capacity to do the pace needed to win, and yet still get to a place in the race when their bodies quit, and they have passed out from the exhaustion.
Jesus asks, “are you able to drink the cup” – Mark adds, “to be baptized with the baptism which I am baptized” – Can you be immersed with what it takes? And surprisingly, a bit ignorantly, if not arrogantly – James and John answer, “Yes we are” – mighty bold statement. They were ready, at least they thought they were.
Then Jesus makes a surprising statement – “you WILL indeed drink my cup.”
boys, I have good news and bad news. The good news is you WILL drink the cup of suffering, the bad news is the results will be different that you are hoping or thinking.
Following Jesus is about – Following JESUS, not about where we get to sit. Being In the Kingdom is the result of the work of Christ, and our faith filled reception of it, anything extra is, well, extra.
Jesus says, “to sit at my right or left is not mine to give, it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”
Wait, so if I obey, and follow Christ, and prepare, and I’m good at what I do… I don’t get a mega church, and big earthly success? Not Necessarily
So, you are saying that God has a plan, a purpose, and my path doesn’t mean the same results as everyone else? Not Necessarily
Jesus had already told them in Matthew 19:28 that they were going to have Twelve Thrones to judge Israel. So they had a huge promised task and reward, the Sons of Zebedee just wanted assurance of greater notoriety, “hey mom, can you help us?”
The Call is to Deny Self and follow him. The certainty then is that the work of Christ has provided all we need for life and godliness, so any additional outcome, besides Heaven and inclusion in the Kingdom is wholly on the purposes and plans of God.
Jesus, divine yet incarnate, subordinated himself to the Father, he relied on the power of the Holy Spirit, so what are WE to do? At the beginning of THIS chapter, Jesus tells the parable of workers who worked, full days, part days, and just a few minutes and they all got what? They all got the same reward. So then, we are quibbling about recognition not even reward, so regardless, let it go.
This makes the other 10 disciples angry, and Jesus has to sit them ALL down in vv25-28. Service isn’t about Sovereignty but about Surrender, Subjugation. Jesus says, “the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them… it must NOT be THAT way among YOU. On the contrary, whoever wants to be great must be a servant… The Son of Man did not come to BE Served, but to Serve, and to give his life.
Giving of my life doesn’t just mean to die. It means to release control and recognition, for the sake of a greater dominion.
Let me add one thing:
Don’t worry if there will be enough reward and recognition for you in Heaven, there WILL be. There will be reward, there will be crowns, there will be blessing, and it will be MORE than we can imagine. But when we get there and when we receive it, our response will be to feel unworthy, and to use whatever we receive as “worship tools”, throwing them at the feet of the One who provided it all
Jeremiah 9 – actually, back up to the end of chapter 8. As Jeremiah laments the self-imposed trouble in Judah, because of their unfaithfulness, he asks:
Is there no balm in Gilead
v14 why are you just sitting there. Gather together… the Lord has destroyed us… because we have sinned against the Lord. It says horses are coming… snakes are going to be sent that cannot be charmed. Then he says in v18 my joy has flown away; grief has settled… my heart is sick v22 … is there no balm in Gilead… no physicians there? The understanding is that there IS medicine, there ARE doctors… So why has the healing of my dear people not come about?
And so then the weeping prophet, the tearful teacher starts ch9 “if my head were a flowing fountain of tears, I would weep day and night… v2 If only I had a traveler’s lodging place in the wilderness
Sometimes we are so full of empty things, we can’t experience true satisfaction. And then Jeremiah makes his accusations about their unfaithfulness, and the result of their selfish sin and in v12 he asks, who is wise enough to understand thing? V13 The Lord said, “It is because they abandoned my instruction, which i set before them, and did not obey my voice or walk according to it.
So then, in this understanding, I picture Jesus in John 7:37-38 On the last and most important day of the festival, Jesus stood and cried out…
No wait… realize this is a weeklong festival of food offerings. Truthfully it was supposed to be seven days of offerings, but I am guessing that the “worship” side of this had been lost on them. This was the Feast of the Tabernacles. They are camping in tents, worshipping with food, remembering what God did for them. James Freeman and Harold Chadwick in New Manners and Customs of the Bible say that eveery day a priest would lead a procession to the pool of Siloam and with a gold pitcher would draw water. There would be singers and musicians and upon returning to the temple there would be 3 Shofar blasts and they would pour the water into a bowl on the western side of the altar. It had holes and the water would run out on the altar. It was to remember 1) water provided in the desert 2) the promise of “latter rain” (blessing to come) 3) the coming of the Holy Spirit when the Messiah came.
