Knowing What You’ve Signed Up For

A BIBLE STUDY ~

 

If you are reading this and are a Christian having committed your life to Jesus, to love and follow Him, I have no doubt you’ve felt like a failure at one time or another.  The reason I can say that is because I know a little bit about our common enemy. 

His name means adversary (aka the accuser, aka father of lies).  He would love nothing more than to take the same Bible I read daily for encouragement and my own spiritual growth, and give me a smackdown with it, accusing me of failing God in certain areas of my life.  I am so grateful then for the verses like Romans 8:33-35 (NIV).

[33]  Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?  It is God who justifies,  [34]  Who then is the one who condemns?  No one.  Christ Jesus who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.  [35]  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  

The world often fails to see the potential for success that God has placed within a person.  But God Himself knows us and sees us for our true potential.

And when we open our hearts to Him daily and receive His GRACE, that my friends is the beginning of a life of success.  All other successes will be left behind when we leave this earth.  But knowing Jesus and making Him known to others is something we can take with us!

As Paul and his team were successful as they traveled around sharing the GOOD NEWS about Jesus, several dynamics emerge from these verses found in 1 Thes. 2 that helps us become more effective in SHARING God’s GRACE with others.

Even When You’re Up Against Strong Opposition –

1 Thessalonians 2:1-2 (NIV)

Acts 17 tells of the strong opposition Paul had faced not only in Thessalonia but also in Philippi.  The suffering in Phillipi that he alludes to here is detailed for us in Acts 16:16-40.  I encourage you to read the accounts of tribulation encountered.

In spite of this harsh treatment in Phillipi, they still dared to proclaim the GOOD NEWS (the gospel message) to the Thessalonians, even though they had run into a spiritual brick wall there as well.

Acts 17 tells us that the Jews in Thessalonia were jealous of Paul’s ministry so much, that they formed a mob and started a riot in the city.  Jason, the man whose house Paul was staying, was arrested and later released on bond.

So that night, Paul, and Silas (Silvanus), left for Berea under the cover of darkness.

THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL –

Although over the past 47 years as a Christian, I faced different degrees of opposition to the gospel message.  But I never faced opposition that the apostle Paul faced and experienced.  And I pray that I never will.  That said, I’m prepared for what might come, not by my own strength, but by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Opposition will come whenever we set out to accomplish something significant for Jesus’ sake–like sharing the gospel message and helping people grow in their faith!  This is warfare on a spiritual level, and the enemy will stir up as much trouble as he can to discourage us and immobilize us in sharing God’s GRACE with others around us.

BUT WE ARE NOT ALONE!

Just as Jesus told His disciples that He would be with them always. so He is with us.  And He will help us accomplish what He has called us to do!

The help that is delivered with Divine Assistance!

It would have been a natural thing in the world for Paul and his team to call a timeout and take a little break in their mission.

Paul decided not to be a whiner because he was not treated fairly by the people he was trying to reach for Christ.

As they passed God’s GRACE on to everyone they met, the RESULT of their efforts, using an American football term, a roughing the passer, penalty!  God, didn’t you see that?  How could you miss that call?  They deserve a penalty!

But Paul didn’t blame God or feel sorry for himself.

Paul knew what he had signed up for.

The Lord told Ananias in Acts 9:16,  “For I will make clear to him how much he will be afflicted and must endure and suffer for My name’s sake.”  Instead of complaining, Paul received strength, encouragement, and help from the Lord.

Sometime later in Corinth, after facing opposition at nearly every turn, the Lord encouraged Paul in a VISION:

Acts 18:9-10

Here’s the lesson to remember when things get tough for us in sharing Christ Jesus with others:

We can withstand any opposition the enemy throws our way

because God is with us!

“With the help of our God, we dared to tell you the gospel in spite of strong opposition.”  (1 Thes. 2:2)

So when we are doing what God has called us to do church, and we face opposition in our calling, God’s got our backs–God is with us and will help us carry out His plan!

And when we SHARE, we need to be sure that we are doing it for the right reasons.

Having the Proper Motivation –

1 Thessalonians 2:3-5 (NIV)

[3]  For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you.  [4]  On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel.  We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts.  [5]  You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed–God is our witness.

In Philippians One, Paul said that some preached Christ for the wrong reasons (envy, selfish ambition), but he was okay with ut, because even with the wrong motivation, at least the gospel of Christ was being preached.

However, the Lord wants us to take a close look at our motivation and make sure it aligns with who He is.

  • Not from bad theology (or “pop theology”).  Anything that makes us think wrongly about who God is and/or who we are.
  • Not from impure motives.
  • Not to trick the listeners (manipulation).
  • Not to please men (seeking their praise, (Vs. 6).
  • Not using flattery.
  • Not out of greed.
  • Positively, to PLEASE GOD!

The proper motivation to have for sharing the GOSPEL–The Good News–with others is to please God!

It pleases God because He doesn’t want anyone to perish without Him, but for everyone to come to repentance.

If we are using our faith to impress others or get something that we want for ourselves, then we are missing it!  How many times over the years in my own evangelistic outreach have I prayed the words of Psalm 139:23-24.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;

test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting.”

It’s characterized by giving, not taking.

1 Thessalonians 2:6-9

Paul could have asked the Thessalonian Christians to take care of them, providing housing, food, and other needs.  But he wanted to take care of them, not the other way around–much like a mother cares for her children.

Paul spoke of being gentle, not demanding.  He nurtured them and helped them grow while he was there amongst them.  His love was so strong that he said that he was delighted to share not simply the gospel, but his own life.  He worked day and night to avoid being a burden to them while preaching the good news to them.

How was Paul able to do all of this?

Because that’s what Jesus did!  He came to serve, not be served.  He came to give, not take!

GIVING is the truest expression of love.  God so loved that He GAVE…

Jesus loves the Church and gave Himself for her.

So the question, “What’s in it for me?” wasn’t foremost on Paul’s mind.  He knew his reward would come later.  Now was the time to SERVE, not be served!

Its effects are seen in those who share it – 1 Thessalonians 2:10 (AMP)

[10]  You are witnesses, [yes] and God [also], how unworldly and upright and blameless was our behavior toward you believers [who adhered to and trusted in and relied on our Lord Jesus Christ].

Paul knew they needed to practice what they preached!

Not that he had to do anything different but just to set a good example.  A good example flowed out of a life that was sold out to Jesus!  I would like to call this approach, “modeling discipleship.”  Paul was showing them how to live at being honest, hardworking, holy, righteous, and blameless.  He was simply being a follower of Jesus, and they got to witness it.  Its effects are discipled into those who received it,

1 Thessalonians 2:11-12

There’s immediate transformation when a person receives the GOOD NEWS about Jesus, but there’s also a lifelong process as well.

The spiritual growth process requires encouragement, comfort, and urging–that’s what DISCIPLESHIP is all about!

Most of us are okay with the encouragement and comfort concept.  It’s the urging that might irritate us at times.  Urging someone to live a life worthy of God and that means that they can’t get too comfortable and satisfied.

A follower (disciple) of Christ cannot give in to every whim or passion or desire that floats through their heads!

So, we are to be as parents to new believers, as a father deals with his own children. 

Sharing the GOOD NEWS with an individual doesn’t end when they accept Jesus as their forgiver and leader.  It’s an ongoing process of discipleship where the life of Jesus is imparted to them in a relationship.

SHARING THE GOOD NEWS WITH OTHERS:

As we ALL share the GOOD NEWS, realize that it comes with the opposition, but can be done with God’s help.

