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Entries in Restoration (3)

Tuesday
May302017

The Promise of the Father II

Joel 2:28-32.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on May 28, 2017.

Today we will look at another Old Testament passage in which God promised that there would come a day when His Holy Spirit would be given to His people wholesale, as they say.  Of course, Peter quotes from this passage in Acts 2:17-21, to demonstrate that the passage was indeed talking about the events of the upper room.

As we look at this passage, I pray that you will be encouraged and prompted to action.  This is not a day for taking it easy, and seeking our own desires and comfort.  This is a day when destinies can be changed, a day that is before “it's too late.”  So let’s look at the promises from God’s Word.

The Promise of Restoration

This chapter opens with a warning to the people of Israel of God’s judgment upon them by an army that would be coming.  In verses 12-17 there is a call to repentance.  They need to turn away from their sin and back towards the ways of the Lord.  Then verses 18-27 speak of a restoration that would happen to them.  In some ways it is presented as conditional upon their repentance.  However, in other ways, it is declared as definite for those who belong to God.  This leaves room for what actually happened in the decades following Jesus and his apostles.  Israel as a whole came under the judgment of God and saw their nation and capital destroyed by Rome.  Yet, in the midst of this, God poured out refreshing restoration upon those who put their faith in Jesus.  So this sets up the part of the chapter that we will be focusing on, vs. 28-32.

As Joel declares the restoration that will be experienced by God’s people, he prophesies that God will pour out His Holy Spirit upon His people.  Thus this pouring out of the Holy Spirit is a part of the restoration.  Sin has separated God’s people from Him.  But the work of Jesus makes way for a daily experience of the Holy Spirit for every believer.  As we said last week, the idea of the Holy Spirit coming upon people is not foreign to the Old Testament.  We find it everywhere.  However, it might be described best in this way.  In the Old Testament God’s Spirit came upon certain people, at certain times, for certain works.  But, in this passage, we are promised a time when God will give His Spirit without such restraints.

Two aspects stick out about this and the first is that there will be no distinctions.  The Holy Spirit will be poured out upon “all flesh.”  Thus we get a series of opposites that are intended to reinforce this point.  The Spirit will be poured out on sons and daughters, old men and young men, and men servants and maid servants (male and female).  Age and gender distinctions will not prohibit people from receiving the Holy Spirit.  Other places in the New Testament also add slave and free, Jew and Greek, and circumcised and uncircumcised.  The baptism of the Holy Spirit would be a common experience of all of God’s people.

The second aspect is what the effect of the Spirit will be.  Essentially Joel says that they will prophesy.  Though the Holy Spirit would be constantly present, this does not mean that they will be constantly prophesying.  Rather, God would speak through anyone at any time as He wills.  It is our job to be so in step with the Holy Spirit that we will recognize true prophecy versus the false.  Not all people will prophesy. There are other gifts of the Holy Spirit that are not mentioned here but are pointed out in the New Testament.  Joel mentions dreams and visions.  However, we should see these as two methods by which God gives His revelation to prophets.  A dream is God speaking to us through a dream while we are asleep.  A vision, on the other hand, is more like a trance.  A person is awake and yet begins to have a “day dream” that is influenced by the Spirit of God.  Other methods are mentioned in the Bible of which having an angelic visitation is seen in both Testaments.  Now it is one thing to have a dream from the Lord and quite another to recognize it and also understand it.  We must be daily communing with God in prayer and in reading His Word.  This puts us in tune with what the Spirit of God is saying and helps us to recognize when He speaks to us.  Even when God moves upon us to give a prophecy, we should not assume that we now have the right to “make this happen” out of sheer will.    It is our job to be open to the Lord.  Some people have been led astray because they feel the pressure to have “a word from the Lord” all the time.  God may not have a new word.  He may simply want us to focus on what He has already said and be faithful.  There is also a prevalent problem for people who have been involved with heavy drug use.  These can so damage our brains that we have a tendency towards weird dreams or dreams that have supernatural elements to them.  Such a person needs to exercise extreme caution and seek godly mentors who can give them unbiased advice.  As a community, God’s people need to be open to these things and not afraid of them.  Yet, we should be open to them in a mature way that recognizes that not all that feels spiritual is really from the Lord.  Those who do not have the gift of prophesy still have the Promised Holy Spirit by which they can recognize for themselves if the Spirit is indeed speaking through a particular person.

