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Entries in Pride (7)

Tuesday
Mar142017

Serving Selflessly with our Natural Gifts

Several Passages.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on March 12, 2017.

Today we are going to look at the practical side of serving others.  When we have a firm grasp of why we should serve, and we are committed to do so, we still have to face the area of how we do that.  So today we will focus on serving others with our natural gifts, abilities, and the possessions that we have.  When you have a strong belief in the reality of spiritual gifts for today, it is easy to see natural gifts as something that is lesser and undesirable.  But, this cannot be any further from the truth.  Before we are ready to talk about spiritual gifts we need to learn to surrender our natural abilities to the Lord in service to others.  Now, when we talk about these things, there are some who secretly say in their mind, “I have nothing, and I am nothing.”  This simply is not true.  In fact some of the most generous people in the world are those who have very little in the eyes of the world.  So as we look into this area let’s try to avoid the tendency to focus merely on numbers.

Our first passage will focus on a woman from the city of Joppa in Israel.  Her name was Tabitha and her story is told in Acts 9:36-43.

Natural Gifts vs. Spiritual Gifts

The reason I chose this passage is because we can see both natural gifts and spiritual gifts working in the same story.  Before we get into the passage let’s focus on what I mean by natural gifts.  Natural gifts are those predispositions and abilities that we are genetically inclined towards, which then become skills that we naturally pick up and develop.  I would also include those possessions and wealth that we have acquired through our natural birth to a certain family and the use of our skills and abilities.  By calling them natural, I am not implying that God has nothing to do with them.  He is the creator of Nature and the particular nature of humans.  It is He who designed the abilities of mankind and the reality that over long periods of time our selectivity in breeding and environment would affect our DNA and how it is passed down.  Thus Spiritual gifts by contrast do not have such a natural explanation for their existence.  For example, a man studies the profession of medicine over a long period of time and does well as a doctor helping people to heal.  He should definitely give God thanks for the intellect and health to do what he has done.  But we would still consider this to be a natural event which God has made possible.  Spiritual gifts do not have a similar natural component, but more on that later.

Tabitha apparently had time, money, and skill that she used to serve others around her.  Verse 36 starts with a general description of her service.  She was “full of good works and charitable deeds which she did.”    In verse 39 we are shown a specific example of Tabitha’s service.  Many of the widows, who had gathered in mourning her death, held up the tunics and garments that Tabitha had made for them while she was still alive.  No doubt she did other good works and charitable deeds.  But this one is an example of them.  When Tabitha died it brought sorrow and grief to the people who knew her.  She was an outstanding believer and so the Christians there sent for the apostle Peter to come.  It would seem that they are hoping for a miracle.

Now, as Peter enters the story, we have one of the apostles of Jesus whom God used mightily to preach the Gospel, and also confirmed it with miracles of healing and exorcism.  When Peter is made aware of Tabitha’s death, he doesn’t grab his medical bag and medical reference books.  He is not healing Tabitha by any natural means.  In fact we could be technical and say that Peter isn’t healing her, God is.  But, that would be to press more into that phrase than the Bible does.  The spiritual gift of healing is not based upon genetics, IQ, or skills that one has honed over time.  They are purely a working of the Spirit of God through the faith and actions of his believers.  Peter’s first action is to pray.  Though we are not told, I would think that part of his prayer is asking God if He was willing to bring Tabitha back to life.  At some point when Peter believed that the answer to this was affirmative, he turns to her body and says, “Tabitha, arise.”  She then opens her eyes and sits up.  Peter then lifts her up and presents her to the believers.  Now notice that the natural gifts of Tabitha and the spiritual gift of Peter were very different from each other.  And yet, they are the same in this, both the natural gifts and the spiritual gifts are intended to be used for others.   Yes, they are different from each other, but they both come from the same God so that we can bless each other.

This leads to an invaluable point.  Natural gifts and spiritual gifts should not be in contention with each other, but instead, work together.  This is not just possible, but necessary.  It is possible because they come from the same God.  It is necessary because God intends to use both to help His people.  Do not neglect using your natural gifts for others because you want to be more spiritual.  However, do not neglect to seek spiritual gifts because you are more comfortable with the natural.  We are not choosing one over the other, or trying to get rid of one for the other.  Instead, God intends for them to work hand in hand within the life of an individual and also within the life of the body of believers.  The gifts of Tabitha and Peter are being used to bless believers and provide a witness to the unbelievers.  In fact, ask yourself.  How did Peter get to Joppa from Lydda?  Though God has given him spiritual gifts, Peter still exercises his natural gift of travel in order to get to Joppa (We are not told his method, walking or donkey).  Also, the passage ends with Simon the Tanner, a business man in Joppa, providing a place for Peter to stay.  Thus it is the natural gifts of Simon that allow for the spiritual gifts of God to work through Peter.  Just as our spirit and body are designed to work in harmony, so our natural gifts and spiritual gifts should work in harmony too.

