Posts Tagged ‘Righteousness’


Early in my Christian walk I heard about an old Indian story about the white wolf and black wolf that live in us. The white wolf represents the Spirit of God. The black wolf represents the old sinful nature we were born with. Supposedly, these two are continually fighting with each other for control of our thoughts and actions. The one who wins is the one we feed. It sounds reasonable. Sometime I do feel like a battle is raging within me. It seems to fit with what Paul wrote about the struggle between the Spirit and the flesh:

Galatians 5:17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.

This video of a dog eating a bone shows the stupidity of this lie that is taught in churches. Watch as this dog struggles to control his rear leg, which he believes is trying to steal the bone! This dumb dog is growling at his own leg! Is this how funny we look to God, when we try to defeat sin by feeding a supposed “white wolf” so a supposed “black wolf” won’t steal our Jesus ‘bone’? Am I going to be dumb like this dog, and imagine a black wolf always lurking around, trying to steal the “bone” of my Christian walk?

However, I do not believe this “split personality” concept of struggle against sin is truthful according to God’s word. I believe it is a lie which promotes our self-effort to struggle against sin. This lie perpetuates our “bondage” to sin and the flesh. It actually leads to walking in the “flesh.” This is an element of that “other gospel” that Paul wrote the Galatians about.

Paul wrote in Romans that we were baptized into the death of Jesus Christ:

Romans 6:3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

The body of Jesus Christ died and was buried in a borrowed tomb. So what part of me died, because I still have my five senses! Paul says that our “old man” died!

Romans 6:6-7 We know that our old self (man) was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.

He states further that “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:24)

In reality, we have died… For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3) We are a “new creation” in which God Himself dwells. How could God dwell in a “split personality” type situation?

Paul further states:  “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

If born again Christians are “new creations” (2 Cor 5:17), and God dwells in us, why do we still sin? After all, if we say we do not sin, we make God a liar and His Word is not in us. (1 John 1:10). Paul struggled with this situation and wrote about it in Romans chapter 7. In fact, he wrote,  “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:14-15)

The Law of Sin

This led Paul to the discovery of a law that all physical men and women live under, the “Law of Sin.” This law of sin is present as long as we have a physical body, for it is inherent in this physical body which will one day be put into the grave. While we have only one nature as far as God sees us, because we have died in Christ, the law of sin is still in force. Our flesh is still under its influence.

but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Romans 7:23-25)

Law of the Spirit of Life

The cry of Paul was “who will deliver me” and the answer came from God, “thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Jesus provides the answer, the deliverance, not through our struggle against this law of sin (for we will always lose), but through a NEW LAW which we can live under because we have a NEW NATURE! Our new spiritual nature allows us to live under the “Law of the Spirit of Life!” This new law sets us free from the law of sin. This new law can only be followed by faith, not by self-effort.

Romans 8:2-4 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

This new nature that we have been given as a result of our “new birth” is the nature of the Holy Spirit. God lives in us. We are His dwelling place. We are to have the “mindset” of Jesus (as described in Philippians 2:4-8). We are to die to what we want, even dying to our own self-effort, and live according to the Holy Spirit, who indwells us. This is the only way to freedom from the law of sin. This is the only way our flesh can be freed to serve Jesus Christ in victory over sin!

Romans 8:5-10 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

If we try to live the Christian life thinking that it is up to us to feed the white wolf, or else we will lose to the black wolf, we will walk in a continual up and down victory and defeat mode of which personality is in charge. We will be frustrated and defeated. We will burn out and feel that following Christ is pointless and powerless. Our faith will never grow. The only way the flesh is freed from the law of sin is not through self-effort, but through submission to God and walking dependant upon the Holy Spirit. That takes a growing faith to see Him in charge. That takes an attitude of rest in Him and the victory He has already won! That requires a trusting in His Word!

Romans 8:13-14 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the POWER of God!

This requires a true understanding and trusting in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For the death and burial of Jesus is the Power of God for our enjoying LIFE in Jesus Christ. But first we must die to self-effort and self-reliance! Our righteousness in Christ is revealed from faith to faith! His faith must be our faith! The righteous live by faith!

Romans 1:16-17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

So don’t think you must feed the white wolf to keep the black wolf at bay. The black wolf is dead! What you are seeing is a ghost! Let him go and set your mind upon the Holy Spirit. Walk in Him by faith! Don’t let the ghost keep you scared, keep you enslaved. Walk in the freedom of the Holy Spirit, for He sets us free from the law of sin and from those nasty ghosts of wrong teaching!

For More, read: Walking After the Spirit  and The Great Escape of Death

About these ads

Quit hanging on to the handrails . . . Let go. Surrender. Go for the ride of your life. Do it every day. (Melody Beattie, “Finding Your Way Home”)

Sometimes it is great fun to go for the ride of your life, such as skydiving, bungee-jumping or zip-lining. The thrill is exhilarating. There is a ride that is much more important, much more exhilarating, but much too frightening for most. It is the RIDE FOR YOUR LIFE! Your very life depends upon it. It is the Gospel ride, the ride that depends entirely on an invisible Savior. Let’s discover the Gospel and see that it truly is the “RIDE FOR YOUR LIFE.”

WHAT IS THE GOSPEL?

Matthew – the Gospel of the Kingdom. (Matthew 4:23 And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.)

 Mark – the Gospel of God. (Mark 1:14-15 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”)

 Luke – the Good News of the Kingdom of God. Luke 8:1 Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him,

 Philip – the Good News of the Kingdom of God and the Name of Jesus. Acts 8:12 But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.

 Peter – the Good News of Peace through Jesus Christ.  Acts 10:36 As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all)

 Paul – the Gospel of the Grace of God.  Acts 20:24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

The Gospel – Good News that Brings a Reward

Gospel: εὐαγγέλιον, (euangelion) originally denoted a reward for good tidings; later, the idea of reward dropped, and the word stood for “the good news” itself.(1)

2 Samuel 18:19-22 Then Ahimaaz the son of Zadok said, “Let me run and carry news to the king that the LORD has delivered him from the hand of his enemies.” And Joab said to him, “You are not to carry news today. You may carry news another day, but today you shall carry no news, because the king’s son is dead.” Then Joab said to the Cushite, “Go, tell the king what you have seen.” The Cushite bowed before Joab, and ran. Then Ahimaaz the son of Zadok said again to Joab, “Come what may, let me also run after the Cushite.” And Joab said, “Why will you run, my son, seeing that you will have no reward for the news?

The Gospel is the good news (+ )!The Plus is the Reward of Life with God!
God promises this reward. In fact, we must believe in His reward if we are to please God!

  • Heb 11:6 – You must believe that God is a rewarder of those that earnestly seek Him
  • Heb 12:1 – Jesus endured the shame and suffering of the cross for the reward (joy) that was set before Him

PAUL EXPLAINS THE GOSPEL

1 Corinthians 15:1-6 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

A. The SCOPE of the Gospel

1. The Plan 1 Corinthians 15:3 … that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures (mentioned twice).

2. Event in History 1 Corinthians 15:4-6 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time…

3. Achievement (between the Father and the Son) Philippians 2:8-11 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

4. Free Offer Romans 3:21-26 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

5. Application of the Achievement by Faith (forgiveness, justification, life). Ephesians 2:8-9 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. Romans 5:17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

The application is not the end. Forgiveness and freedom from guilt is great, but God’s purpose does not end with our being born again. The Gospel is given simply for us, it is given to accomplish the Purpose and Pleasure of God. THE GOSPEL …

6. Brings us to God 1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, Ephesians 2:12-13 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

Finally, the Gospel accomplishes what God is all about…

7. Accomplishes the Purpose and Pleasure of God Ephesians 1:9-10 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him…

B. The SIGHT of the Gospel

The Gospel Achieves the Purpose and Pleasure of God

Jeremiah 9:24 But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.

  1.  God Exercises [ʿāśāh] – “conveys the central notion of performing an activity with a distinct purpose, a moral obligation, or a goal in view”(2)
  2. God Delights [ āp a ]: to incline to; figurative to be pleased with, desire(3); A verb meaning to delight in, to have pleasure, to have favor, to be pleased(4)

The Gospel Accomplishes the Purpose and Pleasure of God.

We see this in 1 COR 15:1: “the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved…”

  • You receive the unfailing love of God (hesed)
  • You stand in the Justice of God secured on the Cross (mishpat)
  • You are continually being saved through the Righteousness of Christ (tsedaqah)

(For definition of hesed, mishpat and tsedaqah and an understanding of their importance in discipleship…)

David made a decision to seek the Heart of God. In His seeking he discovered the ways of God, that those ways are always working to accomplish hesed, mishpat and tsedaqah. David grew as a man of God when he reacted the right way to what God was trying to accomplish in his life. God worked in David’s life these three things: hesed, mishpat and tsedaqah.

