Bible Text: 2 Samuel | Preacher: John Woodhouse | John Woodhouse gives us an excellent overview of 2 Samuel in 3 components:
00:05:24-00:25:59 Part 1: David’s Kingdom (2 Samuel 1-10)
00:25:59-00:53:10 Part 2: David’s Disaster (2 Samuel 11-20)
00:53:10-01:15:00 Part 3: The kingdom of David and the kingdom of God (2 Sam 21-24)
Brad Thorn tells us about his career as a professional league and union international player. Playing for Queensland, Australia and the All-Blacks. Most importantly he shares with us about his new life in Jesus.
We find ourselves in difficult times indeed. So far, it’s been hard, but mostly straightforward for churches. Mainly because it has been one rule for all. Now we have been told that churches can return to meeting together when we reach 70% vaccination rate anticipated to be October 17th. However, it’s only for those who have been double vaccinated. It has begged a lot of important questions and I don’t want to simply give the road map for re-entry without a theological framework because this is truly a discipleship moment for our church.
I want to begin by acknowledging that our society has been under a lot of pressure these last five years. We have had various important social movements – Me Too, Black Lives Matter, debates on Sex and Gender, American politics – and now COVID vaccination restrictions.
In addition, we have also had fires, droughts, floods and mice plagues. Then came lengthy lockdowns, widespread fatigue, poor mental health, an overstretched health system, exhausted health workers, postponements of serious medical treatments, the rise of domestic violence and addictions, unemployment stress from the economic downturn and government policies such as ‘no jab, no job’. We are facing unique challenges both as a community and as a church. So how do we go forward and glorify God with these added government restrictions?
The Archbishop has given us the freedom to come back or delay. Like every other church, the leadership team is struggling because there is a clash of biblical principles. It’s the perfect storm of issues with growing tension points. The bible treasures a number of truths, and it’s important to remember not one truth stands alone. We need to do more than just quote one bible verse. When the devil quoted scripture, Jesus’ response was “but the scriptures also say…”.
I once heard a definition of a fundamentalist: “Someone who treats a partial truth like it was the whole truth.” So, what does the bible value that speaks into our situation? The six below points are not in any order.
1. The bible values the gathering of God’s people.
God commands us to not forsake meeting with one another as some were in the habit of doing (Heb 10:25). The context is of those who were choosing to not attend the gathering. As I often say MBM online is important but it’s not church, it’s a ministry of the word. It ought to grieve us that we can’t all gather as God’s people to encourage each other, especially when so many are vulnerable. And yet it’s not an absolute value, since you rightly miss church when you are sick, or when work calls you out for an emergency.
2. The bible values the unity of the church.
We are one in Christ. Galatians 3:28 states, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, (vaccinated or unvaccinated) for you are all one in Christ Jesus, “I truly hope you feel the grief of all of us not being allowed to meet together as God's family. But this does not mean we don’t put any limits on unity. For example, we don’t change our core teaching if some disagree and threaten to leave MBM. Unity is important, but it’s not the only truth.
3. The bible values obedience to the government.
The repeated teaching in the bible (Rom13:1-2,6, 1 Peter 2:13-14,1 Tim 2:2) is that we are to submit, pray, pay taxes and honour our governments, whether they are godly or not. Archbishop Thomas Cranmer was burnt at the stake under orders from Queen Mary in the sixteenth century. His second point in his final speech was to obey the government that was burning him at the stake and to do so ‘willingly and gladly without murmur or grudging.’
Why was Cranmer burnt at the stake? Because he was disobeying the government when it came to teaching God's word. Acts 5:29 is clear that “We must obey God rather than human beings!” I said to my son who is a pastor that he may well go to prison for teaching parts of the bible before he dies and Jesus wants him to count that persecution as a privilege (Matt 5:11). However, I don’t see COVID restrictions as Christian persecution, for all people are impacted by them not just believers.
4. The bible wants us to do good to all people, especially those in the household of faith (Gal 6:10).
Our love must extend to how we manage the impact of our health on others. We know our hospitals are at breaking point. Some health workers from church tell us firsthand they are working long shifts. They are exhausted, wards are full, and other medical procedures have been postponed.
We should be conscious of how our health impacts others at church. While I don’t give medical advice as a Pastor where health issues impact church life we take advice from doctors we know and trust. This has been our policy for thirty years at MBM. That is why we are a nut-aware church, or why we tell parents when their child is sick (green runny nose, rash, temperature, or conjunctivitis) they should not bring their kids to church. But the difference here is that the unvaccinated who are healthy can feel like they are viewed as if they are sick and unclean.
5. The bible values respecting conscience and conscientious objections.
We worship a God who understands that not every Christian is going to agree on everything. We are to respect and even protect each other's consciences and choices, even if we think they are wrong.
You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. ~Romans 14:10
And yet, conscience and individual freedom are not absolutes. You can have a clear conscience and be completely wrong. A person who genuinely believes in the prosperity gospel will be loved at MBM but will not be given a teaching platform.
6. The bible values our witness before a watching world.
We should care about how we are seen by the world. In 1 Tim 6:1, slaves were to submit to their masters. Why? So that the name of God and the good news of Jesus would not be slandered. We should be concerned to make Jesus look good before a watching world, as individuals and as a church. The only thing is, the world consists of different people who are offended by different positions. As a church, we can’t “be all things to all people.”
So, these are some of the issues that push against each other; the gathering and unity of God’s people, obeying the government and obeying God, showing loving concern for the health of our church and community, guarding our individual conscience and choices, and watching how we live before a watching world.
It’s worth remembering it is not a problem unique to MBM. Every pastor, in every church in Sydney, is facing these same issues and very few think there is an easy answer.
Road Map for re-entry
We thought it would be helpful to lay out a road map to deal with uncertainty.
First and foremost because we feel the grief of not having all of us able to attend church because of the restrictions. There are also complications with running MBM kids church, as well as a delay for some still waiting for their second dose.
We are hopeful that restrictions may be lifted beyond 80% vaccination rate but there is no assurance of this happening.
1. If the restrictions are not lifted we wait and NOT meet for five Sundays commencing from October 17 for the sake of those who can't attend.
2. If the restrictions have NOT been lifted we will reluctantly return by November 21st and gather according to government restrictions.
At this point, we want to at least give the majority the opportunity to meet for their good and we want to give non-Christians the opportunity to come to church and hear the gospel.
At that point we hope to start live streaming our services for two groups; those who can't meet because of government restrictions and those who can't meet because of health concerns
3. If the government removes restrictions and allow us all to meet together beforehand we will meet earlier.
If the government allows separate vaccinated and unvaccinated gatherings we will reluctantly consider it, but only as a temporary measure.
Please note that this is not a policy for MBM South West who, as we have announced earlier this year, will become independent in October under the name of, ‘The Church of the Risen King Jesus’.
More information will be forthcoming for MBM Youth and Growth Groups
Whatever road we take there is no soft landing and we hope, pray and have requested the government to lift restrictions as soon as possible. The sad reality is that regardless of government restrictions, every option available to us either now or later excludes somebody
You may be saying;
“Why should I miss out on meeting together for five weeks for the sake of others who choose not to get vaccinated?” Or
“Why should others meet when we who are a part of MBM are kept from the gathering because we are vaccine-hesitant for a medical reason?”
For a moment I ask you to ignore the government law and the MBM road map. I want you to take to heart a key truth that “love limits our liberty”.
Love Limits our Liberty
In Philippians 2, we are called to “value others above yourselves” Then Paul grounds the reason in Christ's humility.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! ~Philippians 2:5-8
There it is! Christ did not use his rights for his own advantage. Rather he went from heaven to earth and from God to the God/man to death on a cross for us. The one who has issued the command to “value others above ourselves”, has led the way. If you are not used to applying this principle in your private life, you may find it hard in your church life.
A Matter of the Heart
As with all truth, it begins in the heart. Can I respectfully place a challenge to us all?
And let us pray that it will not be long before restrictions are removed. The challenge for any church or society is how the majority treats the minority. And who should know this better than we Christians who are in the minority?
Make no mistake there are godly people on both sides of the vaccine debate. And both sides of the debate have said things they need to apologise for and have. We don’t get to postpone godliness in a crisis.
After the recent Parramatta and Penrith semi-final NRL game, some of the players from both teams prayed together in a huddle at the end of the game. They knew their first identity is not their team but their Father in heaven.
If you go MBM Rooty Hill can I ask you to join us on zoom on Sunday (10:45am, 5pm) for question time and demonstrate the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
This is a time to examine our hearts. One brother shared with me how he has been angry at the other side. He knew he needed to deal with that anger and not let it become a root of bitterness.
I would also ask us all to check our motives; Before COVID restrictions…
Love must not be theoretical
The care of the church is the responsibility of every member. That is why there are fifty-seven ‘one another’ verses and the most frequent is “Love one another”. Make a call, send a meal, provide a care package, send flowers, go for a walk and take interest in others. Mark Boyley’s men group were paired off and walked in twos within the LGA to celebrate the end of term growth group.
For your mental health sake, can I suggest you cut back on your screen time. If your family is telling you that your response COVID restrictions are harming them please listen to them and take steps.
What should be our response to the government?
The government is given by God to restrain our wickedness. In our system, the voice of the people is given by God to restrain government. As a good citizen who wants good government use all the channels available to speak up. Get to know your local state member when you see injustices and advocate for yourself and others. It is good for you; your mental health and you are less likely to demonise politicians.
I spoke to a number of folks who are vaccination hesitant due to medical reasons and who are losing their job. With their permission, I offered to call up our local state member for them. Two of them wrote very clear, respectful and direct letters to the minister. We must support those in our church who are losing their jobs. They are under tremendous pressure.
Our hope is ultimately in the gospel, not politics. Do you realise that Christians in Australia have lost every major public debate in the last fifty years? The last being the abortion laws in state parliament last year. We are simply becoming a more post-Christian culture.
Take heart God still rules! How did Christianity grow from eleven scared men in an upper room to become the state religion of the Roman Empire in under 300 years? It was the hope of resurrection. Christians were not afraid of death. Plagues and natural disasters caused chaos in the ancient world and life was unstable. However, Christianity offered a better explanation, a better story, the forgiveness of sins, a resurrected body and the promise of new creation.
Christians generally coped with disasters better, and they took care of their own and others. When plagues happened many stayed with the sick and some of those who survived became Christian. The world also saw how martyrs faced death with such confidence
The next couple of months will be very difficult and it made me wonder what our great grandparents had to face this time last century They went through World War 1, a pandemic, massive economic depression and then World War 2 and all within thirty years.
This is our time friend so let us not forget how great is the God we worship. When Israel was under siege and starvation was so bad that mothers were even tempted to eat their young we read the words of the prophet Jeremiah.
Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ~Lamentation 3:22-23
Let us pray
Precious Father, these are such difficult days. First COVID then lockdowns, and now restrictions. We beg you for relief.
Assure us of the truth that you rule in all decisions and promise to work in all things (good or bad) for our good including this season.
We are all in this storm, but we are not all in the same boat. Some are doing much tougher than others.
We uphold those who work in the health services, for those who have lost their jobs, for those whose mental health is deteriorating, for single parents and for those on their own.
Let those who suffer, not suffer in silence, and may their needs be made known. Comfort them at this time and use us to be that comfort.
Allows us to all gather safely together for our encouragement, as soon as possible.
We ask that as your holy people we would stand out from the world and make Jesus look good. We plead that we would support each other and not turn on each other.
Please give our leaders your Spirit that they may make wise decisions and grant us patience and a godly response when they don’t. Cause us all to lift our eyes off our screens and up to the heavens where you are ruling and reigning
Help us to grasp that you are for us, and with us. Come what may we will praise you for you are:
God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To you, Lord be honour and might forever.
It's not the easiest time to be an Olympic athlete, they push their bodies to the limit for 4 years and then Covid hits and they wait another year, then they have to get picked again. Some have come down with COVID in the Olympic village. If they do make it there are no crowds to applaud their efforts and some who make it to the final come second by .02 second. While it's an honour to represent your country, they don’t hand out gold medals for trying. Its all based on performance, performance, performance, I'm so glad that salvation is offered to every one including the very worst
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. ~1Timothy 1:15 (NIV)
No one is so good that they don’t need to be saved and no one is so bad they can’t be saved. People don’t use the word ‘sinner’ all that much these days.
Christ Jesus came into world to save sinners. No one is excluded from the category of sinner. Some may be worse than others. But as we like to say at MBM, you miss the plane by 3 minutes or 3 days, you have still missed the plane. We have all missed the plane by failing to love God with all our heart and failing to love others as we should.
The question is saved from what?
From a harrowing Christless eternity, that is why Jesus did not come into the world to teach you how to be a better you, to offer a set of self-help bullet points. Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
Christianity is a rescue religion not a reform religion, people going to hell is our greatest need, not to be encouraged or educated or enlightened, to be saved.
The 7 year old daughter of a friend found herself in trouble at the beach, she got too close to the rocks and was getting closer, I swam out to her and pulled her back to shore. The girl was very aware of her need to be saved, whether she was aware or not she still needed to be saved. Whether you are aware of your sins and the judgment to come, you still need to be saved. The very name of Jesus tells you why he came to earth, the Angel said to his Joseph
…you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” ~Matthew 1:21 (NIV)
450 year ago in England a man by the name of Thomas Bilney came to trust Christ as his saviour. One day he heard his friend Bishop Latimer wrongly preach how you need to go to the priest for confession before God can forgive you. So Thomas Bilney asked Bishop Latimer if he would hear his confession.
What Bilney confessed were these words "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." It was this verse from Timothy that brought Bishop Latimer to faith, even though a priest, he too needed Jesus to save him from his sins. That same bishop made sure that when the Church of England prayer book was written, after the general confession, this same verse would be read out…Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
Within the list of sinners in this world, Paul the apostle, saw himself not better than the rest, not the same as the rest, but worse than the rest.
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst. ~1Timothy 1:15 (NIV)
Literally no 1 sinner is worse than the list of sins in 1 Timothy 1; slave traders, sexually immoral, mother killer, father killers. He said the law was for lawbreakers and he was the chief of the lawbreakers. I wonder if Paul is naming the elephant in the room, the false teachers in Ephesus wanted to undermine Pauls authority and undermine his charge on Timothy to silence false teaching.
Were they thinking? We know what he, Paul, has done, he has no right to command us to silence false teachers, He has blood on his hands. Paul is not hiding the truth.
Do you know who the worst of sinners are?
It’s not Hitler, or Stalin. It’s Not the person who ran over your son. It’s not you. It’s not me. Twice Paul tells us he is the worst of sinners.This is not false humility. Paul is not taking the log out of his own eye. He tells us why he is the worse of sinners.
.... I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man ~1Timothy 1:13 (NIV)
He list his sins in increasing orders: He was a blasphemer and a persecutor. The deep seated violent heart Paul takes us to his conversion, on the road to Damascus where he planned to wipe out the name of Jesus by wiping out every last Christians The risen Jesus strikes him down and strikes him blind “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me”
Then appoints him as His apostle. The one who wrote a lot of the New Testament was not just a murderer. He killed the very people he would spend eternity with and he never forgot it.
He doesn't say ‘I was the worst of sinners’ He says ‘I am the worst of sinners’ Christ Jesus who came to save sinners just like me. But what a relief to know that Paul is the worst, which means you can never say you’re the worst. You can say your 2ND worst, get the silver but the gold medal for sinning goes to Paul.
Two surprising reasons are given for why he was shown mercy
Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. ~1Timothy 1:13 (NIV)
When he killed Christians, he did not know that Jesus was the Christ, he thought he was doing God a favour, he thought Jesus was a false messiah, steering people away from the truth. He did it for God's sake, which didn’t make him innocent, clearly he still needed mercy. He is like those who killed Christ himself. “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”
They are not like the two men mentioned in verse 19, Hymenaeus and Alexander who ship wrecked their faith by knowingly rejecting the truth. No mercy for those who know the truth and choose to turn away. So come to Jesus because he came into your world to save sinners just like you. But maybe you have crossed the line and feel that you are unworthy. The second reason why God saved Paul
But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. ~1 Timothy 1:16 (NIV)
Why did God save Paul? He saved him so that you would know one thing, that if God could patiently forgive Paul he can patiently forgive anybody. If God is prepared to the save the worst then of course he will save the rest who come to him. Look again at the word of God
But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. ~1 Timothy 1:16 (NIV)
Nobody is beyond the mercy of God and nobody is outside the kindness of God. There may be consequences now, there should be consequences now, murderers should be imprisoned. But coming to Christ is about removing the ultimate consequences.
Right now, in prison, there are those have come to understand that Christ Jesus came to save sinners just like them. Right now in Churches there are some ministers, priests and social workers who refuse to think they are sinners needing to be saved by Christ. They are not forgiven. Christ wont save anyone who doesn't want to be saved. The question is not who is the worst of sinners the question is who wants to be saved.
From sinner to servant
Paul is so aware that even his faith, love and hope has been given to him, he is on the receiving end of so much mercy that God poured out on him
The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. ~1 Timothy 1:14 (NIV)
How on earth does a man like Paul go from killing Christians to preaching Christ? He lost everything to follow Christ, he went from respect to renegade, so why? He met Christ Jesus, who drenched him in mercy. What's amazing to me is that God gave the most important job, apostle to the nations, to the worst of sinners.
So thankful to Christ, verse 11, God entrusted the gospel to Paul, verse 12, appointed Paul to God's service. From sinner to saint, from blasphemer to apostle, from self centred to servant of the Lord. A reminder that Christians are not saved to just kill time till we meet Jesus we are saved to serve. Serve Christ, serve his people, serve the gospel.
Sure you’re not an apostle, this is a unique privilege of 12 plus Paul, but you are to play a role in making disciples. Christians move from sinner to saint to servants of Christ. Too many get the sinner to the saint but not the serve.
The man who spent his life blaspheming Jesus is now praising God for Jesus
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. ~1 Timothy 1:17 (NIV)
Paul can't talk about God without praising God, and friends nor should we. Those who receives mercy are full of thanks and praise for God.
Praise to the King eternal, the one who has the right to speak into our lives and our church. Who sent Christ Jesus into this world to save sinners. Who commanded Paul to be his apostle and he tells Timothy and us to fight the good fight
Praise to the King eternal, the who is from everlasting to everlasting. The one who speaks timeless truths to us who are trapped in time
We can, mere mortals, praise the immortal king, the undying God, who let his son die for us sinners. The immortal God who gifts us with immortality.
Praise the King invisible who reveals himself in his word and charges Timothy to silence false teachers, because they kept putting words in God mouth.
Only one God and one way to God, He alone sent Christ Jesus into the world to save sinners, He alone deserves honour and glory
Have you thanked and praised God for saving a sinner like you?
A friend of mine, who is a minister, was taking a service. A man came up to take the Lords supper with tears running down his face. Afterwards he went up to the minister and said. “Do you want to know why I am crying? I've been coming to church all my life but I have just become a Christian. When I heard the words of assurance after confession I finally got it” "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners."
People who think they are healthy never go to a doctor. People who don't think they are sinners never go to Jesus to be saved.
What a tragedy. After Christ has come into your world, to think you would not want to come to him.
Hear the word of assurance
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners ~1Timothy 1:15 (NIV)
We start a new series today with Paul’s letter to Timothy for the church in Ephesus and us at MBM. The series is titled “Life in God's family.” Unless we guard the truth inside the church, we have nothing to offer those outside the church. But who has the right to speak into our life and the church?
From the moment we are born we are told “No one has the right to tell me how to live”
We can't see the problem, we act like we are all-knowing and inherently good, we have learnt to be suspicious about everyone except ourselves. In reality, we are born in one family, part of one culture at one time, we are just one blip on the stage of history. We have silenced God, the one who speaks timeless truths in time-bound cultures. It has placed a tremendous burden on a generation that is lost and a church that has lost its way.
But God in his kindness doesn’t leave it up to us, what a relief to know that the one who has the right to tell us how to live is for us.
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, To Timothy my true son in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. ~1Timothy 1:1-2 (NIV)
This letter was written by the Apostle Paul to Timothy. It is about how Timothy is to lead the church at Ephesus, Paul ends this letter assuming the church is reading it.
The chain of command begins with God who is described as Father and Saviour, the highest calling for a Christian, that the only Sovereign God, King of Kings, Lord of Lords who alone is eternal and invisible who dwells in unapproachable light. That God is your Heavenly Dad because Jesus Christ is our hope.
Your future is guaranteed in him.
This letter begins by underlining the authority of Paul, together both God the Father and his Son appointed Paul as an apostle.
Unlike false teachers Paul is not self-appointed, he is made an apostle and ambassador of Christ by God's command. This means this is God's letter to them and God’s word to us.
This book is written to Timothy, Paul’s spiritual son. Timothy came to faith through the ministry of Paul. He served as a fellow missionary with Paul and he was circumcised for the gospel. See the chain of command of this letter – The Father, the Son, Paul, Timothy, the local church and to us. To reject Paul's letters is to reject God himself.
Why is this so important for us? Paul is going to say some tough stuff that we don’t want to hear, start praying that we will let God speak to us. The first thing Paul tells Timothy is to mute the false teachers
As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer ~1Timothy 1:3 (NIV)
It’s that blunt.
The best thing about social media is the worst thing about social media, it allows anyone to say anything, even it they haven’t earnt the right to speak, not so in the church of God. We guard the preaching. For me to get to this point to preach I needed to be assessed for 4 years, my teaching, my character and my family was reviewed and I was repeatedly interviewed. Even now if I preach heresy, you can dob me into the bishop.
So what was it they were teaching?
…command certain people not to teach false doctrines any Longer. Literally … not to teach other teachings… ‘other than what’? Other then what was handed down from Paul and the Lord Jesus. More specifically:
…(not) devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. ~1 Timothy 1:4 (NIV)
Myths and Genealogies - Teaching made up stories taught as though they were true. Probably Jewish myth because they wanted to be teachers of the Law. Myths often fill in the gaps in the bible. Telling you the things in the bible you were curious to know, stuff your imaginations run wild with.
Haven't you ever wondered what Jesus did as a teenager?
Think how interesting Youth Group could be reading stories about how Jesus spoke to his sisters, how he handled Rabbis with a bad temper, how Jesus coped with his dad who made him work after school when his friends could play.
You don’t have to guess? We have one of the false Gospels of Thomas that was written 140 years after Jesus birth, where Jesus was 5 years old and he is playing with other Jewish boys, making 12 clay sparrows on the sabbath, when his father, Joseph, tells him off for breaking the Sabbath. He claps his hands and all 12 fly away. Great party trick! Not true and not helpful.
What is the Koran? A rewriting of both Old Testament and New Testament story.
What is the book of Mormon but one long myth. Mormons love genealogies, the Mormons have developed the most detailed genealogy record database. They believe that you can save your dead ancestor by naming them and baptising them.
All of it is based on an obscure half verse in 1 Corinthians 15:29.
What is as bad as treating myths as if they were true? Its treating truth as if it were a myth.
