Jonah 4:1-11 // Angry for All the Wrong Reasons

Jonah Series (1)

Text: Jonah 4:1-11

INTRODUCTION

In his book Fearless, Max Lucado writes about the power fear possesses to turn us into beastly people:

 

“[Fear] turns us into control freaks … [because] … fear, at its center, is a perceived loss of control. When life spins wildly, we grab for a component of life we can manage: our diet, the tidiness of our home, the armrest of a plane, or, in many cases, people. The more insecure we feel, the meaner we become. We growl and bare our fangs. Why? Because we are bad? In part. But also because we feel cornered.

 

Martin Niemöller documents an extreme example of this. He was a German pastor who took a heroic stand against Adolf Hitler. When he first met the dictator in 1933, Niemöller stood at the back of the room and listened. Later, when his wife asked him what he’d learned, he said, “I discovered that Herr Hitler is a terribly frightened man.” Fear releases the tyrant within.[1]” – Max Lucado, Fearless

 

Now, you might hear that and think, “What does that have to do with Jonah? He’s not a tyrant. He’s not a dictator.” That’s true, he’s not, but his worst fears did come true, and it made him angry. 

 

  • This morning, we’re going to talk about Jonah’s Prayer and Jonah’s Anger, and work through those ideas we’re going to see a deep-rooted insecurity about the fact that he had to preach in Nineveh. He was an Israelite. The Assyrians hated the Israelites, and you better believe that the Israelites had a built-in prejudice against the Assyrians because of everything that had happened between them. 

 

Now, we know from the last two weeks that Jonah has repented; he’s on the right track, but there’s a lesson for us here: we need to understand that, just like Jonah, just because we’ve repented and we’re on the right track now doesn’t mean that we’re not going to be tempted to fall back into old habits, old prejudices, and old insecurities.

 

In 1994, there was a Church of Christ minister named Roy Ratcliff who received a phone call from a gentleman who said that he knew of a prison inmate who had questions about the Bible and thought he might want to be baptized, and the man asked Pastor Roy if he would be interested in talking to this young man. So, of course, Roy Ratcliff obliged.

 

When he accepted the offer to help disciple this prisoner he didn’t think to ask who it was or what he had done, he just went. 

 

When he got to the prison, he saw that the man who wanted to be discipled was none other than Jeffrey Dahmer. For those of you who don’t know Dahmer, he was a serial killer who confessed to raping, killing, and eating 17 young men and boys. 

 

  • Roy Ratcliff had been watching the news, he knew who this guy was. Some preachers might have backed out of the deal at this point, but Ratcliff saw this as an opportunity to witness God’s grace at work in even the vilest of sinners. 

 

  • After meeting with Dahmer for a couple of months, he agreed to baptize him. After the baptism, Ratcliff started coming under attack from fellow Christians who told him that they couldn’t believe that he would “have the audacity to grant God’s blessings upon the devil,” and they said they didn’t want to be in a heaven that included the likes of Jeffrey Dahmer. 

 

My guess is that none of us are wrestling with whether or not to show grace to a cannibalistic murderer, but like we said in the first week of this series, we all have biases and prejudices. Jonah had a bias and prejudice against the people of Nineveh of because of how they treated Israel.

 

  • One of the major applications of this book is this: Like Jonah, we are called to be grace-filled, and merciful to people that we find hard to love.

    • The truth of the matter is that none of us are as cute, nice, and lovable as we would like to think that we are, and Jesus loves us anyway. 

 

After last week, you would think that the story would stop there. Everything seems to have a sense of closure. The sailors repent in chapter 1. Jonah repents in chapter 2. Nineveh repents in chapter 3, and everything seems to be wrapped up, and has a happy ending, but as it turns out, Jonah isn’t so happy. 

 

So, the first thing we’re going to look at is Jonah’s Prayer here in chapter 4. I want us to compare it to his prayer in chapter 2, and I want us to see what it says about God, and what it says about Jonah. 

 

JONAH’S PRAYER (v. 1-3)

“But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry.” – Jonah 4:1, NKJV

 

  • What displeases Jonah exactly? Look back up at Jonah 3:10, towards the end of the verse – “…God relented from the disaster that He had said that He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.”

    • Jonah is angry because God isn’t destroying his enemies [slow down] even after he spent this whole time going through the city proclaiming the judgement of God.

    • God isn’t concerned with how His decisions to spare Nineveh makes Jonah feel. It means the same for us. God is going to do what God is going to do. He’s going to show mercy to whomever He wants to show mercy regardless of how we feel about it.

      • Think about it like this: If God took the feelings of our enemies into into consideration every time He wanted to bless us, how blessed would we be? Not very. Especially if we’ve made a lot of enemies over the years.

Chapter 4, verse 1 – “it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry.” God knew sparing Nineveh would make Jonah angry, and He did it anyway because how Jonah feels doesn’t make God insecure. 

 

  • Now that Jonah’s angry, what does he do? He prays. What should we do when we’re angry? Talk to God about it. He may not do what you want Him to when you want Him to, but I guarantee you, He will listen.

 

Now let’s look at his prayer in verses 2-3. For the sake of clarity, I’m going to read these two verses from the CSB.

 

“He prayed to the Lord: “Please, Lord, isn’t this what I thought while I was still in my own country? That’s why I fled toward Tarshish in the first place. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger, abounding in faithful love, and one who relents from sending disaster. 3 And now, Lord, take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” – Jonah 4:2-3, CSB

 

There are two prayers in the book of Jonah. We studied the first one in chapter 2, and now this is the second one, and interesting to see how opposite these two prayers are. 

 

“For the second time in this account, Jonah prays, but his second prayer was much different in content and intent.

 

  • He prayed his best prayer in the worst place, the fish’s belly, and he prayed his worst prayer at the best place, at Nineveh where God was working.

  • His first prayer came from a broken heart, but his second prayer came from an angry heart.
  • In his first prayer, he asked God to save him, but in his second prayer, he asked God to take his life!

 

Once again, Jonah would rather die than not have his own way![2]” – Warren Wiersbe

 

I want us to notice something in verse 2. What Jonah says is really revealing about his own heart. 

 

  • In verse 2 he says, “That’s why I fled… I knew you would forgive them, and I knew you would have compassion.” Why did he know that? Because He knows God. He’s familiar with God’s character.

  • One of the things I want us to take away from this series in Jonah is an awareness of God’s character. Over and over again God says about Himself that He is quick to forgive and slow to anger, and here he actually shows that by sparing Nineveh rather than destroying them.

  • Jonah knows this, as a matter of fact look at how Jonah describes God, “I knew that you were a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger, abounding in faithful love, and one who relents from sending disaster.”

    • Now, if you know the Bible fairly well, then you know that that is a common description of God all throughout the Old Testament. (2 Chronicles 30:9; Nehemiah 9:17, 31; Psalm 103:8, 116:5; Joel 2:13)
    • The first appearance of this description comes in Exodus 34.

 

Now, to set the scene for you in Exodus 34. Moses has up to Mount Sinai to receive the law, and when he comes down he finds the children of Israel worshipping a golden calf, and he becomes so angry that he throws the tablets down and breaks them. 

 

  • Moses intercedes for the people, and then God commands them to leave Sinai, and then God tells Moses to make two more tablets. 

 

[Read: Exodus 34:1-7]

 

So, what we have here two major things that we need to tie back to Jonah. 

 

  • The Law of God (10 Commandments on the stone tablets)
    • What God wants
  • The Character of God (description of God in v. 6-7)
    • What God is like

 

We could get really into really in-depth conversation about what’s really going on here, but ultimately what it amounts to is that God wants Nineveh to repent, and in their repentance, He wants them to discover who He is, namely that He is merciful. 

 

And now, Jonah’s angry and then God asks him a question. 

 

GOD’S QUESTION (v. 4)

“Then the Lord said, “Is it right for you to be angry?” – Jonah 4:4, NKJV

 

He doesn’t answer God at first. He just walks away. 

 

“So Jonah went out of the city and sat on the east side of the city. There he made himself a shelter and sat under it in the shade, till he might see what would become of the city. 6 And the Lord God prepared a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be shade for his head to deliver him from his misery. So Jonah was very grateful for the plant. 7 But as morning dawned the next day God prepared a worm, and it so damaged the plant that it withered. 8 And it happened, when the sun arose, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on Jonah’s head, so that he grew faint. Then he wished death for himself, and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”

9 Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” And he said, “It is right for me to be angry, even to death!” – Jonah 4:5-9, NKJV

 

This is almost a humorous picture. Jonah is moody and grumpy because God spared Nineveh, and then he had a plant that providing shade for him, and now the plant is gone. The wind drove the clouds away so now the sun is beating down on his head and he just wants to die. 

 

  • He’s pouting, he doesn’t get his way, and he wants to die.

  • What would have made Jonah happy? The destruction of his enemies. He would have been happy to see God reign down fire and judgement against Nineveh. You know why? Because that’s what he would have done if he could have. 

 

“You can be sure that you’ve made God in your own image when He hates all the same people that you do.” – Anne Lamotte

 

 

  • “He doesn’t vote my way, he obviously doesn’t love God like I do.”
  • “They’re not waving my flag they must not be a Christian like I am.”
  • “They believe what I believe. If only they were as spiritually mature as I am.”

 

 

There’s all kinds of pictures we can paint in our minds that make us look good and the people we don’t like bad, but the truth is that we’re all bad. Only Jesus is good, and He came to make all of us good even our enemies. 

 

Kevin Hale, a Presbyterian pastor in Conway, posted a statement on Facebook that I was relevant here. He says, “…if we follow the Lord we must be prepared for those we count as enemies to be counted as brothers.” 

 

One more thing I want us to take note of this morning. 

 

GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY (v. 6-8)

Did you notice something in verses 6-8?

 

  • “God prepared” – 3x in Chapter 4

 

God was in control the whole time. God raised up the plant to provide shade for Jonah as a sign of mercy, and then God took down the plant and allowed the sun to beat down on Jonah as a small taste of judgement. 

 

  • What was Jonah’s response when the plant was destroyed? Even more anger. 

Why? Because he felt that he was owed something. He felt that he was owed some shade. After all, he went to Nineveh and told them that God would destroy them and He didn’t, Jonah should get something for his trouble. 

 

  • But then God destroys the plant, and God asks Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” What God is saying is, “Okay, Jonah, so it’s alright for me rain down fire and destruction from heaven on the city of Nineveh, but if you get a sunburn, then it’s not fair?” Of course that’s Jonah’s mindset. 

 

CONCLUSION

Fast Forward to the New Testament. Think about who else gets angry when other people are blessed. 

 

  • Luke 15 – The Older Brother gets angry because a party is thrown when the younger brother comes home.

  • Matthew 21 –  A man who owns a field agrees to pay everyone who works for him a full day’s wage for working in his field. So, he goes out, hires some workers at 6am, then he hires more at Noon, some others around 2pm, and then finally he hires more just before closing time. When everyone lines up to get their pay, beginning with the ones who were hired at 6am, they all get a full day’s wage. Everyone. Including the ones who were hired just before closing time.

    • The ones who were hired earlier get angry. They’re furious because they feel like they should be paid more than the people who got hired later in the day. The owner of the field says, “Listen, I didn’t cheat you. I offered to hire you for a day’s wage, you worked and I paid you. My money is mine to do with as I please. What business is it of yours if I decide to pay someone more?” 

 

What does this all have to do with Jonah? What does Jonah, the older brother, and the angry workers all have in common? They’re angry because someone else received mercy.

 

This morning, where do you find yourself? Do you think that you’re owed mercy? Or do you know that you don’t, and you’re grateful that God poured His mercy on you anyway? 

 

Let’s pray. 

Jonah 3:1-10 // A Crusade in Nineveh

Jonah Series (1)

INTRODUCTION

On New Year’s Day, 1929, Georgia Tech played University of California in the Rose Bowl. In that game a man named Roy Riegels recovered a fumble for California. Somehow, he became confused and started running 65 yards in the wrong direction. One of his teammates, Benny Lom, outdistanced him and downed him just before he scored for the opposing team. When California attempted to punt, Tech blocked the kick and scored a safety which was the ultimate margin of victory.

That strange play came in the first half, and everyone who was watching the game was asking the same question: “What will Coach Nibbs Price do with Roy Riegels in the second half?”

The men filed off the field and went into the dressing room. They sat down on the benches and on the floor, all but Riegels. He put his blanket around his shoulders, sat down in a corner, put his face in his hands, and cried like a baby.

If you have played football, you know that a coach usually has a great deal to say to his team during half time. That day Coach Price was quiet. No doubt he was trying to decide what to do with Riegels. Then the timekeeper came in and announced that there were three minutes before playing time. Coach Price looked at the team and simply said, “Men the same team that played the first half will start the second.” The players got up and started out, all but Riegels. He did not budge. the coach looked back and called to him again; still he didn’t move. Coach Price went over to where Riegels sat and said, “Roy, didn’t you hear me? The same team that played the first half will start the second.”

Then Roy Riegels looked up and his cheeks were wet with a strong man’s tears. “Coach,” he said, “I can’t do it to save my life. I’ve ruined you, I’ve ruined the University of California, I’ve ruined myself. I couldn’t face that crowd in the stadium to save my life.”

Then Coach Price reached out and put his hand on Riegel’s shoulder and said to him: “Roy, get up and go on back; the game is only half over.” And Roy Riegels went back, and those Tech men will tell you that they have never seen a man play football as Roy Riegels played that second half.[1]

What I want us to do this morning is walk through Jonah 3, and I want us to think about what our passage says about Jonah, what it says about Nineveh, and most of all, what it says about God. 

Before we get too deep into the passage, let’s do some review.

  • In chapter 1, we started this walk through Jonah and we saw how God told Jonah to go to Nineveh, but Jonah didn’t want to go because Nineveh was a major Assyrian territory. We said that this would be like God calling one of us to go and preach the good news of God’s love in Christ to ISIS.

    • Jonah instead jumps on a boat to Tarshish and heads in the complete opposite direction. Meanwhile, a storm comes up, and a fish swallows Jonah. That takes us to chapter 2.

  • In chapter 2, Jonah is actually praying inside the belly of this fish, and we saw three specific things that Jonah remembered in his prayer. He remembered God’s Word, he remembered God’s temple, and he remembered God’s mercy. The big verse that we looked at last week was Jonah 2:8 where Jonah said that those who worship idols forsake the mercy that could be there’s. 

 

JONAH REPENTS (v. 1-4)

“Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.” 3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three-day journey in extent. 4 And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day’s walk. Then he cried out and said, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” – Jonah 3:1-4, NKJV

 

We saw the beginnings of Jonah’s repentance in chapter 2. You can’t read Jonah’s prayer like we read last and not see that he has a repentant heart. 

 

  • The theme of chapter 2 last week was a prayer of repentance, but the theme this week is the evidence of repentance. We see this week that Jonah’s repentance is made evident by the fact that he’s obedient to what God has said. And, by the way, that’s always the evidence of repentance in our own lives. 

Repentance isn’t praying the sinner’s prayer. Repentance isn’t a one-time act that you do to get saved. Repentance is the foremost characteristic of someone who is a born-again believer. If you’re a Christian, then your life should be characterized by the fact that you are always looking to Christ for the fullness of your salvation, and the way that your repentance is made evident is the fact that you are seeking to obey God in what He has said. 

 

  • We need to understand God hasn’t saved us so we can sit around and wait for Him to come back. He has actually given us work to do in the world. I feel like a lot Christians have this idea that pastors are the ones who are supposed to be doing all the work while the rest of the Christian people just have to sit on the sidelines and cheer them on, but that’s not the picture that the Bible paints for us. The Bible tells us that we all have gifts and callings. We all have work to do. We all have things that we need to be obedient in doing for the Lord. 

 

In Ephesians 2:8, Paul tells us that we’re saved by grace and not by works lest any man should boast, and we like that, and we should. It speaks truth about the nature of our salvation, but what we don’t like so much is two verses later where the text tells us we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.

 

  • Why don’t we like that? Because it means we have to do something. 

 

According to Romans 1:5, we have received grace (that’s our salvation) for obedience to the faith. 

 

  • If what Paul is saying is true, and it is because it’s the Word of God, then we have been saved so that we can live in the world and show the rest of the world how to live as witnesses to the Gospel before the face of God. 

 

When you get over into Revelation, Jesus is talking to the Church at Ephesus, and He says, “You know what your problem is? You’ve left your first love.”

 

“Nevertheless, I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Remeber therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place – unless you repent.” – Revelation 2:4-5, NKJV

 

Jesus doesn’t say, “Alright, I forgive you, let’s move on.” He says, “I forgive you now remember where you were before, repent, and do your first works again.”

 

  • I think some people believe that just because we’re not under the law anymore that means that there’s no place for obedience in the Christian life, and that’s just not the case. 