The Promised Day of the Lord

In verses 30-32 the promise of restoration and pouring out of the Spirit is counterbalanced with the promise of judgment.  Only this time the phrase “Day of the Lord” is used.  The Day of the Lord is used in the prophetic books as a technical term that points to a day when God will judge all the nations of the earth and institute His millennial kingdom.  Thus we are moving beyond a judgment upon Israel only. Joel sees a day when God will judge all nations, but before that, He will pour out His Spirit.  The Day of the Lord is always a joyful time for those who are God’s faithful servants.  But, it is a fearful day full of woe for those who are not His faithful servants.

So we two things that are coincident and previous to the Day of the Lord: the pouring out of the Holy Spirit and Signs and Wonders both in heaven and on earth.  The amazing or jaw dropping events would make it clear that God is keeping His promises.  Now the signs in the heavens, or celestial signs, are not a reference to astrology.  There is no sense that the sun, moon, or stars can affect mankind’s destiny or God’s actions.  Rather, God uses them to clue humans into the fact that He is doing what He said He would.  Thus they are attention getters that point us to God.  In this passage it mentions the sun being turned into darkness and the moon into blood.  Some have pointed out that this is more than likely speaking of a solar eclipse (dark sun) and a lunar eclipse (some can be blood red).  Now the historical testimony from the disciples of Jesus, and secular, non-Christian sources such as Josephus, tell us about weird things happening in the sky and on the earth.    Several things worth noting are the strange star that the Magi of the East recognized as pointing to the Messianic King of Israel being born.  Also, when Jesus was on the cross there was a darkness that lasted far longer than the longest solar eclipse (around 8 minutes).  We are also told of an earthly wonder of the earthquake during the death of Jesus.  This earthquake struck Jerusalem and tore the 4” thick curtain that was in the temple from top to bottom.  All these things are intended to get the attention of people who are thinking that things are “business as usual.”  They cause you to stop and think twice about what God is actually doing.  To those who would not listen to Jesus and his disciples, some might be persuaded by such signs.  The writings of John in The Revelation seem to point to more signs in the heaven and on earth that will occur before and during the Second Coming of Jesus.

Now in one sense the Day of the Lord cannot be avoided.  It will come upon the earth and all the nations at a particular time that God has set, but not revealed to us.  However, we can avoid the Day of the Lord as individuals if we put our faith in Jesus and follow Him.  Though it is a “Great and Terrifying” day to those who are under God’s judgment, those who have cried out to God will be saved from it (vs. 32).  For about 2,000 years God has been saving those who hear the bad news of judgment and the good news of Jesus, and then cry out to Him.  The fate of the repentant will be deliverance.  Thus the passage ends with a promise of deliverance for God’s people who are described as, “those who call on the name of the Lord,” and “the remnant whom the Lord calls.”

It is instructive to look at what Israel went through in the first century AD.  God had been faithful to send His Word to them over a long period of time.  This culminated with an outpouring of amazing grace in the person of Jesus and His apostles.  This powerful witness was then followed by judgment in which the wicked and their governments were removed.  But the saints were left unscathed by God’s judgment.  So we will see this same process globally.  When Israel was judged by God, He then sent His people to all the nations of the earth to proclaim the truth.  This mighty witness by God’s people will one day come to an end as God pours out His judgment on the whole earth, not just Israel.  If you are a believer, you are a part of this powerful witness that God is giving to the nations.  The long period of grace is in order for people to have time to respond and large groups of the world to respond.  But, the Day of the Lord is rapidly approaching.  Each day we are one step closer.  So Christian, we must be about our Father’s business rather than feeding our flesh with all that it desires, if we are to hear “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  To those who are not Christians, recognize that God desires to give you the good promise of His Holy Spirit daily in your life.  Don’t reject God’s offer of His love and presence in your life.  Instead, put your faith in Jesus and come follow Him!

