Series on James Part 4 Taming the Tongue 10/11/15

From www.untilallarereached.com

Text: James 3:1-12 Taming the tongue

Whenever we speak about the tongue and the dangers of what damage can be done by the words we use, we cannot help but remember the times when we have said something inappropriate or said something that we wish we could take back.

The truth is that when we have said something, it is impossible to take it back. But James makes it clear that the instructions he is giving us are impossible to do (James 3:2 and 3:8). The tongue also betrays what is in our soul, what we are really thinking about. And then there is the damage that can be caused by the tongue, the character assassination, the gossip, the slander, the malicious talk (James 3:9).

If we only knew what it is we are doing when we slander someone else, or gossip. If we are slandering a fellow brother or sister in Christ, we are speaking badly about a child of God. Do we know what we are doing? The implications go far beyond a simple conversation between two people. How dare you and I destroy a person with our words, a person that Jesus Christ suffered and died for, and purchased with his blood.

So how do we fix this? How do we get back to using our words for good, to build up, to recognize and appreciate one another?

The first thing we need is a revelation of who God is.

In Isaiah 6:3-5 we read of the revelation that God gave to Isaiah the prophet that changed his life, it was his commissioning. Isaiah has a vision of heaven, he sees God seated on the throne in all his glory. Isaiah sees a vision of God and the first thing he says is, I am a man of unclean lips! I am ruined! He sees his utter depravity in the light of the Glory of God.

We need to understand that every word we utter is in the presence of God. God knows our every thought and every word we say. With this in mind, we need to repent, ask the Creator to forgive of every word that we have spoken against His creation. Repentance is recognizing our sin, asking God to forgive us and then turning in the opposite direction. Changing the way we speak.

In order to do this we need to make a commitment to using our words only in accordance with the will of God. I want to encourage you to make a covenant with your tongue. In the book of Job chapter 31, we read that Job made a covenant with his eyes not to look lustfully at women. But more than just a covenant with our eyes, we need a covenant with our ears, to only listen to that which is right and pure and holy as we read in Philippians 4:8. But what about a covenant with our tongue? James give us some help here, as we read throughout the book of James (1:19, 4:11, 5:9, 5:12, 5:13 and 5:16)

As we read these verses, we quickly realize how much we fall short of what the Word of God is calling us to, and the truth is that we will always fall short, we will never be perfect as James points out in our text. But what these verses do is they make us realize that we need a savior. We need Jesus to save us from our own selfish ways. As we turn to Jesus we have to look at the cross and the fact that when Jesus died on the cross he took on the sins of man, he bore the punishment that was due to us.

As we look at the life of Jesus we see a man who was perfect in all that he said and did, he never sinned. He never misspoke, he never gossiped, but he always spoke the truth in absolute perfect love.

I want to point out something very crucial in the life of Jesus, as Jesus stood before Pilate and Herod he was silent. He did not defend himself or try to explain himself. Jesus knew when he had to speak and when he had to remain silent. Jesus said that he only did what the Father told him to do. Jesus was silent because he was about to suffer the punishment for every word of slander that you and I speak every day. Everytime we are tempted to gossip or cut someone down with our words, let us remember what it cost Jesus to remain silent and take upon himself what was due to us.

But every one of us speaks with a spiritual accent, a tone that is evident in our words and our tone.

There are two kinds of accents that I am talking about, one is an accent that comes from being immersed in the things of the world. Listening to dirty jokes, immersing ourselves in television shows that try to convince us that the Bible is wrong on social and moral issues. We listen to music that fills our minds with impure thoughts. This all leads to a particular accent in the way we speak and interact with others.

Then there is another accent that we develop, this comes from spending time in the presence of Jesus. Allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to us and transform our thinking. As we are transformed on the inside, those who we interact with on the outside will see that our accent has changed. We speak as one who is walking with Jesus. Just like one learns and develops an accent, you learn and develop a way of speaking as one who is being led by the Holy Spirit. Your language will be marked by encouragement, optimism, and peace.

What accent do you speak with?

 

Series on James Part 3 Faith and Deeds 10/4/15

From www.untilallarereached.com

Text: James 2:14-26 – Faith and Deeds

There has been a great deal of discussion and comment regarding the apparent disagreement between the writing of Paul and the writing of James. We read in James 2:14; “You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

But Paul writes in Romans 3:28; “For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.” This is what we believe that by what Jesus did on the cross, we can be forgiven and become righteous in God’s sight, not of anything we did to deserve it. That is the glory of the cross and the majesty of the grace of God. The beginning of all of our lives as Christians is that we are justified by faith alone.