 

“Understand this matter aright: By His ascension and by the preaching of faith, Christ does not purpose to rear lazy and sluggish Christians, who say: ‘We shall now live according to our pleasure, not doing good works, remaining sinners, and following sin like captive slaves.’  Those who talk thus have never had a right understanding of the preaching of faith. Christ and His mercy are not preached to the end that men should remain in their sins. On the contrary, this is what the Christian doctrine proclaims: The captivity is to leave you free, not that you may do whatever you desire, but that you sin no more.” – C.F.W. Walther, quoting Martin Luther

 

In the first four verses of Jonah 3, we see that Jonah has repented, and his repentance is made clear by the fact that going back and doing what he should have done in the first place. Jonah doesn’t just blow it off by saying, “I’m sorry, God” and then doing whatever He wants to do. Jonah wants to make restitution because that’s what God’s people want to do. 

 

  • God’s people want to do what’s right. According to Ezekiel 36:26, one of the blessings of the New Covenant is that God gives us a new heart. He takes out the heart of stone, and replaces it with a heart of flesh, and then in Ezekiel 36:27, God says, “I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My ways.”

  • How we live and how we walk before God is evidence of whether or not God has actually given us a new heart. 

 

One of the most challenging parts of the Christian life is actually putting into practice what you know is good and right. I don’t think there’s a single person in here right now who would say cognitively that they didn’t want to obey God, but I also think every single one of us, including myself, have a hard time putting into practice what we preach. 

 

  • That doesn’t get us off the hook of obedience, instead it should drive us to look to Jesus and say, “If I’m going to obey it’s because gives me grace to obey. If I’m going to live the way He wants me to it’s because His Spirit empowers me to live the way He wants me to.”

 

A lot of Christians tend to think that living the way God wants you to is like walking on a tightrope and as long as you can keep your balance, you’re good, but if you fall it’s still okay because you’ve got a net below that tightrope called grace, but that’s not how it works. Grace is what gives you the power to keep your balance, and by God’s grace, you won’t need a net because by grace you’ll never fall!

 

  • At the end of Jude, Jude is ending his letter with a blessing to God, and He says, “To Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with joy…” (Jude 1:24)

That fact that Jonah gets another opportunity to be obedient is an act of grace. 

 

  • Don’t think that just because Jonah lived under the old covenant that God didn’t show grace to His people. 

 

Jonah states his repentance in chapter 2, and now in chapter 3, his repentance is shown by his obedience. And because Jonah repents, Nineveh repents. 

 

  • That’s practical in, and of itself because our repentance, our turning from sin and looking to Christ should cause others to turn from their sin and look to Christ.

  • That’s why God saves people. He saves people so that He can use those people to be key players in the salvation of other people. 

 

So, look what happens to Nineveh as a result of Jonah’s repentance. 

 

NINEVEH REPENTS (v. 5-9)

“So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. 6 Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes.” – Jonah 3:5-6, NKJV

 

  • Notice the progression so far: Jonah Repents, the people of Nineveh repent, and then the king of Nineveh repents when he sees what’s happening among the people.

  • I hear people all the time who say that they want to see America turn back to God. They want to see our politicians repent. If you want to see those changes, then you turn back to God.

    • My favorite psychologist Jordan Peterson said he used to hear his college students talk about how much they wanted to change the world, but they didn’t want to change themselves. He finally said one day during one of his lectures, “Do you want to confront chaos in the world? Then start with the chaos in your own life. Start by cleaning your room.” Set your house in order before your start getting on Facebook and talking about how the whole nation needs to be set in order.

    • Before you start telling people that they need Jesus you need to understand that you have a need for Jesus. 

 

“And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying,

 

Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water. 8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. 9 Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?” – Jonah 3:7-9, NKJV

 

One of the questions that might arise in our minds is this: Knowing the history between the Jews and the Assyrians, why would they listen to Jonah? What was it that really caused them to listen to him? 

 

As I was studying for this message, one of the commentaries I was looking at said that the people in Assyria primarily worshipped a god named Dagon.

 

  • If know the Bible well enough, then you know that Dagon was the same god that was worshipped by the Philistines. In 1 Samuel 5, the Philistines stole the ark of the covenant and they took it into the house of Dagon, and the Bible tells us that when the priests of Dagon come into the temple the next day, they find the statue of their false god face down on the ground. So, they prop it up, leave and don’t think anything of it. The next day they come in, and they find that not only is the statue of Dagon on the ground, but it’s broken in pieces so that the head and hands are broken off.

  • What’s really interesting is that Dagon is a fish god. If you look up pictures of it, it looks like a reverse mermaid. It’s got a man’s body, but a fish’s head. 

 

Jonah is swallowed by a big fish, and then he gets thrown up onto the shore of Nineveh. 

 

When Jonah preaches and tells the people the city is going to be overthrown they believe him because, IN THEIR MINDS, this individual went into the belly of their god and he overcame. And the only way that Jonah can overcome is if he serves a God greater than their god. 

 

  • We see God proving Himself like this all throughout Scripture.

    • 1 Kings 18 – Elijah has a standoff with the prophets of Baal. And he says, “Let the God who answers by fire be God.” Elijah pours water all the altar that he built so that when God answers they know it’s God, and lo and behold, God shows up and answers by fire. 

 

God through delivering Jonah from the fish shows himself to the people of Nineveh to be greater than any of their false gods and idols. 

 

And then when they repent and see the greatness of God, God relents. 

 

GOD RELENTS (v. 10)

“Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.” – Jonah 3:10, NKJV

 

We’re going to see how Jonah responds to that next week when we look at chapter 4, but look at the mercy that God shows to Nineveh. 

 

  • God is not obligated in any way to save Nineveh. God was not obligated to send Jonah to Nineveh. God was not obligated to even save Jonah, but He does. Why? Because mercy is a part of God’s character. 

 

My question this morning is do we recognize that we have received God’s mercy? 

 

We’re always out to get our fairshare. We always want to get what we think we deserve, but according to Romans 6:23, the wages of sin is death. If we really want to get what we’re owed, then what we’re owed is death. But, if Jesus Christ grants us eternal life, then He does so not because we’re good enough or because we deserve it, but out of the abundance of His mercy. 

 

CONCLUSION

This is an excerpt from a Ray Pritchard sermon where he talks about when he read about a prayer for mercy called the ‘Jesus Prayer’ from one of Elisabeth Elliot’s books. 

 

“Several years ago I read Elisabeth Elliott’s fine book Keep a Quiet Heart. In one of the chapters she discusses the “Jesus Prayer.” It is a prayer that arose in the Orthodox tradition over 1,000 years ago. Though the prayer appears in various wordings, its most basic form goes like this: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.” Ten short words, all of them simple and easy to understand. Sometimes the phrase “a sinner” is added to emphasize the petitioner’s deep personal need. When praying together, the word “us” is substituted for “me.” Orthodox Christians have used this little prayer as a central part of their devotional life for centuries.

 

It is easy to see why this prayer has endured. In a sense, it covers everything that we might pray for. It is a prayer addressed to the right Person-“Lord Jesus Christ,” in the right Position-“Son of God.” And its one request summarizes all that we might ask from the Lord-“Have mercy on me.” Since we are truly sinners before the Lord, anything he does for us must be an act of mercy. We have no claim on anything the Lord has, and if we approach God thinking that he owes us something, our prayers will bounce off the ceiling and hit us on the head. Do we need health or wisdom or guidance or strength or hope or do we petition the Lord on behalf of our children, our friends, or our neighbors? Whatever it is we need, no matter what words we use, it is mercy, the pure, shining mercy of God that we seek.[2]

 

My prayer for us this morning is that we would see that every day is an opportunity to be a recipient of God’s mercy. It’s not owed to us. God doesn’t owe us a chance. But, the truth of the matter is that God has freely opened our eyes to know the truth, and it’s only the truth that can set us free. 

 

Let’s pray.

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  1. Haddon W. Robinson, Christian Medical Society Journal
  2. Sinners in the Hands of a Merciful God.” Keep Believing Ministries

Jonah 2:2-9 // Things to Remember

Jonah Series (1)

Text: Jonah 2:2-9

INTRODUCTION

Two middle-aged couples were enjoying friendly conversation when one of the men asked the other, “Fred, how was the memory clinic you went to last month?”

“Outstanding,” Fred replied. “They taught us all the latest psychological techniques, such as visualization, association and so on. It was great. I haven’t had a problem since.”

“Sounds like something I could use. What was the name of the clinic?”

Fred went blank. He thought and thought, but couldn’t remember.

Then a smile broke across his face and he asked, “What do you call that flower with the long stem and thorns?”

“You mean a rose?”

“Yes, that’s it!”

He turned to his wife, “Hey Rose, what was the name of that memory clinic?”

 

We all have trouble remembering things sometimes. My wife and I have a white board that we have the wall on the way into our kitchen. 

 

Whenever one of us thinks of something that we need for the house, we write it on the board. When there’s an event coming up that we want to attend, we put it on the board. When we need to remember anything, we put it on the board. Why? Because there’s certain things that need to be remembered. 

 

This morning, as we go back over the prayer of Jonah, we see that Jonah remembers a few things while he is in the belly of this fish, and we talked about this fish means two things for Jonah: it means his discipline and it means his deliverance. 

 

  • We talked about how God often uses what we go through to discipline us and form us into what we should be, namely the image of Christ. Discipline is supposed to be formative, it’s supposed to form you into something. That’s why when parents discipline their kids they should be disciplining intentionally so that their discipline shapes them to be better in the future.

    • When you have kids, you have an idea of how you want them to turn out, and so what do you do? You form them in that direction. Through the love and discipline that you give them, you pave a road for them to walk down. Some of us might have had good parents that paved a good road for us to walk down. Some of us might have had not so good parents that made our lives more difficult, but what we always want to do is give our kids a straight road to walk down so that they grow up loving and fearing God.

    • When a baby is baptized, the main covenant that the child’s parents makes before God is to raise their baptized child in the fear and admonition of the Lord. When they agree to that, they’re promising to do their best to pave a godly path for their child to walk down.

  • And not only does Jonah’s experience discipline him, but it also turns out to be his deliverance. God will use the discipline that He places on your life as a vehicle to get you from the place where you are to the place you need to be.

 

As we read and study this passage, we see the things that we need to remember as well.

 

So, there’s three things that Jonah teaches us to remember: God’s Word, God’s House, and God’s Mercy. 

 

JONAH REMEMBERS GOD’S WORD

Last week talked about this idea before we heard from our Gideon so I’m just going to briefly cover this point. 

 

I mentioned last week that as I was studying for the message, I was able to take every verse of Jonah’s prayer and trace it back to certain passages in the psalms. 

 

As he’s stuck inside this fish, he essentially is praying the psalms back to God.

    1. Listen, when you don’t have the words to pray and you know you know you need to talk to God, you will find words to fit whatever situation you are in in the psalms.

Everything you need for personal worship and devotion is found in the psalms.

 

“Every Christian who would abound in prayer and piety ought…to make the Psalter his manual…everything that a pious heart can desire to ask in prayer, it here finds Psalms and words to match, so aptly and sweetly, that no man…nor all the men in the world — shall be able to devise forms of words so good and devout.[1]” – Martin Luther

 

Last week, we said that Jonah is in a situation where he needs stability. Where’s he going find stability? Where is he going to find the right words to say? The Psalms, God’s word. 

 

  • Historically speaking, the psalms have been the prayer book and the hymn book of the church.

Jonah is stuck in a situation where he is forced to remember. He’s got nothing to do, but think and remember. Based on what we read, we know that Jonah’s remembered God’s Word, but he also remembered God’s house. He remembered going up to Jerusalem with the people of God to worship in the temple. 

 

Listen to what he says in verse 4 and verse 7.

 

JONAH REMEMBER’S GOD’S HOUSE

“Then I said, ‘I have been cast out of Your sight; Yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.’ … When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord; And my prayer went up to You Into Your holy temple.” – Jonah 2:4, 7, NKJV

 

Jonah, in his despair, remembers the temple of the Lord. 

 

    • The temple has always been the place where man and God commune together. Was it that God couldn’t be found outside the temple? No. It was just that the temple was where God designated worship among the people of God to take place.

    • We’ve been studying about the temple in Sunday School, and I feel like sometimes we’re not really getting the point. We might be going through this quarter like it’s just another ordinary quarter and then we’ll be off to something else, but we need to understand the significance of what we’re studying.

    • We’re not just studying about the temple so can get some Old Testament facts in our system and move on. We need to understand what the temple meant to God’s people so we can understand what the temple points to now under the new covenant. The Old Testament should never be disconnected or unhitched from how we understand the New Testament.

      • All throughout Matthew 12, Jesus makes one controversial statement right after another about himself:

 

  • “…in this place there is One greater than the temple.”
    – Matthew 12:6, NKJV

  • “…indeed a greater one than Jonah is here.”
    – Matthew 12:41, NKJV
  • “…indeed a greater [one] than Solomon is here.”
    – Matthew 12:42, NKJV

 

 

You don’t know what any of those statements mean if you don’t know what the temple means, if you don’t know what Jonah meant, if you don’t know what Solomon meant to the original audience. 

 

The temple was everything to Jonah since that’s how he met with God. 

 

  • How do we meet with God now? Jesus. In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” All throughout the Gospel of John you see Jesus saying over and over again “I and my Father are One, if you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father.” (John 10:30, 14:9)

  • Since Jesus is where we meet with God, the question we have to wrestle with now: Is Jesus everything to us?

 

Jonah could visualize to temple and think to himself, “This is the place I need to be. I need to be where God meets with His people.” 

 

  • When we are in a situation of suffering, we need to look to Jesus because when we look to Jesus we find God. 

 

Not only does Jonah remember God’s Word, not only does He remember God’s house, but he also remembers God’s Mercy. 

 

JONAH REMEMBERS GOD’S MERCY (v. 8-9)

“Those who regard worthless idols forsake their own Mercy.” – Jonah 2:8, NKJV

 

Here’s where we can miss the full weight of what the passage is saying if we’re not careful. 

 

  • We think that because we don’t have a statue of a false god hanging around our house that we pray to and that we bring offerings to, we’re not idolators and so we think we’re good, but the truth is that we often take good things and turn them into god things.

Let me use Romans 1:24-25 to explain how this works. 

 

“…God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their heart, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who blessed forever. Amen.” – Romans 1:24-25, NKJV

 

“…idolatry is what happens when inversion occurs. Something created is essentially deified. It is glorified… It becomes the source of our identity and our joy, the object of our affection. It is literally the object of our worship. And here is the tricky part. Most of the time we do not worship things that are bad; we worship things that are good. What happens is we take good things, [our marriage, our career, our possessions] we make them into god things, and in so doing they become bad things. In addition, most people are blind to their own idolatry.” – Mark Driscoll

 

I want you to think about the story of the rich, young ruler in Mark 10:17-22. 

 

  • Most of us probably know this story. A rich young ruler comes to Jesus and he asks him, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus basically lists off the ten commandments, and the guy says, “Well, I’ve done all that stuff since I was a kid.”

  • Jesus says, “Alright, go sell everything you have, give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take your cross and follow me.”

  • And then the Bible says that the young man went away sorrowful for he had great possessions.

  • Jesus says in another place that where your treasure is, there your heart will be also, but this man couldn’t part with his stuff that’s where is heart was. Jesus doesn’t have a problem with our possessions as long as our possessions don’t possess us. When our possessions possess us they become idols.

 

In Psalm 115:1-8, the psalmist gives a description of what idolatry is and what it does to people. So, if you’re following along with me, then look back at Psalm 115:1-8. 

 

“Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to Your name give glory, because of Your mercy, because of Your truth. 2 Why should the Gentiles say, “So where is their God?”

3 But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.

4 Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands.

5 They have mouths, but they do not speak; eyes they have, but they do not see;

6 They have ears, but they do not hear; noses they have, but they do not smell;

7 They have hands, but they do not handle; feet they have, but they do not walk; nor do they mutter through their throat.

8 Those who make them are like them; so is everyone who trusts in them.”
– Psalm 115:1-8, NKJV

 

The big universal truth is found here in Psalm 115:8 – “those who make are like them; so is everyone who trusts in them.” What does that mean? It means your life will always be shaped by what you worship. 

 

“What people revere, they resemble, either for ruin or for restoration.” – G.K. Beale

 

  • What do you look like? What does your life look like? If you want to know in what condition your heart is in, then follow your treasure. 

 

If we back up to our passage in Jonah 2, we’ll see that this is why Jonah says in Jonah 2:8, “those who regard worthless idols forsake their own Mercy.” 

 

“Those who worship worthless idols forfeit the mercy that could be theirs.”
– Jonah 2:8, NET Bible

 

  • With this one statement, Jonah draws a line in the sand. You can choose mercy or you can choose idolatry, but you can’t choose both. 

 

Listen to what he says verse 9.

 

“But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.” – Jonah 2:9, NKJV

 

Jonah has made his decision. He says, “If I have to choose between mercy and idolatry, I’m going to choose mercy, and the only place to get mercy is from the Lord.”

 

CONCLUSION

Here’s the deal – Jonah is an authority on this issue. At the beginning of the book two weeks ago, we saw him choose his own security, his own comfort, and his own preferences over the will of God. 

 

  • But here we see that he’s had a change of mind, and maybe a change of heart. He, in essence, says, “I’m done running. I will give him a thank offering. I will pay what I have vowed.” And then he finally finishes by declaring that salvation is of the Lord.

 

If you’re here this morning, and you’re done running, and you realize that your heart isn’t where you thought it was… or maybe you’re here, and you realize that maybe you can see yourself slipping. This morning, you can talk to the Lord. You can say, “My heart is not in the right place, and I need you to fix me.” 

