Posts Tagged ‘wilderness wanderings’


What you BELIEVE truly matters:

A little girl was talking to her teacher about whales. The teacher said it was physically impossible for a whale to swallow a human because even though they were a very large mammal their throat was very small. The little girl stated Jonah was swallowed by a whale. The teacher reiterated a whale could not swallow a human; it was impossible. The little girl said, “When I get to heaven I will ask Jonah.” The teacher asked, “What if Jonah went to hell?” The little girl replied, “Then you ask him.”

An atheist buys an ancient lamp at an auction, takes it home, and begins to polish it. Suddenly, a genie appears, and says, “I’ll grant you three wishes, Master.” The atheist says, “I wish I could believe in you.” The genie snaps his fingers, and suddenly the atheist believes in him. The atheist says, “Wow. I wish all atheists would believe this.” The genie snaps his fingers again, and suddenly atheists all over the world begin to believe in genies. “What about your third wish?” asks the genie? “Well,” says the atheist, “I wish for a billion dollars.” The genie snaps his fingers for a third time, but nothing happens. “What’s wrong?” asks the atheist. The genie shrugs and says, “Just because you believe in me, doesn’t necessarily mean that I really exist.”

Today we will look at one of the greatest verses in the Bible. These Verses hold the Secret of Having a Christian walk that just staggers around or keeps Climbing Upward!

Romans 4:19-22 (KJV) And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.

Beneath the Text:

  • weak (asthenéō) = “without strength, powerless, sick”. Also “to doubt, hesitate, vacillate, as meaning weak or double-minded”. CWSD
  • considered not = “paid no attention to the physical obstacles”
  • staggered not (diakrinō ou) = To be in strife with oneself, i.e., to doubt, hesitate, waver CWSD

“to judge between two,” thus, “to vacillate between two opinions or decisions.” Abraham did not vacillate between belief and unbelief with respect to his difficulty and the ability of God to meet it. He did not waver. Wuest’s Word Studies

  • promise (epangelia) = “Primarily a legal term denoting a summons or promise to do or give something. Used only of the promises of God” (except one verse) CWSD.
  • unbelief (apistia) = uncertainty, distrust, unbelief. The lack of acknowledgment of Christ; want of confidence in Christ’s power. In general, a lack of trust in the God of promise! CWSD
  • strong (endynamoō) = grow stronger and stronger; “inwardly strengthened,” suggesting strength in soul and purpose. Vines “to make strong, endue with strength,” Wuest’s

Hebrews 11:34 (ESV) 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.

  • faith (pistis) = firm persuasion, conviction, belief in the truth, veracity, CWSD

That is, his faith was strengthened in God to meet his impossible difficulty with a miracle. The thought is not here that Abraham’s faith was strengthened so that his physical powers again became equal to bringing children into the world. Isaac was the result of a biological miracle performed by God in answer to Abraham’s faith. The glory would therefore be to God. Wuest

  • being fully persuaded (plērophoreō) = “To fulfill, thoroughly accomplish, equivalent to persuade fully, give full assurance. CWSD
  • able (dynatos) = from dunamis – “strong, powerful”. CWSD

The Point of our Text

Abraham firmly believed in what God promised, because he firmly believed in God’s power. Abraham’s belief in God allowed him to overlook the visible problems to see the power of Him who was invisible. His ability to see and trust the invisible kept him from staggering over the obstacles of doubt that surrounded him. By believing, Abraham climbed to the very heights and gave glory to the Power of God! God declared Abraham righteous because He believed Him!

Faith Is Not The Means By Which We Get God To Work In Our Lives; Faith Is The Means By Which We See His Will For Our Lives!

Unbelief and the Christian Walk

A.  Unbelief is not:

  • Unbelief is not the absence of faith.
  • Unbelief is not a negative state of mind.
  • Unbelief is not an intellectual attitude, or state, caused by a want of sufficient evidence.
  • Unbelief is not a state of blank ignorance of God and of his truth.
  • Unbelief is not the state of ignorance of the existence and attributes of God.
  • Unbelief is not disbelief or belief in the opposite of what the Bible says is true.
  • Unbelief is not an intellectual state at all.

The Bible represents unbelief as sin; therefore it is not a state of mind, it is a condition of our heart.

B.  Unbelief is:

1.  Unbelief is SIN.

Hebrews 3:12 (ESV) Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.

2.  Unbelief is a CHOICE.

Mark 16:14 (ESV) Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.

3.  Unbelief is a lack of CONFIDENCE.

Withholding of confidence in one who is worthy of our confidence. Unbelief of the heart darkens one to committing your heart and soul to the will of God. Belief is giving God our confidence, in voluntarily yielding ourselves up to him, confiding in him, trusting in him, casting ourselves upon him, voluntarily receiving his truth, and committing ourselves to him.

UNBELIEF IS AT THE HEART OF OUR LACK OF COMMITMENT TO GOD!

It is hard to love a God with all your heart, soul and strength if you don’t believe Him!

Let’s take a little time to understand unbelief by looking at the New Testament words for doubt and unbelief.

C.   Understanding Doubt & Unbelief

1.  Doubt: Diakrino & Distazo.

To be in strife with oneself, i.e., to doubt, hesitate, waver.  Being uncertain of what to believe or do.

  • Rom. 4:20 He staggered (diakrino) not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith giving glory to God.
  • James 1:6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering (diakrino). For he that wavereth (diakrino) is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

This doubt comes through giving up one’s conviction of faith based on what one sees or feels.

Mat. 14:31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt (distazo)?

Peter was fine walking on water as long as he focused on Jesus. But as soon as he looked at his surroundings, focusing on the physical, on the wind, and the waves, he was a goner.

2.  Doubt Leads to Unbelief

Doubt, or focusing on circumstances or your own resources, allows unbelief to grow. When unbelief starts to grow, it destroys confidence, makes one uncertain, and builds distrust. Unbelief then leads to further unbelief and finally a hardening of one’s heart!

a.  Apistia

Lacking confidence in the performer, to put no confidence in, to disbelieve; uncertainty, distrust, unbelief. In general, a lack of trust in the God of promise. Apistia is a form of unbelief that often shows a lack of a confidence in God to do what He has promised to doApistia is a choice!