In this feast, they did this every day, that was pretty, but it didn’t satisfy their thirst. And from Siloam to the Temple is a little walk and uphill. I can see this Seventh Day… the whole fanfare… then the Three Blasts of Trumpet… And then the voice of Jesus, at the perfect silent spot, “is anyone thirst?… Oh my, doesn’t Jesus know timing? If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink –
pino = to drink = is in the present, active, imperative– that tells me this is saying “you must, right now, actively DRINK”.
The one… – that means this is a possibility but must acted upon.
the one who believes (pisteuo) – it’s not about knowing, but beleiving, entrusting, placing faith – so get in, get on, get under, get with – ME (Jesus) then, as the scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him – Oh my yes. We ARE sick. We NEED medicine, need a physician, we need our thirst quenched. Yes, the horses of warring armies are coming, the snakes are biting, and it is our own fault
But there is a balm in Gilead – Do you know that Spiritual? I can hear it in my head…
there is a balm in Gilead, there is a balm in Gilead… Jesus is thebalm in Gilead…
Jesus is the Messiah that would come and bring the gift of the Holy Spirit. And that water was poured that day on the altar and then it was gone. And no one had their thirst quenched and Siloam was a little walk away, but Jesus said “believe in me and I will put living water IN YOU
One other thing to notice vv40+ many said “this is the Messiah” and other said “The Messiah doesn’t come from Galilee” and v43 says the crowd was divided” Then v53 days each one went to his own house and 8:1 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives – Oh my, Jesus says if anyone believes … but everyone went home … No one invited Jesus home
And my take my thoughts back to Jeremiah 9:13 the Lord said it is because they abandoned me
Jesus is the answer to life, to death, to hope over hopelessness, to thirst being quenched, to the gift of the Holy Spirit springing up within us.
Come, Believe, Right Now, You Must, unless you don’t want life, satisfaction, hope, and love.
When death comes, when tragedy strikes, there is an opportunity to see something we would not have seen otherwise. Most of the time, what is revealed is not something “new”, just unexperienced or unbelieved.
John 11:40 – Jesus said to her, “didn’t I tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?
If You Believe -(then) You would See the Glory of God
We must note first that Jesus references previous teaching, revelation – “Didn’t I tell you…”
Everything we hear of God, read in his Word, experience in prayer and worship, is preparing us for faith; faith that changes us, faith that moves us, faith that reveals the glory of God. Sometimes we just aren’t paying attention. We aren’t applying the truth. We are stuck in previous understanding. We are clouded by our circumstances, and he says, “didn’t I tell you, haven’t we been over this?”
Now we don’t here specifically which teaching the Master is referring to, but she did. It was so common as we walk with him, he teaches us. Most of his teaching with his disciples weren’t sit down, sermon on the mount moments, most were just along the way. So, have we been paying attention?
Go back in chapter 11. When word reached Jesus that Lazarus was sick, he told the 12, “this will not end in death… but that the Son… glorified.” He told them, “Lazarus is asleep, I’m going to wake him.” The disciples weren’t following what he was saying, so he said, “He is dead. I’m glad… so that you may believe”. Faith is the goal.
Then he arrives at Mary and Martha’s house, and Martha is saying, “if only you had been here, he wouldn’t have died.” Martha had faith, but her faith had a GPS location. If you had been HERE, you could have done something. And Jesus says, “your brother will rise again.” And Martha confesses her theological position, the right position. She says, “I know… in the resurrection.” Not everyone believed in a Resurrection. The Sadducees did NOT believe in a Resurrection which is why they were so SAD, You See. (Oh come on, laugh or groan but enjoy it) Martha had the right theological position, but don’t let your good theology get in the way of believing God for more.
And Jesus says let me stretch your good theology, YES there is a coming resurrection from the dead, but “I AM the Resurrection and the Life… The One who believe… will live… never die… do YOU believe.”
And she responds, “Yes Lord, I believe you are the Messiah”. Ok, again, good Theology, but that’s not what Jesus asked. He didn’t ask her if he were the promised anointed one, but did she believe HE was the Resurrection, The Life.
And after her theological statement, which was the wrong answer, she walks off.