 

I’m going to pray for us, and as we sing one last song, I or one of the elders will be more than happy to pray with you and pray for you. 

 

CLOSING PRAYER

Father in Heaven, Your Word is a sharp two-edged sword that divides the soul and the spirit. You see the truth about us. You see the truth that we might try to repress or hide, but Lord, You love us, and You care for us so much that You want us to come to you and unburden ourselves so that we can rest securely in You. So, Lord, would You send the Holy Spirit to apply this word to our hearts so that we would leave changed with our hearts and minds open to what You have to say to us. In the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

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  1. Luther’s Preface to the 1545 Edition of the Psalter

Jonah 1:1-16 // A Runaway Prophet

Jonah Series (1)

Text: Jonah 1:1-16

Introduction: 

Over the next several weeks, what I want us to do is go through the book of Jonah together. 

  • In going through this book, I want us to see what God wants from Jonah, and ultimately what God wants from us. Ultimately, God may not want us to board a ship and go to Tarshish, but God has given us the gift of Gospel (the good news of Jesus), and that’s not a gift we can or should keep to ourselves.

    • The Gospel should be the gift that keeps on giving. God gives us life and freedom, and we should want to show others where they can also find life and freedom. 

 

Generally speaking, I’m sure we all know the story of Jonah.

 

  • God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh, Jonah decides to disobey God, and go to Tarshish. Jonah climbs on board a ship, a big storm comes, Jonah gets thrown overboard, a big fish swallows Jonah whole. He takes the first air conditioned submarine ride in the digestive tract of a whale, gets vomited up on the shore of Nineveh where proceeds to preach win the whole city of Nineveh to the Lord.

  • We all know the know the story, but what we may know is how the story applies to us.

    • We have a tendency to read stories in the Bible, and just assume that if we were in the position of whoever we’re reading about that we would do the right thing.

      • “Those dumb Israelites worshipping a golden calf, I wouldn’t have done that.”

      • “Can you believe those Israelites not believe that they could take the land? Don’t they know that with God all things are possible?”

      • “Stupid Peter denying the Lord three times, I would’ve never done that.” 

 

The truth of the matter is that we have a hard time relating to those passages because we have self-inflated view of our own righteousness. So, when we read Jonah, we think, “Well, if God told me to go to Nineveh, I would go.” The truth is that you might not. I might not.”

 

So, this morning, what I want to do is talk about three ideas found in the passage. I want us to think about A People Far From God, A Prophet Far From God, and A Plan Orchestrated By God.

 

A PEOPLE FAR FROM GOD (v. 2)

“Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” – Jonah 1:2, NKJV

 

Up to this point in Scripture, there’s not much mentioned about Nineveh. Nineveh is mentioned a few places in Scripture in passing, but it’s not been the real focal point of a story until now. 

 

    • We know from the time of Genesis 10 that Nimrod went to Assyria to build Nineveh, and since then it had been staple territory of Assyria. And if you’re familiar with the rest of the Old Testament, then you know that Israel had quite the history with Assyria.

      • Assyria was cruel and hateful towards people that they considered to be their enemies. They ransacked cities, raped women, kidnapped children and took them as slaves, and they even peeled the skin off people they captured, and they would decorate their city walls with that skin.

        • That’s extreme. Like, that’s something you would see a dictator like Hitler, Stalin, or Moussilini would do.

    • It’s for all these reasons that Jonah sees Nineveh as the archetype of wickedness. He wasn’t wrong to view their acts as wicked, but he allowed bitterness towards their sin to cloud his mind about how God viewed them.

    • So, Jonah had a bias in his heart against the Ninevites. Jonah had anger and hatred toward the Ninevites. How do I know that? There are some kinds of people in our minds that we all have a bias or prejudice against. It may not be a race, it may not be a nationality, maybe it’s people who dress a certain way, maybe it’s people who talk a certain way, maybe it’s people who have a certain last name.

      • Maybe there’s some kind of Hatfield/McCoy bad blood between your family and someone else’s.

    • Another way that we can tell what kind of attitude that Jonah had toward them was that his primary fear was that they might repent and believe, and that God’s wrath would be turned away from them.

      • In chapter 4 of Jonah, Jonah gets angry because God decides to spare Nineveh because they’ve repented and we finally see his motivation for disobeying God in the first place. He says, “I knew it! I knew if they repented You would be merciful!” He’s actually angry at God for being merciful to his enemies!

        • It’s God’s mercy and grace we’re dealing with! We don’t get to pick and choose who God deals mercifully with.

 

  • “God commanded the prophet to go to Israel’s enemy, Assyria, and give the city of Nineveh an opportunity to repent, and Jonah would much rather see the city destroyed.” – Warren Weirsbe

 

    • If you have to choose between seeing someone repent or seeing someone destroyed, and you choose destruction for them, then you hate them.

      • You can’t hate people AND reach them with the Gospel, and if we don’t desire to see people hear the Gospel and be redeemed, then we should consider whether or not we have even understood the love of God toward us. John tells us in 1 John 3:15 that we can’t have hate in our hearts because if we have hate dwelling in our hearts, then it’s the same as being a murderer. John says that no murderer has eternal life abiding in them.

    • This is something we can’t take lightly because we don’t get to pick and choose who God loves. We don’t get to pick and choose who needs the hope that is within us. 

 

Oh, and by the way, geographically speaking, do you know where Nineveh is today? It’s right about where modern day Mosul, Iraq is. Up until recently, Mosul was under the control of ISIS.

 

  • It would be like if God spoke to one of us today and said, “I want you to go to Iraq, and preach the good news of God’s love in Christ to the members of ISIS.”

  • God may not be calling not be calling us to the Middle East, but God might be talking to us and saying, “You know that person or those people that you don’t care for, and you wish they would go away, that’s who needs to hear the reason for the hope that is within you.”

 

We can’t read this story and pretend that this isn’t for us. We can’t read this story and pretend that we’re not like Jonah… which brings us to our next point. 

 

If Nineveh is the people who are far from God, then that would make Jonah the prophet who is far from God. 

 

A PROPHET FAR FROM GOD (v. 3)

“But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.” – Jonah 1:3, NKJV

 

I think that last line in verse 3 is really interesting. Jonah is attempting to go from the presence of the Lord. You would think he would know better. Doesn’t he know Psalm 139 where David says, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.”

We’re not dealing with someone who doesn’t know who God is. We’re not dealing with someone who’s never had an experience with God before. 

 

Jonah gets on the boat, a storm comes up, and the captain goes into the boat where Jonah was sleeping to wake him up. This is where we pick up in verses 6-9. 

 

“So the captain came to him, and said to him, “What do you mean, sleeper? Arise, call on your God; perhaps your God will consider us, so that we may not perish.”
– Jonah 1:6, NKJV

  • They’re pagans. Their mindset is, “Let’s call on all the gods we can think of and maybe one of them will pick up the phone.” That doesn’t work so they come up with another solution.

 

And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, [throw dice] that we may know for whose cause this trouble has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. 8 Then they said to him, “Please tell us! For whose cause is this trouble upon us? What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?” 9 So he said to them, “I am a Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” – Jonah 1:7-9, NKJV

 

Notice what their immediate response is in verse 10. 

 

“Then the men were exceedingly afraid, and said to him, “Why have you done this?” For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.” – Jonah 1:10, NKJV

 

  • From Jonah’s perspective it almost doesn’t seem fair. These men are living lives of rebellion worshipping other gods, they probably get drunk from time to time, maybe they’re from other countries where sexual immorality is the norm. And now God has sent a big storm to toss their boat back and forth, and it’s not because these men are living lives of rebellion, it’s because Jonah has chosen to disobey God.

    • One of the things that Charles Spurgeon said that the book of Jonah taught us was that “God doesn’t allow his children to sin successfully.” What that means is that while everybody else in the world who doesn’t serve God may think they’re going to get away with their sin, selfishness, and rebellion. You, who serve God, should know better. You’re not going to get away with it. 

 

“Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you that the sea may be calm for us?”—for the sea was growing more tempestuous.” – Jonah 1:11, NKJV

 

One of the things we’re reminded of in the book of Jonah is that our sin doesn’t just affect us. Our sin affects other people. Those men in the boat would’ve never been rocked by this storm if Jonah, in his disobedience, hadn’t jumped on the boat and involved them in his mess.

  • The reason some people are bad parents, the reason some people are bad spouses is because they allow their sin to affect the decisions they make in terms of how they interact with their kids or their spouses. If you’re selfish, closed off, and always thinking about your needs and your desires, your sin of selfishness is going to affect your relationships.

    • What it all comes down to is this: the greatest gift you can give to anyone is your relationship with God. When your relationship with God thrives, your relationships with other people thrive. I am never a better husband to my wife than when I am pursuing my relationship with God.

 

This is what brings us to our final point. So far we’ve looked The People Far From God, The Prophet Far From God, and finally we see The Plan Orchestrated By God

 

THE PLAN ORCHESTRATED BY GOD

“And he said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will become calm for you. For I know that this great tempest is because of me.” 13 Nevertheless the men rowed hard to return to land, but they could not, for the sea continued to grow more tempestuous against them 14 Therefore they cried out to the Lord and said, “We pray, O Lord, please do not let us perish for this man’s life, and do not charge us with innocent blood; for You, O Lord, have done as it pleased You.” 15 So they picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging.” – Jonah 1:12-15, NKJV

 

When I was a kid, my grandma did all kinds of crafts with plastic canvas and yarn. To this day, she still makes all kinds of things with that stuff.

Well, when I was a kid and I was travelling on the road with my grandparents, my grandma picked up this pattern book that showed how to cut out the canvas, and you could make these little Precious Moments scenes. One of them that she made was of a little boy carrying a hobo sack over his shoulder with one hand, and holding a teddy bear in the other, and the caption on it said, “You can’t run from God.”

To this day, in the back of my mind, I can still see that thing hanging on the refrigerator door at my mom’s house.

And in these verses in Jonah chapter 1, Jonah learns that lesson the hard way. 

 

Jonah finally understands that he can’t run from God. He’s been trying to up until now. 

 

  • Verse 3 – “…Jonah arose to flee… from the presence of the Lord.”

  • Verse 10 – “…the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.”

The story is clear. Jonah is trying to get away from God, and then finally Jonah realizes that this storm is God’s way of getting his attention. 

 

  • Tragedies happen and life is hard, and sometimes God uses the hard things in life to get our attention. So, what should we do? Submit to the storm. Allow God to use this to shape you and discipline you into the image of Christ.

  • Jonah knew the best thing he could do was get thrown into the storm. It didn’t matter if he died in the process of getting thrown overboard he knew he had to lean into the discipline that God was using.

  • If you’re going through a rough patch right now and you feel like God might be trying to get your attention, then lean into it because it will be over eventually, and when it is it will produce a fruit of righteousness in your life. How do I know that? Hebrews 12 says so. 

 

“If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. 11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” – Hebrews 12:7-11, NKJV

 

The plan of God was always for Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach. He could get there in a boat or he could get there in a fish, but either way he was going to end up exactly where God wanted him. 

 

  • We’re going to end up exactly where God wants us, but we have a choice. We can make the journey more painful by our sinfulness and stubbornness or we can lean into the plan of God for our lives. 

 

Jonah’s awareness of his situation and his self-sacrifice is what made the difference in his life and in the lives of those sailors. Look what happened after they threw him overboard. 

 

“Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice to the Lord and took vows.” – Jonah 1:16, NKJV

 

  • It’s the sacrifice on Jonah’s part that leads to a point of real salvation for the sailors. They go from fearing the storm and crying out to false gods to fearing and crying to the real God who made the storm.

  • We don’t have to look very hard to see that there’s a certain irony in the book of Jonah. Jonah, who is supposed to be close to God, runs from Him, hops on this boat full of pagan sailors, and when it’s all said and done, Jonah is out of the boat in the middle of the sea, and it’s the sailors who have a relationship with God.

  • If we fast forward to Nineveh, Jonah preaches, Nineveh repents, Jonah is angry because they repented and he’s now left in chapter 4 sitting under a tree waiting to die.

    • From Jonah’s perspective everything worked out for everybody, but him. He wanted to see wrath and destruction. He didn’t care that people’s lives were made whole. He didn’t care that God extended mercy. 

 

CONCLUSION

This morning we have a choice: we can be like Jonah and hate our enemies or we can be like Jesus and love our enemies. 

 

I want to mention this and then I’ll close. There’s a story in John chapter 4 of Jesus approaching a woman at a well, and he asks her to get him something to drink. 

 

  • Now, this wasn’t an ordinary nice Jewish girl. She was a Samaritan woman. Samaritans were different. Samaritans were basically the product of Jews procreating with Gentiles so they were considered half-breeds. Now, that doesn’t mean much to us. We’re Gentile Americans. Who cares if Jesus is talking to a Samaritan woman at a well?

  • I said earlier that we all have biases so if it helps, imagine someone that you have a hard time loving – a Republican, a Democrat, a conservative, a liberal, a Mexican, a Middle Easterner. Jesus is talking to this woman and when the disciples return they can’t believe it. Jesus is actually conversing with a Samaritan. 

 

Now, we learn through the story that not only is she a Samaritan, but she’s also an adultress. That’s a double-whammy. 

 

Now, when the disciples came back they couldn’t believe it, but the Bible says that they didn’t ask, “What were you doing talking to her?” You know why? Because they’re not going to have the audacity to tell Jesus who He can and cannot talk to. 

 

  • But Jonah wanted to, and you know what? We do too. We have this tendency to think that the Gospel is for good people, but the Gospel but the truth is that there are no good people and bad people. We’re all bad. There’s only dead people and living people. And the Gospel is that Jesus came to raise dead people to life. 

 

So, after the Samaritan woman leaves, the disciples offer Him something to eat. He responds by saying, “I have food to eat that you do not know of… my food is to do the will of Him who sent me.” (John 4:32, 34)

 

  • So, my question is this, do you want to do God’s will? Or are you content with doing your own thing and living life on your own terms? Really, those are your only two options. 

 

You’ve got to pick between your will and God’s. Whose will it be? Let’s pray.

Matthew 28:1-20 // With Fear and Great Joy

Fear and Great Joy

Text: Matthew 28:1-20, CSB

Prayer for Illumination

O God, who made this most holy [day] to shine with the glory of the Lord’s resurrection: Stir up in your Church that Spirit of adoption which is given to us in Baptism, that we, being renewed both in body and mind, may worship you in sincerity and truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. [1]

Introduction

He was guilty and everyone knew it, but more than that. He knew it. His lawyers were urging him to ‘not guilty’ or at the very least plead the fifth because they thought they could pull some strings, or maybe come up with something that could convince everyone that he wasn’t involved even if it wasn’t true, but his conscious wouldn’t allow him to do that now.

 

From the time that he committed the crime to the time of his hearing he was a different man.

 

He plead guilty, was given a 1-3 year sentence. Charles Colson was finally brought to justice for his involvement with the Watergate scandal.

 

But, what happened? What was different? What changed?

 

As he was facing the prospect of arrest, one of his friends, gave him a copy of “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis and in reading that book, Colson was faced with the arguments for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Colson said that as he was reading the book, got out a yellow legal pad and pretended that he was in a courtroom, and he was trying to find holes in Lewis’ arguments, and he couldn’t.

 

I’m sure Colson read the part in that book where Lewis says that given all the evidence we have, Jesus is either a lunatic, a liar, or He is Lord, and if He is Lord, and then it changes everything.

 

The resurrection of Jesus Christ CANNOT BE of little importance. It is either of no importance or it is of great importance, but it cannot be of little importance.

 

  • How important is it to you personally that Jesus actually rose from the dead? Does it affect the way you live your life? Would your life be different if Jesus hadn’t risen from the dead? If he was just a good guy who taught some nice things, and then he died, and we never heard a word about Christianity, how would that affect your life?
    • If it wouldn’t affect your life at all if Jesus had never risen, then you don’t know the power of His resurrection.

 

Charles Colson would go on to say later that, “I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Everyone was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren’t true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world-and they couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks. You’re telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.”

 

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a reality, and it affects the way live, think, and make decisions. How we respond to the resurrection matters and that’s what I want us to here in this passage.

 

First of all, as we look at this chapter, I want us to see who communicated the message of the resurrection.

Who Communicated the Message?

The Angel (v. 5-7)

The first person to communicate the message of the resurrection was the angel.

 

“The angel told the women, “Don’t be afraid, because I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here. For he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has risen from the dead and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; you will see him there.’ Listen, I have told you.” – Matthew 28:5-7, CSB

 

In verse 6, we see three ideas:

 

  • “He has risen” – The Message of the Resurrection
    • 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, Paul’s argument for the resurrection
    • 1 Corinthians 15:20-58, Paul explains that Christ’s resurrection informs and guarantees our own resurrection.
  • “Just as He said” – The Basis of the Message
    • Up to this point in the Gospels, Jesus has told the disciples over and over and over again, that He was going to go to Jerusalem, and be beaten and killed at the hands of the chief priests and Pharisees and then He would die, but then He would rise again.
    • The most clear picture of this is Mark 8:31-10:45 where Jesus tells, in detail, of His death and resurrection three times almost back to back, and if you were last Sunday night when we covered Mark 10, you realize that the disciples just don’t seem to get it, and yet, this angel basically said, “He told you so!” So, the basis of the resurrection is rooted in what Jesus has said about Himself. Everything that Jesus has spoken has been fulfilled and will be fulfilled.
  • “Come, and see the place where He lay” – The Evidence of the Message
    • Not only does the angel give us the message of the resurrection, and the basis for the claim of the resurrection, but he also gives us the evidence because he invited the women to come and see the place where He lay.
    • The empty tomb in Jerusalem is one of the only tourist attractions where people travel thousands of miles and pay lots of money just to go and see nothing.