So it seems that James is contradicting Paul. But we cannot take one verse of any writer in isolation and base our case on that, we need to see what else Paul wrote on the subject of faith and works. In fact, Paul became aware that his teaching on Justification by faith alone was being distorted and abused. People were taking what Paul wrote to the Roman church and saying; “if I sin, then the grace of God increases, because he forgives me all the more, and thus God gets more glory!” (Romans 3:7-8)

This is another example of Satan taking a good instruction and perverting it, by twisting the truth just a little. But Paul actually responds this this distortion of his teaching in just about every letter he writes after the book of Romans, virtually all his letters show that good works and love necessarily flow from real justifying faith in the work of Jesus Christ (see Galatians 5:6 and 13).

So we see that Paul is saying, you start with justification by faith alone, but then the product of that will be serving one another and demonstrating love. But let’s understand one thing, works that we do, the good things that we do, do not count in our favor with God. Rather the only thing that counts with God is faith, saving faith in the cross of Christ. What Paul clarifies and James also says is that faith in the cross of Christ gives us right standing with God, but then out of that flows love and good deeds that demonstrate the completed work of Christ in our lives.

In fact what Paul is against is the works of the law, the religious rituals of dietary rules, circumcision, and Sabbath keeping as a form of salvation as we see Pauls letter to the Galatians chapter 3-4. For Paul, faith was way more than simply belief in orthodox doctrines, but a commitment to Christ. Unfortunately this is still prevalent today in our culture, people have an intellectual belief in Christ, but not a heart belief. They believe in the facts and historic Christianity, but they don’t have a saving knowledge and faith in Jesus Christ.

Then James uses two examples from the Old Testament to make his point clear, to show that real faith is demonstrated by a changed life.

Firstly James mentions Abraham, we read in Genesis 15 the salvation experience of Abraham. During an encounter with God, Abraham is taken outside at night, and God tells him to try to count the stars, and the he will have as many descendants as the stars in the sky. Abraham believes God and Genesis 15:5-6 tells us that his faith was credited to him as righteousness – a perfect and right standing before God.

Abraham did not work for this righteousness, he received it as a gift from God. He was justified by faith. We see in the life of Abraham how he lived as a man of faith, his actions displayed his faith. James mentions the account from Genesis 22 when God tests Abraham and instructed him to sacrifice his own son, the son of the promise. Abraham obeys, and God intervenes to stop the death of Isaac, but Abraham was not saved by passing this test, rather passing of the test was proof of his justified position with God by faith.

From www.untilallarereached.com

Then James goes to the opposite end of the spectrum in verse 25, he mentions Rahab. Rahab was not heroic like Abraham, she was not of good character. Yet Rahab, when she heard the spies, she knew and believed in the God of the children of Israel. She believed that her city was condemned, she went on to demonstrate her faith by protecting the spies. As a result of her actions, she and her family were saved.

Her mind knew the truth, her heart was stirred by the truth and her will acted on the truth.

So why do some people respond to the Gospel message and some simply have a faith that is stagnant and dead? Jesus tells a parable that explains this perfectly, the parable of the sower and the 4 soils that is found in Matthew 13.

From www.untilallarereached.com

In the Parable of the Sower Jesus described four kinds of soil. Only one out of four represented those with saving faith, the kind of faith that produces fruit.

Which soil represents your life?

An authentic lifestyle of faith does not only happen on a Sunday morning – it must permeate our lives and affect the way we live from day to day. How we speak, how we react when placed under pressure, how we respond when unjustly treated, how we care for the poor and the broken in our community.

This is a living faith, a growing faith and it is a dangerous faith, it simply must affect everything that we do. We step forward, not because we can do it, but because God tells us to, and we trust him for the resources and the strength.

Living a life of faith will always look dangerous, but it is never risky!

Series on James Part 2 Hearing and Doing 9/28/15

 

From www.untilallarereached.com

Text: James 1:19-27

Hearing and Doing the Word

This week we read a section from the epistle that is titled “Listening and Doing”.  As we look at these verses, it seems like James is writing a random collection of brief instructions. But since the Holy Spirit inspired James to put this all in these verses, they are not just random instructions, they fit together and apply to our lives in a very meaningful way. What ties this all together is what James calls the Word. The Word of God (see verse 18). And then five times James goes on to references the Word and the Law. So what he is saying in essence is that we need to listen to the Word of God, listen carefully, let it inhabit our lives and then in the second portion of the text, James says now, go and do what it say.

Looking briefly at these two aspects of listening or receiving and then doing.

James mentions three aspects of receiving the Word.

Firstly he says; we must submit ourselves to the Word, “be quick to listen”. The Word of God is our guide, it is the living Word of God to us. If our reading of the Bible is simply a lifeless formality of getting through a chapter or two everyday but we don’t allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us through it, we are wasting our time. This is what James means to submit to the Word, to listen and allow the Word of God to guide us and be our primary source of direction, by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.