We can fail to use our natural gifts for others

Let’s go to 1 Timothy 6:17-19 now.  I want to be careful to keep this from being all about money.  The use of our money is one area of resource in our life.  We have many others such as time, skills, experience, and knowledge.  However, wealth is one that can have a very strong leverage on our heart.  Thus the apostle Paul tells Timothy to command the rich to use their wealth for good works.  Now I purposefully picked this passage because it uses the word, “command.”  The Lord Jesus , in Matthew 19:21, teaches us to lay up treasure in heaven by using our earthly wealth to help others.  The point is that some of them were rich in wealth, but neglected to ask the question, “But am I rich in good works.”  Have I banked up treasure in heaven?  I have worked so hard to bank up money on this earth, but what about when I am gone here?  What if I lose it all tomorrow?  Thus the motives of the rich Christian are challenged.  They can neglect to use these natural gifts to serve others because they have become “haughty” ( a word that means high-minded).  An attitude that somehow I am the lucky one and you are not, can lead to stinginess and selfishness.  It is easy to forget that our abilities and placement in life are not all our own.  Much of it we were given.  Regardless, we will be held accountable for what we did with what we had.  The second reason given is that we can put our trust in our riches and abilities.  We can think that they will always hold us up.  Even if our money never fails as we live this life, the time will come for our death.  Our money will not be able to help us in that day.  When we stand before God, our amassing of money on earth will not impress God.  It will do the exact opposite.  Riches are often “here today and gone tomorrow.”  When I go to God will I go as a poor man (that is no heavenly treasure)?  Don’t let pride and false trust cause you to be stingy concerning others.  This is not about money only.  We can use our abilities and experience in life to help others who do not have them.  Even networking is a way of serving one another.  The reason for your gifts is not for you to consume them yourself.  They are not some kind of cosmic reward.  They are intended to enable you to take care of your family, friends and loved ones, and those who God brings to your attention.

God gives the believer freedom

Now let’s look at Galatians 5:13-15.  We finish this sermon with this passage precisely because it helps us understand the earlier word “command.”  The same apostle is writing both passages.  In 1 Timothy he tells Timothy to command the rich to be rich in good works.  But to the Galatians Paul emphasizes that God’s goal for his people is freedom.  Ultimately He wants us to choose to serve each other freely.  Thus we have a choice to make.  The first choice is whether or not we are going to follow Jesus or not.  It is to those who want to be his disciples that Jesus says, “lay up treasures in heaven.”  He is not trying to control us, but rather, he is trying to make it very clear that if we are really following him and growing to become like him, we will use our natural gifts to serve others.  Consequently, if we are not using our natural gifts to serve others, then we are not following Jesus and becoming like him.  This brings us to the second part of freedom.

Yes, we are free to choose, but we cannot choose the effects of that choice also.  Being free does not remove consequences.  Thus when you hear the idea that we should be free to “sin,” and that God is being judgmental to say that certain things are wrong, remember that God does not control choices.  We actually live in a world where people are free to sin.  When someone wants to steal, cheat, or murder, there is no angel of death that shows up and strikes them dead.  Yes, God could do this, but He doesn’t.  We are free to sin and free to do righteousness.  But they both have consequences in the natural and in the spiritual that you can’t control.  Let me give you a hypothetical situation.  Suppose tomorrow our society completely rejects the idea of marriage and an exclusive, sexual relationship.  It is done so strongly that those who promote exclusivity and marriage are seen as something worse than a pedophile is to us today.  Now fast forward in time 200, even 400 years later.  No one is alive who even remotely understands the concept of sexual exclusivity.  Picture a young man or woman who falls in love with someone for the first time.  It is reciprocated by the other and they are sexually intimate.  But, a month later, one or the other, decides they have had enough with you and leave you to be intimate with someone else.  Here’s the point.  You cannot tell me that the individual who is left behind won’t be hurt, and emotionally injured.  Of course they know that it is supposed to be okay.  But, that won’t make their heart hurt any less.  Thus they will eventually move on and a certain softness will die in their heart as they embrace the way of the world.  My point is that sin still hurts even when we try to define it out of existence.  Yes, you are free to sin.  But God knows that sin destroys us in every way.  It destroys relationships, and societies.  In fact sin touts itself as freedom, but in truth it is always chains.