The Women (v. 8)

“So, departing quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, they ran to tell his disciples the news.” – Matthew 28:8, CSB

The women told the disciples about the risen Lord, but Matthew says that they’re going with “fear and great joy.” Why are they afraid? Jesus is alive. They should have no reason to fear, right?

 

    • The problem was that they were women and the testimony of women was considered untrustworthy. The Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible even tells us, “Both Jewish and Roman law normally regarded a woman’s testimony as of limited value, treating women as unstable. [2] It is to the women, however, that God’s agents first entrust the testimony of Jesus’ resurrection.”
    • They have every reason to be afraid. There’s a big “what if” in their minds. There’s joy because they know the truth, but there’s fear because what if the disciples don’t believe what they have to say? And the truth is that they weren’t believed at first.
    • “Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them were telling the apostles these things. 11 But these words seemed like nonsense to them, and they did not believe the women.”- Luke 24:10-11, CSB

 

 

 

So, what happened when the disciples didn’t believe the women? The women took them to the tomb.

 

“Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. When he stooped to look in, he saw only the linen cloths. So he went away, amazed at what had happened.”
– Luke 24:12, CSB

 

Now, if you go and read John’s account in John 20:7, they were able to identify the linen cloths as those belonging to Jesus so this wasn’t a case of them showing up at the wrong tomb. This also wasn’t a case of a grave robbery because grave robbers don’t neatly fold grave clothes. This was something entirely different.

 

  • Jesus of Nazareth, who had been dead, actually got up out of a tomb that had been sealed with a stone and kept guarded by soldiers, and the women were not only able to relay this message, but they were also able to show them the evidence, and I think this is important because we have to ask the question, “How do we show people the evidence of the resurrection now?”
    • I think it’s one thing to make a cognitive surface level argument for the resurrection. As a matter of fact, I think when you consider all the historical evidence involved, it’s a fairly easy argument to make, but what happens when we make all the arguments and present all the evidence, and yet still live as if it’s not true?
    • I asked the question a few months ago, and I’ll ask it again now: how would your life be different if Jesus had never risen from the dead?
      • If your life wouldn’t be different, then the resurrection of Jesus doesn’t mean all that much to you, and if Jesus’s resurrection doesn’t mean all that much to you, then you have every reason in the world to question the validity of your faith.

The disciples, after hearing the news from Mary, had to go to the tomb and see it empty because that would affect everything they did with the rest of their lives from that moment going forward.

 

  • And in that same way, the truth of the resurrection should affect our lives from the time that know the truth of it.

 

The next group of people who carry the message is the guards that were at the tomb.

The Guards

“After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to view the tomb. 2 There was a violent earthquake, because an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and approached the tomb. He rolled back the stone and was sitting on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. 4 The guards were so shaken by fear of him that they became like dead men.”
– Matthew 28:1-4, CSB

 

“As they were on their way, some of the guards came into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 After the priests had assembled with the elders and agreed on a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money 13 and told them, “Say this, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him while we were sleeping.’ 14 If this reaches the governor’s ears, we will deal with him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 They took the money and did as they were instructed, and this story has been spread among Jewish people to this day.” – Matthew 28:11-15, CSB

 

I think it’s interesting that the first instinct of the guards is to tell the truth, and then the first instinct of the chief priests is to cover up the truth.

 

  • No one involved assumes that the resurrection won’t be believed. Think about how remarkable that is. The Chief Priests (who hated Jesus, who hated His followers) would never believe that there would come a day when those who claimed to believe in Jesus didn’t believe in His resurrection, and yet, here we are.
  • There are many people who claim to be Christians, they want the fellowship, they want the comradery, they want heaven even, they want all the benefits of Christianity without believing in the truth of the resurrection of Jesus because, “after all, dead people don’t come back. That’s just one of those superstitious things for those people who aren’t as advanced as we are, right?”
    • That’s precisely the problem. We think we have the world figured out, and then God does something like raise His Son from dead and it just messes with everything we think we know.

 

The guards, without realizing what they’re doing, actually carry the information that makes Christianity what it is. “Jesus, this guy who said that He was the Son of God, who said that He would die and then rise again in three days, actually did it.”

 

Think about why the guards are there in first place. Look at the end of Matthew 27.

 

“The next day, which followed the preparation day, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember that while this deceiver was still alive he said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 So give orders that the tomb be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come, steal him, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.” – Matthew 27:62-64, CSB

 

Some of you were here last Sunday night when we looked at the tail end of Mark 10, and we talked about how leading up to that point, Jesus has just told the disciples about how his death and resurrection three times, and they still didn’t seem to understand what Jesus was talking about because they wanted to know if they could sit at His right or His left hand in the kingdom.

 

  • It’s ironic that the chief priests seem to understand more about what Jesus was saying than the disciples.
    • And if that weren’t enough irony, it’s not even Jesus’ own disciples who first witness what happens, it’s the guards. They saw the angel come down and they knew what was going on because they were able to report what happened to the chief priests.

 

And the chief priests, instead of believing in Jesus at that point, they do whatever they can to cover it up.

 

  • And again, people haven’t changed that much. The information is there. They can’t deny it. They either have to believe it or cover it up.
  • In Romans 1, the Apostle Paul said that people try to cover up the truth about God all the time except he’s uses different language to describe it, he says that they “suppress the truth with their unrighteousness.” And that’s exactly what the chief priests are trying to do. They’re trying to suppress the truth of the resurrection with falsehood and deceit because they knew that if the news ever got out, it would change everything.
    • If even these godless chief priests knew what kind implications the resurrection would have, why don’t we?

How the Disciples Respond to the Resurrection

Now, look at how the disciples respond to the resurrection. Look at Matthew 28:9-10. Remember in verse 8, our passage said that Mary Magdalene and Mary were filled with fear and great joy and then they ran to tell the disciples.

 

“Just then Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” They came up, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus told them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see me there.” – Matthew 28:9-10, CSB

 

  • Jesus commissions the women with a specific message for the disciples.

 

“The eleven disciples traveled to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped, but some doubted.”
– Matthew 28:16-17, CSB

 

Think about the people that are here. These are the disciples who have been following Jesus around for 3 ½ years. They are His friends, His followers, even His students (they saw Him as a rabbi). Now, they’re worshipping Him because it all makes sense now. They finally realize that He is who He said He is, but not all are worshipping. Some are doubting.

 

  • Now, before we start casting stones at the doubters, I want us to think about what a doubter is. A doubter isn’t simply an unbeliever. An unbeliever says, “Nah, I’m good. I don’t believe that Jesus is who He said He is, He’s just some guy that said some cool stuff.” Doubters, however, are different. Doubters don’t completely dismiss everything. They want truth, they want assurance. They need to know that they can have some solid ground to stand on.

 

We have to be clear, we don’t know why they’re doubting.

 

  • John’s account may shed some light on it in John 21:4, when he says that when daybreak came, Jesus was standing on the shore, but some of the disciples didn’t realize that it was Him, but the point remains: they were confused, they were doubting, and Jesus, instead of addressing their doubts goes ahead and sends them on mission.

 

“Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20, CSB

 

When John Wesley was in the process of trying to figure out his faith, he was visiting with a group of Christians called The Moravians and he records in his journal that he after spending time with them he was convinced that he wasn’t saved because they preached a faith alone that saved and led to good works, and after observing how they lived he was convinced that he wasn’t saved, and he went to one of the Moravian ministers named Peter Boehler and he said, and I’m paraphrasing, “You guys are the real deal, and I don’t think I am. After seeing you guys I think maybe I’ve been faking it. Maybe I should stop preaching.”

 

In the March 4th entry, Wesley writes, “I asked Boehler, whether he thought I should [stop preaching]. He answered “By no means.” I asked, “But what can I preach?” He said, “Preach faith till you have it; and then, because you have it, you will preach faith.[3]

 

Most of us probably wouldn’t have said that, and most of us probably would have told the disciples to get their act together before they go out preaching, and yet, Jesus tells everyone present, including the disciples, “Go out there, make disciples, baptize them, and teach them everything that I’ve taught you.”

 

One commentator says, “We are tempted to criticize the disciples for doubting, but we should not imagine that we would have done better.  Jesus does not rebuke the disciples. He understands their doubt, but speaks to their faith. He understands their frailty, but calls them to carry on his work.[4]

 

  • God grants us faith as a gift, and His word causes our faith to increase.

 

Two months after Peter Boehler told John Wesley to preach faith until he had it, Wesley was trying to seek the assurance of his faith through prayer and the reading of the Scriptures, and he records:

“In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate-Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation: And an assurance was given me, that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.[5]

Conclusion

You may be here this morning and you see the evidence for the resurrection, and maybe you want to believe, maybe you want to trust in Christ. If that desire is in you, then that’s God working in your life, drawing you to Himself.

 

When you trust in Christ, the voice of doubt may come and try to creep in, but the voice of Jesus is always louder because He promises never to leave us or forsake us.

 

The resurrection is proof that everything Jesus said and did is true, and He can be trusted.

 

The Apostle Paul prays for us in Ephesians 1:18-20 when he says, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the mighty working of his strength.

 

20 He exercised this power in Christ by raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens.”

 

Let’s pray.

Closing Prayer

Heavenly Father, give us a sense of the immeasurable power of Your greatness, this morning. Let us look to Christ and see Your power exhibited in raising Him from the dead and open our eyes to see that You have raised those of us who believe to new life in Him. If there is anyone here now who lacks faith, I pray that You would grant them the gift of faith so that they can see You, Lord, high and lifted up, and that they could experience life with You. In the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

______________________________

  1. Book of Common Prayer, pg. 285
  2. (see, e.g., Justinian, Institutes 2.10.6; Josephus, Antiquities 4.219; in the Mishnah see Yebamot 15:1, 8 – 10; 16:7; ketubbot 1:6 – 9; in the Tosefta see Yebamot 14:10)
  3. Person. “The Moravians and John Wesley.” Christian History | Learn the History of Christianity & the Church, Christian History, 16 Mar. 2016, www.christianitytoday.com/history/issues/issue-1/moravians-and-john-wesley.html.
  4. “Matthew 28:16-20 Commentary, Bible Study.” Sermon Writer, www.sermonwriter.com/biblical-commentary/matthew-2816-20/.
  5. Person. “The Moravians and John Wesley.” Christian History | Learn the History of Christianity & the Church, Christian History, 16 Mar. 2016, http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/issues/issue-1/moravians-and-john-wesley.html.

Matthew 21:1-17 // How Jesus Makes Things Right

Palm Sunday

Text: Matthew 21:1-17

PRAYER OF ILLUMINATION

Almighty and Everlasting God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. [1]

INTRODUCTION

This is Palm Sunday, and typically we read this story at this time of the year because, it marks, for us, the beginning of Holy Week. But, I wonder if it’s too familiar to us because we’ve spent so long reading the Bible with modern eyes that we are completely inoculated to the significance of what’s going on here.

Let’s say for example that you keep a journal of your life, and all throughout your journal are reference to places and political figures of the world in which you live, (you live in the United States and Donald Trump is your president) and somehow your journal is preserved for the next couple thousand years.

Well, in 2000 years the landscape of world can change a lot, and let’s say it changes so much that the USA is no longer in existence and the government is completely different from what it is now, and if someone found your journal and read it and didn’t know the culture in which you lived it would affect the way they read it. They don’t know who Donald Trump is. They don’t know what a President is or does. They don’t know about the USA. It’s the same way with the Bible.

Unless we at least have a general understanding of the culture in which the Bible was written, it’s hard for us to really wrap our minds around the significance of what really went on in Jerusalem on this day.

And what happens on this day is that Jesus declares that he a subversive king of a subversive kingdom.

  • He is not coming to be a political entity. He will not allow the people to use Him as a political pundit for their cause. We see this all the time now. Every time an election comes along someone always claims Jesus for their side and we get duped into voting for them every four years because we fear the people on the other side of aisle MORE than the consequences of supporting a candidate who uses Jesus as a pawn for their cause.

    • “Well, we have to choose the lesser of two evils!” Spurgeon said that if you have to choose between two evils, you should choose neither one of them.  Imagine if Christians chose sin like that, “Well, I could either pickpocket someone or play with Ouija board and talk to demons. Which one is it going to be?” How about you do neither one? …But, I digress…

Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, and the people greet Him waving their palms at Him and crying, “Hosanna! Hosanna!” In their language this means, “Save us!”

When people cry out, “Save us!” They’re communicating two things:

  1. They’re either being oppressed or in danger of being oppressed.
  2. They can’t save themselves.

And what Jesus comes to save them from is not necessarily what they think they need saving from.

In Mark Dever’s book on Substitutionary Atonement, he notes one of the stark contrast between Christianity and Islam like this:

“Perhaps the contrast is best symbolized by the way Mohammad entered Mecca and Jesus entered Jerusalem. Mohammad rode into Mecca on a warhorse, surrounded by 400 mounted men and 10,000 foot soldiers. Those who greeted him were absorbed into his movement; those who resisted him were vanquished, killed, or enslaved. Mohammad conquered Mecca, and took control as its new religious, political, and military leader. Today, in the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, Turkey, Mohommad’s purported sword is proudly on display ….Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey, accompanied by his 12 disciples. He was welcomed and greeted by people waving palm fronds—a traditional sign of peace. Jesus wept over Jerusalem because the Jews mistook him for an earthly, secular king who was to free them from the yoke of Rome, whereas, Jesus came to establish a much different, heavenly kingdom. Jesus came by invitation and not by force.” [2]

They believe that Jesus as the Messiah is going to save them politically. They’re looking for someone like Mohammed. They believe that he’s going to overthrow the Roman government, and put the Jewish people back into power. And that’s we want too.

  • Every four years we want Jesus to put “those people” out and put “our people” in, and we’re just as misguided as they are because we are wanting power over a temporary piece of dirt, and when Jesus physically returns, it’s going to be His anyway. Jesus isn’t going to be powerless mascot monarch like they have in the UK where He’ll sit on a throne and do nothing while we vote in some real rulers.

  • Jesus is a REAL king with REAL authority, and His message is simple, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is so close you can touch it!”

    • Do you want power that matters? Then be a king and priest in God’s kingdom!

What Jesus primarily comes to save them from is the sin that separates them from God because even though they want a kingdom, there is no kingdom without a relationship with the King.

  • And once they realize that their sin is the problem, then they’ll realize that the kingdom that they should be looking for is not an earthly kingdom that can be established with their political agendas.

  • So before He saves them from their sin, He has to save them from their expectations of Him, and of His kingdom.

Peter even misses the point. In Acts 1, when Jesus is getting ready to ascend to the Father, Peter asks, “Will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Peter wants to talk about power over a temporal piece of dirt, and Jesus wants to empower him to do things that actually matter!

So, when Jesus comes into Jerusalem, he declares His kingship, not by going to the Roman senate and assuming power, but by going straight to the temple.

The title of the message this morning is “How Jesus Makes Things Right.”

  • But before we can see how Jesus makes things right, we have to see what’s wrong, and in order to do that we have to take in everything that’s going on.

So, there’s three phases to what’s going on here and we’re going to break it down piece by piece:

  • Phase 1: Jesus Enters Jerusalem
  • Phase 2: Jesus Cleanses the Temple
  • Phase 3: Jesus Heals the Blind and Receives Children in the Temple

Phase 1: Jesus Enters Jerusalem

Before Jesus comes into Jerusalem, he tells the disciples to go into the next village get a donkey, and if they are asked why they’re taking the donkey they are to say, “The Lord needs it.”

Kings sometimes come in and requisition things when they’re in the process of conquering, and so by requisitioning some person’s donkey Jesus is clearly stating that He is the only king that the owner of his donkey needs to be concerned with.

  • But why is he getting a donkey? If He has the authority to requisition animals, then why not a warhorse? That’s more befitting of a king, right?

  • I remember watching some action movies where a cop would be chasing a criminal on foot, and the criminal would get away in a car, and the cop would have to requisition a vehicle, and how odd would it be if you had a cop that had to chase a criminal, and he’s got his choice of any vehicle to use, and he chooses an old, beat up, Ford Pinto.

  • That’s the equivalent of what’s going on here. He should be coming in in the driver seat of a Cadillac Escalade, and instead he’s rolling up in a Taurus. Why? What’s the point? What is Jesus communicating?

He’s communicating that real power isn’t pompous. Real power doesn’t need to demand respect because it’s already respected by those who recognize real power.