The second point that James makes is that as we receive the Word, we must do so with purity (verse 21). What he is saying here is that before we can take in the word and allow it to produce fruit in our lives, we need to deal with sin. Holiness is something we need to strive for (see Romans 13:12).

Thirdly he says in verse 21, that we must receive the word in humility. One of the reasons people don’t want to hear the word of God is because they have it all figured out. They have all the answers to life and don’t need God telling them what to do. But in order to receive the Word of God, we need to come humbly, acknowledging our dependence on the Jesus, the Word of God in the flesh. He alone can save us.

But receiving the Word is only one part of it, we need to put it into practice. We need to become doers of the Word as James says in verse 22, and in verse 25, we see that the person who looks intently at the Law – the law that gives freedom, is the one who will be blessed in what they do. What James is talking about here is the law that Jesus fulfilled (see Matthew 5:17).  Notice James doesn’t say, he will be blessed by simply reading the Word. No, he is blessed by meditating or intently reading the Word and then doing.  If you look intently on the word of God, it is going to change the way in which you live. The word of God will reflect in your life, in the way you speak, think and act.

But truly hearing the Word of God will also flow over into the way in which you care for others (1 John 3:10). This leads us to verse 27, and this is the culmination of all James is talking about in this portion. The NASB translates verse 27 as; “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

But James is saying here that Pure Religion, right religion that is acceptable to God is works coupled with a relationship with almighty God. We are listening for His voice, and then being obedient to what he says. We need to be reminded that everything we do, is in the presence of God, our speech, our thoughts, our actions our response to the needy, all of this is in the presence of God.

As I looked at the call to care for widows and orphans in this verse, I wondered how this fits into our context in Kansas City in 2015. Well it is obvious that in our church and community we have a number of widows and widowers. People who are lonely and possibly homebound. How are we caring for the widows and widowers in our community? Theirs is more often than not an emotional and compassionate need as they wrestle with daily loneliness. As a church we do a reasonable job of caring for the elderly in our congregation.  But then I starting thinking about another group of people in our community. The single moms and the children who are growing up not knowing their fathers. These too are modern day widows and orphans. Many of these single moms are struggling to make ends meet. Many are not getting any form of child support and they are trying to work and sometimes study at the same time to make a better life for their children. It occurred to me that there are three basic needs for a single mom; Work, Housing and Childcare. Without work they cannot pay rent. Without childcare they cannot work. It is a vicious cycle. And then you have the children, who have no fathers, and moms who are so busy trying to make ends meet that they are unable to provide the emotional and spiritual training that a young child needs.

How are we doing as a church family in this sphere? This is a new and very real part of our society and community. We cannot simply ignore it and hope that they will make it. No I believe we can make a difference as God leads us, to save families and children for the Glory of God. Because that should be our only motivation.

Series on James Part 1 9/20/15

From www.untilallarereached.com

Text – James 1:2-12

This is the first part in a five part series on the Epistle of James, that small book that is packed with practical advice for Christian living and some challenging words that were relevant to the first century church, but they are very relevant to us today in the 21st century.

James is the half-brother of Jesus and the oldest son of Mary and Joseph. James was one of the brothers of Jesus who did not recognize that he was the son of God, but we read in 1 Corinthians 15 that Jesus appeared specifically to James after his resurrection and then everything changed for James. He had an encounter with the risen Lord and he knew that Jesus was God in the flesh. James becomes one of the premier leaders of the early church.

The people James was writing to had fled persecution, probably in a foreign land having left everything behind. If you want a picture of what they experienced, just turn on the evening news and see the refugees flooding into Europe. Those are trials, losing loved ones, losing all property, losing a sense of justice.

For us today, this is not a question of whether or not we will have trials, no, it is when we have trials. Trials are a promise of scripture (see John 16:33). The reality is that God brings trials our way, to mature us, to strengthen us, to make us more like Jesus. Jesus knew trials, rejection, abuse, discouragement, and physical pain – if this was the way of our Lord, why should we expect any different.

James tells us that when we experience this pain, we should not shy away from it, rather we should rejoice! The Word of God commands us to rejoice in the dark times, but how is this possible?

You may be in the midst of a dark trial, you have almost given up hope, you see no end to the pain and the cares of the world are crushing the life out of you. You do not feel the slightest hint of joy. I want to encourage you with two reasons why you can have hope and how you can have joy in the midst of trials;

Firstly; for those who have committed their lives to Jesus Christ, trials are a pathway to maturity. Look at v4: “4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” We all know that life is full of painful mistakes, it often starts with how we learn to walk, we do this by falling down many times until we get it right. The reality is that life is full of painful experiences, and if we try to avoid them, we simply avoid growing and maturing.