C. The SUCCESS of the Gospel

Provides the Vehicle and the Highway

It is important that we see the Gospel as a driving force in our life. The Gospel is much more than a story that you believe in when you are a child and then forget about when you are older. The Gospel is the driving purpose and pleasure of God that is to be with us at Work, at Rest, at family gatherings, at the movies, at the restaurant, when we are dealing with pressures, dealing with physical problems. The Gospel is to be on our minds and in our hearts! The Gospel is the core belief of a child of God. It is the Vehicle that God has provided for us to bring peace, hope, faith, love, justice, righteousness and grace. It is the vehicle that will bring us to Him!

1.  The Gospel is the Death Burial & Resurrection (Vehicle)

a) Christ’s Death proved the Power of God’s Love over our Sin
b) Christ’s Burial proved the Power of God’s Justice over the Flesh
c) Christ’s Resurrection proved the Power of God’s Righteousness over the World

The Gospel Unites Us With God Himself

Not only is the Gospel the vehicle that we are to ride in, it provides the way, the roadway, the highway for our journey.

2. The Gospel is the Way, the Truth and the Life (Highway)

a) The Way to hesed (God’s Steadfast Love)
b) The Truth of mishpat (God’s Justice)
c) The Life of tsedaqah (God’s Righteousness)

The Gospel Unites Us With the Heart Of God - It is according to His Purpose & Pleasure

THERE IS NO OTHER WAY TO GOD

Jesus said I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. To know the way we have to by faith receive the mercy and unfailing love of Jesus Christ. Then we stand in the Truth of Jesus Words, the mishpat. Then we have Life as we abide in the Righteousness (tsedaqah) of Jesus Christ.

So the Elements of Discipleship which we found operating in David as he sought after the Heart of God are here in the Gospel.

3. The Gospel Lights the Way

a) The Gospel is the Lamp shining in a dark place. It that shines in your heart… 2 Peter 1:19 And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,

b) The Gospel is the Light of the Knowledge of the Glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ… 2 Corinthians 4:4-6 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

4. The Gospel Reaches the Destination – the Heart of God is revealed and made available to us in the Gospel.

The Gospel accomplishes the Purpose and Pleasure of God, and therefore is the means of developing us into Disciples of Jesus Christ. This is the basis for Gospel Driven Discipleship.

Gospel driven discipleship realizes the Power of the Gospel to transform our lives, and propel us to the Heart of God. Gospel Driven Discipleship realizes that Discipleship is not about your own abilities or efforts, but it is about relying on the Power of Jesus Christ! You must be willing to give up everything or the Gospel will have no power in your life! It will cause the car to slow down and lose power, even stall out.

POP THE HOOD – TAKE A LOOK AT THE ENGINE of the GOSPEL!

My brother Mike bought a Mercedes that cost $197,000. He took me for a ride, but I said it didn’t seem that much better than my Mercedes that cost $60,000. But all he had to do was push the accelerator down. That car literally took off like a rocket. Not a hurky jerky rocket, but a smooth take your breath away rocket. The engine was a V12 that could rocket to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds. With his car, the engine was the star! And so it is with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Lets pop the hood and see what drives the Gospel.

I Corinthians 15: Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

A. The Love of the Gospel is Incomprehensible

Christ died for our Sins…Mercy and Love Incomprehensible. The Gospel is the visible expression of the unfailing love and mercy of Holy God for sinful man. God literally died and experienced the wrath of hell that we deserved because of our sin and disobedience. His love drove Him to pursue us by going to the cross, humbling himself to a horrible death, and drinking the wrath of God against sin.

While Jesus pleased His Father, and satisfied the demands of His justice and righteousness, we must receive this love by faith. We must humble ourselves before God and confess our sin and disobedience. We must need the salvation Jesus has provided. We must accept this gift as the perfect and total sacrifice for our sins. There cannot be one iota of dependence upon self for salvation. It is either all of Christ or it has no power to Bring us to God!

As Paul writes, we receive this loving gift bought with the Holy blood of God’s Son. His love is what we rest upon. There is no looking over your shoulder, no wondering why He is doing this to you, no thinking you have to do something to make Him love you. His love comes from the strength of His Name and His character. It does not depend upon how lovely you are. His love is steadfast, strong, unfailing, based upon His death for you. His love is incomprehensible. His desire is to bring you to Him. His desire is to live in your everyday life.
When the Light of the Gospel applies the Mercy of God to our heart, we are born again. Then the Word of God is applied to our soul and our lives are justified before God. We are made right with God through the application of His justice. Then daily we must lean entirely upon the Word of God for our righteousness, for our victory over this world. It can never be anything of our flesh, or it was belief (eike) without purpose. It was in vain.

Counterfeit Salvation is dependent upon self, upon the strength of your will and your flesh. It is false salvation based upon your interests and concerns. It is a false hope that somehow you can please God enough to allow you into His heaven. It is a belief that sets its eyes on yourself, and not on the Purpose and Pleasure of God alone. That belief is counterfeit, it is vanity and you will spend eternity in Hell. That is the belief that is in vain that Paul talks about.

B. The Truth of the Gospel is Impenetrable

Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures

  • Jesus acted according to the Truth of God’s Word.
  • Jesus died for our sins-the visible expression of the hesed of God.
  • Jesus body was buried-the justice of God was applied to this world through the broken body of His Son.

His body was anointed before His death… Mark 14:8-9 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”

We often ignore the burial, and jump to the resurrection. But the burial was dealing with the body, with this flesh. Sin had corrupted this world, our flesh, and Jesus needed to bring Justice to this corrupt world. He had to make it right so that God could once again say “it is good!” The preparation and burial of His body was significant in that it represented the application of mishpat to this world.

God’s Word is triumphant over this flesh-power over sin, over addiction, over disease!

  • The Truth of the Gospel has application for every area of our lives.

Jesus rose again in victory over sin and Satan and the grave. That victory can be experienced by us each and every day of our lives. That victory came because of His righteousness. His righteousness can be ours. His victory can be ours!

C. The Victory of the Gospel is Inexplicable

that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

His righteousness is ours because of the Victory of the Gospel. All it takes is seeing Jesus for who He really is, our Savior, our Lord, our God!

  • The Gospel transformed a cowardly fisherman into a mighty voice for God.
  • The Gospel transformed a cheating tax collector into a mighty witness to those he had cheated.
  • The Gospel transformed a hateful murderer into a witness before Kings.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is so powerful, that to know and experience the Gospel, all you must do is see and recognize Jesus as the Christ for who He truly is.

You can know all the verses we talked about today. You can go to church, you can give money. You may have been raised in a Christian home. You may have done tremendous things on His behalf. The question is this: Has Jesus appeared to you? Has the Light of the Gospel shone in your heart? Has the light of the Gospel shone you your sin, your disobedience. Has the light of the Gospel shown you the steadfast love of God?

THE LIGHT OF THE GOSPEL HAS POWER TO TRANSFORM

Charles Bradlaugh, a famous Atheist and contemporary with Charles Darwin, once challenged the Rev. H.P. Hughes to a debate. The preacher, who was head of a rescue mission in London, England, accepted the challenge with the condition that he could bring with him 100 men and women who would tell what had happened in their lives since trusting Christ as their Savior. They would be people who once lived in deep sin, some having come from poverty-stricken homes caused by the vices of their parents. Hughes said they would not only tell of their conversion, but would submit to cross-examination by any who doubted their stories. Furthermore, the minister invited his opponent to bring a group of non-believers who could tell how they were helped by their lack of faith. When the appointed day arrived, the preacher came, accompanied by 100 transformed persons. But Bradlaugh never showed up. The result? The meeting turned into a testimony time and many sinners who had gathered to hear the scheduled debate were converted.

I love this Quote about the Gospel:

A.B. Simpson is reported to have said that the gospel “Tells rebellious men that God is reconciled, that justice is satisfied, that sin has been atoned for, that the judgment of the guilty may be revoked, the condemnation of the sinner cancelled, the curse of the Law blotted out, the gates of hell closed, the portals of heaven opened wide, the power of sin subdued, the guilty conscience healed, the broken heart comforted, the sorrow and misery of the Fall undone. (5)

Will you let the Light shine in your life?

A couple who took their son, 11, and daughter, 7, to Carlsbad Caverns. As always, when the tour reached the deepest point in the cavern, the guide turned off all the lights to dramatize how completely dark and silent it is below the earth’s surface. The little girl, suddenly enveloped in utter darkness, was frightened and began to cry. Immediately was heard the voice of her brother: “Don’t cry. Somebody here knows how to turn on the lights.”(6)

In a real sense, that is the message of the gospel: light is available, even when darkness seems overwhelming. Everyday God shines the Light of the Gospel upon your life. The light is on, but you will not see it if your focus is upon yourself. Focus upon Jesus Christ. You can say yes to the light this very day. If you have backslidden away from the light you can get back to God by simply getting in the car and clinging to the wonderful power of the Gospel. What are your sights set upon.

What are you counting on for success in your life? What are you counting on to take you to God?

