Posts Tagged ‘judgment’


Discipleship Leads to the Battlefield

Former president Ronald Reagan once had an aunt who took him to a cobbler for a pair of new shoes. The cobbler asked young Reagan, “Do you want square toes or round toes?” Unable to decide, Reagan didn’t answer, so the cobbler gave him a few days. Several days later the cobbler saw Reagan on the street and asked him again what kind of toes he wanted on his shoes. Reagan still couldn’t decide, so the shoemaker replied, “Well, come by in a couple of days. Your shoes will be ready.” When the future president did so, he found one square-toed and one round-toed shoe! “This will teach you to never let people make decisions for you,” the cobbler said to young Ronald. “I learned right then and there,” Reagan said later, “if you don’t make your own decisions, someone else will.” Today in the Word, MBI, August, 1991, p. 16.

Discipleship begins with a decision. Discipleship continues with that same daily decision. If you fail to make that decision, this world makes it for you, and you will find yourself far from the Discipleship path.

The decision you must make and continue to make is, “what is the most important thing in my life?” Ask yourself, What am I building my life around? What is so important to me that I want to learn and understand everything about it? You may answer, “many things”. But at each of our lives there are some core values that are more important than anything else.

Millions of people went shopping the past couple of days. Most of them studied the adds, went on-line to find out where the best deals were. The media says we wait all year for this time, as if our Christmas depended upon it.

That is the influence of the world, of Babylon. Christmas is no longer about Jesus Christ, about salvation, about a supernatural life that He gives. Christmas is about getting the best deals on stuff that most people will throw away in a few years.

The elevation of “Black Friday” required a decision on the part of a small number of people, and because the rest of us were silent, the decision was made for us. We allowed ourselves to be influenced and so now many Christians are our Thanksgiving Day looking for bargains. And while Thanksgiving is not an official “Biblical” Holiday, it is in danger of becoming a non-day, overtaken by the commercialism of Christmas.

The same thing happened with the blue laws (stores not open on Sunday-to honor the Lord’s Day) a few years back. A small group of people decided the blue laws were archaic, and because Christians did not object, people no longer see the harm of shopping and eating on Sunday. Now we even have school and sports activities on Sunday. The disrespect for the Lord’s Day has continued to the extent that we now have a generation of children growing up who know nothing about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We now have to remind people of the real reason for Christmas.

Discipleship indeed begins with a decision, but failure to maintain that decision can disqualify you from the discipleship path. You must decide that God is more important than anything and everything in your life. He is so important that you want to learn everything about Him. You want to even understand Him, what He delights in, how He works.  Everyday you must choose to make God the most important person in your life. So important that He changes the way you do life.

  • Discipleship begins with a decision to seek the heart of God!
  • Discipleship continues when you decide to allow His heart to affect the desires of your heart.

But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. Deuteronomy 4:29 (ESV)

An Insight into “seek”

Yet the LORD set (hasaq) his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. Deuteronomy 10:15 (ESV)

Set (& Seek) is the word hasaq. It literally means to bind oneself to. It pictures a man who has become attracted to a captive woman or slave and now he wants to bind himself to her in marriage. It is a binding of the heart to one whom is the object of your desires.

God chose Abraham and set His heart on him. God delighted in him to the point he bound Himself to him in a covenant that could not be altered. That covenant bound God to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. His delight progressed from one of God/subject to husband/wife, bound by covenant.

hāšaq: A verb meaning to be attached to, to love, to delight in, to bind. Laws in Deuteronomy described the procedure for taking a slave woman to whom one has become attached as a wife (Deut. 21:11). God’s binding love for Israel is described as unmerited love (Deut. 7:7)[1]

David made Decisions

  1. David wanted his life to matter so he chose to be a tree planted besides (God’s) living waters. (Ps 1)
  2. David did not want to live a life as worthless thorns, or worthless chaff. (Ps 1, 2 Sam 23:1)
  3. David wanted to live a life that mattered now and for the future.
  4. David decided to bind himself to this Yahweh in whom he trusted and loved. (Ps 25:5)
  5. Because of his decision, David found himself smack dab in the middle of a battle, and so will you.

David v. Goliath

This battle is a favorite Bible story for little children.  The story has been familiarized to the point that it loses its impact. It has become a cartoon. The significance of David finding himself on the battlefield as a young man, so soon after his decision to follow God, is that we will all face ‘giants’ on the battlefield as soon as we decide to become a disciple in the true sense!

Our Heart is  the Battlefield

“The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? Jeremiah 17:9 (NKJV)

David understood this and instructed his son Solomon:

Now devote (give-from נתן (nathan) your heart and soul to seeking the LORD your God. Begin to build the sanctuary of the LORD God, so that you may bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD and the sacred articles belonging to God into the temple that will be built for the Name of the LORD.” 1 Chronicles 22:19 (NIV)

Nāthan נתן: A verb meaning to give, to place. This verb is used approximately two thousand times in the Old Testament; therefore, it is understandable that it should have a broad semantic range[2].

Discipleship begins with the Decision to ‘Give’ your Heart to God

Solomon likewise said, “Give me your heart”. Give (nathan) me your heart, my son, And let your eyes delight in my ways.  Proverbs 23:26 (NASB)

As a young man, David did just that, and God took notice.

But now your kingdom shall not continue. The LORD has sought out a man after his own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.” 1 Samuel 13:14 (ESV)

King Saul

Saul was the people’s choice for King. He had all the outward appearances of a King. He was tall, dark and handsome. He was strong and a forceful leader. Yet there was something wrong with his heart. His heart is described in 1 Sam 15:22:

1 Samuel 15:22-23 (ESV) And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion (meriy) is as the sin of divination (witchcraft-qesem-lumped with child sacrifice in Deut 18:10), and presumption (pāsar) is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king.”

Even though Saul was a King of Israel, even though he was a “Christian” so to speak, his discipleship took a wrong turn somewhere, and Samuel reveals those decisions that disqualified Saul .

Three Decisions Disqualify from Discipleship

1. We Stop Listening to God

  • “But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels. Oh, that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways! Psalm 81:11-13 (ESV)
  • Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. Ecclesiastes 5:1 (ESV)
  • I also will choose harsh treatment for them and bring their fears upon them, because when I called, no one answered, when I spoke, they did not listen; but they did what was evil in my eyes and chose that in which I did not delight.” Isaiah 66:4 (ESV)
Who we listen to gets us into trouble

And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
Genesis 3:17 (ESV)

Who has your ear? Who do you spend the most time listening to? How much time do you spend in the Word, or in prayer? To listen often leads to obey. Are you most influenced by what the world teaches? Are you listening to what God says?

We are influenced by what we listen to and watch. What else would drive a sane person to camp out for Black Friday specials? 25 years ago something like that would be considered insane!

2. We Tolerate a Rebellious Spirit

King Saul: For rebellion (meriy) is as the sin of divination (witchcraft-qesem-lumped with child sacrifice in Deut 18:10),

Moses to the Israelites: For I know how rebellious and stiff-necked you are. If you have been rebellious against the LORD while I am still alive and with you, how much more will you rebel after I die! Deuteronomy 31:27 (NIV)

meriy: A masculine noun meaning obstinacy, stubbornness, rebelliousness. The term consistently stays within this tight semantic range and most often describes the Israelites’ determined refusal to obey the precepts laid down by the Lord in His Law or Torah. This characteristic attitude was a visible manifestation of their hard hearts[3].

Qesem is generally forbidden[4] (Deuteronomy 18:10 (ESV) There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer),

We associate rebellion with out and out disobedience. We excuse some behavior as excusable. I don’t have time, I have so much stress, I have to have some me time or I’ll go crazy. We don’t classify selfishness as rebellion. In fact, we accept selfish behavior as normal. But God calls selfishness rebellion. It is no different from the sin of witchcraft, or the sin of child sacrifice. King Saul simply made a decision based upon what he thought was best. It was a rational, understandable decision. He even had God in mind when he made it. But God calls it rebellion, for it was a self-motivated decision.

  • Do the actions of your life reveal a rebellious spirit in your heart?

3. We Presume Upon God

Samuel said to King Saul: “presumption (pāsar) is as iniquity and idolatry”.

pāsar: A verb meaning to peck at, to press, to push. It indicates a literal physical push against someone (Gen. 19:9); In a negative sense, it refers to rebellion against someone, arrogance (1 Sam. 15:23)[5].

Presumption pushes God out of the way and does what it wants. Or worse yet, it presumes that God is not watching, or God does not care, and then goes its own way. Or worse yet, it presumes since you are of Abraham, or a Jew, (or a Christian) that you have a lock on God, and He will excuse your actions.

Christians presume upon God when they think God automatically excuses their sin or their laziness or their lack of prayer or whatever simply because he knows ‘I’m human’. Or simply because Jesus died for me on the cross. That is such pride and arrogance. With an attitude like that I would be concerned about the true state of my soul. How can God live in me, and I steal from Him by ignoring him or excusing my fleshly actions. I am no better than the money changers who presumed they could steal from the people because they were doing it in God’s Temple!

  • Are the presumptions of your daily life pushing God away?

When King Saul pushed God aside, God pushed him aside. He found a young man who had made a decision to set his heart upon God, to incline his heart on those things that God delighted in.

And the next thing you know, this young man is in the midst of a battlefield. He has another decision to make. There is a Giant facing the armies of Israel, and they are all afraid. For 40 days this Giant has been taunting them, and the men of Israel were losng their resolve for God. Onto this battlefield in the Valley of Elah steps a young disciple, and he provides us insight into beginning our discipleship journey with God, insight that will insure victory!

I.  Discipleship Requires Confidence in Who You Are!

A.  Experience The Daily Rush Of The Spirit Of God

1 Samuel 16:12-13 (ESV) Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up and went to Ramah.

  • David was very aware that the Spirit of God was within him!

Even throughout his sin with Bathsheba, the Holy Spirit was with him. David desired the rush of the Holy Spirit so much that he dreaded its departure.

Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Psalm 51:11 (ESV)

B. Experience The Daily Affection Of God For You.

And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 (ESV)

God has anointed us and put His seal upon us-the Holy Spirit is the proof of His covenant with us. Because of that covenant sealed by the Blood of Christ, we know that God has set his heart and eyes upon us, that His love is steadfast and unfailing, that His love is renewed to us each and every morning!

C. Experience What God Desires for You

God has an intentional plan for our lives with Him, and He wants us to realize what it is. He never sets His heart upon someone capriciously.