Of course, the famous verse, “Jesus wept” – don’t forget, he feels, he hurts, he knows, he cares. Then we get to the tomb, v39 “Remove the stone” i.e. “I’m getting ready to do something, if you want in, if you believe.”
And Martha says, “Oh Lord… it stinks… it’s been 4 days… the opportunity is gone.” and then he says… “Didn’t I tell you… If You Believe… you will see the glory of God“
So much of our experience is shallowed by our lack of faith. What then is the “glory of God”? I love this discussion and we can spend a lot of time there, but let me paint a simple picture, a picture that God gives. The word, in Greek, is doxa, I love it. The word in simplest form means “Reputation”. So, then what is God’s reputation? Well, let’s go to the source. In Exodus 33 and 34. Moses begs to see the glory. God says, “well you can’t but I’ll show you my back, but then God does much more”. The Hebrew word for glory is the word “chabod” and in its root sense they tell me that it means “weight”. So God, covering Moses with his hand, walks by him and declares his Reputation in Exodus 34.
The Lord, The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in faithful love and truth. Maintaining faithful love to a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, rebellion, and sin. He will not leave the guilty unpunished.
That’s the glory of God – and Moses fell down on the ground and worshiped him. Oh the glory of Justice and Grace. Grace is not because he looks the other way for a select few, no, it is because the fullness of Justice was poured out on Christ on the cross – guilt was punished. So, for all who believe and receive it is available and life eternal is the result. If you believe, then the goodness of his glory is available, and life is the result.
v41 – they removed the stone. The action of faith is NOT a work that secures salvation, it is just to remove the obstacle of unbelieve. If they don’t move the stone, then Jesus doesn’t do the work. If they DO remove the stone, THEY still can’t raise Lazarus, but Jesus can, and it happens according to their faith. God will do what he will do, it’s just a matter of if we get to join him.
Lazarus come out… unwrap him and let him go
v45 therefore many… who … saw did believe
My belief reveals the glory of God
My belief releases God’s power in my circumstance
My belief inspires others to believe as well
What has God been telling you? Are you paying attention? If we believe, then we will see the glory of God. It may not be what you wanted or expected, but what God wants, and it is always for His Glory
We are NOT the END, Jesus is. I know that’s hard for us to accept sometimes. We play a role along the way, but Jesus is the power, Jesus focus, Jesus is the destination, Jesus is our reward.
Matthew 3:8–12 (CSB) — 8 Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance. 9 And don’t presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is more powerful than I. I am not worthy to remove his sandals. He himself will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing shovel is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn. But the chaff he will burn with fire that never goes out.”
Pretty strong word from John The Baptist here. This word is for the religious elite, Sadducees and Pharisees, who think they are the story, the power, and the glory, but they were not, nor are we in the church either. In my message Sunday, I said the only way to see a sunrise after the sunset is to turn around. In the verse that precedes these, John calls them “offspring of snakes”. They had come to his Baptism, don’t know if they wanted it or just wanted to see what the commotion was, most likely the latter, but he responds in v8 that he wanted to “see fruit consistent with repentance” (that is a change of mind). There is only hope if a true desire for change is present.
v9 don’t presume (to have an opinion/expectation) We can be very presumptuous in the church can’t we? We up a steeple and a sign and we think we are somebody that God needs. Praise God he wants us, and uses us, but he doesn’t need us. Oh come on, “we are the First Baptist Church”, “We are the Covenant Presbyterian”, “We are Grace Church.” Ok, good for you, maybe. But no one comes unless the Father draws them, the Spirit empowers then, in the name of Jesus the Son. John says, God doesn’t need YOU to fulfill his plan. If he wants “sons” for Abraham, he can raise up those from these stones. He doesn’t NEED us.
v10 He is cutting down “church trees” if you will, if they don’t produce good fruit. kalos karpos – Beautiful Fruit / Crops. Notice, it doesn’t say “plentiful” but “beautiful”. So, it’s not about how BIG our harvest is, but if it is a God Move, Christ Glorifying, Spirit empowered produce coming from the tree that bears his name. If NOT, it is thrown in the fire and burned. We aren’t talking about hell here I think, we are talking about trash. Even churches have a timeline, a shelf life, and if we stop producing beautiful fruit, he may clear the way for someone else who WILL produce beautiful fruit.
v11 – water for repentance – our job is NOT to be the end, the power, even the change agent, but our job is to call to repentance, to walk with them as they come to Jesus. And then John says, the one who is coming is more powerful than I. He is more worthy. Joh says, “I can’t even tie his shoes. What makes WORTH? Position, Power, Product, and Purpose. John is saying, “hey I just get people wet. I just encourage them to turn around, but HE / Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit and Fire.