(1) William E. Vine, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old Testament and New Testament Words, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1940), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “Gospel”.
(2) Warren Baker and Eugene Carpenter, The Complete Word Study Dictionary – Old Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2003), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “ʿāśāh“.
(3) James Strong, Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary, (Austin, TX: WORDsearch Corp., 2007), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “2654″.
(4) Warren Baker and Eugene Carpenter, The Complete Word Study Dictionary – Old Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2003), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 364.
(5) M. Cocoris, Evangelism, A Biblical Approach, Moody, 1984, p. 29
(6) Bob Woods, Pulpit Digest


Are you ready to Give up and Grab Hold? The plow is sitting out in the field. It needs someone to grab hold and help steer. God provides the power, but He needs faithful disciples to grab hold. The decision to become a Disciple of Jesus Christ is not a decision you make lightly. Nor is it a decision you can forget about and go on your merry way. David had made a decision to follow God, follow so closely that God’s Heart would become David’s heart. God never let David forget that decision. God used test after test to reveal those things in David’s heart and life that were getting in the way of his Discipleship decision. If you make such a decision, God will do the same to you.

God seeks to accomplish three things in the life of a Disciple. Those three things are revealed in Jer 9:24. They are “hesed, mishpat and tsedaqah”. He delights in these three things. These three things are His “good pleasure.”  As Paul wrote: “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.(Phil 2:12b-13). If a disciple is to understand anything about God, it is that He will constantly be working in your life to accomplish these three things, for they are His “good pleasure.” If we are to boast in anything, it is only that we know and understand God, that He delights in these three things.

God used every test that David faced to grow and develop these three things in his life. These three things are the very foundation of God’s Kingdom here on Earth, of Jesus’ Kingdom during the millennium, of the Kingdom that the Church has been charged to usher into this world.

You may doubt the significance of these three things. I hope not. Ever since the Holy Spirit revealed this to me, the Word of God has shouted at me with LIFE! 40 years I have been in the Word, and I just last year saw this. I don’t find anyone teaching this on the internet or in writings. I believe it is truth God wants for our age.

David revealed their importance in Psalm 106.

Psalm 106:1-5 “Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His loving-kindness is everlasting. Who can speak of the mighty deeds of the LORD, Or can show forth all His praise? How blessed are those who keep justice, Who practice righteousness at all times! Remember me, O LORD, in Your favor toward Your people; Visit me with Your salvation, That I may see the prosperity of Your chosen ones, That I may rejoice in the gladness of Your nation, That I may glory with Your inheritance.”

A. They are the Grounds for Praise and Thanksgiving!

1.  Give thanks for His ‘hesed’ (loving-kindness, unfailing love)– it is everlasting
    • His hesed is the basis of His mighty deeds and bountiful praise. We do nothing to earn it or deserve it.
    • Justice is something we must covet, guard, desire, submit to. It is not of us but of God.
    • Requires commitment of heart, soul and strength. 24/7 diligence.
2.  Keep mishpat (Justice) and you will enjoy blessing
3.  Practice (accomplish) tsedaqah (Righteousness) at all times

B. They are the Grounds for Favor and Salvation!

God’s Steadfast Love (hesed), Justice (mishpat) and Righteousness (tsedaqah), when embraced and exercised, will empower disciples to:

1.  See the prosperity (well-being) of the chosen (Result of hesed changing our Heart’s Desire)
2.  Joy in the gladness of Your Nation (Result of mishpat bringing God’s design into our House and Dependants)
3.  Glory with Your Inheritance (Result of the Victory of Righteousness that produces the Hope of a Godly inheritance)

The rest of Psalms 106 is a revelation of what happens when we resist hesed, mishpat and tsedaqah.

Psalm 106:6-48 We have sinned like our fathers, We have committed iniquity, we have behaved wickedly. Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Your wonders; They did not remember Your abundant kindnesses, But rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea. Nevertheless He saved them for the sake of His name, That He might make His power known.

Psalm 106:8 Nevertheless he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make his mighty power to be known.

God saved them for the sake of His Name.Yet look at how they resisted Him:

  • They quickly forgot His works; They did not wait for His counsel, But craved intensely in the wilderness, And tempted God in the desert.
  • Thus they exchanged their glory For the image of an ox that eats grass.
  • They forgot God their Savior, Who had done great things in Egypt, Wonders in the land of Ham And awesome things by the Red Sea.
  • Then they despised the pleasant land; They did not believe in His word, But grumbled in their tents; They did not listen to the voice of the LORD.
  • Therefore He swore to them That He would cast them down in the wilderness, And that He would cast their seed among the nations And scatter them in the lands.
  • They joined themselves also to Baal-peor, And ate sacrifices offered to the dead. Thus they provoked Him to anger with their deeds, And the plague broke out among them.
  • They also provoked Him to wrath at the waters of Meribah, So that it went hard with Moses on their account; Because they were rebellious against His Spirit, He spoke rashly with his lips.
  • They did not destroy the peoples, As the LORD commanded them, But they mingled with the nations And learned their practices, And served their idols, Which became a snare to them.
  • They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons, And shed innocent blood, The blood of their sons and their daughters, Whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; And the land was polluted with the blood.
  • Thus they became unclean in their practices, And played the harlot in their deeds.
  • Many times He would deliver them; They, however, were rebellious in their counsel, And so sank down in their iniquity.

Nevertheless He looked upon their distress When He heard their cry; And He remembered His covenant for their sake, And relented according to the greatness of His loving-kindness.

Even in Judgment He Loved them because of His Name! Discipleship is simply the following of God’s Name with all our heart, soul and strength!

He also made them objects of compassion In the presence of all their captors. Save us, O LORD our God, And gather us from among the nations, To give thanks to Your holy name And glory in Your praise. Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, From everlasting even to everlasting. And let all the people say, “Amen.” Praise the LORD!

The Journey through the Wilderness provides us everything we need to learn about what will prevent us from becoming Disciple’s of Jesus Christ. The Hebrew’s being led by Moses constantly resisted God, and so refused to advance in hesed, mishpat and tsedaqah. 

But before we look at their example, we must see what God did when David humbled himself and cried out to God amidst the ashes of Ziklag…

David Hasaq’d himself in Jehovah Elohim

Last week we left David “hasaq(ing)” himself in Yahweh Elohim. Instead of becoming angry at God because of what had happened, David humbled himself, confessed his sins, and reached up to God, counting on His hesed, committing himself to following His justice and claiming His righteousness!

1 Samuel 30:7

David then called for the Priest, Abiathar, to enquire of the Lord with the Ephod. God gae instruction to pursue the raiders, and God assured David he would overtake them and rescue all of their families. God then led them to find an Egyptian slave who had been left behind due to a divinely appointed sickness. He gave David the intel they needed. They pursued and found the Amelikites scattered and revelling in their good fortune. They were easily defeated by David and his men. And as God had promised, nothing was lost, not even one toe nail of their families and possessions. In fact there was great spoil taken over and above what they had lost.

David and his men, their wives and children returned to Ziklag, and even divided things evenly, even with the men who had been too discouraged to pursue. (This represents a principle of Victory-it benefits everyone, especially those disciples who are weak with discouragement, or are simply feeding or working in the nursery, teaching the kids) Following the Lord in victory brings strength and bounty to all.

I want us to realize (as we’ll see), that with God, Victory results in Righteousness. Righteousness results in Victory. When even a few stand in Righteousness, the whole is benefited. When no one stands in Righteousness, the whole suffers terribly. However, only one kind of Righteousness is truly Victory. That is the Righteousness that comes from God alone. Righteousness which is by Faith alone. There is no room for self-righteousness or self-effort.

David also shared the Victory with all those who had strengthened him along the way.

1 Samuel 30:26-31 Now when David came to Ziklag, he sent some of the spoil to the elders of Judah, to his friends, …and to all the places where David himself and his men were accustomed to go… saying, “Behold, a gift for you from the spoil of the enemies of the LORD “

David was back and battling against the enemies of the Lord! He wanted Judah to know it, that they could count on him when it came to battles against the enemies of the Lord. David was also showing his thankfulness to God and the people who had been a source of encouragement all those years.

When we are zealous for the Lord, we will be zealous in our gratitude for those who encourage us.

Unto the elders of Judah—These were the persons among whom he sojourned during his exile, and who had given him shelter and protection. Gratitude required these presents.[1]

1 Samuel 31

Meanwhile, a real battle was raging on Mt Gilboa, between the forces of Saul and the Philistines. The Philistines prevailed. Saul’s sons, including Jonathon, were killed. Saul was mortally wounded, and fearing what the Philistines would do to his body, fell on his own sword after his armor bearer refused. When the Israelites saw their King dead, they knew the battle was lost, and fled. The Philistines took over the area, and

The Philistines, finding Saul and his three sons among the slain, strip them of their armor, which they put in the house of Ashtoreth, cut off their heads, send the news to all the houses of their idols, and fasten the bodies of Saul and his three sons to the walls of Beth-shan, vv. 8-10. Valiant men of Jabesh-gilead go by night, and take away the bodies; burn them at Jabesh; bury their bones under a tamarisk tree; and fast seven days, vv. 11-13.[2]

2 Samuel 1

An Amalekite comes to David, and informs him that the Philistines had routed the Israelites; and that Saul and his sons were slain, vv. 1-4. And pretends that he himself had despatched Saul, finding him ready to fall alive into the hands of the Philistines, and had brought his crown and bracelets to David, vv. 5-10. David and his men mourn for Saul and his sons, vv. 11, 12. He orders the Amalekite, who professed that he had killed Saul, to be slain, vv. 13-16. David’s funeral song for Saul and Jonathan, vv. 17-27.[3] Look how David honored Saul and Jonathan:

2 Samuel 1:23-27 “Saul and Jonathan, beloved and pleasant in their life, And in their death they were not parted; They were swifter than eagles, They were stronger than lions. “O daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, Who clothed you luxuriously in scarlet, Who put ornaments of gold on your apparel. “How have the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle! Jonathan is slain on your high places. “I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; You have been very pleasant to me. Your love to me was more wonderful Than the love of women. “How have the mighty fallen, And the weapons of war perished!”