To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, (6) and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Revelation 1:5-6 (NKJV)

God is grooming us to be Priests and Kings. We have a higher calling, one which places responsibility upon us. Everything we experience is designed by God to train us to be a King or a Priest. But it is not dependent upon our ability, but upon the covenant which Jesus Christ has bound Himself to us.

His covenant means that we have confidence in Him and His provision whenever we face a giant…

(14) 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. (15) 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. (16) 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 4:14-16 (ESV)

II. Discipleship Requires Confidence in Who God is!

A. There Is Always A Goliath Between You And God

We all know about Goliath. He was Big, Bad and Bronze! Oh, you never noticed the bronze part? You should, for therein lies the understanding of this battlefield.

Then he stood and cried out to the armies of Israel, and said to them, “Why have you come out to line up for battle? 1 Samuel 17:8 (NKJV)
And the Philistine said, “I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.” When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.  1 Samuel 17:10-11 (NKJV)

Bronze speaks of judgment.

In Numbers 21:9, Moses puts a model of a snake, made from brass (or bronze?) on a pole, and when the people looked at it they were delivered from the poisonous bites of the snakes that had infested their camp as a result of their own sin.

In the blueprints for the Tabernacle of Moses, the altar on which sacrifices were burnt was made of bronze. Bronze is the place in which your sacrifice meets the heat of fire  (judgment) and is consumed by it.

The giant Goliath, whose height was 6 cubits, and he had 6 pieces of armor; his spear’s head weighed 600 shekels of iron. If you thought it was related to 666, you are kind of right. Now, let’s look at the armor.

  • Helmet of bronze: His mentality was of judgment.
  • Breastplate of Bronze : a heart of judgment.
  • Leg Armor of bronze : Standing in judgment.
  • Coat of bronze mail : Surrounded by judgment.
  • Spear shaft of bronze : Weapon of judgment.

Goliath is a picture of Satan and all of his judgments against man. Our sins, our lusts, our failures, our weaknesses. These are all that Satan uses to condemn us and prevent us from seeing that we are indwelt by the Spirit of God. Fear is the great disciple killer!

  • Fear keeps us mired in the mud of our human weakness and sin.

The Tabernacle

There is not a single bronze item in the innermost part of the Tabernacle. Sure there is the bronze altar, the bronze water dish, etc, but all of that is outside, in the court.

Inside the Holy of Holies, everything is made of Gold. Gold speaks of divinity, of purity. Christians are forever covered with gold. Where? look at the walls. The bible says to have wooden boards with “hands” at the bottom, which fit perfectly into the silver bases and are made to stand upright (Ex. 26:15-18; 36:21-22). The silver is a picture of Jesus Christ, our Savior. See the beauty of it?

  • The way for humanity to stand upright in God’s presence is to be placed in redemption.

There were also five (cross-members) bars for each side of the Tabernacle (Ex. 26:26,27; 36:31,32). The middle bar of the five was to pass through the centre of the boards from one end to the other (Ex. 26:28; 36:33). All the bars and rings were overlaid with gold (Ex. 26:29; 36:34). The number 5 speaks of Grace. The middle bar, passes through the board. and the bible says that the wood is also covered with gold, every inch is covered.

Here is the picture: You (wood), covered with Holiness( Gold) inside and outside, made to stand in Redemption ( silver), and as a result, not a single bit of your sin (wood) can be seen in God’s presence.

We MUST have Confidence in Who God is and What He has provided for us in order to defeat these Giants!

David, A Man Who Knew Who He Was, And Who He Followed.

Then David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” 1 Samuel 17:32 (NKJV)

David knew the value of a strong heart. Soldiers weak in heart are of no use on the battlefield. They are of no value to the King, or to God. Disciples are strong of heart for they seek the heart of God!

B. True Disciples Know The Battle Has Already Been Won

1 Samuel 17:45 (ESV) Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.

  1. For 40 days Saul had taunted the soldiers of Israel. (1 Sam 17:16)
  2. Jesus fasted for 40 days…

…Until his flesh was totally weak, and beginning to consume itself. It was only then that He faced Satan, for he wanted nothing ot the flesh to present in defeating Satan. No, Jesus would defeat Him by the power of the Word of God, with no tainting of the flesh.

(4) For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith. (5) Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 1 John 5:4-5 (ESV)

III. Discipleship requires tested armor!

So Saul clothed David with his armor, and he put a bronze helmet on his head; he also clothed him with a coat of mail. David fastened his sword to his armor and tried to walk, for he had not tested them. And David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these, for I have not tested them.” So David took them off. 1 Samuel 17:38-39 (NKJV)

1. No Pretend Disciples.

You don’t go to battle by pretending to be a mighty armored warrior. You must begin winning little battles with the weapons you have and can use.

David had faced lions and bears out in the field. He fought against them with weapons he was familiar with. Disciples don’t come to church with their super Christian armor on. Disciples don’t try to impress one another. Disciples are schooled in battle where you work, where you live.

2. Only Real Disciples

You face Goliath’s at work. He may be a she, and tell you what to do. He may be a fellow worker who wants to influence you to do this or that. You face Goliath’s at home. He may be a loved one that battles your emotions, that hurls those darts that get so personal. There is no pretend on the battlefield. Pretenders are casualties of war. Disciples must learn to slay Goliath with the weapons and armor that they are familiar with. We battle the flesh at home, work, play, and most of all in the desires of our heart.

But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. (For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:8-11 (ESV)

IV. Discipleship Requires the Grace of God

David picked up 5 stones

Then he took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones from the brook and put them in his shepherd’s pouch. His sling was in his hand, and he approached the Philistine. 1 Samuel 17:40 (ESV)

Five is the Number for God’s Grace

God changed Abram’s name to Abraham. This is very significant. Not because God chose Abram or because God endowed upon him his grace, but, the change was made by inserting in between his name the fifth letter of the alphabet h (Hey).

Back to the Tabernacle:

The brazen altar in the Court of the tabernacle was FIVE cubits long, FIVE cubits wide, and it had FIVE vessels connected with it (Exodus 27:1-3).  The COURT which was FIVE cubits high, “The LENGTH of the court shall be a HUNDRED cubits, and the BREADTH  FIFTY everywhere, and the HEIGHT  FIVE cubits of fine twined linen” (Ex.27:18).  Grace shuts in the believer on every side.

David Killed the Giant

When David went to fight with the Goliath, he chose five smooth stones. These five stones pictured God’s grace, as David needed only one, the one with Divine Power.

How is Your Heart?

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. 2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (ESV)

Discipleship begins with a decision to bind your heart to God’s Heart. Discipleship takes place when God’s Heart affects the desires of your heart. We only have access to the divine power as we seek to listen and obey, and when our obedience matures.

ONGOING BATTLE

There will be an ongoing battle for your heart. Goliath is lurking out there, and he wants to bring fear and distrust into your heart. If he does, he will ruin you for the battlefield. He’ll either distract you, lead you to stop listening, tolerate rebellion, and even fool yurself into presuming upon God.

No matter what Goliath does, his end game is to disqualify you from being a Disciple of Jesus Christ. He wants to render you worthless and ineffective.

How is your heart? Do you desire to know this awesome invisible God? Do you live and breathe Jesus Christ? Or have you failed to defeat Goliath, and find your Christian walk ineffective? Have you even pushed Christ aside this week? Or have you slain a few Goliath’s through His grace?


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

[2] Warren Baker and Eugene Carpenter, The Complete Word Study Dictionary – Old Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2003), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 761.

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

[4] R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Bruce K. Waltke, ed., “2044: ‏קָסַם‎,” in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 805.

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

Advertisements

Wendy’s used an advertising campaign featuring three little old ladies standing at the “Home of the Big Bun” hamburger counter. Clara Peller lifts the big bun to see a tiny patty and yells out “where’s the beef?” The other ladies say: “It certainly is a big bun. It’s a very big bun. It’s a big fluffy bun. It’s a very big fluffy bun.”

Today we may be seeing a new ad with gringos holding a Taco Bell taco saying, “where’s the beef?”

An Alabama law firm is suing Taco Bell, saying that they are falsely advertising ‘beef’ products.

The meat mixture sold by Taco Bell restaurants contains binders and extenders and does not meet the minimum requirements set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to be labeled as “beef”, according to the legal complaint. Attorney Dee Miles said attorneys had Taco Bell’s “meat mixture” tested and found it contained less that 35 percent beef.[1]

The question I want to look at over the next few weeks involves our belief in Jesus Christ, and who we believe Him to be. The question we must ask ourselves is how much of the real Jesus do you have to have to be a true born again Christ follower. I believe that some Christians are following only 35% or 50% of the real Jesus.

In other words, I am hoping you will take an honest look at your life and see if you believe in the real Jesus Christ, and if so, does your life reflect the real Jesus? We are going to lift the bun on our lives and hopefully none of us is going to say, “Where’s the real Jesus?”

THE REAL JESUS WILL JUDGE US

  • And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. Acts 10:42
  • For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 2 Corinthians 5:10

While many of us believe we follow the real Jesus, the Scriptures say that many of us are being fooled. We are following a Jesus of our own making, taken from parts of the Real Jesus. The important question is does Jesus know me? Because if He does not, no matter how much good you do for Him, He will declare to you, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:23

It does not mean you violated God’s Law, it means you want your own way; you were living and serving for your benefit. You thought Jesus would be happy with what you did, but you did not understand the real Jesus. You never gave your life to the real Jesus. You never even saw the real Jesus, so it is no wonder that He did not know you.

Partial Obedience is a “No Go”

Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands, holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)— then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.” Mark 7:1-13

Jesus was pointing out that the proof of real worship is your obedience in your everyday lives. Anyone can go to church, anyone can be baptized, but to Jesus, the proof of your Christianity is the change in your heart that produces obedient living no matter the cost to our convenience.

The Pharisees obeyed God, but if they had to choose between obeying God and their convenience of profit, they would overrule the command of God with some fabricated tradition or false practice. The one example given regards the command to honor your father and mother.

With Jesus, words are not enough, and a show of obedience is not enough.

Look what Ezekiel experienced:

PUTTING ON A SHOW IS A “NO GO”

“As for you, son of man, your people who talk together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, say to one another, each to his brother, ‘Come, and hear what the word is that comes from the Lord.’ And they come to you as people come, and they sit before you as my people, and they hear what you say but they will not do it; for with lustful talk in their mouths they act; their heart is set on their gain (besa)[2]. And behold, you are to them like one who sings lustful songs with a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument, for they hear what you say, but they will not do it. Ezekiel 33:30-32

‏בֶּצַע‎ (beṣaʿ)

  • To cut off what is not one’s own, or in the slang of our day, to take a “rip-off”, thus to be greedy, covetous.
  • Personal advantage derived from some activity. Used largely in the negative sense, as in the case of the racketeer who takes his “cut” from the profits of an otherwise legitimate business.