I invite you to read this excellent essay by A.W. Tozer called;   Miracles follow the Plow;    http://www.theprayerlife.com/tozerfallow.html

God loves you too much to leave you as a fallow field that never experiences the miracle of new life that follows the plow. Today you may be experiencing the plow in your life, it is painful and you are feeling like everything is being turned upside down and broken. The fact that you are going through pain and suffering is reason to rejoice because the creator of the universe is so interested in you, so invested in you, that He is refining you. He is working away those self-dependencies, those parts of your life that are not totally committed to Him. He is refining your life so that it will bring Glory to His name, people will look at your life and it will be a testimony of the faithfulness of God.

This is still very difficult to grasp, especially when the dark clouds are blocking out the sun in your life. The key to this understanding is the next point and we find it in verse 5, ““5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

Secondly; this verse seems out of place in this letter. Looking at the previous verses, we see James writing about pain, suffering, trials, perseverance and maturity. And then in verse 5 he seems to lose that track and start writing like Solomon in the book of Proverbs, why is this?

What is wisdom? The Webster Dictionary defines wisdom as; “the ability to understand things that most other people cannot understand”.  Knowledge is gained by learning, wisdom is knowing how to apply that knowledge.

How does that apply to the previous 3 verses of this opening chapter in James? It actually fits perfectly, James is saying in effect, if you don’t understand why you are going through trials, if you are unable to “consider it pure Joy”. If you are wrestling with the goodness of God, then you should ask God for wisdom. Wisdom to see things from God’s perspective, to be able to see things from an eternal perspective. When we view trials in the light of eternity, they shrink rapidly. Wisdom to understand that whatever I am going through is ultimately going to be used by God for my good and for His glory.

As Christians we are not promised lives that never go through any pain or difficulties. No, we are in fact promised to experience difficulties, but in the midst of these we are commanded to consider it Pure Joy. These trials are not sent to break us, but rather they are a given to us by the grace of God, to get our attention, to mature us, to strengthen us and to grow our faith in our Heavenly Father.

Jesus knows about pain. Jesus gave up his position in heaven, and became nothing, he became homeless, and rejected, abused, betrayed, disowned, beaten, crucified and murdered. The creator of the universe went through the ultimate pain of having God the Father turn his back on him and forsake him. This would have been pain unimaginable. Nothing we can ever experience will come close. Why did he do that? He did it so that you and I might have life, and have life in abundance, real life now and eternal life with him when he comes again. In the midst of your pain, you can lift up your head and rejoice, because as we see in verse 12 we will receive the crown of Life! This is the abundant life, joy in spite of circumstances, Joy in spite of pain. Joy now, not some distant hope in the future when everything gets better.

The crown of life is truly knowing the blessing and smile of God on your life in the midst of the maturing process. And then also the crown of life is eternal life, eternity with God starts when you commit your life to Jesus as your personal lord and savior.

Joshua part 5 The results of faith/ Possess your possessions. 9/6/15

From www.untilallarereached.com

Text Joshua 4:14-5:1

The record of the Children of Israel crossing the Jordan is an account of incredible faith, nothing that they did under the leadership of Joshua made any sense. Militarily it made no sense to do what they did. Here we have a nation going across the river to conquer the land. They invaded the land, by sending in front of them a small band of unarmed men carrying a golden box. Then the invading nation crossed into the land with their women and children, livestock and all their possessions. They were not very mobile – a very poor move strategically. They also crossed the river with no way out,  this was a one way crossing, the river returned to flood stage behind them, ahead of them lay many armies and nations that wanted to kill them. Israel did not know what they would face on the other side of the Jordan, but they trusted God.

Living a life of faith has multiple benefits as we trust the promises of the Word of God, here are two very important benefits;

Firstly living by faith brings Glory to God. When the children of Israel crossed the Jordan in the most remarkable way, news spread throughout the land (Joshua 5:1).

When you step out in faith and do something that may seem crazy in the eyes of those around you, God alone gets the glory.

Secondly, as we step out in faith we get the blessing of drawing closer to God. When the children of Israel crossed the river in faith they had their eyes on one thing, the ark of the covenant, the symbol of the presence and the promises of God. As you step out in faith, you feel the presence of God in your life. Sometimes you feel his nearness because you are simply desperate for him in a way that you have never experienced before.

The Children of Israel were promised this land, and now they were beginning the task of possessing the land God promised them. God has given us great and wonderful promises, he has given us possessions, spiritual gifts, blessings that are ours right now. When you and I turned to Jesus as our personal Lord and savior, we received the Holy Spirit and we received spiritual gifts along with that (2 Peter 1:3).