I remember one guy coming to church and he was shocked that I was preaching through Exodus, Moses, 10 plagues, Cross of the red sea, like they actually happened. He was taught at his Catholic University that the whole Old Testament was myth.
Paul lets us know the fruit of such lies
Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith ~1 Timothy 1:4 (NIV)
They promote useless and harmful arguments that never advance God purposes. God's word is to be stewarded not speculated, such teaching stir the imagination, they do not spur on godliness. This command is to silence them. It is not driven by insecure leaders who have control issues. This isn’t a power game. It’s about love for God and his people.
The goal of this command is love, … ~1 Timothy 1:5 (NIV)
It’s not loving to mute yourself when lies are being taught. It’s not loving to let lies masquerade as truth. You may not like it when people say in bible studies ‘Where do you get that from the passage?’ But it’s a loving question. Love is as close to Truth as the Father is to the Son.
What drives this command is everything that the false teachers were not.
The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. ~1 Timothy 1:5 (NIV)
A pure heart is driven by the applause of God. A good conscience that is washed by the blood of Christ and taught by the word of Christ. Sincere faith that genuinely knows and trust Gods word.
In verse 19 Paul calls out two men who shipwrecked their faith by rejecting a sincere faith and good conscience. They slowly drifted, they stopped caring about what is right or wrong, they stopped listening to their conscience. Consciences need to be educated, are you responsive when you’re convicted or do you simply suppress it.
There was a speaker at the Men's conference years ago and he was considered one of the great ones. He preached to 3000 of us while planning to leave his wife for another man, within a few months. He was asked, “how could he prepare people for marriage knowing that in a few weeks he would leave his wife?” He said “that was my professional life” Conscience hardened, faith insincere, heart corrupt. His wife, a very godly woman, said, “God used my husband to convict us of our sin, lets pray that God would convict him of his sin.” She was a godly woman with a sincere faith and good conscience.
How many times have we seen people shift their doctrine only to find they were engaged in some private unrepentant sin. Notice how Paul profiles the false teachers.
They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm. ~1 Timothy 1:7 (NIV)
Unlike Paul and Timothy, they are self-appointed. Sounds like the trolls on social media, they were confident but clueless.
I am sometimes surprised by what people call a good sermon, so often impressed by the communication and not the content. Train yourself to ask yourself where exactly the message is coming from. Beware of those who spend all their time around the text but not in the text. When you are at Growth Groups, don’t be afraid to say the obvious.Don’t get bored with saying the obvious.
Since these false teachers misused the law, Paul puts them right. The law can refer to the Old Testament as well as the commandments in it.
Paul says 3 things about the law.
The law is not a myth and speculation. It's about fact, not fiction. The law reveals both Gods holiness and human sin. The law must be used Gods way
We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, ~1Timothy 1:8-9 (NIV)
You can misuse Gods law by
• Subtracting it and ignoring its authority
• Adding to it and become a legalist
• Trivialising it to justify yourself
The NSW government has driving laws and when breached it results in demerit points. Some of you know exactly how many demerit points you have and others don’t have a clue. Demerit points are for lawbreakers, God's law is for those who have rebelled, which is all of us - that is why Christ Jesus came to save sinners.
Paul starts with general rebellion that violate the first 4 Commandments, then he specifically works his way through commandments 5-9
..for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine ~1 Timothy 1:9b-10 (NIV)
Here God's law is being used properly, telling us that God is holy and what is sin. Cultures may have changed on both slave trading and homosexual practice but Gods word has never changed. Notice there is no speculation, this is no myth, this list of sins are so clear, so concrete and full of conviction.
This is sound doctrine
—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine ~1 Timothy 1:10 (NIV)
Sound doctrine is healthy teaching and healthy teaching leads to a healthy church
…that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me. ~1 Timothy 1:11 (NIV)
The law and the gospel both agree when it comes to sin but the law can’t do what only the gospel of our Lord Jesus can. That is to save and forgive sinners
The most well known Christian song has to be Amazing Grace, it was written by John Newton, a former slave trader, who cursed God and kidnapped people and sold them into slavery. After coming to Christ, Newton testified against slave trading and helped bring an end to that evil. It was the law of God and not his culture that told John Newton that slave trading was a sin and it was the glorious gospel of the grace that could save him and transform him.
Friends, if you don't let God speak, sure you can avoid hearing the law as it names your sin, you will still find another law to live by and that law will either condemn you or give you a false sense of self-righteousness. But what you will never hear is silence from God...the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God. It’s that gospel that offers Grace, Mercy and Peace
False teachers only have myths and lies to offer, they fail to name sin and fail to offer forgiveness. We either silence false teaching or we silence God!
If we at MBM stop listening to Gods apostle, Paul, we lose the gospel of grace. Unless we guard the truth inside the church we have nothing to offer those outside the church
When Communist rebels tried to oppose Christianity in the Philippines, they first killed the pastors and when that didn't work they would cut their tongues out and silence them. Leaving them as objects of pity.
The words of a teacher can do the most good and the most damage. We know from recent reports that bad teaching on headship can promote abuse. Get it wrong and a lot is at stake. Hence the warning!
Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. ~James 3:1 (NIV)
Everyone should teach one another, that is critical and it is a command. We do it in conversation, in growth groups, in song and in sharing - but not everyone should be teachers.
It’s why we have a limited roster of preachers. Social media gives the microphone to those who have not earned the right to speak. The preaching office is to be guarded, but guarded not avoided. I do hope and pray that we have those who long to teach. Both men and women as God has permitted and gifted.
If I can speak to the men of our church whose instinct is to follow the first man Adam, whose guilt was silence. Stand up men and don’t let the women do all the heavy lifting. Seek to lead your families and at church. The reason for the warning is clear, every teacher will be judged much severely. To be fair, every one of us will be judged by our words.
But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words, you will be condemned.” ~Matthew 12:36-37 (NIV)
Like you, I will have to give an account to Jesus, the judge of all the earth for every word I speak. But for us who preach there is a stricter judgment. What I say will be assessed by God and by you, the bar is higher for teachers of God’s Word, because the damage is greater.
It is not that teachers have a greater chance of going to hell, Heaven has been purchased by the blood of Jesus for all of us. But God will test the work of the teacher-pastor with a higher bar. The bigger the church, the larger the platform to speak, the greater the opportunity for damage, that is why we start with smaller places. None of us pastors want to simply escape the flames with nothing to show for our labour. The stakes are high for teachers of Gods word.
When I was a student minister I preached to 3 old ladies in Redfern at the evening service, they were Dot, Kid and Pat. My challenge was, would I prepare for them like I would when I preached to a larger congregation? Would I give them my best?
So keep the pastors in your prayers. Prayer for your children and youth leaders, your growth group leaders, and parents. To all who teach including parents, make sure you handle the word of God correctly, make sure you are prepared. Souls hang in the balance as God's word is unpacked. Yet no preacher and no person can look you in the eye and say we never stumble.
We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check. ~James 3:2 (NIV)
James includes himself as one who stumbles, we all stumble. Don’t be idealistic about churches and their teachers, we are not perfect, we all stumble in many ways. It’s important that we teachers don’t stand over you but come alongside you.
I remember being respectfully corrected by Gab Gewargis from South West for using an inappropriate word. He said, “Ray if you use that word in your sermon then other men at church will think it’s ok to use.” Busted! He was so right, I sent an email that night to everyone at SW apologizing for what I said.
We all stumble in many ways… ~James 3:2a (NIV)
The bible is very realistic, how difficult it is to control the tongue, we often speak before we think. This is especially true if you’re a fast talker like me. Ultimately no man can fully tame the tongue. Though the tongue is so small its effects are enormous
James gives 3 examples
Small as the bit in the horse's mouth is you can direct a stallion to go where you want it. If you have ever been to Royal Easter Show and seen those massive bulls led round with the nose ring by a small child.
Small as a rudder of a ship is it changes the direction of an Ocean liner, it shifts the trajectory of a nuclear submarine.
Small as a spark is it can set a bush fire alight. How many bush fires have there been in the Blue Mountains? How many were caused by a simple match, or a cigarette butt flicked out of the car?
My niece’s husband’s family lost two houses in Winmalee 5 years ago, one spark, one small flame and a whole community is devastated. Homes and lives lost. Like a small bullet put in a gun can take a life in a moment. Our simple words have the potential for so much good and so much evil.
How many of you are haunted by words spoken by a parent, a boss, a teacher or ex-best friend? One dear sister in our church was told by her mum “I wish you were never born” The tongue, small as it is, directs your whole body and can send you to hell.
The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. ~James 3:6 (NIV)
Your words shape the direction of your eternal destiny. From your lips, you will deny knowing Christ. From your lips, you will confess that Jesus is Lord. The tongue driven by hell will send you to hell. The tongue will then burn in the fires of hell.
Remember again, our Lord Jesus said we will be judged by our words. No conversation is off-limits to God, no word will be forgotten, none of it is off the record. Just think that our Lord is reading every post on social media, seeing every Instagram photo, hearing every word brought up. We know that companies look at old Facebook posts to see if they want to employ the person. How many have said that what I wrote on Social Media has now come to curse me.
After a big Sunday with so many conversations, many encouraging, some critical and occasionally the odd cruel one comes our way. How Sandy and I talk about every member of MBM will be as important as the sermon and it will determine whether Satan is in bed with us.
None of us believed it when we sang in the playground “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Words that have cut deeper than any knife, words that have killed more effectively than a semi-automatic. We have all said those words, we have all been on the receiving end of them. I know 70-year-olds who are trying to prove their dead parents wrong.
I heard one story of a father was dying, his words to his son were “I expect Son, that when you inherit the family business you’re going to ruin it”
James makes the observation, many animals have been tamed by humans, from cats to killer whales well maybe not cats. The first animal I think was the dog 6000 years ago, we tell it to sit and it sits, we tell it to jump and it jumps. We even train pigs to herd sheep into sheep pens and yet no one has yet managed to fully tame his tongue.
All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. ~James 3:7-8 (NIV)
What shocking words about our words, it almost sounds pessimistic and demonic. You would think James was talking about Serial killers, Terrorists and Paedophiles. But he is talking about all the words that leave your mouth, whether you speak by your mouth or by sign language.
Even the most mature saint wishes they could take back the words they have just spoken. I don’t know how anyone can say at the end of their life…“If I had the chance to do it all over again I would not change a thing” Filled with regret, that is why be ever ready to say ‘I am sorry, I should not have spoken that way’ It must come easily from our lips.
Nothing like the thought of your loved one dying to make you wake up to your words and then it’s too late. How many are traumatized by the words spoken to a loved one who unexpectedly died before making peace. We may feel comfortable with our hypocrisy but God isn’t.
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. ~James 3:9-10 (NIV)
One moment we sing “Oh Lord our Lord how majestic is your name” Then next we say to our loved ones Shut up! I hate you.
You see that any verbal abuse is demonic.
James says this should not be. Think of the words you used getting ready for church. This should not be, whether we are in the church, the home or the workplace.
Some think that the rules change when you go to work. Like I can swear and curse and humiliate workers because I work with men in a factory or mechanic shop or in Jail, I think we forget who exactly we are talking to and talking about, when you’re with non-Christians. Remember: they are humans, even your enemy is made in the image of God, I share the one creator with every human, I share the one Father with every believer.
I had to stop calling bad referees and players who make mistakes ‘idiots’. The reason is that there is a close connection between humans and God. This is God's world - every person is made in God's image, when we do the dirty on another person we do it to God. You speak against another person—and you speak against God. God stands behind every person.
At the time when James wrote his letter, if you dishonoured an image of an emperor you dishonoured the emperor and you paid the price for that.
Just like when those teenagers graffiti the war memorial, they dishonoured the men who died for this country. Yet James expects that we are to tame the tongue. The antidote is wisdom.
James raises the question:
Who is wise and understanding among you? ~James 3:13 (NIV)
You read these words and say - Not me. So, what is the key to taming the tongue? The words you use will depend on the wisdom that you live by.
Remember this truth: Nothing ever comes out of the mouth that is not already in the heart. That is why our words are a window into our hearts. There are 2 kinds of wisdom.
But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. ~James 3:14-16 (NIV)
The heart of the problem is the problem of the human heart. Behind our words lies our heart. Hearts that nurtures envy and selfish ambition. Hearts that is shaped by the devil's agenda. The heart that vomits out disorder and evil.
Wisdom From Above
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. ~James 3:17-18 (NIV)
Pure - a heart that genuinely wants to please God, like Jesus, whose greatest joy was to obey his Father.
Peace loving - a heart that strives to bring harmony in relationships, like Jesus who died to turn us enemies into friends.
Considerate - a gentle heart that thinks of others, like Jesus who came to seek and save the lost.
Submissive - a heart that is willing to submit to others, like Jesus who came not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.
Full of mercy and good fruit – a generous heart, like Jesus who went round only doing good.
Impartial - a heart that will not have favourites, like Jesus who ate with rich and poor, sinner and saint.
Sincere - An honest heart that refuses to be a hypocrite, like Jesus who could look people in the eye and say which of you can accuse me of sin. No one!
Do you know what Jesus, the average Aussie, and your kids all have in common? They can spot a hypocrite a mile away.
Do you know what Jesus, the average Aussie, and your kids also have in common? They can also tell the real deal a mile away.
It’s time to make Jesus look good by all our words to all people.
Grace is the main motivator to forgive and make peace. How can we withhold forgiveness when we have been forgiven so much? And we have been commanded to forgive, it's not optional. We must get on that "peace train", we do it by going to higher ground. It’s never just you and that other person. It’s done for Jesus sake and for God's pleasure.
As we think through resolving everyday conflict there are a couple of pieces in the puzzle still missing. The first is found in Romans 12. When you have been profoundly hurt, making the other person suffer is the most natural response, hence the command to not do it.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. ~Romans 12:17 (NIV)
We instinctively want justice, it’s why we love payback and vigilante films, where the Father takes the law into his own hands. He makes others pay for killing his wife and kids.
I've noticed my wife, Sandy is taken with the Taken movie series with Liam Neeson, partly it’s a desire for justice. But God is saying - don’t retaliate. You may confront but don’t humiliate, you may call the cops but don’t personally retaliate. You may even need to use force to restrain someone from hurting but don’t be excessive
What sets Jesus words apart from every other is that He wants more from us than not hating and not hurting
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse ~Romans 12:14 (NIV)
When I lived next door in the church house, I must have called the cops 20 times over the years, we had the drunks, making noise, urinating in my bushes, but twice they pulled 5 new plants out and threw them at my bedroom window at 1:30am,
that’s downright mean. I found myself coming up with plans on how I could get them back, humiliate them, pulverize them, follow them home and rip up their plants. My mind naturally wants my pound of flesh.
At a good moment, I think of Jesus at the cross being nailed by the hands that he created, knowing he could invent a billion ways of making them suffer a slow death, but all you hear is Father forgive them for they know not what they do. Paul then introduces this radical idea, he wants you to punish your enemy by loving them to bits. This is how you can do it.
On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." ~Romans 12:20 (NIV)
Such reverse logic, punish your enemy by doing good to them and it’s like dropping burning fire on their skull. The reason given for letting go of personal revenge, to reject hating, cursing, gossiping, shouting, slandering and withdrawing is the previous verse
Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. ~Romans 12:19 (NIV)
The reason why we don’t pay back is knowing that a day will come when God will judge. A day when his anger will be poured out on every sin levelled against you.
We need to remember:
What stops someone from picking up a gun and murdering their unfaithful spouse? It’s knowing that God says I will repay, leave room for my wrath. In other words friends, one key to forgiveness is believing in hell and knowing that justice will be served. This is a comfort, especially for persecuted Christians.
People think if you believe in a God who judges it will turn you into a violent person. Croatian Miroslav Volf said it’s the opposite.
My thesis is that the practice of non-violence requires a belief in divine vengeance…The truth is, if it’s forgiving people that you want, tolerant people, people who will answer evil with love and respond to violence with mercy, if that’s what you want, then you cannot have it, not really, unless you believe in cosmic justice; unless you believe in hell.
You see, we need a universe where evil doesn’t win, where righteousness triumphs, where we can refuse the impulse to take vengeance because we know that God the Lord is an almighty and just Judge.
What makes us able to forgive our enemies is knowing that God will deal with enemies who don’t repent. I don’t need to take things into my own hands because they are in God’s hands and he will do what is right. Vengeance is mine says the Lord.
There is an episode of Inspector Morse, a drug dealer is selling bad LSD to primary school kids who ended up dying from an overdose. The cops set a trap but when the dealer sees them he takes off. The car chase ended with the drug dealer killed in the car crash. At which point the policemen said “Damn it .. he got away” Because if death is the end then he did get away. The next day the policeman was looking at photos of the kids who had died, at which point he said “Its times like this I wish there was a hell.”
That is why in heaven we will join with angels praising God and declaring
“Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments... He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” ~Revelation 19:1-2 (NIV)
God does not take pleasure in the death of a sinner but we praise God that justice will be served. I can let the injustice go because God will not. Every wrong will be righted.
A key to forgiveness is believing in hell. So now I get to punish my enemy by bombing them with love. OK, but what happens when Christians have done the wrong? Either before they become Christians or after? Have they not gotten away with it?
I was wrestling with this issue with a friend a few years ago, they were deeply hurt by a leader of a church. What stuck in their throat is that this Christian got away with it. And it made it harder to let it go. At the same time as I'm talking to this person
I had a deep sense that God was disciplining me. And it was painful.
So, let’s turn our attention to God's discipline of his people. It may help us to forgive Christians who seem to escape the consequences. The place to go is Hebrews 12, Jesus is God's final word. He brings in a better Covenant because He is the better perfect high Priest, offer the perfect Sacrifice, to the perfect God in the perfect Temple to make us perfect
Jesus is the pioneer and perfector of faith, so set your eyes on Jesus as you face suffering. Jesus who when he faced his own suffering and death He locked eyes on the joy before him, putting aside the shame of the cross. Now seated at the right hand of God. Then the writer says unlike Jesus don’t overestimate your suffering, it could be much worse.
In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. ~Hebrews 12:4 (NIV)
Too many overrate their suffering. You have not suffered to the point of death, then he says don’t underestimate the meaning of your suffering, it has a purpose.
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? ~Hebrews 12:7 (NIV)
View your suffering through Gods eyes. Consider this hardship as discipline, your hardship is a mark of the discipline of the Father toward a son. You need to reframe how you’re seeing your suffering. The writer quotes Proverbs
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, ~Hebrews 12:5 (NIV)
Don’t make light and don’t lose heart, two mistakes, don’t be careless and unthinking, don’t be crushed under the weight of it. Be clear-minded on seeing hardship as discipline, your hardship is not some vindictive punishment from an angry God who takes pleasure at your pain. In fact it’s the very opposite.
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” ~Hebrews 12:6 (NIV)
So suffering is an expression of God's love, not hate. The wrong application when we go through suffering is to think God is against me, that he is angry at me. Friends if you’re in Christ “You can't make God angry” Remember our Saviour learnt obedience as Son through suffering and he was sinless. In fact, discipline is a mark of adoption not a mark of rejection
If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all ~Hebrews 12:8 (NIV)
I only discipline my kids, not others. When I'm on the train and kids are swearing I'm not usually saying anything but if they were my own it would be very different. God disciplines you because you are his.
The question - What am I being punished for? Is not the right question. Better questions are:
In recent years both my wife, Sandy, and I have felt we have been disciplined by the Lord. We have experienced some painful experiences, not brought on by our sin directly but those experiences have exposed to us a quota of pride in us that needed to be put to death. And yes the writer makes the point when we are disciplined it’s always painful at the time. Whether it’s the discipline of your earthly Dad or your heavenly Dad.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. ~Hebrews 12:11 (NIV)
What is the purpose of Discipline? To punish? No! to produce a harvest of righteousness and peace.
God's one stubborn goal for all of us is to shape us into the image of his Son. To recycle your sins into the praise of God and your suffering to the fruit of the Spirit.
And it’s up to you whether you will become bitter or better. Discipline produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. If you don't fix your eyes on Jesus and paint yourself as a perpetual victim, you will become bitter. If you don’t rethink hardship as discipline from a loving father, you will become bitter. If you don’t let yourself be trained by it a bitter root will grow and cause trouble.
Don’t live your whole life as if you were a 5 year sent to their room for being rude, banging doors, saying I hate you Dad over and over. That is the picture of your whole life, kicking against God's sovereign loving hand. Lives that never get past the pain. I hope you have been thinking about Gods discipline in your life. But I want you to now ponder Gods discipline on other peoples lives.
Back to my friend who was struggling with the Christian leader who he thought was getting away with bad behaviour, I said you know God loves that person, he is Gods son and as part of his love, he will discipline them. You may or may not see it but he is doing a work and it will involve pain. So pray that they and you both will be trained by it. That they and you will consider hardship as discipline recognizing that God is treating you as his child.
Friends, Gods discipline and love is inescapable for his people.
You can escape formative discipline by closing your bibles, and ignoring God's word. You can escape corrective discipline by staying away from the church and avoiding the rebuke of the saints. But God will lovingly use all things in your life to get your attention and shape you to be more like him.
Vengeance belongs to God and discipline is for his people, so learn to forgive and let it go!
What do you love about Church? The coffee, the music, the sermon, the morning tea/supper or the social aspect? What should we love about Church? Look around, each other, these are the church, these are the people God calls us together for, to love.
The church is God’s gift to his children. It is by the grace of God that a congregation is permitted to gather visibly in this world to share God's Word and sacraments. Not all Christians receive this blessing.
This term we’ve been thinking about dealing with conflict in relationships in Church, as the bible puts it, pursuing peace.
Just as God considered a relationship with us worth pursuing, worth fighting for, worth suffering for, worth dying for! He also considers our relationships worth pursuing, worth fighting for.
And it’s really been setting a culture. We’ve had story after story of people seeking reconciliation with others, saying sorry, engaging others about the ways they’ve hurt them, calling sin for what it is.
One lady was able to bring up something someone said to her about a year ago that hurt her and it was tough! But she engaged in the conversation and they were able to share their story, apologise, and they’ve reconciled.
Another girl from our Parramatta campus, was encouraged to think about the pain that might be affecting her boss’s anger and was able to love him with patience instead of harbouring bitterness.
Even in my own house, I’ve been able to recognise an idol I was holding onto that stopped me apologising to my wife the other night.
Today, we’re going to be thinking about how the Lord’s supper affects how we think about conflict and relationships in the church.
And to do that we’re going to take a look at one of the worst churches we have read about in History, the Corinthians. Paul writes:
In the following directives, I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. ~1 Corinthians 11:17 (NIV)
Whoa! What is happening in their gatherings? I can just imagine how we’d feel as a staff team if on Monday morning we got an email from someone saying ‘your gathering yesterday did more harm than good!’
We’d be horrified!
Well over the next few chapters Paul explains how to be a church that does more good than harm in a number of areas, but we’re going to stay in this chapter and think particularly about how to do good instead of harm when it comes to the Lord’s supper, we are getting to learn from their mistakes!