  • Mat. 13:58 And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief (apistia).
  • Heb. 3:19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief (apistia).
  • Rom. 4:20 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief (apistia); but was strong in faith giving glory to God.

Apistia can develop into:

b.  apeithéō

Obstinate, rebellious, disobedient; refusal to believe, apathetic. A person who does not allow them self to be persuaded or believe, in fact, he stubbornly disbelieves and is even disobedient.

  • Eph. 5:6 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience (apeithéō).
  • Hebrews 3:7-8 (KJV) Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, Today if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:
  • Heb. 4:6 We see they entered not in because of unbelief (apeithéō). (Notice their unbelief in Heb 3 became hardened disobedient unbelief in Heb 4)
  • Heb. 4:11 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief (apeithéō).

1. Unbelief is the Basis of all Sin

All Sins Come from Unbelief in God’s Word and Promises. Anxiety, misplaced shame, indifference, regret, covetousness, envy, lust, bitterness, impatience, despondency, pride—these are all sprouts from the root of unbelief in the promises of God.

Consider the message of 1 Timothy 6:10:

For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

What did Paul mean? Is the love of money behind every sin? Is money on your mind when you sin? I believe that the evils of the world come from a certain kind of heart that loves money.  Now what does it mean to love money? It’s not being like Scrooge McDuck and going into your vault and playing with your money! What is money? Money is simply a symbol that stands for human resources. Money stands for what you can get from man, from man’s resources.

God resources can’t be bought with money! “Ho everyone who thirsts, come to the waters. He who has NO MONEY come buy and eat!” (Isaiah 55:1).

Money is the currency of human resources. So the heart that loves money is a proud, independent heart that places its hopes, pursues its pleasures, and puts its trust in what human resources can offer. So the love of money is the same as faith in money—belief (trust, confidence, assurance) that money will meet your needs and make you happy. Therefore the love of money, or belief in money, is the flip side of UNBELIEF in the promises of God.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:24—you cannot serve God and money. You can’t trust or believe in God and money.

Belief in one is unbelief in the other. A heart that loves money—banks on money for happiness, believes in money—is at the same time not banking on the promises of God for happiness. So when Paul says that the love of money is the root of all evils, he implies that unbelief in the promises of God is the taproot of every sinful attitude in our heart.

2. Unbelief is Calling God a Liar.

1 John 5:10 (ESV) Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar…

Unbelief, doubt, withholding of confidence, is a practical denial that God is worthy of confidence. You are denying His trustworthiness. What an infinitely awful sin it must be to make God a liar!! If anyone here was to stand up and say God is a liar, I’m sure some of us might grab them and forcibly remove them. We would call that person a blasphemer.

Hebrews 6:17-18 (ESV) So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.

It is impossible for God to lie. Yet when you doubt God’s word, when you do not believe what God says, you are calling Him a liar. We are to agree to the truth of his promises, and the certainty of their accomplishment.

RC Sproul, Jr. wrote a book titled – Believing God: 12 Scriptural Promises Christians Struggle to Accept

These verses, while promises of God, are not really believed by many Christians.

  • 2 Timothy 3:16 (ESV) All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
  • 1 John 3:1 (ESV) See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
  • 1 John 1:9 (ESV) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
  • James 1:5 (ESV) If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
  • Psalms 127:3-5 (ESV) Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.
  • Psalms 37:4 (ESV) Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
  • Malachi 3:10 (ESV) Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.
  • Mark 11:22-24 (ESV) And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
  • Romans 8:28 (ESV) And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
  • John 16:33 (ESV) I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
  • Philippians 1:6 (ESV) And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
  • 1 John 3:2 (ESV) Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

III. The results of unbelief.

A.   Unbelief produces a heartless religion.

There is only ritual, no satisfying of the soul. If it is not up to God, then it is up to you, and that produces frustration and sorrow. There is no enthusiasm of the heart. Are you filled with the peace and joy of the Holy Spirit? Do you wake up with a spontaneous love for God? Then your heart is filled with unbelief.

B.   Unbelief produces a legalistic religion

Unbelief will cause you to do a great many things without regard to God. Unbelief clouds your eyes and heart to seeing God’s will and His glory. Unbelief leads to an obedience that is selfish, and based on getting what you want.

C.   Unbelief produces an religion void of salvation

Belief in God is absolutely essential to knowing God, and knowing His salvation. If someone doesn’t believe in God, what interest is heaven to him? It’s only a selfish interest, lacking any desire to glorify God, or of having fellowship with Him.

D.  Unbelief produces a disobedient heart.

Disobedience of heart to God is always a result of unbelief. Unbelief will lead you to disavow God’s sovereignty, God’s government, and will lead you to do what is in your heart, what you believe is best.

This is the root of sin in man–withholding confidence in God.

E.   Unbelief produces RESTLESSNESS in your Soul.

Now, when you do have no confidence in the promises of God–do not believe that “all things shall work together for good to them that love God”– your are carrying your burdens upon your own back, and you will grow weary.

Matthew 11:28-30 (KJV) Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Your unbelief keeps you from resting in Jesus, it keeps you from His yoke, and it keeps you from His faithful promises.

F.   Unbelief results in an absence of peace in your life.

Where there is real faith, although there may be much to disturb and distress the mind, there is deep peace and joy in God, in the midst of it all; but where persons have not peace, real joy, and great satisfaction in God, in his truth, and in his promises, you may know that there is unbelief there.

Just as Paul told the sailors in Acts 27, that despite the furious storm, if they remained in the ship, no lives would be lost. Even in the most furious of storms, Paul had complete peace in the power of God

G.  Unbelief results in bondage to sin

“There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.” Now, when you are in bondage to any sin, you are under the influence of the world, and are condemned by the law.

I John 5:4 declares “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith.”

If you are living in bondage to sin because of unbelief, you are living in a state of condemnation; your own conscience condemns you because of your unbelief.