Our motivation should be to please God, not people.  It’s about giving, not taking, and it changes us so we can help reach and disciple others for Christ.  That’s what God intended for each one us as His people and when we became the church–WE ARE THE CHURCH!

The GOOD NEWS about Jesus and the POWER of God is leading to SALVATION for everyone who believes.  If you haven’t yet received the GOOD NEWS about Jesus and by trusting Him for forgiveness and committing to follow Him, I pray you will right now, where you are.  If you already have, then let it TRANSFORM you!  SHARE IT, and DISCIPLE those who receive it!

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CREDITS:

Photos/Images:  Google Image Search

Commentary:  1 Thessamonians 2:1-12 – Bible Hub

Dictionary:  Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old And New Testament Words.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); and other translations as a reference in the text of used in the Photo/Images.

Becoming A Loser!!

Scripture 2 Peter 2:7-8

Seriously, I pondered giving this blog its title.  You might think it’s little unkind in thought.  However, my point in the title wasn’t unkindness, but to simply summarize the overall outcome of Lot’s life.

Lot lost everything of any value in his life.  To put it short, it’s the result of Lot putting his WANTS ahead of God’s WILL.

Lot is an example of a Christian who tried to live as close to the world as they could with the mistaken idea it wouldn’t affect him.

Many Christians today are doing much the same as Lot.  Trying to live as close to the world as possible without being affected by it.

It’s living a tightrope existence.

It is attempting to live with one foot in the WORLD and one foot in God’s KINGDOM.  But this way of living can’t be done.  Inevitably, it will lead to a fall!  Jesus said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”  (Luke 9:62)

He also said, “No one can serve two masters…” (Matthew 6:24 a.)

The point is that you can’t live for self and the world while at the same time being committed and pleasing to your heavenly Father.  It’s a spiritual impossibility.

Trying to walk with the world and with the Lord at the same time simply can’t be done.  Those two ways of life cancel out each other!

You might ask at this point, how is trying to walk with the world makes Lot a “spiritual loser”?

Lot became a spiritual loser because of:  [1]  HIS WEAK DEVOTION TOWARD GOD.

He had great assets and wealth  (Genesis 13:5-6)

NOTE:  The Bible doesn’t condemn anyone for having riches.  Scripture does say however, there’s condemnation for our trusting in riches  (1 Timothy 6:17).

[17]  Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  (NIV)

Lot’s problem wasn’t his riches, but his ‘worldly’ attitude.

Like the world, Lot had the idea that the value of his life was dependant upon what he possessed.  He had relegated first place in his life to what he had accumulated.

Great Assets Won’t Make Up For Weak Devotion to God.

Riches in and of themselves will not make one happy, as this true story illustrates [*See Footnote [i] ]:

Many people think money is security, but 1 Timothy 6:9 warns that it can be just the opposite.  A few years ago, columnist Jim Bishop reported what happened to people who won the state lottery:

Rosa Grayson, of Washington, won $400 a week for life.  She hides in her apartment.  For the first time in her life, she has “nerves.”  Everyone tries to put the touch on her.  “People are so mean.  I hope you win the lottery and see what happens to you.”

All the “WINNERS” hoped and prayed for sudden wealth.

All had their prayers answered.

All were wrecked on a dollar sign

“If the child of God is to be successful by God’s standard, the love of their life must be Jesus.  That’s true whether you are a pauper or a millionaire.  Most of us are richer than we know”

[By Chuck Rasmussen.]

Lot Had No Altar Of Worship

Genesis 12:7-8 (AMP)

[7] Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said,  “I will give this land to your posterity.”  So Abram built an altar there to the Lord, Who had appeared to him.

[8] From there he pulled up ][his tent pegs] and departed to the mountain on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord.

Even when Abram (Abraham) strayed, he always came back to the ALTAR  (Genesis 13:1, 3-4).

So let’s look at this whole account a little closer:

[1]  Abraham journeyed down to Egypt (a type of the world in scripture), to escape the famine in the land of Canaan.  And because he had disobeyed God in this, he had nothing but trouble from the time he arrived there.  But the first thing Abraham did after coming out of Egypt was to return to the ALTAR art Bethel (which means “the house of God’).

A Good Trip to the Altar is the First Step in Shedding the Influence of the World Upon One’s Life.

In total contrast to Abraham, Lot’s main concern was his assets, not the ALTAR.

I couldn’t find from Scripture the slightest hint that Lot was really committed to God, although he was a believer.

He was extremely weak in devotion to God.  It was this flaw in Lot’s life that resulted in his eventual ruin.

A Christian who is weak in their devotion to God is an easy target for Satan.  Many Christians today have great assets, even many spiritual activities,  BUT NO ALTAR!  Everything else in life is rather meaningless without fellowship with the LIVING GOD!!

His Worldly Departure From God.

It all began with division (Genesis 13:7)

It revealed Abram’s dignity – Genesis 13:8 (NIV)

[8] So Abram said to Lot,  “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers.”

Notice the submissive spirit that’s demonstrated by Abraham.   It’s a characteristic of one who is walking with God in a cooperative attitude.  I don’t mean cooperation at all costs; but in general with the desire to help and minister to others, rather than demanding for one’s own way.

According to the custom of that day, Abraham had the right of FIRST CHOICE for he was the eldest of the two men.  But it’s precisely here that the maturity and dignity of Abraham that shinned.  He permitted his nephew, LOt, to have the right of FIRST CHOICE.

It Revealed Lot’s Worldly Desires – Genesis 13:10

[10] Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, toward Zoar.  (This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah).

I can just imagine at this point that Lot, in thinking to himself, “Uncle Abram is a fool to give me the right of first choice.  But that’s his mistake.  I’m going to get the best I can, while I can!”  However, this brings out the trusts of the two men.  Abraham trusted the God of the Altar, while Lot trusted the greatness of his assets.

It Resulted In Lot’s Wrong Decision (Genesis 13:11 – Amplified Bible)

[11] Then Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley and [he] traveled east.  So they separated.

Sin and worldliness are always a CHOICE on the part of the Christian.  The Bible bears this out in Paul’s writings, when he says,   “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires”;  “For sin shall not be your master…”  (Romans 6:12, 14a)

Let’s look at the progression of Lot’s worldliness:

  1. He LOOKED toward Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 13:10).
  2. He CHOSE the plain of Jordan, where Sodom and Gomorrah were located (Gen. 13:11a).
  3. He JOURNEYED toward Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 13:11b).
  4. He then PITCHED his tent toward Sodom (Gen. 12:12).

Have you ever ‘flirted’ with sin?  To trifle or toy, as with an idea you knew was a sin?

Holy Spirit made a point in mentioning that Abraham “lived in the land of Canaan” (v. 12a), the land of promise, while Lot CHOSE to pitch his tent “…toward Sodom” (v. 12b), a city where its reputation was well-known for lustful pleasures.

His Wicked Dwelling Place Among the Godless.

Lot chose to live among a promiscuous, unprincipled in sexual matters, society.  Notice God’s description of the men of Sodom (Genesis 13:13):

Now “the men” weren’t merely your so-called “good ole boys” having fun on Saturday night.  They were sexually depraved, bad to the bone, criminal types (Genesis 19:2)

This city was wholly given over to deviant sex (Genesis 19:4-5)

[4] But before they lay down, the men of the city of Sodom, both young and old, ALL THE MEN from every quarter, surrounded the house.

[5] And they called to Lot and said,  “Where are the men who came to you tonight?  Bring them out to us, that we may know (be intimate with) them.”

Later in the story, Lot offered his two virgin daughters to this depraved mob, who ignored his offer altogether (Genesis 19:8).