People want the show and the spiritual experience as long as it is entertaining and moving. But if it requires a change in the way they live their lives, no, that’s too extreme for me. Just as a con man plays people for a “rip-off” for personal gain, so do many ‘Christians’ slice and dice the Real Jesus down to someone they can tolerate in their personal lives. They do so for their personal gain.

Jesus asks us: “Who do you say that I am?” Mt 16:15

Peter Answers: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”.

Jesus responds: “On this rock I will build my church”.

Jesus indicates that who we believe  Jesus is will determine how solidly our church is built!

As a Pastor, the greatest error or sin I can commit is to preach a false salvation, a false or incomplete Jesus. I must preach Jesus Christ without compromise, without watering Him down, without mixing man’s ideas with who Jesus Christ really is!

I do not want anyone to be surprised when they meet Jesus. I want Him to know you, because you knew the real Jesus. You gave your heart to the Real Jesus.

With Jesus, there is no 35% and you are a Christian. There is no 50% and you are a Christian. There is no 85% and you are a Christian. Jesus told us what His standards of Christianity are in one of His last commands to us:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe[3] all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

We are to teach others to observe ALL that He commanded us! Observe is not a passive word, like a bystander. It involves 100% attention, it means to “keep your eyes fixed upon”. It draws the picture of a prison guard or warden who must constantly watch a vicious killer. If you take your eyes off him, he could escape and kill you.

We are to have that attitude not just toward the commands we like, or can gain from, or fit into our lifestyle. We are to observe ALL the commands of Christ as if our life depended upon it.

Paul and James made this clear:

  • Paul: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7
  • James: Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27

Who do you say that Jesus Is?

Are you like Ricky Bobby, praying to baby Jesus? Or are you like so many football fans, following Touchdown Jesus? You know the one, the one who gives you victory.

The fans of Notre Dame Football love their team. Win or Lose Notre Dame is followed by fans around the world. At one end zone, just above the stadium seats, you can catch a glimpse of Touchdown Jesus. He is atop a huge stain glass mural. His arms are raised as if to signal a touchdown. Before they added more seats at that end, he was clearly seen by the entire stadium.

That is the Jesus most of us worship. Upraised arms, stepping forth from the tomb, rising in the air, standing at the right hand of the Father, coming back in the air, riding on a white horse, ruling on the throne of David!

Touchdown Jesus! He’s a winner, He’s a conqueror! He’s the victor! He’s the ‘hero of the world’! He’s my hero! and he will make me a hero too!

This is where we start to fold in our ideas and our traditions with the Jesus Christ of God’s Word. Somehow, Jesus has become more about me than about a Sovereign God! We like the Touchdown Jesus because he is the winner, and we all want to be winners. We are taught that from our crib. We boast about when our baby started crawling, started walking, started talking, how smart they are, what grades they get, how well they play this sport, how well they excel at this activity. We want our kids to be winners! Therefore, we like Touchdown Jesus. He is a winner that fits nicely with our ideas of life in America.

Touchdown Jesus and the American Dream

Michael Jordan was arguably the greatest basketball player to play the sport. When he retired, the owner of the Chicago Bulls, Jerry Reinsdorf said, “He’s living the American Dream”. Someone defined the American Dream as “reaching a point in your life where you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do and can do everything that you want to do”. James Truslow Adams defined it as “a dream… in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are”.

Consider whether YOU worship an “Americanized” Jesus

I believe that many American Christians have made Jesus Christ into a Jesus that fits nicely into our “Touchdown” mentality, our “American Dream” mentality. We are guilty of being like the Jews in Ezekiel’s days, turning God into someone we are comfortable with, as long as he is good for us, and fits in with our desires for success and wealth.

We like a nice middle-class American Jesus. A Jesus who doesn’t mind materialism and would never tell us to do something ridiculous like give away our wealth, or stop saving for retirement. We want a practical, realistic Jesus, one who understands the pressures of life, accepts nominal devotion, and is considerate of our need for creature comforts.

We want a balanced Jesus, a Jesus who wants us to avoid outrageous extremes, and who for that matter wants us to avoid danger altogether.

As David Platt (author of Radical) says, we want a “Jesus who brings comfort and prosperity to us as we live out our Christian spin on the American Dream”. In an interview with the Christian Post, David Platt underscored the danger of following the American Dream:

“The American Dream begins with self. It exalts the self and says you are inherently good and you have in you what it takes to be successful” (David Platt)

The American dream is built on gaining, but Jesus said:

“Whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 10:38-39

The foundational commmand of a true follower of Jesus Christ is to ‘destroy’ your life.

Lose=  apollymi “To destroy, cause to perish”[4]

  • Jesus said you are not worthy of following HIM unless you are willing to take your cross and have your life destroyed (‘apollymi’ in Matthew 10:39).
  • You can live this life following the dream, gaining as much as you can, but you will wake up in the reality of eternal destruction.
  • Or you can be willing to take up your cross and have your ‘life’ destroyed in total abandon to Jesus and wake up in the reality and beauty of His presence.

“Believing in the Jesus in the Bible makes life risky on a lot of levels because it is absolute surrender of every decision we make, every dollar we spend, our lives belong to another,” he said. “It is relinquishing control in a culture that prioritizes control and doing what you need to do to advance yourself.” (David Platt)

The goal of the Christian American dream is to make much of us, to follow a Touchdown Jesus, a winner, who we can point to when we make our goal! However, the real Jesus has different priorities. Instead of encouraging our self-fulfillment, he confronts us with our inability to accomplish anything of value apart from God. He says if we want to be great, we must become a servant!

Instead of wanting us to be recognized by others, he commands us to die to ourselves and seek the glory of God above everything. The goal of the gospel of the real Jesus Christ is to make the MOST of God. And the LEAST of us!

I encourage you to read the book Radical. It will shake your Christianity to its core.

Who do you say that I am?

Peter gave the right answer, but denied Jesus Christ. He gave up on Jesus, and went fishing. You can know the right answer, but deny Jesus Christ in your life, because you honor Him with your lips, but not your heart and life.

The goal of this sermon series is to hold forth the real Jesus Christ, and to encourage each of us to observe all that He commands, without being watered down by our conveniences, our conceptions, our priorities. My prayer is that our lives, our goals, our walk, our priorities will be a clear reflection of the real Jesus Christ.

Where do we SEE the Real Jesus Christ?

The Bible School ‘skinny’ on the Gospels is that Matthew presents Messiah Jesus, Mark presents Servant Jesus, Luke presents King Jesus, John presents Divine Jesus. But there is one book we often overlook as representing the Gospel of the Real Jesus. It is the book of Revelation.

There we find two things: What was needed for John to see the real Jesus, and second, what happened when he saw the real Jesus.

  1. John was in the Spirit (10). He was under the influence and control of God’s Holy Spirit. Moreover, to see the real Jesus, we must be under control of the Holy Spirit. He is the one who reveals Jesus to us. That is His delight and Joy!
  2. When John saw the real Jesus, he fell at his feet as though dead (17). The Jesus that John saw was not the Jesus that John thought he knew, had touched, and had spoken to. When he saw the real Jesus, John was deeply affected. He was shaken to the core of his being. He was emotionally, physically and mentally overwhelmed to the point of swooning and passing out.

Was he overcome with a sense of failure, a sense of awe, a sense of fear, a sense of shortcomings in being like Him? Yes, all of these. Bottom line, however, when our heart and eyes are opened to see the real Jesus, we are knocked down from the platform of our comfortable life and laid out in the dust of our lives. It is just like Saul on the road to Damascus. He saw the real Jesus, and He fell to the ground. His life, his priorities, his goals were forever changed.

When we see the real Jesus, we will know it, and we will be changed. Our priorities will change. Our goals will change.

The Key to Understanding the Real Jesus

The key to understanding the Real Jesus of Revelations is to change our concept of Divine Love. The Book of Revelation is the final chapter in God’s Work in redeeming man. It is an account of the final settlement. That final settlement reveals the consummation of God’s Love for man. God’s love consummation begins and ends with His church. The church is in view in Revelation Chap 1:11 and 22:16

  • John reveals the key to understanding Jesus in Rev 1:5

Divine Love

And from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Revelation 1:5-6

Understand that the foundational motivation of Jesus Christ was divine love. That divine love moved the Son of God to do what He had to to free us from our sins. It cost Him His blood, His life, but in return, He made us a kingdom, He made us priests for His Father, and it brought Him Kingship and dominion.

As our King, and as priests in that Kingdom, we will be judged by the standards that He has set, and those standards are revealed in the vision of the True Jesus that John saw.

Quick Glimpse at the Real Jesus

“and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest”. Revelation 1:13. John saw the  SON OF MAN. “When John heard His voice, he immediately turned around and saw one like the Son of Man”.

The Real Jesus still held on to His humanity. John described as the Son of Man, a title that Jesus gave Himself. This meant that He really was one of us, exactly like us. As the Son of Man, He was our redeeming kinsman, who came into our lost estate. Jesus Christ became flesh of our flesh, bone of our bone to redeem us to His Father.

John Saw Gold about His chest

As we look and gaze upon the Real Jesus, the Jesus that John described, we will find that He is “clothed with a golden sash around his chest”. ASV: “girt about at the breasts with a golden girdle”. Revelation 1:13

Every word speaks of Divine love, the breasts, the gold, the girdle.

  • The girdle is the symbol of strength, of energy, of intention, of purpose. You mean business when you gird yourself. The robes are no longer flowing for leisure, loose for reclining.
  • The girdle is golden, symbolic of the very nature of God who is love.
  • The breasts or chest is the place of the Heart, the heart of Divine Love.

The Real Jesus is the sum total of God’s Divine Love!

The Real Jesus Has a Message for the Churches. That Message uses Divine Love as the standard. The Vision of the Real Jesus is to be revealed to the churches (write therefore the things you have seen)

Here is God’s standard:

  • We are called with this great calling — to be like the real Jesus. God’s desire is that we be brought into conformity with Him.
  • What is true in Him has to be true in each of us, and in the body, the church. “Girt about at the breasts with a golden girdle”. There is to be a heart devotion and faithfulness to the real Jesus Christ!

This is the real Jesus.