In many ways the parallels between the Christian life and the children of Israel are very clear. They miraculously crossed the Jordan into the land that God had given to them. But they had to fight for it. With Him fighting for them, they saw God win many miraculous victories, battles that seemed impossible, but God won the victory for the armies of Israel. God was building a nation that would know him and bring Glory to his name.

When you and I make the decision to die to our old self and make Jesus Christ the Lord of our lives, we aren’t immediately changed into people who never struggle with sin, who never have problems in life, who always know exactly what to do in any given situation. No, we begin a journey, and that journey is the process by which God, by his love for us, allows us to go through experiences and challenges. Learning to walk by faith and trust our Heavenly Father, in order that we might become more like Christ. The process is called sanctification, and it leads us and those around us to glorify God as we see the process unfolding.

Sanctification is a gradual process and sometimes we forget who we are.  Do you know you are Gods special Possession? You are special to God. The creator of the universe, thinks you are special (see 1 Peter 2:9).

Further we read in chapter 9 of the book of Joshua that the Gibeonites tricked Joshua into a treaty that would ensure their protection, this seemed like a good idea at the time, because it provided cheap labor for the rebuilding of the cities, but it would come back to bite the nation of Israel as history shows us.

When God is working his purpose in your life, do not leave any enemies behind. Do not make a pact with something in your life that you know is not in accordance with the will of God. Do not leave the devil a foothold in your life, he will use that to destroy you.

As God points to things in your life, deal with them. God is calling us to a lifestyle of holiness (See Hebrews 12:14). And holiness will also lead to  a life of fruitfulness.

As we end the series on Joshua, the central message of the book of Joshua is;

“unreserved obedience is the key to seeing God move in Power.”

Joshua was obedient and saw God move in incredible ways.

Are we being obedient to God? If we want to prosper as Joshua did, then we need to act as he did; being strong and courageous. Stepping out in faith.

Joshua part 4 Crossing the Jordan

From www.untilallarereached.com

Text: Joshua 3

40 years of wandering, setbacks, disobedience, and miracles have culminated in this event. Everything that the Children of Israel knew and did was about to change, the promises that they had heard were finally coming true. We read an interesting note in verse 4; “4 Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before.”

At first this statement sounds obvious, while we agree that they had never crossed into the land of Canaan before, hadn’t they previously been wandering for 40 years in places that they had never been before? So with that in mind, it was obvious that where they were about to go would be new and uncharted territory.

But why then did the Holy Spirit inspire the writer to record this sentence for us? But there is great significance in this sentence. Remember that throughout the wandering through the wilderness for 40 years, the people had a pillar of cloud by day and fire at night. We read this in Numbers 9, the cloud would rest on the tent of the tabernacle, and whenever the cloud lifted, the people would break camp and move on, where the cloud stopped, they would camp. For 40 years that was the routine, follow the cloud, the presence of the Lord. But now Moses was dead, and the cloud was no longer with them. Now they were instructed to follow something else, they were to look and follow the Ark of the Covenant. There was a new way of living, a new way of walking in obedience to God.

This is so important for us to note today, the world is a rapidly changing place, and a lot of the traditions that served us well in the past, do not speak to our community and culture the way that they used to. We are living in a society that has rejected God, and thrown all reference to God out of the public arena. We are entering into a new season, none of us have been this way before.

The Ark represented the covenant and promises of God, it was also a testimony to the faithfulness of God, and the people were instructed to follow it in faith. They had to follow in faith. As I mentioned last week, this was springtime and the Barley harvest, the river was in flood and represented an insurmountable obstacle. How were they going to cross the raging river with women, children, young, old, and all their livestock and belongings? Notice Joshua addresses the people with complete faith and courage, he says in verse 5; “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.” And then in verse 13; “And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord—the Lord of all the earth—set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.” What a declaration of faith. Joshua was being strong and courageous. He did not waiver or wait to see what would happen, he did not have a “plan b”. It was all or nothing.

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Looking at Joshua’s instructions from a logical and realistic approach, he was not being a very responsible leader. But the Bible is full of examples of God telling people to do things that make no sense. Just look at Jesus in John chapter 9, he saw a blind man who was blind from birth. Jesus heals him, but note how he heals him. He spits on the ground, makes some mud and tells the blind man to go and wash in the pool of Siloam. Jesus doesn’t follow him, or lead him, the blind man simply goes in faith, does what he is told and he is healed! Paul writing to the church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 1:20 states; Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?”