It just blows my mind to think that Lot would have stooped so low to make such an offer.  But this just reveals how badly Sodom had influenced Lot’s heart and mind.  Rubbing elbows with SIN produces a calloused heart.

Can you imagine a BELIEVER living in a place like this and being comfortable with it?  Don’t forget–it happened gradually.

He Lingered Though Judgment Loomed.

Genesis 19:14-16 (NIV)

[14] So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were pledged to marry his daughters.  He said, “Hurry and get out of this place because the LORD is about to destroy the city!”  But his sons-in-law thought he was joking.

[15] With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Hurry!  Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.”

[16] When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the LORD was merciful to them.

There’s A Sad Truth Here:

Whether or not people will listen to your message depends on how you have lived before men.

Just because you’re telling the TRUTH, it doesn’t earn you the right to be heard.

Lot’s own family thought he was crazy when he started to talk to them about God and Judgment, because he had lived without regard for God for so long, and everything he said seemed like a joke.  His walk didn’t back up his words.

He Lost All That Was Dear To Life.

#1.  Lot lost his wife. (Genesis 19:26)

#2.  Lot lost his relatives in the destruction of Sodom.

Genesis 19:14  (His sons-in-law wouldn’t listen to him.)

#3.  Lot lost his integrity as a child of God.

Genesis 19:30-38  (Lot’s two remaining daughters got him drunk and committed incest.)

All of this now brings us back to my title:  BECOMING A LOSER

Lot became a spiritual loser because of:

  • HIS WEAK DEVOTION TOWARD GOD.
  • HIS WORLDLY DEPARTURE FROM GOD.
  • HIS WICKED DWELLING AMONG THE GODLESS.

Maybe it’s time for you to come back to the ALTAR!

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES:

Footnote [i]:  “Won The Lottery” by Bible.or.

Music Video:  “O Come To The Altar” – Live Elevation Worship – Youtube.

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); AMPLIFIED Bible (AMP), or other translations where noted.

Credit Commentary:  Lot: From Sodom To Salt Sermon by Carl Allen – 2 Peter 2:4-10.

 

 

 

THE AVENGER


With the recent news headlines regarding the lack of justice in the land and in the world, let’s face it.   It’s frustrating!  It seems that hardened criminals get off with just slaps on the wrists.  I can’t stand the lack of consequences being dealt out for evil behavior.

While injustice in our country and the world abounds, my spirit rises when I ponder the Word of God when it clearly communicates that the wicked will not go unpunished.  As the Day of the LORD approaches, The Avenger of all the earth ensures that the wicked are done away with and justice is done.

In the last several weeks I’ve been reading and studying in THE BOOK Of Jeremiah, learning that because of the people’s constant sinning against the LORD, the Jews of Jeremiah’s day received what they deserved–the JUDGEMENT of the LORD.

God didn’t let them get away with rebellion against Him.

The people who God used to carry out His judgment were the Babylonians.

However, the tactics and methods of the Babylonians were absolutely unconscionable and brutal.  That gave rise to the question, which Jeremiah anticipates in the two chapters referenced:

“Will the Babylonians be punished for their evil deeds?  Will justice be done?”

And the answer given of Jeremiah 50-51 is “Yes, the Babylonians are going to be punished for the evil they commit against you.  The destroyer is going to be destroyed.  Babylon is going to fall and not rise again.”  

And for the Jews, Jeremiah 50-51 held a great comfort:

  1. The Babylonians were not going to get away with their evil deeds.
  2. The Jewish nation was going to survive.  God was going to redeem them in the land of captivity and return them to their homeland and be their God.

God’s JUSTICE…Is the fact that God will not let the wicked go unpunished.

But before we can have an understanding of God’s commitment to JUSTICE, we need to learn and understand about His vengeance and the anger that is aroused in Him by a person or nations in disobedience.

Jeremiah 50:15

Jeremiah speaks of the city of Babylon as an act of vengeance by the LORD:


Jeremiah speaks of how the time has come to be punished and how God was going to take vengeance on the Babylonians for what they had done to His Temple:

Jeremiah 50:27-31 (AMP)

[27] Slay all her bullocks (her choice youths, the strength of her army); let them go down to the slaughter!  Woe to [the Chaldeans]!  For their day has come, the time of their visitation (their inspection and punishment).

[28] Listen!  The voice of those [Jews] who flee and escape out of the land of Babylon proclaiming in Zion the vengeance [of the Lord upon the Chaldeans] for [the plundering and destruction of] His temple.

[29] Call together [many] archers against Babylon, all those who bend the bow.  Encamp against her round about; let none from there escape.  Recompense her according to her deeds; just as she has done, do to her.  For against the Lord, against the Holy One of Israel, has she been proudly defiant and presumptuous.

[30] Therefore shall her young men fall in her streets and squares, and all her soldiers shall be destroyed on that day, says the Lord.  [31] Behold, I am against you, O Babylon [you who are pride and presumption personified], says the Lord, the Lord of hosts, for your day has come, the time when I will visit and punish you.

Jeremiah’s prophecy of the destruction of Babylon was 170 years before its fulfillment.

In verse 29, God’s intent was to repay Babylon for her rebellion against Him.  Like things are said in Jeremiah 51:6; 51:11; 51:13; 51:24; and 51:36.

One of God’s Attributes: GOD IS A GOD OF VENGEANCE!

For some of us, the idea that God is a vengeful God just doesn’t seem right.  Yet in Deuteronomy 32:35 and Romans 12:19 we read:  “It is mine to avenge; I will repay”

And in Romans 12:19,

So what is the vengeance of God about?  —justice, retribution, punishment, payback, balancing the scales of right and wrong, righteous and holy anger.  It’s God’s response to SIN AND REBELLION.  Vengeance and the punishment of the wicked is God’s right and His duty.  In fact, if God can’t be true to His character of holiness and justice and if He allows SIN AND REBELLION to go unpunished…and if justice is to mean anything, then rebellion, lawbreaking, disobedience, arrogance, and all evil acts necessitate punishment.  God cannot and will not let the wicked go unpunished. 

As Nahum 1:3 says, “The Lord is slow to anger but great in power; the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished…”. 

Proverbs 11:21 also says “Be sure of this: The wicked will not go unpunished, but those who are righteous will go free.”

Just so I don’t leave you with an inaccurate view of God, we need to understand that the Bible balances the fury of God’s vengeance against the sinner with the greatness of His mercy on those who repent of their wicked ways.  This includes the nations of the world as well.

Our God is incredibly merciful!

In Psalm 116:5 it says, “The LORD is gracious and righteous, our God is full of compassion.”

In 2 Peter 3:9 says “The Lord does not delay and is not tardy or slow about what He promises, according to some people’s conception of slowness, but He is long-suffering (extraordinarily patient) toward you, not desiring that any should perish, but that all should turn to repentance.” [AMP]

For in Jesus and the Cross, the full expression of God’s MERCY and GRACE is made available for us–for in the CROSS and the shed BLOOD of Jesus, the perfect sacrifice for sin, the remedy for our sin and the judgment of God we all deserve.

As the time came for Babylon to be punished and experience God’s wrath against her, so the time approaches for the people in our day to experience the same.

Without a doubt, the Day of Judgment approaches.

In Hebrews 10:30-31, it says “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge His people.”  [31] It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

And again in 2 Peter 3:10 it says,  But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will vanish (pass away) with a tremendous crash, and the [material] elements [of the universe] will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up.  [AMP]

There’s a reason for this happening:

  • BECAUSE of the wickedness of mankind.
  • BECAUSE OF OUR SIN.
  • BECAUSE of peoples refusal to live as God requires us to.
  • BECAUSE the justice and righteousness of God demands that sin and rebellion be punished.