Thus in verse 13, Paul gives the overarching principle that those who are following Jesus will, “serve one another in love.”  Now God is not going to tell you how much, how long, to whom, etc…  You are free to choose.  However, you are also free to pray about how much, how long, to whom you will serve.  The practicality is that you cannot be “God” to everyone.  He does not intend you to be the sole source for others.  You can only give so much, help so many people, and give so much of your time.  The point is serving, not the amount itself.  So a very biblical case can be made for a spherical understanding of our love.  Those in our immediate family are our primary point of service.  They are those whom God has given to us in order to serve.  The next circle is made of our friends, co-workers, and neighbors.  They are a secondary point of service.  The last circle takes in the whole world, but is best described as those whom God, in His mysterious ways, connects us to in one way or another. 

As I said earlier, we can pray and ask God for help and direction in how to use our natural gifts.  We must do this precisely because they are limited.  Thus even our natural gifts can be directed and led by the Holy Spirit to help us grow in serving others.  It is God who knows what they need and He can give us wisdom and skill in serving one another.

Let me close with sharing a verse from 1 Corinthians 10:13, “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”  When we only live for ourselves or our family, we fall short of the glory of God.  So take some inventory today of your natural gifts.  Quit saying that you don’t have anything.  In fact you might do better to work at it from the other side of the problem.  Instead of looking at your resources first, lift up your eyes and start seeing the need.  Then, out of love for God and them, ask yourself, “What can I do to help them?”  That is the best place to start because love always finds a way to serve others.

Serving with our natural gifts audio

Friday
Mar102017

Serving Selflessly

John 13:1-17.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on March 5, 2017. 

As we continue talking about the purpose that Jesus has for His people and His Church, we have adopted the phrase, “Connecting people to the Abundant Life found in Jesus.”  So our purpose begins with connecting to Jesus and His people, and then moves to growing spiritually to be like Jesus.  Part of spiritual growth is being used by God to serve other believers and in a manner that is not for selfish reasons.  One thing you may notice is that each of these is simply an extension of the initial connection to Jesus.  So it may be better to think of them as facets of the main purpose of coming into relationship with God. 

In our passage today, we will look at a very critical act that Jesus did on the night that he was going to be betrayed.  In this act of service, Jesus removes all doubt as to what God is saying to those who want to be his disciples.  In essence God is asking us to prove our love for Him by serving His people, our brothers and sisters.  Because of our Christian background, Americans often speak of politicians and social leaders as public servants.  However, it is clear that most are not serving for the sake of the public.  They are more concerned with their own station in life and honor among men, than they are about what will really serve the people.  Today’s passage will show the heart of service.  Next week we will look at the practical side of what it means to serve.

The love of Jesus caused him to serve

This story of how Jesus washed the feet of his disciples is a powerful one that is intended to challenge those who would want to follow him.  But, before we look at the act itself, let’s look at the context in which this service takes place.  Verse 1 emphasizes that Jesus knew it was his time.  He was about to leave the disciples, and they would have to go on without his physical presence.  This makes his action here critical because it represents what is most important to him.  Verse 2 also tells us that Jesus knew that the betrayal was already in motion.  His arrest was only hours away and by noon the next day he would be executed.  These were his last moments of physical freedom.  Lastly, verse 3 points out that Jesus knew that everything was in his hands.  Now in Matthew 28:18 Jesus says, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.”  This means that Jesus was not a victim as he went to the cross, but a victor.  Not only did he have authority over those who thought they had authority over him, but it was in his hands what to do.  Yes, Jesus came for the purpose of dying on the cross, being resurrected and leading many sons to righteousness.  However, his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, just moments after this event, makes it clear that he had a choice.  Jesus asks for the cup to be taken from him and yet, surrenders to the will of the Father.  What we see here is that though the Spirit of Christ was unified with the will of the Father, the flesh body was shrinking back from the cross.  The Father would not force His Son to do this.  It had to be the choice of Jesus and not just in his invulnerable, past existence.  In the moment of weak flesh he had to choose freely to save mankind.  Imagine if all authority and choice was given to you today.  What would your choice be?  In this situation Jesus chose to wash his disciple’s feet and to go to the cross for mankind.  This is a powerful statement.

When we look at the descriptions regarding this service, two poignant phrases stick out.  The first is at the end of verse 1, “He loved them to the end.”  This was an act of teaching, but it was also an act of love.  It was a divine, supreme act of love that would help them to better understand the cross and God’s will for them in the months and years ahead.  Service cannot be just an act.  It truly must be fueled by and informed by the love of God.  Too often we allow our service to become an identifying thing that we do, and lose sight of love for the people we are serving.  Another aspect to recognize is how John builds up to this act.  He stipulates all the things Jesus knew and how it was all in his hands, which lead up to the climax of “then he arose from supper, laid aside his garments, took a towel and girded himself.”  The statement itself would be anticlimactic to anyone who was looking to Jesus as Messiah.  I believe John intends this statement and the actions of Jesus to be shocking.  It is easy for us to miss this because we have grown up in a society that takes this for granted.    We must understand that the love of God is far more radical and shocking than we can ever completely understand.  Jesus hanging on the cross was the exact opposite picture anyone expected to see of the savior of the world.  Let’s face it; even now we do not completely understand the love of God and the depths to which it leads him to go in order to serve mankind.  So, when I try to follow Jesus and serve others, I will find myself needing to grow in the ability to love at such a shocking level.