H.  Unbelief produces Servants and not Sons

By servant, I mean one who serves his master from fear, not love. People who don’t believe see God as someone who must be worshipped, who must be served, or they run the chance of getting on His bad side. There is no love, no anticipation, and no patient waiting upon a loving Father. There is no child-like belief in a loving heavenly Father! They don’t rely on the Father every day; they never ask Him for anything unless they get desperate. They pray, but only out of duty.

Belief will lead you to come before the throne with anticipation, with expectation, for you are a son needing the Father, depending upon the father!

I. Unbelief produces a Worldly Person.

You are given over to a worldly way of thinking and acting. After all it is up to you, because you don’t believe God. You mind earthly things; you don’t layup treasures for heaven. The Word of God is not your constant companion. The Holy Spirit is not your paraclete. No one neglects the Bible if you believe it!

IV. The Power of Believing Faith

Believing Faith Glorifies God!

A.  We glorify God by believing his promises.

Faith . . . honors him whom it trusts with the most reverent and highest regard since it considers him truthful and trustworthy. There is no other honor equal to the estimate of truthfulness and righteousness with which we honor him whom we trust . . .On the other hand, there is no way in which we can show greater contempt for a man than to regard him as false and wicked and to be suspicious of him, as we do when we do not trust him. (Martin Luther, Selections, p. 59)

Trusting God’s Word is the most fundamental way that you can glorify God. You can say “Glory to God” all you want, but if you do not believe His Word, stop wasting your breath! When you believe a promise of God, you honor God’s ability to do what he promised and his willingness to do what he promised and his wisdom to know how to do it.

  • If our goal is to glorify God in all that we do, then we must make it our aim in all that we do to believe the promises of God.

Because it was when Abraham believed the promise of God that God was glorified. John 3:33 (ESV) Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true.

  • Believing God is like setting your personal seal on God!
  • Sarah received power to conceive:

Hebrews 11:11 (ESV) By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.

This is of the nature of faith: “The judging him faithful that promised and agreeing to the truth of his promises. You See and Believe in the Power of God!

1.  It Is Future Oriented

Belief that honors God means banking our hope for happiness on the promises of God. By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac… He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead…Heb 11:17-19

People who say, “I believe that Christ died for my sins, and that he rose again from the dead,” but then don’t bank their hope on his promises day by day—those people don’t have faith that honors the God who justifies sinners.

  • Paul says, “That is why his faith was reckoned to him as righteousness.” So how did Abraham get justified in God’s sight? Why did God look at this imperfect man and count him as righteous in his sight?
  • Answer: because he believed the promises of God. It was future oriented faith that justified.

Now read on in the application to us. Verses 23–24,

The words, “it was reckoned to him,” were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him that raised from the dead Jesus our Lord. Notice! It does not say, “It will be reckoned to us who believe the past historical fact that God raised Jesus from the dead.” As utterly crucial as that is! It says we will be reckoned righteous if we believe in God! Like Abraham believed in God!

You don’t get justified by believing that Jesus died for sinners and rose again. You get justified by resting your hope on the promises that God secured and guaranteed for you through the death and resurrection of his Son.

2.  It Produces Fruit

Abraham became the Father of a multitude. Of many nations! He is the Father of every born again Christian!

Romans 4:16 -That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all…

Believing Faith in the promises of God produces what Paul calls the “work of faith.” Two times, once in 1 Thessalonians 1:3 and once in 2 Thessalonians 1:11 Paul refers to the “work of faith.” What he means is that there is a dynamic to this kind of faith that always changes the heart (Acts 15:9 (ESV) and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.) and produces the works of love.

The clearest statement of this is Galatians 5:6: “In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love.” God was able to give Abraham a Son because He Believed.

What fruit has your belief produced?

Faith is a power. It never leaves the life unchanged. What you place your hope on always governs your life. If you bank your hope on money, if your bank your hope on prestige, if you bank your hope on leisure and comfort, if you bank your hope on power or success, it governs the choices you make and the attitudes you develop.

If you bank your hope on the promises of God every day, it will change the way you think, pray, and act. Belief in the promises of God is the taproot of all righteousness and love. Belief in the promises of God is not a dead and fruitless thing. What you bank on for happiness controls your life.

B.  We Must Battle Unbelief Every Day

Paul said to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:12, “Fight the good fight of faith; take hold on eternal life to which you were called.” Fight against sin by fighting against unbelief in the promises of God. Fight for righteousness and love in your life by fighting to maintain faith in the promises of God. Unbelief requires a conscious decision.

Take warning from those who fell away in unbelief:

  • Some no longer have faith at all (II Thessalonians 3:2).
  • Some have shipwrecked their faith (I Timothy 1:19).
  • Some have left the faith for the doctrines of devils (I Timothy 4:1).
  • Some have denied the faith by not providing for their family (I Timothy 5:8).
  • Some have cast off their first faith (I Timothy 5:12).
  • Some have turned aside after Satan (I Timothy 5:15).
  • Some have erred from the faith for the love of money (I Timothy 6:10, 21).
  • Some are reprobate [disqualified] concerning the faith (II Timothy 3:8).

The saddest example of unbelief comes from the generation of Israelites who failed to reach the Promised Land.

“But with whom was he grieved forty years? Was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness? And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief”(Hebrews 3:17-19).

Those Israelites were initially saved: they were delivered from the bondage of Egypt, they were spiritually baptized in the Red Sea (I Corinthians 10:2), and they were led by a pillar of cloud and fire through the wilderness. But they refused to believe when God promised that He would give them the promised land. They looked at their own resources and refused to see God’s.

So we read in Jude 1:5: But then, “the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not” (Jude 1:5);

As a result, that generation did not reach their final destination of salvation in the Promised Land.

  • “Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness” (II Peter 3:17).
  • “Therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it …Labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief” (Hebrews 4:1,11).

How is your Christian walk? Are you stumbling, or are you climbing? Examine your hearts. Is there doubt and unbelief in your life?

  • Does your life have Stability?
  • Are you growing in Christian maturity?
  • Do you seem to stagger in your Christian walk?
  • Is your Christian walk stagnating?
  • Is God producing visible fruit through your life?
  • Do you struggle with doubts and fears?