While the great Day of Judgment approaches, the Bible also teaches us that after we die and face judgment, each one will appear before the LORD and give an account–and to Heaven or Hell one will go for all eternity.

I know, most pulpits today are not preaching this.  And why?  “People that come through our doors don’t want to hear negative sermons,” as it’s been noted in churches across the land.

Here is something to note:  The one who will judge, the one who determines where one’s eternity will be spent…IS JESUS!

John 5:22-23 records Jesus saying,  

TWO THINGS as it pertains to the coming Day of Judgment:

For most, the Day of Judgment will be a terrible day for them–for they will experience the LORD’S hand against them.

For the few righteous, the children of God, a glorious day, the Day of the Lord shall be!

For all the saints a day of celebration and praise will take place.  Along with the angels of Heaven who will declare “True and just are your judgments O Lord.”  [See Revelation 16:7, and note Jeremiah 51:48. ]

The Required Preparation for the Day of the Lord.

  • The only way to be prepared is to be right with God.  The only way to escape the coming JUDGMENT is to be at peace with God.
  • The only way to be right with God is to be a follower of Jesus.  As Jesus says in John 14:6 “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
  • The only way to have peace with God is to humble ourselves before Him, confessing our sin, mourning over it, and embracing Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

THE GLORIOUS NEWS OF THE SCRIPTURE–

For those who are right with God–meaning they’re disciples of Christ on the Day of Judgment–they shall not experience condemnation of God. 

Romans 8:1 (NIV) says, Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

As the angel of death passed over the houses of the Jews and the blood of the lambs spread on their doorposts, so the destruction of the Lord will pass over all those identified and spiritually marked with the shed blood of Jesus–the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world.

VENGEANCE IS GOD’S BUSINESS, NOT OURS!

Like the ancient Hebrews, many Christians have misapplied the doctrine of divine vengeance using it as an excuse for holding on to the “getting even” against others.  Jesus has clearly spoken out against this:

Likewise in Romans 12:17-21 the Apostle Paul by the Spirit of God, commands us saying, 

Since VENGEANCE and REPAYING EVIL is God’s domain, we need to ask:

  • Is there someone you are holding a grudge against in the present, or in the past?
  • Is there someone in your life who you would like to get even with?

If you are struggling with a grudge, with unforgiveness, and with a retaliation spirit, then confess it now and ask the Lord to forgive you and to give you the mind of Christ, which is LOVE for your enemies, to turn the other cheek, to forgive those who trespassed against you.

As much as I or you hate injustice in our society and wrong sinful behavior, God hates it 1000 times more.

GOD HAS MADE A PROMISE:

He will not let the wicked go unpunished,

His HOLINESS AND COMMITMENT to justice demands this.

The only way to escape the AVENGER’S wrath is to flee to Jesus Christ who took upon Himself the punishment for sin that you and I deserve.

On the CROSS He endured the wrath of God for our sins and that whoever should believe in Him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

The more injustice and evil abound, the greater the comfort comes from this doctrine we have looked at in this study will be to us.

While our God is a God of vengeance, an AVENGER, we need to remember it’s held in the perfect balance of His rich and undeserved mercy (1 Thessalonians 4:6).


VENGEANCE IS GOD’S BUSINESS, NOT OURS

We need to learn to turn the other cheek and to wait upon the Lord–for He will AVENGE the wicked–they will not go unpunished.

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CREDITS:

Encyclopedia:  International Standard Bible Encyclopedia – Avenge; Avenger.

Dictionary:  VINE’S COMPLETE EXPOSITORY DICTIONARY.

IMAGES:  Google Image search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); New American Standard Bible (NASB).

 

 

GENESIS 24: Here Comes The Bride

 

Like many things in the bible, this story, the longest chapter in the Book of Genesis, has a two-fold meaning.  Just like a PARABLE has a physical application and a spiritual application (Sower and the seed, prodigal son, the parable of the lost sheep…).  I believe each person in this story represents something, a picture of something, a symbol of something!  So together, let’s investigate and see what these individuals are depicting.

GENESIS, Chapter 24, is the story of the SERVANT of Abraham.

The SERVANT is searching for the perfect bride for his Master’s Son, Isaac.  The story serves as a great illustration of God’s LOVE.

  • In this story within a story, Abraham represents God the Father.
  • Isaac represents God the Son.
  • The servant represents God the Holy Spirit.
  • Rebeka represents the Church, the bride of Christ
  • Camels – Represents GRACE, or a better description is a picture or image of Grace.
  • Brothers and the Mother – Represents the world or a picture/image of the WORLD.

What is Jesus looking for?  What kind of expectations does Jesus have for His Church?

Christ’s Bride consists of those who are the household of Faith–THE CHURCH.

Genesis 24:1-4 (NIV)

[1] Abraham was now old and well advanced in years, and the LORD had blessed him in every way.  [2] He said to the chief servant in his household, the one in charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh.  [3] I want you to swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living,  [4] but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac.”

The Canaanites were idol worshippers.

In Genesis 12, God gives Abraham a PROMISE:

Genesis 12:1-2 (AMP)

[1] NOW [in Haran] the Lord said to Abram, “Go for yourself [for your advantage] away from your country, from your relatives and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.

[2] And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you [with abundant increase of favors] and make your name famous and distinguished, and you will be a blessing [dispensing good to others].”

So Abraham left his homeland in Ur and settled in Canaan.

Genesis 12:7

[7] Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “I will give this land to your posterity.”  So Abram built an altar there to the Lord, Who had appeared to him.

Abraham doesn’t want his Son to marry one of the heathen Canaanite women. 

Abraham was a man of great faith.  He’s getting old and wants to be sure that the FAITH he has will continue on in his family.

Abraham knows his son Isaac will take on the responsibility of maintaining faith in God and His promises.  He knows a Canaanite woman could be a bad influence on his son, so he asks his servant to return to his homeland.  While there, he is to find a young woman of faith to become the wife of his Son.

There’s a Biblical principle to be found here that is often ignored.

Amos 3:3 – Can two walk together, except they are agreed?

2 Corinthians 6:14 – Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.  For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?

How could God have made it any easier to understand?  CHRISTIANS SHOULDN’T MARRY UNSAVED PEOPLE.

It may eventually work out O.K…  However, it usually doesn’t.

Abraham doesn’t want that to happen to his son, Isaac.  Likewise, we shouldn’t want it to happen to our children or grandchildren.

Christ’s Bride consists of those who are willing to commit their lives to Him.

Abraham knows Isaac must remain in Canaan to fulfill God’s PROMISE.

The SERVANT took a VOW to find a BRIDE for his Master’s Son.  But if the young woman was unwanting to return with him to the promised land, he would then be free from the vow.  Abraham didn’t want a ‘shotgun wedding’ for his son, Isaac.

And so it is with God the Father.  God wants us to come to Jesus of our own free will.  If a person doesn’t want to be SAVED, and rather choose Hell over Heaven, that’s their choice.

The Bride of Christ consists of those who are God picked [Genesis 24:7].

[7] “The LORD, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father’s household and my native land and who spoke to me and promised me on oath, saying, “To your offspring I will give this land–he will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there.”

God told Abraham He would send an angel ahead of his servant and the ANGEL would help the servant make the choice.

Maybe I should stop here for a moment to clarify something.  There are TWO theologies that come into play regarding the predestination of man.  In other words, when a person is born, God has already determined how he or she will live his life, whether or not he or she will be SAVED or LOST.