See what happened in Corinth was, they were doing the supper, they were getting together, they had food and drink and they thought they were doing ok, but Paul says ‘you’re not even close!’
So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat… ~1 Corinthians 11:20 (NIV)
Whatever the Lord’s supper was supposed to be Paul says, that’s not it! What’s going on during their meal that’s making their gathering a disaster?
In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. ~1 Corinthians 11:18 (NIV)
What’s the big issue there? Division!
But what’s the big deal about divisions?
I mean Paul says in verse 19 that divisions are normal, to be expected.
No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. ~1 Corinthians 11:19 (NIV)
What he means is - divisions reveal differences, differences are generally what cause conflict and divisions, we know that, differences/preferences. But it’s a little more pointed here, Paul’s saying, divisions, reveal hearts; divisions expose where our hearts are really at before God. The big problem Paul says is that there are people among you who are neglecting and despising others and that’s telling us something about where they’re at with God!
So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk. Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? Certainly not in this matter! ~1 Corinthians 11:20-22 (NIV)
What’s happening is that some people in the church who seem to be doing better off financially, or just generally in life, are not caring about, or being concerned for others who are struggling, or are just different from them. They’re not waiting for them to eat, they’re not caring if they have any food. They’re putting themselves and their concerns above the needs of others. They’ve found their little groups of close friends who probably all agree with each other on most things and they’ve closed their door to others, not caring to include them, not caring to serve them, not caring to love them! They’re despising and neglecting those who don’t seem “Good enough” for them. You might have experienced that here in some way, or maybe you’ve been part of that problem.
Around 5-6 years ago I was working at a Church in the Hawkesbury area, and I was amazed at how non-multicultural that area was! Very white! One day I was telling a new guy at the church about this area, and Blacktown and about how so many nationalities are coming into our country, and if you didn’t know what country you were in it would be hard to guess because of how many different backgrounds there are and I said “there doesn’t seem to be many moving out this way” and he said “yeah it’s great hey?” and I said, “No, I was going to say it’s not good, it’d be good if we had more!” And he quickly tried to defend himself.
You know, it’s sad, but the reality is, our natural way is to compare ourselves to, and neglect people who are different from us, not only in race but style, age, financially and educationally. And you know what that causes… Divisions!
And In Paul’s eyes, in God’s eyes divisions are the biggest enemy of the Christian community. They’re out of place in the Church!
What’s so bad about this issue? What’s so wrong with having a few lingering disagreements around the place? Well, it’s because of what the Lord’s supper is actually about! The reason divisions are so out of place in the Church, is because the Lord’s Supper is a celebration of our Unity in Jesus! The Supper is a reminder of our unity in Jesus.
Let’s have a look at what Paul says and break it down
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” ~1 Corinthians 11:23-24 (NIV)
So Jesus would have had one piece of bread, he broke it, and he handed it to them all. We can’t see it in English, but the “you” there is a plural. This is my body, which is for you all!
Westy - “yous”
United Stated - “y’all”
My Mum (English) - “you lot”
Now some churches in history have gotten caught up with the word “is” here.. thinking Jesus was saying he’s handing them his actual body, teaching them that he was literally in the bread.
And even now when some churches do the Lord’s supper, they pray that the bread and drink would really turn into the very body and blood of Jesus. It’s very problematic and that’s reading far too much into this sentence. Jesus wasn’t being that literal, but symbolic.
Here’s a picture of me “that is me” “this is me” that’s a representation of me. Jesus also said he is the gate, he is the good shepherd, he is the vine. He’s not saying he is literally a gate but likening himself to those things to teach a point about what he’s like for us. He was making the point, that just like bread is a staple food source for life, he himself, is our food source for spiritual life!
Just as we eat bread and it enters our body and fuels us for life, it becomes part of our body! Jesus is saying that he is the very thing his followers are to feed on for true and ultimate life. Not by eating him but by accepting him by faith, entrusting themselves to him, for life and sustenance in their relationship with God.
When we feed on him by faith, when we accept him into our lives and hearts He actually unites himself with us! We become one with him! He gives us his own spirit. His life-giving Spirit!
Jesus lived a perfectly obedient life and then gave over his body as a sacrifice and substitute for us broken, sinful people, that if we trust in him, God would now see us as perfectly righteous in Him!
As we eat this bread, it’s a visual reminder that Jesus’ real body was broken on the cross for us all, that he made a way for us to be made whole, to come back into a restored relationship with God! We remind ourselves that everyone who trusts in Jesus is no longer under the judgement of God for their own sin but is now seen by our father in heaven as if we were like Jesus himself. Viewed as God’s very own beloved son or daughter because of our union with Him. There is no greater thing to be!
No Instagram picture, no Facebook post, no photograph, no selfie, no amount of make up or muscles could make us look anywhere near as lovely as how our God now sees us because of Jesus! Oh doesn’t that just fill your heart?! Back in chapter 10 Paul says:
Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf. ~1 Corinthians 10:17 (NIV)
That’s what the bread symbolises - our collective union with Jesus. What about the drink?
In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” ~1 Corinthians 11:25 (NIV)
This cup represents the new covenant in my blood… what’s that? What was the old covenant?
...without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness… ~Hebrews 9:22 (NIV)
That is - sin deserves bloodshed/death, so because we sin, we either lose our lives, have our bloodshed or we offer the life of another in our place, in the old covenant that was an animal.
In Hebrews 10 it explains how the Priests under the old covenant, year-after-year would have to keep bringing animal sacrifices for their own sins and the sins of the people, shedding blood and offering animal after animal, again and again. But that’s an endless cycle, right? it never fully deals with our problem of sin, it really just highlights it!
But Jesus is saying, once I’ve shed my blood for you! It is finished! One ultimate sacrifice for sin, by a perfect substitute!
Once and for all!
That’s the new covenant. This sacrifice is given, ahead of time, in your place, perfectly sufficient, provided by the very one we’ve offended. Whatever we’ve done. Whatever we deserved from God for it is dealt with at the cross! All my sin, all my failures have been forgiven at the cross! Everything you’ve ever done and will do. It has been nailed to the cross and forgiven through the blood of our Saviour Jesus. What a sacrifice!!! To bring us back into a relationship with himself.
Jesus said, as you share this drink together, remember what I’ve done for you all.
See, it’s not about each of us individually coming to God with our own offering for our individual sins, but about together, recognising our equal need before God… that we’re all in the same boat! That the ground at the foot of the cross is level, we’re all equally in desperate need for Jesus, no one any closer or further away, no one any better or worse off. We together, recall our hopeless state apart from Jesus… lost, without hope, broken, abandoned by the empty promises of our world. In darkness and in need, out of a relationship with our maker and not just out of relationship but in conflict with him! Deserving His judgement…
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. ~Colossians 1:21b-23a (NIV)
That’s what we remember as we eat and drink together. Jesus brought peace, between us and God. But not only between us and God, but he’s also brought peace between us - each other!
The big word is Reconciliation. Or more profoundly, union with God. We’ve been united to God, because of Jesus, by His own Spirit! And because each of us are united to Christ, we are therefore united with each other! If you trust in Jesus then you are united to every other Christian, by God’s spirit. It’s profound! The many have been made one. And made one, that the world would see God’s love at work within our community, and say - Wow - God must exist!
You know, right after Jesus shared this supper with his disciples before he was arrested, he prayed, he prayed for his disciples and for everyone else who would follow Him in the future… us… and do you know what he prayed for… Unity!
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. ~John 17:20-23 (NIV)
That’s why divisions in the church are a complete contradiction and undermining of the gospel, especially when gathering to share the Lord’s supper. That’s also why we’ve spent a whole term on relationships & conflict!
Well, if the Supper is a celebration of our unity through the Gospel and divisions ruin that celebration, how do we do the supper rightly! How do we move forward, doing more good than harm? Paul gives us the answer,
Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. ~1Corinthians 11:28-29 (NIV)
How do I examine myself in regards to the body of Christ? In 2 big ways…
Don’t be fooled, if I say I’m a Christian yet don’t live as if that’s true, God is not fooled, he knows my heart.
Jesus himself said,
A new command I give you, love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you must love one another! ~John 13:34 (NIV)
When Covid hit the advice we were all getting and the most loving thing to do was that if you had any symptoms, stay away from everyone! Right? I think we’ve often got a Covid mindset when it comes to conflict and sin in the church.
When a conflict arises, or I’m struggling with some sin in my life - we “stay away” from everyone! We exclude ourselves from fellowship or we try to exclude the other person from us, we go to a different service, or turn up late and leave early, but that’s not the way of Christ. The way to examine ourselves rightly is to identify the sin or conflict that’s going on within and to call on God to help us fight it or approach it and to do all that we can to make it right, Just like Jesus did for us.
Let me tell you about a scenario I experienced in a previous church. Two girls in the Church had a falling out over something that went on in their friendship group. One girl offended the other by something she did. They’d been serving together on different teams and had a lot of ministry and friendships in common. One of the girls, to avoid dealing with the other one, and avoid forgiving her, moved to another service. Over time, the girl who had initially caused the breakdown sought forgiveness, apologised, tried to explain her side, pursued peace, but the other girl wasn’t willing. She withheld forgiveness, she continued ignoring her at Church things, she gathered a group of people around her who also began justifying her behaviour and affirming her hurts… “you’re right to feel this way”
See, that’s another aspect of what conflict brings… sides…
What happened was the girl who sought forgiveness and didn’t get it started hearing from other friends, “we’re on your side here” And some who saw lots siding with her said “you’ve got lots of support, we’re going to show the other girl love”… people were taking sides of one of the girls… but not taking the side of Jesus! Who says - go and be reconciled…
Conflicts that won’t reconcile don’t only affect the individuals… it has an effect on the whole community… loyalty to people can often mean sacrificing loyalty to Jesus… but loyalty to Jesus means calling others to reconcile. This other girl who wouldn’t forgive would come to church, sing the songs, praise God for his love and forgiveness, even serve and encourage others about God’s love… take the Lord’s supper being reminded of God’s grace! But then wouldn’t be willing to extend that forgiveness to the other girl.. quite hypocritical..
This went on for almost a year and what the other girl started to feel was that maybe she wasn’t even forgiven by God! If this girl wouldn’t forgive her maybe God hadn’t either and maybe this was Gods way of punishing her for what she initially did…
and that just wasn’t true! See our conflicts, which we often try to hide from, can have so many consequences and can cause God’s grace to be undermined in the whole community. It’s like an ingrown toenail - such a tiny injury… but it puts the whole body out of whack…
Praise God those 2 girls eventually did reconcile - the girl who was unwilling to forgive took the initiative and reached out but that whole episode took a toll on a lot of people…
I think evaluating ourselves rightly - is asking the question:
“if everyone in the church was like me… had my struggles, my sins, my laziness, my selfish tendencies, if everyone turned up to church as much as I do and loved others the way I do - how well would this community be doing?” Scary thought, hey?
The point is, how you’re treating the body of believers, is how you’re treating Jesus. You can’t claim to be in right standing with Jesus if you’re in bad standing with others by not pursuing peace
You can’t presume forgiveness from God if you’re withholding forgiveness from others, or actively sinning against someone… or in some other way… Paul says in v 29 to live like that and take the Lord’s supper is to eat and drink judgement on ourselves - to remind ourselves that we’re actually still under God’s judgement! Being in a conflict with God’s family, without pursuing peace, puts you in conflict with Jesus. God tells us:
We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. ~1 John 4:19-21 (NIV)
So, Paul says, before you turn up and think you can just rush in for the meal, check your heart! How are you affecting the body?
Now it’s important to be reminded here that if we’re going to wait until we’re perfect to take the Supper, we’ll never eat it!
The supper itself is a reminder to us of the bloodshed and body broken for our forgiveness and reconciliation with God, and it comes through faith in Jesus’ perfect actions - not our perfect actions! The supper is actually a gift for us in that way.
To drive home into our hearts the reality of God’s love! It’s an active acceptance of Grace! for sinners like us! So sin, in general, isn’t what should stop us from taking the supper, but sin that we won’t repent of — should!
Question: Do you have a conflict you’ve decided to let the other person stay in?
Question: Is there a sinful habit you’ve decided that God should be ok with?
The word to you is to repent, seek forgiveness, seek reconciliation. Taking the supper or not doesn’t make you a Christian or not, but it is a strong reminder for us to take our walk with Jesus seriously.
Today might be a day you don’t celebrate the meal to remind yourself you’ve got some work to do. Or maybe the meal will be that strong reminder for you that if you’ve received God’s forgiveness and grace, to extend it out towards others. Or maybe today will be the first time you celebrate this meal, as you’ve realised today’s the day you want to start a relationship with Jesus, and you want to let this be your active expression of that.
Christian Community is a blessing from God for us to enjoy, and for us to demonstrate to the world how worthy our God is!
How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! ~Psalm 133:1 (NIV)
What gets in the way of resolving some conflict is when the church remains silent and fails to discipline.
My first minister used to be an electrician, he knew a builder who did work for a couple in his church. They failed to pay him for his work, they owed him $20,000. The minister asked the builder will you take them to court? And he said that the bible does not allow me to sue Christians. The builder absorbed the injury and forgave them. I love and don’t love that story. Why wasn’t this couple disciplined by their church? Every organisation has boundary markers and each one has a set of expectations, they define who is in and who is out and sometimes expelling members becomes necessary to guard the group.
So when a member of a club keeps breaking its rules they are asked to leave
a. To preserve the values of a group
Political groups expel their members when they fail to maintain the core ideals of its party.
b. Sometimes it’s to protect the other members.
A school will expel a violent child to protect the other students
c. Sometimes it's to punish the person for breaking the group’s rules.
As a society, we expel criminals to jail, in part to punish them for the crimes they have committed.
If expelling people from groups is important for the health of any group, it is no less important for the church. It’s just that we do it for different reasons. The church reformers in the 16th century said that one of the marks of a true church is church discipline. You cannot have a holy church if you are not prepared to discipline.
Let go to the feral church at Corinth.
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife ~1 Corinthians 5:1 (NIV)
They have a reputation but it’s not a good one, the nature of the sexual sin is that a man is having sex with his step mum. The Father maybe dead because he is not mentioned, the woman herself must be a non-Christian because she is not disciplined.
What makes it worse is that ... you won’t even find it among the non-Christians
… and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife ~1 Corinthians 5:1b (NIV)
These Corinthians were worse than the world. Even the non-Christians were shocked by this sin, a man has his fathers wife and you are proud. They have confused their freedom from sin with the freedom to sin. Coming to Jesus was a free ticket to sleep with whoever you want.
The church is not just tolerating it but celebrating it. This church was out of control.
For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. ~1 Corinthians 5:3 (NIV)
So much for do not judge. Paul doesn't say wait till I get to Corinth and when I have gathered all the information, I will form a committee and we will write up a report and then make a recommendation.
I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. Why? because God already has.
“Do not have sexual relations with your fathers wife; that would dishonour your father.” ~Leviticus 18:8 (NIV)
The proper response is grief, not boasting. Grieve like you would the death of a member of your family. Weep because those who don't repent place themselves back on the express lane to hell.
When Ravi Zararius was exposed, and it is so upsetting, the action to be taken is described in a range of ways, but it’s the same thing.
… put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? ~1 Corinthians 5:2 (NIV)
…hand this man over to Satan, ~1 Corinthians 5:5 (NIV)
… [do] not to associate with sexually immoral people ~1 Corinthians 5:9 (NIV)
… Do not even eat with such people. ~1 Corinthians 5:11 (NIV)
... Expel the wicked person from among you. ~1 Corinthians 5:13 (NIV)
In Matthew 18:15 Jesus makes it clear that expulsion is the last word and not the first.
Church discipline begins with a private rebuke. If that fails, then take two or three witnesses and if that fails, then and only then take it to the church. Treat them as an unbeliever.
…hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord. ~1 Corinthians 5:5 (NIV)
The goal is to save the man not punish him. We are not a bikie gang that breaks the legs of those who break the club’s rules.
There is a tribe on Lake Titicaca in Peru where they live on man-made grass islands. When the tribe has a fallout with a family they literally cut them off and let them float away. There is no going back! Church discipline is always done so that they can repent and be restored, that is why it is done with grief and tears and not joy. It is not out of revenge it’s about repentance and salvation.
I interviewed Hadyn, from Liberty ministry. He confessed Christ but kept engaging in one night stands with other guys. When I asked him what was most helpful? He said when his minister threatened to discipline him.
Church discipline is loving. I don’t know how many people have thanked me for loving them by speaking the hard word. Expulsion gives a taste of the final judgment and it’s loving.
To one man who was disciplined and repented Paul says in the second letter…
Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. ~2 Corinthians 2:7 (NIV)
Once the man repents we are not to rub his nose in it. To discipline is to love the sinner. To not do it wounds the church.
The first reason is to save his soul and the second reason is to keep the church holy.
Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. ~1 Corinthians 5:6-7 (NIV)
Yeast is a living organism that will reproduce on its own, making bread rise. The yeast refers to sin and the dough points to the church. Paul doesn’t want the yeast of sin to spread and infect the rest of the church.
Remember this church like MBM was called to be holy.
… called to be holy, ~1 Corinthians 1:2 (NIV)
Church discipline not only loves the sinner but it protects the rest of the congregation.
Imagine we have wife swapping happening in church and said nothing about it, did nothing about it. No one would be protected. Every year we shepherds are watching the wolves and keeping them out to protect the sheep. This is the neglected grace of Church discipline that helps the church to be like Christ and not the world.
The yeast was taken out of bread during the 7 day Jewish feast of unleavened bread. At the heart of the feast was the annual Passover meal, it was the feast that remembered how Gods people escaped death in Egypt. The Jews escaped Egypt by killing a lamb and pouring its blood on the doorpost. When God’s angel came to judge, He passed over every home that placed the blood of the lamb on the doorpost. They were saved.
Now Christ is our Passover lamb. At the cross Gods judgment Passover over you by being poured on his Son 2000 years ago at the cross once for all. That is why you can’t make God angry, Jesus drank the cup of Gods anger in your place. He drank, so continue to celebrate the feast 24/7 by sincerity and truth.
If Christ died for sin then we die to sin.
When we don’t take a stand, we don’t love Jesus, we don’t love the person who sinned and we don’t love the rest of the congregation.
We are not to judge a person for their motives. That is for the Lord. We are not to judge the world that does not have the Spirit. It is only for those who carry the name ‘brother.’
But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. ~1 Corinthians 5:11 (NIV)
We constantly have non Christians coming to us who are greedy, who get drunk, lie and cheat, and sleep around. Hear me now, we won’t judge you, we love having you with us. But we judge those who call themselves a Christian and want to justify their sinful choices. That is what is unacceptable.
Put it this way, if you call yourself a Christian and want fellowship with us but justify your sinful behaviour then one of these will have to go, either stop calling yourself a Christian, stop fellowship with us, or our preference is – stop justifying your sin. If you don’t you are under God's wrath and we want you in heaven with us. This judgment is only for believers, we are not called to be the worlds spiritual cop
What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. ~1 Corinthians 5:12-13b (NIV)
It also critical that we don’t confuse Christians struggling with sin and those who justify their sin. If we expel those who battle with sin, what would happen? we would have expelled each other, no one would be left at church.
Church discipline is not for saints who sin but for those who are proud of being able to sin and claim the name, Christian.
This is not about the man who has slipped up one day but a man who has his father's wife.
This is a settled state of disobedience.
It is not about a man who has gotten drunk it is about a drunkard. It is not about a man who committed a sexual sin it is about a person who is sexually immoral. Otherwise, no one could turn up for church.
What does it look like? Most who fall into sin withdraw themselves. Few justify sin and then want to stick around at church.
We physically don’t pick up someone and kick them out of our Sunday services. We don’t act rudely to them when we see them at shops. We don’t ignore them on the side of the road if their car has a flat.
We speak and act with grace, we make it clear that we are not on the same page. We can’t have fellowship. You are not my brother or sister in the Lord. We will urge you to not take the Lord’s supper, you will not be able to serve at church, you cannot attend growth groups
We keep pleading for repentance and if there is repentance then we celebrate like mad.
Friends, this is God word, will you obey it? Will you be committed to the holiness of the church?
I remember the first time I had to do it, a man in growth group had left his wife and was living with another woman. He called himself a Christian and assumed nothing would change. I spoke with him. The week before a man gave his testimony, he shared how he had been attending church for 2 years but realised he had not repented. I used his example and said do you think you have repented. I thought the same thing. I said you need to stop sinning, or stop calling yourself a Christian or leave growth group. One of those 3 will have to go. He stopped calling himself a Christian, that was good, no pretending.
The two best days in life is the day you know you’re not a Christian and the day you become one. Months later he repented and left that relationship, he has been with us ever since, strong in the Lord.
Don’t neglect the surprising grace of church discipline.
Imagine you lived in Australia in 1942 when Darwin was being bombed by the Japanese and 3 midget submarines came into Sydney Harbour sinking a ferry and killing 21 people. Inside your local church, you have young men hearing the call to defend the country and going off to war. Some returned home with limbs missing while others never returned at all. In your congregation some Christians refused conscription out of good conscience before God they could not fight. They believed that the bible forbids them to take up arms.
Can you imagine the tension and division it would have created inside local churches? What would be the pastor's role in that situation? I suggest one issue would be to help brothers and sisters think through the principles of living in a church where the saints held different views.
I think it's the same for us when it comes to living in a church where members hold different views on vaccination. The purpose of this paper is not to give direction on vaccination. I am not a doctor nor am I not a scientist, I am a pastor called to disciple the church of God. To that end, let me share how we can live in a church with different views on vaccination to God's glory.
Firstly, I recognize this is a very delicate and emotional issue. For a start, we are all feeling the impact of an extended lockdown. It messes with our heads and hearts. That pressure is felt by some more than others, especially if we are isolated with little support or if we suffer from acute depression or anxiety.
Importantly, some have lost loved ones here and overseas to COVID 19. One person at church lost six friends in South Africa another has lost ten people in India. COVID has profoundly and personally impacted some people at church.
Still, others have their own quota of health issues and are feeling physically vulnerable and acutely compromised concerned for either themselves or members of their family. All of which means we must speak on this issue with extra care and sensitivity.
Interestingly, last Monday we had a discussion at staff meeting and it became evident that we did not share the same views on vaccination. It was a good and gracious discussion with a number checking on each other to see if they spoke with grace. This made me realise we need to think hard about how we live together with different views on vaccination.
Here are a few principles to keep in mind and I'm sure you can think of others.
1. The two great commandments are to love God and love others.
Whatever you decide with the vaccination seek a conclusion that loves not just yourself, but your family, and the wider community. Remember it's not about you! We are to have the mind of Christ who considered others better than himself (Phil 2:5-11) and in particular those who are vulnerable. The God of the bible has his constant eye on the orphan, the poor and the widow. Paul warned us that without love we are nothing (1Cor13:1-2). Whatever your view on vaccines adopt an ‘other person-centred approach’ with a special eye to the powerless.