For the uncertain times ahead and the days that lie ahead, we might not always understand and see the reason why God has us doing certain things. We look at the Jordan River and say, well it is too deep, too rough, and we cannot possibly cross. God understands that we cannot cross, but instructs us to walk to the edge and put our feet in the water. Just take that first step, let Him do the miracle.

In everything God asks us to do, there is a very small part that we have to play, and the big miracle that He will accomplish. Our part is obedience.

Today as we look at the world around us, God calls us to take a step in faith, we don’t know what tomorrow brings. For the children of Israel the prospect of the Promised Land was filled with uncertainty and all they knew was that they were going to have to fight many battles for the land.

I want to challenge you to step out in faith, put your foot in the water and see what God will do. We need to have faith as a church; the greatest blessing comes in faithful obedience. All around us we see obstacles, but God knows that these obstacles are merely an avenue for him to be glorified. Do you want to see God glorified? Are you ready to step out in faith? If so, let us commit together to stepping out in faith.

Joshua Part 3 moving into action 8/23/15

Text: Joshua 1:10-18From www.untilallarereached.com

We looked in the previous two weeks how Joshua was commissioned and appointed. So how does Joshua respond?  He immediately jumps into action. He begins by giving orders to the officers of the people. Note, Joshua didn’t call a conference and test the popular opinion or form a large committee, no he immediately begins putting things in place and giving direction.

I get the feeling that he had spent the past few years planning and preparing for this moment, the Spirit of God was on him, he knew that the time to act was now, and he did not hesitate.

This is such a great lesson for us, we need to learn to act immediately when the Lord speaks to us and we have clarity of direction.

The longer we delay in doing what God calls us to do, the less likely we are to accomplish the task.

It is that old familiar word, procrastination. When God gives direction, it is because he knows that the time is now to do it. He does not give us a task and then leave it up to us to decide when we want to do it! Saying that you are willing to obey the Lord but then delaying in performing the task is a subtle form of hypocrisy. Procrastination is Satan’s sharpest and finest tool.

Joshua goes on to say in the next verse; “Get your provisions ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you for your own.’”.

What boldness! As we look at this 11th verse of Joshua chapter 1, there are 4 lessons we can learn;

  1. Firstly, the Children of Israel needed to prepare themselves, the journey ahead is going to be hard and strenuous. The lesson for us is clear, if we are going to move in obedience to God and move ahead in faith, we need to be well fed, well nourished (1 Timothy 4:6 ). God supplies our nourishment, he has given us his word, but we need to prepare ourselves, we are all to be students of the word of God. Meditating on the word of God is our source of sustenance for the battle that lies ahead.
  2. Secondly; the very common error and danger that we face is taking a promise from God and then doing nothing about it. God told Joshua and the children of Israel that he was going to give them the land that he had promised to their forefathers. They might have been tempted to sit back and look at the land flowing with milk and honey and say; “well it is a beautiful land and one day the Lord will give it to us. But until that time we will just wait here on the east side of the Jordan River.” No, they had to go in and claim the land, they had to fight for the land. A promise for the land was coupled with obedience to the will of God. The tragedy is that many people simply want to avoid going to hell and don’t really want to go to heaven. So they say a prayer and think that their eternal security is taken care of, that they have their ticket and don’t need to worry about that any more. My friends, the promised land was not meant to be looked at, it was meant to be taken and occupied. We will talk more about this in a few weeks. But the Christian walk is never one of standing still, we are either advancing towards the promises of God or we are retreating. There is no middle ground.
  3. Thirdly we read that Joshua tells the people to make ready because in three days they will cross the Jordan. He didn’t say, in three days we need to make some boats, or build a bridge in order to cross the river. No, he boldly declared; “we are going across the river, get ready!” We also know from Joshua chapter 4 that this took place in the harvest time and the Jordan was at flood stage. It would have made much more sense to everyone if they waited a few months and crossed the river when it was lower. From www.untilallarereached.com

But Joshua had faith, he remembered what happened when Moses led them across the red sea, and how the Lord had parted the water so that the Children of Israel could pass on dry ground. Joshua was steadfast, he knew what God told them to do and he set about the task with no delay. Joshua had complete faith in the all powerful God who gave the instructions to him. When God tells you to do something, it is best to immediately take a step in faith, make a stand from which there is no going back. For some that is quitting your job, ending a bad relationship, or maybe it is enrolling in a class and paying the deposit. Whatever it is that God is telling you to do, make a move in faith.