Promise of the Father II audio

Tuesday
Sep062016

Disciplined but not Destroyed

Isaiah 27:10-13.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on August 21, 2016.  This sermon is out of order on this page because of when it was uploaded.

 We are starting mid-stream in this passage and will finish this section known as Isaiah’s Little Apocalypse.  Here Isaiah has been making the point that it will look like God has judged Israel so as to cut it off completely.  However, God will be actually pruning Israel so that it can once again bear fruit in the millennium.  Now, when we talk about the millennium we have to be careful about making too strong of a distinction between Israel and the Church.  In some ways God will be fulfilling His promises to national Israel.  And, yet in other ways God will be fulfilling His promise to make His people One nation out of all the nations of the earth.  Yes, this has happened already in the Church, but it is not finished.  In fact Paul speaks of the grafting back in of the natural branches in Romans 11.  People will differ regarding whether this will be completed at the end of the tribulation or at the end of the millennium.  Ultimately, Israel would be discouraged at its discipline in the future.  In fact they would be tempted to think that God has cast them off or is even a fairy tale.

We must remember in our lives that no matter how difficult things may be, if we will put our trust in the Lord instead of the things of this world, He will restore us both physically and spiritually.  We must do this in the face of how things appear.  Sure we may feel like God has abandoned us or cast us off, but the reality is that He is still working things towards our good, even when we are under His discipline.

God’s judgment will cleanse His people

Starting at verse 7, Isaiah looks at the judgments that will fall upon national Israel.  When they happen they will seem to be God destroying His vineyard.  But in the end, it will serve to cleanse and prune it.

In fact, Isaiah states that God would not strike Israel to the degree he struck their enemies and that His scattering of Israel to the nations would be a measured discipline to contend with them. He also states that when God covers their iniquity their altars and wooden images will be completely removed.  This brings us to verse 10.  Isaiah is giving them good news and yet keeps it tempered with the harsh reality of what is ahead.

The fortified city will be desolated.  Now most logically this is the same City of Confusion referenced in Isaiah 24.  Yet, there also seems to be a tie to the corrupt leadership of Israel.  Jerusalem is following the Harlot cities of the world that seek to be the seat of power.  If you couple this with the fact that the context of this passage is the judgment of God upon the nation of Israel, you are left with the conclusion that this references at least Jerusalem.  Yes, God will be pruning them for their good, but Jerusalem will be desolated.  In fact, there seems to be a parallel between God’s judgment of Israel and the later judgment at the end of the Age upon the nations of the earth.  The same spirit is at work in both situations to exalt itself through them.  They have trusted in their own ability and strength, rather than in the God of heaven.

Part of the desolate scene is the picture of women walking through the ruined city picking up branches to use for fuel.  This is a very reference to the natural devastation.  However, there is a spiritual picture as well.  Jesus picks up on this tie when he talks about being the vine and his people being the branches (John 15).  Dead branches are broken off and used for fuel.  The reality of the judgment of God is that a certain number of people who were spiritually dead, would be cut off and be lost in it.  God’s work would be discipline to those branches that still had a living, spiritual connection to Him.  But it would be judgment to those had no spiritual connection to Him at all. They have been irretrievably seduced by the spirit of the Age, the spirit of Mystery Babylon.  So we have simultaneously the severity of the Lord and the mercy of the Lord in the same situation.  Ultimately the second coming of Christ will be such a day.  It will be a horrible day for those who have cast their lot in with Antichrist and Mystery Babylon.  But it will be a joyous day for those who have a living connection with Him.