2. Turn your panic into prayer.
God is no less on his throne now than before or after COVID 19. Jesus told his disciples, that if we have a Father in heaven who knows our needs before we ask, and truly cares for us, then we need to trust him and not be like the pagans who panic about the basic needs of life. The repeated rebuke by Jesus to his disciples was ‘why are you so afraid?’ Before a watching world, including social media, we have a great opportunity to stand apart in refusing to live in fear because our God will never leave us or forsake us. While we can't stop feeling anxious, we are called to turn it into prayer (Phil 4:6) and let God's peace guard our troubled hearts. I assure you it will be more helpful for your troubled soul than constant exposure to a never-ending stream of COVID information.
3. Be informed and be thankful.
We are made in God's image to push back on the effects of the fall. This means we must thank God for the work of scientists who are doing what God calls imager bearers to do; to understand and rule over this virus. Nevertheless, use your God-given mind to assess the research available wisely. Be discerning who to trust and be open and non-defensive to hearing other people's views. Watch how much time you spend reading on this issue and becoming an expert compared to the time you spend reading God's word, and fellowshipping online with the saints. Ask yourself the question, “are you more excited about sharing your view on vaccines than about sharing Christ?”
4. Be humble and know that no one is infallible.
Even the best of research is not perfect. If you are suspicious about the ‘other’ position then learn to be a little suspicious about your own as well.
5. We can't avoid risk.
We live after the fall and outside the garden of Eden. We must never think that we can avoid risk in a broken world. We are all forced to assess what is calculated risk. However, there is no risk in following Christ who will raise our body from the dead as surely as our Lord was raised on the third day.
6. Don’t pressure other people toward your view.
Have the conversation if the other person gives you permission but don’t have it if they don’t want to. That includes members of your family. It’s exactly the same with evangelism which has to do with eternal issues. Ask permission to speak and share information, don’t dump it and definitely do not demand that people accept your view. If someone does send you material on vaccination, you are free to read it or ignore it, but you are not free to be rude about it. If we are called to speak with ‘gentleness and respect’ to false teachers (2 Tim 2:25), how much more should we be gracious with those who have different views on vaccination in person or on social media.
Be careful to not be cynical and sarcastic about people who hold different views. You don’t have to apologise for holding your view but never forget you share the same creator with fellow image-bearers you disagree with you. How much more, in the church where you share the same Father in heaven who sent his Son to die for both of you.
You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. ~ Romans 14:10 (NIV)
Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. ~ Romans 14:19 (NIV)
7. Have a biblical view of government.
We each have different default attitudes to government. Some are more suspicious of authorities, and for good reason. Let us not forget that “The rulers of this age crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor 2:8). On three occasions, Roman magistrates had Paul beaten with rods (2 Cor 11:25; Acts 16:22). Our federal government-led us into unjust wars such as Vietnam and approved pro-abortion legislation in NSW. It's not in “Gladys we trust” but in “God we trust.”
Others have a more positive view of government. They know that the kind of freedom, order and wealth we have in Australia has never been matched at any other time in the history of the world. No doubt, each view is shaped by experiences in this country and our country of origin. As a result, some are more inclined to believe government-approved research on vaccines, while others are more sceptical.
Nevertheless, let us be very clear about what the Bible requires. We are explicitly called to honour (1Peter 2:17), pray (1 Timothy 2:1-2) and submit to all governing authorities (Romans 13:2-3). And all for one reason, and it's not because they are necessarily doing a great job. It's because “The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Rom 13:1) If the apostle Paul can say that about the Roman Emperor who was vicious and brutal we have even less reason to reject God's teaching. Unless the government causes us to explicitly violate our loyalty to Christ, then we regularly pray, openly respect and ‘willingly’ submit to them even if we think they are inconsistent, ineffective or just plain wrong in their response to Covid19.
Suffice to say that any attempt to engage or promote civil disobedience, because we are inconvenienced, grieves the Spirit of God. This doesn’t mean we can't protest and communicate our convictions, as long as it is done lawfully and respectfully.
8. Strive to maintain the unity of the church
“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace…” ~ Ephesians 4:3 (NIV)
Finally, take heed of the warning not to divide the church of Christ. ~ 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 (NIV)
Let the world see how MBM is a profound mystery with men and women, young and old, from many cultures and classes with different views on politics and vaccines but who dearly love each other united by Christ's precious blood and sealed by his Holy Spirit.
Once conflict is faced and peace begins, trust needs to be rebuilt and that takes time. What heals wounds? What builds trust? What creates safety? It is love.
The Corinthians church was known for their many conflicts. This church managed to divide on every possible issue, from Leadership to the Lord's supper to Litigation. It was a toxic and proud church, they saw themselves as so ‘spiritual’ but were so ‘immature’. Priding themselves on some gifts of the Spirit-tongues, ignoring the fruit of the Spirit such as love. To the least loving church comes the clearest outline of Love.
The question for us is what would Jesus say about you? What would Jesus say of MBM?
The first point is this gifts multiplied by no love = nothing
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. ~1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (NIV)
Oh, to speak in the language of angels but without love, I am as useful as a car crash. Oh, to grasp the mysteries of the universe and to believe with so much confidence that you could park Mt Kosciusko in your front yard, but if love is absent, you are nothing! Oh, to be so generous that you give not 10%, 50% but 100% of all your money to the poor or be so committed to Jesus that you would take the bullet for Jesus and yet live a life without love. You gain nothing!
It won't be the first biography on a famous missionary who did great things for the Lord but whose personal life was a tragic loveless mess. The formulae is simple heroic gifts without Love = is nothing, you gain nothing.
Let me take you back to Maths class. If you Multiply one number with another number you get a much bigger number
5 x 8 = 40
If you multiply any number with 0 the answer is always 0
100 x 0 =
10,000 x 0 =
1,000,000,000 x 0 =
Any heroic act x zero love = 0
But wait a minute, I thought giving your money to the poor was an act of love? Well, isn’t it?
Well, let see the dos and don'ts of love. The first thing you notice is love is practical it not theoretical. It's not like a love song. All of me loves all of you.
But the bible gets down and dirty with love.
Love is patient … ~1 Corinthians 13:4a (NIV)
Love is Patient… it literally means “Love suffers long…” So straight out of the blocks, we are reminded that it's love in hard places, love with difficult people, love in conflict situations, when you’re tired and annoyed, love at 6am if you're not a morning person or 11pm if you are a morning person.
The best research on Marriage comes from the Gottman Institutes. John Gottman says, When couples repeatedly begin an argument with harsh words and tones -it is the great predictor of divorce.
But Love is long suffering, which is exactly what Gods love is like.
“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, ~Exodus 34:6 (NIV)
He is a long suffering God, it's why the bible is so big. It's 66 love letters. Those of us with short fuses take note, Love isn’t easily angered or provoked
Love is not easily angered… ~1 Corinthians 13:5b (NIV)
Many of us have not quite come to terms that God has placed sinful humans outside of the garden of Eden. We expect our plans to operate smoothly and watch out if anyone gets in our way. No matter how organised, life throws a curve ball, holidays can be rained in, babies cry all night, friends let you down.
Christians criticize, neglect, let down, disappoint, undermine, rebel, slander, gossip, litigate,
John Piper says
If I am to LOVE like this, something in me must die.
My strong craving for a trouble-free life must die.
My need for an uninterrupted schedule must die.
My demandingness that frustrations and interference get out of my way must die.
Love is patient it is not easily angered. There are 15 things love can and can't do, but whatever else, Love is patient.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. ~1 Corinthians 13:4 (NIV)
Love is Kind. Even the word “Kind” sounds insipid and weak but that is exactly how God treats his people who rebel against him. His loving kindness binds him to us and us to him. Have we not tasted of the kindness of the Lord.
Consider: Two men walking toward each other around a steep mountain cliff face. The path is too narrow to walk past each other or they will fall off.
Solution: One man lies down and the other walks over.
Kindness: A kind deed to help out someone who hurts you, a kind thought wanting the best, a kind word that builds up another person rather than taking them for granted. Kindness is as simple as a word of encouragement. The Corinthian Christians who received this encouraging and kind letter were impatient, self centred, rude and full of envy.
Love is described not just by what we do but what we don’t do. Love does not envy and we know envy perpetuates so much conflict.
There are sins of commission—what we should have not done. And there are sins of omission—what we should have done but didn't.
Envy feeds conflict and love starves the envy that feeds conflict. Love rejoices with the success of others. It's hard when someone else got the job you applied for when someone else got the lover you long for. The solution to envy is to thank God for the success of others and let the person know that you are happy for their success.
We rejoice with those who rejoice equally when one part suffers we all suffer, when one part rejoices we all rejoice. Love wants to encourage, envy wants to withhold encouragement. Find that one person you envy and today send them a text, email, letter or say something to encourage them.
Perhaps you feel as if your life is more like a water polo game, you can only lift yourself up by putting someone else down. That is not love
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. ~1 Corinthians 13:5 (NIV)
Love also keeps no record of wrongs. Just like Jesus, love keeps no record of wrongs. It's not as if once we are reconciled there won't be any more hurts. Love doesn’t keep score on the mistakes of others. It is what kills marriages, churches and friends.
Conversations that begin with…"You always do that" or "Typical you" or "You will never change" or "You’re so hopeless". Jesus doesn’t keep score on your sins and he is perfect so why do we think we can keep score on other peoples sins.
I love the idea of love when it theoretical, I love this passage except when I have to think about real people in my life who hurt me. Love will be seen in what gives you pleasure.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. ~1 Corinthians 13:6 (NIV)
Since God is love, then love does not take pleasure in evil, love is not rude but neither will it pretend, it doesn't call good evil and evil good. When faced with conflict love sides with God. It loves what God loves and it hates what God hates. Since God is love, love sides with the truth, no matter how unpopular.
We don't play that silly game of setting truth against love, you can't love people unless you love truth even if the truth hurts. Truth is a person and that person is Jesus. Love aims at being consistent, it's how we build trust.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. ~1 Corinthians 13:7 (NIV)
It always protects … it always has your back.
It always trusts … refuses to be cynical … it won't slip into sarcasm.
It always hopes …keeps handing out second chances, it's optimistic without being naïve.
It always preservers…Loves hangs in when others give up.
Love doesn’t just play the big games well but every game.
You get the parent who works 3 jobs for the family, but day by day they are moody, grumpy and critical. That is the nothing person! Gifts without love = nothing
For now, every Christian has been gifted and every gift will pass away, they have a use by date.
But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. ~1 Corinthians 13:8-10 (NIV)
Everything you enjoy at church and in this age is both imperfect and temporary. Imperfect because we prophesy in part, we know in part. I will never preach the perfect sermon. Temporary because they will disappear; they will come to an end.
The truly wise person knows what to be impressed by:
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. ~1 Corinthians 13:11 (NIV)
It's time to grow up…give a 5-year-old child a choice between a million-dollar diamond and a chocolate bar and they will choose the chocolate every time. It's time to grow up!
I love a person exercising their God-given gifts in the body of Christ but the older I get the more impressed I am by the fruit of the Spirit beginning with Love.
When we hear of relationships scared by conflict become healed by love, the cliché “It doesn’t get better than that!” is so misused. When I heard last week of two people whose journey began when they met a person at MBM who loved them and they could see God in them. ‘It doesn’t get better than that’
Learn what to get impressed by. Greatness is measured by one word: love…Those who love are God heroes.
Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. ~1 Corinthians 13:12-13 (NIV)
As Karl Barth put it “When the sun rises the lights go out…”
When Jesus returns and perfection comes, we get to see God face to face the gifts go out.
People are not a means to an end they are the end. Do you know why this is so liberating? You may have missed out on a range of gifts, opportunities to serve that never came your way, but know this, you have not missed out on the greatest of all. I plead with you. Do not be the 'nothing' person. Hear the warning again: without love you’re nothing! And nothing will be your reward.
One of the great struggles in resolving everyday conflict is to see our part in the story. This is especially true when the greater sin lies with the other person or you think it does, they started it, they said the cruel words, they bagged you out on social media.
As I said last week we can freely talk about our pain and the other person's sin, but we find it almost impossible to talk about our sin and the other person's pain
Today, Jesus is giving the master class on disciple training. The question for you is, who is shaping how you respond to conflict?
He also told them this parable: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit? ~Luke 6:39 (NIV)
Too often we let the wrong people set the agenda for how we respond to conflict and then we pay the price. What did you learn from your parents? Did they ignore or ignite conflict? When you tell your friends about a conflict; do they feed your sense of self-righteousness and justify your refusal to forgive or nurture an attitude of entitlement?
The challenge for us is will you let Jesus tell you what it means to be his disciple? Will you stop telling Jesus why you don’t have to love your enemy? That its always someone else’s fault and never yours? Lets face it Jesus knows a little about conflict,
He has reconciled the world to himself. Jesus has told his disciples how to think about those who hate you, reject you and insult you.
But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. ~Luke 6:27 (NIV)
The enemy is clear, it’s a person who curses you, mistreats you or takes advantage of you. It's any people who either keep you up at night or you want to get even with.
Which level of love do you live on?
a. Love your friend’s hate your enemies. “…Don’t get mad, get even”
b. Love your friends ignore your enemies…Keep your enemy at a polite distance.
c. Love your friends and love your enemies…Return good for evil
Notice how Jesus is not just calling his followers to tolerate or be polite, four ugly reactions of people meet four grace responses by Jesus people.
When hated - we love
When excluded - we do good
When insulted - we bless
When rejected - we pray for them
It's not just feel good toward them it's doing good toward them. When your enemies make it into your prayers and your prayers are to bless them and not curse you then you’re on your way to higher ground and to glorify God. That is radical. Jesus gets under our skin with his outrageous examples.
Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. ~Luke 6:31 (NIV)
That is ridiculous! You won't last one minute in this world, everyone will rip you off. Like going home from church finding thieves loading their boot with your stuff and you say “Hi guys -can you tell me when you’re finished, I will just go and grab a cup of coffee, don’t forget the $300 dollars in the jar under the bed.”
We know they are exaggerated examples to get you thinking… We know that because the Apostle Paul required only widows who are over 60 and proven themselves as faithful in good works to qualify for the church pension. No free handouts here.
Jesus words are dangerous
If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. ~Luke 6:29-31 (NIV)
He is almost inviting abuse. It sounds like you can't have boundaries. But we have an account of when Jesus was struck on the cheek. Jesus is being interrogated by the High Priest and the soldier hits him in the face. What does Jesus do? Feel free to hit me on the other cheek, this is what he does say.
“If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” ~John 18:24 (NIV)
That’s what it looks like, Jesus love was expressed in two ways, He confronts the soldier, holding him accountable but he doesn’t wipe him off the face of the earth. Love doesn’t mean we don’t confront, it doesn’t mean we let people walk all over us, it does mean that you approach the enemy wanting to do good to bless and to pray. When you do good, remember you’re like your Father in Heaven and not like the world
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. ~Luke 6:32-34 (NIV)
Call me strange but I have absolutely no problem loving those who love me back. It's true, give me compliments, offer me a gift and I’ll be your best friend. And Jesus says Big Deal! even the sinners do that.
In 2002 they found a scrapbook that belonged to Karl Hocker, it had photos of Nazis at play loving each other, it was those who ran Jewish extermination camps in Auschwitz.
You could rewrite Jesus words and say “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even the ‘Nazis’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even the ‘Nazis’ do that.
All the time while hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews were being gassed to death. To return evil for good is of the devil, to return good for good is being human, to return good for evil makes you just like your Father in heaven.
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. ~Luke 6:35-36 (NIV)
Never are we more like our Father in heaven than when we love and do good to our enemies. God will remember, record and reward every act of grace toward your enemy. And it will echo into eternity because it glorifies God.
Elsewhere Jesus says God lets the rainfall on those who love and hate him, God lets the sunshine on the just and unjust, every time you see that sucker rise in the east God is telling you to love your enemies because that is what I am doing every day. Never did that love reach an absolute pinnacle then when Christ died for us while we were his enemies…do to others what you would want them to do to you. Have we not all been an enemy of someone in our lives? Haven’t we all wanted them to show grace to us? It's not like this is optional for disciples wanting to follow Jesus. When we are hurt it's so easy to demonize the other person, we stop thinking the best.
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. ~Luke 6:37 (NIV)
Don’t judge…50 years ago John 3:16 was the most well known Bible verse known by Christians, now it's "do not judge, and you will not be judged." We are letting the blind lead the blind. The world is creeping into the church, the world that stops God from speaking, the world which loves sin and hates the saints, the world that loves to call good evil and evil good. So what does Jesus mean by don’t judge? I think the next verse tells us exactly what it means. Don’t condemn:
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven ~Luke 6:37 (NIV)
Don’t be quick to play God, don’t be quick to say this backsliding Christian is in hell. I can warn a person that they are heading for hell if they don’t repent but I can't announce they are in hell. I don’t know what they did before they died.
We had one guy who joined us for a time, he thought he was sinless and it didn’t take him long before he was announcing that every person at MBM was not a Christian and for good reason. I was not a Christian because I yawned during prayer time. Do not judge
Imagine 2 people going to the toilets for the first time, one comes out and goes straight to the wash basin to wash their hands but the other person just goes out. Its easy for the person washing their hands to think how disgusting that the other person has not washed their hands, not knowing that the other toilet had its own washbasin Don’t judge, you don’t have all the information.
Stop trying to judge the motives of people. You’re not God, only he knows the heart, don’t be quick to think the worst, resist the urge to demonize, especially those who hurt you.
So how do we correct each other and not fall into this sin? Approach a person assuming the best and that the hurt was unintentional, that it was thoughtless, not malicious, speak to them as though you’re the greater sinner.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. ~Luke 6:41-42 (NIV)
The person who judges tends to overestimate the sins of others and underestimate their own sin. Wouldn’t we all get along with each other much better if we assumed we are the bigger sinner? It has to be this way! Because you live with you 24/7. You know what you think or say or do 24/7. You know the motives behind what you say and do, you see more of your sin than anyone else, it has to be that way. Whenever you speak to another always assume that you are the greater sinner.
So, it will always be a speck in their eye and plank in the other, as you face the person you’re in conflict with, remember the telegraph pole in your eye and eye lash in the other person. You may spend more time focusing on your sin and their pain, than focusing on your pain and their sin.
This will come out in how you apologise, you may be aware that you played a small part in the conflict.
They may or may own their failure but you know your father in heaven sees what you have done and is pleased. We play to an audience of one! Your conscious is clear and God is glorified.
In many conflicts, there is a power struggle, one person is committed to changing another person and the other is committed to not wanting to be changed. We get locked in, for me to win you must lose, and if you win, I lose. Our desires turn to demands, our hurts turn into rage or passive aggression.
When wounded, we turn in ourselves. We are quick to name our pain and the other person's sin. We are unable to name our sin and the other persons’ pain. Worst of all, we act like there are only two people in this conflict. Faced with conflict we react to what is in front of us, the bible will encourage us in the midst of conflict to go higher ground and to think God thoughts.
We can’t make wise decisions when we are in the heat of a battle. In the conflict of war Generals always went to the highest point to see the battle from with the widest lens. When they invented airships and planes they took to the sky. When they invented satellites, they took to space.
The best way to understand conflict is to stand back and go up; to think God thoughts. It's never just you and the other person. It's you, them and the Lord Jesus, He redefines every relationship for a Christian.
So what does it mean to go to higher ground? First, it means we understand that we are raised with Christ, so set your minds on the things above.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. ~Colossians 3:1-4 (NIV)
So why meditate on heaven when I live below on earth? Two reasons. The first is, that is where Christ is who is ruling the church! Set your heart and mind on the risen Lord Jesus. He is now seated at the right hand of God, from there he rules the universe, he rules the church. He is firstborn of the creation, firstborn of the dead so that in everything he might be first. And that includes being first in every conflict relationship you’re in. In other words, I win if Christ is first.
Second, we set our minds on the things above, that is where we are, we are caught up in Christ’s victory. Our life is hidden with Christ. We are expected to engage in conflict from a different point of view to the world.
Let's ponder the idea of union with Christ.
We are alive in Christ and we are with Christ, we will appear with Christ in glory. The second coming is every Christian's coming out party. Once you get that you cant be the same. From that vantage point we put sin to death, we put away old me, we put off our earthly sinful nature. We may fall into sin but we don't walk in those sins.
But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. ~Colossians 3:8-10 (NIV)
Raised with Christ and set your minds on the things above, we will not engage with the old weapons, Anger, Malice, Slander or Swearing. Nor do we pretend and lie but speak the truth in love, all with gentleness and respect. The good news as we are being renewed and transformed is that we are not on you are own, God is at work in us
And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. ~2 Corinthians 3:18 (NIV)
From the moment you said “I Do” to Jesus, God made a commitment to transform you into the likeness of his son, to shape you to be more like Jesus. That growth is described as an ever-increasing glory that happens as we live for Gods glory.
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. ~1 Corinthians 10:31 (NIV)
Every moment of every day, amidst every relationship good or bad, we get the privilege to put a smile on the face of God. That includes how you engage with conflict.
I once ran a bible study for teenagers/young adults who were new Christians. There was one girl who was 15 maybe 16 at the time, she came from a broken and dysfunctional home. One day as the group was going home she said, “Ray I think I understand what life is all about.” What’s that Julie? She said,
“Its about Giving God the glory in everything.”
That insight changed everything, it shaped how she responded in her relationships, especially the ones that were dysfunctional. She instinctively went to higher ground, she has gone on to make an enormous impact in the lives of so many.
So how do I glorify God in the midst of my conflict? In short, you keep to two great commands front and centre, Love God and Love others. That is how you glorify God, to love God is to engage in conflict in such a way that brings honour to him.
What motivates you is that He sees your attempt to be at peace, He is honoured when you raise a difficult issue, He is pleased by your desire to forgive, He is lifted up when you love the one who wounded you, He is glorified that you’re satisfied with his approval. He smiles when you keep loving the person who is slandering you. This is higher ground, it's never just you and the other person. There is you, them and the Lord Jesus.
Have you not noticed that when God directs how we ought to live our relationship, whether to husbands, wives, parents, children, servant, masters or each other, the church. It's always in Christ and as to the Lord, in every relationship you have, whether Christian or not, work, home, study or church is redefined by your relationship with Christ. We serve and love others for Jesus sake.
It's as if Jesus is saying I “If you can't do it for their sake, I know you can do for my sake.” It's what breaks the hold of a power struggle. This truth saved my marriage.
Sandy and I fought a lot in the first 6 months of our marriage. From my end, I was counting who is doing more and I counted in my favour. Then one day I was reading:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. ~Ephesians 5:25 (NIV)
Jesus was telling me, Ray, get your eyes off Sandy and get your eyes on me and when you think you have gone as far as me on the cross then you draw a line in the sand but until then keep loving and keep laying down your life. Love for God extends to Love for the enemy. As Jesus said anyone can love those who love them back. If you do that Jesus says, big deal, even the pagans do that. We love the enemy.
There is a Scottish proverb that says ‘The worst thing in life is to die without enemies. The worst thing in life is to not love your enemies.’ In times of conflict, our loved ones can become our enemy.