Are you ready to climb the Mountain, trusting God’s Word? Abraham did with his boy Isaac. Abraham staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;

Come to Jesus, Believe in Him, and He will give you rest!

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Journey 2010 is about living in the will of God. It is about what John said in 3 John 1:4 “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” God’s Will, God’s truth will always be corrupted and thwarted by unrighteousness “Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”

ABOUT END TIMES

I want to reveal the single greatest motivation we as Christians have for walking in the truth. This revealing involves “end times” teachings. Most of us are very curious about the “end times”. Most people respond to surveys saying they want to know more about the Book of Revelations.

Let me give you this about that. Curiosity is not the proper reason to study Revelations. Jesus gives us the proper reason to study the Word or the End Times Book of Revelations: “Matthew 5:6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” If your study is motivaFrom the ted by your personal hunger and desire for righteousness, God will satisfy you, He will teach you. But if you are only motivated by curiosity or the pride of ‘knowing’, you will come away not knowing, not being satisfied. You will be confused.

Some may question my teachings as not being in line with what you believe is correct especially among Southern Baptists. But allow me to clarify: The Southern Baptist Faith and Message is extremely vague about the end time teaching in the Bible. Here is what the Southern Baptists believe about the end times:

“God, in His own time and in His own way, will bring the world to its appropriate end. According to His promise, Jesus Christ will return personally and visibly in glory to the earth; the dead will be raised; and Christ will judge all men in righteousness. The unrighteous will be consigned to Hell, the place of everlasting punishment. The righteous in their resurrected and glorified bodies will receive their reward and will dwell forever in Heaven with the Lord.” (2000 Southern Baptist Faith & Message)

Our belief’s must not be based upon what someone else has taught us, not even what I teach. Each one of us has the Holy Spirit as our teacher. What we must do is search and study the Scriptures. The truth must be within you and it must be based upon what you have studied and struggled with. Don’t accept at face value what I say or what others say. Study to show yourself approved  (“dokimos”) unto God, a workman who is not ashamed, but who rightly divides the truth!

OUR MOTIVATION

What is this Single Greatest Motivation for Walking in Truth and Following God’s Will?

1 John 3:1-3 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.  And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

John says the truth of Christ’s 2nd coming and uor resulting change into His glorious body is the Hope That Purifies Us.

1 Peter 1:22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,

So this truth of our FUTURE transformation when we are face to face with Jesus Christ is to motivate us in the PRESENT to obey His truth and in so doing become PURIFIED or CONSECRATED (agnízō – in 1 John 3:3) to God, which is what living in His Will and walking in His truth is all about.

I have read that in certain countries, hunters capture monkeys using a very simple but effective trap. They make a hole in a hollow tree and put a banana in it. The hole is big enough for the monkey’s hand to go in but not for its fist to come out. A monkey would then reach in and grab the banana. It then tries to pull its hand out while grabbing on to the banana to no avail. Its closed fist would be too big for the hole. For the monkey to be able to pull its hand out it has to drop the banana. But hunters are well aware that monkeys will not let go of the banana and that the monkeys will kick and squeal when the hunter approaches but they refuse to let go of the banana. They refuse to let go of the bait and so become captured.

LET GO

Today I want to challenge each of us to “let go”. If we are to Live in the Will of God, we must “LET GO”

Jesus was approached by a young man …

(The Message) Matthew 19:16-22 Another day, a man stopped Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” Jesus said, “Why do you question me about what’s good? God is the One who is good. If you want to enter the life of God, just do what he tells you.” The man asked, “What in particular?” Jesus said, “Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as you do yourself.” The young man said, “I’ve done all that. What’s left?” “If you want to give it all you’ve got,” Jesus replied, “go sell your possessions; give everything to the poor. All your wealth will then be in heaven. Then come follow me.” That was the last thing the young man expected to hear. And so, crestfallen, he walked away. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and he couldn’t bear to let go.”

The disciples were blown away. They thought “if a rich man doesn’t deserve heaven, who does? Then they reminded Jesus that they had left everything. And Jesus commended them saying:

(continuing in verses 28-29) “In the re-creation of the world, when the Son of Man will rule gloriously, you who have followed me will also rule, starting with the twelve tribes of Israel. And not only you, but anyone who sacrifices home, family, fields—whatever—because of me will get it all back a hundred times over, not to mention the considerable bonus of eternal life.

The young man was told by Jesus he must let go of his riches if he wanted to have eternal life. Our churches would be a lot smaller if we told people that today! And yet, Jesus insisted that in order to follow Him, we had to be willing to let go of everything this world has:

Luke 14:25-27 One day when large groups of people were walking along with him, Jesus turned and told them, “Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters—yes, even one’s own self!—can’t be my disciple. Anyone who won’t shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can’t be my disciple.

SO TO WALK IN GOD’S WILL WE MUST LET GO!

Let Go of What?

I believe we must let go of the salt! But Mudpreacher,  Jesus said we are to be the salt of the world, right?

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. Matt 5:13

If you consult with salt experts, they will tell you that salt never loses its taste. Never, not in a million years. It is a mineral and will stay the same. That’s why people who question the truth of the Bible cite this verse as one that proves their belief. Let’s consider this verse further.

“moraino”

The word  for lose its “taste or savor” is “moraino”,  applied to the mind – stupid or silly (1 Cor 1:20 – God made foolish (moraino) the wisdom of the world); applied to the taste –insipid or bland; (as in salt losing its savor). Moraino is the root of our English word “moron” = very stupid person.

Elsewhere in medicine moraino is used of the slackness, fatigue or dulling of the nerves. Moraino is also used in respect of the sluggishness of animals in winter. With reference to men the use of moraino is predominantly psychological. In this context, moraino implies censure on man himself; his acts, thoughts, counsels, and words are not as they should be. The weakness is due to a specific failure in judgment or decision.

Now in this verse,most people believe it refers to normally ‘salty’ believers losing thier ‘saltiness’ and having no effect upon the world. It is true that Christians only lose their “saltiness”when they make wrong judgments and become like the world. In effect they are “contaminated”. This is how many Biblical scholars explain the salt losing its’ “moraino”.