Here is David, expressing a heart that holds no bitterness for the way he had been treated. Here is a grateful heart, a heart that is submissive to God, and so he can praise King Saul with an upright heart. God’s hesed was certainly at work in David’s heart!

2 Samuel 2

David, by the direction of God, goes up to Hebron, and is there anointed king over the house of Judah, vv. 1-4. He congratulates the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead on their kindness in rescuing the bodies of Saul and his sons from the Philistines, vv. 5-7. Abner anoints Ish-bosheth, Saul’s son, king over Gilead, the Ashurites, Jezreel, Ephraim, Benjamin, and all Israel; over whom he reigned two years, vv. 8-10. David reigns over Judah, in Hebron, seven years and six months, v. 11. Account of a battle between Abner, captain of the Israelites, and Joab, captain of the men of Judah; in which the former are routed with the loss of three hundred and sixty men: but Asahel, the brother of Joab, is killed by Abner, vv. 12-32.[4]

After 10 years of being on the run, going through every test a disciple could imagine, David is ready to reign as King. The Kingdom is still divided. Abner has put one of Saul’s sons as King over the Northern tribes. But for the next 7 years, Saul’s house will decline, while David’s will increase.

Why did David Succeed where Saul Failed?

It began as a young shepherd who fell in love with God and His Law. As he meditated on the Law, God brought all these wonderful insights into his life. He observed and learned the Ways of God.  The Law became the Psalms. The statutes became testimonies of God’s Word in David’s life! David saw the importance of hesed, mishpat and tsedaqah!

Psalm 19:7-11 The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, And in keeping them there is great reward.

David’s very life became a testimony to God Law and the mishpat that it contains. “The mishpat of the Lord is true and righteous, more to be desired than honey, or even fine Gold. In keeping His mishpat there is great reward,” and Victory!

Have you made the decision to follow Jesus Christ as His Disciple?

I am not talking about your decision to ask Him into your heart. I am talking about your decision to abandon everything this world offers, and cling totally to Jesus Christ.

  • NASB Luke 14:33 So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.
  • NLT Luke 14:33 So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.
  • ESV Luke 14:33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

You say “I need to hang on to my possessions to use them for the Lord. After all, who is going to provide clothes for the naked, food for the hungry and water for the thirsty?”

  • Luke 9:62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

If that is the reason you place such great store on your possessions, you are sadly mistaken. God knows the motives of your heart. He sees the greed, the lack of trust that is revealed by what you cling to. Whatever you do for the Lord, the test will be “did you do it because you are a disciple, or did you do it because you feel guilty?, or you feel it helps you, or it makes you feel good?” If you do anything for the Lord while clinging to your possessions, you have already lost your reward. The only way to keep the reward of Jesus Christ is to be a Disciple, and serve because He is Lord!

  • Matthew 10:42 And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”

That was the reason He told that group of ‘do-gooders’ to “depart, I never knew you!” They were doing good, they were saying “Jesus things”, but they had never given themselves completely to Him.

Are You Ready To Give Up and Grab Hold?

Understand the Lessons of the Tabernacle and the Wilderness Journey:

A. God’s Hesed is in the Centrality of the Ark

1.  Ark of the Covenant.-Law was added as a witness against them.

Deuteronomy 31:26 Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee.

2.  Covered with the golden lid- kappōret – the mercy-seat.

Exodus 25:21-22 And you shall put the mercy-seat on the top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I shall give you. There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy-seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.

The Ark was the testimony of God’s Covenant with His people, symbolic of His protection, provision, and blessing. Through the mercy-seat God could have a personal relationship with sinful man. It symbolized His unfailing love to a very fallible and failed man.

God made a covenant with His people. He was building a Nation, centered around the theme of REDEMPTION, bringing them into a Promised land, a land of milk and honey, a land where He would be their God, their King, their protector, and provider. It represented a victorious land, a land where the enemies of the Lord would be vanquished. Those enemies represented the flesh, sin and Satan.

B. God’s Mishpat is in the Centrality of the Tabernacle

1.  Wherever the Hebrews would go, God’s Justice was to reign as the Law of the land.
    • His justice would guide everything
    • Tent of Meeting became the Tabernacle located in the very heart of the Hebrews.
2.  Justice was centered around the Word and Worship of God.
    • Justice is not Political but Moral.
    • Morality comes through a change within, not from without. True Morality is not legislated.
3. The Tabernacle represented the mishpat of God. It was in the center of the 12 tribes.

As the Lord lays out in detail his design for the Tabernacle, he says, “Set up this Tabernacle according to the pattern you were shown on the mountain” (26:30). The word translated here as “pattern” is, in Hebrew, mishpat, which ordinarily means “justice” or “ordinance.” The unusual use of mishpat in this verse underscores the authority of God’s design. Moses and the Israelites were to be guided by the divine pattern when they set up the Tabernacle[5].

4.  The Temple was designed and built according to the “mishpat” of God.

1 Kings 6:38 And in the eleventh year, in the month Bul, which is the eighth month, was the house finished throughout all the parts thereof, and according to all the fashion of it. So was he seven years in building it.

 The high priest wore a pouch called the breast piece of justice, containing the Urim and Thummim by which decisions were obtained from the Lord (Ex. 28:30). Doing what was right and just in the Lord’s eyes was far more important than presenting sacrifices to Him (Gen. 18:19; Prov. 21:3, 15).[6]

  • He executes justice [mishpat] for the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free, the LORD gives sight to the blind, he lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves those who live justly. The LORD watches over the immigrant and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked. Psalm 146:7–9
  • The LORD your God . . . defends the cause [mishpat]of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the immigrant, giving him food and clothing. Deuteronomy 10:17–18
  • Speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Proverbs 31:8

C.  God’s Righteousness is Seen in His Victories!

Deuteronomy 6:24-25 And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us.’

God promised His people Victory in everything they did, if they followed His mishpat. He termed this victory “Blessing” He assured them that Blessings would pursue them, the image being of a linebacker pursuing the quarterback, only in a good way.

1.  Righteousness is Victory from the Lord, from His Strength

The oldest meaning of tsedaqah, as judged by its use in the Song of Deborah (Judges 5:1-31), appears to be ‘victory’.

Judges 5:11 To the sound of musicians at the watering places, there they repeat the righteous triumphs of the LORD, the righteous triumphs of his villagers in Israel. “Then down to the gates marched the people of the LORD.

1 Samuel 12:7 Now therefore stand still, that I may reason with you before the LORD of all the righteous acts of the LORD, which he did to you and to your fathers.

When God and Israel mutually fulfill their covenant obligations to each other, a state of righteousness can be said to exist – that is, things are saddiq, ‘as they should be’.

2. Israel’s triumphant victories over her enemies were seen as proofs of the sidqot ’adonay (Victories of God)

In other words, God has bound himself by covenant to ‘make things right’ for his people, and to do so by acting unilaterally on their behalf. It’s true, the “range of meaning” of the word tsedaqah incorporates other meanings, but this meaning is particularly stressed in the Old Testament. .[7]

3.  Righteousness was Promised in Jesus Christ.

Jeremiah 23:5 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute mishpat and tsedaqah in the earth.

The strongly soteriological overtones of the term tsedaqah can be illustrated from a number of passages in which ‘righteousness’ and ‘salvation’ are practically equated, particularly in many passages within Isaiah:

I will bring my tsedaqah near, it is not far away, And my salvation will not be delayed. (Isaiah 46:13)

How Then Should We Pray?

Isaiah 5:7 For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment (mishpāṭ), but behold oppression (miśpāḥ), for righteousness (ṣedāqâ), but behold a cry (seʾāqâ)[8]

We should be as the widow woman who came everyday to the unjust judge. She cried out for JUSTICE! In Isaiah 5, God looks for justice (mishpat) but sees only mispah or oppression. God looked for righteousness (tsedaqah) but found people crying (tseaqa). It is a play on words, for God sees the opposite of what He desires on earth. The word for “cry” is the same word in Genesis 19:13, which depicts the outcry against the sin of Sodom against the Lord. God is searching our country, hoping to find justice and righteousness, but instead He hears the cry of the oppressed and the sinful.