Oh yes Lord, there is a place for the church, but it’s to clear the way for Jesus. And when we do that, then he blesses us and we relish our role.
I was reading from Isaiah 4 yesterday – Isaiah 4:4–6 (CSB) — 4 when the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodguilt from the heart of Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of burning. 5 Then the Lord will create a cloud of smoke by day and a glowing flame of fire by night over the entire site of Mount Zion and over its assemblies. For there will be a canopy over all the glory, 6 and there will be a shelter for shade from heat by day and a refuge and shelter from storm and rain.
Do you see the beauty of what happens when we settle into our role, bring people to repentance, introduce them to Jesus and he makes all things new? Then, from our place of fulfilling our role, we because a “cloud of smoke” a “flame of fire” i.e. we become a place that points to the presence and glory of God in Christ Jesus. And we become a shade, a canopy over the glory. We become a refuge and shelter where people run to find the answer and that is Jesus.
v12 says he has a winnowing shovel (fork) – Again, it’s not our job to do all the separating, but tossing it up in the air and allowing the wind of the spirit to do the separating, the good falls, the useless is blown away – wheat and chaff separated, and God brings in the good, and he gets rid of the bad, sent to the fire of waste.
We must consistently be reminded church that we are being shaped and formed. We have been made alive, but we are NOT the power, not the purpose, not even the precedent – we are just calling people to turn around and come to Jesus. We are just telling people what God has done in us and inviting them to know it for themselves.
I remember hearing of a man blind by cataracts on a mission field. He was brought to a missionary Doctor who performed surgery and gave him his sight. Now able to see, he traveled back home more than 100 miles. Sometime later, here he came – former blind man – now with sight. With him was a long line of blind people, all holding on to a rope, being led by the former blind man back to the place where they could gain sight. That’s it! We can’t make ourselves see, nor anyone else, but seeing, we can bring others back to where we got our sight and that is our purpose.
Philippians 3:10-11 My goal is to know him, and the power of his resurrection, the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead
I’ve read and commented on, preached, memorized, and shared these verses more times than I can recall. These verses have been a driving force for my life. I understandably have paid a lot of attention to the process – i.e. to know the power of the resurrection, I must walk in the path of suffering and death.
But this morning, the living active word of God got my attention with something fresh. Most translations begin v10 “that I may …” but the CSB renders that phrase, “my goal is…”
There is a “that” or “so that” behind all that we experience in Christ, so that in the work of God, there is always a goal to be achieved. So, I like this wording, so I backed up behind and then looked after. Paul is giving a personal testimony, before. He talks of his upbringing in the Hebrew faith, his education and training as a Pharisee, but then he shifts in vv8-9 and says, “I have suffered … loss of everything”.
But NOW, I have always seen this as “the resurrection” and “The suffering” and “The death”, all leading to The Power of the Resurrection. But Paul says in v11, that his assumption is that He will BE resurrected, at the end… and he says, “I haven’t already gotten that”. But – “forgetting the past… reaching forward… I pursue the prize promised”.
So what is the GOAL?
Power? Suffering? Death?
NO… Look back at the common denominator… “that I may know… my goal is to know”
Yes, I have a righteousness by faith, and I am positioned IN Christ, BUT I want, right now, to know HIM. the power of HIS resurrection… the fellowship of HIS sufferings… conformed to HIS death… Not just at the end, but TODAY… NOW
Jesus, I received you, and I know you, but I need to KNOW YOU MORE.
So, v7 everything that was a GAIN… all good stuff, but it is nothing, it is of no credit, other than and only that it brings me to and reveals Christ to me.
He is the Answer
He is who I seek
He is my Hope
I want to KNOW – ginosko – not head knowledge but experiential knowledge. Literally it translates here, “to come to know by experience” It is the fullness of knowledge
Oh, some people or things you experience and move on – been there, done that, got the hat. But Jesus, I don’t want to be satisfied in knowing a similar power, or a similar suffering, or a similar death, I want to know YOURS. I want ot know YOU
When you think you’ve learned it all you draw near and realize, I’m only just beginning to see a dim reflection – I want to know Christ MORE.