We are challenged by the service of Jesus

Peter often becomes the vehicle through which we get to see ourselves.  So in verses 6-8, the shocking actions of Jesus bother Peter.  He balks at what Jesus is doing and had earlier rebuked Jesus for saying that he would be executed.  This is the very nature of even the most loyal disciple.  Our hearts are challenged and even made afraid by what Jesus does and calls us to do.

So what is at the heart of this issue?  Perhaps it is our pride.  Peter’s pride in his station as a close disciple to the Messiah of Israel (maybe even #1 disciple), shrinks back from this menial service that Jesus does.  Jesus is supposed to be the greatest and highest person in all of Israel.  But here he takes on a task that only the lowest servant would perform.  This is unthinkable to him because of his pride.  Leaders, beware of followers who tell you that certain things are beneath you.  They are not being led by the wisdom of God, but the fear of prideful flesh.  Peter was so proud of being there that he forgot to wash his own feet.  His joy of being in the presence of Jesus had overwhelmed his self-awareness that his feet were filthy.  This is such a powerful picture of our desire to follow Jesus.  We get so caught up in the wonder of it all that we can miss areas of our life that need cleaned up.  Even so, if Jesus wanted their feet cleaned, he should command one of them to do it, right?  In Peter’s mind the lowest of them all should be the one washing feet, not Jesus (and most likely not him).  This is precisely why Jesus had to wash their feet.  He had to break their pride.  But he doesn’t do it like the leaders of this world do it.  The leaders of this world command you to do the most menial tasks until your pride is wore down.  But Jesus does the menial task himself and then asks them to love one another as he has loved them.  He leads the way, and not as one who does so once and never humbles himself again.  The cross shows us that all of the life of Jesus was one long humbling of the highest being in the universe.  Can we not see that God has no pride?  We must see our own shrinkage from service and its foreign mindset in Peter’s actions.  We must also ask the Lord to transform our mind and heart in this area.

Another point I would like to make about Peter’s refusal is that it is God who defines how we need to be served.  Peter does not want to let Jesus feet.  When others serve us we are often uncomfortable.  We tend to want to control how it is done.  We can be guilty of trying to tell God exactly how He should do things.  But the reality is that we don’t have a clue what we need and what He should be doing.  The Church has struggled over this question, “What do people really need.”  Especially in America, we have developed two different approaches over the years.  The first is called the “Pie in the Sky” Gospel.  This approach says that people really only need their spirit’s saved and the flesh is immaterial.  Thus, people who preached to the homeless would promise that in heaven you will have all the things you didn’t on earth.  Instead of helping materially they only helped spiritually.  The cynicism of the people being served led to some Christians then going to the other extreme.  This led to what is called the “Social Gospel.”  They tended to focus so much on the physical needs of the poor at the expense of the spiritual message of Jesus.  It almost becomes a badge of nobility to feed a poor man and not tell him the gospel, so that you are not manipulating them.  Yet, Jesus does both within hours.  He washes their feet, a very physical service, and then dies on the cross for their sins, a very spiritual service.  In truth we need both.  Yes, we could accuse Jesus of trying to manipulate us by dying on a cross.  But in the end it is a reality that we have to deal with.  Was Jesus manipulating or loving?  When we serve, we must be aware of the physical nature of those we serve and yet the spiritual side.  Not all will receive what you do and may even cast aspersions on your motives.  Nevertheless, it is not wise to let those being served to dictate how we serve them.  We serve people because God loves them and it is He who directs us on how they need served.

In verse 9 and following the scene comes to a conclusion with Jesus explaining why he did what he did.  In verse 14 the word “ought” should slam into the pit of our stomach like a ton of bricks.  It comes from a word that has the idea of owing a debt that you are obligated to pay back.  Thus, it came to be used for social and moral obligations.  If the master did this lowly service, then by definition his disciples are obligated to keep themselves beneath him in station.  To not lower myself is more than an act of rebellion, but even an act of rejection.   In this act of service and the cross that follows, Jesus forever undercuts the protest, “You couldn’t expect me to do that!”  No, such a statement is hollow when you recognize the wisdom of Jesus.  We are precisely obligated to serve one another because our Lord and master served us.  But our obligation is not just on a moral level.  We say that we love God, but in this moment God shows the very depths of his heart.  He is not trying to be on top, and is not filled with pride.  He is willing to lower himself to the lowest place and serve.  So, the question then is, “Having received such a glimpse into the depths of His heart, do you still love Him?”  Christians are those who have discovered the shocking truth about the God who created all things and have chosen to follow him.  How can we not but serve?