Genesis 19:13 For we are about to destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before the LORD, and the LORD has sent us to destroy it.”

What Should be our Response to Jesus’ plea for Disciples?

We should literally transfer ownership of everything we own, every dream we have, every hope in our heart, and lay it all at the foot of Jesus Christ. He is Lord, and we should hold nothing back. We should then cry out to Him to see Justice and Righteousness here on earth as it is in heaven! We must confess our fleshly attitudes, our bitterness, our temporal values and our moral impurity. We must get rid of every ‘besetting’ sin or habit or item that will hinder us from pursuing hesed, mishpat and tsedaqah!

Lift up the Name of God in your Life, You House and your World!

Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

When we resist the Grace of God, we hinder God’s hesed, mishpat and tsedaqah from working in our lives. When we resist the Grace of God, we are being like the Jews in the wilderness, who were overcome in the wilderness, because they failed to believe God’s Word, failed to trust completely in God, and failed to obey God. They failed the Discipleship Test. The following chart illustrates how the Father of Lies works through our stubbornness and sinful resistance of God. Satan even has counterfeit hesed, mishpat & tsedaqah, based upon man’s wisdom and man’s self-effort. Satan does not want us to Honor the Name of God!

Our only decision should be to join the battle of the Name of the Lord! He needs our full and undivided support! He needs us to join Him in fighting the Father of Lies. He needs warrior who are Mighty in Spirit, exercising hesed, mishpat and tsedaqah!


[1] Adam Clarke, A Commentary and Critical Notes, (New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1826), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “1 Samuel 30″.

[2] Adam Clarke, A Commentary and Critical Notes, (New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1826), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “1 Samuel 31″.

[3] Adam Clarke, A Commentary and Critical Notes, (New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1826), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “The Second Book of Samuel”.

[4] Adam Clarke, A Commentary and Critical Notes, (New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1826), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “2 Samuel 2″.

[6] Warren Baker and Eugene Carpenter, The Complete Word Study Dictionary – Old Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2003), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 687.

[8] James Strong, Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary, (Austin, TX: WORDsearch Corp., 2007), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “6818″.


Pressures work to develop us as a Disciple of Jesus Christ. How you respond to pressure says a lot about your character, but more than anything, it allows the virtue of Jesus Christ to be your virtue. None of us is born for crisis, or pressure. None of us can naturally handle pressure. If you think you can handle pressure, then you have a wrong attitude toward discipleship. Discipleship is not about building you up so you can handle pressure; it is about humbling you into total dependence upon the one who can handle all pressures, even the ones that are most damaging to us, the Reproofs of God.

Pressure refines the Dross from our life, revealing the Gold

God always designs Pressure to produce His Righteousness in us. The key is HIS righteousness! He has placed Gold in our veins, in our Spirit, and in our Soul. Our fleshly wisdom and ideas, our wrong friends, our wrong habits, our pride, our foolishness, all get in the way of that GOLD shining! He wants us to be GOLDEN, and gold requires the refining process to reveal it. You are already GOLD if Jesus lives in you; God simply wants to reveal him. Moreover, that requires the pressure of the refiner’s fire.

1 Peter 1:6-7 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Pressures Reveal our True Hope

More than anything Pressure reveals what are real hope is. And hope is the reason for faith.

JB Phillips translates Hebrews 11:1 this way: “Now faith means putting our full confidence in the things we hope for, it means being certain of things we cannot see.”

Discipleship is all about living a life in total dependence and hope in Jesus Christ.

  • God designs pressures to test what we are hoping in.
  • God designs pressures to reveal that we are hoping in the wrong things.
Health Pressures.
  • You can place your hope and trust in Doctors, but what happens when they make a mistake, or make a wrong diagnosis.
  • You can place your hope in drugs, prescriptive or otherwise, but they can cause problems, or lead to dependence and abuse.
Financial Pressures
  • You can place your hope in the banking system-credit cards, home equity loans, line of credit, but what happens when they fail, or tighten their standards, or the home value is falling?
  • You can place your hope in friends, charity of churches or neighbors, but you can’t keep going to them for a handout.
  • You can place your hope in the Government and its “safety nets,” but what if there are cutbacks?

Relational Pressures - Job Pressures - Church Pressures …All are designed by God to reveal true hope or false hope, real faith or pretend. Most of all, Pressures are designed to Develop you as a Disciple of Jesus Christ and cause you to rely on Jesus Christ.

God’s Way is Enlargement through Pressure

Many Christians do not see God’s purpose for Pressure. Some Christians go out of their way to avoid pressure in their life. “Not good for my health, etc…”

That is not God’s Way. God uses pressure to develop us as Disciples. Psalm 25:4 “Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths.” Discipleship is about knowing the ways of God and allowing Him to teach you His paths for your life. We will not learn the paths for our life if we do not pay close attention to the lessons He has for us.

For example, what happened in the fiery furnace that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were forced into? Three became four. Pressure brought enlargement. Some would find a furnace too confining, so they try to escape. They do not respond to fire, pressure, and limitations. Others accept the pressure, the limitations, and by accepting, make room for a Fourth.

  • Enlargement through Pressure happens when we do not allow difficulties to shut us out from God.
  • Enlargement through pressure happens when we allow them to shut us INTO God.

Either pressure will cause you to reach God’s goal, or Pressure can put an end to your discipleship journey. When the way is too straight, the pressure too great, some escape, give up, commit suicide, while others find fullness and growth. When trials are too tough, some murmur, seeing only their limitations. Others praise God for the trials, and in so doing discover the pathways to enlargement, liberation and abundance of life. On your discipleship journey, is your spiritual vitality being enlarged or is it shrinking? How have you responded to pressures?

The Way of Man often leads to “Spittin the Dummy”

The Way of Man is Losing it – go to pieces, run away, drown your troubles, get high, get low, strike back, kick the dog, hit the wife, lash out. Australians have a saying, you are “Spittin the Dummy” — a “dummy” is Australian for a child’s pacifier. You lost your cool, you spit the pacifier out and now you are crying like a Baby.[1]

The Contrast of David and Saul

In 1 Samuel 28-31, we find both David and Saul under tremendous pressure, overwhelming pressure. One becomes enlarged; the other becomes smaller and dies. One spits the dummy, the other admits he is a dummy and turns to God. When you resist the pressure of God and try to escape in your own way or through your own means, you die spiritually. You become a disciple who “shrinks back,” who takes his hand from the plow, who looks back and turns into a pillar of salt. You become a Dummy “spittin the dummy.”

We often quote Proverbs 3:5 & 6, but we need to go on to 7 & 8.

Proverbs 3:5-8 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.

Lean not on your own understanding means not being wise in your own eyes. Walking in straight paths means turning away from evil. Trusting in the Lord brings healing to this body and strength to our bones. It will enlarge our life if we acknowledge Him even in the midst of great pressure. Accepting limitations and pressures in total dependence upon God will always allow for an addition in your life.

One becomes Two. Three become Four. Pressure enlarges our Life.

David & Saul Face the Ultimate Test for a Disciple

David is Close to Losing it

God is about to force David off the fence.

1 Samuel 28:1-2 In those days the Philistines gathered their forces for war, to fight against Israel. And Achish said to David, “Understand that you and your men are to go out with me in the army.” David said to Achish, “Very well, you shall know what your servant can do.” And Achish said to David, “Very well, I will make you my bodyguard for life.”.

David doesn’t back down, but affirms that he is going to impress Achish as they battle David’s brother’s, the Jews. Achish is so impressed, that he makes David his personal bodyguard for life. David will be fighting right along Achish. David’s pride is dangerously close to causing a fatal error in his discipleship journey.

The Settler, the Skewer, the Stinker was about to be forced into fighting against his own people. God was about to reveal the compromising hypocrisy of a Disciple who had taken his eyes off His Promises. David is days away from facing God’s Ultimate Test for His discipleship.

When a believer compromises his walk with God, it will not only place you in harm’s way, but your pride will cause you to defend the very things that are an abomination to God. David was now defending Achish, a sworn enemy of God and His people.

King Saul is Definitely Losing it

Meanwhile, back in Israel, King Saul is getting desperate. Samuel the Prophet was dead. The Priests were all dead, killed by Doeg at Saul’s command. King Saul had tried to get direction from God, but God was ignoring him.

1 Samuel 28:3-6 Now Samuel had died, and all Israel had mourned for him and buried him in Ramah, his own city. And Saul had put the mediums and the necromancers out of the land. The Philistines assembled and came and encamped at Shunem. And Saul gathered all Israel, and they encamped at Gilboa. When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly. And when Saul inquired of the LORD, the LORD did not answer him, either by dreams, or by Urim, or by prophets.

Saul is at the end of himself. He is so frightened that his heart is racing (the Hebrew implies). I believe he is experiencing arrhythmia:

  • Palpitations (a feeling of skipped heartbeats, fluttering or “flip-flops,” or feeling that your heart is “running away”).
  • Pounding in your chest.
  • Dizziness or feeling light-headed.
  • Fainting.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Chest discomfort.
  • Weakness or fatigue (feeling very tired).