God will gather the remnant of Israel

The last two verses of this chapter look ahead to that time when God will once again stand up for Israel.  For close to 2,000 years, the people of Israel have undergone the discipline of the Lord to the point that it would seem God has abandoned them.  Even some in the Church state that we have taken the place of Israel.  In light of Paul’s teaching in Romans 11, I find this a view that fails to explain all that God has spoken in a coherent manner.    However, these verses clearly refer to a time when God will gather back Israel.  “In that Day” (verse 12) is a phrase that is used 44 times in the Book of Isaiah.  It refers to the ultimate Day of Judgment upon all the nations of the earth.   This has not happened yet.

The Lord will have a great harvest to accomplish (threshing and gathering).  It is important to note that the process of harvesting is a two sided metaphor.  If you are grain, good grapes, good figs, etc., harvest is a process that is good thing.  The harvester’s purpose is to protect and gather you into His barn.  But, if you are chaff, bad grapes, rotten figs, etc., harvest is a process that is a bad thing.  The chaff is either burned up or blown away by the wind.  The bad grapes and figs are left to decay and rot on the ground.  The stubble and stuff left behind is then destroyed as the field is burned in preparation for the planting time.  This two sided imagery is important.  Yes, God will gather Israel, but at the same time He is removing the wicked from their place in this age.  God will use the events of the last days to bring Israel to a place of repentance.  Those who refuse to repent will be lost along with all the chaff of the nations.  But the Lord will gather in those who humble themselves in repentance.

Those who had been lost to the nations of the earth will be found.  Isaiah mentions a great trumpet that will be blown at this time.  Some have connected this with Paul’s “Last Trumpet” in 1 Corinthians 15:52.  Whether this is a sound that will be heard on earth, it will definitely be heard in the spiritual realm.  Those who had perished in faith will come forth like Lazarus from the grave.  In fact the word used in verse 13 of those who are about to “perish” has the sense of being lost in it.  On the verge of being lost to any hope of help from God, is the salvation of the Lord.

This is the great thing about the Lord.  He is continually searching throughout the earth for those who are perishing.  He continually seeks that which the enemy seeks to devour in order to save them.  No situation is too far gone and too hopeless.  So, friend, put your trust in the Lord Jesus and His ways, not in the ways of this world.  Regardless of what it may look like today and in the days ahead, this world is destroying itself and is under the judgment of God.  Only that which has a living connection with Jesus will come through the end of the age to the other side.  Repent of your desire to connect to the allurements of the world and place your faith in Jesus.

At this point it would be easy to focus upon the physical restoration of Israel.  However, Isaiah ends with a statement that makes it clear that it will be a spiritual restoration as well.  The gathering will "worship the Lord" in Jerusalem.  This statement of fact is reminiscent of Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3:12, “So He said, “I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”  Of course Jesus does not need a sign, but one is given anyway.  What a day it will be when God's people from every nation worship Him upon Mt. Zion!

Disciplined audio

Tuesday
Apr072015

This is His Story

Today is the day that we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  When you think about how much history there is in the world, both that we know about and that which was never recorded, we can forget that all of those things are connected.  Nothing happens in a vacuum.  Thus historians throughout the ages have sought to explain not just the facts of history but also the relationships between them.  Why did the Roman Empire rise to such great power but then fall apart?  Why did Germany fall under the spell of Adolph Hitler?  Of course was WWII a failure or a success?  It all depends upon your view point.  Thus the facts of historical events can all be the same but many different interpretations of the relationships that existed will be promoted today. 

The Bible is a book from history, but it is also a book about history.  In fact it has been stated that the history is really His story (God’s).  You can approach the Bible as the history of mankind from God’s perspective when you think about it in that way.  There are multitudes of viewpoints among mankind, but only one view point of God’s.  Which will you live by?