Then in verse 17 Jesus slams the point home.  Blessed are you if you know these things and do them.  Today you have been made aware of these things.  Now, what are you going to do with them?  This is not just about washing feet.  It was a need within their immediate context.  What are the needs in our context?  What ways can I serve others for God?  In fact, it would be good for me to spend some time in prayer asking the Lord to give me His thinking on this subject.  Service is the key to blessing.

One of our problems in the Western world is that we make service sound noble.  I am not saying that it isn’t noble in some ways.  However, it is also humiliating and hard on our flesh in other ways.  Service by its very nature is not a noble thing, but it is a God thing.  Jesus washing the dirty, stinky feet of his disciples was not fun.  But it was necessary for them.  Similarly, trying to love another person and serve them can be some of the most difficult times of your life, and yet God asks us to do it.  Yes, it is noble, but the nobility is not what we feel when we truly start serving others.  We can tell young men of the noble act of dying so that other may be free.  But, when they are in the trenches and their friends are dying around them, it will feel like anything but nobility.  No, service that is not self-serving (a.k.a. I am getting noticed and good press) will try your soul like a furnace.  But in the end you will come forth like pure gold refined in the fire seven times.

Serving Selflessly audio

Tuesday
Dec062016

Do not Test the Lord Your God

Matthew 4:5-7.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on December 04, 2016.

Today we continue our study of the temptation of Christ that we see in Matthew 4, and look at the second one presented to our Lord.  If the first temptation was to satisfy and sustain yourself with material things, then the second temptation is to promote yourself and make things happen by your own wisdom.  Another way to categorize these three temptation is to use the phrases that are given in 1 John 2:16, “For all that is in the world- the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life- is not of the Father, but is of the world.”  The first temptation appealed to the lust of the flesh (make bread for your stomach).  This second one seems to be more about the pride of life.

All of us deal with issues of significance and often desire situations in which we are exalted above our fellow man.  Satan loves to play off of these desires and mislead us into a path of destruction.  For some this path leads them towards religion, but twists it with human pride.  For others the path may lead them away from religion out of a wounded pride.  Either way he wins because there is no other solution for the hearts of mankind than the Creator Himself.  So the first are walled off to Him by the self-delusion that they are acceptable, and the second wall themselves off to Him out of their pain.  May we all learn to lay our pride at the foot of the cross of Jesus and thereby remove from Satan’s arsenal a very powerful, spiritual lever that he loves to employ against us.

 We are tempted by pride

It is often said that Satan fell through pride in his own wisdom and beauty.  Thus it would stand to reason that he would seek to enamor us with his own prideful reasoning.  The Bible does not make it completely clear whether Satan knows he was wrong and is operating out of sheer spite, or whether he still thinks there is a play here where he actually “proves his case” and wins.  Regardless we must expect to be tempted in this area of pride.

We see in verse 5 that the devil takes Jesus up to the highest point of the temple.  It is not really important the mode of this travel, though many can speculate.  The setting is a place that no one may see immediately (while he is being tempted).  But if he listens to the devil there will be a very public spectacle.  How could jumping from of a height that was as much as several hundred feet be tempting?

It starts with being reminded of his relationship with the Father.  The first temptation tries to paint the Father as not taking care of Jesus.  “God doesn’t care about you as much as you think.  Make your own bread.”  However, this temptation does the opposite.  It plays on the pride of such a close relationship with the Father.  “Since you are the Son of God make a public show of God’s love for you.  There is no way He would let you die.”  Of course the devil makes no mention or shows no regard for what the Father’s plan might be.  Jesus loves the Father and has been in a relationship of unity with Him since the beginning.  So He is not only concerned with what the Father wants, but already knows that what Satan suggests is not the plan. 

So what does Satan hope to accomplish?  It is tough to say.  Perhaps he hopes to try and thwart any spiritual help that would come with his own angels, so that Jesus would die.  Clearly he seeks to kill Jesus because of the cross later.  Let’s get one thing clear.  Satan is not interested in promoting Jesus and he could care less about promoting you.  In the end his only aim is to destroy your life.  If he can do that by inflating your pride in your relationship with God, then he will.