“Victors in battle do not ride into their capital cities riding on asses, but rather they ride on fearsome horses. But this king does not and will not triumph through force of arms… this king triumphs not through violent revolt, but by being for Israel the one able to show it that its worship of God is its freedom. He is Israel’s long-expected priestly king whom the prophets said would come. His entry into Jerusalem is, therefore, rightly celebrated by those who are not in power.” [3] – Stanley Hauerwas

Jesus comes into Jerusalem and he is met with a large crowd of people, and it’s important to note that not everyone in Jerusalem is here. The only ones here are people who are on the bottom in society.

The people on top are the ones looking to kill Jesus and get Him out of the way because Jesus is disrupting people’s plans. That’s what John’s account of this event tells us in John 12:17-19.

“Meanwhile, the crowd, which had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead, continued to testify. 18 This is also why the crowd met him, because they heard he had done this sign. 19 Then the Pharisees said to one another, “You see? You’ve accomplished nothing. Look, the world has gone after him!” – John 12:17-19, CSB

We know from what happened at the end of John 11, that the Pharisees are plotting to kill Jesus, and now he’s coming into Jerusalem and people are cheering for him.

  • In the Pharisee’s minds, he’s supposed to be dead. He’s not supposed to be walking around. We’re going to see that next week too.

  • Jesus has risen. In their minds, He’s supposed to be dead, but no, He’s still walking around throwing a wrench in the plans of those hate Him. Psalm 2, “Why do the heathen rage? Why do the people imagine a vain thing?”

“The one enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord ridicules them.” – Psalm 2:4, CSB

The laughter of God against His enemies is heard in every testimony and witness to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

And surely, God laughed as His Son rode into Jerusalem at the chagrin of the Pharisees, and the celebration of the people whom the Pharisees had oppressed.

 

Phase 2: Jesus Cleanses the Temple

“Jesus went into the temple and threw out all those buying and selling. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves. 13 He said to them, “It is written, my house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of thieves!” – Matthew 21:12-13, CSB

In a single statement in verse 13, we hear Jesus make a two-part declaration.

  • What God’s house is supposed to be
  • What the people have turned it into

From the beginning of the year where we walked through the Seven Churches, then walked through 2nd John and then over the last two weeks we read part of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus condemns hypocrisy.

These are the passages that make us uncomfortable in the best way possible, or at least they should. The question for us is, “Is the church a house of prayer?” And when I talk about ‘the church’ I’m not talking about a physical building, I’m talking Christ’s building, Christ’s bride, Christ’s body.

  • Are we a people of prayer?

Because if we’re not a people of prayer, then we can easily turn into a den of thieves – people who are consumers.

  • That’s essentially what these money-changers are. They’re consumers. They’re using God’s house of prayer as a place to profit from God’s people.

Micah Fries preached an excellent sermon a couple of weeks ago where he talked about lots people look for a church with a consumer mindset the same way that someone might shop for a pair of jeans.

  • They want the best fit for them from a store that looks cool, and doesn’t demand too much of a price.

That’s how some people look for a church. They’re consumers that want something that looks, it’s a great fit for them, and demand too much. That’s fine when you’re looking for jeans, but that doesn’t fly when you’re looking for a place to worship God.

  • If we approach church that way, then we’re not better than the money-changers that use God’s house for filthy lucre.

So, the first step that Jesus takes in making things right is that He cleans house.

Do you know why some people don’t stick around in a church that proclaims the whole counsel of God’s word? It’s because God cleans house. That’s what John says in 1 John 2:19 when he says, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” (1 John 2:19, KJV)

But look at what happens after Jesus cleans house.

Phase 3: Jesus Heals the Blind and Receives Children

“The blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. 15 When the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonders that he did and the children shouting in the temple,”Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant 16 and said to him, “Do you hear what these children are saying?”

Jesus replied, “Yes, have you never read:
You have prepared praise
from the mouths of infants and nursing babies?”

17 Then he left them, went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there.” – Matthew 21:14-17, CSB

One of the things that I think is most interesting about this passage is that after Jesus cleans house he starts healing people and blessing children. It’s almost as if he’s saying, “Here. Let me show what God’s house is really for” and then He proceeds to go and do what they should have been doing the whole time.

Another thing I find really remarkable is that if you go back to the Old Testament and read Leviticus 21, where God is giving instructions regarding the holiness of the priests, God specifically said in Leviticus 21:17-18 that no one blind or lame, or anyone with a physical birth defect may come to the temple and offer sacrifices and David reiterates that law in 2 Samuel 5:8.

Now, if Jesus were just letting people in and letting them have their run of the place, then we could see why the Pharisees would be upset, but He’s healing them. He’s making it so that nothing can stop them from participating in the worship of God.

  • Notice the stark contrast between the money-changers and Jesus. While the money-changers are taking advantage of people, Jesus is healing people of the things that cause them to be disadvantaged.

This message is for us. We need to be doing God’s work in God’s world and people after they encounter us need to be better than when we first meet them.

Notice also, that the children are praising Jesus. They recognize who He is by how they’re addressing Him – the son of David. That’s Jesus’ messianic title.

Matthew Henry notes, “This they learned from those that were grown up. Little children say and do as they hear others say, and see others do; so easily do they imitate; and therefore great care must be taken to set them good examples.”

Because we are Presbyterian, there are two things that happen in this church that do not happen in other churches – infants and children are baptized and infants and children partake of the Lord’s Supper.

  • In other churches, there’s this unbiblical idea that you won’t find anywhere else in Scripture called “the age of accountability” and you have to wait until the church believes that you are accountable for your actions before you can receive baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

In our church, we believe that Jesus is present and at work in these practices so we offer them to children because Jesus loves children. Jesus says, “Let the little children come unto me” so we’re not going to stop infants and children from meeting Jesus in waters of baptism and in the Lord’s Supper.

  • I know of a man right now pastoring a Cumberland Presbyterian church who refuses to practice infant baptism because he’s into that “age of accountability” stuff.

  • Listen, I’m glad Jesus didn’t wait until I came to my senses to offer me salvation.

  • Jesus’ offer of salvation was on the table for us long before we were born. When Jesus died on the cross and rose again that was us dying with Him and rising with Him.

So, we offer baptism and the Lord’s Supper to everyone including children because that’s who Jesus offers Himself to.

  • Some of you who let your children or grandchildren partake of the cup and bread may do so because you think that to them this is just a snack and they might feel left out if they didn’t get a little cup and a cracker too, but this is too important for us to leave our children’s understanding at that level.

  • We need to communicate to them that Jesus offers us life in the partaking of the bread and the wine, and when they, as children take the bread and the cup in faith, then that’s one of the ways that they are participating the perfect praise that Jesus talks about at the end of our passage.

Jesus makes things right by throwing out the people that He knows will not want anything to do with the life that He offers. He throws out the ones that don’t want to give up what they have, and instead invites people who don’t have anything to hold on to.

Do you want to come to Jesus? Then, come empty-handed.

Is there something in your life that you can’t let go of? Do you feel like you can’t come to Jesus empty handed? Then, come with what you have and lay it at His feet. He’s waiting to heal you just like he’s healed others.

Let’s pray.

Closing Prayer

Almighty and Everlasting God, You meet us where we are. Sometimes we are the Pharisees who have plans of our own and we want anything other that for You to come along and ruin our plans. Sometimes we’re the money changers that use people and love things when we should be using things and loving people. But today, we want be children for You said, “to such belong the kingdom of heaven.” We don’t want to Pharisees or money changers anymore, we want to be children who approach you in faith believing that You are all we need. Please grant us this kind of faith. In the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

_______________________________

  1. Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday, pg. 219
  2. Dever, Mark, and Michael Lawrence. It Is Well: Expositions on Substitutionary Atonement. Crossway, 2010.

  3. Hauerwas, Stanley. Matthew. Brazos Press, 2015.

Matthew 6:1-4, 19-34 // When You Give

SD Sermon Graphics 3

You may listen the audio of this sermon here.

Text: Matthew 6:1-4, 19-34

Prayer for Illumination

Almighty and Everlasting God, Your Word is truth and we need truth now more than ever. In a world that says there is no truth and anything goes, we need some solid ground to stand on, and that’s what Your Word gives us. As we look into Your Word, let us find truth, embrace the truth, and live the truth. In the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Introduction

We’ve been in a series where we are looking at some spiritual disciplines. Two weeks ago, we talked about fasting, last week we talked about prayer, and this week giving. When we think about spiritual disciplines, we might not think about giving as being something that contributes to our spiritual life because we might tempted to think that giving simply a tangible act because most of what we give away are things that we can touch and feel.

 

If you remember last week when we talked about prayer, Jesus told us that there is an inappropriate way to pray, but then there’s an appropriate way to pray.

 

Two weeks ago, when we covered fasting, there’s was an inappropriate way for the people of God to fast, and then there was an appropriate way.

 

This week, the idea of giving is no different. There’s an inappropriate way to give, but then there’s an appropriate way.

 

So, what I would like to do is talk about our passage under four points: How We Shouldn’t Give (v. 1-2), How We Should Give (v. 3-4), Hindrances to Giving (v. 19-24), and Assurances for Giving (v. 25-34)

 

How Not to Give (v. 1-4)

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. Otherwise, you have no reward with your Father in heaven.”
– Matthew 6:1, CSB

 

This is right in the middle of Jesus’ sermon on the Mount, and this is a point of transition in his speech.

 

  • Remember, Jesus starts of talking about the beatitudes – “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted, blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth.”
  • Then Jesus starts talking about the law, and He says that are hard like “You have have heard it said ‘don’t commit adultery,’ but I tell you that if you look upon a woman lustfully, then you’ve already committed adultery in your heart.” And by saying this, Jesus isn’t adding to the law. Instead, he’s revealing the heart of the law.
    • The Pharisees and the legalists of their day were trying to find loopholes in the law so they could still technically obey it, but still get away with doing whatever they wanted, and Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount is Him telling the religious people, “That’s not how this is going to work. You can’t get away with pretending to be righteous.” And this is where we find Jesus.

 

Matthew 6:1 is Jesus’ thesis statement for the next portion of this sermon.

  • So, in this one verse you’ve got two things: an exhortation and a promise.
    • Exhortation: “Don’t practice your righteousness publicly to be seen by others.”
    • Promise: “If you do, there is no reward from your Father in heaven.”

 

Everything else in this chapter all rests on these two ideas.

 

“So whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward.  – Matthew 6:2, CSB

 

I think when we read the Sermon on the Mount we don’t take it in the way Jesus’ audience initially took it in because we’re used to it. We’ve heard taught, preached, and read to us for a couple thousand years. We’ve read it over and over again to the point that I think sometimes we are inoculated to the revolutionary nature of what Jesus is saying.

 

  • Jesus’ audience is used to seeing those who are more well off brag about their giving, they are used to seeing the priests pray in public use long, repetitive, drawn out prayers.
  • And Jesus says, “You can pray, you can give, you can fast. These things aren’t bad in and of themselves, but the way we do them can be bad.”

 

When Jesus calls out the Pharisees in Matthew 23:23 for tithing off their spice racks, He doesn’t condemn for tithing on everything they have down to their spices, He condemns them for doing so while neglecting the other parts of the law, specifically those parts of the law that include loving their neighbors.

 

Jesus tells us that the most inappropriate way we could give is publicly brag about our giving.

 

  • When we do that, we might prove that we can live without whatever we’re giving away, but what we can’t live without is pride.
  • When the Pharisees and the religious people would brag about what they gave away, they weren’t actually giving anything away because they were getting something in return, and what they were getting was a pat on the back from everybody else. All they were doing was investing in their own ego boost.

 

In Luke 14, Jesus tells the Pharisees who invited him to dinner, “don’t invite your friends, family, or rich neighbors, because they might invite you back, and you would be repaid. On the contrary, when you host a banquet, invite those who are poor, maimed, lame, or blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you…” (Luke 14:12-14)

 

The Pharisees gave for the purpose of getting something back, and Jesus says that if we give like they do, then that’s all we’ll get in return – an ego boost, and when the ‘high’ of that wears off and we need more validation, we’ll give some more, and then toot our own horn and wait for more people to compliment us, and then that ‘high’ of an ego boost will wear off and the cycle will continue.

 

However, Jesus tells us that there’s an appropriate way to give.

How We Should Give (v. 3-4)

But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” – Matthew 6:3-4, CSB

 

The beginning of verse 4 tells us that the end goal for our giving is for it to be done in secret.

 

  • I think the only way for us to keep our motivations in check is if we give secretly.

 

That being said, we can’t approach verses 3 and 4 like a formula and think, “Well, I’d better make sure I give and not tell anybody so that I can get a blessing.”

 

  • We talked about how the Pharisees would invest in their own egos. I think the same thing applies to us if all we want to do is make ourselves feel good about what we’ve done.
    • Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying that if you feel good about doing something good, then you’re doing it wrong, but if that’s the end goal for you, then that’s a form of selfishness.

“Christian giving is to be marked by self-sacrifice and self-forgetfulness, not by self-congratulation.” – John Stott

    • Our end goal, our ultimate motivation for giving should always be to bring glory to God, and bring help to whomever we’re giving to.

 

Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is to love God and love our neighbor. The ultimate question of our giving should be, “What’s my motivations for this? Where’s my heart?”

 

  • On Sunday morning, when it comes time to take up the tithes and offerings are we giving joyfully or are just doing the math to make sure God gets His 10% cut so we can go happily about the rest of our week?

 

So, how should we give? We should give with our motivations in check, making sure that we are glorifying God, and not ourselves.

 

With that in mind the next question that I think is worth asking is, “What is it that generally stands in our way of giving?” If we look at Matthew 6:19-24, I believe we’ll find an answer.

Hindrances to Giving (v. 19-24)

“Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

 

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. So if the light within you is darkness, how deep is that darkness!

 

24 “No one can serve two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” – Matthew 6:19-24, CSB

 

Jesus hits the nail right on the head in verse 24. The thing that really prevents us from giving the way we should is the fact that we are attached to what we’re supposed to be giving away, and Jesus tells us that if we’re more attached to our money than the purposes of God in using money, then we’re investing our treasures on earth and it’s all going to go to rot.

 

There’s an Old Testament parallel to this idea in the book of Haggai.

 

After the people of God returned from Babylonian exile, they began rebuilding their lives. They used their own energy and resources to build their own homes meanwhile the temple still sat in ruins from being destroyed 70 years earlier.

 

And if you read Haggai 1, this is God’s message.

 

“The word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to live in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?” 5 Now, the Lord of Armies says this: “Think carefully about your ways:

6 You have planted much but harvested little.
You eat but never have enough to be satisfied.
You drink but never have enough to be happy.
You put on clothes but never have enough to get warm.
The wage earner puts his wages into a bag with a hole in it.”

7 The Lord of Armies says this: “Think carefully about your ways. 8 Go up into the hills, bring down lumber, and build the house; and I will be pleased with it and be glorified,” says the Lord. 9 “You expected much, but then it amounted to little. When you brought the harvest to your house, I ruined it. Why?” This is the declaration of the Lord of Armies. “Because my house still lies in ruins, while each of you is busy with his own house.

10 So on your account, the skies have withheld the dew and the land its crops.

11 I have summoned a drought on the fields and the hills, on the grain, new wine, fresh oil, and whatever the ground yields, on man and animal, and on all that your hands produce.” – Haggai 1:3-11, CSB

 

Once the people were free from exile they went about their lives as usual and they forgot about the worship of God.

 

  • When they forgot about the worship of God, their lives became harder to live.
    • The paycheck didn’t stretch as far as it normally did, they couldn’t keep groceries in house, etc. Overall, their lives became harder to manage, and it was all because they couldn’t give up their extra resources for the restoration of the house of God.

 

Jesus tells us that we either invest in things of heaven or the things of earth, and when we refuse to let go of our attachments, then we make the choice invest in the things of earth, and we’ll lose it anyway. The best thing we can do is be generous.

 

If I were to ask you who Stephen King is, I’m sure you could tell me about the fact that he’s a horror novelist, and about how a lot of his books have been made into award winning movies like The Shining, Fire Starter, and Shawshank Redemption.

 

  • But, there might be some things about him you may not have known. For example, did you know Boston Red Sox fan? The Red Sox always appear somewhere in his novels.
  • Do you know he’s a guitar player in a mediocre rock band made up of other famous authors? You don’t want to go on iTunes to get their music, believe me.
  • Do you know that he’s a recovering alcoholic?
  • Do you know that he almost lost his life a few years ago? He was walking along a country road in Maine, and a van hit him and knocked him into a ditch. His legs were so crushed the doctors considered amputating them. But he managed to pull through. Did you know that he’s an outspoken advocate of generosity? This caught my attention, and I couldn’t believe it: Stephen King, the horror novelist, advocates generosity?

 

I came across it reading excerpts from a speech he gave to the graduates of Vassar College. It was a commencement address shortly after his accident and recovery. He something that I believing every professing Christian needs to hear.

 

“I found out what “you can’t take it with you” means. I found out while I was lying in the ditch at the side of a country road covered with mud and blood and with the tibia of my right leg poking out the side of my jeans, like a branch of a tree taken down in a thunderstorm. I had a Mastercard in my wallet, but when you’re lying in a ditch with broken glass in your hair no one accepts Mastercard. We all know that life is ephemeral, but on that particular day and in the months that followed, I got a painful but extremely valuable look at life’s simple backstage truths.