Thus God gives us a narrative of what is really going on throughout history.  Of course, today, politicians and various groups have learned that you can control people by controlling the narrative that they accept.  So instead of responding to accusations with facts and events, we respond with a “narrative” that the people would rather believe.  We have ceased to be a people who look for truth, but rather a people who believe the story that we like best.  Well, into this pool of narratives, God gives his take.  Many may accuse religions of trying to manipulate the people, but the truth is we manipulate ourselves all the time.  Let’s look at history from God’s perspective

Creation Exists For God’s Purpose

In Genesis 1 we are told, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”  Then in verse 26 God says, “let us make man in our own image.”  Here we see that God purposefully created all that we can see including ourselves.  Modern man has embraced the idea that there is no purpose to what we see and probably no real beginning.  We are simply an accident of nature.  But that begs the question, “What was nature an accident of?”    Societies cannot function on a foundation of purposelessness and amorality and so we create a hybrid philosophy that keeps the concept of morality that God gives us and makes society itself as the arbiter of what is good and bad.  Yet, this means our definitions of good and bad will shift from generation to generation.  This shifting sand cannot hold up society very long before it will go through cataclysmic social change, over and over again.  Without God the foundation for defining good and evil will become a quagmire that will never sustain anything we build on it.

God not only tells us that He created us, but that he created mankind to be able to relate with Him.  Thus God places Adam and Eve in a Garden and gives them a purpose.  He also converses with them daily.  This picture of a relationship is central to all that follows in human history.

Now in John 1:1-5 we see that God is the giver of light to mankind.  But that is not just natural light.  Just as he gave natural light, so God has given intellectual and spiritual light to mankind.  It is easy to exist merely on a natural level.  And, yes, God did create all the natural beauty we see around us and wants us to enjoy it.  Yet, there is more to life than just nature.  Some people will say, “I don’t believe in the Bible.  I believe in science.”  But doesn’t science mean knowledge?  The Bible is definitely knowledge.  What is really meant by the above statements is that the person only accepts a certain method of obtaining knowledge.  They categorically reject any knowledge that doesn’t come by the scientific method.  Yet, we cannot put the ultimate questions of life into a test tube.  We can only find circumstantial evidence in regards to the origins of the universe, but nothing by which to determine without a doubt what it really was.  Even our attempts to analyze human psychology and social dynamics has found that such thing evade yielding ultimate answers about ourselves.  Without God, man is doomed to a future of making purpose out of the sand of the beach, only to have it either destroyed by the next generation stomping on it, or by the waves of time crashing on the beach.

But Hebrews 1:1-3 tells us that God has been there all along.  He has been talking to mankind and helping us to understand what is going on.  He even sent Jesus who was the perfect light and knowledge concerning God’s purpose for this world.  Francis Schaeffer, after talking with many college age students, came to the conclusion that many felt that God was not there because they didn’t hear him or see him.  Yet, he stated that, “God is there and He has not been silent.”  Of all the books and teachers of history only Jesus and the Bible have verified themselves with prophecy and resurrection from the dead.  All of history has been God speaking to mankind about its problems and its destiny.  Will you not give it an honest reading?

Man Has Desecrated It And Himself

In Romans 8:19-22 we have a passage that points to creation groaning.  Today many fear and point out that man has the ability to drastically affect the earth.  They arrive at this without the Bible.  Interestingly enough, this is the Bible’s position.  The actions of the first human couple have affected mankind and the world in a negative way.  Though God and man enjoyed a perfect relationship in a perfect world, man rebelled against God after it was manipulated by Satan.  They were seduced by the idea that God was holding out on them.  If they disobeyed God they could become like Him themselves.  Yet, when you read the whole Bible, you see that it was God’s intention to make us like Him all along.  We are on a path to try and make ourselves God’s and yet we do so having rejected a path in which God has promised to make us like Him.  This choice leads in two very different directions.  The Bible pictures mankind as willfully persisting in accomplishing on its own what God has promised for those who love Him and wait upon Him.  Because God is the creator of nature, we find our rebellion against him bleeding into nature.  We do not like the “nature” he has created and thus try to manipulate it into our desire and will.  Sometimes this is innocent enough.  But think about those who are born a certain gender and yet feel like they want to be another gender.  We can reject the way we are naturally and replace it with the way we are mentally.  But this only causes grief and trouble.  When you fight against nature you always find yourself fighting a losing battle.