Some people like me, believe in the FREEWILL of man.  Everyone born into this world is allowed by God to make his or her own choice.  In other words, we are not puppets on a string with God pulling the ropes.  And we are not actors on a stage acting out a pre-written script.

The TWO theologies seem miles apart.  However, in this Bible story, I find both theologies at work.  God is doing the directing and the choosing, but Rebekah has to be willing to come!

Luke 6:13 says,  When morning came, he (Jesus) called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles.

Though Jesus chose 12 men, each one had a CHOICE to make.  They could surrender their lives and follow Jesus, or reject Him and go on living lives as they pleased.  I thought about this for a while and asked myself, “How does this apply to us today?”

Proverbs 1:27-29

So, back to the representations I mentioned:

  • Abraham represents God the Father.
  • Isaac represents Jesus.
  • The servant represents the Holy Spirit.
  • Rebekah represents the Church.

The Holy Spirit speaks to the hearts of the unsaved.

Though the Word of God is certainly found in our bibles, the Holy Spirit CONVICTS us of our sin.  The Holy Spirit leads us to accept Jesus as our Savior.  When we do that, we become part of the Bride of Christ.

Now catch the words in VERSE 10:  “Then the servant took ten of his master’s camels and left…”

Why take 10 camels, I wondered?

“…taking with him all kinds of good things from his master.”

[I’ll get to the CAMELS a bit later].

The SERVANT arrives in the city of Nahor [Nahor was Abraham’s brother] and he made the camels kneel down by a well in the evening.

The Servant’s PRAYER (verses 12-14):

[12] “O LORD, God of my master Abraham, give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham.  [13] See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water.  [14] May it be that when I say to a girl. ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink and I’ll water your camels too’– let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac.  By this, I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.”

Look how quickly this prayer is answered!

[15] Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder.  She was the daughter of Bethuel son of Milcah, who was the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor.

The Bride of Christ consists of those who are attractive  (Genesis 24:16).

REBEKAH was beautiful!  She could have easily won a beauty contest of her day.

Now don’t get the wrong idea here.  God does look at the heart!  Jesus often criticised religious leaders putting on a big show in public (Matthew 23:27-30).

But outward appearance means something!  The Bible isn’t ashamed to tell us that Isaac’s bride to be was beautiful,  So was Abraham’s wife, Sarah.  It isn’t sinful to look nice!  Outward appearance does make a difference.

But taking this beyond our physical appearances, what about what other people see in us?

God wants us to be good examples.  He doesn’t want us to live in such a way that we bring shame on the name, Christian!  Jesus wants us to live lives that are attractive to others.

Matthew 5:16 (AMP)

“Let your light so shine before men that they may see your moral excellence and your praiseworthy, noble, and good deeds and recognize and honor and praise and glorify your Father Who is in heaven.”

The Bride of Christ consists of those who are diligent–hardworking [Genesis 24:17-21].

.

Not only did Rebekah give the SERVANT a drink of water, but proceeded to water 10 Camels.  It’s said that one camel can drink 30 gallons of water.

I particularly noticed something about Rebekah that she went well beyond do what was asked of her…He asked for a drink for himself, and she did that and watered the CAMELS!

The Holy Spirit is always looking for people who will go beyond what they are asked to do!

Genesis 24:22 (NIV)

[22] When the camels had finished drinking, the man took out a gold nose ring weighing a beka and two gold bracelets weighing ten shekels.

The SERVANT rewards her for her services, for her kindness, but he hasn’t yet told her why he’s there!  Interesting!

That’s important.  Think of all the times God blessed you, protected you…BEFORE you became a Christian.  For me, it was thirty years before I came to Christ’s calling.

Watching Camels drink can’t be a pretty sight.

I searched out some interesting facts about a CAMEL.  A Camel has a set of 3 eyelids.  Two of the eyelids have eyelashes to help protect their eyes from the sand.  The third is a very thin lid and works as a sort of “windshield wipers” to clean their eyes.  It closes/opens from side to side rather than up and down.  It’s also thin enough that the Camels can see through it somewhat.

CAMELS can carry an average of 1000 pounds for long distances.  They also have leathery pads on their feet that spread to prevent them from sinking in the sand.  [ SEE footnote [i].]

GRACE can see through obstacles, carry us thru storms, no matter if we feel like the weight of the world is upon our shoulders.  GRACE CAN CARRY US THRU THE WILDERNESS!

Look what Jesus said in Mark 9:41 (NET Bible)

“For I tell you the truth, whoever gives you a cup of water because you bear Christ’s name will never lose his reward.”

Jesus is talking about those who are His disciples and those who aren’t.  It’s so much more than just handing out cups of water!  It’s about helping those in need.  It’s about working hard to help others.

In GENESIS 24, look closely at verse 61:  Then Rebekah and her maids got ready and mounted their camels and went back with the man.  So the servant took Rebekah and left.

Here’s the highlight, I believe, of the story within the story.

As Rebekah was watering the CAMELS, she had to notice that each Camel was loaded down with expensive GIFTS.  She must have noticed that the SERVANT was no beggar.  This SERVANT was a man of means.  EVERYTHING piled on the backs of those Camels would one day become hers!

AND, let’s not forget Rebekah’s Brother and Mother who represents the WORLD – Genesis 24:55 (AMP)

[55] But [Rebekah’s] brother and mother said, “Let the girl stay with us a few days–at least ten; then she may go.”

There’s always going to be people in your life who will try to hinder you and discourage you or delay you in following God.  Maybe your running buddy, your friends, maybe your co-worker, it might even be your family.

It’s still your CHOICE to make!

So would become the BRIDE of Isaac!

On her way to her new homeland in the Promised Land, she would be perched up on top of all those riches!

The symbolism portrayed here is a person surrounding their life to Jesus through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Genesis 24:62-67 (NIV)

[62]  Now Isaac had come from Beer-La-hai Roi, for he was living in the Negev.

[63]  He went out to the field one evening to meditate, and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching.

[64]  Rebekah also looked up and saw Isaac.  She got down from her camel  [65] and asked the servant, “Who is that man in the field coming to meet us?”

[66]  Then the servant told Isaac all that he had done.

[67]  Isaac brought her int the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah.  So she became his wife, and he loved her, and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

As the BRIDE of Christ, we too are promised untold riches:

Ephesians 1:18

“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints”

Ephesians 2:7

“…in the coming ages, He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Crist Jesus.

Ephesians 3:16

“I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being.”

Philippians 4:19

“And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

Who Will Jesus Take As His Bride?

The BRIDE of Christ

HAVE YOU BEEN SAVED?

Take pleasure in knowing if you are a true believer–that Jesus is your Savior and that riches are yours!

If you are reading this Blog-Study and you are NOT SAVED, or insure of your SALVATION, your eternal security, then you can do it today!

Are you afraid of letting go, letting God make the CHOICES in your life?  Remember that Rebekah was God’s perfect choice for the bride of Isaac.  God loves you.  If you rely on His WISDOM, you’ll never regret the CHOICES He makes for your life!

Do you know someone who isn’t SAVED?

Be like the SERVANT and do what you can to bring them to Christ Jesus by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Understand that unlike Rebekah, some will refuse to give themselves to Jesus.  But at least make an effort to reach out your hand and lead them to Jesus!

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

PHOTS/IMAGES:  Google Image search.

Footnote [i]:  CAMEL FACTS @SoftSchools.com

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV), except where noted.