 

We come in naked and broke. We may be dressed up when we go out, but we’re just as broke. Warren Buffet is going to go out broke. Bill Gates is going out broke. Tom Hanks is going out broke. Steve King, broke, not a crying dime. All the money you earn, all the stocks you buy, all the mutual funds you trade, all of that is mostly smoke and mirrors. So I want you to consider making your life one long gift to others. And why not? All you have is on loan anyway. All that lasts is what you pass on. We have the power to help, the power to change. And why should we refuse? Because we’re going to take it with us? Oh, please.

 

Right now we have the power to do great good for others. So I ask you to begin giving and to continue as you began. I think you’ll find in the end that you got far more than you ever had and did more good than you ever dreamed.

Jesus puts things in perspective for us.

 

  • Jesus reminds that all we have down here is just temporal stuff. We can use it get by, but we can’t horde it because it won’t do us any good.

 

The famous pastor and Bible teacher Ray Stedman said that he had picked up a hitchhiker one time and he was trying to witness to him, and the young man said, “I wish I was like my uncle,” and Pastor Ray said, “Why is that?”

 

The man replied that his uncle died a millionaire and Ray said, “No, he didn’t.”

 

The guy looked confused, and Ray said, “Who has the million now?” and the guy said, “Oh, I see what you mean.”

 

Solomon was probably the richest king in the Old Testament and as he got older he began to reflect on all his riches, power, and accomplishments and declared that it was all meaningless. Here’s what he says in Ecclesiastes 6:1-3 about wealth.

 

“Here is a tragedy I have observed under the sun, and it weighs heavily on humanity: 2 God gives a person riches, wealth, and honor so that he lacks nothing of all he desires for himself, but God does not allow him to enjoy them. Instead, a stranger will enjoy them. This is futile and a sickening tragedy. 3 A man may father a hundred children and live many years. No matter how long he lives, if he is not satisfied by good things and does not even have a proper burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he.” – Ecclesiastes 6:1-3, CSB

 

Basically, what Solomon is saying is that as long as you’re alive you’re only going to use up so many resources. You’re only going to need so much, and if just horde, then you’ll die and it will all go to someone else. You might as well give something away now so that you can witness other people’s enjoyment.

 

Finally, we come to the end of Matthew 6, we’ve seen How We Shouldn’t Give, How We Should Give, and Our Hindrances to Giving, but maybe we’re worried about what might happen if we give.

 

  • Jesus addresses this issue at the end of Matthew 6, and one of the things I appreciate about Jesus is that he doesn’t tell us that we’re worrying over nothing. He doesn’t tell us are concerns aren’t valid, but He gives us some promises that we can stand on.

 

“Therefore I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Consider the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? 27 Can any of you add one moment to his life span by worrying? 28 And why do you worry about clothes? Observe how the wildflowers of the field grow: They don’t labor or spin thread. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these. 30 If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t he do much more for you—you of little faith? 31 So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. 34 Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
– Matthew 6:25-34, CSB

 

In verse 31, Jesus addresses the things that we’re naturally going to worry about.

 

  • “What will we eat?” – Appetites
  • “What will we wear?” – Attire

 

And in response Jesus promises that He will feed us just like He feeds the birds, and that He will clothe us just like clothes the flowers with beauty.

 

So, the evidence that God will take care of us is right outside our backdoors, and not only is this evidence of how He will take care of us, but it’s also an example of how graciously He gives  to us. He doesn’t have to clothe us, feed us, protect us, but He does.

 

  • Growing up in church, they would sing an old chorus that said, “God didn’t have to do it, but He did.”
  • God graciously gives to us, and so we should graciously give to others.

 

In the Bible, all throughout the New Testament, particularly in Paul’s letters, we see how the Apostle Paul tells us that we should love just God in Christ has loved us, we should forgive just as God in Christ has forgiven us.

 

  • Whether the world realizes it or not, they operate under the old law of God because almost everyone (even if they deny God’s existence) seems to operate by “an eye for an eye” mentality, but the Christian life isn’t about treating others the way they treat you, the Christian life is about treating others the way God has treated you.

 

My grandparents live in Dover, and they have a large wooded area around their backyard and the squirrels, the birds, and the deer have no reason to starve my  grandparent’s house. My grandpa has feeders of every size, shape, and quantity.

 

While he was in hospital back in November he was worried so bad that the squirrels weren’t going to get fed that Brittany and I had to go over there and put corn on all the feeders, and that the bird feeders were full of seed.

 

If you see an animal, you can tell if it’s been to my grandpa’s house because all the woodland creatures within a 2 and a half mile radius are morbidly obese.

 

And do you know what Jesus says to me in this passage? My Father in Heaven will take care of me just as much as my grandpa takes care of the animals that come into his yard and then some, and He’ll take care of you too. Let’s pray.

 

Closing Prayer

Heavenly Father, sometimes life is hard and we feel like if we open our hands to give then life will be even harder, but Lord, You promise that if we give You will take care of us, and Your care and Your provision is our reward. Lord, change our hearts that so that we can see You as our reward. Let our hearts melt before You so that You can shape them into what You would have them to be. In the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Matthew 6:5-15 // When You Pray

SD Sermon Graphics 2

Text: Matthew 6:5-15, CSB

 

Prayer for Illumination

Guide us, O Lord, by your Word and Your Holy Spirit, that in Your light we may see light, in Your truth find freedom, and in your will discover peace through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Introduction

Last we started a series of messages on some spiritual disciplines. We started with fasting, this morning we’re going to talk about prayer, and next week we’ll talk about giving. We’ll break for Palm Sunday and Easter, and then we might revisit this idea of spiritual discipline off and on throughout the year.

 

  • Spiritual discipline comes from the idea that as you live you’re always being formed into something. No one lives in static. Every time you make a decision or a choice, it contributes to your formation. How do you interact with God? How do you interact with the people around you? What do you think of the Church? How do you view the world around you?
  • The answers to these questions reflect what you’re being formed into. Now, the ideal goal is for us to be formed into the image of Christ. That’s what Paul says in Romans 8 when he tells that we, as believers, have been predestined to be conformed into the image of Christ, and then Paul describes that process in detail in 2 Corinthians 3 when he says that as we continue to look to Christ we are transformed from glory to glory into His image.

 

These ideas of fasting, prayer, and giving help us reorient our lives in such a way that we are more aware of God’s presence and activity in the world and in our lives.

 

“Each moment of our days–our meals, our conversations with friends, our escapes, obsessions, romances, and distractions–is what we make of our lives. Our habits and rhythms of life are formative not only of who we are but how we know the world, including whether we know it to be a place where God is present or absent.[1]” ― Mike Cosper

 

So, as we look at how Jesus taught us to pray it’s clear that He intends for us to believe what we pray and act on it. We can’t pray for God’s forgiveness and then withhold forgiveness from someone else because as long as we withhold forgiveness, all we’re doing is building up bitterness in our soul.

 

  • People who remain in unforgiveness and bitterness do not get formed into the image of Christ unless God actually comes in and delivers them from that.

 

All that being said, I want us to look at our passage today under three headings:

 

  1. How We Shouldn’t Pray (v. 5, 7-8)
  2. How We Should Pray (v. 6, 9-13)
  3. How to Live What We Pray (v. 14-15)

How We Shouldn’t Pray (v. 5, 7-8)

“Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward… 7 When you pray, don’t babble like the Gentiles, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. 8 Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask him.”
– Matthew 6:5, 7-8, CSB

 

All throughout Matthew 6, Jesus is teaching this same principle of not letting people see our righteousness. At the beginning of the chapter, Jesus tells that when we give, we should do so so secretly that our left hand doesn’t even know what our right hand is doing.

 

In verses 16-18, our fasting should be private as well so that no one can tell we are fasting by looking at us.

 

  • Which brings me to one of my biggest pet peeves. I love Ash Wednesday services. I love what the partaking of ashes on our foreheads means. It means that we were made from the dust and to the dust we shall return, and that we are mourning over our sin. However, there are people who will wear their ash on their foreheads from Ash Wednesday out in public, and they’ll take Ash Wednesday selfies and post them on social media. They’re missing the point!
  • The point of Ash Wednesday is to mourn over your sin and wear your ashes as sign of your repentance. No one gets on social media and says, “Hey guys, I begged God for forgiveness because I’m self-centered and ignore the needy! #Blessed” Why would you do it for Ash Wednesday?

 

The point of doing these disciplines in private is because who you are behind closed doors is who you really are. We’ve always heard that integrity is doing the right thing when no one is looking. If that’s true, then how integral is our prayer life?

 

If we look at this portion of our passage, we’ll see that there’s two indictments against the hypocrites and the Gentiles. They love to be seen, and they love to be heard.

 

Jesus tells us that we shouldn’t be like them because when we seek to be seen by people, then we have our reward, and when we pray, we don’t need to use long, repetitive prayers in public because our Father in heaven already knows what we need before we ask Him.

 

  • I see verse 5 and verses 7 and 8 as parallel statements meaning that Jesus is pretty much saying the same thing twice, and if Jesus is repeating Himself then we need to listen, and listen good!

 

The temptation to want to be seen and heard by others is very real.

 

  • We like looking good. We like it when people see us as a spiritual authority. I loved when I would walk up to a group of people I knew at work or school and someone would say, “Logan knows a lot about the Bible, let’s ask him.”
  • However, if man’s glory is all we long for then when we get it, that’s our reward. Also, If man’s glory is all we long for then we’re settling for a lesser glory.
  • The Westminster Shorter Catechism tells us that man’s chief end (his highest purpose) is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, and what happens sometimes we end up living as if we’re trying to glorify ourselves and enjoy ourselves forever.

 

What Jesus describes for us in verses 5-8 is nothing more than religious activity that’s rooted and grounded in the self.

 

A few weeks ago Brittany had mentioned something about a megachurch that she knew about in Texas, and I was curious so I looked them, and I knew their theology was off when the first thing I saw on their website was, “We’re all about people.”  If you claim to be apart of the body of Christ, then you better be all about Jesus and let Him deal with people, otherwise we’re essentially worshipping ourselves, we’re essentially praying to ourselves. And that’s the best we can do because as we saw last week when looked at Isaiah 58, God doesn’t hear these kinds of prayers.

 

  • So, what kind of prayers does He hear?

How We Should Pray (v. 6, 9-13)

“But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” – Matthew 6:6, CSB

 

First of all, we should get alone with God. Jesus invites us into solitude because He doesn’t want us to be tempted to make this about ourselves. He wants us to be sure that this time is between us and Him.

 

  • I probably won’t devote an entire sermon to it, but one of the spiritual disciplines in addition to prayer, fasting, and giving is solitude.
  • Have you ever thought about solitude as a spiritual discipline? We have a lot of things around us that are calling out for our attention, and all the while God wants us to get away from everyone and everything around us for a little while and be alone, in a state of solitude, with Him. And when we do that, we can hear from him.

 

In 1 Kings 19, Elijah is on the run from Jezebel and he doesn’t really know what to do next. The angel of the Lord comes to him, ministers to him, and then tells him to go out and stand on the mountain, and then there was a great wind, and the Bible says that God wasn’t in the wind, and then there was a great fire, and the Bible says that God wasn’t in the fire either, but then there was still, small voice, and that’s where God was.

 

In an article that he wrote for Desiring God, David Mathis says:

 

“Getting away, quiet and alone, is no special grace on its own. But the goal is to create a context for enhancing our hearing from God in his word and responding back to him in prayer. Silence and solitude, then, are not direct means of grace in themselves, but they can grease the skids — like caffeine, sleep, exercise, and singing — for more direct encounters with God in his word and prayer.[2]– David Mathis

 

So, our place of prayer is one of solitude, but what about our pattern for prayer?

 

Look at verses 9-13. I’m going to read this from the King James Version because this is how I memorized it as a child.

 

“After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” – Matthew 6:9-13, KJV

 

One of the challenges of preaching a text like this is that there’s so much here. If you were here last year, we did a study on the Lord’s Prayer with a series of lectures from Dr. Al Mohler. It took us 12 weeks to get through all of it because there’s just so much in there.

 

  • First of all, notice how Jesus tells us to address God – “Our Father which art in heaven.” One commentator notes that this is a prayer based on a familial relationship. Contrary to how we might normally think, the Jews would have been familiar with God being referred to as their Father, but they would rarely have called God “Father” in their prayers. For them, everything had to be formal.
  • Jesus teaches the disciplines that this God who created the infinite and expansive universe in which we live, is in fact, their father.

 

It kind of reminds be of a story I read about a Roman emperor who had come home from a battle.

 

As he was coming in through the gates, a little boy was seen burrowing his way through the cheering crowd to get to the emperor. Immediately a burly soldier scooped him up and scolded and said, “Hey kid, you can’t do that! Don’t you know who is in that chariot? That is the emperor!” The boy replied, “He may be your emperor—but he is my father.”

 

God is more than an emperor to us—the majestic, cosmic God, through Christ, has become our Father. And Jesus commands us to pray that way.[3]

 

As we continue to look at this prayer, it’s remarkable to see how God is displayed as grand and glorious, and yet He’s also presented as personal and approachable.

 

  • He’s our Father, but His name is holy.
  • He’s the king of the kingdom, but He also gives us our daily bread.

 

As Pastor Ron Hutchcraft put it, the Lord’s Prayer moves “from the galaxies to the groceries.” The Lord’s Prayer is long-term because we’re praying for a permanent and eternal kingdom, but it’s also short-term because we’re asking for bread for today. The God that we worship rules a kingdom that fills the cosmos and yet, He gives us what we need when we need it.

 

When we pray this prayer, not only are we asking God to fill our physical need for daily bread, but our spiritual need for forgiveness for our sins or our debts, our communal need to forgive others of their sins or debts, our moral need to be delivered from evil.

 

  • Any kind of need we have, our Father stands ready to fulfill according to His riches in glory as Paul eloquently says in Philippians 4.

 

Also, think about every single word in the Lord’s Prayer for just a second. Not once do you say, “I” “Me” or “My.” Jesus assumed that when this prayer was prayed, it would be done in community with other people or at the very least this prayer would be prayed for other people.

 

  • It’s very easy to be individualistic in 21st Century America. Ayn Rand, my favorite Libertarian philosopher, said that the individual is the world’s smallest minority, and to some degree I agree with that, but praying the Lord’s Prayer demands that we forget ourselves on an individual level and embrace the idea that we are a part of a collective group of people that has been established in the world by God Himself to be a covenant community.

 

We’re praying together for God’s kingdom to come and His will to be done.

We’re praying together for our daily needs to be met.

We’re praying together for forgiveness for ourselves even as we forgive others.

 

There’s power in praying together in community and I think we sometimes forget that.

 

  • I think I have a hard time praying spontaneous prayers in public because I’m so honest with God in my personal prayer life that I’m afraid that someone will get offended at something I say or something I might forget to say, but the beauty of prayer is that it’s not about us individually.
  • Prayer is about connecting with God, and when we connect with God corporately then we may not set the world on fire, but we will establish that our life as a church is not possible without God, and I think that makes a world of difference because there are many churches right here in the Bible belt some of them even small, rural churches like ours that act as if they could go on functioning as they do as if Jesus never rose from the dead and God never existed.
    • They come in sing a couple of songs, listen to someone talk about the good ol’ days and then they go home and eat fried chicken, never making a difference in the world around them. I pray that we never reach that place.
    • If the day should come, God forbid, that we have to close our doors, then there should be a noticeable void in the community. There are plenty of churches that close all the time, and no one in the city notices because they haven’t served their community in years.

 

And then finally, The Lord’s Prayer ends with an affirmation that the kingdom that we’re praying to come belongs to God – “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.”

We should pray knowing that God is our Father, He will meet our needs, and the kingdom belongs to Him.

 

Of course, all of this being said, we can’t disconnect any of this from how we live when we leave our prayer closet. You’re gonna have to get up from the altar sometime. You’ve got work to do, groceries to buy, and trash to take out.

You can’t stay at church forever. Monday is coming. So, how do you connect what happens in your prayer closet to what happens when you leave your prayer closet?

 

  • All throughout the Old Testament (particularly in Isaiah, Amos, and Malachi), God’s people would go into the temple and worship, and then go out and treat other people like garbage. They would oppress their workers, and they would ignore the marginalized as we saw last week in Isaiah 58.
  • And then Jesus comes along in Matthew 23 and tells the Pharisees that they’re tithing off their spice rack, but they have neglected the weightier matters of the law like justice, mercy, and faithfulness.
    • As we’re getting through Lent and approaching Easter what I would challenge us to do in addition to our normal Bible reading is to do a slow read through Matthew 23, and see if Jesus might be speaking to us the same way that He was speaking to the Pharisees, maybe we’ve neglected justice, mercy, and faithfulness in our own lives.
    • “I tithe on the gross and not the net.” Okay, but do you love your neighbor who is a staunch Democrat?

How to Live What We Pray (v. 14-15)

In Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus demands on no uncertain terms that if we’re going to come before God and ask for forgiveness for our sins and debts then we had better be darn sure willing to forgive someone else’s sins and debts.