Was Saul fearful because of what could happen to his people, his nation? I believe the evidence suggests his fear was entirely self-centered. He feared for his life, he was not reacting as a true leader should. As with God, Saul’s focus was upon his needs and concerns, rather than God and His people.

1 Samuel 15:23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.

1 Samuel 15:26-28 And Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you. For you have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel.” As Samuel turned to go away, Saul seized the skirt of his robe, and it tore. And Samuel said to him, “The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you.

Samuel made an interesting statement… Samuel told Saul that his neighbor was better than he was.

Does God play favorites??  

What makes one SINFUL MAN better than another SINFUL MAN?

Look at David. He is compromising, he has distanced himself from God, he has disobeyed God, and he has bloodied his sword with innocent blood. Why is he any better than Saul? Why should David be blessed and Saul cursed? Why should David rise to be King and Saul fall in battle?

The Ultimate Test for a Disciple is How You Respond to the Pressure of God’s Reproofs.

This is the key to intimacy with God and knowing and enjoying His Blessing. This will make you better than your neighbor who responds to pressure with a self-focused response.

Proverbs 1:22-33 How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you. Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD: They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them. But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.

To Reprove: To voice or convey disapproval of; rebuke

How do you handle the Pressure of Reproof?

Hebrews 12:5-7 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

King Saul Despises the Pressure of Reproof because his focus is upon himself.

No appeal to God on behalf of the Nation; No appeal to God on behalf of His Name. No appeal to God to deal with the Enemy. No appeal to God for mercy, justice or righteousness. Saul NEVER learned the ways of God. So what does self-focused Saul do?

1 Samuel 28:7-14 Saul then said to his advisers, “Find a woman who is a medium, so I can go and ask her what to do.” His advisers replied, “There is a medium at Endor.” So Saul disguised himself by wearing ordinary clothing instead of his royal robes. Then he went to the woman’s home at night, accompanied by two of his men. “I have to talk to a man who has died,” he said. “Will you call up his spirit for me?” “Are you trying to get me killed?” the woman demanded. “You know that Saul has outlawed all the mediums and all who consult the spirits of the dead. Why are you setting a trap for me?” But Saul took an oath in the name of the LORD and promised, “As surely as the LORD lives, nothing bad will happen to you for doing this.” Finally, the woman said, “Well, whose spirit do you want me to call up?” “Call up Samuel,” Saul replied. When the woman saw Samuel, she screamed, “You’ve deceived me! You are Saul!” “Don’t be afraid!” the king told her. “What do you see?” “I see a god coming up out of the earth,” she said. “What does he look like?” Saul asked. “He is an old man wrapped in a robe,” she replied. Saul realized it was Samuel, and he fell to the ground before him.

Saul is not only “spittin the dummy,” He is “crackin a fruity” (More Aussie slang for ‘Go crazy, insane, weird.’[2] He is so desperate he is acting insane. He needs some guidance and he wants to conjure up Samuel! He goes to a “witch” to do so! 

Saul presses full speed ahead and violates God’s Law, violates his own law, endangers the life of the medium, lies to the medium, and disturbs eternity in the process. If this were a science fiction movie, we would start to see a fissure crack between the two universes.

God had said this: “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” (Exodus 22, 18). What used to happen was if a person was found to be a witch or a man was found to be practicing as a wizard, God said they must be put to death – capital punishment was carried out.

Now Why Did Saul seek out this Witch contrary to God’s Word and his own command?

  1. Unconverted?: He was never converted to trusting Faith in God. (Some would disagree) Many professed Christians use astrology and even consult ‘psychics’ (Nancy Regan). However, why would God anoint a heathen as the first King of Israel, the throne His Son would later sit upon?
  2. Fear: Fear causes us to do and say things we normally would not do. Lawyers use the term ‘duress’ as a means of showing their clients were not acting in their right mind.
  3. Trusted in Man rather than God: He thought if he could just get Samuel’s blessing, he could prevail against the Philistines. He was hoping in man, just as he had done all his reign as King. He knew the Philistines had him outnumbered. He hoped that Samuel could appeal to God on his behalf.

The Hebrew phrase for find a woman of familiar spirit is “ʾishshâ baʿalâ ʾôb”. She literally is “mother to spirit” or “container to a spirit”. She is able to conjure up a spirit because she is a container/channel of the “spirit world.”

Job (32:19) uses ‘obe’ as a bottle that may burst under pressure. They were searching for a woman who was a container of a conjured spirit. She was a necromancer, able to speak with dead spirits. Often these were people skilled at ventriloquism, able to throw their voice as if someone else was speaking in a room.

ʾôb̠: A masculine noun meaning a conjured spirit, a medium or necromancer; or a leather bottle. The primary use of the word is connected to the occult practice of necromancy or consulting the dead. It is used to signify a conjurer who professes to call up the dead by means of magic, especially to give revelation about future uncertainties (1 Sam. 28:7; Isa. 8:19); a man or woman who has a familiar spirit (Lev. 20:27; 1 Chr. 10:13; Isa. 29:4); the conjured spirit itself, particularly when speaking through the medium (1 Sam. 28:8; 2 Kgs 21:6; 2 Chr. 33:6). The Israelites were strictly forbidden from engaging in such practices or consulting mediums (Lev. 19:31; Deut. 18:10-12). Interestingly, the word is used once to signify a leather bottle that may burst under pressure (Job 32:19). There is no convincing evidence that this particular reference has any occult connotations. Rather, the connection between the two divergent meanings of this Hebrew word is probably that a medium was seen as a “container” for a conjured spirit.[3]

I think it is so telling of God that a man blowing his top in a pressure situation is looking for a woman who contains an ‘obe’, for this ‘obe’ is about to ‘crack a fruity’ all over Saul’s head.

Here are my thoughts on what happened:

Saul disguises himself and asks this medium to conjure up Samuel. She goes into the back room where she does her mumbo-jumbo thing. I think she is about to throw her voice to pretend its Samuel when the real Samuel appears.

The Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament says:

The woman then commenced her conjuring arts. She cried aloud at the form which appeared to her so unexpectedly. These words imply most unquestionably that the woman saw an apparition which she did not anticipate, and therefore that she was not really able to conjure up departed spirits or persons who had died, but that she merely pretended to do so…

Now some people think it was a demonic spirit in disguise, that God doesn’t allow things like this:

The early church Fathers typically took one of two views: (1) Either God Himself raised Samuel from the dead and sent him to Saul (they simply could not abide the view that a “witch” could raise the righteous from the dead), or (2) this was “just demonic deceit, and what appeared was not really Samuel, but a demon in his guise” (Origen and the Witch of Endor: Toward an Iconoclastic Typology)

I do believe there is a powerful unseen world of demons. I do believe that Satan is actively at work in this world. I do believe Christians need not fear as long as they abide in Jesus Christ. That is why I believe it is so important for you to daily lift up the Name of the Lord upon your House, you spouse, your children and grand-children.

  • Proverbs 18:10 The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.
  • Zephaniah 3:12 But I will leave in your midst a people humble and lowly. They shall seek refuge in the name of the LORD,

When you resist the grace of God in your life, when you rebel against the authorities God has put in your life, when you willingly consult astrology or psychics, even Ouija boards, you are opening yourself to this unseen spiritual world of demonic influence.

Jesus says in Luke 11:20 “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”

If we are obeying the King and following His designs and laws, the Kingdom of God will protect us against this demonic world. However, if we are not following the King, not being subject to His laws, then we leave His Kingdom and are subject to the demonic kingdom.

That is why there is so great a need for righteous men to join together in binding the evil one from their community. We can unite in prayer to cast his influence out.

I happen to think this was really Samuel. I believe God allowed him to appear, to give Saul one more chance to show he cared for his people. Look at what he says:

1 Samuel 28:15-25 “Why have you disturbed me by calling me back?” Samuel asked Saul. “Because I am in deep trouble,” Saul replied. “The Philistines are at war with me, and God has left me and won’t reply by prophets or dreams. So I have called for you to tell me what to do.” However, Samuel replied, “Why ask me, since the LORD has left you and has become your enemy? The LORD has done just as he said he would. He has torn the kingdom from you and given it to your rival, David. The LORD has done this to you today because you refused to carry out his fierce anger against the Amalekites. What’s more, the LORD will hand you and the army of Israel over to the Philistines tomorrow, and you and your sons will be here with me. The LORD will bring down the entire army of Israel in defeat.”

Does that sound like an imitator or an evil spirit? Sounds like a perturbed Samuel speaking to a whimpering King who has spit his dummy out, cracked a fruity and is crying “WOEME.” Saul just never learned. He never obeyed, he never responded to pressure correctly and he never reacted to reproof’s acceptably. His desperation never led to humility, to ask God to intervene for the sake of His people and His name. (Refer to the prayers of Moses, Nehemiah, Ezra, Daniel and many others)

When Saul heard Samuel’s message, there was no humility, no turning to God, no repentance, just fear! Saul fell full length on the ground, paralyzed with fright because of Samuel’s words. He was also faint with hunger, for he had eaten nothing all day and all night.