Sermon notes   Genesis 24;1-63,  Pastor Jimmy Haile, September 30, 2015.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dependence On Outward Signs Instead of Inward Commitment

SCRIPTURE STUDY:  GENESIS 17:9-13; Deuteronomy 10:16-17; Colossians 2:11-12

SIGNS ARE IMPORTANT –

Signs are one way that we communicate with one another and many times how we identify things.

A Salvation Army woman outside of a well-known store during the Christmas season was informed by a policeman that there was a local ordinance that prevented her from ringing her bells and inviting contributions.  She was contrite and apologized that she had “broken” the law.  But the next day she was back in front of the same store doing a brisker business than ever as she waved one sign and then another in the air.  One said “DING” and the other said “DONG”.

SIGNS are important in the lives of God’s people too.  They may not be printed signs but we, as Christians, do portrait who we are by the way we live.  People should be able to identify us by the way we are acting.  Our lives become SIGNS to the world.

In the referenced passage of Scripture in Genesis 17, it is telling us about a sign that identifies God’s people.

Genesis 17:1-2 (AMP)

[1]  WHEN ABRAM was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, I AM the Almighty God;  walk and live habitually before Me and be perfect (blameless, wholehearted, complete).

[2]  And I will make My covenant (solemn pledge) between Me and you and will multiply you exceedingly.  [Amplified Bible]

The FIRST thing I noticed in the study, is this is where we are introduced to the name, El Shaddai–means God Almighty.  The all-powerful God.  It’s here where God tells Abram the name that He wants him to remember Him by.

God tells Abram to serve Him faithfully and in return, He will BLESS him.

Also here in chapter 17, God changes Abram’s name to Abraham and Sari’s name to Sarah.

He gives them NEW NAMES when He gives them the sign of the covenant.

God has just informed Abraham that He was making a covenant (not a contract) with him.

CONTRACT VS. COVENANT – Why the difference matters.

With a contract, if one agreeing party does something in violation of the contract then it’s considered broken.  The whole contract becomes null and void.  Basically, the signs of a contract agree to hold up the ends as long as the other signatories hold up theirs.

With a covenant, both parties agree to hold up their ends, regardless of whether the other party keeps their part of the agreement.  A violation of a covenant by one party doesn’t matter as far as the other party’s responsibility is to continue to do what they agreed too.  [See footnote [i].]

So in God’s COVENANT with Abraham, He tells him and his descendants they would be God’s chosen people and God also promised him the entire land of Canaan forever!

Then God went on to say to them…(vs. 9-13)

[9] Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come.  [10] This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are going to keep:  Every male among you shall be circumcised.  [11] You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be a sign of the covenant between Me and you.  [12] For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner–those who are not your offspring.  [13] Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised.  My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant.”  [NIV Bible]

You will have a SIGN, a mark on you that will identify you as one of My Chosen People.  When you do this, you’re acknowledging who I AM and what I mean to you.  This will set you apart from the rest of the world.  Your old identity will be gone.  No longer are you who you used to be, now you are one of My chosen people.  This tells those around you who you worship and serve.

The SIGN of FAITH by CIRCUMCISION is just the beginning.

After this act, God expected Abraham and his descendants to be different from worldly people who live among them.

It was a SPIRITUAL SIGN to be dedicated to Almighty God.

As you read and study God’s word, you’ll see that the Jewish people became prideful of this.  The SIGN became a national pride, not a submission to God and a promise to follow Him.  They started depending on an outward sign instead of an inward commitment to God.  The problem with this was the SIGN, not the actual covenant.

Have we as Christians become so prideful in outward signs in today’s society we’ve forgotten God’s covenant?


Again, VERSE ONE: 

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless.”

SERVE ME FAITHFULLY, that was the covenant.

Circumcision was the SIGN and not the actual covenant.  God had gotten tired of only token commitment from His people.  They were being circumcised but they were NOT being the people God had intended them to be.

Look at Deuteronomy 10:16-17


SERVE ME FAITHFULLY, that was the covenant.

CIRCUMCISION, a separation from the world.  A separation from SIN; cutaway, circumcise the old ways and, the old sinful heart and serve with a new heart.

What does this mean to us today?  We do have circumcision but it’s just a health-related issue, not a religious issue for Christians today.  While we don’t have the circumcision as a SIGN of our commitment to God, we do have BAPTISM.

The Great Commission – Matthew 28:19, 20 (AMP)

“Go then and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you, and behold, I am with you all the days (perpetually, uniformly, and on every occasion), to the [very] close and consummation of the age.”

This is a SIGN that they have accepted what Jesus did for them.  It doesn’t SAVE them, the acceptance of Christ does that and along with that commitment comes a CIRCUMCISION of the HEART.  A change of heart.  A new creation in Christ Jesus.

The apostle Paul gives the best definition I’ve found for Christian Circumcision in his letter to the church at Colossi:

Colossians 2:11, 12 (NIV)

[11] In Him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with the circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ,  [12] having been buried with Him in baptism and raised with Him through your faith in the power of God, who raised Him from the dead.

We are BAPTIZED because we have trusted in the mighty POWER of God.  Our SIN is cut away and we tell the world that we are one of God’s children.

I’ve had conversations with many people over the years whose only testimony is that they were “baptized.”  I heard people say they walked the aisle at so and so’s church and was baptized.

If you claim to be a Christian, then you must have a testimony!

There must be a time that you knew and remembered that you BELIEVED and ACCEPTED what Jesus did for you.

BAPTISM IS NOT THE SALVATION EXPERIENCE.

The FAITH that we place in God through Jesus Christ is how God makes a COVENANT with us and we solidify that and show the world through our BAPTISM.

BAPTISM IS OUR CIRCUMCISION.

It symbolizes the removal of the old skin in our lives and identifies us as a child of God.  My heart just aches for those who think that just because they were baptized in front of a church altar, they were SAVED.  They have become like the children of Israel who thought that just because they had the SIGN OF CIRCUMCISION, they were HEIRS to eternal life with God.

God says no, your HEART must be circumcised.

There’s a change if there is true SALVATION.  We are not the same person we were before we met Jesus.

The are OTHER SIGNS that Christians should be showing in their lives.

God told Abraham that he must serve Him faithfully.  Not occasionally, but ALWAYS!

Our TESTIMONY must always be that we were SAVED through the death of Jesus Christ for the punishment for our SIN.

The Israelites carried the SIGN of the Covenant through CIRCUMCISION, but there must be more.

Just like Abraham and everybody else that is a true child of God, we must wear A SIGN of the heart that has been changed; the SIN has been changed, the SIN has been cut away and a life that is living faithfully for God.

Neither CIRCUMCISION nor BAPTISM can save you, only FAITH in God and what Jesus did on the cross.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog-study in the Bible.  I’m always looking for feedback in my study so I can continue to grow in the proclamation of God’s Word.

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

Footnote [i]:  Contract Vs. Covenant.  Why the Diffeence Matters; New Creations.org

PHOTOS/IMAGES:  Google Image Search; Settings, advanced search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP).

 

 

 

 

Finding Your Purpose

 A Study in Nehemiah 3:1-32 [Be sure to have your Bible nearby!]

NEHEMIAH’S VISION – To rebuild the walls around Jerusalem (Chapter 2:5-8)

If OUR VISION is to start rebuilding in our churches, our communities, in a relationship, our trust, our faith…the time is now to put into action all the planning and praying.

To REBUILD successfully, you need VISION. 

What Is Your Purpose?

If there are others in your midst that are going to be a part of your intentions to REBUILD, what’s their vision, their expectations, their purpose?  If your vision and their vision aren’t the same there’s a problem!