Ancient Dead Sea salt, unlike our modern, refined table salt, did lose its flavor. The salt is not pure sodium chloride, but NaCl mixed with other rock and mineral matter; and if allowed to get moist, the NaCl would dissolve out and leave behind a pile of tasteless crud. Thus, in order for the salt to preserve its savor, contamination had to be kept out of it. This explanation makes sense to all but scientists, because to them, salt is still salt. It keeps its qualities 10,000 years, because it is a mineral.

There may be a better understanding of what Jesus had in mind, which will silence the scientists.

Recent Archeological Discoveries

In the Cultural Dictionary of the Bible, John J. Pilch, Ph.D. who teaches Scripture at Georgetown University, points out that the Hebrew and Aramaic word for “earth” may also mean “oven”. Many cultures of Biblical times used an earthen oven, an oven made of clay. Moreover, in the Mediterranean world, wood was a scarce commodity. They used abundantly available camel or other animal dung as fuel. Salt was used to dry out the dung patties, and a block of salt was placed at the base of the clay oven as a kind of catalyst to make the fire burn. Recent archeological discoveries confirm this use. “…in all the ‘salt’ passages of the New Testament, salt is presented in its function as an aid to making fires burn rather than as a  seasoning or preservative agent.” When the salt lost its ability to stoke the fires, it was thrown down as gravel on muddy roads.

Factoring into the translation these cultural connotations, Pilch translates Matthew 5:13 as “You are the catalyst (salt) in the earth oven. But if the catalyst (salt) has lost its catalytic ability (saltiness), how shall its catalytic ability (saltiness) be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden under foot by human beings.” (Cultural Dictionary of the Bible by John J Pilch, 1995)

This view of Biblical salt flavors these verses in this way:

  • “You, my disciples, are salt for the hearth (or earth oven)…  an image that reminds me that you are also the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:13-14)
  • “Salt is good [an excellent thing], but if salt has lost its strength and has become saltless (insipid, flat), how shall its saltiness be restored? It is fit neither for the land nor for the manure heap; men throw it away. He who has ears to hear, let him listen and consider and comprehend by hearing!” (Luke 14:34-35, Amplified Bible)
  • “You are the fire making and sustaining agent in the earth oven. But if that agent has lost its ability to maintain a fire, how shall that ability be restored? This salt is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out. People can step on this solid block of salt in an otherwise muddy road.” (Matt 5:13, with a very logical lead into “light of the world.”)
  • “For every one will be salted in order to burn. Salt is good, but if it has lost its ability to start and maintain a fire, how can that ability be restored? Be salty, but stay at peace with one another.” (Mark 9:49-50.  Notice the repeated mention of fire in the context from v. 42 to these verses. Another logical lead into the salt statement.)
  • “I came to light the earth oven; would that it were already kindled” (Luke 12:49, then notice the subsequent discussion of family conflict and division, vv. 51-53).
  • “Salt is good. But if salt has lost its ability to start and maintain fires, how can that ability be restored? This salt is fit neither for the earth oven, nor for preparing the fuel (the dunghill). People just throw it away.” (Luke 14:34-35).

If you doubt the fire making qualities of salt, go to YouTube and type in salt water into fuel and watch salt water burn: Salt Water into Fuel

So LET GO of the dung contaminated salt. When the salt can no longer change the dung, it’s time to let go. When the world is making the salt lose it’s saltiness, you must LET IT GO!

Jesus provides further insight into what it means to “LET GO THE SALT” in Luke 17:

Luke 17:20-37 Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”And he said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. And they will say to you, ‘Look, there!’ or ‘Look, here!’ Do not go out or follow them. For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.” And they said to him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”

When it comes to the end times, when it comes to Jesus Christ’s return, don’t worry about your stuff, don’t worry about your car, that precious music box your grandmother gave you, your unfinished chores, your crops needing to be harvested, the money in the bank or the gold buried in the back yard. No, when it comes to going to be with Jesus, he gives one and only one warning:

Remember Lot’s Wife!

If you want to go with Jesus, don’t look back. Don’t long for the world. When God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, the angels warned Lot and his family, do not look back. It is all going to be burnt up just like useless dung. So when Lot’s wife looked back, God said, “O, you like that dung? Well then I’ll turn you into salt to help it burn even more!”

She was burnt up and became useless salt, contaminated by the dung of the world. Or perhaps God was saying “You Love that Stuff? Here, now you can help fan the fire!”

Now let me connect the dots, and scratch some saints.

  • 1. The return of Christ is our greatest motivation to live the Will of God
  • 2. Contamination by the world and all that the world offers will make us useless for nothing except road gravel.
  • 3. When it comes to the rapture, will we go to Christ if we look back?


To put it bluntly: If You Look Back Will You Drop Like A Block Of Salt?

Wait a minute Mudpreacher! All my Christian life I have heard about the Rapture. I have thought about it, desired it, wondered what it will be like! Everyone gets to go, don’t they? To answer that question, we must look at the warnings of Jesus:

WARNINGS

Let’s consider some other warnings that Jesus gives about the end times:

Don’t Look Back (Love not the World)

  • Genesis 19:26 But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.
  • Luke 9:62 “And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God”
  • Hebrews 10:37 “For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.”
The Apostle John made this bold declaration: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). Do you think he believed that those Christians who loved the world would be raptured?

Do you think Paul, who wrote about the rapture in Thessalonians, thought Demas would be raptured with him? After all Paul said this about Demas: “For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica;” (2 Tim 4:10).

Wake Up and Watch

  • Matthew 24:36-44 36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
  • Matthew 25:1-13 1 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

They had oil, but it ran out. They had the Holy Spirit, but had He become Quenched to the point of no power to light their lamp? (If you Deny me to the world, I will deny knowing you, as the bridegroom said.)

