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.

__________________________________

  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

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

SD Sermon Graphics.jpg

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.

Sermon Notes: “Believing The Shepherd”

sheep

(These are the notes from a sermon that I preached a while back. Feel free to use them for your own study. Note, this is not a manuscript so some of the thoughts may seem scattered.)

Text: John 10:22-30

Introduction
I like using the Lectionary when I’m trying to decide what passage I need to preach because it will force you deal with things in the passage you may not feel comfortable dealing with. In a way, I think we should all (preacher or layman) get on some kind of a reading plan that will force us to read the Bible as a whole because you will find yourself in parts of the Bible that you ordinarily wouldn’t read and you’ll end up learning some things you didn’t know before, and you end up in a situation where the Bible confronts you and begins to tear at the fabric of what you were always taught to believe, and when this happens we need to let the Bible drive any of our pre-conceived notions that do not line up with what we’re reading in Scripture.

“We must allow the Word of God to confront us, to disturb our security, to undermine our complacency and to overthrow our patterns of thought and behavior.” ― John R.W. Stott

So tonight, I’ll be using John 10:22-30 as my main passage, but I will be jumping around to different parts of Scripture so that I can show you what the Bible forces us to deal with as we read this passage and seek to understand it’s meaning.

At the beginning of this passage, there’s three things we need to notice about the setting. There’s an important place, an important person, and an important party.

Important Person – Jesus the Messiah, the Jewish leaders have been hounding Him to tell them plainly if He is, in fact, the Messiah. And if you are paying attention to the chronology of John, then you’ll notice that this actually one of the more humorous passages in the Gospels and you’ll see why in a little bit.

Important Place – The Temple, more specifically, Solomon’s porch. “This place is important; it was the porch or portico on the east side of the Temple and was called the “Porch of Judgment.” From this location, the King would make his judgments and exercise justice for those who were brought before him. And here is Jesus strolling through this historic location, physically embodying justice in this place of justice — something his life and teachings were all about.”

Important Party – The Feast of Dedication, sometimes called the Festival of Lights, and today this event is known as Hanukkah. The Jews celebrated (and still celebrate) Hanukkah to remember a time when God kept the lamps in the temple burning for eight days even though there was only enough oil to last one day due to an oil shortage because of war in the land at that time.

As we keep these things in mind, let’s also notice that Jesus has been in Jerusalem since the Feast of Tabernacles which you read about in John 7 and He has been periodically teaching in the temple and revealing Himself as the Messiah that was promised in the Old Testament.

Our 3 points will be the following:
The Reason for Unbelief (verses 24-26)
The Reason for Belief (verse 27)
The End Result (verses 28-29)

The Reason for Unbelief (verses 24-26)
Notice what verse 26 says, “But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep.” It doesn’t say “you are not of my sheep because you do not believe.” See, we can’t simply look at the passage and say, “Well then, their problem is that they simply do not believe. They’re just blatantly ignoring the facts.” While there’s truth to that, the problem isn’t simply unbelief, unbelief is only a symptom of a greater disease. The greater disease is deadness in sin. Remember what Paul says in Ephesians 2, “You were dead in your sins.”

We often like to imagine Jesus as a lifeguard that throws us a life saver as we’re drowning in the sea of sin, but that analogy wrong, because Paul says the wages of sin is death. So, if you’re not saved, then you’re not sick in your sins, you’re not the brink of death in your sins, you’re dead in your sins.

So then, Jesus isn’t some lifeguard that throws you a life saver, He actually swims to the bottom of the ocean and carries your corpse up out of the sea, and breathes into you, the breath of life. So, then the problem people do not believe what Jesus is plainly telling them isn’t simply unbelief, it’s unbelief as a result of dead men walking in their sin.