  • How can this be? What about the nice Jesus with the children, or the footprints in the sand that become one set while he carries me?
  • This Jesus in Revelations is frightening. John passed out  when he saw him. How can that be the effect of Divine love? After all, we’re supposed to dance when we see Jesus!
  • This is Lord all-terrible, not Lord all-loving!

We have to change our concept of Divine ‘agape’ love. The real Jesus is real Love, but He must have our devotion. He must have our heart. Have you ever been disciplined by the Lord, your life, your dreams shattered, your soul being poured out like water on the ground? Afterward did you say, “You were right Lord, you knew what had to be done. It was a terrible experience, but you are faithful and true”.

John says, “When I saw him I fell at his feet as one dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying, Fear not.”

This is not judgment, this is not destruction, and this is not death and condemnation. The right hand is the token of honour, of favour. “Fear not; I am the first and the last.” “Everything is in My hands and in the end it will be all right; I took it up and I am going to finish it; fear not”.

Paul’s Encounter with the Real Jesus

There was another man who, travelling on a road with hatred in his heart, and murder on his mind. He wanted to destroy Christianity, but instead his life, as he knew it was destroyed by the vision of the Real Jesus Christ.

Did Paul describe Him as All-terrible, frightening, scary? No, Paul said in Gal 2:20, “He loved me and He gave Himself for me!”  Far from a meeting with a terrible King, Paul met the lover of his soul.

We need an “Extreme Makeover” of our concept of Divine love.

It is not that sickly, sentimental thing we call love. It is not that I love you so much that anything you do is ok.

  • This divine love is something tremendous.

This Savior, this real Jesus, represents divine love that has our eternity in His heart. And that desire means He will deal with us faithfully for the betterment of that eternity.

God’s divine love has the end in view. His job is not to be a babysitter, trying anything to get the baby to stop crying.

Jesus Christ is our standard for eternity. If we set our eyes on the real Jesus, to be like Him, to live for Him, our eternity will be affected.

We are called into His eternal glory “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison”, 2 Corinthians 4:17

The Real Jesus is Divine Love. But Divine Love is set on our eternity, not temporal comfort and riches that encompass the American Dream.

The Seven Churches Were Judged According to the Divine Love in Jesus Christ

Jesus message to the churches are on the basis of how they represent His character, His nature as seen in the vision of the Real Jesus.

The messages and the churches are bounded by Ephesus and Laodicea. In Ephesus and Laodicea, the trouble is defective love. Ephesus, “thou didst leave thy first love”; Laodicea, “thou art neither hot nor cold.” Each church had failed to measure up to the real Jesus Christ. Each church failed to measure up to His standard of Divine Love.

Jesus is the standard of judgment for the churches.

Do you love the real Jesus? Or do you love a Jesus that fits into your dreams and desires and with your own ideas of what is best for your life? If your love is defective like that of the churches in Revelation, so will your concept of the Real Jesus be defective.

The real Jesus is a picture of Divine Love. It is awesome, it is terrible, and it knocks you off your feet. It is not always loving in the sense we imagine. At times it is harsh. At times it seems cruel.

His divine love is the basis for how we will be judged. Do you know the real Jesus? Do you know what real Divine Love is? Has your life been transformed by the Real Jesus?

  • To the Ephesians Jesus says: “To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God”.
  • To the Laodiceans Jesus says, “The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne”.

Our earthly love for Jesus will be the basis of our heavenly reward and duties. So yes, following the real Jesus is a struggle, it is a fight, it is a discipline, it requires a steadfast desire to conquer, against all odds, but the rewards will be worth it all!

As we study, see, and understand the Real Jesus Christ, I am praying that that we will understand true divine love, and how the real Jesus is the mark, the representation of how that love is to impact our lives.

I am praying further that once we see the real Jesus and what He expects of us, our very lives will be changed as we determine to be followers of the real Jesus Christ.

Adam & Henri Nouwen

Henri Nouwen is a well-known Catholic Priest who authored over 40 books. Even though a Catholic, his books The Wounded Healer, In the Name of Jesus, The Life of the Beloved and The Way of the Heart are classics. He was sought the world over as a gifted teacher and speaker. Yet the last 10 years of his life, he gave it all up to work in a home that took care of severely retarded and handicapped adults.

Nouwen has said that all his life two voices competed inside him. One encouraged him to succeed and achieve, while the other called him simply to rest in the comfort that he was “the beloved” of God. Only in the last decade of his life did he truly listen to that second voice.

“I left the university and went to France. After a year in France, I was called to become a priest at the Daybreak Community in Toronto which is a L’Arche Community (the word L’Arche means the Arc of Noah) a community of about a hundred people, fifty handicapped people and fifty assistants. L’Arche is a community of mentally handicapped people and their assistants who try to live in the spirit of the beatitudes. So I went to Toronto”[5].

The first thing they asked me was to work with Adam—of all names. I had to work with Adam! It sounded like working with humanity. Adam, a twenty-four-year-old man, was very, very, very handicapped. He couldn’t speak. He couldn’t walk. He couldn’t dress or undress himself. You never really knew if he knew you or not. His body was very deformed. His back was distorted and he suffered from continuous epileptic seizures.

It took him nearly two hours to prepare Adam each day. Bathing and shaving him, brushing his teeth, combing his hair, guiding his hand as he tried to eat breakfast-these simple, repetitive acts had become for him almost like an hour of meditation.

I must admit I had a fleeting doubt as to whether this was the best use of the busy priest’s time. Could not someone else take over the manual chores? When I cautiously broached the subject with Nouwen himself, he informed me that I had completely misinterpreted him. “I am not giving up anything,” he insisted. “It is I, not Adam, who gets the main benefit from our friendship.”

He had learned what it must be like for God to love us-spiritually uncoordinated, retarded, able to respond with what must seem to God like inarticulate grunts and groans. Indeed, working with Adam had taught him the humility and “emptiness” achieved by desert monks only after much discipline.

He taught me that the heart is more important than the mind. … Adam didn’t think. Adam had a heart, a real human heart. I suddenly realized that what makes a human being human is the heart with which he can give and receive love. Adam was giving me an enormous amount of God’s love and I was giving Adam of my love. There was an intimacy that went far beyond words or far beyond activity. I suddenly realized that Adam was not just a disabled person, less human than me or other people. He was a fully human being, so fully human that God even chose him to become the instrument of His love. He was so vulnerable, so weak, so empty, that he became just heart, the heart where God wanted to dwell, where He wanted to stay and where He wanted to speak to those who came close to His vulnerable heart.

Adam was a full human being, not half human or less human. I discovered that … God loves Adam very specially. He wanted to dwell in his broken person so that He could speak from that vulnerability into the world of strength, and call people to become vulnerable[6].

“Every time I told [Adam’s story] I could see new life and new hope emerging in the hearts of my listening friends. My grief became their joy, my loss was their gain, and my dying their coming to new life. Very slowly I started to see Adam coming alive in the hearts of those who had never known him, as if they were being made part of a great mystery. . . . Is this when is resurrection began, in the midst of my grief? That is what happened to the mourning Mary of Magdala . . . for the disciples on the road to Emmaus . . . for the disciples in the upper room . . . for the grieving friends of Jesus who went back to fishing in the lake. . . . Mourning turns to dancing, grief turns to joy, despair turns to hope, and fear turns to love. Then hesitantly someone is saying, ‘He is risen, he is risen indeed.” (pp. 119-120)


[2] R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Bruce K. Waltke, ed., “267: ‏בָּצַע‎,” in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 122.

[3] tēréō; contracted tēró, fut. tērésō, from tērós (n.f.), a warden, guard. To keep an eye on, watch, and hence to guard, keep, obey,

Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary – New Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1993).

[4] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary – New Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1993), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 230.


I like eating in the local diners in small towns. I like eating at Pat’s. I like eating at the Halfway Restaurant and Tire Shop. The local diner is where you can hear about all the small town gossip. In fact, at one little diner I ate at, there was even a note under the glass counter where you paid that said:

“Not much happens in a small town, but what you hear makes up for it.”

We love to talk, to communicate with each other. After all, we are made in the image of God, and God is a God of communication. He loves to talk with us. He loves to communicate His truth to us in His Word, in His creation, in the social orders that he places us. In fact, I am a firm believer in the truth that if you want to speak to God, if you want to find God, He will reveal Himself to you. But you must seek Him as God of your life, and not as god911 to call when you have an emergency. He is not a god you can go shopping for like a good luck charm, or a piece of jewelry you can wear. If you seek to know your creator God, and live your life in Him and for Him, He will communicate with you.

Communication is important to us. Lydia and I just spent a week with over 3000 people in a small environment. All we did was talk; make new friends; meet people from different countries, different accents. One thing that I saw was common, regardless of what country we were from, is a little verse in James:

“All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” (James 3:7, 8)

Now most of the time our conversation was polite, friendly, and civil. But every so often you would hear an occasional grumble. It might be a waiter we had befriended, complaining about the politics among the wait staff. One time a very pleasant older man made a comment about the town we had docked at, and the condition of the stores and the impoverished people. One time it was about all the children begging for money. One time it was even me grumbling about the price of taxi rides. Other times it was a comment about an older man with a much, much younger woman. Our tongues are great for communicating, but sometimes that communication can be negative.

This has been a year of not saying can’t, of seeking God’s Will, of learning all the great things we have through the Cross of Christ, of purposely seeking to be peacemakers, of getting close enough to our neighbors so that we can open our hearts to their needs, so that we can begin to be the physical representative of Jesus Christ.

The next few weeks are our holiday time, a time of giving thanks, a time of reflecting upon the incarnation of God in human flesh, the Baby Jesus, the Savior of the World. As we look forward to the New Year, 2011, God has challenged me to see 2011 as the year of DOING! I am convinced God has some great things in mind for this body to do, to reach for, and to accomplish. As He challenges me, and as I in obedience challenge you, the real test will come in our communication with each other and to our neighbors around us. What are we going to communicate?

What are we as Pleasant Prairie Baptist Church going to be saying to the world around us?

Rev 3:19-20  Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.  Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

Jesus has a huge investment in our church. He stands at the door of our church, knocking, and one of two things can happen. We open the door, let Him in, and through our communication with Him and with each other we feast, we fellowship, we grow, we see our body increase and grow stronger. Or something else happens; our communication turns negative, as James mentions:

Jas 5:9  Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.

James is saying that when we start to grumble against each other, instead of Jesus coming in for fellowship, he comes in as our judge!

Now which Jesus do you want coming into our church?