The Bible is very realistic, God knows that you will be in a difficult relationship, we live outside the garden and after the fall. Do not be idealistic about the church, we are Saints who still Sin. The church is like a suitcase of porcupines, hence the command to forgive one another, and bear one another.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. ~Romans 12:18 (NIV)
Love means we are committed to reconciliation, think of a difficult relationship you’re in right now. God, if possible, because it may not be that they died, or won’t talk or admit, as much as it depends on you, from your side. Strive for peace.
Your Lord knows that it takes one to forgive but two to make peace. You are responsible to do whatever it takes to make peace. You are not responsible for the other person behaviour.
Here is a lesson I learnt 36 years ago that has kept me sane and it's in the verse. In a nutshell, know what you have control over and what you don’t. Know what you are responsible for and what you are not.
Dr. Larry Crabb put it this way:
Goals are those things that you have control over and are responsible for.
Desire is something you would like to happen but don’t have control over.
You work toward your goals, you pray for your desires.
Wanting my friend to apologise; Goal or Desire?
Forgiving my friend; Goal or Desire?
Wanting my cousin to be saved; Goal or Desire?
Taking up opportunities to share my faith; Goal or Desire?
In this verse a desire is to be at peace with all people, you pray for it but you cant control the outcome. A goal is to make sure that everything that leaves my mouth is driven by the good of the other person.
You see this principle in the Serenity Prayer - Reinhard Neihbuhr, prayed in AA meetings
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
When I am stressed in a relationship, I ask myself the question what is my desire that I have no control over? I want to be heard, I want the person to own their sin against me, I want to hear an apology, I want to be loved, I want them to acknowledge the damage they have done, I want their approval and respect. None of which I can control.
What I can control, what I am responsible for, what God requires me to do is to speak a word of encouragement with gentleness and respect, to raise a hurt, to be patient, to listen to another person’s pain, to own my sin, to apologize, to forgive, to set boundaries. So, winning is not about being loved, it's about being like God and striving for peace as much as you can do.
My goal is to glorify God in all situations and not let Satan have a win. My goal is to go to higher ground and make Jesus look good. My goal is to be satisfied with my heavenly Father's approval. My goal is to think God thoughts. My goal is to speak in a way that seeks peace. My goal is to let the Spirit do his work in my life.
On my better days when I go to higher ground, I think of Jesus at the cross being nailed by the hands that he created, knowing he could invent billions of ways of making them suffer a slow death, but all you hear is Father forgive them for they know not what they do.
I spoke to a woman at church this week, her father left her mother and 8 children, abandoning them into poverty, their life was so hard. He never owned his sin. Many years later he tried to re-entry their lives, which they welcomed, only to find out it was only for money. Years after that she heard that her Dad was in the hospital, and she called him to see how he was. She asked for the opportunity to talk about matters and make peace. His response was clear “I don’t want to talk to you” and then he hung up. The next day he died.
I said to the woman, ‘You don’t come across embittered.’ She said two things, God's grace to her and knowing that while her father on earth abandoned her, her Father in heaven said
“Never will I leave you, never will forsake you.” She went to higher ground and it set her free.
What is going to be MBM Parramatta’s biggest challenge? It will be each other? The hardest thing about being a human is other humans. We each have a natural difference, when fuelled by a spirit of demandingness it quickly leads to conflict. Which would ok except we either ignore it or ignite it, but we can do better.
This term we are going to look at resolving everyday conflict.
As the series title suggests: "Worth fighting for". Our Lord Jesus is the prince of peace and fought for that peace. At the cross, he waved the surrender flag and said I don’t want to fight anymore.
If you want to kill me then kill me and let's get it over with so that we can be friends. And He then gives us his Spirit and commands us “Be at peace with all people as much as it depends on you.” But there can be no peace unless we go for higher ground, there will be no peace unless we understand, unless we get that unforgiveness is not an option.
Deep down we each have a quota of pain, sinned against by someone in our family, in our church or in the world. It could have been a one-off event or ongoing. It could have been done thoughtlessly or maliciously, but however, it got there, it's there. At some point, we all have put a fence around our pain and have said to ourselves, to others and even to God “… this is so bad, what was done to me so wrong, the wounds so deep that not even God would ask me to ever consider forgiving the one who wounded me.”
Let me say up front
The apostle Peter is aware that sin happens both inside and outside the church and so he ask Jesus a question...how often?
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” ~Matthew 18:21 (NIV)
Peter is trying to out-grace Jesus. Rabbis required people to forgive only 3 times, Peter offers the perfect number 7 times.
But I would have asked Jesus another question with it, not just how many times? But how bad does the sin have to get before? before I can say: "that's it".
Jesus answer haunts us in our pain even today.
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. ~Matthew 18:22 (NIV)
Or 70x 7, you can almost feel abandoned by God in your pain, the word is don't ever stop forgiving, there is to be no limit, don’t stop striving to be at peace with others. Jesus reverses the vengeful language of Lamech, reminding us, the opposite to revenge is forgiveness, the opposite to forgiveness is payback!
Forgiveness is choosing to absorb the sin and not retaliate.
We have twice interviewed Gladys Staines at MBM, her husband and 2 sons were burnt alive in India by radical Hindu extremists. They were Medics in India helping the poor and the Lepers. She said “I have no anger, I have no hatred.” I asked Gladys how she was able to forgive and so quickly. She said, “I think it was because I learnt to forgive the little things.” What wise words. We are either cancelling debts or holding on to them.
There are 2 reasons given by Jesus in his story, the first is tied to the amount of forgiveness we have received and the second is tied to the amount of judgment that will fall on us if we don’t.
We live in light of breathtaking forgiveness.
“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. ~Matthew 18:23-25 (NIV)
The man's debt to the king was enormous. Some say it's a national debt, about 15 billion, others say it was the wages of 60,000 working days. This was a time when you couldn’t file for bankruptcy, you (and your family) were personally responsible for your debt. Like this man you and I face a debt to God we could not pay; a punishment we cant bear. We were standing on the edge of hell, facing our own hopeless eternity; staring into the place of utter darkness. With the enormous debt before him the man cries out.
At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ ~Matthew 18:26 (NIV)
He has no idea how much he owes, he thinks he can pay the king off, like so many who think they can buy God off with good works. And yet in a God like way the king had mercy on him.
The servant’s master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go. ~Matthew 18:27 (NIV)
Can you feel the relief? This is a picture of God's forgiveness. The whole debt is gone. The king does not postpone the payment of the debt, the king does not ask for 10 cents in the dollar, the king wipes the slate clean. It's why Paul says love keeps no record of wrongs. To forgive is to release one from a debt.
I once read in the newspaper (Telegraph) “Australia forgave Egypt a 200 million dollar debt” (1991). Australia said to Egypt you don’t ever have to pay it back.
So why does Jesus put no limit on how many times we ought to forgive? I will tell you why: because God puts no limit on the amount of sins that he forgives us. Every day we grieve his Spirit and every day he forgives them.
By not forgiving, we show that we have absolutely no idea what it cost Jesus the innocent Son of God to enter the horror of the cross. That we have no idea how bad hell is that we have been delivered from. No idea how bad we all are and we have no idea that unforgiveness is not an option.
“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’ “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. ~Matthew 18:28-30 (NIV)
This guy is often called the unmerciful servant, he also is the ungrateful servant, forgiven so much, now refusing to forgive so little. It was just loose change compared to what he had been forgiven.
Albert Tetzler won the lottery a while back in the US, the amount pocketed was 7 million dollars, a lot of money. Two years later he was sent to prison because he had failed to pay child support which totalled just $35,000, he got 7 million but couldn’t pay $35,000.
You reckon that is bad, try telling God why you don’t have to forgive when he has forgiven so much. He is the ungrateful servant and so are we when you allow our pain to swamp the grace of God. Freely you have received, freely forgiven.
This is not saying that you have not been sinned against and it was not wrong. This is not saying that the pain is not real or that God doesn’t care. This is not to say that church discipline should not be applied or in some cases, the cops should be called. This is not saying that comfort can't be found, knowing that God will punish those who refuse to repent. What it is saying is that when you set limits on forgiveness you deny the full extent of your own sin against God and the full extent of Gods kindness to you.
Too often revenge conquers us instead of us conquering revenge by the grace of God. We must stop playing God, who alone says “Vengeance is mine says the lord I will repay” The King acts when he finds out that the man he forgave, refused to forgive another so little, he is angry
“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. ~Matthew 18:32-34 (NIV)
Do you understand what Jesus is saying? Unforgiveness is not an option for those who follow Christ. Think back to the Lord's Prayer..
"Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us"
Jesus has thrown us a curve ball, when we pray we are asking God to treat us in the way that we treat others, by not forgiving others you are inviting God to not forgive you. So both Grace and judgment demands forgiveness. Jesus ends the story with the stinging warning...
“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” ~Matthew 18:35 (NIV)
Take the grace of God lightly and you will end up taking his judgment severely. If the grace of God won't move you to forgive then maybe the fear of God will. It's as clear as a bell, isn’t it? Don't wallow in the pain, now is the time to start to forgive, seize the moment and conquer the urge to punish, let the Spirit do its work in you right now.
Do you know why I think unforgiveness is not an option? It's because God loves us, He is saying: “I don’t want you to waste your life filled with bitterness; where you spend your days re-playing those stories over and over to feed your rage." Jesus says: "I don’t want you to let those who sinned against you to keep punishing you. I want you to know the freedom of forgiveness, but that won't happen unless you forgive from the heart." It is not a 'pretend' forgiveness when we play games and say 'I don’t care' or 'it doesn’t bother me' or just laughing it off. Living in denial is not forgiveness.
The journey may begin further back, you may need to pray, to want to pray, to even want to forgive. At some point, you have to get on that peace train, even if it's last carriage. Are you not tired? I know you are.
There was a year I held something against Sandy. I noticed I was sulking for longer periods of time. On one occasion I sulked for 5 long weeks but Sandy barely noticed. No eye contact, a slight shift in tone, for 5 weeks I was aloof. It went so long I forgot why I was sulking. Then I had to make myself remember, I was exhausted and ashamed. When I eventually did forgive, I was so relieved. My refusal to forgive caused me to have a growing bitter heart. Has it not weighed you down long enough.
One of the messages to Australia from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
"It's my choice to be a victim or a survivor. It's my choice to forgive or hate. It's my choice to look forward or back. So I have chosen to love the life I have. I have chosen to forgive those who hurt me, because I don't know who hurt them. My 'Message to Australia': I ask you to do the same. The action of hate fixes nothing."
I have been in awe of so many at MBM who have endured so much suffering and who eventually decide to forgive and enjoy the freedom it brings.
We start a new series and we will take our time and think hard about how we can be at peace with all people. It's risky, its not an option and it's worth it. We are reminded yet again that God’s way is the best way.
“All of life is related to the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" That is what one woman said at MBM; what a profound comment. At the heart of the bible is the gospel and at the heart of the gospel is the Lord Jesus. That must be the DNA of MBM, to know that Jesus is Lord of all. Which means he answers the big question of life.
The Hitch Hikers guide to the Galaxy was a funny book seeking to find the answer to the meaning of life. The answer was '42', when we all know it's 1. Wrong answer to the right question. So, let's see how Jesus is the right answer to the right question.
At the heart of a prayer of thanksgiving, we are presented with the Son in whose kingdom we dwell. He is the image of the invisible God
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. ~Colossians 1:15 (NIV)
Christ makes the God who you cannot see, known. You don't have to guess what God is like, you meet God in his Son. He is not just a pale reflection of who God is. Jesus is God!
Later we read that all the fullness of the deity dwells in bodily form. That is why Jesus says to Philip ‘If you have seen me you have seen the father.’ So as Christ stands to God, He is the perfect image, but as he stands with the World Christ is its creator.
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. ~Colossians 1:15 (NIV)
First born is the language of supremacy; He is not part of Creation but supreme over creation. The firstborn gets the inheritance, He holds rank over all of it. If there is any doubt that Christ is not part of the creation verse 16 makes it plain.
For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him ~Colossians 1:16 (NIV)
Look at how comprehensive is the supremacy of Christ. There is nothing that Christ has not created. By that, he means things in heaven and earth. By that, he includes things visible and invisible. By that, he means thrones, powers, rulers and authorities. If Jesus didn't make it, it doesn't exist. Every corner of the universe is covered. That includes the angels and demons, Jesus made the devil, not as the devil but as an angel who later rebelled. Do not think there is a spiritual battle between good and evil and its neck and neck, Jesus created hell for the devil and his angels.
The Colossians were tempted to pray to and worship angels. If your view of Christ is not supreme then you will worship something else. If your Christian religion is Mary, and the saints. If you’re into non-Christian religious gods and gurus. If it's new-age, angel and crystals. If you’re into the dark arts it's demons, if you're an animist it will be spirits, if you're an atheist it will be your mind.
Once you see Jesus in all his glory then to whom will you go.
Jesus is not number 1, He is the only one. Jesus answers the big questions of life. Questions that people have been asking from the beginning of time, questions that children ask and
adults are afraid to ask or are too busy to ask or just forget to ask. Questions like Who made me? Why do I exist? What is my reason in life? The answer is given in such simple words you could almost trip over it.
All things were created by him and for him. ~Colossians 1:16 (NIV)
You exist for one reason, you were created to be in a personal friendship with Christ, on his terms and for his glory. God made the universe for his Son, this is the message we take to the world.
When I read this verse, I think of the classic love lines in songs and movies…
Words that capture the spirit of the age, and the idols of our heart. The songs remove Christ from his rightful place, that language should only and can only be applied to the Lord Christ.
It's not as if Christ created us and then left us to go on our merry way. The one who is before all things is Christ, the one who holds it all together.
He is before all things, and in him all things hold together ~Colossians 1:17 (NIV)
We say of a person who is coping with a lot of pressure, ‘He is holding it all together.’ For Jesus literally holds the universe together.
(The Son is)...sustaining all things by the power of his word. ~Hebrews 1:3 (NIV)
If the job of science gives natural explanations for the natural World, the Bible gives the ultimate explanation for the natural and spiritual world. Christ sustains the universe and it is he who is bringing everything to its appointed end.
History is moving in one direction, that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow. Christ is supreme in this age and in the age to come.
And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. ~Colossians 1:18 (NIV)
Christ rules in creation and he rules over his people the church, Christ is the head of the church which is his body. There is an intimate connection between Christ and his body the church.
Jesus said: "When you do it unto the least of my brothers you do it unto me." The church belongs to Christ, He rules the church. Its right to say that MBM is Christ's church its even ok to say its our church, but it is never Ray Galea's church.
And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, ~Colossians 1:18 (NIV)
The church that he rules is the one he leads into the age of the resurrection. Jesus is firstborn from the dead, He is the first of the dead ones to rise, He spear heads a new people who will also rise from the dead and God raised his Son first
…so that in everything he might have the supremacy. ~Colossians 1:18 (NIV)
literally "so that in everything he might be first."
He ranks supreme in this age and in the age to come. He ranks number 1 in this creation and the next. He rules over all people and Gods people.
The one who is firstborn of creation is firstborn from the dead, so that in everything he might be first. John the Baptist was right, Jesus must increase and I must decrease. He is first because he is God
For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him ~Colossians 1:19 (NIV)
The first Christmas day not only made us happy it first made God happy. God was pleased to become fully human, God permanently sided with us humans to bring peace.
Coming to earth was not the end of the story, God delights to put right the universe that has gone wrong
… and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. ~Colossians 1:20 (NIV)
To reconcile means is to bring together that which is apart, to make friends where there are enemies, to make peace where there is war and to put right that which is wrong. The Universe was made by Christ and for Christ but every corner of the universe has been stained by sin.
There is rebellion in the invisible world with Demons opposing God, there is rebellion in the visible world with humans as enemies of God. Christ came to bring peace through his blood with all things. In some way that means God made peace with the devil. That peace is not just a peace of friendship, all holding hands, smoking weed and singing “ all your need is love…” it has the idea of the pacification of the universe.
Pax Romana described 200 years of Roman peaceful rule. The peace of Rome- was 'not flowers in the hair' singing ‘We are the world’. The Peace of Rome involved the army who came to put down any rebellion.
So how did God made peace with the devil? by disarming and shaming the devil at the cross by taking from him his right to accuse us of sin. The Cross is as much about suppressing the enemies like Satan as it is about saving sinners. At the cross, the rift between God and man and God and the universe is reversed.
These are the facts, Christ is the reason that you exist, why you exist, why your sins cant condemn you and why Satan cant accuse you, why your death cant defeat you. Christ rules the world and he rules this church, He grants you the right to breathe and the right to enter heaven. At every point Christ is supreme.
There is not a corner of your life and there is not a square metre on this earth where Christ cannot say ‘This is mine and I own it and it belongs to me’.
So why isn't Jesus first in your life? What part of your life are you refusing to let Jesus be first? Perhaps you think you've gone too far!? Join the rest of us.
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation ~Colossians 1:21-22 (NIV)
We were all enemies of God, the evidence is seen in what we did and what we thought. We have been funding a war with God, for some, it's open warfare with blatant defiance, for many it’s the cold war.. silence and sulking, but war it is. The peace was brokered over Christ’s physical body.
I heard of a couple who were separated and on their way to divorce. One day the husband decided to visit the grave of their dead son, as he stood there he heard someone coming from behind, coincidently, it was his wife. For a moment they were going to walk away from each other but standing over the grave of their dead son they held hands and peace came to their marriage.
God has made peace with you over the body of his Son, its time to take the hand of God and go home knowing you’re at peace with God. What does this peace with God look like?
On Judgment day there is no shaming, no condemnation, no accusation, no rejection. You will be Holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation. You go home with our Lord and there will be no I told you so, no more criticism, no blame.
That is the power of the gospel.
On our drive to our annual family holiday, my younger brother in-law and I were talking about sharks and sharks had been spotted at our holiday spot. We were both a bit scared but one of our “traditions” is to jetty jump and as soon as we hit the water I could feel these hands cling on to me, my brother-in-law needed something secure, and I don’t know why he turned to me, I would have been completely useless!
Where do you put your trust? It reminded me about how we all run and cling on to something or someone when our lives spiral out of control. When we lose our job, or you are not getting enough work for your business or you’re struggling to pay your bills.
You or someone close receives bad news from the doctor, a relationship is on the rocks or you’re feeling overwhelmed about the future, wondering, are you studying the right course, will you get a job once you’ve finished studying? Will you be stuck in this phase of life forever? We all turn to something or someone for help.
With the year that has just passed we’ve all felt what it’s like to feels out of control. The COVID virus seemed to come out of nowhere and our world has been changed forever. I know so many people who have lost their jobs. Businesses having to shut. Everything that has happened is a bit of a shake-up that reminds us of how little control we actually have over our lives.
When life turns upside down, as it has, where do you run to? Where do you place your trust?
Well, that’s the big question this Psalm wants us to think about today, “Where do you place your trust? This psalm is an invitation to look into the life of someone who has placed their trust in the God the Bible. It’s an invitation to consider, what it would look like if you placed your trust in the God of the Bible.
Where we’re going:
Firstly, this psalm invites us to look into the life of someone who has placed their trust and their confidence, in the God of the Bible.
This Psalm begins with a cry out to God for protection. David, the author of this psalm, was human just like you and I. Just as we face the uncertainty of life, David had his fair share of things to worry about in his life time.
David struggled with the worries and the uncertainty of life, in a season in his life, he was on the run from people trying to kill him, people who spoke falsely of him and treated him unfairly. He had had some serious family issues! At one point his own son was trying to kill him – he had a dysfunctional family!
David was all too familiar with the uncertainty of life. He had a far from perfect life and was far from perfect himself. Verse 1 shows us the reality of this as he calls out to God. But then look at what David does in verse 2. David doesn’t only call out to God and then sits back and waits for something magical to happen. No, David is deliberate in his response to the uncertainty of life, he runs to God and he confesses,
You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.” ~Psalm 16:2 (NIV)
We see this expanded in verse 5, where he says:
“You Lord are my portion and cup of blessing. You hold my future”. ~Psalm 16:5 (HOLMAN)
What David is saying here, is that from all the places, people or things he could run to he chooses to run to God.
In verse 5 the picture he is trying to paint, is that if you imagine a table full of different portions of food, a buffet of a variety of choices to choose from. David is saying that his portion, his choice, would be to choose God, out of everything else available.
Like David, we have so many different options to place our trust in. When life spins out of control what are some of the things you run to when life is out of control? What’s your safety net?
Is it a relationship? or the figure in your back account? or your own ability to work hard and be successful?
We have to ask the question, Why run to God?
When we look at the story of David’s life, as we read some of the other psalms he wrote, we see that David knew God’s character, and that’s why he chooses to place his trust in God. That’s what David is talking about in verse 6
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. ~Psalm 16:6 (NIV)
What David is talking about here, is that he remembers Israel’s history. How God chose this small nation, insignificant to the super powers around them at the time. No land, no military power and yet God led them to victory in their battles. He provided a land that they could settle into.
Personally, David knows how God has come through for him in impossible situations. Remember the story of David and Goliath? there was no way a shepherd boy could beat this giant, who was a seasoned warrior and yet David walked out of the battle victorious.
David reflects on the history of his people, he reflects on his own life, and sees that God is someone who is trustworthy. A God who is faithful. A God who provides for and protects His people. That’s why David runs to him. And this is why David could confidently say what he does in verse 8.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. ~Psalm 16:8
As far as we know, David’s circumstances haven’t changed, life is still probably uncertain for him. When he reflects on who God is and what He has done, that’s enough for David to confidently say, that despite whatever is happening in life at the moment, despite how out of control life might seem, he is unshakeable, because he knows God is on his side.
You see, the God of the Bible doesn’t call us to have blind faith, He calls us to trust Him, to have faith based on evidence. Often we have assumptions of who God is and what He’s like. But can I ask you, do you know this God? the God of the Bible, the God David runs to. I think a lot of us don’t run to God, don’t place our trust in Him because we don’t truly know Him.
Running to someone you trust, just like a kid running to their parent even though someone else was standing right there, they run to their mum. Why? Because they know their parents are trustworthy, they feed them, stay up with them at night when they can’t sleep, protect them from danger, comfort them.
Because kids know their parents, they run to their parents.
So often I think we don’t run to God, because we don’t truly know His character, all we know about Him, is what we’ve heard from other people, from different sources, from the media. Maybe we have this picture of a God who is just about rules, a God who doesn’t care, a God who is distant.
Let me ask you, can you honestly say that you’ve taken the time to look into the claims of the Bible for yourself? Or is all you know about Him from what other people have said about Him? You see the Bible is how God has chosen to speak to us.
If you truly want to know what the God of the Bible is like, what David saw in Him then let me encourage you to investigate what the Bible has to say about God. Ask questions, do your research, spend quality time reading the bible for yourself, before you just write Him off.
The reason David put his confidence in God, when life was uncertain was because he knew God’s true character. Let me encourage you, look to the Bible and see for yourself what David knew about God.
Secondly, this psalm moves us to see how we can falsely place our confidence in things that eventually always let us down.