 

  • We know that God is a God of justice and mercy, but we seem to want mercy for ourselves and justice for people who have offended us, but that doesn’t fly in God’s kingdom.

 

“For if you forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. 15 But if you don’t forgive others, your Father will not forgive your offenses.” – Matthew 6:14-15, CSB

 

This is pretty straight forward. Our entire identity as children of God is predicated on forgiveness. We can’t rightly claim to be someone whose whole life is predicated on forgiveness and then withhold forgiveness because we’ve been offended.

 

  • That’s not to say that forgiveness is easy. Sometimes it’s a very difficult and painful process, but there’s never a time when forgiveness is optional.

 

Part of reason I think we wrestle with forgiving someone is because we believe, in some way, that we’re hurting them. We’re afraid that if we forgive them then that will just enable them to keep on hurting us or hurting other people, but in the end, all we’re doing is hurting ourselves.

 

It reminds me of a little boy who was sitting on a park bench and it was obvious that he was in pain. A man walked by and asked him what was wrong. The young boy said, “I’m sitting on a bumble bee.” The man urgently asked, “Then why don’t you get up?” The boy replied, “Because I figure I’m hurting him more than he is hurting me!”

 

I think that’s how we handle forgiveness, and Jesus tells us in these two verses that that kind of behavior isn’t acceptable for a people whose lives are not possible without forgiveness.

 

  • Now, think about that for just a second. Your life would not be possible without forgiveness. Think about everyone in your life that you interact with on a regular basis. Your friends, your family, your co-workers. Imagine if nobody forgave you. Ever. The first time you messed up, you were done. You would go through life with people hating you.
  • Imagine if God never forgave you. The good news is that God in Christ has forgiven us, but sometimes I wonder if we don’t take that for granted.
    • When we try to live life on our own terms, then we’ll always be prone to failure because there will be a gaping void in our souls, and because there’s a gaping void, we will try to fill it up with everything other than God, and then that’s when we sin against God and sin against everybody else in our life, and then if no one forgave us, we would just be stuck.

 

If you don’t get anything from this message, just listen loudly and clearly: your life isn’t possible without forgiveness, and when you live in forgiveness, then you’re free to forgive others.

 

If your prayers are patterned after this prayer in Matthew 6, then this how you live what you pray.

 

Conclusion

The point of this entire passage to teach that how pray matters, and how live after we leave our prayer closets matter just as much. Let’s pray.

 

Closing Prayer

Heavenly Father, we thank You for allowing us to open Your word and hear what You have to say to us. We ask You to forgive where we have failed You, and let us never take Your forgiveness for granted. If there is anyone here who hasn’t yet known Your forgiveness, I pray that You would let Your love be known to them in special way. In the name Your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

___________________________

  1. Cosper, Mike. Recapturing the Wonder: Transcendent Faith in a Disenchanted World. IVP Books, an Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 2017.
  2. “Take a Break from the Chaos.” Desiring God, 20 Mar. 2019, http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/take-a-break-from-the-chaos.
  3. “Search.” Center for Excellence in Preaching, cep.calvinseminary.edu/non-rcl-starters/matthew-6-5-15/.

Isaiah 58:1-12 // The Fast That God Desires

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Text: Isaiah 58:1-12, CSB

Prayer for Illumination

Almighty and Everlasting God, let us feast with gladness upon Your holy word that it may give us strength to love You and love our neighbor. In the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Introduction

I never knew my great-grandfather personally. He went to be with the Lord when I was just 6 months old, but I’ve heard many stories about him and about his character.

One of the things that I hear about a lot is that when supper was on the table and there was only one piece of chicken or one piece of cornbread or one piece of whatever left, he would never take it. He always wanted someone else to have it, and I think that attitude of self-denial for the sake of others is what God is commanding here in Isaiah 58. Peter Leithart notes:

“For many throughout church history, fasting is bound up with hostility to matter and the body. We refrain from bodily pleasures of food and drink to train our souls in disembodied life.

That’s not biblical. The biblical fast, as Isaiah 58 puts it, is to share food with the hungry and clothing with the naked. The true fast gives good things away to those who don’t have them.


Biblical fasting, then, assumes the goodness of material things, and the propriety of pleasure. After all, if food and drink and clothing are evil, why would we want to share them? Isaiah’s fast assumes that creation is so good that we want everyone to have a piece of it.[1]

What we have in this passage is a distinctly different message about fasting than the one we hear on mainstream Christian media.

  • There’s very little teaching and preaching about fasting anymore, but when we do hear it mentioned, it’s not spoken of as a way to be more devoted to God, or as a way to refrain from our own resources so that we can share them with others.
  • Instead we hear it spoken of like a glorified hunger strike to “earn God’s favor” or to get God to “release” blessings into our lives as some false teachers on TBN or Daystar would tell us.

 

However, these people that Isaiah is addressing would probably fall right in line with all of that nonsense on mainstream Christian media because if we’re being honest, our human nature hasn’t changed much since Isaiah’s day.

 

  • Our sinful nature would like to believe that we can manipulate the blessings of God with a hunger strike and call it a fast, and believe that it will be acceptable, but this in no way resembles the fast that God has chosen.

 

As we look at the text, I want us to break it down in four parts:

  • V. 1 – God’s Command to His Prophet
  • V. 2-5 – God’s Accusation Against His People
  • V. 6-7 – God’s Instruction To His People
  • V. 8-14 – God’s Promises to His People

God’s Command to His Prophet (v. 1)

“Cry out loudly, don’t hold back! Raise your voice like a trumpet. Tell my people their transgression and the house of Jacob their sins.” – Isaiah 58:1, CSB

 

We need men and women in our day with a prophetic voice who will cry loudly and not hold back when it comes to the issue of sin.

  • Sin separates us from God, and to be separated from God is a fearful thing, and ultimately I think the reason we don’t see a lot of pastors talking about sin the way the Bible does is because they don’t believe God or they don’t believe God will keep His word in regards to all of the warnings that He gives concerning sin.

 

Ezekiel 18:1 is very clear: the soul that sins shall die. People are dead in their sins, marching aimlessly towards death, hell, and destruction and the only way they’ll be made alive is if someone cares enough to proclaim what God has spoken.

 

  • It’s a sad thing when we allow people into our pulpits who don’t believe that heaven and hell, life and death, salvation and damnation aren’t high priority issues, but I’ll tell you what is: winning at life, living your best life now, making sure every day is a Friday.
    • You can win in this life, and lose in the next life.

“Whoever tries to make his life secure will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” – Luke 17:33, CSB

Losing doesn’t sound like a bad idea. Now, does it?

This is the whole reason that Isaiah is commanded to cry aloud and not hold back. God’s people are trying to fast try to do all these acts of piety and religion, not for God, not for others, but for themselves.

 

  • They’re giving things away to get an ego boost in return.
  • They’re esteeming their lives and their egos of more worth or value than the people they’re supposed to be helping, and as a result, God doesn’t hear them!
    • It’s not as if God has a hearing problem. It’s not as if God actually can’t hear what’s going on, but God refuses to entertain the prayers of those who refuse to repent.

 

That’s why Jesus tells us that if we’re giving a gift to God, and we remember that someone has something against us, we can’t pretend like everything is okay. We have to leave our gift at the altar, make things right with our brother, and then give the gift. (Matthew 5:23-26)

That’s why Peter says in 1 Peter 3:7, that if a husband doesn’t treat his wife with honor and understanding, then God will not hear his prayers.

 

God isn’t going to entertain the prayers of people who think they’re going to get some kind of divine pat on the head for being good little boys and girls. Instead, God brings an accusation against them.

God’s Accusations Against His People (v. 2-5)

“They seek me day after day and delight to know my ways, like a nation that does what is right and does not abandon the justice of their God. They ask me for righteous judgments; they delight in the nearness of God.” – Isaiah 58:2, CSB

 

If we just look at verse 2, then they appear to be doing right, but as we continuing reading, we see that all of this is just for show.

 

“Why have we fasted, but you have not seen? We have denied ourselves, but you haven’t noticed!” – Isaiah 58:3a, CSB

 

They want God to be impressed with them.

 

  • “Look, God! Can’t you see all we’ve done for you!?”

 

And this is God’s response:

 

“Look, you do as you please on the day of your fast, and oppress all your workers. 4 You fast with contention and strife to strike viciously with your fist. You cannot fast as you do today, hoping to make your voice heard on high. 5 Will the fast I choose be like this: A day for a person to deny himself, to bow his head like a reed, and to spread out sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast and a day acceptable to the Lord?” – Isaiah 58:3b-5, CSB

 

The accusation from God comes in three parts:

 

  1. They do as they please on their fast day.

They’re going through the motions. They don’t view their fasting as an opportunity to seek God. Instead they’re going about their day as they normally would, they’re committing the same old sins and transgressions that they normally would. They’re oppressing the same people that they normally would, but by golly, they’re in the temple every time the doors are open.

 

  • They make life harder for their workers.

 

In the temple, they’re worshipping, they’re leaving their offerings, and they’re making sure everyone knows that they’re fasting, but then they go to work and make life harder on the people around them.

“During Isaiah’s time, the temple in Jerusalem was standing room only. No one missed a service. They sang psalms – old ones, new ones, all kinds of psalms. They said prayers and gave offerings. What they did not do was let worship trouble their consciences. If they kept their distance from God, then they could also keep their distance from God’s children. They did not want to make connections between their worship and their neighbors. They ignored the poor and everyone else they wanted to ignore.[2]” – Brett Younger

 

Think about that one line that Younger said out of that quote though – “What they did not do was let worship bother their consciences.”

 

  • How many times have we done that? How many times have we refused to allow ourselves to be convicted, and we just shoved it off by saying, “Oh, that preacher is just trying to make me feel bad. He’s just using scare tactics.”
    • All the while, God’s word is doing it’s work on us, it’s piercing our soul and spirit, it’s dividing our bones and marrow and we just squirm in our seats and hope it’s over with, but the reality of the situation is that letting God’s word work on us is the best thing we could do.
    • If you take a 5 year old to get a shot, they’re going to sit there and squirm and probably cry because they’re afraid of the pain, but the truth is that the best they could do is just sit there and let it happen. It’s the same way with us. The best thing we could when God’s word pierces us is just sit there and let it happen because we’ll come out better on the other side. We’ll be more conformed to the image of Christ than we were before.

 

 

  • They think they deserve to be heard.

 

“You cannot fast as you do today, hoping to make your voice heard on high.”
– Isaiah 58:4b, CSB

 

Think about what Jesus says in Matthew 6 about the hypocrites and the Gentiles.

 

“When you pray, don’t babble like the Gentiles, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words.” – Matthew 6:7, CSB

 

  • When we think that we have a right to be heard because of what we do, then we won’t be heard.
  • A couple of weeks ago, Kirk preached on Joshua 7 about Achan storing gold from the enemy in his tent after God had spoken the people and told them to destroy everything.
    • We can’t expect the fruit of obedience when we pursue disobedience.

 

The accusation against God’s people is clear: they have an entitlement problem. They want to believe that they can be rewarded by worshipping God in the temple, and making life harder for their neighbors in the workplace.

 

  • When you’re in a place of authority over other people, it’s easy to let your ego get in the way, it’s easy to allow yourself to believe that you are better than those that you’re over because, after all, you’re in this position, and they’re not, but as far as God is concerned everyone’s on the same playing field.
  • Think about the people we interact with on daily basis – the guy working the drive-thru at McDonald’s, the cashier at the gas station, the electronics associate at Walmart. Think about what happens when they make a common mistake.
    • Do we get out of shape about it, threaten to call corporate get some fired? Maybe not. Do we shoot them dirty looks and wish no one else was around so we could give them a piece of our mind? Maybe. Or are we patient with them because God has been patient with us.

 

So, God’s accusation against His people are clear, but so are His instructions.

 

God’s Instruction To His People (v. 6-10)

“Isn’t this the fast I choose: to break the chains of wickedness, to untie the ropes of the yoke, to set the oppressed free, and to tear off every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, to bring the poor and homeless into your house, to clothe the naked when you see him, and not to ignore your own flesh and blood?” – Isaiah 58:6-7, CSB

 

The fast that God chooses does five things things:

  1. Sets Free Those Who are Bound (v. 6)
    1. Verse 6 is a picture of freedom – breaking chains, tearing off yokes, untying ropes, etc. We know that Jesus is in the business of setting people free, and if that’s the case, then we as Jesus’ people should also be in the business of setting people free.
  2. Feeds Those Who Are Hungry – “share your bread with the hungry” (v. 7)
  3. Shelters the Homeless – “bring the poor and homeless into your house”
    (v. 7)
  4. Clothes the Naked (v. 7)
  5. Makes You Available to People – “not to ignore your own flesh and blood” (v. 7)

 

Fasting isn’t simply about giving up food, it’s about giving up our resources and rights for the benefits of others.

 

  • The most powerful example of this is Jesus Himself.

 

“Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus, 6 who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. 7 Instead he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity. And when he had come as a man, 8 he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death— even to death on a cross.” – Philippians 2:5-8, CSB

 

We look at this picture of Jesus emptying Himself, becoming a servant, dying on a cross, and we might be tempted to think that he went through all that so that we wouldn’t have to go through all of that, but that’s not the case.

 

“Jesus didn’t die on the cross simply so that we wouldn’t have to, but he died on the cross so that we would take up our cross and follow Him.” – Dallas Willard

 

  • When you take up your cross and follow Jesus, then you go to die with Him.

 

Think about what Paul says in Galatians 2:20.

 

“I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20, CSB

 

Think about each word and each phrase of that verse. Paul is saying very clearly that He died with Christ.

 

Back in Romans 6:3, Paul uses the same language of death and resurrection when he says that all of us who were baptized in Christ was baptized into His death, and we were baptized into His death so that we could be raised into newness of life.

 

  • The more you follow Christ, the more you lean into Christ, the more die to yourself, the more you do those things, the more you are living in the newness of life.

 

The more you find yourself living in the newness of life, the more you realize that you don’t need the material things that you thought you needed.

 

  • Yes, you need a house, but maybe you don’t need a 5 bedroom, 4 bath, 3 story house.
  • Yes, you need a vehicle, but maybe you don’t need a 2019 Lincoln Town Car.

Fasting and celebrating Lent is an opportunity to examine what you can afford to live without and share with others, but it’s also an opportunity to see what has a hold on us.

 

“More than any other discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us. This is a wonderful benefit to the true disciple who longs to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. We cover up what is inside of us with food and other things.[3]” – Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline

 

Once you see what’s controlling you, once you see what you can live without, then God makes a promise in verses 8-10.

 

  • It’s interesting to me that God isn’t simply calling us to a fast, He’s calling us to genuineness. He’s calling us to honesty.
    • These people that God is talking to may be able to live without food for a while, but they can’t live without power. They can’t live without prestige. They can’t live without privilege, and God says that if you really want to fast, then giving up your food isn’t good enough, you’ve got to give up these things too, and when you do, you get the benefits and promises listed in verses 8-10.

God’s Promises to His People (v. 8-14)

“Then your light will appear like the dawn, and your recovery will come quickly. Your righteousness will go before you, and the Lord’s glory will be your rear guard. 9 At that time, when you call, the Lord will answer; when you cry out, he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you get rid of the yoke among you, the finger-pointing and malicious speaking, 10 and if you offer yourself to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted one, then your light will shine in the darkness, and your night will be like noonday. 11 The Lord will always lead you, satisfy you in a parched land, and strengthen your bones. You will be like a watered garden and like a spring whose water never runs dry. 12 Some of you will rebuild the ancient ruins; you will restore the foundations laid long ago; you will be called the repairer of broken walls, the restorer of streets where people live.” – Isaiah 58:8-12, CSB

 

Verses 8-12 in this chapter is a picture of how God intends for us as His people to live.

 

We are to be a people who fill in the broken gaps of the world with our love and kindness, specifically the same love and kindness that God has shown us in Christ.

 

The best illustration I can think of how this might work is that there’s a giant pot hole in the road that goes to and from our apartment in Lamar. That pothole is an area where the road is broken and in need of repair, and the best thing the city could do is fill that part of the road with new asphalt.

  • Well, as the church when we see brokenness, we need to do what we can repair it. When we give to the women’s shelter, when we give to the Main Street Mission, when we get a motel room for a homeless couple, we’re filling a need, we’re repairing the broken walls as it says in verse 12.

Conclusion

Fasting isn’t simply about subtracting from your life, it’s about adding to your life in place of what you subtract.

 

  • You fast from food so that you can add worship, prayer, and devotion.
  • You take time away from normal things that might bring you pleasure (that may not be wrong in and of themselves) so that you can seek a higher pleasure only found in God.

 

In the late 1700’s the Puritan preacher, Thomas Chalmers, preached one of his most famous sermons, “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection,” and the whole idea of this sermon was that it isn’t enough to simply abstain from sin, from worldly pleasures, from the love of the world, we have to replace those things with something else, namely a desire for God.

 

The question I want to leave us with this morning, is do we desire God?

 

If you fear that you do not desire God enough, and I think that’s a healthy fear to have, then you can pray, “God, increase my desire for You!” And that’s a prayer I believe He will honor.

 

  • It’s like the man who said, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” We can say, “Lord, I love You, but I want to love You and desire You more.” Let’s pray.