Is it tough? Yep. Is it painful? Sometimes. Is it beyond value? ABSOLUETLY
My Goal should not be a “divine experience”. My Goal is to KNOW JESUS by Experience, to participate jointly with him and his work, for his glory. He IS the goal, and everything else simply fades away as nothing more than a vehicle toward knowing Christ.
v15 Therefore, let all of us who are mature think this way. If you think differently about anything, God will reveal this also to you.
Jeremiah 1:8 says, “do not be afraid of anyone, for I will be with you to rescue you. This is the Lord’s Declaration.
Fear – seems like I have spent a good portion of my ministry talking about fear or the lack thereof. I talk with people about following the plans of God, or dealing with conflict, or addressing a challenge, and the response often begins, “Oh, I’m afraid that ______________”.
I’ve come to the conclusion that fear is based on lies we believe most of the time. We believe, “I can’t”, “I’m alone”, “No one knows”, or “No one cares.”.
Notice in Jeremiah 1; this is the call of Jeremiah. When God calls, the evil one, the Father of Lies, knows that God is at work, that God’s Word is true, and so he comes against us with lies.
Jeremiah 1:4 – the word of the Lord came to me…
Here is truth. Here is an unthwartable plan. v5 I chose you before I formed you in the womb. I set you apart before you were born. I appointed you a prophet to the nations.
I appreciate the honesty in Jeremiah’s testimony here. “But I protested” – Can’t you hear the great liar whispering into Jeremiah’s ear? “Oh no Lord God!” satan always calls into question the Word of God and the Goodness of God… always… that’s how he got 1/3 of the angels to abandon heaven. It’s how he got Adam and Eve to Fall, and I guess first Lucifer, the lead worshiper in Heaven, had to lie to himself. He lied that God wasn’t good and his Word, his Plans, weren’t right and so he purposed in his heart to rebel. So, here Jeremiah, “Oh no Lord… Look…” Have you ever tried to correct God’s understanding of a situation? Or is that just me and Jeremiah? “Look…” and here come the lies. “I don’t know how to speak since I am ONLY a youth.” The lies are “I’m uninformed”, “I am unable.”
v7 “Then the Lord said to me: do NOT say, ‘I’m only a youth.’” – Do not lie to yourself and say, “I can’t because I’m only________________ anything.” You are exactly who God made you to be and if he is calling, and you are where you are supposed to be, or are going where you should go, then you ARE able or you will be enabled.
Do not say, I’m only….for you will go to everyone I send… and speak whatever I tell you
The reason we need not fear is because wherever God leads he always proceeds. He has already cleared the way, opened the door. So, say what he says to whom he sends. Because, where he leads he proceeds, where he guides he provides, so do not be afraid of anyone.
My Father never directly quoted this verse to me, but he lived it and taught it as he lived. He was fearless. He taught me to be fearless when I was in the plan of God. I’ve done my best and been successful, I believe, in passing that down to my sons.
do not be afraid… FOR 1)I will be with you – We are never alone, and 2) to rescue you. Someone cares, someone knows, someone is able, and if needed, He is my rescue, so do not be afraid
v9 – the Lord reached out… touched my mouth and told me… Listen, I’m a firm believer in hard work and preparation, but we will never do that alone. If God is calling, he will touch you, has touched you, in the exact realm where he will use you. I have filled your mouth with words… The best way to get rid of bad water in a fixed container is to fill it with good water until all the bad has flowed out. If I want to empty myself of MY words and wisdom, I must let God fill my heart, my head, my mouth with HIS Words.
And then God comes again with the fear eliminating word, “See” – ra’ah = access, become aware, consider – I have appointed you today – That word “appointed” = to root and tear down, to destroy and demolish, to build and to plant
God has a plan – He has called you, he has charged you, he has commissioned you, he has conditioned you – So GO, without fear. You CAN, you Know How, God Loves you, You are NOT ALONE!
Do not be afraid of anyone, anything, anywhere, anytime.
If God is for us, tell me who can be against us
Isaiah 51:16 (CSB) — 16 I have put my words in your mouth, and covered you in the shadow of my hand, in order to plant the heavens, to found the earth, and to say to Zion, “You are my people.”
Every year when I go to the SBC Annual meeting, I come home and report to our body, then I bring a short message that resonates in my heart from the week’s meeting. Sometimes it is a passage that was preached, or a topic / issue. This year it was an Old Testament passage resonating in my head while I ruminated on the issues and joys before us.