4. And finally we see that Joshua tells the people that in three days they will cross over the Jordan. Remember that Joshua was a type of Christ, his name is the Hebrew translation of Jesus and his life points to the Messiah who would come and who would ultimately be crucified, but in three days he would pass from death to Life and provide a way for the salvation of all who would believe on his name. We have to place our faith and trust in Jesus in order to be saved. Faith in our new life in Christ sees ourselves the way that God sees us, covered by the atoning blood of Jesus. Walking in faith as a Christian, crossing the Jordan in faith allows us to stand in a different land by faith (Romans 6:4). Maybe you haven’t taken that first step yet, you are sitting here today and something deep inside you is stirring. You know that you have not made the life changing decision to make Jesus Christ the Lord of your life. I invite you today to take that step in faith, make Jesus Lord of your life, and begin to claim the land that God has promised to you.

So what are some of the reasons we don’t act immediately in obedience to God?

  • Lack of faith – not believing the promises of God’s word.
  • Lack of courage – fear of man – fear of failure.
  • Lack of obedience – if God tells you to do something, just do it.

Joshua Part 2 – His Commissioning 8/15/15

Text: Joshua 1:1-9

From www.untilallarereached.com

The process of the commissioning of Joshua as the leader of Israel took place in three stages, firstly in Deuteronomy 31:7 & 8 we read that Moses addressed all the people of Israel; he was beginning his farewell to the nation and he commissioned Joshua in front of the nation – this is the commissioning and recognition of man.

But a few verses later, we see a more important and powerful commissioning. God himself calls Moses and Joshua to the tent of meeting and commissioned Joshua as the new leader of the nation.

Thus we see that Moses appointed his successor and the Lord commissioned him and then the most well known commissioning of Joshua is found in Joshua 1:1-9. God once again confirmed and elaborated in the commissioning of Joshua.

At the end of the book of Deuteronomy we read that Moses died and was taken to be with the Lord, after a period of 30 days of mourning the Lord spoke to Joshua and thus commences the beginning of the era of Joshua.

As we read verses 1-9 of Joshua 1, we see the obvious repetition of the phrase “Be strong and Courageous.”

We saw it in the previous commissioning by Moses and we see it three times here in the opening verses of the book of Joshua. We may be tempted to think that the reason God repeats himself is because Joshua was a timid and fearful man. But we know from the previous history that Joshua was far from timid or cowardly. He jumped into the sword battle with the Amalekites and he stood against the ten other spies who gave a negative report on the promised land. There is a reason for each of the three times that God instructed Joshua to be strong and courageous. You see there are different kinds of strength and courage. Many people will display courage when they are put in a situation where there is potential for physical harm, particularly teenage boys! Other people are able to display courage when a moral stand needs to be taken. And few people have the ability to display both types of courage.

One type of courage is displayed on the spur of the moment when the situation calls for it, like jumping into a frozen river to save someone who is drowning. The other type of courage is more measured and requires a thoughtful response to stand against an injustice or speaking up when someone is being treated unfairly.

The first time we see God saying to Joshua to be strong and courageous is in verse 6; “6 Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.”

God is calling on Joshua to be strong because there is a long and protracted battle ahead, there will be loss of life and physical danger. It is obvious that there will be courage required as they fight to inherit the land God promised them.

The next time we see the phrase strong and courageous is in verse 7, it is a call for moral courage and standing firm in the face of potential calls for compromise. God is saying to Joshua, stand firm, be brave, hold on to the Law, meditate on it, do not budge or give an inch. This is moral courage, and it is required of us as well, when our family and friends challenge our faith, or even encourage us to compromise.

And then we have the final Strong and Courageous statement in verse 9; Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

This is a different kind of courage, this is the courage that no one sees, it is the courage of the inner man, or spiritual courage. In this life it is easy to get discouraged, all we have to do is watch the evening news. Depression in our society is an epidemic. But you and I have a promise that transcends all the bad news and horrors of society. It is the parting words that Jesus left with us right after he commissioned his disciples and all Christians; “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20.

Living a life of faith demands courage. We need to have Moral courage in this day of moral relativism, and we need to have courage in our inner man.

The directions that God gave to Joshua in his commissioning, promising him success are the same instructions we need to follow in our daily lives in order to see the blessings and success that God’s word promises us. We need to fight the Good fight with courage and faith.

Living a life of faith starts with being obedient to the word of God, what is God telling you to do today?  What area of your life is a battleground that requires all your effort just to get through each day? God is saying, have faith and courage in your inner man, but be obedient, do not waiver or give in to the easy path. God’s word is full of promises, we need to meditate on the Bible and apply these promises to our lives.

Stand firm – be strong – and be of good courage, because the Lord our God will be with you wherever you go.

Joshua Part 1 – His Preparation 8/9/15

 

Text:  Exodus 33:7-11

From www.untilallarereached.com

As we begin this series, and we look at the way in which God prepared Joshua, I want to ask you and challenge you; what are you being prepared for? Joshua we are told is the son of Nun, of the tribe of Ephraim. Joshua is a type of Christ, not only in name, but also in his calling and life.