What if Nehemiah’s workers built their own visions of the wall?  You most likely would have had a section of decorative fence, a section of wood, a section of the block, etc…The fence would’ve looked…stupid?

My wife and I are both ardent followers of Chip & Joanna Gain’s TV show, Fixer Upper.  And in a lot of shows we watch together, we have differing views of what should have been done:  “Too much shiplap for me.  I would have done it in beadboard.”  And Dianne would counter, “I love shiplap there!”

To rebuild successfully you’ll need someone to unify everyone.

You need to lead!

Nehemiah had noticed and was troubled that the wall of protection had fallen into disrepair.  He had defined the PURPOSE, communicated his discontent, motivated the people to accept the task.

Now the work began.

The walls of Jerusalem had fallen into sad shape for about 150 years, and Nehemiah was determined to REBUILD them and to end the shame brought upon the Jews in Jerusalem.  It was work that couldn’t be undertaken or carried out by one person.  It would take many people with common purpose and desire!

Nehemiah was wise enough to allow a variety of people, some more skillful than others to pitch in to help build the wall.

There’s a good lesson for us here.

Some of us have more skill than others.  Some have more experience than others.  Some have more wisdom than others.  But there’s a place for ALL willing to work.

GOD USES ALL TYPES OF PEOPLE!

Nehemiah Chapter 3, notice that there are:

  • Priests and Levites and other temple servants.
  • Goldsmiths, perfumers, and merchants.
  • Officials.
  • Men and women.

What are they doing?  WORKING!

Nobody is too young, too old, too poor, too rich.

God accomplishes His PURPOSE through people…

But people need leaders to motivate, not manipulate, and organize them for the cause.

There are some areas in your life, in my life, where we need to lead.

It is your life…your purpose and if you’re not going to care enough to make a decision to lead then why would someone else?

The same people listed in Nehemiah 3 had been living in the city for years, but the wall didn’t get built until God sent Nehemiah to lead the charge.

I thought it was interesting that Nehemiah is never mentioned by name in chapter 3, but his labor is behind the whole chapter.

So a LEADER must…not mind if the credit goes to others.

Nehemiah didn’t want a huge sign over the main gate or a bronze plaque reading:  The Nehemiah Memorial Wall.  Rather, Nehemiah was committed to the task.  He wanted the wall to be built so that God’s name, His glory, would be exalted in Jerusalem and His people no longer live in ridicule.  I would call GOD’S PURPOSE…REBUILDING PEOPLE!

Nehemiah knew that God would recognize his efforts.

Hebrews 6:10 (AMP)

[10] For God is not unrighteous to forget or overlook your labor and the love which you have shown for His name’s sake in ministering to the needs of the saints (His own consecrated people), as you still do.

Nehemiah was laboring to hear “well done” from the Lord.

With over 40 years in the construction industry and 5 years in sales management behind me…I learned by experience that MOTIVATING people on the job can be difficult at times.

MOTIVATING OTHERS AS A LEADER…

The Jews had been back in the land for 90 years, but the WALL for their own protection hadn’t been rebuilt.

But Nehemiah came along and got everyone excited about the rebuilding idea.

Motivation is a KEY to productivity.

The difficult thing about motivating others is what motivates some turns off others.  Even Nehemiah couldn’t get the nobles of Tekoa to join the project.

One way that Nehemiah motivated the people…now catch this; was assigning many of them to work on the portion of the wall that they had a particular interest in.  No one wants to be a square peg put in a round hole.  Me, included!

The priests worked on the SHEEP GATE where people would bring sacrifices to the temple.  Others repaired the wall in front of their own homes.

Jerusalem, 1940-1946

THE “DUNG” GATE

There are 12 Gates to the city of Jerusalem and I’ll admit that it might have been difficult to motivate someone to the task of building at the DUNG GATE.

Please make a note on this point:  IF YOU HAVE A BAD ATTITUDE ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE DOING, others may have the same attitude.

As a LEADER, sometimes you’ve to be the ‘cheerleader’; get people excited about what they’re doing.

That brings us to PLANNING & ORGANIZING.

Leaders gotta do this!

It’s obvious the smooth operation taking place in Chapter and it is evident Nehemiah had done some extensive planning and organizing.  He had figured it out how to go about this huge task by breaking the project down into small manageable units.  He assigned the available workforce into various units, then worked to coordinate them so everything fit together.

Just a reminder here, its God who provides the strength.  He alone provides the skills.  He alone provides the wisdom.

God is looking for our FAITHFULNESS!

Even though you might feel that your contributions to a given task are insignificant in the process, everyone counts, every effort counts in God’s kingdom work.

There was a big job to be done in Jerusalem, and it took FAITHFULNESS from everyone to get it done.

WHAT FAITH CAN DO – “By FAITH…” Hebrews 11:21-34

  • Prompts us to do…
  • Activates us…
  • Arouses us…
  • Motivates us…
  • Urges us…
  • Helps us…

Delegate & Oversee –

Nehemiah couldn’t possibly have done all the work himself and neither can we.  Sometimes, being honest here, it’s easier to do the job myself than to delegate it; but as the task grows in size, the necessity to DELEGATE grows.

Nehemiah had to entrust the work ahead of time to the workers giving them authority (an important gift) to get the job done.  And by the way… delegating doesn’t mean dumping or dictating.  To dump something on someone and walk away from it isn’t effective leadership.

While all along, Nehemiah was delegating the workload, you can be sure that he went around inspecting and overseeing the progress, talking to his leaders, helping them keep things moving toward the GOAL.

In 3:20, Nehemiah makes a specific note on a worker’s ATTITUDE on the project:

Baruch “zealously” repaired another section…”

Apparently, Jeremiah knew not only WHO was doing what, but also HOW they were doing it.

We don’t use the word ZEALOUSLY in our ordinary conversation these days, at least I don’t, so I turned to the KJV Dictionary for an accurate definition:  ZEALOUSLY = WITH PASSIONATE ARDOR – WITH EAGERNESS.

Baruch did an exceptional job.

A leader must give proper recognition when due.

Apparently, Nehemiah wrote down in detail who was doing what on the project.  He mentions some workers completing more than one section of the wall; BUT…the important thing I noted…not every worker was recognized, yet God recognized them by including their names here.  Oh, that’s GOOD!  How many times over the years have I felt hurt in service because man wasn’t recognizing my efforts?

As a leader, you can’t get distracted…

And the enemy will do everything to try to distract you.

Nehemiah 3:5 (AMP)

[5]  The Tekoites repaired, but their nobles or lords did not put their necks to the work of their Lord.

Perhaps the nobles of Tekoa refused to “put their necks to work” was because their necks were stiff–from PRIDE.

To the nobles’ shame, the people of Tekoa built two sections of the wall, and some other towns nobles rolled up their sleeves and went to work; but Nehemiah didn’t expend any energy on the nobles of Tekoa.  Rather, he worked with the many willing workers.  Those who didn’t get involved were losers in the long run.

To rebuild successfully, you’re going to need the help of others.

The PEOPLE heard Nehemiah’s VISION and they responded by building.

The WORKERS were willing to complement each other.  Everyone couldn’t do the same job.  Some worked on the walls, others worked on the gates, others carried heavy stones, etc…   Some workers were willing to work outside of their areas of strength.  Some of the people did things they weren’t trained to do and were not even good at.  It had to get done and they were willing to do it.  And those who physically couldn’t work, as there are in churches today, spent time on their knees in prayer during the project.  We can all do that!

Some workers were willing to do less glamorous or desirable jobs.

In Nehemiah 3:14, Malchijah (a “goldsmith”) repaired the Reuse (or Dung) Gate.  This was the GATE to the dump and sewer.