This grumbling can be out-and-out grumbling, but it can also be more subtle, like a sigh, or a groan.

When you were in school it could be the sound all the students make when the teacher says Pop Quiz. Or the coach saying “ten laps” or the Pastor saying …well, anything.

It also pictures a person who is fretful or impatient. I don’t have to complain with words to my wife when we are shopping. All I have to do is fold my arms, tap my foot, look at my watch, or wander off. My impatience is grumbling! Wives, you don’t have to verbally complain about your husband, all you have to do is sigh, roll your eyes, slam the plate down.

If your toes are starting to hurt, don’t think I’m picking on anyone. In fact, it’s time for me to come out of the closet! I am a closet grumbler! Anyone else want to admit it?

When it comes to grumbling, 99% of us are guilty. It is almost American to grumble about something. It can be the weather, it can be taxes, it can be politics, it can be the preacher, it can be this or that. Face it, we grumble. All I want us to see is how devastating it can be to the faith-life of a church. Because the minute a spirit of grumbling enters a church, that church has taken its eyes off Jesus Christ!

So, in light of Thanksgiving, and in light of Doing in 2011, my word to each of you this morning is to:

  • Stop your moaning.
  • Cease from Groaning.
  • Zip your griping.
  • Lose your beef
  • Throw out your carp.
  • Kill the grouse
  • 86 the complaining.

But most of all:

Quit Your Bellyaching!

The last sign I want to see over the door of PPBC is: “Not much happens in a small church, but what you hear makes up for it.”

I heard David Ring preach back in 1985. David Ring has Cerebral Palsy. He jerks his head and arms, has difficulty walking, talks with a jerky stutter. He is the last preacher you would want to listen to. But when he preached that morning, my heart was touched.

You think your life is tough? You think you have a reason to complain? How would you like to depend upon someone else to go the the bathroom? How would you like to depend on someone else to get out of bed in the morning? How would you like to take ten minutes to order a Big Mac?

He said over and over QUIT YOUR BELLYACHING!

I like to use bellyaching instead of grumbling, because the root of most complaining is pride, and the Bible uses the belly as a picture of pride:

Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Php 3:17-21)

Satan rebelled from God because of his own pride. He appealed to Adam and Eve on the basis of their pride. “Isn’t that fruit beautiful? God doesn’t want you to eat it because He wants to keep you ignorant. You have a right to eat it. You have a right to know as much as God.”

So God said, “You think pride is such a good thing? Well, I’ll show you-since your belly is your god, try crawling on it the rest of eternity!”

So the next time you start bellyaching, just ask yourself: Is my belly my god? Is my pride my god?

  • “I paid a lot for this cruise; I shouldn’t have to put up with this.”
  • “I am an excellent waiter; they have no right to treat me like this.”
  • “That person shouldn’t do that, I know better how they should act.”
  • “I know how best to run this or that…”

Here is Life Advice from God’s Word:

Heb 13:5-6  Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you. So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

Bellyaching closes our eyes to God and His presence, God and His power!

God wants us to see Him in every situation we face. He wants us to depend upon Him in every circumstance, every hardship, every difficulty. Even when you want to bellyache about someone else in the church or at work, God wants you to look to Him. Jesus is entering the door of your heart and saying, “quit your bellyaching!” You are making your belly your God, and not me! Your contentment in not in me! You are minding earthly things! Stop it, because you are a citizen of heaven! He wants you to say the Lord is my helper! The Lord is in control! Don’t you believe that I AM your helper, I AM with you!

Remember when you were little, mom would say quit your crying or I’ll give you something to cry about! James is saying the exact same thing!

  • Quit Your Bellyaching! Or the judge will enter your life and give you a real bellyache!

If you are a closet bellyacher, this is hard to do!

Every day we are bombarded with situations, with news, with difficulties that just seem to bring out the bellyaching. Once a few people start, it just starts gathering more people, and soon it is an unstoppable boulder of bellyachers rolling down the hill.

One day there was a loud commotion coming from a children’s Sunday School room. Several adults hurried to the room to see what was going on. The door opened and a second grade boy came out saying: “We’re being bad, and we don’t know how to stop.”

Sometimes we adults don’t know how to stop either. We go on doing things the way we’ve always done them. We go on being critical of every new thing that comes our way. We go on running down our spouse or our church with our tongue and bellyaching without it even occurring to us that it takes a foul bird to (crap in) besmirch its own nest.

Isaiah paints a beautiful picture of heaven in Isaiah 65:

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain or bear children for calamity, for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the LORD, and their descendants with them. Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.(Isa 65:17-24)

In Heaven there is no remembrance of the past. The past destroys the beauty of God!

Paul knew that looking forward is the best way to stop bellyaching:

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

Memory does become a blindfold that keeps us groping in the darkness. Isaiah, by pointing the people to what God is going to do was the only way to get the people to open up the power of God and to stop them from bellyaching.

When we keep focusing on the past, or the things we don’t like about the present, we will never stop bellyaching. We’ll be like those second graders, “We’re being bad and we don’t know how to stop.”

What has the power to stop our bellyaching and get us to focus on God’s presence His power, and His future for us?

How do we stop our bellyaching?

We allow the Gospel of Christ into our daily lives. Not just on Sunday, but everyday!

When someone does something you think is wrong, remember, Jesus Christ loved that person enough to die for them. Whenever you are inconvenienced a bit, or have to sacrifice your precious time, remember what Jesus experienced for you. Remember what He sacrificed for you! Is it too hot? Jesus felt hell for you! Is it too cold? Jesus experienced the cold rejection of God for you. Is it too rainy? Jesus cried eternal tears for your salvation. No money to go out to eat-Jesus fasted 40 days for you. Complaining about a sickness or disease-Jesus became cursed and sin-sick for you. Down in your back? Jesus gave his back to the Cross. Your blood pressure a bit high? Jesus sweat drops of blood for you!

The Gospel of Jesus means that there is nothing to bellyache about! We have so much, we should be rejoicing all the time!

Hebrews 10 paints another picture of a True follower of Jesus:

For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. (Heb 10:36-39)

  • Bellyaching is the enemy of endurance.
  • Bellyachers shrink back and are destroyed.
  • Bellyachers lack faith
  • Bellyaching  is a sign of a weak soul.

Let’s read on and see how this works

And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets– who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated– of whom the world was not worthy–wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. (Heb 11:32-40)

Imagine if you will what would have happened to this great cloud of witnesses if they had been bellyachers…

  • Abraham…Come on Sarah, this desert is too harsh. These tents leak, it smells like wet goat after every rain. Let’s go back to Ur where we had a really nice home.
  • Joseph…you really made me suffer God. I had to eat rats in prison. No matter what good I did I got in trouble. I’m going to start worshipping one of these Egyptian gods. And by the way, brothers, you are going to prison for a very long time, so you will know exactly what I went through.
  • Moses…You want me to do what? God back to Egypt? No way God. You left me out here with these stupid stinking sheep for 40 years. That was no way to treat someone like me. I’m going to stay here enjoying my simple uncomplicated life. Those jews rejected me once, so they can just stay in Egypt and rot!
  • Joshua…fought a battle with trumpets
  • Gideon…faced a mighty army with 300 soldiers
  • Samson…eyes were put out
  • Barak…served under Deborah
  • Ezekiel…. laid on his left side for 390 days. Then his right side for 40

4 “Then lie on your left side, and place the punishment of the house of Israel upon it. For the number of the days that you lie on it, you shall bear their punishment. 5 For I assign to you a number of days, 390 days, equal to the number of the years of their punishment. So long shall you bear the punishment of the house of Israel. 6 And when you have completed these, you shall lie down a second time, but on your right side, and bear the punishment of the house of Judah. Forty days I assign you, a day for each year. 7 And you shall set your face toward the siege of Jerusalem, with your arm bared, and you shall prophesy against the city. 8 And behold, I will place cords upon you, so that you cannot turn from one side to the other, till you have completed the days of your siege. Ezekiel 4:4-8

  • John the Baptist…imprisoned

Everyone of the great men of the Bible had ample reasons to bellyache. Nothing we have gone through even compares with what they experienced. Instead of focusing on what they had, what their circumstances were, what had happened in the past…They looked forward to the PROMISES of GOD!

Thanksgiving should not be a time at just looking at the past…Thanksgiving should be a time of looking to the future!

Today these mighty witnesses are assembled over our church, cheering us on. They are saying quit your bellyaching! God is so powerful, so amazing! Trust in Him. Open your eyes to Him!

Remember the servant of Elisha? He had to have his eyes opened to see the forces of God! We should ask the same thing!

13 And he said, “Go and see where he is, that I may send and seize him.” It was told him, “Behold, he is in Dothan.” 14 So he sent there horses and chariots and a great army, and they came by night and surrounded the city. 15 When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” 16 He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 2 Kings 6:13-17

Don’t look at what you don’t have! Don’t look at all the enemies, the hardships, the ‘impossibilities!

Get your eyes off your bellies and Look to Jesus!

Christians live the Gospel by their response to the Cross! If you think being a Christian means you are entitled, you are worshipping a Jesus that you have dreamed up. You might as well dress your Jesus up in a Santa Claus suit, because that is what He is to you. But that is not the Jesus Christ who walked this earth. That is not the Jesus Christ who one day will return as judge and King!

Your must make a choice-love your own life, or love Jesus Christ. Shrink from the cross, or carry your cross.

They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Revelation 12:11

John Paton is not a well-known name in church history. He pastored a growing church in Scotland for 10 years in the 1800’s. God burdened his heart for New Hebrides, a group of islands in the Pacific. The natives were cannibals and had no gospel witness.

20 years earlier two missionaries had gone to the island and were promptly killed and eaten by the natives. Paton wrote that among the many who tried to talk him out of going was an elderly Christian who always ended his arguments with “The cannibals! You will be eaten by Cannibals!’

John Patton replied; “Sir, you are advanced in age and you own prospect is to lie in a grave and be eaten by worms. I confess to you, that if I can live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by Cannibals or by worms. In the great resurrection day my body will arise just as fair as yours in the likeness of our Redeemer!”

At the age of 33 (1858) John Paton travelled to the New Hebrides with his wife. The journey was difficult. His wife and new-born son dies within four months of arriving. He was all alone, digging their graves with his bare hands. He faced threat after threat on his life. But in the years to come, countless cannibals across the Hebrides came to know the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior. Churches across Australia, Scotland and the Western world were challenged by his example to send forth more missionaries to people who before that time were considered impossible to reach.

Bellyachers Make Excuses and Miss God’s Power!