Notice that this time Satan backs up his temptation by quoting Scripture.  His first temptation was pushed aside by Jesus reminding him of Scripture.  So he tries to reverse this tactic back on Jesus by quoting some Scripture himself.  One thing is clear in the Bible; the devil always twists the meaning of God’s Word.  He is only capable of abusing Scripture for his own ends, which are contrary to God’s.  An illustration of this can be seen in politics.  Every word of an opponent is generally twisted out of context and used against them by the other side.  Finding a truly, objective treatment of the person is rare.  As Christians we must flee this kind of activity in our own life.  2 Timothy 2:15 says that we must “rightly divide [handle] the word of truth.”  We can see that the devil does not do such a thing but twists the meaning of Psalm 91 by skipping phrases and leaving out the context.  So let’s look at this section of Psalm 91.

Satan quotes from verse 11, skips the second part of it, quotes verse 12, and leaves off verse 13.  It is always important to pay attention to what is left out.  Notice that God’s angels would be commanded to watch over the righteous “to keep you in all your ways.”  The way of a person is a huge theme in the Bible.  In fact the righteous are known by their determination to walk in the “way of the Lord.”  Thus the passage is about a person who is in a trusting relationship with God and living as God has taught us.  When God’s ways are our ways then the devil will find little within us that he can manipulate.  Now verse 12 points out that God’s protection is upon the righteous.  But verse 13 shows why.  We are protected in order to tread upon the lion and the cobra.  Now this is not a passage about handling literal lions and cobras, although God is more than capable of delivering the righteous from such.  There is never a case of people “treading” on lions and cobras in the Bible so that should be your first clue that something deeper is going on here.  The lion and cobra are metaphors for our spiritual enemy, the devil.   1 Peter 5:8 says, “Your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.”  God doesn’t necessarily protect us from ever falling down literally.  But He does offer constant protection so that we may never fall to the schemes of the devil and be devoured by Him.  Similarly, in Revelation 12:9 it says, “So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world.”  The “serpent of old” is an allusion to Genesis 3 and the Fall of Adam and Eve.  Adam and Eve fell before the Serpent (Satan) because they were tricked into distrusting God.  Clearly Satan doesn’t want to quote this part of the passage and highlight that angelic protection is so that we can tread on the devil, not cooperate with his plans.

However, Jesus does not go into Psalm 91 and point these things out to Satan because there is an even greater context to these verses.  All Scripture is context to any one verse.  A very powerful thing about Scripture is that its proper understanding will not contradict any other part.  If it seems to then you know there is an error in your understanding.  So, dig deeper.  Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:16.  Yes, God will protect you along your way.  But we also, must not test Him in this.  Now, God is gracious and many of us have been in times of weak faith and have asked God to give us a sign of his love.  If we do so without the threat of walking away from Him then He sometimes graciously responds.  But, if you lay down something as a test that God must pass or you are walking away, then beware.  Such actions are not born out of a loving relationship with God, but out of selfish love for yourself.  Beware of those who trumpet on Scripture to the detriment of the rest of Scripture.  This is classic cult leader stuff.

We must not put God to the test

So let’s develop that last point that Jesus makes to the devil.  The Holy Spirit had not led Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple; the devil had.  In our own lives it is not always so clear who is leading us.  Thus we must be careful to recognize anything that smacks of trying to force God’s hand, or trying to speed up things.  This is manipulation of the relationship that God wants with us.  Now, a parent loves a child, but would be foolish to allow the child to fall into the habit of trying to manipulate them.  Of course, kids are learning how to love.  They don’t understand such deeper concepts.  It takes a parent who loves them too much to let them get away with it, a parent who disciplines them in such times, in order to help a child grow in love.  Just as your flesh desires material things, so it desires the pride of life: public success, and the accolades of those around us.  Satan plays off of these things.  Yet, Jesus did not operate in such a way as to lift himself up, or try to out think the plan of God.  In fact, Jesus often did the opposite of what self-promoters would do.  Jesus pointed us to the Father and for such a blessing he was crucified.  That was to be his public moment of demonstrating the love of the Father.

But it goes deeper than just crass manipulation.  We cannot force God to demonstrate His love as we dictate.  When a person lays down an ultimatum to God, “either you do this or I walk,” we step out onto shaky ground.  God in His grace does work with our weakness.  Gideon was given a sign by God.  Yet, we must always have as our foundation, “Nevertheless, Thy will be done.”  In fact, God gave the greatest demonstration of love possible when He gave His One and Only Son to become a man and do for us what we could not do for ourselves.  All this is so that whosoever would believe on Jesus would have everlasting life instead of perishing.  It is easy for us to do this to one another.  We can be angry and made that someone didn’t show their love in a particular way.  We can even do the politician thing and twist everything that they do or say into “not love.”  But when we act this way we actually destroy the very love that is being given to us.  Too many people say, “If God would only do such and such, then I would know that He exists and that He cares about me.”  The problem is that you are trying to control God and refusing to deal with the countless ways that He has demonstrated His love for you.  So we can push aside 1,000 ways of love and complain that we did not receive a particular 1.  This is folly and not the path of love.  Love is a discovery of the uniqueness of another and how we can uniquely love them back.  How can we demand more than that?  Love doesn’t dictate how another person loves.  Rather, it receives it freely and with Joy.