CONCLUSION:

What can we take to heart and mind from this passage of Scripture?

It’s time to start REBUILDING in our communities, our families, our churches.  No more, “I’m no leader! Let someone else lead.”

The time is right now, so do it right!

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CREDITS –

Dictionaries Used:  KJV Bible Dictionary; Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary.

IMAGES:  Google Image Search – Advanced settings.

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible (AMP), New International Version (NIV).

Commentary:  God’s Task, Our Task by Scott Spencer–Sermon Notes.

The “Great Expectations” of Discipleship

After reading my Bible this morning and given inspiration by the Holy Spirit for my next blog, I decided to borrow the title from a 13th century novel by Charles Dickens.  The book depicts the personal growth and personal development of an orphan nicknamed Pip and I thought there must be some parallels between Christ’s followers and Dickens’ character published in 1861.  I don’t think Mr. Dickens will mind too much.

TEXT:  Matthew 10:32-39

In this passage, Jesus tells us what He expects of His DISCIPLES.

The Dictionary defines a “disciple” as “one who accepts and follows a teacher or a doctrine.”  

We could use that definition to define what a DISCIPLE of Christ is:  A person who follows Jesus Christ and His teaching.

Every Christian is a DISCIPLE.

We read in Acts 11:26 that “the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.”  Frankly, I don’t see a distinction between a Christian and a disciple.  Every Christian is a DISCIPLE; every Christian is a follower of Christ.

The Big Idea:  Christ EXPECTS complete commitment from His followers.

In this passage of God’s Word, Jesus tells us what complete commitment looks like in the lives of His followers’

Matthew 10:32-33 (AMP)

[32]  Therefore, everyone who acknowledges Me before men and confesses Me [out of a state of oneness with Me]. I will also acknowledge him before My Father Who is in heaven and confess [that I am abiding in] him.

[33]  But whoever denies and disowns Me before men, I also will deny and disown him before My Father Who is in heaven.

#1.  CHRIST EXPECTS HIS FOLLOWERS ACKNOWLEDGE HIM BEFORE OTHERS.

The phrase “whoever denies or disowns me” (v. 33) doesn’t refer to a moment of DENIAL of Jesus.  Peter denied Christ three times one night, but he never denied Him again.  That’s a comfort to me.  As a follower of Christ since 1972, I’ve had moments of denial, but I’ve repented my sin and proudly announce today that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Saviour.

A DISCIPLE of Jesus is NOT ASHAMED of the One he or she follows.

#2.  CHRIST EXPECTS HIS FOLLOWERS TO LOVE HIM MORE THAN ANYTHING OR ANYONE ELSE.

A college student once walked into a photo studio with a framed picture held closely against his chest.  It was a picture of his girlfriend and he wanted it duplicated which involved removing it from the frame.  In doing this, the owner of the studio noticed the inscription on the back of the picture which said, “Dear Tom, I love you with all my heart.  I love you more and more each day.  I will love you forever and ever.  I am yours for all eternity!”  It was signed “Mary,” and it contained a P.S.:  “If we ever break up, I want this picture back.”

There can be no P.S. in a life given to Christ.  We can never break up with Him.  His amazing LOVE for jus demands that we LOVE Him more than others.

CHOICES will have to be made –

SOMETIMES when a person becomes a Christian and his enthusiasm overflows from his/her decision, his or her family turns against them.

Therefore, a CHOICE must be made between Christ and family.  Family ties cannot be allowed to pull a DISCIPLE from complete allegiance to his LORD.

#3.  CHRIST EXPECTS HIS FOLLOWERS TO GIVE UP EVERYTHING TO FOLLOW HIM.

IN THE 1ST CENTURY, if anyone was seen carrying his CROSS, it was clear that he was on his way to die.

Jesus uses this word picture to describe dying in our own personal pursuits and follow Him completely.  Don’t get me wrong here.  It’s a good thing to have personal pursuits–goals for yourself and family.  But when they take precedence over following Jesus completely…

In Luke’s account, we are told that before Jesus spoke these words, “Large crowds were following Him” (Luke 14:25).

BUT the crowds gradually disappeared.

And we know the reason why.

It was because Jesus DEMANDED TOTAL COMMITMENT from His followers.  He made sure that people knew the cost of DISCIPLESHIP was high.

Luke 14:27-33

Christ has already counted the cost of DISCIPLESHIP for us.  The COST is…EVERYTHING we have!

Jesus once declared, “The kingdom of heaven is like something precious buried in a field, which a man found and hid again; then in his joy, he goes and sells all he has and buys that field.”  (AMP)

What the man received was so much more valuable than what he gave up–though it was everything he had.

The cost of DISCIPLESHIP is high; but compared to what we receive from Christ Jesus, the price is a bargain!

“MANY DISCIPLES TURNED BACK AND NO LONGER FOLLOWED HIM”  (John 6:66-68)

The TWELVE DISCIPLES had given up everything to follow Jesus, BUT, with the exception of Judas, they never regretted it because, as Peter declared, Christ has “the word of eternal life.”

The apostle Paul wrote,

He said, “Know this: DISCIPLESHIP is going to cost you whatever you have.  Don’t expect comfort and ease.”

Let’s READ what Jesus said to His DISCIPLES in Mark 8:34-35:

Mark 8:36 (AMP) Continues…

“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his life [in the eternal kingdom of God]?”

The WHOLE WORLD refers to all the things that could possibly be achieved or acquired in this lifetime.

GAINING the WHOLE WORLD looks more appealing than losing everything for Christ.

BUT… the REWARD for following Christ is ETERNAL LIFE, while the RESULT of gaining the whole world is the loss of one’s soul.

Under Obedience As True Followers Of Christ Jesus –

A. W. Tozer said, [Years ago] no one would ever dare to rise in a church meeting and say, “I am a Christian” if he had not surrendered his whole being to God and taken Jesus Christ as his Lord as well as his Saviour, and had brought himself under obedience to the will of the Lord.  It was only then that he could say, “I am saved!”

Today, we let them say they are “SAVED” no matter how imperfect and incomplete the action, with the stipulation that the deeper Christian life can be ‘tacked on’ at any time in the future.

Do we really think we don’t owe Jesus Christ our OBEDIENCE?

We have owed Him our OBEDIENCE ever since the second we cried out to Him for our SALVATION, and if we didn’t give Him that OBEDIENCE, I reason to wonder if we are really converted!

I see and hear of things that Christian people are doing, and as I watch and listen to the profession of Christianity, I do raise the question whether they have been truly SAVED.  I believe it is the result of faulty teaching, to begin with.  They act as though the Lord is a hospital and Jesus is the chief of staff to fix up poor sinners that have got into trouble!

“Fix me up, Lord, so I can go my own way!”

The person who says, “Save me, Jesus, but stay out of my life!” is NOT a Christian.

To that person, Christ says,

“Why are you so polite with me, always saying ‘Yes, sir,’ and ‘That’s right, sir,’ but never doing a thing I tell you?  These words I speak to you are not mere additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living.  They are foundation words, words to build a life on”  (Luke 6:46-47, The MESSAGE Bible).

If your commitment to Christ has faltered you can RENEW your commitment to Christ in 2018.

THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP IS HIGH–

Complete Commitment–but it’s benefits are eternal!

BELIEVE that Jesus Christ died for your sin and rose from the grave.

COMMIT YOUR LIFE TO HIM!

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CREDITS –

Dictionaries:  Merriam-Webster.

Great Expectations – Wikipedia.com

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  NIV and Amplified Bibles, except where noted.