This is the picture of an ungodly man whose roots are shallow and based upon himself. This is not the picture of a man whose trust is in God, and in His word meditates day and night, whose leave’s does not wither, even in the heat of fire and pressure. There is nothing left for Saul but to go on his way and face life the best he can. He has lost his cool, spit his dummy and cracked his fruity. Even the witch has pity in him and makes him eat some food.

When the woman saw how distraught he was, she said, “Sir, I obeyed your command at the risk of my life. Now do what I say, and let me give you a little something to eat so you can regain your strength for the trip back.” But Saul refused. The men who were with him also urged him to eat, so he finally yielded and got up from the ground and sat on the couch. The woman had been fattening a calf, so she hurried out and killed it. She took some flour, kneaded it into dough and baked unleavened bread. She brought the meal to Saul and his men, and they ate it. Then they went out into the night.

After they ate, they went out into the night.

It is an awful thing to go out into the dark, knowing your enemies are about to attack you, that God has abandoned you, and you must face this tragedy alone…

Saul walked out into the night and grew smaller and smaller, until things got so bad, the only way out for him was to commit suicide. The pressure was too great, God too distant. Saul failed the pressure test of a Disciple.

1 Samuel 31:1-6 Now the Philistines fought against Israel; and the men of Israel fled from before the Philistines, and fell slain on Mount Gilboa. Then the Philistines followed hard after Saul and his sons. And the Philistines killed Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchishua, Saul’s sons. The battle became fierce against Saul. The archers hit him, and he was severely wounded by the archers. Then Saul said to his armor bearer, “Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised men come and thrust me through and abuse me.” But his armor bearer would not, for he was greatly afraid. Therefore Saul took a sword and fell on it. And when his armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell on his sword, and died with him. So Saul, his three sons, his armor-bearer, and all his men died together that same day.

Saul killed himself, because he was more concerned for how his dead body would be treated than how his live body fought the Battles of the Lord. This reveals the Heart of the matter of any Disciple who fails the Pressure Test and spits the dummy or cracks the fruity or simply walks away from the Lord.

He is more concerned about himself than he is about Battling for the Name of the Lord!

Discipleship means you join yourself with the Lord, and you partner with Him in battling against the devil and the world. To battle for the Name of the Lord means you must abandon your self, your comfort, your reputation, for the sake of His Name and His Cause!

Matthew 6:9-13 Pray, then, in this way: Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.]

We must fight to bring the Kingdom of God to bear here on earth as it is in heaven. We must strive earnestly to lift up the Name of God! In every cause that Saul was given – to wait for Samuel, to destroy all of the Amalekites, to not consult with mediums, he put himself first, just as he did in his dying.

To understand God’s Ways join another Group of Men going into the night…

Centuries later, another group of men had their last meal together, and then after singing a hymn, head off into the dark night to the Mount of Olives. Their leader knows the enemy will soon surround them, knows that terror await him, but He is not afraid. It is for this pressure test that He was born. Sure his disciples would fall asleep as he sweat drops of blood, but soon He knew they would be wide awake. Sure, his disciples would run away and shrink back, but He knew they would benefit from what he is about to go through. He knew they would be transformed into mighty Apostles of Christ.

Therefore, Jesus willingly goes to Calvary, enduring the shame, the pain, the suffering. He did not shrink back. He did not turn away; he even refused the sedative on the cross. He took the cup of God’s wrath and drank every drop, turned the cup over and slammed it down, declaring “It is Finished.”

Jesus took the greatest pressure test ever devised by man or Satan, and instead of being just one, He was enlarged to become Many! The Church was born! His Sons and Daughters now live in the Power of the Cross-because that fateful day He did not shrink from the pressure.

Discipleship welcomes pressure!

Luke reveals it in his Gospel when he quotes Jesus as saying, “Strive to enter in at the strait gate” (Luke 13:24). This puts an important perspective on this command of Christ. We do not just open up the strait gate and walk in unopposed. There is a battle that goes on within our souls, because our enemy does not want us to find the way of life. Disciples are going to be in constant battles involving their trust in the Name of the Lord! Paul stated, “We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

In Scripture, the gate is used as a symbol of decision-making and of managing internal affairs.

One Greek word translated strive is agonizomai. From it we get the English word agonize. The word entails contending for victory in public games, fighting, or making warfare. It involves pain in the struggle for a public prize. To strive is to make every effort to achieve the goal, as Paul described in Colossians 1:29 To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.

The word STRIVING implies that there are hindrances in the development of a walk of faith and that there is a need for intense determination on our part to win the prize. Paul explained this:  1 Corinthians 9:25-Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Paul goes on to explain:

“So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (I Corinthians 9:26–27).

In the Christian life, “striving” is not our performance of God’s will, but it is our surrender to God so that He can carry out His will in us. Striving grows from the Disciple’s Heart of Dependence.

One of the disciples asked, “Lord, are there just a few who are being be saved?” 

Jesus’ answer was that few would find the way of life.

Luke 13:23-27 And someone said to Him, “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up to us!’ then He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from.’ “Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets’; and He will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from; DEPART FROM ME, ALL YOU EVILDOERS.’

We are concerned with people being saved, but Jesus was more concerned with people finding the way of LIFE. Salvation is not a prayer, it is a way of living, and that living means we must not run away from pressure, nor seek our own comfort, our own way, we must not spit a dummy or crack a fruity. We must willingly submit to the Pressures of Life and Reproofs that we might be enlarged as a Disciple.

A Disciple must become disciplined to respond to Pressures in the Name of the Lord, Sword in Hand, ready to do Battle for the Lord!

Pressures, even the pressures designed to reprove us, provide Opportunities for God’s Kingdom to Grow and God’s Power to Provide. Is your heart and love for God and His people growing? Perhaps you have stiffened your neck to His reproofs in the past. Perhaps it is time to repent and focus upon the great needs of God’s Kingdom. Are you actively partnering with God to bring His Kingdom to bear on this world? Or is your tiny heart focused upon your own kingdom? 


[3] Warren Baker and Eugene Carpenter, The Complete Word Study Dictionary – Old Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2003), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “ôb̠”.


My dad was not always a godly man. It wasn’t until his early 30’s that he started going to church. My mom was the ‘religious’ one. Even when we switched churches when I was 14, his religion was more of a Sunday thing. Our Christmases were as secular as the next door heathen families.

When I was planning for college, Dad seemed to change. He wasn’t religious anymore. God wasn’t a Sunday thing anymore. All of a sudden, it was Jesus Christ. All of a sudden everything he did was all about Jesus. Jesus owned everything he had. Christmas was about Jesus Christ. I liked it, because Jesus had become real to me as well. I was going off to Bible College. It was as I was getting ready to leave that he came to me and with tears in his eyes (my Dad never cried) he said that God was giving him a second chance. In fact that became one of my Dad’s favorite sayings, that God is the God of second chances. Anyway, he asked me to forgive him for not being a good father to me.

Holding Benjamin

Just 3 ½  years after that, I fould myself with a one month old baby boy, back at home celebrating Christmas with my family and my 18 year old wife, Lydia.

That Christmas morning was overwhelming, as my Dad read the Christmas story by candlelight. Here I was, a new daddy, holding my baby boy as my Dad read the story of Mary and Joseph becoming new parents. So let’s join my Dad as he and Mom listen in as I now read the Christmas story with you.

Luke 2:1-38 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Most people stop the Christmas Story here, but Dad kept on reading…

And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”

As Dad read the part of Simeon holding the baby Jesus and proclaiming Jesus is the light of revelation to the Gentiles, I understand that Jesus had revealed that light to my Dad, and now my Dad wanted me to see that light, so that I could be a good father to my son, Benjamin. The greatest gift I ever received from my Dad is the light of the reality of Jesus Christ. That light burns in my heart and life today 37 years later, and it burns in the heart and life of the son I held in my arms that morning.

Did I make mistakes? Too many to count! Has the light always burnt brightly in my life? No! But the Light was always there drawing me into His presence. Is my family perfect? No, but the Light of Christ is at work in my family, and I pray He is at work in yours.

I only remember a few of the gifts my parents gave me. But I will always remember the gift my Dad gave me that Christmas, the Light of Christ from his life to mine, to guide me as I fathered my children. He had passed that light to me, and now I am passing it on to my children and grandchildren.

When the magi visited the infant Jesus, they presented gifts to Him, treasures of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The amazing thing about those gifts, is that this morning, Jesus is re-giving them to you and me. That’s right, the greatest gifts you will ever receive at Christmas, are not sitting under a tree, but they are here, in this Bible and they come from Jesus Christ.

Matthew 2:10-12 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

I know in American culture it is customary for us to give gifts to the one whose birthday we are celebrating. But in may cultures (Asian, Burmese), if it is your birthday, it is a day for you to serve or buy a meal or give gifts. The more you serve and give the better your next year will be. Jesus is going to have a great year next year, because He is giving us some amazing gifts.