Do not Test audio

Tuesday
Jul262016

They That Wait upon the Lord

Isaiah 25:1-12.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on July 24, 2016.

It is hard to fathom the joy we will experience at the Second Coming of Jesus.  Yes, it is true that he will bring judgment upon the nations of the world.  However, at the same time He is restoring things to rightness.  He will be removing oppression and tyranny and replacing it with healing and deliverance.   This is an important point because the United States of America has become a prime example of how even good government can be corrupted over time.  Thus the decree of God is that no national leadership will be found to be righteous in that day.  Even in the name of liberty, our true, God-given liberties are taken away.  The average person then finds themselves living in an oppressive and tyrannical environment, whether it be the hard form found in nations like North Korea, or the soft form found here in my own country. 

Thus Isaiah describes a people who have waited for God’s deliverance from wicked leaders and powerful men.  They have endured long trials and weariness to the point of giving up.  However, when Jesus comes their joy will be immense.  Waiting for the Lord to act is a theme throughout Isaiah.  The well known passage in Isaiah 40 says, “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”  Regardless of what your situation requires, be it flying, running or walking, the Lord will give strength to those who trust in Him.  Those who trust in Him will not be put to shame in the end.  They will have the final joy because God is for them.  Thus the coming judgment of God begs the question for each of us.  Will that day be a day of rejoicing because I trusted in Jesus, or will that day be a day of grief because I put my trust in my own pride and the pride of mankind?

Joy Will Fill The People

Isaiah depicts a joyous time of jubilation similar to some of the statements made in the book of Revelation.  Though God’s judgment is a sobering thing, it will be for the joy of mankind.  In verse 1 we notice several things about the exclamations that Isaiah makes.  First, is the rejoicing in the fact that God is “my God.”  It will be a day when joy will not just be a general thing, but a very particular and personal thing.  Those who have trusted in God will marvel in the realization that God was not just the God of Adam, Noah, and Abraham et. al.  They will have personally witnessed the amazing fulfillment of God’s Word to His people.  God will have proven Himself in our time and not just  in the ancient past.

It will also be a wonder-filled joy.  The “wonderful things” of verse 1 are a reference to the miraculous, supernatural work of God.  The omnipotence of God has a way of removing the most impossible problems and delivering from the most powerful enemy in only a moment.  Thus the powerful acts of God demonstrated in Egypt before Pharaoh (who by the way was considered the son of the Gods) are a picture of how His great work in the face of Antichrist and the “gods” that back Him up (i.e. Satan and his fallen cohorts).  They will be impotent as God delivers His people from under their oppression.

The last part of verse 1 mentions God’s “counsels of old.”  These are the directives that God has given to His people in the past.  Of course Isaiah would be looking back to Scriptures and mainly the first 5 books of the Bible (Torah).  Yet, we can add to that today the counsels that were given through Jesus and His apostles 2,000 years ago.  It is easy to grow weary of counsels that stretch over thousands of years.  Our humanity wants to have deliverance now.  Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life” (NKJV).  God’s way doesn’t always make an immediate change, especially if we are waiting for Him to deal with the wicked of the earth.  Yet, these counsels will prove out to be faithful and true.  Those who continue to trust the ancient counsel of God will find themselves in exactly the right place.  But those who have cast off the ancient counsel of God will find themselves in the wrong place, and caught up in the judgment of God.  Thus the warning of Psalm 1 is very appropriate.  We must remain in the way of the Lord while we wait for Him.  Yet, the ungodly, the sinners, and the scornful tempt us to join their way, to walk upon their paths, and to sit with them in a seat of judgment against God and His people.  Thus the object of the trust and faith of the sinner will prove to be a delusion and impotent.  But, those who wait upon the Lord will find that it is true and will prove faithful in the end.

In verses 2-5 we see the “terrible nations” and the “terrible ones.”  These are those who are following the path of their own wisdom and of Satan.  They use their power to dominate others and to rule over them.  Such cities have always existed and in fact, the history of the world can be seen as a history of the nations which clamor to be “king of the mountain.”  These empires had become proud and arrogant oppressors of the peoples of the earth.  The days before Christ’s coming will be no less.  In fact the greatest empire and thus the greatest tyranny this world has ever seen is still in the future.  We are cruising at an ever increasing speed towards this reality.  Freedom is being stamped out upon the earth and absolute tyranny is taking its place.  This is the judgment of the “City of Confusion” in Isaiah 24 and the Kings of the earth and their armies.  Whatever survivors that may be left from the nations will no longer walk in pride, but they will have a reverent fear and awe of the Lord and His powerful reality.  They will recognize that the ways of God that they had rejected for so long were the true paths.