This rebellion of mankind has affected not just man, but also the rest of creation.  The creation has been subjected to futility because of man’s sin.  This curse that God placed upon Adam caused something to change in the earth.  It would not grow things like it used to.  Later after the flood we see something else changing to where people did not live as long.  The effects were drastic for us and for the creation.  However, the curse could just as easily be called “The Effects of our Choice.”  We live in a nature in which each choice brings about certain effects.  We don’t always like those effects and try to avoid or counteract them.  But this too has effects.  God does not wish to destroy mankind.  Rather He has promised to fix the problem.  That is why Paul states in Romans 8 that the Creation groans awaiting the revealing of the Sons of God.  God is bringing this broken world to a place where things are going to be fixed.  Yet, mankind persists in trying to fix the problem without Him.  Yet, the problem today is not the perfecting of our forms of governance.  Our founding fathers did their best to create a new and better form of republican governance.  And yet, they testified that it would only work for a godly people.  No matter how much we perfect governance, it will be ran by faulty humans.  Even if we put in their place computers, they will be programmed by faulty humans.  Like the movie “Minority Report” we can build a system to remove all murder and yet someone will learn to game the system. We have a rebellion problem.  Neither can we fix how our society functions because it will always be the interactions of fallen people. 

Our problem is much deeper than DNA, politics, and religion.  As Romans 5:12, 18 says, sin has come into the world and by it death has spread to all men.  We are all sinners and under the judgment of a righteous God, completely condemned.  Our problem is an internal, moral problem.  Some may ridicule looking to an ancient book for wisdom and knowledge in this modern technological age.  However, the moral problem of man has not gotten better with our technology.  We are the same people we were 2,000 years ago.  A people filled with bitterness, hate and anger.  A people still manipulating others in order to get what our flesh wants.   We are still the same actors acting out the same plot lines, only on a different stage with better special effects.  If we could travel 6,000 years into the future and mankind hasn’t destroyed itself by then, we would find people struggling with the same moral issues, in spite of the great technology we will have by then.  Notice that Star Trek and Star Wars still assume people will be morally the same no matter how much we learn about physics.  But God offers a different answer.

God Promises A Re-Creation Of All things

Romans 5 goes on to say in verses 18 and 19 that God has an answer for man’s continual wandering in the wilderness of right and wrong.  God has implemented a plan to fix mankind and the creation and it centers upon Jesus.  All of the Old Testament was God’s attempt to ensure that the world would be able to understand what was going on when Jesus came.  God’s plan starts with a spiritual fix or internal one, and then has a second phase of a physical fix.

Our spiritual problem cannot be fixed through changing our DNA, and any physical problems we are able to fix will only make the spiritual worse.  Thus God promises to transform our spirits and then re-create our bodies.  Notice how the book of Revelation ends with the reality that God will complete His purpose of fixing not only mankind, but all of creation.  We will dwell with God in perfect relationship in a New Heavens and a New Earth (Revelation 21:1-5).  God states unequivocally that this story will have a particular ending.  We will be back in close fellowship with God.  The heavens and the earth will be remade.  This is no reason to abuse the earth, but rather recognition of what God’s desire is.  Will you embrace God’s story today?  There is a place for you within this story.  However, if we reject the Creator of all creation, we not only will find ourselves fighting against nature, but also nature’s God.  The other narrative puts man in the driver’s seat of a vehicle that is careening out of control.

His Story Audio