Let’s open OUR presents from Jesus this morning.

Gold

The first gift that Jesus gives us is gold, pure gold. Pure Gold represents the pure unfailing Love that Jesus loves us with. Gold is a good representative if Christ’s Love, because Gold is almost impossible to destroy. It is impervious to most acids. Gold is very dense and heavy, a massively solid material. Just a 3 x 3 cube would weigh over 36000 pounds. Yet as solid and dense as Gold is, it can be stretched and used to cover anything. It can be beat on thousands of times until it is microscopicly thin, yet it is still Gold. Paul prayed that we would know the height and depth and length and breadth of the Love of Christ. His love is so solid that it can dash any problem, so yielding that it can take any thing we can throw at it, so flexible that it can cover any sin we could ever commit. His love is never failing.

This Gold was in the Garden of Eden, in the land of Havilah, and the river Pishon flowed around it. Pishon means spreading, and is a picture of the Holy Spirit taking the Love of God and spreading it throughout the world.

Havila means stretch of sand. Abram in Genesis 13:2 was described as being rich in gold.  God promised him a house with descendants as numerous as the grains of sand. Certainly the unfailing love of God extended to every descendant of Abraham. The Love of Christ knows no limits. It knows no boundaries. The love of Christ seeks every sinner, no matter how great their sins. The love of Christ, symbolized by the gold, comes from the ‘hesed’ of God, the mercy of God. When God instructed Moses in how to build the Tabernacle, as God’s House on the earth, he told him to construct the innermost room covered in Gold. This room, the Holy of Holies, is where the High Priest would offer the sacrifice as atonement for the sins of all of the Jews. The ark was covered in gold, which formed the “mercy Seat” Here the offering would be presented before Holy God in utter darkness. Everything in the room was covered in gold, picturing the mercy and love of God. God would see the sacrifice, and His love and mercy would flow upon the Jewish people. The reason His love and merices could flow is because God knew one day, His only begotten Son would hang upon the cursed cross on Mt Golgotha, and there, Jesus would demonstrate His unfailing love for all the sinners of the race of Adam, as He would become their sacrifice, and take upon Himself all their ghastly and dastardly sins. There on Mt Golgotha, the golden love of God was poured out upon the sands of mankind, as His Son satisfied the Holy demands of God’s Eternal Law!

The veil before the Holy of Holies was forever rent in to, from top to bottom, showing the world that God’s unfailing love was now upon the world, because of the forever sacrifice of His Son.

God’s Holy Spirit calls whosoever will to come to the Cross of Salvation, and humble yourself before this unfailing Love, pictured by the purest of Gold! Only at the cross can you receive this gift of forgiveness, right standing and Hope of eternal Life in Jesus Christ.

The spirit of Babylon has corrupted this gold. Indeed, many choose the gold itself instead of the love and forgiveness it represents. One day, Babylon will fall…Jesus Christ who reigns in Heaven above, is clothed in a golden sash across His heart. He will judge the world on the basis of His pure Love. Anyone not found in His heart, anyone not found in His Golden Love becasueof their rejection of Him, will live for all eternity without His Love, in a place where there is no love! They have followed the spirit of Babylon, which decieves with a false gold, a false love:

Revelation 17:4-6 The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.”

This Golden Gift of Christ is Salvation, the New Birth, the True Wealth that only God gives to those who have Faith to Trust Him!

All those who receive the Golden Gift of Christs Love will one day walk in a city whose very streets are pure gold. We will forever walk held up by the unfailing Love of Jesus Christ

Glory to God in the Highest! God’s Hesed is everlasting!

Frankincense

The next gift that Jesus gives us is  Frankincense. Frankincense is tapped from the scraggy Boswellia tree by slashing the bark, which is called striping, and allowing the exuded resins to bleed out and harden. These hardened resins are called tears. Frankincense trees have the ability to grow in extremely harsh environments. They can even grow directly out of solid rock. How they can do this is still unknown, but the Boswellia trees that grow on rock develop a swollen disk like trunk which prevents it from being torn away from the rock during violent storms. The tears from the trees which grow on solid rock are considered superior for their more fragrant aroma.[1].

  • Frankincense comes from the Hebrew levonah, meaning “white”.[2]

Frankincense was the main ingredient in the holy incense used in the Tabernacle and Temple Worship of Jehovah.

The altar of incense was made of acacia wood and overlaid with pure gold. It was situated in the Holy Place near the curtain before the Most Holy Place. The high priest burned incense when he tended the lamps (Exodus 30:1-9).

Once per year, on The Day Of Atonement, the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies and burn incense there before The Ark Of The Covenant.

Frankincense was used in the grain offering (Leviticus 2:1, 2:16, 6:15, 24:7), but was strictly excluded from the sin offering (Leviticus 5:11)

Incense was used to symbolize or accompany prayer (Psalm 141:2, Luke 1:10, Revelation 5:8, 8:3).

Jesus is our High Priest, ever living to offer prayers on our behalf.

Every morning and evening the sacred incense was burned. (Ex 30:7, 8; 2Ch 13:11) Once a year on the Day of Atonement coals from the altar were taken in a censer, or fire holder, together with two handfuls of incense, into the Holy of Holies, where the incense was made to smoke before the mercy seat of the ark of the testimony. (Leviticus 16:12, 13.)

Hebrews 4:14-16 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 7:24-25 But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

Through His Intercession, Jesus secured our Justification!

Jesus gives us the gift of His Justice, secured by His stripes, His blood, and His tears. He is interceding daily for us before His Father. His prayers are being offered even now for us, that we would honor God’s House, that we would continue His work and build a House that honors God!

Through the Frankincense of Christ, our sins, though they be a scarlet, are “white” as snow.

“‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the LORD, ‘Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool’” (Isaiah 1:18).

and being made white as snow, we are brought into God’s House of Justice. Frankincense is never used in the sin offering, for Frankincense is the Holiness of God’s Justice, secured by the blood of Jesus Christ. For by His stripes we are healed.

This incense was placed upon the golden Altar of Incense by the High Priest to be burned before the Lord. It was to be a sweet odor unto the Lord. Through Jesus the stench of our sinful life is converted into a  beautiful fragrance before God.

Myrrh

Myrrh is harvested from the Commiphora myrrha tree in a process similar to frankincense. The myrrh is the hardened resin produced from the taps of the bark. Myrrh means “bitterness”. It was used in perfumes, but most of all it was used to embalm the dead. It also had a numbing effect so was used as an antiseptic and pain killer.  A cousin tree  produced the famous “Balm of Gilead”.

Myrrh gum is commonly harvested from the species Commiphora myrrha, which is native to Yemen, Somalia, and eastern Ethiopia. The related Commiphora gileadensis, native to Eastern Mediterranean and particularly the Arabian Peninsula,is the biblically referenced Balm of Gilead.[3]

Myrrh is much different from the valuable gold and frankincense gifts. Myrrh symbolizes suffering, trials, tribulations, and afflictions. The church of Smyrna is known as the “Suffering Church”. The name “Smyrna” comes from myrrh. Suffering and persecution is something that Jesus experienced from the beginning of His life, from the flight into Egypt to avoid the wrath of King Herod, to the end of His life, to His wrongful crucifixion. In fact we are told that suffering was such an integral of Jesus’ life that, “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered” (Hebrews 5:8).

Jesus never escaped the myrrh, the persecutions, throughout His entire life. No one has suffered more unjustly than He. And just as He was given the gift of myrrh by Wise Men, so we too, along with the gift of gold (salvation), and the gift of frankincense (holiness), are to receive the gift of myrrh (suffering) from the hand of the Lord, the wisest of men. It is not done to destroy us, but to teach us obedience. Suffering, trials, tribulations, persecutions are a natural part of this life. “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11)

The sufferings of Jesus produced Righteousness for all who come to Him. Indeed, we cease from sin as we suffer with Him.

Of these three gifts, only myrrh is mentioned at the beginning and end of Jesus’ life.

“Nicodemus, who had first come to Him by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen wrappings with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews” (John 19:39-40).

Gold – symbolizing the (hesed) unfailing love of God which leads to our being born again, is a one time gift.

Frankincense – symbolizing the (mishpat) justice of God applied to our life-our justification-is given to us all at once when we are born again.

But myrrh – symbolizing (tsedeqah) righteousness, must be experienced all our life. Our righteousness is in Christ, but only as we learn to die to sin and to Satan and to the flesh, and that will be a life-long journey.

As we experience the myrrh of life, we will have the gold of His unfailing love sustaining us, and the frankincense of His intercessory prayers encouraging us.

The end result is that we step forth clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ for all eternity! We walk forever on streets of the Golden Love of God, forever in His House, living and developing as His children!

These three gifts that we have unwrapped this morning are Christ’s forever gifts! But just as He has re-gifted them to us, so we should re-gift them to others!


[2] Klein, Ernest, A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the Hebrew Language for Readers of English, The University of Haifa, Carta, Jerusalem, p.292