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted and start bellyaching! (Heb 12:1-3)

Are you a Christian? Do you know Jesus Christ? Have you been born again? Does Jesus rule your life or is he just your good luck charm?

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

  • There is no dead weight in God’s Kingdom.
  • Service is not an option.
  • A true christian realizes it costs something to follow Jesus
  • A true Christian realizes there is no room for bellyachers

The Hard is What Makes It Good

A League of Their Own, starring Tom Hanks and Geena Davis. Near the end of the film, the team coached by Tom Hanks is about play in the Girls’ Baseball World Series during World War II. Geena Davis, the star catcher, has decided to go home because her husband has returned from the war. Hanks confronts her by reminding her of how much she loves the game. “I don’t love it,” she says, “Not like you.” “Oh yes you do,” Hanks replies. “It’s in your blood.” “I can’t do it,” she says. “It’s too hard.”

At that moment Tom Hanks turns slightly, grabs his face, grimaces, and then says, “You’re right. It is hard. It’s supposed to be hard. The hard is what makes it good.” With that he joins the rest of the team on the bus while Geena Davis leaves with her husband. Later she returns in time for the seventh and deciding game of the series.

“It’s supposed to be hard. The hard is what makes it good.”

That’s not just true about baseball. That’s the truth about the Christian life.

It is hard. It’s supposed to be hard. The hard is what makes it good. And it will get rough. It always does. There will be hard days, bad days, sad days, discouraging days, confusing days, angry days, frustrating days, boring days, upsetting days, discombobulating days, and then there will be some really bad days.

The hard is what makes it good. Stop your complaining. Stop your bellyaching. Stop your moaning. Don’t be afraid of the Cross of Christ! Carry it with you, relish in the splinters, cherish the weight, the time will come when there will be no more memories of the troubles of the past! Only the JOY of His presence!


Most people are on guard when they spend private face time with their Pastor. Especially if you are a bit older and have been in church a few years. You may have known a pastor who used your or a friends situation as a sermon illustration. You may have experienced the judgmental statements of a pastor. So we normally treat a visit with the pastor as an interrogation at the local police precinct. We watch what we say and what we do. We make sure everything is put up, nothing lying around that shouldn’t be.

Personally I would rather visit people when they are lying on a gurney waiting to be operated on. They tend to be more honest. You can tell if they are anxious. Transparent honesty is such a rare thing anymore. We wonder about our politicians, our church leaders, our teachers. We grow up learning to question people in authority, exactly because we have seen so much dishonesty

I know some of you question the truth of God’s will. To most everyone under the age of 35, the subject of God’s Will is strange, foreign, and for the most part irrelevant. They believe that life (shit as the saying goes) happens. God rarely has anything to do with it.

Let me assure you, whatever your concept about the importance of the will of God, what you think is not truth. We are easily deceived into believing any old lie the world or the devil wants us to believe. What matters is the Word of God!

This Word is Life, not just for after you are dead, but it is Life NOW! It is health, it is forgiveness, it is peace, it is hope, it is safety, it is security, it is the most powerful force this world has ever know. I can say this because this word says that Jesus Christ is the Word. No other person in the Universe ever lived a sinless life, ever faced Satan one on one and defeated Him, ever stared death in its face and defeated it! If you fail to give your life totally to Jesus Christ, you are robbing yourself of real Life. You are robbing yourself of the very presence of God! You are robbing yourself of ever being a part in the will of God. You may think you know God, but you are believing a lie. Your mind is dark, you are confused and stumbling over the falsehoods of your mind. One day instead of waking to an eternal life of joy in the presence of God, you will wake in the agonies of Hell, screaming in torment for all eternity, ever sorrowful because you knew the truth but you rejected it. There will be no second chance.

WHAT IS GOD’S WILL FOR ME?

We are looking at what the will of God for me is. And number one, the will of God for you is to know Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. He doesn’t want part of you, even three quarters of you. He doesn’t want to be just one of your beliefs, and share space with Hinduism, Buddhism, humanism, or even you ism. He must be your GOD! Anything less and your mind is fooling you. You are lost in a lie. You will never know God’s Will. This is because you put your will first.

So what is the will of God for me and for you? It is to Put Him First! It is to Trust completely and confidently in Him.

Now I know you are thinking how much easier it would be if you could sit down at Applebee’s and have a nice long lunch with Jesus. I assure you that the football playoffs would not be the topic of conversation. Who is going to win the Super bowl would be the farthest thing from your mind. You would want to know what He thinks of your life, if you are going in the right direction. You would want clarity on His will for your life. You would want to know what you should be doing for Him.

If life was only that simple. So many decisions we must make. We make decisions and then our decisions make us.

  • Should I go to college? Which one? What should I major in?
  • Should I get married? Which one?
  • I can’t stand my job. Should I look for another, or should I just quit and hope something pops up?
  • A friend of mine wants me to share a place with him. Should I? Should I live at home?
  • I’m getting ready to retire? Can I afford to? Where should we live?
  • We have two children. We’re thinking about having a third. Should we have another one? Or should we think about adopting?
  • I feel like God is wanting me to go into the ministry. What does He want me to do? Missions, Youth, Pastor?

Here is how I taught my six children the importance of knowing God’s Will. I told each of my children that in order for them to get married, they had to go to college. I also did not want them to go to state colleges. I also wanted them to live on campus.

No state college because I wanted them to apply to colleges that were a bit more difficult to get into, so it made them work harder on their grades. Live in the dorms because I wanted them to grow up faster, face decisions on their own, what types of friends were best for them, how to manage money, how to do laundry, all the things they need to learn to live on their own.

So our children moved away, Pepperdine in Malibu, University of Denver, Emory in Atlanta, Mid America Nazarene,  Rockhurst, Texas Christian University.

It would have been much easier if I had just told them to go to KU, or if God had just sent a chorus of angels singing Pepperdine, Pepperdine! Instead I went with them to the College Fairs and we tried to see which colleges fit what their plans were. They had to apply and then wait to hear if they were accepted. They had to seek God in their decision. We prayed abouth where they were going to go. We also studied the colleges based upon they wanted to do with their life. They had to ask tough questions. That’s what it takes to have our eyes open to God and His Will.

I wanted my kids to learn something about KNOWING direction in life. I wanted them to learn Four simple things about discovering direction and God’s Will.

1) Honoring Parent’s is Really Important

What your parents desire is one of the greatest indicators of what God’s will is. If you are rebellious toward your parents, you are rebellious toward God. Anything you do in that state, no matter how righteous or well-intentioned, will be without God’s direction.

2) Make Decisions That Require The Lord

Jesus said to walk the narrow path. God always wants us to be in places where we must rely on Him. We are not made to live on easy-street. So put yourselves in places where you MUST rely on God for direction.

3) Finish What You Start

(The two youngest both started at one college and then after the first year transferred. That’s OK, because they still graduated. Four of my kids earned advanced degrees. They learned to finish what they started. I did not accept quitting, or delaying, or figuring out what they wanted to do.)

4) Life Has No Entitlements-No Guarantees

They are the key to becoming anything in this life.  There is no guarantee they will get a job, that Dad will always provide for them when they goof up, that there will be an automatic income, automatic retirement. They are the key to what life gives them. They need to have goals, ambitions, desires for the future. They can’t just sit around and hope the government will provide for them, or their parents, or a rich uncle. They need to look to themselves. Life is about becoming Men and Women of Character. It is by our Character that we accomplish anything in life.

NO MOANING OR GROANING ALLOWED

Sometimes moaning and groaning about not knowing God’s will is just an excuse for laziness, or selfishness, or stubbornness. God has probably been shouting at you through the authorities in your life but you don’t like what they are saying, so you are holding out for a better option.

God doesn’t operate that way. He doesn’t tolerate continual laziness, he doesn’t tolerate selfishness. And he certainly doesn’t tolerate disobedience. God will never drag you or browbeat you into obeying Him. If you chose to do what you want to do, so be it. You will have your chance to explain yourself at either of two judgments- the Great White Throne or the bema seat.

Did my kids make mistakes? Of course they did. I made mistakes when I was in college. I was even kicked out of Bible College. Would we have made those mistakes if we had gone to the college that God wanted us to go to? IT DOESN’T MATTER! THERE ARE NO DO-OVERS, ONLY DO-LEARN!

One More Thing:  Why because of a few failures would I think God had intended me to go to a different college? (or get married to someone else, or work somewhere else or _________?) How do I know that God wanted me to go to a different college? I don’t. I know that at the time I went to the college I thought would be according to His will. Was I 100% sure? NO! I had been accepted at another that would have offered a better education, more freedom. But I believed God wanted me to go to that college. The thing about the college I went to was that God used it to build character in my life because no matter the problem, I responded with humility and a willingness to learn from my mistakes.

We are such quitters in America! As soon as we experience problems we think we made a mistake. It can be our job, our marriage, the college we go to. I looked at going to another college after I was kicked out, but I believed God wanted me to finish what I started, and I did. I am so glad I did. God doesn’t like quitters either. He doesn’t like people who run away from their problems or their marriages or whatever is causing them fits at the time. Blessed are all those who ENDURE!

No matter where you go to school, or don’t go to school, or work, or marry, what defines you is not your education, or your spouse or even your job. What defines you is your character. What kind of man or woman am I becoming. That is God’s will for you-to become a man or woman of character. A man of character will always stand in the gate.

Here is what GOD values:

Psalms 11:7 The Lord is Righteous; He loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold His face.

I don’t care what my kids do in this life, as long as what they are doing develops their character and their righteousness. If that happens, I know they will behold the face of God! The same is true of each of us.

God brings this truth to our hearts through His Word to us:

  • Psalms 36:10 Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your righteousness to the upright of heart!
  • Psalms 140:13 “The upright shall dwell in your presence!
  • Prov 2:21 For the upright will inhabit the land, and those with integrity will remain in it!
  • Prov 3:32 The devious person is an abomination to the Lord, but the upright are in His confidence!
  • Prov 11:3 The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them
  • Eccl 7:29 “I have discovered that God created people to be upright (or virtuous) but they have each turned to follow their own downward path.” NLT (ESV -made people upright, but they pursued many schemes.)

From these verses we discover the first truth of Knowing God’s Specific Will for Your Life:

TRUTH #1.  GOD’s Will for You is to be UPRIGHT!