In David’s culture, these things took the form of idols, as you can see in verse 4. In ancient cultures (and even some today),
they believed that there were gods for different things. A god of love, war, fertility, wealth, wine and parties. They put their trust in these idols to fulfil their lives.
Now today we don’t believe these gods exist, but the principle behind why these ancient cultures worshipped idols remains the same for us. We still run after these things, love, power, sex, wealth, placing our trust in these things and expecting them to completely satisfy us. Expecting them to make us unshakeable.
We say if I had this career, looked this way, had just a little bit more money, if this person loved me or I was in this relationship, then life would be good, then I would be completely satisfied, then no matter what happens, I will be unshakeable. But look at what this psalm says.
Those that run after other gods, will suffer more and more. ~Psalm 16:4 (NIV)
See when you run after something, whether it be money, love or power, what it shows about us is that we believe we can’t live without those things. If we base our satisfaction, our security in life, in wealth, relationships, in being in control, as time goes on, you will be shaken. Why? Because even if you are in the lucky minority who gets the things you’re running after, eventually, they’ll start slipping away because nothing in this world lasts. Life is uncertain
One example is if you look back over history when, Stock markets crashed in the US in the 1920’s and the 1980’s, and there was an increased rate in suicides. People had invested all their trust into their stocks and so when share prices fell, they were shaken. What they put their trust in had failed them.
As good as relationships are, people change, they move away, they die. No matter how healthy you are, no one is exempt from falling sick and getting old. No matter how influential, or powerful or wealthy you become your life has an expiry date on it just like every other human being. Everything you chased after in this life will be taken away from you. You’ll leave it all behind.
Nothing is certain, if we run after these things, if we base our security on these things, one day it will be gone and we’ll be left shattered, without a secure foundation.
The past year has been a wake up call, of just how uncertain life is, of how things can change and be taken away so suddenly. How sure are you, that whatever you’re placing your trust in will satisfy you, will keep you secure forever?
Well in the last verses of this psalm, we’re given a picture of the future, of those that place their trust in God. An eternal confidence.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. ~Psalm 16:9-11
You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
In these last verses we see, if God looks after those who trust Him in the uncertainty of this life then surely, He won’t let death come between them. Surely, He won’t let death strip His goodness away. And friends what we celebrated on Easter Sunday a few weeks ago, proves exactly that.
Through Jesus’ resurrection, God is saying, for all those who put our trust in Him, you don’t have to fear death, Jesus has taken care of that on cross.
Through the resurrection God is saying, "I will not let death separate you from my love". "I will not let death come between us!"
What David only knew partially we now know in full. And the early church saw the connection between this psalm and Jesus’ resurrection.
David said about him [Jesus]:
“‘I saw the Lord always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest in hope,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
you will not let your holy one see decay.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.’ ~Acts 2:25-28 (NIV)
Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, is a signpost across history, that the God of the Bible is trustworthy and loves you, that He is not distant and removed from your life.
If the resurrection of Jesus, isn’t enough for you to trust God, then nothing ever will be.
You’ve got to ask yourself the question, what other evidence will you need today to believe that Jesus is raised from the dead?
See, even at the time of Jesus, people back then had strong reasons to be sceptical that Jesus would rise again from the dead. If you look at the gospel accounts, you’ll see that no one was expecting Jesus to be alive, His disciples, His closest friends were in hiding, even though Jesus had told them He would rise again on the third day. They didn’t believe Him! On the third day as the woman that was headed to the tomb of Jesus, to mourn Him, expecting His body to be there. Something drastic had to happen for thousands of people, who weren’t expecting a resurrection, to start believing that Jesus was resurrected from the dead.
A.N. Wilson, who is a British author and public figure, who once laughed at Christianity, until he was convinced of the evidence, says this about the resurrection:
“We can easily dismiss the events of Easter as a fairy tale if we hid from ourselves the uncomfortable fact that the eye witnesses of the resurrection were willing to be tortured and die horribly, rather than deny the risen Christ. It’s hard to believe that these people didn’t see Jesus resurrected.”
We see the impact of the resurrection impacting people’s lives today. Testimonies of lives transformed through Jesus to the glory of God. The resurrection of Jesus changes everything.
Even if you don’t believe in the historical evidence of the resurrection, just try and imagine if you did know it was true, that it was a fact, as if you knew this was going to be your future. Can you imagine how that would change your approach to the uncertainties of this life? Can you imagine how it would change the next time you went to a funeral, the next time you wept, the next time you worried about your job or anxious about anything in this life. It would completely change your outlook on life. It would free you from the fear of the uncertainty of this life.
For those of us who do believe the resurrection, imagine if we were 5times or 10times more sure of it. It would change us too.
The resurrection is evidence, that God is not done with this world, that God is not going to leave this world as it is. Jesus’s resurrection is the beginning of this reality. It shows us that God is going to restore and renew this world. A world without viruses, without sickness, without pain, without death. Everything that is sad, everything that is uncertain, will become untrue.
We think heaven is in the clouds – boring! The Bible says that God is going to renew and restore this material world and it’s going to be better than you and I can ever imagine! Look at the words this psalm uses to describe this future, abundant joy! Eternal pleasure!
That’s good news of the resurrection. That’s the future Jesus has secured for those who put their trust in Him.
I pray that this psalm gives you assurance through the uncertainties of life, that there is a God who cares for you and loves you. He’s proven that in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Run to Him! Get excited about the future! Know that no matter how uncertain life might seem, when our trust is placed in Jesus, He will not let you be shaken.
Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again! Coming off Easter where we’ve just remembered Great Friday. An Easter where we’ve just celebrated: Christ is risen. It seems only fitting to ask: what’s next? Answer: We’re waiting for Jesus to return.
A survey was done amongst some American Christians a few years back. And of those Christians, 28% said Jesus probably won’t return and 14% said “they don’t know. That means 42% of Christians have no certainty that Jesus is may coming back! Wow!
Today is about correcting that, about ensuring that 100% of us here today, whether you’re inside or outside the circle of faith. That just as certain that Jesus died on that cross and just as definite that Jesus walked out of that tomb. Today, we can order our lives with the same certainty, that Jesus is coming back again. That’s where the timeline of our world is heading. No ifs. No buts.
Now if you’re looking for an exact date on the when Christ will return and if you’re like me, and you live life based on your diary. You know, if it’s not in the diary, it’s not happening. Well then I’ve got bad news, the Bible refuses to give us a date.
As a pastor, it’s my responsibility to guard you from error and false teaching. So, anyone who claims to know exactly when, the time or day, when Jesus is coming back, anyone who says they’ve had a personal revelation when Jesus is coming back, then don’t believe a word of it!
That Christ will return, that’s a certainty. The exact date, that remains a mystery. Take a look at Acts 1, Jesus has just got out of the grave. He’s hanging around, eating with the apostles. Telling them they’re about to receive the Holy Spirit. They question Jesus - now that you’ve died and risen again. Is it time for the kingdom of Israel to be restored?
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. ~Acts 1:7 (NIV)
The apostles, and by extension us, are well and truly put in our place. Jesus says: “you’re on a need-to-know basis. And you don’t need to know” Not even Jesus himself, when he was here on earth knew. When asked when he would come back…
“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. ~Matthew 24:36 (NIV)
But what the Father without a doubt does want us to know, what he has told us is the following:
Now, it’s worth emphasising that the same Jesus who went up into heaven, he’s the same Jesus who’s coming back. Back in Acts 1, after Jesus has ascended to heaven the crowd’s still standing there, they have probably got sore necks from all their sky-gazing, then two angels appear saying this.
“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” ~Acts 1:11 (NIV)
Back before corona, back when you could hop on a plane and travel overseas, Teresa and I went to Vietnam for a holiday. As you wander through the shops and markets, everyone’s selling the same stuff, it’s all fake brands and labels. So instead of Puma, it’s Ruma, Snoopy becomes Spoony, Dolce and Gabbana becomes Dolce and Banana. But all the shopkeepers, have this line you hear time and time again: “Same, same but Different”. It’s such a common phrase, I’ve seen a t-shirt with that same line across the front.
Well here in Acts 1:11, to borrow that Vietnamese phrase: When it comes to Jesus’ return, it’s “Same, same but different”.
The same Jesus who went into the tomb is the same Jesus who three days later, popped out again. That Jesus? He’s the same Jesus who’s coming back.
From other parts of the Bible, we know that, when Jesus returns it’ll be
When it comes to Jesus returning. It’s not a matter of IF, but when. Which then leads to our next question: why will Jesus return? Plenty of things will happen when Jesus returns but the one stand out thing we come across again and again in the Bible is this, when Jesus comes back, he will judge the living and the dead.
The resurrection of Jesus we celebrated last Sunday achieved many things. Death has been defeated, God comes good on his promise, hope has been restored, heaven is assured, eternity is on offer. Oh…and one other thing.
For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him [that is, Jesus] from the dead.” ~Acts 17:31 (NIV)
The resurrection was God’s rubber stamp, God’s way of saying that Jesus is God’s hand-picked judge.
Now I get that in our day and age, you may be thinking this today, this idea of judgment, is a tough pill to swallow. Siding with Jesus on this one doesn’t exactly make you the most popular person in the room. When I’m sharing Jesus with others, it’s so easy to sidestep judgment, to leave this heavy word out, I know I have before.
Whereas up until a decade or so ago, the most popular Bible verse was John 3.16. now it’s become Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.
Judgement has become a dirty word and I suspect, a big part of it is as that Matthew verse is picking up. We have this feeling, that when it comes to judgment we think ‘what gives you the right to stand in judgment over me?’ Well, that’s why we need to hear the heavy word directly from Jesus. Hear Jesus directly, for yourself, from our Bible reading Jesus says
Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, ~John 5:22 (NIV)
And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. ~John 5:27 (NIV)
It’s pretty clear isn’t it that underneath Jesus’ name is his job-title and it reads “Judge”. Not even God the Father has that next to his name He gives it to his Son.
From John 5 we can also discover a couple of other things about the nature of Jesus’s judgment. First, being in the grave, being cremated doesn’t excuse you from judgment.
“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. ~John 5:28-29 (NIV)
When Jesus returns, every single person will face judgment. If Jesus is powerful enough to move people from death to life spiritually now you can be sure he’s powerful enough to make the physically dead alive again for final judgment. Judgment awaits both the living and the dead.
Second, this is a judgment for both believer and unbeliever, no one is off limits. That’s what verse 29 is referring to by those who do good and those who do evil, Jesus is not saying that if you’ve done at least 51% of good things in your life, that you’ll scrape through and survive. No! God’s pass mark is 100% and it’s a pass mark that you and I time and time again fall short of.
That’s essentially what sin is. Sin isn’t just murdering someone or swearing, it’s to miss the mark.
Now if you’ve been listening carefully, you would have heard Jesus say in verse 29 that those who have done good will rise to live. So, doing good deeds gets you into heaven after all!
Well, in the context of John, the whole reason why John writes John, is to drive us to the one and only good thing we can do.
Believe that Jesus is really is who he says he is, that he really is the way, the truth, and the life. That he and he alone is God’s way to God. Believe he is the good shepherd, the one who has laid down his life for the sake of his sheep. That he is the bread of life, that Jesus is the one who will truly satisfy. That we will never thirst or hunger in our souls thanks to his life-giving message.
Third thing we learn from John 5, is that Jesus’ judgment is perfectly just.
By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. ~John 5:30 (NIV)
There’s no hint of unfairness whatsoever here! And that’s because there’s no power trips, no egos, He judges justly in order to put a smile on his Father’s face, the Son does exactly what he’s told.
Whereas the best our judges can do is deliver a verdict “Beyond Reasonable Doubt”. With Jesus as judge, it’ll be with complete and utter justice, he’ll give each and everyone of us what we deserve, there’ll be no missing evidence, no dodgy decisions, no split juries, no hung juries. Jesus himself will be judge, jury and executioner.
I remember hearing the story of a Christian being shown a house by a real estate agent and during the conversation, the agent said that line we’ve all heard. You know, that there’s only two things that are certain in life, death and taxes. Well, the Christian, quick as a flash, replies ‘There’s three, Death, Taxes. and accountability.’ When Jesus returns, accountability will fully and finally be carried out.
Now you ask any person, and they’ll all agree that accountability is a good thing. It’s why, as painful and shocking as they are, we need to have Royal Commissions, to shine the light on wrongs that have been horribly committed, on injustices and to make amends. It’s one of the roles of the media, to bring dodgy, corrupt dealings to the attention of the public.
We want to see accountability, at the end of the day, it’s a good thing. Deep down, it’s what we all want because we still live in a world where criminals might get let out of jail early. Older siblings get away with stuff behind their parents back [Can you tell I’m a younger sibling?] That person who cheated you at work might get away with it. But with God, on that judgment day, nothing escapes his gaze. He’s the one who’s in control, he is fair. What a good God, for him to judge is the loving thing to do.
Can you imagine life without a judgment day? That we all went through life, you’re born, you live, you die, that’s it. Whether you love or hate, whether you stole or gave, it makes no difference whatsoever, it’d all be meaningless. Trying imagining how our society would function without any accountability. We’d be in complete and utter chaos wouldn’t we! See I for one am glad there IS a judgment day because it reflects God’s very own character. He holds people accountable! Everyone is answerable to how they’ve treated the God who knit them together in their mother’s womb.
Now there’s one more thing that we discover in this John passage. Jesus hasn’t just been given authority to judge, He’s also been given authority to give the gift of eternal life.
“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. ~John 5:24 (NIV)
I celebrated my birthday yesterday and you get to my age and the presents begin to dry up, but that’s OK. Gifts aren’t a big love language of mine. I mean, sure I’ll happily take them but I’m more of an acts of service kind a guy. Having said that, plenty of awesome gifts have come my way over my lifetime. One of my favourites was a plastic cricket set I got for Christmas when I was about 8. Man - my brother and I used that pretty much everyday for the next few summers. But let’s face it, nothing, even if you put all past, present and future gifts, birthday, Christmas, Chinese New Year, Anniversaries, put all of them together and they still won’t get anywhere close to the gift Jesus gives.
It doesn’t matter what country you’re from, whether you finished school. No matter what your past is, no matter how good OR bad it is, Jesus gives you and I the gift of eternal life. The great news is we are spared from getting what we deserve on judgment day, the pressure’s off, we don’t have to clean ourselves up first, to make ourselves good enough and acceptable to God first. As far as God’s concerned, it’s come as you are.
I remember asking a man, “what makes you think you’ll be OK when you meet Jesus” And his answer was “I haven’t done anything to offend the big fella. I think I’ve treated him the way he wants to be treated” See this man had failed to grasp how it’s not about what he’s done. No - it’s about what Jesus has done for us. If you could save yourself, have a think about it, why would God let his own Son die the most brutal of deaths? Why?
Now the big question I want to tackle last is the big 'so what' question. Jesus is returning... so what?
You may have heard of the book, 7 habits, habit 2 is, begin with the end in mind.
Martin Luther, the great Reformer expresses it better. He says: “Live as if Christ died yesterday. Rose this morning. And is coming back tomorrow”
That’s not a bad place to start because AS you and I know, we live in an uncertain world. The past year and a bit has taught us that things can change very, very, quickly. Cancellations, Snap lockdowns, Borders closing, Delays.
Questions like: Will I still have a job? Will I get a diagnosis I don’t want to hear? Will my baby make it to full term? The anxiety, the uncertainty can be at times too much! But it is worth asking, if you knew Jesus was coming back at 8:54 tonight, what would change?
Whenever someone gets a serious medical diagnosis with a short timeframe to live, the doctors will always use the language of “get your affairs in order” So, let me ask you, are your affairs in order for when the Lord Jesus returns? Because he could well return at 8:54 tonight, it could happen before or it could happen after.
Now it’s worth saying, the one thing you must get right before Jesus returns. Ideally ASAP. Is to make sure you know where you stand with Jesus. Remember that Acts 17 verse from the start? Where I said Jesus’ resurrection is God’s rubber stamp for Jesus to be the judge of all the world. Well, the sentence before that one says this:
In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. ~Acts 17:30 (NIV)
Hear the command from God. A command for your good. Repent, come clean and stop turning your back on God. Instead, it’s time to take the hand of Jesus and let him call the shots in your life.
Repentance is a conscious, deliberate commitment to stop living your way and start living God’s way. That invitation of repentance won’t hang around forever. It’s got a use-by date. The only reason why Jesus hasn’t already returned is so you could take the hand of Jesus.
I repented in December 1997 and boy, am I glad that God was patient and Jesus didn’t return in November 1997.
Friends, the two best days in your life are the day you know you’re not a Christian and the day you become one. I’d encourage you to try and merge those two days into one!
Now if you’re someone who has done that big R - repentance. How does Jesus’ return impact you tomorrow? Well, on the one hand, we wait.
We’re waiting for the blessed hope — the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. ~Titus 2:13 (NIV)
Waiting is such a central part of life isn’t it. We wait for:
I suck at waiting, but the waiting that is God-glorifying. The waiting that is God-honouring, is expecting and is shaping our lives, in readiness for Jesus to return.
Those of you who’ve been in my small group will know that my regular prayer point revolves around screen time discipline. Where one scroll turns into 20 minutes of my life I won’t get back. Where the Youtube vortex sucks you in so that next minute you know, it’s midnight. I don’t know about you, but I feel the weight of what John Piper says:
John Piper — 'One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time.'
Instead of screen-time regret and guilt, I want to redeem that time by pursuing what Paul says “is better by far”. That is, craving to be with Jesus.
On Monday just gone, a number of us celebrated the wedding of Lydia and Daniel. It was my very first Assyrian wedding and it was fantastic. 10 years I’ve been at MBM and I finally got to see an Assyrian reception and man, it was loud. Like ringing in your ears loud!
It made me think about Teresa and I leading up to our wedding. Both of us, independent of each other, remember thinking to ourselves “Jesus, please don’t come back yet because I want to get married first!” It sounds stupid I know, but really, that was a litmus test for us. We were shaped more by the pleasures of this world than the pleasures of the world to come. We were looking forward to the union between Dan and Teresa more than the union between Christ and his church.
I’ve got plenty of things on my bucket list and I suspect you do too. The question is, deep down, is that what we spend our time daydreaming about. Is that what we’re saving our money for? Is that what we find satisfaction in? Getting as many of those things ticked off the bucket list?
So what does waiting well look like? Well, it’s not my place to prescribe what that looks like in your life. I’ve shared some of my struggles. My encouragement would be to chat with those who know you. Maybe ask a trusted friend to ask: what do they observe in your life? What are the sort of things that come off your lips?
But one thing I can tell you is what waiting well doesn’t look like. It doesn’t look like sitting back kicking the feet up waiting for heaven to roll around, spending these last days - with little or no interest in living a life worthy of the Lord.
In the Christian life, sure it’s come as you are but it’s not stay as you are. So pursue growth, get to know the God who loves you, who died for a better you.
The fact you can call the judge of all the earth your dad means you’ve been set free to serve him. Not from a place of guilt or from trying to win him over, you can begin a flurry of good works out of thankfulness for what he’s done.
Those of you who’ve been along to our Belonging, you will have heard of us talk about how as a church, we see ourselves like the lifeboat. The coastguard rather than the ocean cruise liner where you plonk down your $1,000 bucks and pig out on all you can eat buffets. No - for us waiting well means that by 2025, by God’s grace, we’d love to see 1,500 here at Rooty Hill growing in faithfulness and fruitfulness.
Under God, our big prayer is to see 1,000 new disciples won for Jesus from among the nations of Sydney’s West. So far, we’re sitting on just over 400. And God willing, with MBM Parramatta kicking off in May, we’re hoping to see a new bunch move from death to life.
But for the majority of you who’ll still be churching here in Rooty Hill, this is an opportunity for you too. To step into so far 50 or so gaps that will be created by Parramatta. And that’s not including the additional 50 opportunities that are already there.
And the third goal is to bless other churches and their leaders and what an encouragement it was to hear - back on our 30th anniversary - about the way Sandy’s kid’s ministry has been such a blessing to other churches - both here and abroad.
Now Jesus may well return between now and 2025. That’s fine.
At the end of the day, we’re simply expressing God-desired outcomes. It’s only by God’s grace we’ll see these things happen. But one things for sure we’re not going to sit around on our hands. We’re not going to die wondering, we’re not going to have regrets. Instead - we’ll wait for our blessed hope. Because we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing. All thanks to a most-blessed God and Savior, Lord Jesus.
Happy Good Friday just doesn’t work. I want to start an ad campaign to change the name, like Coon cheese is now Cheer Cheese. I would like to start my own Ad campaign to change the name from Good Friday. Christianity is the only faith that celebrates the death of its founder—That is weird! It's like saying it was a good execution!
It's been called Good Friday since the 13th century, that day when Jesus life was cut short at only 33 yrs. Mohammed the father of Islam lived to 63 years, Confucius lived to 72 years, Budda lived to 80 years and Moses lived to 120 years. These are good innings but Jesus barely made his mid-thirties, he was cut short in the prime of his life. When others were paying the mortgage and having kids Jesus is snuffed out as a 30 something.
So who is going to back me? Let's change the name of Good Friday, there seems nothing good about Good Friday. Jesus had already said that no one is good except God alone. This first good Friday proves the point why we humans are not so good. Humans first inclination when he met God face to face was to kill him.
There are 3 explicit motives for why people wanted to kill Jesus and none were good. Judas out of greed handed Jesus over to the Priests for loose change (Matt 26:14-16). The Priests out of envy handed Jesus over to Pilate, the Roman Governor (Matt 27:18). Pilate out of fear handed Jesus over to the soldiers who then crucified him (Matt 27:26). Greed, Fear and Envy. Not a great moment in humanity.
“Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, knowing it was out of self interest (envy) that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. ~Mark 15:9-10 (NIV)
When given a choice between setting a terrorist or Jesus free they choose the Terrorist Barabbas, out of Envy, that pain is caused by the success of others. From the beginning the religious leaders try to kill Jesus. They couldn’t stand Jesus success. As one person put it, “Whenever a friend of mine succeeds a little part of me dies inside”
Even when Jesus was hung on a cross they couldn’t help themselves but put the boot in:
In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! ~Mark 15:31 (NIV)
If Jesus success caused them pain, now Jesus crucifixion will cause them much pleasure. The German word for envy is Schadenfreude, malicious joy. You see it at funniest home videos or when Soldiers are shaming new recruits. Nothing compared to what the soldiers did to Jesus
The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him. ~Mark 15:16-20 (NIV)
The greater the shame the greater the pain the greater the joy.
If the internet was around it would have been an instant YouTube hit, add to that pain the way one of 12 betrayed him, one of 12 denied him and the rest abandoned him. And all Jesus did was go around doing good.
Friends there is a good case for calling it Black Friday, the thorns and nails, the spitting and scorn, the beltings and the bashing, the whips with leather straps tipped with pieces of bone which would claw into the back of Jesus and then rip of his flesh. Then the spear that GUTS Jesus like a fish.
U2 wrote a song, 'Sunday bloody Sunday', about the violence in the Irish war of independence so why not call it at least 'Friday Bloody Friday'?