You can go to our FACEBOOK page if you want the full message at First Baptist Ferguson. I will just include here the text of the message part of my report. Yes, I reported on the Sexual Abuse Task Force, and the new Unity Initiative that is beginning. But I also reported record years of giving and ministry to and from the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board. To the ends of the earth is what we do as Great Commission Baptists.
But we are facing a critical moment in the future and so the words of Deuteronomy 30:11-20 were ringing through my head – “I place before Life and Death, Blessing and Curses, and I tell you to CHOOSE LIFE”
Here is my message:
So… we are on the ground in Orange County at John Wayne International, and the pilot comes on in that “pilot voice” and says, “well folks, we are going to take off hard and fast, we are going to climb quickly, but don’t worry, we are going to level off at 30,000 feet, and then we are going to back the speed off a little and settle in slower.”
Well, I’m thinking, “I’m all for leveling off, because I don’t want to end up in outer space, but IF you CAN fly faster, do it. We are 15 minutes late taking off, so get it! What are you worried about, getting pulled over?” “We are late, so let’s go. I know YOU don’t have to be there, you are just flying, but WE got places to be. Are you worried that an air force cop is going to pull you over in his F-22?”
Can’t you see him pulling out from behind a cloud, lights flashing; and your American Pilot is like, “aww man…” and they pull him over, hast to land in a cornfield in Iowa, and it messes up everything, kills the schedule. So, yeah, “we got to back it off, might get a ticket”
I’m also mindful today that it is Juneteenth – President Lincoln on January 1, 1863, made an executive order, that all persons held as slaves (within the rebellious areas) are and henceforward shall be free – But people were still fighting the battle, and some parts of the south didn’t even get notice. But it wasn’t until 17 months later on June 19th, 1865, that General Gordon Granger landed in Galveston, Texas and declared:
“the people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the Unity States, all slaves are free…
Our job is to proclaim freedom. That’s why Jesus came, that’s why he died and rose again.
Sadly, while we addressed the revelation of sexual abuse and continued efforts to address the need for unity and reconciliation in ethnic disparity in society and the church, there was still a minority that want to decry those efforts. And the question comes, “why are some people opposed to dealing with abuse and racial injustice, why?”
And my response is “Why? Why? The Answer to ‘why?’ is NOT hard to determine, but the bigger question is HOW can this BE among God’s people?”
Failure to love and care for people is not the WAY of the people of God
I John 3:10-16 is very clear. This is how we know what love is, Jesus laid down his life. It teaches that we know who the followers of Christ are. If we are born from above, we will love. If we don’t love, we either don’t know Jesus or we are betraying that knowledge. 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 says that we are to be purveyors of Reconciliation.
So, I’m not going to preach a long message, but look with me at an Old Testament message from Moses at the end of his ministry.
Deuteronomy 30:11–20 (CSB) — 11“This command that I give you today is certainly not too difficult or beyond your reach. 12It is not in heaven so that you have to ask, ‘Who will go up to heaven, get it for us, and proclaim it to us so that we may follow it?’ 13And it is not across the sea so that you have to ask, ‘Who will cross the sea, get it for us, and proclaim it to us so that we may follow it?’ 14But the message is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, so that you may follow it. 15See, today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and adversity. 16For I am commanding you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, statutes, and ordinances, so that you may live and multiply, and the Lord your God may bless you in the land you are entering to possess. 17But if your heart turns away and you do not listen and you are led astray to bow in worship to other gods and serve them, 18I tell you today that you will certainly perish and will not prolong your days in the land you are entering to possess across the Jordan. 19I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, 20love the Lord your God, obey him, and remain faithful to him. For he is your life, and he will prolong your days as you live in the land the Lord swore to give to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
Just an outline, it’s so clear that I don’t have the time nor the need to break it down.
So, as we close write these points down: The Way to Blessing, the Commands of God:
It Is Not CONCEALED v16
It’s not hidden or hard to understand
Not difficult… not beyond your reach
This is NOT advanced stuff… this is Kindergarten stuff
It is CLOSE… you can say it, it’s right in your mouth, I don’t have to teach you, I don’t have to give it to you, just remind you.