In another place, Jesus makes a clear distinction between sheep and goats, so if Jesus is telling these Jews, “you do not believe because you are not my sheep” then it must follow that they are goats. And Jesus says, there will come a day when He separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on His right hand, and the goats on His left hand.
“Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” [Matthew 25:41 NRSV]

Jesus is making the clear distinction, unless you believe what He says about Himself in the Scriptures and follow Him, then you are nothing more than unbelieving goat.
“How do I know if I’m a sheep or a goat?” It’s simple. Do you desire to follow Christ and believe what He says? Then you’re a sheep. If you’re confronted with Scripture, and it doesn’t phase you or change you, then you’re a goat. Sheep love and follow Jesus.

The Reason for Belief (verse 27)

“My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.” – [John 10:27 NRSV]

“Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” – [John 10:1-5 NRSV]

What is He saying here? When the shepherd calls, the sheep follow.

Do you remember that old song, “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”? In the old school, when someone would make a decision for Christ, we would strike up the band and sing “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.” That’s all well and good as long as we understand we don’t make the decision on our own apart from the inward drawing of the Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.”
– [John 6:44-45 KJV]

Let’s look at verse 45 in the NRSV just to good grasp of the meaning…
“It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.” – [John 6:45 NRSV]

Notice, Jesus says, “It is written in the prophets…” Anytime you see that phrase mentioned, you need to look in the Old Testament to the passage that is being quoted and read it in context.

“And they all shall be taught by God.” – Although this is not a direct, word for word quote, Jesus pulls this from two passages in the Old Testament that speak of the same event – the promise of the New Covenant.

“But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the LORD,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.”
– [Jeremiah 31:33-34 NRSV]

“All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the prosperity of your children.” – [Isaiah 54:13 NRSV]

Here’s the big question: What does all this mean for us? It means that God, in love, has brought us into His covenant and placed us in fellowship with a covenant community of believers.

It means that our belief does not come from within us, it comes from God who loves us, draws us, saves us, sanctifies us, and will one day, glorify us. God is the cheif operator in our salvation, not us. John makes that clear at the beginning of His gospel account in John 1.

“He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
– [John 1:11-13 KJV]

Prior to being born again, we were enemies of God without hope in the world, but the will of God intervened for us, and drew us to a point in our lives where we knew we had to come to Jesus or be lost forever.

The End Result (verses 28-29)

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” – [John 10:27-29 KJV]

Let’s think about John 3:16 for a second. We know John 3:16, we love John 3:16, we can all quote John 3:16. We don’t dispute it. Yet, when it comes to verses like John 10:28-29, we want to say, “God gives them eternal life, but…” or “I know it says no one can pluck us out of God’s hand, but…” There are no ‘buts.’ There is nothing in the text that indicates that Jesus DOES NOT mean what He says.

There’s only one condition here. The sheep must follow, and He gives them eternal life.

Here’s how it works.

The Shepherd calls, the sheep follow, He gives them eternal life.

The Shepherd ALWAYS calls. The sheep ALWAYS follow. The Shepherd ALWAYS grants eternal life to the sheep. This is the beauty of Unconditional Election. Our election in Christ is sure. Our salvation is secure. There is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING that can be done for our salvation to be lost.

I can hear someone asking now, “But what if the sheep ever stop following?” Then that’s not a sheep, that’s a goat. The sheep may stray, but shepherd always brings the sheep back.

“How do we know who is a sheep and who is a goat?” It’s none of our business, Jesus will separate them Himself.

Now, here’s the big question for you tonight? Are you a lost sheep? Do you need Jesus to find you? Do you need hope that only salvation can give? You may be here, and you may be saved, but you need the joy of your salvation restored. Jesus can grant you joy unspeakable and full of glory.

 

Sermon Notes: “How Majestic Is Your Name”

Hey Guys,
These are some sermon notes from a message I preached at Newton Springs Full Gospel Church in Hector, Arkansas about a year and a half ago. This isn’t meant to be a transcript just some verses, quotes, and thoughts I jotted down to preach from. You’re welcome to use this for personal or group Bible study, or to even preach from. Just give God the credit for it, since He’s the One who gave it anyway. Soli Deo Gloria!