So why has the church so stubbornly called it Good Day? For 3 good reason
At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon ~Mark 15:33 (NIV)
The average eclipse lasts for 7.5 minutes, here for 3 long hours, from noon to 3pm, as Jesus hung on that cross, total darkness covered the land, just as God said it would happen.
The Prophet Amos predicted it 750 years before.
“In that day,” declares the Sovereign LORD, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight…I will make that time like mourning for an only son and the end of it like a bitter day. ~Amos 8:9,10b (NIV)
This darkness was just one of the 300 prophecies being fulfilled in Jesus life, death and resurrection. As someone put it, God switched the light off because he could not bear to see what we
humans did to his one and only Son whom he loved. God was mourning his only son and yet Darkness is also code for God's judgment.
Jesus often described Hell as the place of utter darkness, not a party in sight. I remember visiting the Kelly Caves in Kangaroo
Island and when the guide switched the light off in the cave it was so dark that I could not see my hands let alone anybody else. Even though my family were right next to me, they could have been billion miles away. So alone…
This is what Jesus said Hell is like, lost in total darkness, Christ at the cross tasting the horror of hell for us. It was Good Friday because, get this, judgment for our sins is now falling on Jesus instead. Like a lightning rod Gods anger was deflected away
from us and onto him. So maybe good Friday isn't such a bad name after all.
And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). ~Mark 15:34 (NIV)
Are these doubts? Did Jesus have 2nd thoughts? No! Jesus is quoting a prophecy by King David in Psalm 22 - written1000 years before. A prophecy predicting crucifixion before crucifixion was invented. The opening of that psalm is, My God, My God why have you forsaken me. So we ask: did he?
Why did God the Father abandon God the Son. Jesus was not imaging it. The only relationship that never had a beginning now comes to an abrupt halt.
God the Father who said at Jesus baptism “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased” Is now saying nothing, now doing nothing. So why doesn’t God step in? Why doesn’t Jesus leap off the cross? He could have at any time, the answer is found earlier in Mark
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” ~Mark 10:45 (NIV)
Jesus gave his life to pay a price to set us free. Many of us are carrying a debt, some mortgages, some credit cards and some mobile phones. Human sin incurs a debt to God, we owed a debt that we would take eternity to pay off, in that place that Jesus calls utter darkness. Here, Jesus is paying our debt in full. My sentence in hell, your sentence of hell is paid in full by
Jesus as he hangs in my place. That is why its good Friday and if we were going to change the name, it should be Great Friday.
In fact some Church traditions call it great Friday. If the question is ‘My God My God why have you abandoned me’
The answer is for you…God abandoned his Son so that he wont have to abandon you. Jesus choose to be forsaken so that you don’t have to be. This is as personal as it gets…
Vicky Hutchinson was a single parent with 2 young boys and a member of our church. She developed a tumor in her uterus about the size of a tennis ball. For two years she had a barrage of operations and endured a lot of pain, she once said to my wife Sandy ‘Of all the prayers I've prayed during the last 2 years I'm so glad there is one prayer I will never have to pray
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me’ She knew that someone had to pay for her sin and that someone was Jesus.
Vicky trusted that Jesus had tasted hell at the cross in her place, she knew, she had confidence, as she faced her death.
That is why when we buried her it was a sad day but a good funeral. She trusted in Jesus who died on Good Friday.
With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. ~Mark 15:37-38 (NIV)
The curtain in the temple that had separated God from his people, this curtain that reminded God's people that we all were unfit to stand in His presence. Notice it was torn from top to bottom, God did it. At the exact time that Jesus dies and sins are paid for God says now and only now can you come to me. Now and only now are your sins paid for. Now and only now through my Son is your debt paid. Heavens gates are open wide to receive any who would come. Come one and come all but you must come through Jesus alone.
I go on to Facebook about 2 times a year, I discover I have a list who wanted to be my friends and I realise that you can reject someone in two ways, you can say NO, get lost or you can just ignore the invite.
Jesus is God's son who died in your place and he is calling for you, to let him serve you, to let him die for you, to let him rule over you, to let him set you free. That is faith, trust him that he tasted hell for you so that you need never have to say ‘God why have you forsaken me’ Rather you will hear ‘Welcome home’.
Have you noticed that God seems to choose the wrong people to advance his kingdom, the worst being Jacob. Now the questions is, which of Jacobs 12 sons will provide the seed of Abraham, who will destroy the devil and bless the world.
It can’t be Rueben, Jacobs first born because he slept with his fathers wife, so he is out. The 2nd and 3rd sons were engaged in mass slaughter, so they are out. The next in line, son no 4, Judah, well he seems another unlikely candidate, he has already sold his own brother Joseph into slavery.
In fact, if you were putting a bet on who would carry the line for the saviour of the world it has to be Joseph, the only decent one in the family, but Joseph’s story is interrupted by todays tragic passage. Don’t get confused, Jacob is the father of Judah
At that time, Judah left his brothers and went down to stay with a man of Adullam named Hirah ~Genesis 38:1 (NIV)
While Joseph was forced to leave his family, Judah chooses to leave his family. He then adds to his sin by marrying a Canaanite woman. The Canaanites worshipped other gods, and encouraged child sacrifices. Judah is given 3 sons with 3 great names. The first is my favourite, "you will call him 'Er'", the second Onan, the third Shelah (he must have thought he was having an Aussie daughter.)
Then Judah finds Canaanite women for his sons
Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death. ~Genesis 38:6-7 (NIV)
We are not told what Er's did but it was serious enough for God to put him to death. It was expected that the nearest relative would marry their dead brother's wife. Who is glad they live in the new covenant?
This would allow the name of the dead brother to pass on. So, the 2nd brother Onan reluctantly marries Tamar. He has sex with Tamar and then withdraws before he could make her pregnant. Rather than me explain - lets read it
Then Judah said to Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfil your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother.” But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother. ~Genesis 38:8-9 (NIV)
Its called Coitus interruptus, he got the sex without the responsibility. He failed to fulfil his duty to his dead brother.
So there was no doubt that he was sinning
What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death also. ~Genesis 38:10 (NIV)
With two dead brothers who were both married to Tamar, Judah was afraid to give his 3rd Son for fear that he too would die. Did he fear that this woman was cursed? Did he not realise the husbands were the problem?
Elisabeth Elliott, a famous missionary, outlived her first two husbands and married to number 3, she joked that it was a dangerous thing to be married to her.
Judah withholds his son from Tamar and so abandoned her
Judah then said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Live as a widow in your father’s household until my son Shelah grows up.” For he thought, “He may die too, just like his brothers.” So Tamar went to live in her father’s household. ~Genesis 38:11 (NIV)
Judah's fear stopped him from doing the right thing. Again fear fed by not trusting God promises.
• He failed to take care of Tamar
• He lied to Tamar, promising his 3rd son in marriage
• He shames her by sending her back to her family
• He abandons her by REFUSING to give his last son
Our focus is now on Tamar. She is forced to takes things into her own hands, so she disguises herself as a prostitute to get her father-in-law to provide her with a child. Desperate people do desperate things,
there is a difference between a poor person stealing and a rich person stealing, its why courts have extenuating circumstances.
Her plan had to assume that Judah had a custom of going to prostitutes and Judah does not realise that he has had sex with his daughter in law whom he abandoned. He didn’t want to give his 3rd Son to Tamar but he now ends up giving his semen and makes her pregnant. Judah didn’t have a goat to pay her for the sex so he gives his chord, seal and staff as a pledge. These are like his ID and credit cards. Tamar does not want the goat she wants JUSTICE and 3 months later, Judah finds out that Tamar, his daughter in law is pregnant.
About three months later Judah was told, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar is guilty of prostitution, and as a result she is now pregnant.” Judah said, “Bring her out and have her burned to death!” ~Genesis 38:24 (NIV)
In a wave of self righteousness he orders that she put to death.
Its hard to know what is worse, that he wants her dead or the hypocrisy behind it. Bring her out and have her burned to death for doing the very thing he had just done. This is the ultimate version of take the log out of your own eye. Now Tamar doesn’t publicly shame her father in law, she returns his staff, cord and seal and she privately makes it clear to Judah that he is the father
As she was being brought out, she sent a message to her father-in-law. “I am pregnant by the man who owns these,” she said. And she added, “See if you recognize whose seal and cord and staff these are.” ~Genesis 38:25 (NIV)
The seal, cord, and staff function like DNA testing, proving he is the DAD. At this point Judah could have still used his place of power to deny it. Notice his response!
Judah recognized them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not sleep with her again. ~Genesis 38:26 (NIV)
Notice that its an immediate confession and its public confession, “She is more righteous than I, it’s a complete confession. It literally read “She is righteous rather than I”
It is a true repentance because we read that he did not sleep with her again.
We must never forget, whenever hypocrites and the sexual immoral humble themselves and repent they will receive mercy from God. The apostle Paul himself was the self confessed worst of sinners and he was an example to all of God patience.
I get cancel culture in its desire to face the injustice. It is so right to not make heroes out of villains. But what is missing is a lack of grace—no apology is good enough. And justice without mercy drives sin underground. Everyone is too afraid to own up to past failures and we end up with a new brand of secular Phariseeism—where everyone is giving the right answers from the wrong heart. Driven by fear not by love and service.
Training people to trust in their own righteousness and looking down on everybody else.
At this point you can’t but not think of sinless Jesus, when a woman caught in adultery was brought to him, she was about to be stoned, notice the man is not brought before Jesus. Jesus said “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”
And we are told that every male beginning with the older men left. Its hard for sinners to throws stones at other sinners. And yet adultery is a serious matter, and so Jesus is clear with her
“Go and sin no more.” God is the original feminist
Its worth saying that this passage doesn't teach on either contraception or masturbation, it doesn't teach that I should marry my sister-in-law if my brother dies but this story does anticipate a number of issues, it serves as a warning.
It anticipates how the tribe of Judah will follow the sin of Judah and flirt with Canaanite culture and how Israel will neglect the powerless.
Your rulers are rebels, ….They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow’s case does not come before them. ~Isaiah 1:22-23 (NIV)
It also anticipates how God will judge the ones who go to prostitutes more severely than the prostitutes themselves
“I will not punish your daughters when they turn to prostitution, nor your daughters-in-law when they commit adultery, because the men themselves consort with harlots and sacrifice with shrine prostitutes—a people without understanding will come to ruin! ~Hosea 4:14 (NIV)
We know that sex workers have higher rates of sexual abuse and higher rates of drug use to numb the pain. Never forget that most prostitutes are victims of male sin.
When I started MBM, I was on my way back from bible study when I turned down a street and nearly killed a drugged prostitute who was coming out of a car. I told my mum I nearly killed a prostitute. She said, “Ray you should have taken her in the car and told her about Jesus.” I said “Mum probably not a good look for a minister to be found with a prostitute in the car” But I loved my mums heart, it was Jesus heart.
So when you see prostitutes either male or female, pray for them and remember they are only there because of those who pay for their service. There was a time we had some of women at MBM in a ministry to sex workers in the 14 brothels at St. Marys. That was a good ministry, but again we are reminded that God's purposes through Abraham’s line will reign supreme whether God is working with the obedience of Joseph or the disobedience of a Judah
But by the grace of God, we do see the beginnings of a transformed life in Judah. Judah will end up protecting his father from further grief by protecting his youngest brother Benjamin, he will do that in a Christ like way by offering to take blame and the place of his younger brother and paying whatever price is necessary.
We might have expected the line of promise to follow righteous Joseph but in God's kingdom the first will be last and last first.
Toward the end of Genesis Jacob makes this extraordinary prophecy over his 4th son - Judah
Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness—who dares to rouse him? The sceptre will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his. ~Genesis 49:9b-10 (NIV)
From the tribe of Judah will come the lion of Judah, the one who will come will receive the obedience of the nations, so the one who will defeat Satan will be the son of Eve – human. The son of Abraham - one nation – Jew. The son of Judah - one tribe. The son of Perez - King David. God is narrowing down our options as to who is the coming one.
Fast forward 2000years and this explains why Matthew's gospel begins the way it does. At first it seems like a boring way to start a brilliant gospel but lets look again
This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, ~Matthew 1:1-3 (NIV)
Jesus doesn’t turn up in a vacuum He is in the line of promise, but its not just Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah and Perez who are mentioned, Tamar is honoured in Jesus line. She is one of four women mentioned in Jesus ancestry, the surprising thing is that Sarah or Rachel or Rebekah are not.
The four women mentioned are tainted in some way:
While the Saviour had to come from the Jews, He is the saviour for the world. This Jesus has come to invite Jew and non-Jew,
Male and Female, Sinner and Saint.
’For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” ~Matthew 9:13 (NIV)
Judah may have abandoned Tamar, the Lion of Judah, Jesus, abandons no man and no woman, no sinner and no foreigner, who come to him.
Years ago a woman came up to me after the Youth Convention talks at Katoomba. She was in my friend's bible study and she was a former drug user and prostitute. She had gotten pregnant 8 times and 8 times she had aborted her children. But I knew I was talking to a daughter of Abraham and a child of God, a woman that Jesus came to save, just like me, a woman who needed no more grace than I did, a woman forgiven in Christ with as much assurance.
That is why the gospel of our Lord Jesus is truly good news. And that is why we call it Good Friday, take the opportunity to invite friends to our Easter services so that they too may hear of this saviour. Take hold of this good news yourself.
God always chooses the wrong people to advance his kingdom then makes us right with Him by trusting in the promises of God.
Have you ever felt like you’re a victim of your circumstances? Like things around you seem to be happening to you and God seems to be so distant from your experience?
Around the time Sally and I started dating she got hit with a lifelong fatigue illness called narcolepsy and everything was stripped away from her. She had to quit uni, she had to quit her job, she couldn’t serve at Church, she could hardly spend time with friends, or even her boyfriend. Narcolepsy affects your protein breakdown so your body doesn’t produce energy like a normal person and they describe it as irresistible sleepiness!
Her body would just go into shut down mode! Heavy eyes and lead body, at the time we didn’t know what it was and it was 3 years until she got a diagnosis.
In just a few months, everything was taken away! everything became a struggle! While she laid in bed most of the day for months on end the both of us were constantly wondering what life would look like and questioning God asking: Why? What are you doing? Why has this happened to Sal? To us?
God do you know what you’re doing? We want to serve you with our whole lives... “How is this going to help”?
I imagine you’ve asked those question before too… God why… Why is this happening? What are you doing? Do you know what you’re doing? Those are the questions hovering over the next 10 chapters of Genesis as we follow the life story and struggles of Joseph.
Joseph’s story is so different to his Father, Jacob’s. Jacob was a scum bag, deceiving people and paying the price for his dodgy actions, Joseph on the other hand doesn’t seem to do anything to deserve what he gets!
What Joseph’s story helps us see is that when life is turned upside down God is still in control and he’s still good. So, let’s meet Joseph. In Chapter 37 we meet a 17-year-old Joseph, he’s 1 of 12 brothers. He’s the great grandson of Abraham. He’s his Father’s favourite, born to his father’s favourite wife Rachel.
His brothers are jealous of him for being daddy’s favourite and they hate him! And even more so after he tells them he’s had a couple of dreams about them bowing down to him some time in the future. So the brothers sell him off to foreigners and he finds himself sold as a slave in Egypt to a guy named Potiphar who was the captain of Pharaoh’s guard. Then in Chapter 39 we see that even though Joseph’s far from his family, God’s not far from him. In verse 2 we read that the Lord was with Joseph and He blesses everything he does!
When his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned…with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate. ~Genesis 37:3-4 & 5b (NIV)
Now having that kind of power and status usually results in people making bad moral decisions, right. Abusing their role and stomping all over others. Power messes with people’s morals, but not Joseph…
In verse 6b -12 His boss’ wife notices that Joseph is quite the handsome man and day after day she’s calling him to come to bed with her! Temptation is not only knocking at his door it’s tugging at his robe. But Joseph won’t do it! He stays faithful to God.
But he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” ~Genesis 39:8-9 (NIV)
Someone else may have used that same argument to justify doing it, but he refuses! And this is such a great example of not letting our circumstances become excuses for us to justify sin or excuse it as if it was OK because of our situation! If anyone had an excuse it was poor Joseph! But no way! He recognises that sin is always sin no matter how rough the situation! and he cops the consequences for being faithful!
In verses13-20 she falsely accuses him of assaulting her and he gets thrown in prison by Potiphar. Not Fair!! Faithfulness has consequences and it can leave us feeling very alone & rejected. But Joseph’s not alone
…But while Joseph was there in the prison, the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. ~Genesis 39:20-22 (NIV)
Then, in Chapter 40, while he’s in jail, God helps him interpret 2 other prisoners dreams and things happen just as he said, one rises back up into his former position as Pharaoh’s cupbearer, but sadly, the other one got impaled… yowch!
Joseph asks the cupbearer ‘when you get back out there, remember me and get me out of here! because I’m in here unfairly!’ And you start to think that things might look up for Joseph… wrong!!
The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him. ~Genesis 40:23 (NIV)
Then the next verse tells us how long for…
When two full years had passed ~Genesis 41:1a (NIV)
2 whole years - 2 years later!!!! he finally remembers Joseph!!
What happens is, in Chapter 41, Pharaoh has a dream and can’t find anyone to interpret it, the cupbearer, feeling very guilty, finally remembers Joseph. So Pharaoh calls Joseph out and asks him about his dream and Joseph says to Pharaoh the same thing he said to the others.
“I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.” ~Genesis 41:16 (NIV)
Such a great recognition of God’s power to witness isn’t it! We declare the praises of God and the gospel but to God be the glory!
The interpretation is that there’s going to be 7 years of plenty and then 7 years of severe famine! In verse 31 He says the famine will be so bad that no one will even remember the years of plenty!!
Then Joseph gives Pharaoh some advice about it… Find a wise person to put in charge of the land, set leaders over the people to collect food while we’re in the time of plenty so that you can store it away for the years of famine. Pharaoh loves the idea! Turns to his guys and says where can we find someone like Joseph, who is wise and has the spirit of the living God? Oh, hang on - Joseph! You’re the guy!
Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.” ~Genesis 41:39-40 (NIV)
He sets him up as ruler over the whole land of Egypt! Talk about going from the bottom to the top!
I once represented NSW at a national athletics carnival! I felt quite important! My picture made the papers, I came dead last! There was no one else in the picture because they were so far in front of me! I let NSW down - sorry!
Becoming Pharaoh’s top man was massive!! Rameses II is known in the history books as the greatest Pharaoh, the wealthiest and the most powerful. Nine other Pharaoh’s after him named themselves Rameses. He had over 100 children of his own. For Joseph to become the ruler of all the land under him was to have more power than any king, queen, president or prime-minister you or I have ever known! It was ridiculous! And if you want to know you’ve made it in life - this is how you know.
He had him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command, and people shouted before him, “Make way!” ~Genesis 41:43 (NIV)
So during the time of plenty, Joseph stored food, so much so it was uncountable! And when it all ran out in the famine, people came crying to Pharaoh who said: “Go to Joseph and do whatever he tells you…"
It’s been a journey of rejection, injustice, betrayal, suffering, now risen to the top. Then in Chapter 42 Joseph’s dreams come true! The famine is so bad, that it’s spread to where Joseph’s family are, and Jacob tells his sons, Joseph’s brothers, to go to Egypt for food. When they arrive there, Joseph’s dreams literally come true! They all bow down to Joseph! As The Lord of the land, but they don’t know it’s him…
Joseph recognises them, but they don’t recognise him! This is now 22 years later! After they sold him…
So, while He has them right in his hands… Oh the temptation for revenge… I mean - What would you want to do with them…
Of all the things he could do to them… with his power… he takes the opportunity to test them to see if they’ve repented for how they treated him. What he really wants to know is have they learned to value their family, more than their ego or their money. And so he puts them through a number of tests over the next few chapters… And through those tests, he gets to see that they actually have changed…
You see through all this seemingly random stuff, God has been working in all of them…The brothers changed from wanting to kill Joseph out of envy , to now being willing to offer their own life in place of one of their brothers’.
And Joseph has also grown - Here’s this little dibber dobber, younger sibling, father’s favourite being given responsibility time and time again, over masses of people to learn what it is to be responsible for the good of others! God has been actively working in all of their lives! Through all that evil and hardship.
All this brings Joseph to tears and he finally reveals himself to them! And after Joseph tells them who he is, of all the things he could have said to them. Look what he does say! As he reflects on the bigger picture of what God has been doing in all their lives.
Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. ~Genesis 45:4-5 (NIV)
“So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt. ~ Genesis 45:8 (NIV)
Later on after his father Jacob dies, his brothers think Joseph might take the opportunity to repay them… he says to his brothers:
But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. ~Genesis 50:19-20 (NIV)
Joseph recognised the hand of God in all that happened… that he was never far away… never out of control… it was all according to plan.
Get this, Joseph’s whole journey happened to ensure God’s people were preserved so that His promise would continue.
And Especially the life of Judah, who as we see in chapter 50, is the one through whom the promised saviour would come - the Lord Jesus…
Jesus would himself leave his father’s home in heaven to go through his own journey of suffering. He too would be rejected and plotted against by his fellow Israelites, them wanting to kill him out of jealousy. He too would be given over by them into the hands of foreigners to be unjustly trialed, falsely accused and horrifically crucified. And all the way through, in any moment, he could have stopped, he could have rejected God’s plan for him, he could have turned away. But just as Joseph remained faithful under trial - he too kept his heart set on God - as he prayed in the garden - father, not my will but yours be done!
And just like when our lives are turned upside-down we can feel like God doesn’t know what he’s doing… when Jesus was put up on that cross - the son of God - the one they called Lord and Messiah - as he hung there - it looked like God had failed! The disciples would have been crying out in their hearts - God why have you let this happen… what are you doing?? Do you know what you’re doing…?
But through that great event - At the hands of evil men - God was bringing about the ultimate good! The salvation of the world! Praise be to our God!!
What seemed like an absolute catastrophe, was God’s great wisdom and power displayed, that you and I would have the opportunity to be forgiven and come to God for eternal life, eternal blessing! Forgiveness and hope for a future. Jesus fulfilled God’s unbreakable promise by breaking the power of death. They meant it for evil, but God meant it for Good, to bring about what is now being accomplished, the saving of many lives!
And friends it’s that great event we continually look back to, to make sense of things when our lives are in turmoil. When life’s upside-down and we feel like we’re hitting rock-bottom, it’s the cross that enables us to see that God knows exactly what he’s doing! And he hasn’t forgotten us.
In Romans 8:28 God tells us!
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son. ~Romans 8:28-29 (NIV)
He’s working all things so that we would become more and more like the Lord Jesus. More like God himself! And only God knows exactly what that takes! Is there any better thing to happen to us? Now WE may not have chosen the same path he chooses, but would you want to miss out on that outcome? No way!
God knows what it takes and he doesn’t make mistakes!
The great preacher Charles Spurgeon once put it this way.
“Remember this, had any other condition been better for you, than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there.”