  • Mark 13:35-36 Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping.
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:1-7 Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.
  • Romans 13:11-14 Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Scripture offers this about becoming sleepily involved with the world and its lusts:

James 4:4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

Titus 2:11-14 11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Overcome and Endure

  • Revelation 2:26-28 And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations–‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’– as I also have received from My Father; and I will give him the morning star.
  • Revelation 3:10-13 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. 11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. 12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
(This is the one solid verse that promises the saints will not go through the tribulation, but it even lists conditions.)
As Christians, we are to have power over the world, not become enmeshed and tangled up in it:
  • 1 John 4:4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.  (they walk in the truth)
  • 1 John 5:4-5 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?
  • John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Love His Appearing

  • 2 Timothy 4:8. “Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give to me at that day; and not to me only, but also to all them that have loved his appearing.
  • Hebrews 9:28so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”

Do not be ashamed of Jesus

  • Luke 9:26 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
  • Hebrews 10:35-38 Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:”For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry.Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back (ashamed), My soul has no pleasure in him.”
  • 1 John 2:28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.

This expression is very peculiar. It means to “be ashamed from Him.” (Wuest) Sounds like you might not get to go!

DOES YOUR LIFE DEMONSTRATE YOU ARE WALKING IN THE TRUTH?

If we live our life in love with the world and all it offers. If we are so busy living that we forget Jesus Christ, we never mention to our friends we are His follower, if we get involved in sinful relationships and activities that the Holy Spirit shrinks from…You may even come to church and sing songs and look ‘Christian’. But God’s eyes are like a powerful MRI that can see inside every bit of us. He knows our heart. He knows our secret desires. He knows what you love. Your secrets will be exposed. I believe the Rapture could be a major step in that process. If anything is clear in God’s Word, it is that God is the one who judges, it is God alone who we must face. God will make known to the world the those ‘secret desires’ we may hide from others. What better way than to be left behind and have to explain to your friends who will say “I though you were a Christian! Why didn’t you get raptured?”

1 Corinthians 4:5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

LOOKING FOR OUR BLESSED HOPE

Regardless of our beliefs about the rapture, we can be assured that there will be a rapture. God’s Word is clear on that. As we seek to live in God’s Will, the one great motivation we must have is in Titus 2:13:

Titus 2:13 “Looking for that blessed hope and appearing of the glory of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.”

Holy Warriors

Why might some be taken and others left until His second coming?

He needs His Holy Warriors, to prepare them for the final battle. I believe Jesus will rapture His soldiers that He will need to battle the Beast and the prophet and the nations. He must put is through a heavenly boot camp to prepare us to battle. You go if you can make the cut. You are left if your heart is not ready. Jesus says, “If you love the world, why don’t you go through the tribulation and learn to despise it, learn that I AM GOD! As Jude says:

Jude 1:14-15 It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”

3000 years ago God gave us an example of what happens to His people when they don’t forsake the world. The Hebrew children wandered in the wilderness for 40 years until they died off and the youngsters came of age. The worldly Hebrews had to die because they would have made terrible soldiers. They would never have been able to take the Promised Land. God had to give an example to their children, an example of the need for obedience to Him. Joshua had his army, but they had to be warriors un-entangled with the world.  They had to hate the world. They had to war against the world. We must be of the same mind if we want to be raptured and join Jesus’ Army!

What about the wedding feast? I thought THAT took place after the rapture! We are the Bride and we will be married to Him! Read your Bible. The marriage feast is not mentioned until Revelations 19 and 21, AFTER the new heaven and earth.

Today, on Jebel Usdum (Hill of Sodom) on the Dead Sea’s western shore, stands a pillar of salt known as “Lot’s Wife.” This monument is a perpetual reminder of a woman who allowed her human nature to turn her from the express command of God. In a critical moment she took her eyes off the goal. Christ warns that we cannot allow the same to happen to us.

You can get all hissy at me and say, “I can’t believe you don’t believe all Christians will get raptured!” You can keep on thinking that you can live any old way you want, and it doesn’t matter. You can say you love Jesus and keep on living as YOU think is best, you can keep on following the world and living like the rest of the world. But you are closing your eyes to the warnings that God has in His Word. Jesus said “Remember Lot’s Wife!”

HEED THE WARNINGS

If you do you are reading a different Bible than I have. I read this Word and I am in fear, I tremble before this Holy God. I cling to Jesus as my righteousness. I cling to Him because without Him I am burnt toast, I am dung.

We must learn from those before us, who as the Hebrew Children, loved this world, loved Egypt, and did not let go. They did not enter into God’s Rest, they were too in love with the world, with Egypt. They were poor warrior who washed up in the desert boot camp. They missed the call to fight because as 1 Cor 10:5 says

with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. …. Paul warns us: Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.

Paul said in Phil 3:8 “I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ!
I don’t believe Paul ever took His salvation for granted. He never allowed His life in Jesus to make Him proud or arrogant or self-righteous. He was confident, but only in Jesus Christ and His living in him.

Are you walking before God in humility, in reverence, in Holy fear? Is your confidence solely in Jesus Christ and His righteousness? Or are you living your life as you think best? Are you so in to the world that you would hate for Jesus to come back right now and interrupt your plans?

Are you ready to Let Go the Salt in 2010?

I think this morning the best way we can remember Lot’s Wife is to visually let go of the salt. If you want to get serious with God about living in His Will and walking in His truth, I would like you to come forward and pickup this 50lb salt block and then let it go! Let’s tell God we are serious about living in His will and walking in His Truth! Everything else is Dung. It will all get burnt up-so why are you holding on to it? Do you want to be caught looking back when the Rapture happens? Are you willing to take that chance?

I don’t know about you, but I’m gonna let go the stinky salt!


Time to celebrateMost people have a deadly disease and do not realize it. This is the disease that prevents them from seeing God for who He is. This is the disease that prevents them from seeing Jesus as their True Elder Brother. Before we reveal this disease lets read again from the Parable of the Prodigal Son:

The father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing… he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him….and he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’ “Luke 15:22-32(ESV)

The Father told his oldest son, “We must celebrate!” It hardly seemed the appropriate thing to do considering the waste and debauchery of the younger brother’s life. But the Father said “We MUST!” In order to understand the Father’s declaration and see the Disease that keeps us from celebrating, we must see some things from this parable.

Man lives in exile

1. Man is in Exile

The truth is that we are all in exile on this earth. Ever since Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, man has not been welcome on this planet. We are seperated from our Creator Godby a Wall of Fire. We were expelled from the home God designed for us. We were expelled because of our willful rebellion, our sin against the  Father.