If this is God’s Will for you, whatever you do will always work toward that end. No matter what happens in your life, you will be given the opportunity to walk uprightly before God. The way you respond to the events, the snubs, the hurts, the heartbreaks, your stupidity, your foolishness, your transgressions, will determine the state of your heart. Everything that happens in your life, good, bad, ugly, beautiful, is either a stepping stone toward an upright heart, or a stumbling block that will keep you from God’s presence and power in your life.

God doesn’t care how you appear to the world. You may think it is all about your profession, your house, your property, your car, but NO God prizes those of Upright Heart. All that stuff will be burnt up. God’s eyes run throughout the entire earth, looking for those whose heart is upright toward Him.

You are never as Upright before God as when your are before Him in humility and prayer. Being Upright does not refer to your physical stature but the condition of your heart!

WHAT ABOUT OUR FAILURES?

Will you make mistakes? Yes! Were they God’s Will? Maybe, maybe not. But as long as you allow God to teach your heart, God will work His will in your life.

God uses earthen vessels, and yes, cracked and broken vessels, so that the Excellency of the Power might be of Him and not us!

So God  uses our mistakes, even our failings to conform us to the uprightness of His Son. Now there is a caution as to the patience of God. If you keep making the same mistakes, watch out! Stubbornness will keep you from God’s Will.

Remember what happened to the Hebrews wandering in the wilderness!

FOUR MORE VERSES TO CONSIDER…

When you read the Proverbs you immediately notice a strong emphasis on the sovereignty of God over our personal decisions. Let’s look at four verses that help us see how God works in, with, through, and sometimes in spite of our decisions to accomplish His will in us.

Proverbs 16:9-“In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” (HCSB)

The word used for determines is “kun, pronounced koon”. It is has a much stronger meaning than the way the KJV translates. The KJV uses “directs” which gives us the idea that God directs our steps along a path, but where we step is up to us.

The word kun is much stronger than that. It speaks of God’s control of every detail of the universe. It pictures the action of setting in place or erecting an object.

God determines and establishes your steps.

You can make your plans, you can have your life mapped out step by step, but in the end, God determines every step you take. You can only tack so far. Pretty soon you have to go with the wind.

Proverbs 16:33-“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.” ESV

Casting lots was used in the Old Testament to determine God’s will. God even prescribed ‘casting lots’ to determine which tribe got which parcel of land when they had conquered Canaan. We believe it involved different colored balls or rocks, mixing them together, and then seeing which one fell out of the bag first. In that sense casting lots is like rolling dice. It appears to be a random act of chance. But God is behind those colored stones. He determines which one falls out of the bag first. This means that there are no “accidents” in life, no “random” events, and no such thing as “luck.” Even seemingly meaningless things fit into his plan.

To paraphrase Forest Gump, ’Life is like a roll of the dice, but God is in charge of how the numbers come up.”

Proverbs 19:21-“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”

“You can make all the plans you like, but God gets the last word.” His purpose always prevails. Some translations say that God’s purpose shall stand. Most of our plans don’t stand. They are like the leaves that blow away in the autumn wind. But when God determines to do something, He will do it! There is no if ands or buts about it. Abraham knew that God was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Why else would he keep lowering the number of righteous. God saw Abraham’s heart, and so He rescued Lot, but His purpose prevailed.

You can make all the 5 and 10 year plans you want, but just remember this. God always gets the last word. Better learn to be flexible. O, and another bit of advice, never tell God NO.

Proverbs 20:24-“A man’s steps are directed by the LORD. How then can anyone understand his own way?”

What this verse is really communicating can only be understood by understanding the Hebrew words. The word translated “man’s” comes from the Hebrew word gibbor, which refers to a mighty warrior, or a great leader. Solomon is saying that even the steps of a mighty man are directed by God. The word “anyone” in the second phrase comes from the Hebrew word “adam”, which is the generic word for man. The meaning is, “If God directs the steps of mighty men, how then can an ordinary man understand his own way?” The answer is, he can’t!

That’s the whole point of the verse. We’re like a man stumbling around in the darkness, bumping into things, tripping over ourselves, trying to find our way forward. We can’t say for sure where we’ve come from, where we are right now, or where we’re going to be tomorrow.

Only God sees the big picture of life.

So these four verses lead us to the next rule of knowing God’s Will for your life:

TRUTH #2: GOD IS GOD AND YOU’RE NOT!

Understand this and you’ll be OK. Forget this and you will keep lapping Mt Sinai.

When we forget that rule, we think that we’re in control of our own life and that everything depends on us. So we obsess, we hyperventilate, we try to control everything and everyone around us, we worry over all our decisions, and we spend hours fussing over the minutiae of life.

What a relief to realize that God is God and you’re not. Now you can rip that big “G” off your sweatshirt. You don’t have to play God anymore and you don’t have to try to control everything around you. You can sleep well when you realize that God is God and you are not.

Corrie Ten Boom was having trouble going to sleep one night because she was so worried about the affairs of her life. She tried praying but it didn’t help. Finally, the Lord said to her,

“Go to sleep, Corrie. I’m going to be up all night anyway.”

But I know there are some of you who would confess you need help. You are saying “Pastor Jim, I’m still needing some guidance about God’s Specific Will for my life. Can you give me any help?”

SHOULD I MARRY LYDIA?

When I was asking God if I should ask Lydia to marry me, I said, “God, give me a sign from your Word”. I prayed, and then I dropped my Bible on the desk so it would open to an arbitrary page. I looked down and the first verse my eyes came upon was Acts 16:14. Sure enough, there was her name Lydia. I thought, boy, you are good God.

“One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira (I thought, boy God you are really good, because she had a Chihuahua named Tyra.) a seller of purple goods (her favorite color was purple), who was a worshiper of God. Amen God, she must be the one. But then my heart sunk as I read the rest of the verse. “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul!Oh No! She’s going to marry some Paul guy!

Just kidding. I made this up to demonstrate this: If you wait for circumstances to tell you what to do, you open yourself up to being deceived. Satan can appear as an angel of light. Satan can even arrange circumstances to get you to do what He wants.

There was a woman coming to our church in Edgerton. She seemed very spiritual, very enthusiastic about God. I visited with her and was asking about her salvation experience. She shared with me that she had grown up going to church (not Baptist) but had fallen away through the years. Just a few months prior she was lying in bed when a bright light filled the room and she saw a miniature Jesus standing on her bed by her feet. She felt a warmth come over her and she knew from that vision that she was saved. I thought it was a very interesting story, and she seemed to know all the right answers as we talked more. However, as time went on she stopped coming to church, (she got upset about some piddly thing someone had said about her friend) and we still remained friends, but she fell back into her lackadaisical attitude toward God. Was she saved? All I know is that if she was depending upon that vision to save her, she could be very disappointed come judgment day. We are saved by Faith in the Word of God.

This leads me to some practical principles for knowing the Will of God for your Life. Never depend upon circumstances to guide you, never put your hope in a miniature Jesus standing on your bed.

PRINCIPLE #1:USE THE LIGHT, WISDOM AND INTELLIGENCE THAT GOD HAS GIVEN YOU TO MAKE WISE DECISIONS.

Sometimes people talk as if you shouldn’t use your brain at all but should wait for some mystical sign from God. I know the Bible says, “lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5), but that doesn’t mean to throw your brain away either. It simply means submitting your will and your mind to God and what He wants to do. But you will still have to study the different colleges, etc, do legwork, use your experiences and the wisdom He builds into your life. God will use all of that to show you what to do.

Peter was miraculously rescued from prison hours before he was to be beheaded. Acts says an angel opened his cell, made the chains fall off of him, walked him right past the first and second sentry checkpoints, out the huge iron gate and finally out into the street. But then the Bible says “immediately the angel left him.” The angel didn’t even tell Peter where to go after that. In fact, Peter wondered if it was all a dream. What did he do next? Did he kneel down and say God, what do you want me to do? No, he used the good sense God had already given him and got out of their quick!

I have a friend that told me he was out to dinner with one of these “serious Christians” and when it came time for desert, this “serious Christian” had prayer to ask God what they should get. Do you really want to go before the throne of God for something so insignificant?

If you need to make a major decision, don’t wait for the angels to knock on your door. Use your head, study the situation, gather the facts, talk to your friends, seek godly counsel, and then submit it all to the Lord. Get yourself in a place where you wait for Him, with no personal pressure about what you secretly want.

I know from experience that often we give it to God, but we secretly have a desire to do so and so. So we wait just a bit, and when He doesn’t give us any clear direction, we do what we want to anyway. He knows your heart-and will let you do it anyway.

that’s what happened to the Hebrews in the wilderness. They said they would follow God, but they secretly wanted their old fleshly Egyptian lives. Psalm 106:15 “God gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul” Sometime we get what we want, but God sends leanness to our soul, hoping we realize we don’t need that fast sports car or huge house or Rolex watch. (Believe me, I know of what I speak.)

PRINCIPLE #2: SINCE YOU CAN’T SEE THE FUTURE, DON’T EXPECT 100% CERTAINTY.

I understand that if you are facing a life-changing decision–a potential marriage, a cross-country move, a new career, which college to attend, whether or not to begin chemotherapy–you want to without a shadow of doubt that you are doing what God wants you to do.

But  too often that leaves us paralyzed by an inability to make a decision. My youngest son would always take the longest time to decide what to order at a restaurant. We are not talking about, ‘come back in a couple of minutes’. We’re talking the rest of us are finished eating before he is ready to order. I’m happy to report that with our prayers and working with him, he is much better at making decisions. He can order with the rest of us.

I understand if you have trouble deciding what to do.  Some decisions are so important they can’t be left to chance, or be made in a moment. Some of us have the personal philosophy:

“When in doubt, don’t.” If you aren’t sure about the new job, don’t take it, don’t make the move, don’t say yes, don’t make any decision with less than total certainty.

But is that good advice? Is that the way God works?

LOOK AT THE HEROES OF OUR FAITH

  • Did Noah know all about the flood? No, but he built the ark anyway.
  • Did Moses understand what it meant to lead God’s people out of Egypt? No, but he said yes when the Lord called him.
  • Did Abraham have a road map? No, but he left Ur of the Chaldees anyway.
  • Did Joshua know how the walls were going to come tumbling down? No, but he marched around Jericho anyway.
  • Did Gideon fully grasp God’s plan to defeat the Midianites? No, he doubted it from the beginning, but God delivered his people anyway.
  • Did young David have a clue of what was to come when Samuel said to Jesse, “This is the one”? No, but the Spirit of the Lord came upon him anyway.
  • Did Jehoshaphat know how God was going to defeat the Ammonites? No, but he put the singers at the front of the army and sent them out to battle anyway.
  • Did the three Hebrew children know how they would be delivered?
  • Was Daniel totally sure the lions would welcome him dropping in on them?
  • Did Peter know he could walk on water?
  • Did Paul know what would happen when he finally got to Rome?