Another reason why there will be so much joy is because God will have defended the helpless.  Isaiah uses two words, the poor and the needy.  God will be their refuge.  Now, not all the poor and the needy will turn to God for refuge.  In fact, though the poor and needy are often crushed under this world system, for the sake of survival and “getting mine,” many fight for the scraps beneath the table.  They basically trust the way of this world and trust in their own ability to make it.  Like the Olympic trials they fight and clamor to see if they can climb up into that ultra society of “winners.”  Of course most do not make it, however, there are levels of honor and perks all the way up.  This “dog-eat-dog” mentality that uses others as rungs on the ladder of progress belongs to sinful man and fallen angels.  There is coming a day when God will rise up in defense of all those that have been and are being taken advantage of.

Thus Isaiah gives two images.  The first is a storm that blasts and howls against a wall.  The poor and the needy are often torn apart and destroyed by the powerful blasts.  They are unable to survive it.  The second image is that of an oppressive heat wave.  In fact this week the Middle East had several places recording a temperature of 129 degrees F.  The oppressive heat makes even the shade of no relief.  This oppression sucks the life out of people and leaves them with little ability or desire to do anything, but die.  Yet, no matter how loud the terrible ones howl (the storm), nor how powerful their oppression (the heat), when God intervenes there will be immediate relief.  Like a cloud that comes between the sun and the ground, the change will take place that quickly.  It is easy when you live in the land of comforts and ease to hear this and scoff.  However, even in America there are people who hear what I am saying and recognize that it is exactly how they feel.  Friend, don’t let the oppression of this world’s system suck the life out of you.  Turn to Jesus today and put your faith in Him.  That is the only thing that will ever prove faithful and true to you in the end.

The Lord Will Make A Feast

Starting in verse 6 we see that this will be a time of celebration.  The old tyrants have been thrown down.  Peace and freedom lies ahead.  Thus the Lord prepares a feast for the peoples of the earth that have survived without taking the mark, and His people who have returned with Him.  This feast will take place upon Mt. Zion, which is in Jerusalem, because this is the mountain referenced at the end of the last chapter.  All the “mountains” of the earth, that is the kingdoms, will be flattened.  But the “mountain” of the Lord will be raised up.  This pictures a gathering of people in the land of Israel.  Of course this deliverance is not just for Israel, but for all the peoples of the earth.  And, all will join in the celebration.

God supplies for each one choice food and drink.  Under this world system the elite at the top are the ones who get the choice food.  But here God brings forth the best food and drink for all those who had endured oppression to enjoy.  Instead of being the means of provision for the oppressors, God will provide for the “common person” uncommon food.

Verse 7 speaks of a covering that will be destroyed.  I believe that it is connected to the statement in verse 8 that death will be swallowed up forever.  Thus the veil here is most likely a reference to The Curse of Genesis 3.    The Curse has hung over mankind like a veil or shroud for most of its existence.  Yet, God will remove and destroy it.  Another aspect of this covering is that Satan has used the fear of death as a means to manipulate mankind.  He has used the threat of the shroud to create a veil over the minds and hearts of mankind.  This veil of ignorance and manipulation by spiritual powers will have also been destroyed by God.

Those Who Wait For The Lord Will Be Vindicated

In verse 9 Isaiah brings us back to the celebration.  Vindication is that moment in which faith is proven true.  Yet, all people are putting their faith in something.  Thus those who put their trust in something other than the Lord will not find vindication, but rather humiliation.  What they put their trust in will ultimately fail.  But the righteous will recognize that their wait for the Lord was not in vain.  Thus the declaration “He will save us.”  The verb here is a form that means God has done it but isn’t done doing it.  Thus it means that in light of what He has done, we know He will complete our salvation.  God is our savior in every way.  He cannot and will not fail.  He is able to deliver and defend you from every enemy.  It may not be in the way at the time that you desire.  But if you will wait on Him instead of going the way of your own heart and mind, you will find that He will be true to you in the end.

Isaiah ends the chapter with a reminder that just as the humble will be raised up, so the pride of the wicked will be pulled down.  No matter how great and powerful the position and place of the world may be, it will not stand before God’s judgment.  Though the world be as powerful as a mighty ocean, God is the swimmer who will pull the waves down beneath Himself and us.  He will bear us out from the crushing depths and rescue us out of the waters.  No matter how strong the walls of their city God will pull down all their defenses.  The powerful of this world, whether in business or in government, are not leading us down the right path.  Reject the way of the proud and walk in the way of humility that Jesus has shown us.  His counsels will be proven true and faithful.

Wait upon the Lord audio