It is in your heart… it is part of our DNA as the people of God
It is a COMMAND
The Hebrew word is tsavah = to lay a charge upon, command, order, appoint
This is what God is laying on us, FBCF, Great Commission Baptists
It is CLEAR
Love God – our love for God drives our actions for him, or they will not continue
Walk In His Ways – that’s the Hebrew word halak = to go, come, accompany, – his ways are not our ways, his thoughts are not our thoughts, God is not waiting for us to tell him where we are going – God is GOING and he wants us to accompany HIM.
Keep his commands – keep – means we are to observe and act according to what he says. We must allow his commands to direct our steps
Proverbs 6:23 (CSB) — 23For a command is a lamp, teaching is a light, and corrective discipline is the way to life.
So, it is not concealed, it is a clear command, but then notice
It is CONDITIONAL
So that – if you then you… if you then I … this is conditional God is wanting to lead us somewhere, but we have to maintain the conditions. Oh but IF we love God and walk in his ways, and keep his commands… then we…
May live … chayah = live, alive, come alive – HIS WAYS ARE LIFE – 1 John 5:3 says that his ways are NOT a burden – no he is saying this is LIFE – this is a way for the person, the church, a convention to have LIFE
And Multiply – Hello Church growth experts – we don’t so much to have to run all over, looking for it. It’s right here, it’s in your mouth, in your heart, so it’s in your head – Love God, Walk in his Ways, Keep his Commands, and you will be alive, and then rabah = abundance, become many, enlarge, multiply – and then…
The Lord will bless you in the land –
But then notice, this is Two-Way Conditional promise.
If your Heart Turns away – i.e. if you love yourself, love your preferences, love your style instead of God’s ways – yes even Baptists have idols
(if) you do not Listen – oh yes you heard, but did you LISTEN – shama = give earnest hearing
If you are led astray to worship other gods – oh so many things we worship instead of God – styles, traditions, politicians, whatever you call it… there is only ONE to worship
If … Then v18
You will certainly perish, and will not prolong your days in the land
The Call / The Choice v19
I call heaven and earth as witness… I have set before you
Life and death
Blessing and curses
This is Life and Blessing
Or Death and Curses
God isn’t wanting to argue with us, he’s just offering us a choice – what do you want in? But I’m urging you,
Choose LIFE – LIVE – this is a generational offer, you and your children
The choice is always there
And we might want to stop right there but what kind of song would that be?
The Coda –
Doug, come to the Piano for me – Doug knows what a Coda is. A “Coda” in Music, is the concluding passage or movement, typically forms an additional theme or structure – It’s like the vamp, the tag, the outro.
So, in the Beatles song, “Hey Jude”, The song just has 3 basic chords, in the key of F. Doug play and “F”, that’s the Tonic – Home
And then a “C” – that’s the Dominant, the V
And now a “Bb” – that’s the Sub-Dominat, the IV
That’s most of the Song.
Don’t make it (C)Bad, Take a (Bb)Sad song
And make it (F)Better. Re-(Bb)member to
Let her into your (F)heart, And you can (C)start to
Make it (F) Better
And the song is 3 minutes long verses and chorus
Basically F, C, Bb – I – V – IV – with some walking chords between in the chorus.
But then comes the CODA – that Circle with a Cross in the Middle (oh I could preach that for a minute.
Sometimes the Coda is a short ending tag, a slight variation with something added to the structure. But in “Hey Jude” Paul Plays the I (F)… and then he plays a bVII (Eb) followed by the IV(Bb) and he goes on for 4 minutes
Na, Na, Na, Na, Na, Na, Na
Na, Na, Na, Na – Hey Jude
Na, Na, Na, Na, Na, Na, Na
Na, Na, Na, Na – Hey Jude
And so here is his Coda – Moses says
Love the Lord your God, Obey Him, Remain Faithful To Him…
Ok, we know these chords…
“hey Jude, don’t make it bad, take a sad song, and make it better… Remember to let her under your skin, then you begin to make it … Better … Better… Better… Better… Better
Love the Lord your God, Obey Him, Remain Faithful to Him
Here is where the Coda Changes to the bVII
For He is your LIFE
He will prolong your days
As you live in the Land
Na, Na, Na, Na, Na, Na, Na
Na, Na, Na, Na –
He is your life
He will prolong your days
He will give you life in the land
This is True for the SBC
This is True for First Ferguson
This is true for the people who live in your House too
There is A CHOICE for us… Life and Blessing, or Death and Curses … HE IS YOUR LIFE… CHOOSE Will he be Your Life?