2. There is NO WAY to Go Home.

There is no way to get back. Our pitiful estate is described in Romans 3:10-18.

As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.” “Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit”; “The poison of asps is under their lips”; “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; Destruction and misery are in their ways; And the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Our Creator God longs for RELATIONSHIP. He longs for those whom He created to come back to Him, to come home.

Jesus crucified for sinnersSo here is what our Father did: Romans 3:23-28 (NLT):

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus. Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.

God Rejoices in the NowI want you to notice something about our Father. Our Father is always Looking Ahead so He Can Work in the NOW!

It’s like the movie “Back to the Future” where Marty McFly had to go back in time to change the future. Well God is all about the NOW because He is LOOKING to the FUTURE. He is looking to get us HOME! And so He wants us to enjoy the NOW!

GOD COVERS OUR PAST SO WE CAN LOOK FORWARD TO THE FUTURE AND REJOICE IN THE NOW!

Coming Home3. The Parable of the Two Lost Sons is about Coming Home.

This is why the Father sent our True Elder Brother to this world, and at the cost of His blood and body, He paid the price to redeem us from our slavery to this hostile world and it’s devilish owner. He satisfied the Holy and Righteous demands of the Father, and so the Father opened His arms to us, and He is calling us Home.

Home is the place we long for at the end of a hard day.. Home is a refuge from the troubles of the world. Home is a place we can relax, walk around in ratty old sweats, scratch and not worry about saying excuse me when we belch or whatever. Young men who go forth to serve for our country can’t wait to come home. Home is for fellowship, relationship. Home is always in the present, but it also shadows the future.

God calls us home in the present time, God reaches for us in the present time, God places us at the Banquet Table in the presetn time, but His heart is on our future together!

The Younger Son came to his senses, and the Father wants each of us to find our “God-Sense”!

God-Sense will lead us home4. COMING TO OUR GOD-SENSE WILL LEAD US HOME

The younger son thought he was doing the right thing when he got his inheritance and went to a far country. We don’t know how long the partying lasted, but the father was far from the younger brothers thoughts. He was doing things his own way, having fun and living large. Only when he was at the end of his rope, stinking with the fetor of pig slop did he come to his senses. His “Father sense” kicked in.

Preachers know that it is best to reach people’s hearts when they are young, when they are more open to God. It is best to build Biblical truth into a young heart. We know all too well that this world has a much stronger attraction to exploring hearts. If there is no solid Biblical truth guiding a young heart, often our young people go off to college and for years never again go to church, study the Bible. They are off doing their own thing. Suddenly, something happens. Perhaps their marriage takes a turn for the worse, a child becomes seriously ill or has problems at school, a close friend becomes stricken with a deadly illness, tragedy strikes in the form of an auto accident, a job loss, a natural disaster.

Something happens to cause the wandering son to come to his senses, to look up and see the Father! We start to head home, we seek to know this Heavenly Father, we seek for meaning in our life.

I was in a small Christmas Play in College at Seminole Baptist Church. It was about a college student coming home. He had just been to his first semester of Bible College, and had come home all pumped up and wanting to witness to his family. Almost immediately his brother and sister started in on him, criticising him, mocking him. Then his mom joined in, followed by the condemnation of his father when he got home from work. At one point they were surrounding this young believer and while not stoning him, were hurling verbal insults and abuses at him. He is on his knees on the floor, hands over his ears, and as they continue to make fun of his belief in Jesus, suddenly a bright light shines, and the Lord Jesus Christ appears, calling his children to join Him in the air. The young man starts singing as he is raptured to be with His Lord:

I’ll tell the world, that I’m a christian,
I’m not ashamed, His name to bear;
I’ll tell the world, that I’m a christian,
I’ll take Him with me everywhere.

I’ll tell the world, how Jesus saved me,
and how He gave me a life brand new;
And I know that if you trust Him,
that all He gave me, He’ll give to you.

I’ll tell the world, that He’s my Saviour,
No other one, could love me so;
My life, my all is His forever,
and where He leads me I will go.

For when He comes, and life is over,
For those who love Him there’s more to be;
Eyes have never seen the wonders,
That He’s preparing, for you and me

Oh, tell the world, that you’re a christian,
Be not ashamed, His name to bear;
Oh tell the world, that you’re a christian,
And take Him with you everywhere.

The homecoming that I was looking forward to, to telling my family about Jeus, turned into a nightmare,  with my family continuing to reject me. But then Jesus appeared, and the most wonderful homecoming happened. It will be so wonderful to go home! We can not even begin to imagine the celebration that will take place! God wants us to have a taste of that celebration here on earth. He wants us to feast and celebrate here!

The Elder Brother, the Younger Brother, any Brother, any Sister needs to discover their God-Sense, and see what the Father has done for us. We need to come home. We need to come to the Father. We need to come and enjoy the feast He has prepared for us.

What is your God-Sense today? You may think you are safe and comfortable, just like the Elder Brother. But he had to see that he had no God-Sense, no Father-Sense. He was exiled from the Father’s love. He did not go into the Feast.

With God, our Home Coming is not a future event, it is not a one time event, it is meant to be an on-going event! It is meant to be a LIFE DEFINING EVENT!

This morning we all need to go home. We all need to go in and enjoy the FEAST!

Stiff-Neck5. A Deadly Disease Keeps Us from the Feast: It is called Stiff-Neckitis

The Elder Brother suffered from a deadly disease. It is a disease that some of you may suffer from. It has been called many things through the years, but the Bible simply calls it sklērotrachēlos (sklay-rot-rakh’-ay-los).

In Acts 7:51 it is translated “stiff-necked.” It is a disease that results in a slow death, sometimes 40 years after diagnosis. (The Jews wandered in the wilderness for 40 years until they had died)

You may be thinking of the stiff-neck that you wake up with sometimes. Or perhaps you have had a child with a sore stiff neck and they suspected meningitis. But the stiff-neck mentioned in theBible is much more deadly. And the Elder Brother had the disease.

stephen stoningStephen was stoned because he called the Jews “stiff-necked”. He told them they do always resist the Holy Spirit. Much of what he was preaching to them about was about their fathers in the wilderness. They too were called stiff-necked.