We could add a hundred other examples from the Bible!

NONE OF THESE GREAT HEROES OF THE FAITH KNEW THE OUTCOME! THERE WAS AN ELEMENT OF DOUBT, BUT THEY DID IT ANYWAY!

The life of faith means living with uncertainty even in the midst of doing God’s will.

That’s the whole point of Hebrews 11. Those great men and women didn’t know the future, but they trusted God anyway, sometimes in the face of great personal suffering. And because they kept on believing when circumstances turned against them, they received a great reward.

Too many people want what God has never promised–100% certainty before they will act. So they wait and dilly-dally and they stop and start and hesitate and ruminate. They might as well be transformed into a stupid cow or sheep. They refuse to go forward because they are waiting for 100% certainty. That’ why I believe that it is rarely God’s will to give you 100% certainty. That will leave faith out of your life every time.

PRINCIPLE #3: GOD WANTS GUIDABLE PEOPLE WHO WILL TRUST HIM (EVEN WITH THE DETAILS).

Are you GUIDABLE? I didn’t say GULLIBLE. I said G*U*I*D*A*B*L*E.

Guidable People are also teachable. Guidable people look to God and not to themselves. They understand that after they have done all they can, it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

  • Like Young Samuel, they say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant heareth.”
  • Like Isaiah they cry out, “Here am I, Lord, send me.”
  • Like the Lord Jesus they pray, “Not my will but thine be done.”

Guidable people always receive guidance from God! Always. Why? Because God always speaks loud enough for a willing ear to hear. Are you a guidable Christian? Or do you still feel like you have to be in the driver’s seat of life. If you are struggling with this, let me suggest these two simple prayers:

  • “Lord, let your will be done even if it means that my will is not done.”
  • “Lord, right now I’m not sure I want to do your will. But I am willing to be made willing. Do whatever is necessary to change my heart. Amen.”

PRINCIPLE #4: WHEN THE TIME COMES, MAKE THE BEST DECISION YOU CAN AND LEAVE THE RESULTS WITH GOD.

When the time to decide comes, when you’ve thought about it, prayed about it, talked it over, sought godly counsel, researched your options, looked at the circumstances, searched the Scriptures, and waited on the Lord, when you’ve done everything you know how to do and the moment of truth comes, take a deep breath, close your eyes if you need to, and then just go ahead and make the best decision you can make.

When you’ve done that, there’s one other thing to do-leave the results with God. Remember he’s God and you’re not. His purposes will stand.

I’ve already said that he wants you to know his will more than you want to know it. Knowing God’s will is His desire for your life. If you truly want to know and do God’s will, He will show you.

Jerry Sittser, author and professor at Whitworth College writes: “God has enough trouble getting us to do his will, without making it hard to find.

You are probably thinking, well, he lives in an Ivory Palace, has a comfy professorship. What does he know about finding God’s Will? How much faith does it take to be a college professor? A few years back Jerry was confronted with a horrible tragedy that no man wants to experience. He was in a car accident, and there on the side of the road, one by one, he held his Mom, his wife and his four year old daughter as they died in his arms. Following that tragedy he wrote with honesty and candor about the despair that threatened to overwhelm him-but amazingly never did. He survived because he believed in the ancient Christian doctrine of grace. He believed in grace because he lived it. And he named the book he wrote, “A Grace Disguised.”

He writes, “. . . Though I experienced death, I also experienced life in ways that I never thought possible before—not after the darkness, as we might suppose, but in the darkness. I did not go through the pain and come out the other side; instead, I lived in it and found within that pain the grace to survive and eventually grow. I did not get over the loss of my loved ones; rather I absorbed the loss into my life, like soil receives decaying matter, until it became a part of who I am. Sorrow took up permanent residence in my soul and enlarged it.”

If you are willing to be guided by God, you will discover that he will lead you step by step by step. Even through tragedies. His Grace is truly amazing. It not only carries you to the cross and into the loving arms of your Savior, but it carries you every step of your life. All that is required is the same thing that led you to ask Jesus into your heart.

VALLEY OF DECISION

To know the specific will of God for your Life requires you to go to the Valley of Decision.  If you have never gone there now is the time. In this valley you must discover the faith that God wants you to have that is the beginning point of living in the will of God. The beginning point is believing by Faith that there is a Mighty, Eternal God who cares intimately and particularly about you and what happens in your heart and life.

If you can take that step, the battle is over, all that remains is for you to submit your will to His. Every day you pray as Jesus instructed:

May your Kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven!

How is God’s will done in heaven? It is done by the angels!

Psalm 103:20 says, “Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word!”

When you pray for God’s will to be done on earth, you are telling God you want to obey His Word. It means giving up control of your own life. Oftentimes we’re scared that if we give God control of our lives, He’ll mess it up somehow. We wouldn’t say it that way, but that’s how we really feel.

More than once I have heard people say, “Pray for the opposite of what you want, because God always gives us the opposite of what we ask for.” Or they say “don’t tell God what you won’t do, becasue then that is what He will want you to do” We laugh when we read that because it seems so absurd. But many of us secretly wonder if it isn’t true. We’ve all known the frustration of unanswered prayer. Either God calls the shots or you call the shots. Either He is in control or you are in control. It’s not easy to pray like that because it means giving up control of your own life. But you aren’t really in control anyway. It only seems that way.

Bob Pierce is the founder of World Vision and Samaritan’s Purse, Christian relief organizations that helps millions of people around the world. He was probably the most unlikely man to found and lead such large organizations. He didn’t have much education, he butchered the King’s English, and he lacked many social graces. In fact, he called himself a second-rater. When asked the secret of his life, he said that in his early years as a Christian he had prayed like this,

“O God, I give you the right to change my agenda any time you like—and you don’t have to inform me in advance. Amen.”

That’s the kind of prayer God can answer because it’s based on the truth that God is God and He has the absolute right to do whatever He wants. Many of us are unhappy because we’re fighting God at the point of His sovereignty. We’ve never surrendered our agenda to His control. When You Pray “Your will be done” you are trusting God to do what’s Best for You!

Many of us have gone through periods when we doubted that God wanted the best for us. Perhaps you are doubting even as I speak.

GOD HAS PROVEN HE WANTS WHAT IS BEST FOR YOU

God has SHOWED each one of us that He wants what is best for us. He showed us how serious he was when he sacrificed His only Son on the Cross. He showed us how Powerful He is when He raised Him from the Dead. He assures us that that same power can be ours. Power to conquer, power to overcome, power for joy, power for forgiveness, power to become like Jesus Christ.

Do you want that power? You knew what you had to do to receive Jesus as your savior-you had to humble yourself, admit you were a sinner, worthy of death, but rescued from sin, death and satan by the death and resurrection of God’s only begotten son, Jesus Christ.

If you can pray “Jesus, forgive me of my sins, please be my one and only Lord and Savior”, how hard is it to humble yourself again and say “Father, not my will but thy will be done?” Or did you simply ask Jesus into your heart to benefit your supposed eternal life? If you were motivated by selfish concerns and not by the fear of Eternal God, perhaps that is why you are unwilling to seek HIS WILL for your life! Perhaps you should check your heart condition!

WE MUST BE WILLING TO LET GO OF THE CUP

Jesus asked if the cup could be removed, but He never asked not to do the will of His Father. Quite the contrary, Jesus was quite open about ONLY doing His Father’s will. But the fact that He asked if the cup could be removed meant that it might have been possible to do His Father’s Will without the cup. However, God said, “No, you must drink of the cup of My Wrath!”

There is an amzing revelation about the Will of God in these verses. In order to do the Will of God we must be willing to let go our our ‘CUP’. So many times I have heard people say, “I want to do God’s Will as long as it means doing this, or having this, or not moving there.” We always seem to have conditions that we want to hold on to if we consider doing ANYTHING for the Lord.

God will show you, as He has me, that doing the Will of God means being willing to let go of whatever ‘CUP’ we are holding onto. In fact, God will often knock the cup over and even break it in order to get us to let go.

What are you struggling with right now? What are you holding on to so tightly that it almost makes your hands hurt? What is it that you are afraid to give to God? Whatever it is, you’ll be a lot happier when you finally say, “Your will be done” and open your clenched fist. But you’ll never know until you let go.

C. S. Lewis said there are two kinds of people in the world, and only two kinds: those who say to God, “Your will be done” and those to whom God says in the end, “Your will be done.” Which kind are you?

A Simple Prayer

Here’s a simple prayer that may help you loosen your grip on the things with which you are struggling:

O Lord, Your will be done–
nothing more,
nothing less,
nothing else.
Amen.

As always, if you pray that prayer you will be called upon by God to be part of the answer. When we pray, “Your will be done,” God will hold us to our word. The path will be straight if we let Him direct us, or the path will be filled with potholes and dead man’s curves if we stubbornly refuse His direction.

Your will be done …

  • in my life
  • in my family
  • in my finances
  • in my career
  • in my children
  • in my dreams for the future
  • in my words
  • in my friendships
  • in my world.

Are you brave enough to pray that God’s Will be done in your life? Are you brave enough to seek to know His will? Are you brave enough to stand in His presence! If you walk in His Son, Jesus Christ, you will never fear!


We must realize that the global economic and credit crisis is beyond any “fix” that our government can devise. The words of Jeremiah come to mind:

“For this is the day of the Lord of Hosts, a day of vengeance, that He may avenge Himself on His adversaries” (Jer 46:10).

“In vain you will use many medicines; you shall not be cured. The nations have heard of your shame, and your cry has filled the land; for the mighty man has stumbled against the mighty; they have both fallen together.” (Jer 46:11-12)

“I shall send him wine workers who will tip him over and empty his vessels and break the bottles” (Jer 48:12)

“Joy and gladness are taken from the plentiful field and from the land of Moab; I have caused wine to fail from the wine presses; No one will tread with joyous shouting-not joyous shouting!” (Jer 48:33)

“Your fierceness has deceived you, the pride of your heart, O you who dwell in the clefts of the rock, who hold the height of the hill! Though you make your nest as high as the eagle, I will bring you down from there” says the Lord. (Jer 49:16)

We must fall on our faces before Almighty God, for the wisdom of our leaders will not be  enough to solve the crisis that is facing the United States financial system. We are running out of options. It is time for us to Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong”. 1 Corinthians 16:13