Closing Prayer

Heavenly Father, we hear these words from Isaiah 58, and we are convicted to the very core of our being because we are guilty, but by Your grace, You set the guilty free. We are like the woman caught in adultery, except we’re caught in selfishness, greed, pride, lust, and every other vice and fault we can think of, and like that woman, You tell us, “I do not condemn you, go and sin no more,” and that’s what we want. We don’t want to continue in our sin. We want freedom, true freedom that only comes from You. Set us free to love You and serve You. Set us free from carnal pleasure and desires. Give us a desire love You and love one another. Give us the grace and strength to love those that seem unlovable so that they can come to know You and be apart of Your family that we call the Church. We ask all of these things in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, who taught us to love one another. Amen.

____________________________

  1. Leithart, Peter, and Peter Leithart. “Fasting and Pleasure.” Patheos, Patheos, 6 Sept. 2017, www.patheos.com/blogs/leithart/2008/12/fasting-and-pleasure/.
  2. Brett Younger, “Homiletical Perspective: Isaiah 58:1-9a (9b-12),” Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 1, David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010).
  3. Foster, Richard J. Celebration of Discipline: the Path to Spiritual Growth. HarperOne, 2018.

2 Timothy 4:1-5 // Our Mandate for Ministry

MFM

[This sermon was preached on the evening of Friday, March 8th at the 2019 Spring Meeting of the Arkansas Presbytery by Candidate Logan Dixon.]

Text: 2 Timothy 4:1-5

Prayer for Illumination:

Shine within our hearts, Loving Master, the pure light of Your divine knowledge, and open the eyes of our minds that we may comprehend the message of your Gospel. Instill in us, also, reverence for Your blessed commandments, so that having conquered sinful desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, thinking and doing all those things that are pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the light of our souls and bodies, and to You we give glory together with Your Father who is without beginning and Your all holy, good, and life giving Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen. [1]

Introduction:

That prayer for illumination that we just prayed is adapted from a 4th century liturgy of John Chrysostom.

 

From what we know about Chrysostom, he was a bold preacher of the word. He was an orator of his day, and earned the nickname “Bishop Golden-Mouth” because he was able to explain the text of Scripture so well that even the most impoverished and unlearned communicant could understand the Gospel.

 

You have to understand that in the 4th century almost everyone was illiterate, and even if the Scriptures were mass-produced at time (which they weren’t) it wouldn’t have done anyone any good. They couldn’t afford a copy of the Scriptures nor could they read them. All they knew was what was spoken in the homilies by their pastors and bishops, and what was presented in baptism and the sacraments.

 

Everytime the word was preached, every time they witnessed a baptism, and participated in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, they heard and participated in the proclamation of the Word of God.  

 

And if there’s ever a time when we need a bold and clear proclamation of the word of God, it’s now. It’s today.

 

  • When so many voices are vying for our attention, when we have so many deceiving spirits trying to lure the people of God into falsehood and deception, we need to only hear one voice and that is the voice of God, and the only way to know what God has said is to open the book that He has given us.

 

“What more can He say than to you He has said, to you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?” – How Firm a Foundation

 

 

 

Context

I want us to think about the context for our passage this evening.

 

Paul writes two letters to Timothy over the course of Timothy’s ministry in Ephesus, and Paul’s first letter is general instructions about prayer in worship and the standards for pastors and elders in the church, and how the church should handle the financial support of widows.

 

This second letter that we’re reading from is much more personal. Paul knows his time is up and he’s probably asking himself, “If I’ve got one final word to say to a young pastor, to a son in the faith, what would I say?”

 

  • Really, it’s a profound question. If you knew your time was close, what would you say to a person or people that you knew you would influence.

 

Based on the reading of our passage, Paul’s final message to Timothy is clear: Preach the Word. This is what we’ve been called to do, this is our mandate for ministry.

 

This is what many of you have been charged with. You were ordained to word and sacrament. This is what I’m working towards right now as a candidate. I’m working towards getting ordained to word and sacrament.

 

Every time a pastor, an elder, or any person serving as pulpit supply such as myself stands behind this sacred desk our only obligation is proclaim what God has spoken in His Holy Word.

 

But before we really look at Paul’s charge to Timothy, let’s look at how he builds up to this statement. All throughout chapter 3, we get two pictures that Paul paints.

 

  • A picture of evil, and a picture of good.
  • A picture of chaos and a picture of order, specifically God’s order.

 

Look at chapter 3, where Paul describes the chaos.

 

“But know this: Hard times will come in the last days. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, demeaning, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, 4 traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to the form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid these people.

6 For among them are those who worm their way into households and deceive gullible women overwhelmed by sins and led astray by a variety of passions, 7 always learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.” – 2 Timothy 3:1-7, CSB

 

In these 7 verses, Paul uses 19 words or phrases to describe the kinds of people that Timothy will be up against.

 

  • It’s almost as if Paul is using these words to take us on a tour through a wide gulf of immorality. 
  • Have you ever been on a guided tour through a museum? Paul is taking Timothy on a guided tour through a museum of the kinds of people that oppose the Gospel, and every exhibit he points to just gets worse and worse.  
    • Wife and I were on our honeymoon in Branson, and she wanted to go through the Talking Rocks Cavern (“big scary hole”). I had never been through a cave, and the lower we got, the deeper and darker it got, and one point the tour guide turned off what little light we had to show us how dark it was, and I couldn’t see in front of my face. I was gripping her hand the whole time, and this is what Paul is doing by describing at length those who deny, reject, or twist the message of Jesus Christ.

 

  • And probably the worst part about all of it, is this these aren’t simply secular pagans, these are people who claim to be believers. These are the kinds of people that will infiltrate the church. That’s what Paul says in 3:5, they’ll hold to a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof.

 

Over the last two weeks at Mt. Carmel we’ve been walking through 2nd John, and this last Sunday we talked about the antichrists and deceivers of the world. However, these antichrists that John talks about didn’t come from the world, they went out from the church.

 

“Children, it is the last hour. And as you have heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. By this we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. However, they went out so that it might be made clear that none of them belongs to us.” – 1 John 2:18-19, CSB

 

And so, Paul tells Timothy that the way he’s going to know these people is the fact that they won’t have the same fruit.

 

  • They’ll have a form of godliness like we mentioned, but they’ll deny its power by the way they live. 
  • And they won’t stop there, the text says that they will “worm their way into households and deceive gullible women overwhelmed by sins and led astray by a variety of passions. 
    • People can be led astray by their passions. We live in a time where truth is relative, I can have my truth, you can have your truth, and as long as we “tolerate” each other we can can get along hunky-dory. Anything can be true, you just have to “feel” that it’s true. Your passions just have to tell you that it’s true.

 

However, God’s word tells us a different story. God’s word tells us that we live in God’s world, and the only valid truth that we have is the truth that He establishes.

 

“Regardless of a man’s system, he has to live in God’s world.” [2]
― Francis A. Schaeffer, The God Who Is There

  • And it’s not a matter of “well, that’s true for us because we’re Christians,” No, that’s just the truth. Period.

 

Now, here’s the good news. Paul doesn’t just leave us there. It’s not as if we’re a bunch of sheep thrown to the secularist wolves.

 

If we look back at 2 Timothy 3:8, Paul tells us what will happen to these people.

 

“Just as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so these also resist the truth. They are men who are corrupt in mind and worthless in regard to the faith. 9 But they will not make further progress, for their foolishness will be clear to all, as was the foolishness of Jannes and Jambres.”
– 2 Timothy 3:8-9, CSB

 

In these two verses, Paul summarizes Exodus 7 and 8 where Moses goes before Pharaoh, and as a sign to show that God is with him he has Aaron throw down his staff, and it turns into a snake.

 

Well, Pharaoh’s heart is hard so instead of relenting, and accepting this as a sign from God, he calls for Jannes and Jambres (his personal wizards, his Hocus Pocus hitmen) to throw down their staffs and they also turn into snakes, and then according to Scripture, Aaron’s staff swallows both of their staffs, and of course it makes them look bad in front of Pharoah. (Exodus 7:12)

 

  • And Paul says that this is exactly what’s going to happen in the end. These false teachers, these immoral people can’t win, and the reason they can’t win is because they’re visitors trying to win on the home turf.  
  • Here’s what I mean by that: Jesus spoke about this kind of situation when he gave us the parable of the wheat and tares (Matthew 13:24-30). He tells us that the master planted good seed, but an enemy came in and planted bad seed, and then when Jesus explains the parable, He tells us that the field is the world, and there’s coming a day then the master of the field will come and separate the wheat and the tares. 
    • Why? Because the tares don’t belong in the field. Antichrists, deceivers, and false teachers don’t belong in the Church. They are intruders and trespassers in God’s world,  and I would go as far as saying that allowing the foolishness of such people to be known is one of the ways in which the tares are separated from wheat.  
  • God, in due time, allows the tares to go forth teaching what Paul calls “the doctrine of devils,” and when they do that, their foolishness will soon be made known to all as we just read in 2 Timothy 3:9.

 

So, in verses 1-9, in 2 Timothy 3, Paul paints of picture of the ungodliness that will rear it’s ugly head in the church, and Paul says, “Don’t follow their example, don’t go their way,” and then in verse 10, he says, “Instead remember what you have learned.” “Take all these examples of ungodliness and replace them with examples of godliness that you have learned.” Look at 2 Timothy 3:10-17.

 

“But you have followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, and endurance, 11 along with the persecutions and sufferings that came to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. What persecutions I endured—and yet the Lord rescued me from them all. 12 In fact, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 13 Evil people and impostors will become worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed. You know those who taught you, 15 and you know that from infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:10-17, CSB

 

Paul directly addresses Timothy 8 times. He makes it clear to Timothy in no uncertain terms that the ball is in his court.

 

  • Timothy has been equipped with the truth since he was a child. He not only knows what is right and what is wrong, but he knows the consequences of either choice.  

 

  • So, this is where it comes down to us. We’ve got the secularism of the world on one side, and we’ve got the Scriptures on the other side. Now, where are we going to go?

 

  • It comes down what we trust more.  
    • So, here’s my argument for why we should trust the Bible: The Bible reads the world, but the world can’t read the Bible. Here’s what I mean: everything the Bible says about what’s in the world has been true since the day it was penned, and is still true now. Yet, what the world says about the Bible is wrong and inconsistent. 
    • The world tells us that the Bible can’t be trusted, the world tells us that the Bible is a fairy tale book, the world tells that this book isn’t God’s word, that there is no God, and we just made everything up to control people with fear.  
    • Yet, the Bible tells us that the world and it’s lusts are passing away. (1 John 2:17). The Bible tells us that the world has a Creator, and evidence for our Creator is all around us, and when we refuse to worship Him, we are suppressing the truth with our unrighteousness and we are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-23)

 

Just turn on the TV, get on YouTube, or pick up the newspaper, and it won’t take you long to find someone suppressing the truth with their unrighteousness by trying to pick a fight with a God that they allegedly don’t believe in, and if all this nonsense stayed out there in world it would be one thing, but unfortunately this has somehow found its way into the pulpits of some of our churches.

 

The question for us as pastors, pulpit supply ministers, and elders is this: are we going to stand our ground as believers on the truth of what God has said or are we going to bow to the pressure of a world that has no idea what truth even is?

 

In the face of pressure and persecution, Paul’s words to Timothy are God’s words for us now: PREACH. THE. WORD.

 

  • The preached word has power, and I think we forget that. We replace biblical sermons with programs and conversations because that’s what people want now, but there’s no power in ideas and imaginations of men, but THERE IS POWER in what saith the Lord.

 

“For just as rain and snow fall from heaven and do not return there without saturating the earth and making it germinate and sprout, and providing seed to sow and food to eat, 11 so my word that comes from my mouth will not return to me empty, but it will accomplish what I please and will prosper in what I send it to do.” – Isaiah 55:10-11, CSB

 

During the days of the Reformation, someone asked Martin Luther to explain the amazing success of the message of justification by faith alone. It was a good question because this message spread like wildfire across Europe even though Luther himself spent time in and out of prison. How could one man have changed the course of history?

 

Luther looked at the man who asked him the question, thought for a minute and said, “While I slept or drank beer in Wittenburg … the Word did the work. I didn’t do anything. The Word did it all.” That’s beauty of the word of God, it has power precisely because it is God’s word. There’s nothing that we do to give it power.

 

  • There’s nothing that we can do to make the word of God more or less effective.  
    • Samuel Taylor Coleridge was a poet from the romantic era in the 1800s. Something many people may not know about him is that he was a Unitarian minister, and when someone asked him about the inspiration of Scripture he said, “I believe Scripture is inspired because it inspires me.”  
    • Let me say emphatically that that IS NOT how we, as Christians, are to view Scripture. The Scriptures are not inspired because they appeal to our subjective view of inspiration. They are inspired because when we read Scripture, we are reading the very words of God, and it behooves as Christians, specifically as Cumberland Presbyterians to return to a high view of Scripture.

 

Our very own Confession of Faith tells us, “God inspired persons of the covenant community to write the scriptures.  In and through the scriptures God speaks about creation, sin, judgment, salvation, the church and the growth of believers. The scriptures are the infallible rule of faith and practice, the authoritative guide for Christian living.” (1984 Cumberland Presbyterian Confession of Faith, 1.05)

 

Did you catch those three key words in there? Inspired. Infallible. Authoritative.

 

My question to us is: do we still believe that?

With all of that in mind, I want us to examine two points from the text. First, the content of Paul’s charge, and the reason for Paul’s charge.

The Content of Paul’s Charge (v. 2, 5)

“Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching… But as for you, exercise self-control in everything, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” – 2 Timothy 4:2, 5, CSB

 

If we wanted to, we could really break this down and exposit every clause that Paul says, but the main thing that Paul charges Timothy with is to be ready armed with the Word.

 

  • If you’re gonna be ready with it, then you’ve got to stay in it. If you’re going to be armed with a gun, you better know how to use that thing. It’s no different. It’s no different. We have to live with the Bible.  
  • As long as I live, I don’t think I’ll ever forget what Chris Anderson said at the last Presbytery meeting, “we have to live with the Bible in one hand and the Confession of Faith in the other hand.”

 

While preaching over this same text, J. Ligon Duncan said, “There are a lot of people who think that preaching is some sort of a moral deliverance on some relevant subject, with pious advice and counsel. But Paul says that preaching is heralding the divinely authorized message of God to a sinful and needy world, and that the way to do that is to preach His word, to explain His word, to apply His word.” [3]

 

In medieval times, when a king wanted his kingdom to know something he would send out heralds, and those heralds were to go out to every part of the kingdom and say whatever the king had given them to say. They couldn’t compromise the message. They couldn’t insert their own thoughts or opinions. If they didn’t like the message, they couldn’t change it.

 

  • We are in a similar situation as those heralds were. We have the word of God, and our responsibility is to proclaim it loudly and clearly, and to watch it go forth with power and authority.

The Reason for Paul’s Charge (v. 1, 3-4)

There’s actually two reasons for Paul’s charge. Reason #1 is found in verse one.

“I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge the living and the dead, [at] his appearing and his kingdom:”
– 1 Timothy 4:1, CSB

 

The first reason for Paul’s charge is that when Christ returns, He will return as a judge.

 

  • He will not only judge those who hear the word preached, but He will judge those of us who teach and preach the word. James 3:1 tells us that those of us who teach will receive a more strict judgement than those who do not. 
    • In 2nd Peter 2, the Apostle Peter describes in graphic detail the judgement that Jesus Christ Himself will place upon those who are false teachers. 
  • Jesus will also judge those who believe those false teachers. In Revelation 2, when Jesus has John write to the church at Thyatira, He tells them that they have tolerated the woman Jezebel to teach, and that He has given her time to repent, but if she doesn’t repent, He will throw her onto a sickbed ALONG WITH her children (in this case, those who believe her teaching). (Revelation 2:22)

 

Paul is reminding Timothy that God will hold him accountable if he doesn’t stick to the truth of Scripture.

 

The second reason for this charge is found in verses 3-4.

 

“For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear what they want to hear. 4 They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths.” – 2 Timothy 4:3-4, CSB

 

The second reason for the charge is because the world isn’t going to stop twisting the truth, and creating false narratives for people to believe in, and as long as that’s the case, the church should be a place where the truth is preached.

 

In a world full of shifting sand, the church should be preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the only foundation that people can build their lives on.

 

My hope and my prayer for us as Christians, as Cumberland Presbyterians, is that we would never abandon or trade the truth of God’s Word. We must remain to be a people who are committed to the truth of Scripture.

 

Let’s pray.

Closing Prayer

Heavenly Father, this is Your Word, and we are Your people. Send the Holy Spirit to embed this word deep within us so we would never lose sight of it. Let us live out the truth of Your Word so that when the cares of this world would come against us, we will not be choked out, but by Your grace we would live strong and free with the strength and freedom that comes through, Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

___________

  1. From the 4th Century liturgy of John Chrysostom, adapted by M.D. Bush
  2. Schaeffer, Francis A. The God Who Is There. InterVarsity Press, 1998.
  3. “Preach the Word.” First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Mississippi, 29 May 2005, http://www.fpcjackson.org/resource-library/sermons/preach-the-word.