This disease prevents people from feasting, from going home, from escaping exile. People with stiff-neck disease are people who resist God.

Stiff Necks Refuse the Feast

Perhaps you remember the Terminator movies, when Arnold returned as a good robot. These other bad robots were after the kid or the mom. But what I remember most was that it was almost impossible to stop the robot. One was like mercury, just kept bending and changing shape.  No matter how many times Arnold shot him or beat him or crashed him, he just kept on coming.

Stiff-Necks refuse to celebrate

That is a picture of a stiff-neck to God. No matter how Good God is, no matter what God sends their way to wake them up to Him, they refuse to come to God! Be it kindness or trials, they refuse to honor God!

The Jews in the wilderness were so stiff-necked, that no matter what God did for them-manna, quail, water from a rock, victory over Amalekites, victory over giants Kings, or no matter what he did to them, snakes, the eart swallowing them up, killing those who worshipped the golden calf, they refused to humble themselves to Him as God. They kept complaining, kept longing for Egypt. They rebelled and resisted Moses.

Are you stiff-necked this morning? Not the kind that comes from sleeping wrong. The kind that the Elder Brother had. He was stiff-necked in his heart.

He had a problem, in that he lived in the flesh. He only believed what he saw. He saw a brother who was selfish, sinful, wasteful, doing all sorts of evil and dirty things. He saw his brother as one of those filthy stinky pigs.

Even though he came home, and got all cleaned up in the robe and new shoes, he was still filthy and dirty to the brother. That is all he could see.

The Father could see something else. He could see the son’s heart. He could see repentance, he could see brokenness. But more than that, he could see the future.

God is not a God of the Past. O sure, He wants us to know what He has done, but more than anything, He wants us to know who HE IS and WHAT HE IS GOING TO DO!

God is the Great I Am6. God is the GREAT I AM. God is God of the Living.

Too many of us define ourselves by the past. How we goofed up, how we sinned, how we succeeded. We define our marriage by the past. Too often we let the past influence the present, and then it works to rob us of the future.

The Past was Nailed to the Cross.

God forgives the past, and looks to the future. He is all about tomorrow. He is all about NOW!

The Feast means God is God of the Now7. God Uses Feasting to Teach Us That He is ALL ABOUT THE NOW!

God wants us to remember that He is God of the Living, and God of the Future.

How does He do that? He does it through FEASTING!

The Jews have several important Observances that involve feasting and celebrating. They are prescribed by God’s Word. We Christians have only one Important Feast prescribed by the Scriptures!

Lords Supper Feast of Celebration8. WHAT IS THE CHRISTIAN’S FEAST? – The Lord’s Supper!

Most of us think that communion should be a somber time. We should be reflective, confessing our sins, wondering if we are partaking worthily. That is a complete misunderstanding of what communion is all about. NONE of us is WORTHY! We are there ONLY because of what our True Elder Brother has done, because the Father sent Him! We are to rejoice because of Him. We are to rejoice because of the Father! Communion should be a time of Praise! Psa;m 97 and 98 should be read at all Communion services. We should shout and sing and clap our hands because NONE of us is worthy to be at the feast! But the Father invites us in! The Father loves us. The Father forgives us becasue of what our True Elder Brother has done! Don’t fret about the past! Don’t fret about the future! Live in the NOW with the Father! Let Him take charge of the future!

9. What Keeps us from Enjoying the Feast?

Our Stiff-Necks! We need to Remove the things which make our neck stiff:

  • Sin
  • Selfishness
  • Pride
  • Greed
  • Lack of Forgiveness
  • Lack of Love
  • Self-Will

The worst cause of stiff-neckitis is a CRITICAL SPIRIT!

That is really why the elder brother refused to go in! He was so critical of his father and the younger brother. A Critical Spirit is looking at the past. A person is usually critical because of their own past. God offers to wipe the past away through the blood of His Son. He offers us acceptance, love, beauty, forgiveness. Our Father is never critical, His arms are always open to his returning children!

10. WE MUST CELEBRATE!

The Feast is our Testimony of the Father’s GRACE.  It is Proof of His Love and Greatness. It is Proof of His Wealth.

Testimony is in the CongregationCOMMUNION IS the way we bear TESTIMONY to our FATHER AND IS ALWAYS SHOWN BY THE FAMILY, (the CONGREGATION)

  • Psalms 119:59 (ESV) When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies;
  • Psalms 119:79 (ESV) Let those who fear you turn to me, that they may know your testimonies.
  • Psalms 119:111 (ESV) Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart.
  • Psalms 119:146 (ESV) I call to you; save me, that I may observe your testimonies.
  • Psalms 119:88 (ESV) In your steadfast love give me life, that I may keep the testimonies of your mouth.

Failure to celebrate denies the TESTIMONY OF THE FATHER

Testimony and Congregation are almost identical in the Hebrew language:

עֵדָה‎, ‘ēdâ—congregation “company assembled together” for a certain purpose, similar to the Greek words synagōgē and ekklēsia, from which our words “synagogue” and “church” are derived. In ordinary usage, ‘ēdâ refers to a “group of people.” It occurs 149 times in the Old Testament, most frequently in the Book of Numbers.—‏

עֵדָה – ‘ēdāh: A feminine noun meaning a testimony, a witness. Derived from a word that denotes permanence, this term refers to the act of testifying to a fact or an event. For example, by accepting Abraham’s gift of ewe lambs, Abimelech acknowledged the truth of Abraham’s statement about the ownership of the well at Beersheba (Gen. 21:30). Likewise, a heap of stones became a witness to the boundary agreement reached between Jacob and Laban (Gen. 31:52). Within the context of a covenant renewal ceremony, Joshua placed a single large stone to function as a witness of the covenant established between the Lord and His people (Josh. 24:27).

Time to CelebrateAre you ready to Celebrate?

Let’s Give our necks and our hearts a once over. Close your eyes, relax your neck, now roll your head to the left three times.. Now roll it to the right three times. Ah, the stiffness is gone. Now we can go in and CELEBRATE!