In every single moment God is working on and in your life! Right now!!!! And in every other moment! He’s not waiting until you get that promotion or until your kids grow up or until you’re “ready” he’s not waiting for your marriage to get better, or your struggle or suffering to disappear! He is working on you at every moment through your journey of life! How comforting is that!
The tricky thing is that in the moment when we don’t know exactly what he’s doing in a particular situation it can be very hard to trust him and stay faithful… Am I right?
What’s your usual response in suffering? In the midst of it I think for most of us our first response is - God is punishing me!
He doesn’t care… He’s left me… He’s against me… does He know what he’s doing..? How could he do this to me / Let this happen to me…?
We think God’s against us so we turn against him because we fail to see the bigger picture…that God is working behind the scenes to bring about good, to preserve our lives, to grow us in some way, to cause us to be a blessing to someone else in his good timing…
In the darkest moments of Joseph’s life Genesis tells us that God was with him! And friends in our darkest moments God is never far away, but very present!
In the moment though, it can feel the opposite and part of that is because we don’t know exactly what he IS doing! That’s because He doesn’t explicitly tell us! So, in the moment, it’s almost impossible to know or understand what God might be doing through any particular circumstance…
It’s impossible… you can guess, you can ask others.. but we often just can’t know.. Until later! That’s where the blessing of hindsight comes in. It’s only in hindsight… where we can look back on a situation and reflect on what God was doing that we can say with any clarity - that’s what God was doing… This is what God has done…
He was working something up I could never have imagined!
I may never have done it that way or asked him to do it that way, but the way He did it was the best way it could have happened to get me to where I am today! God knows best!! Even when it doesn’t feel that way… Amen?
So the question is - in the moment - how do we stay faithful!
Remember The Cross. Remember that God works through wickedness, darkness and suffering to bring about ultimate Good! Remember Joseph’s story. Remember Romans 8:28.
Remember who God is and how he works.
God hasn’t turned away from us, but is actively present with us
1 Peter 5:7 - cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (NIV)
God has given you a big family here, utilise them.
Think of the most beautiful painting, or sculpture or scenery you’ve ever seen… God, the master crafter is working to make you more beautiful than that!
Sally and I celebrated our 9 year anniversary this week. 9 years ago we had no idea what God was working on in us when narcolepsy came knocking on her door. There were times we were crying out to God why’s and what for’s… and ways we didn’t respond very well to what God was doing. But now as we look back we can see some of the beauty of what he was creating in us. Stripping away our pride. Forcing us to empathise with weakness. Showing us who’s God. Reminding us in such a real and ongoing way - You are not Jesus - you need Jesus! And we thank God each day for that reminder.
Narcolepsy doesn’t go away, it’s with Sally for life. But she’s come to the profound point of saying - I praise God for giving me narcolepsy.
Now I’m sure each and every one of you have your own struggles you’re working through, but friends let me encourage you not to make conclusions too early about what God is doing in you in the moment and let the master crafter do his work - he’s creating in you something far greater than you could ever make by fighting against His work!
Trust him! He’s never left you and he knows exactly what He’s doing.
If the Australian classification board was issuing ratings on Genesis then today's passage is clearly an 'R' rated passage. This is a story of rape and revenge and as the last two weeks has shown, that is nothing new. Repeated allegations of rape in Parliament and largescale sexual abuse in Private schools. The bible is a window into our broken world.
This awful story begins with a young girl Dinah, daughter of Jacob, who goes out to visit the women of the land. Dinah, probably 15 years old, would tragically pay a heavy price for her innocent curiosity.
Now Dinah, the daughter Leah had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the women of the land. When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, the ruler of that area, saw her, he took her and raped her. ~Genesis 34:1-2 (NIV)
The name of the rapist is Shechem, he is a prince from one of those nations. He sees vulnerable Dinah and takes advantage of his power, literally it reads
..the prince of the land, saw her, he seized her and lay with her and humiliated her. ~Genesis 34:2 (NASB)
This shameful and degrading rape is viewed as evil. We are told that such a thing should not be done, I know for a number of you this is a painful reminder of how you have been grossly sinned against. Our heart goes out to you and please take up the offer to call Kim or someone you can trust.
If you follow Jesus, any consensual sex outside of marriage violates God purposes, any attempt to arouse another, by touching, sexting, foreplay, oral or anal sex is off limits.
But how much worse when sexual advances are not consensual. No is No whether outside of marriage or inside of marriage. Remember, a drunk or drugged person is not able to give consent and the law will show no mercy.
Dinah was no ordinary women, a daughter of Jacob whom God promised to protect. The promise is that God will curse those who curse his people. But the strange twist is that Shechem falls in love with the woman he rapes
His heart was drawn to Dinah, daughter of Jacob; he loved the young woman and spoke tenderly to her. ~Genesis 34:3 (NIV)
This cruel man forces himself on this young woman and then tries to speak tenderly to her. It rings of the cycle of abuse which swings from rape to romance. Shechem is used to getting what he wants as the favoured son of the ruler, he is constantly indulged. We don’t love our kids if we don’t say No to them, everyone pays the price for bad parenting.
To be fair there is a law given later to Israel, (Deuteronomy 22:28-29) that if a man rapes a woman, he is to marry her. It sounds horrendous but the purpose was for men to assume full responsibility for their sexual sin, to take care of the women they have abused and to protect her from the shame he caused her.
Isn't it good we live in the New Testament.
Some think Shechem is trying to right a wrong but he is a spoilt brat, he doesn’t confess his sin and he still treats Dinah like she is an object
And Shechem said to his father Hamor, “Get me this girl as my wife.” ~Genesis 34:4
Shechem does not know the God of Abraham, he has no sense that every person (male and female) is made in God's image.
But we do friends, the world unloads tons of porn and it objectifies humans, especially women, reducing them to objects.
If you drink from these stagnant pools long enough it feeds a spirit of demandingness. Pressure is put on loved one to engage in unwanted sexual experiences. When they refuse there are threats to withhold affection, they are manipulated by sulking until you get what you want and they even engage in spiritual abuse.
Disgraced evangelist Ravi Zacharius told his victims they should have sex with him because it’s a reward for him doing God's work.
Don’t let your sex life in marriage be driven by porn. We now run porn groups for men and women and it has helped so many be set free. Here is one lady’s story: "This small group of women allowed me to feel safe, and completely open on where I was and how I was struggling. I was no longer alone, and God had graciously provided me with a safe community to finally break down the root of my sins. For the first time in my life, I felt fully liberated to really embrace the beauty I was called for. To lean into the mercy found in Christ, and rid myself of all the guilt and shame the devil had deceived me to believe. Leading me into a more intimate relationship with the only person that should have had a throne in my heart, God."
Shechem's Dad asks Jacob and his Sons for his son to marry Dinah with not a hint of apology for raping Jacob’s daughter, just manipulative promises of land, trade, intermarriage and wealth.
With the promise that they could be ONE, WIN - WIN
Little did they know that God has repeatedly promised that Jacobs family will inherit the land and provide descendants and blessing without the help of one nations in that land. Then Shechem, who has no sense of self control raises the stakes.
Make the price for the bride and the gift I am to bring as great as you like, and I’ll pay whatever you ask me. Only give me the young woman as my wife.” ~Genesis 34:12 (NIV)
He can't even mention her name. Everyone is going to have to pay the price for his sin and greed. His lack of self control is driving this whole story. How often does it happen that one person's manipulation holds a whole community to ransom? If you feel taken advantage of by anyone at church, let us know.
I want to look at the response of Dinah's Father and then Dinah’s brothers. Dinah's father, Jacob, failed to act, his silence is deafening and he does nothing. I wonder, was it in part that Dinah was the daughter of the unloved wife, was Jacob prone to the ugly sin of favouritism.
His sons were furious because Jacob shows no emotion, why is he not angry? Remember: Dinah is held hostage by Shechem.
Jacob’s silence was certainly due to fear, he does not act like a man who has God on his side. First, he exposed his daughter to danger and now he is doing nothing to defend his daughter. I think Jacob was prepared to go ahead with the deal to give his daughter in marriage to her rapist.
Beware of old men who Pursue Peace without Justice. Right now Parliament has been exposed as having a culture that is complicit in sexual abuse. In response the government has come out guarding a very important principle “Innocent until proven guilty” but friends, it’s not the only principle. Power is given to leaders for them to make a way for the powerless to speak up for those who can't speak up for themselves. I'm not saying it’s always easy to know where to land but it must begin by giving a voice to the victims of sexual abuse.
Jacob’s backroom deals seek to cover up the rape of his daughter. Justice demands a response, with no Government to appeal to in the land of Canaan, Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham, went to battle to protect his nephew Lot. Jacob does nothing because he was afraid, don’t let fear stop you from doing what is right. Make sure you speak up.
Jacob has created a vacuum of leadership for his sons to overreact to this sin. Remember: these are young men whose ages are 16-22 years. As someone put it like a cast from Hunger Games, Jacob’s sons take up where he failed to lead. The first reaction from the brothers was exactly right, both shock and anger.
Meanwhile, Jacob’s sons had come in from the fields as soon as they heard what had happened. They were shocked and furious, because Shechem had done an outrageous thing in Israel by sleeping with Jacob’s daughter—a thing that should not be done ~Genesis 34:7 (NIV)
With all the sins that are listed in Genesis and there have been many, it stands out as particularly evil. Shechem had done a disgraceful thing in Israel as the brothers say to their Dad "he treated our sister like a prostitute".
Sometimes we are just not angry enough! Whether its abortion or racism.
But there is an offer on the table, tf the marriage goes ahead then these 2 clans can live together, trade, and intermarry. The sons of Jacob raise one objection, all the men of Shechem must be circumcised, the same organ that was used to rape Dinah will be cut back.
But his sons have another agenda, the real reason for circumcision is to revenge a rape, but Shechem and his Father don’t know that, they are just thrilled that they brokered a deal. But how do you persuade every man in your clan to go through the pain of circumcision?
We can’t get every Australian taking the COVID vaccine, so how do you persuade a whole town of men to get circumcised. Very simple greed, like any good politician, sweeten the deal, they make them an offer they can’t refuse. This marriage will bring wealth and women, proving that stupidity knows no limits.
And the plan seems to work, while the men of Shechem are in pain from the snip in the days before pain killers.
Three days later, while all of them were still in pain, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and attacked the unsuspecting city, killing every male. ~Genesis 34:25 (NIV)
Apparently, the pain after circumcision is at its worst after 3 days.
It was then that Dinah's two blood brothers kill every male including the rapist and his father, they loot the City, they seize the flocks and herds, they carry off the women and children and they take back their sister, Dinah.
This was not justice, this was revenge, that is why the rule of law is so important. The sons of Jacob have way, way, way, over reacted. This is mass slaughter for one rape. I heard on the news how a woman's dog was killed by a burglar. Her response was “Life for Life” did she really want the burglar to die for killing her dog? No sense of proportion.
Robert Zimmerman once wrote It took a stranger to teach me to look into justice beautiful face and to see an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Proportional justice, an eye for an eye to stop matters from escalating.
I was talking to a single parent who just heard that her son was badly bullied that day at school. She said “if I get hold of that kid who did it I will kill him.” Its so easy to over react to injustice, I warned her to not over react or something worse will happen.
Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me by making me obnoxious to the Canaanites and Perizzites, the people living in this land. We are few in number, and if they join forces against me and attack me, I and my household will be destroyed.”But they replied, “Should he have treated our sister like a prostitute?” ~Genesis 34:30-31 (NIV)
Jacobs whole life was lived in fear and his fear fed his lies. He was terrified of his brother Esau for 20 years, his fear stopped him from protecting his daughter and now he lives in fear of pay back from other nations. Fear driven by a failure to trust in Gods promises
I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will curse ~Genesis 12:3 (NIV)
The people of Shechem found that out, you mess with God's people and you mess with God. This is not to justify what the brothers did and later Jacob issues a curse on his two sons.
“Simeon and Levi are brothers— their swords are weapons of violence.…Cursed be their anger, so fierce, and their fury, so cruel! ~Genesis 49:7 (NIV)
These brothers turned an injustice as an excuse for wicked revenge and they became worse than the man who raped their sister.
I have come to understand that “My anger is worse than the thing I'm angry at.” I remember a counsellor asking me the question
‘What would happen if you said goodbye to angry Ray?’ I then shared that to a guy at church and he said ‘If I say goodbye to angry me (sinful anger) who will protect me in the face of injustice?’
We both knew the answer: The Lord Jesus Christ
One of those promises we trust is that “Vengeance is mine says the Lord I will repay”
It frees us up to not be afraid at home, at work, with friends or at school
In this passage the voice of God and of Dinah are silenced. When we stop listening to God’s word we will stop listening to the cries of those who can’t speak for themselves. Don't be part of the silent majority, act like God is on your side.
Growing up I had a very unique childhood. Unique not in the sense of growing up in the jungle, one of 12 kids, Mum was Beyonce, unique in the sense that at 3 years old, MBM was born and as I grew up so to did this church. We both went through various stages, growth spurts, awkward teen years, getting older, independence, it was a unique but precious upbringing I have had. Precious in seeing lives changed and transformed, story after story, people meeting Jesus and never being the same afterwards.
On this 30th anniversary of MBM we hear another transformation story, not from MBM but one of the first-ever. Jacob’s story and it’s a long story, Genesis 28-35. By the time we get through them all, we will be at the 31st anniversary.
God might be at work in transforming you, no matter where you are at.
1. Transformed by Grace
Quick bio: Jacob is the grandson of Abraham and Jacob is a man who you never feel you can trust. Jacob means deceiver and that is exactly what he does. He deceived his brother and Father by using his father’s disability against him and his brother's ego and love of food against him. He knows peoples weakness and preys on it.
After all this trickery and deception, hurt and pain and anger Jacob runs, he flees his family and heads into the wilderness.
He has nothing and exhausted he sleeps.
When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” ~Genesis 28:11-15 (NIV)
Now was Jacob searching for God? Running to him? Nope. Jacob was fleeing, from the consequences of his sin not seeking and yet God was seeking him.
I don’t know why you are here either onsite or online, this is not a chance encounter, it is not random, God is seeking you. The people that God is seeking are not those whose lives are together (Look at Jacob) but those who encounter him and know his undeserved love.
Did Jacob deserve this dream, was it part of God's promises? No! That’s called grace, undeserved kindness and love, the very thing God has shown you too.
There is no accident of the timing of this dream, in the wilderness where there is nothing, it's not a holiday location. Jacob physically had nothing. He grabs a rock for a pillow to sleep. Now I like a hard pillow, but there are limits. Jacob had hit Rock bottom. (Pun intended). Everything is taken away, and its Jacobs fault that he has nothing and then God gives him everything he needs, More!
Jacob could not say “Of course God loves me” when Jacob wakes up he asks why me? That’s Grace. It's no coincidence that people become Christians after they have hit rock bottom. When physically you have nothing to offer God and spiritually you have nothing to offer God.
John Gerstner said “If you want to become a Christian all you need is need. All you need is nothing and very few people have that.”
A young boy, who was handsome, strong and skilled at fighting. During a fierce battle the boy became frightened and hid in a cave. He was brought before Alexander The Great for judgement. Alexander asked, "Son, what is your name?" "Alexander" was his quiet reply. Alexander picked up a sword, raised it over the boys head and said, “Change your ways, or change your name!”
That is the way we expect people to change, just do it, fix yourself up and do better. Jesus comes to you if you are fleeing, running, in the cave, absolute worst, guilt and shame. Change your ways, but he knows you can’t, he raises the sword of judgment but turns the sword on himself. On that cross, Jesus condemned himself so that you free, the unlovable know they are loved and the sinners are forgiven.
God's love for you is not based on your performance, but on Gods character. Until you realise you are in need and have nothing to offer and accept the Grace given by God then your transformation will not begin, not last and will only be superficial at best.
Jacob gets it and is gobsmacked by it. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.
But the road to transformation for Jacob had only just begun, the transformation of the Christian is slow and gradual and happens in ways we do not expect.
2. Transformed by others
God places people in your life to transform you and change you.
Enter Laban, it seemed like Jacob was stumbling along the dessert and just out to the blue, came along Laban. God was orchestrating it all for Jacob to meet his match. A deceiver for a deceiver, Jacob could trick everyone but not Laban. Laban wants Jacob to be paid for the work he was doing, enter his daughter, Rachel. It was love at first fight, meet round the old school water cooler (well). Jacob says ‘I will work for 7 years… and it felt like 7 days…”
Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to lie with her.” ~Genesis 29:21 (NIV)
You will notice Jacob does not say the word “Rachel.” But "wife". Laban uses this to his own advantage, he had an older daughter Leah, not beautiful and with a physical deformity, but he wanted her married off.
Now weddings are different then to how they are now, on the wedding night, no walking down the aisle, marriage happened at consummation. Jacob woke up shocked the next morning because when he awoke there was Leah!
What does Jacob say:
…So Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?” ~Genesis 29:25 (NIV)
Notice what Jacob does not say “Oh this is what it's like to be deceived, how horrible” How could I do this very thing to my Dad and brother. Jacob drank deeply of his own medicine and could not handle it.
Do you think that Jacob realises the hypocrisy? We often don’t.
God puts people into our lives, a mirror of ourselves. This is what life is like on the other side of you. Hurt and damage because of the sin you have caused. It's to expose our sin. An act of Grace to graciously show us, here is someone to show you, what you are like, eg People who are rude or arrogant or Gossipers who whinge about you. God put them in your life show you, you.
God is graciously putting mirrors in your life to show you the pain of your sin. Why? To prompt change, can you see it? can you feel it? It's okay for a week or two but you know Jacob dealt with Laban for 20 years. Jacob had 20 years to change his character.
But sometimes God places people in your life for even longer, enter Rachel and Leah, two sisters from birth.
Rachel who has everything going her way. She is hot, has a great figure: “Oh I am so annoyed, I lost 3 kgs” and Jacob loves her.
Leah has struggled all her life, guys looked at her but in disgust,
she struggles with weight and body image but Jacob puts up with her. Imagine how she felt on the 1st day of marriage.
But God placed them into one another’s lives, God placed Jacob in their life to expose who they truly worshipped. Where there is envy, bitterness, fighting and discontent, if you look underneath, they worship something other than God. They find their meaning, purpose, identity and longings in something other than God.
It's messy, they have babies to get the approval of their husband so that they can get the validation of their sister and be better. The law prohibits this
“Do not take your wife’s sister as a rival wife and have sexual relations with her while your wife is living” ~Leviticus 18:18 (NIV)
God does not want them to stay like this. Transform his people but exposing our idols. God does it in different ways
Rachel had everything going for her, except she could not get pregnant. God withholds from her the very thing she wanted, and what she believes she was entitled to.
“Give me children, or I’ll die!” ~Genesis 30:1 (NIV)
Why? Rachel needed to be emptied of her pride and privilege before she would ever be filled. Gods decision that this is not her purpose, this is not her all and she is not in control. Was she listening? For Rachel when God stopped withholding and Naphtali her 2nd son was born
Then Rachel said, “I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won.” ~Genesis 30:8 (NIV)
Do you think she really had won? Was she happy or satisfied?
Are you worshipping something that takes its toll, and the demands are great, are you sleepless, envious, annoyed, worried, empty, depressed. When you worship anyone other than God you never win.
God gives Leah a child, many in fact and the name of each of her children tells the journey she goes on, tells of her transformation.
...Reuben, for she said “It is because the Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.” ~Genesis 29:32 (NIV)
“Because the Lord heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.” So she named him Simeon. ~Genesis 29:33 (NIV)
“Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” So he was named Levi. ~Genesis 29:34 (NIV)
Just because God gives you something you want or answers prayers doesn’t always = good thing. God kept giving Leah son after son so this will make Jacob love me, appreciate me, notice me! This never fulfilled her deep longings.
Every idol, good things, relationships, children or approval of friends leaves you always wanting more. But you notice a change because God was working in her.
She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” So she named him Judah. ~Genesis 29:35 (NIV)
Change, even if my husband has not noticed me God has noticed me and that’s all that matters. Maybe not loved by him but loved by God, not seeking the praise of my husband but Praise the Lord. Satisfaction in God.
It was no accident that the son that changed her, Judah, it was from this son that would come the son of God and truly fill her.
The only one who will satisfy the longing that you have, like Leah, the son of Judah. Jesus Christ. The only one who never leaves, never forgets, never overlooks, always loves, always protects and always notices.
God is putting people in your life, FOR YOUR GOOD. GIVING AND WITHHOLDING….
Expose your own sins to yourself.
Expose the false idols we still cling on to.
Drawback to what you need and long for satisfaction, the never-ending, quenching love of Jesus Christ.
But God is not done with Jacob.
3. Transformed by Trials
20 years sees Jacob with Rachel and Leah, 12 boys, all livestock, head home, heading back to meet Esau. Expect a fighting match happens, but the fight we expect to happen between Jacob and Esau doesn’t happen, it happens with Jacob and God.
It’s the oddest and most unique moment in the Bible.
So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” ~Genesis 32:24-30 (NIV)
What is the point of this strange incident? Why did God deal with Jacob in that rough-and-tumble way? Wrestle? This was a trial, a physical trial, a test by God and with God. For his own good, to expose his faith.
Jacob had to learn an important lesson, he had always been fighting people, his Dad, his brother, Laban, causing fights between wives and his default was to trick and deceive his way to the top and behind him was a trail of broken relationships.
Gods goal in transforming Jacob was so that he knew that his ultimate struggle was NOT against others but against God. God was breaking down his strength, changing his character, exposing his need so that all that Jacob could do was cling to God.
Notice one thing, Jacob wanted to be left alone, but in this encounter, Jacob was seeking God. Jacob sought after God.
Old Jacob, 20 years before:
God had been working in his life and now it’s a different Jacob. Jacob is so different that we hardly recognise him. Trial exposes his faith and God had been radically working in this life. Jacob was given a completely new name (not a slight change like Abram to Abraham) but a complete transformation to Israel.
Now chances are you are not going to have this fight with God in this way, but trials will come for you to wrestle with God, and go on for a long time. These trials will push you to the limits, but God puts them in your life to show the change. It shows that you ARE BEING TRANSFORMED, your faith is stronger, you are more Christlike. The old you, reacted differently, the old you ran away, the old you relied on yourself. But that’s not you anymore.
Often, we don’t see the change in our spiritual life. This is not where I want to be, but by God's grace I am not what I use to be. God is in the business of transformation.
This is Jacobs story, what’s yours? I guarantee that the events in your story will be very different, I presume no dreams, no multiple wives and no wrestling matches with God. But that moments of transformation will be similar. God puts trials to expose your faith. The Holy Spirit is at work and you’re not who you use to be.
For 30 years, this church’s heartbeat has been on about Gods heartbeat, ‘To see lives transformed through Jesus to the glory of God.’ Story after story of men and women, young and old, born here or overseas, different nations, cultures and tribes, dysfunctional and messy lives, organised and lovely, meeting Jesus Christ, and never being the same afterwards.
By Gods grace, many more stories like Jacobs and yours transformed through Jesus to the glory of God.