How Majestic is Your Name
“O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens. [2] Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger. [3] When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; [4] What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? [5] For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. [6] Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: [7] All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; [8] The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. [9] O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!” 

– [Psalms 8:1-9 KJV]

2 Purposes For This Psalm:
1. To Make Us See How Sufficient God is
2. To Make Us See How Insufficient We Are

1. To Make Us See How Sufficient God is
“O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.”
– [Psalm 8:1 ESV]

“O LORD, our Lord…” – YAHWEH our Adonai Just in this little fragment of the first verse two big truths are presented. Almighty God is lord of the universe and He is Lord over the Church.

LORD – All caps means Yahweh (I AM WHO I AM, Exodus 3:14).
He is self-sustaining, all powerful, all knowing, all sovereign, king of the Universe. He doesn’t need our help. He doesn’t our opinion. He doesn’t need our input. He is God all by Himself and that’s the end of it.

“When God says I AM WHO I AM, he summons us to humble objectivity. He puts an end to the notion that everybody’s view of God is as good as everybody else’s. God is who he is and nobody’s opinion of him makes any difference. Therefore, our calling as His creatures is to strive to know him for who he is, not for who we would like him to be. ” – John Piper, Sermon: “I AM WHO I AM”

The idols of the Old Testament had to be built and created from the ideas of men by the hands of men, but the very men that created those idols were formed by the hand of the God they denied.

“Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good…But the LORD is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation.” – [Jeremiah 10:2-5, 10 KJV]

“Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.” – [Psalms 115:3-8 ESV]

“Descend, if you will, into the lowest depths of the ocean, where undisturbed the water sleeps, and the very sand is motionless in unbroken quiet, but the glory of the Lord is there, revealing its excellence in the silent palace of the sea.” – Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David

He is Creator of the Universe (Genesis 1:1; Colossians 1:16)
“A state of mind that sees God in everything is evidence of growth in grace and a thankful heart.” – Charles G. Finney

“Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing.” – [Isaiah 40:26 ESV]

He is Sustainer of the Universe (Colossians 1:17)
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. [16] For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. [17] And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” – [Colossians 1:15-17 ESV]

“The meaning is, that they are kept in the present state; their existence, order, and arrangement are continued by his power. If unsupported by him, they would fall into disorder, or sink back to nothing.” – Albert Barnes

Literally, if Christ were not holding the universe together then the earth and all of creation would fall and sink back into the dark abysmal void that it was found in in Genesis 1:2, “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep…” I am held together in the very same way.

If Christ should take His hand off of me then I would slip back into the dark sin and despair that He found me in, but because He is still holding the world in place I know that He will still hold me in place. He has sealed me to the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30).I cannot hold myself together. I am held together by the fact that Christ holds the universe together and He is Lord over all.

2. How Insufficient We Are
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? – [Psalms 8:3-4 ESV]

God has no reason to be mindful of us because we’ve willingly sinned against him.

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” – [Romans 3:23 ESV]

“Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.” – [Isaiah 59:1-2 ESV]

He doesn’t leave us in a hopeless and helpless state. He sends a Redeemer to save us!

“And a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression,” declares the LORD. “And as for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the LORD: “My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children’s offspring,” says the LORD, “from this time forth and forevermore.” – [Isaiah 59:20-21 ESV]

CONCLUSION
“The only thing of our very own which we contribute to our salvation is the sin which makes it necessary.” – William Temple “We sinned for no reason but an incomprehensible lack of love, and He saved us for no reason but an incomprehensible excess of love.” ― Peter Kreeft, Jesus-Shock

We need Jesus to save us and sustain. We can’t do this ourselves.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” – [Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV]

Our sin has separated us from us from God and we need Him to saturate with His love and His Spirit and bring us into right relationship with Him. We can’t go to church enough. We can’t do enough good works. We can’t knock on enough doors. We can’t sing enough hymns during the congregational singing. Only the grace of God can bring us to life in Him. We need Jesus. It’s that simple.