We see Joshua mentioned in several occasions prior to the crossing of the Jordan, and each one of these has a lesson for us today. The first time we read about Joshua is in Exodus 17; in this fascinating account we read that as the Children of Israel were camping at Rephidim, the Amalekites attacked them. Moses called on a young man named Joshua. He told Joshua to take some men and go out and fight the Amalekites. As the battle ensued, Moses went and stood on top of a hill with the staff of God in his hands, as long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites won were winning. As Moses grew tired, Aaron and Hur held up his hands and they also put a rock under him to sit on. The battle raged until sunset and in verse 13 we read that; “Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword”. But in v14 we read something interesting; “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it.God used the battle, so that he could teach the people and Joshua an important lesson. Joshua learned by this battle that the Lord is the one who fights for him and not himself. Joshua needed to learn this lesson before he would be able to take the Israelites across the Jordan and begin fighting for the Promised Land, because God would fight for them. Notice also that Joshua didn’t complain or try to defer to someone else he did as he was told, and he was obedient.

That is the first character trait we need to learn from Joshua, he was obedient.

The next reference to Joshua is in Numbers 11. The Spirit of God had come on 70 elders, who prophesied, and then there were two elders who stayed back in the camp, who prophesied, and we read about a young man- Joshua; verse 28 says ; “Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said, “Moses, my lord, stop them!” He was zealous for the things of the Lord and didn’t want to see Moses lose control or respect. Joshua was committed, he served without consideration for his own ambitions.

What about us today as Christians, do we serve Jesus because of our own ambitions or plans of making a name for ourselves? We need to serve with one ambition in mind, to make the name of Jesus known.

Then we see Joshua in Exodus 24, Moses is called by God up to the top of Mount Sinai to receive instructions and the Law. We read in verse 13; “Then Moses set out with Joshua his aide, and Moses went up on the mountain of God” Evidently Joshua did not go the whole way with Moses, but waited on the slopes of the mountain for his master. Joshua patiently waited on his own for 40 days and nights. What a test of his faith and character. We know too that the Israelites were also waiting, and after some time, they began to think Moses had died, so they asked Aaron to make gods for them to worship. We read this in chapter 32. This is when the people gave Aaron all their jewelry and he fashioned a golden calf for them to worship, things quickly got out of hand. But Joshua passed the test – he remained faithful and did not doubt God.

How well do you do when God is silent? Do you look for ways to solve the problem yourself? Do you doubt God? Joshua – the man God uses, is one who trusts in spite of the circumstances and surrounding uncertainty.

Then in the following chapter of Exodus, chapter 33, we see that Moses set up a tent and it became a prayer room, people could come to the tent and ask the Lord when they had situations or concerns in their lives. When Moses came to the tent of meeting, the pillar of cloud would come down and God would speak to Moses. In the 11th verse we read a key note on Joshua; “Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent. “Joshua spent time with the Lord in prayer, he stayed in the tent of meeting. He was being prepared by God. It is absolutely vital for us as Christians to develop our own habit of spending time with God. Find your own tent of meeting, spend time with God. It will revolutionize your life.

The next time we see Joshua mentioned is in Numbers 13, when the Lord told Moses to send 12 spies into Canaan to spy out the land that He was going to give to them. The 12 spies were leaders from each of the 12 tribes including a man by the name of Hoshea son of Nun from the tribe of Ephraim. We go on to read in verse 16 of Numbers 13 that Hoshea’s name was changed to Joshua by Moses. This is significant. Hoshea means; “the one who saves” and Moses changed his name to Joshua meaning; “the Lord Saves” or the Lord our salvation – hence the name Jesus which is the Greek form of Joshua. Moses changing his name was putting a new identity on him, making it clear to all who called him by this name that the strength of Joshua was not in himself, but in the Lord.

We know the story; the spies went out and came back after 40 days with news of a wonderful land filled with terrible giants. All but two of the spies came back with tales of an impossible task, but then we have Joshua and Caleb, men who agreed that there were giants, but with God’s help the land can be taken. That is Faith!

When you look to the future do you fear the giants? The giants of the unknown, the lack of finances, lack of resources. Sure they may all be there but if the Lord has given you the land, you dare not say that it is impossible.

Joshua displayed courage, here he was from a lesser tribe, standing against 10 other leaders and saying that they were wrong. Joshua was a man of courage.

So we see in this brief look at the preparation of Joshua, five characteristics of this great man of God.

  1. Obedience – as he took up the sword and defeated the Amalekites, he did not question or doubt.
  2. Selfless – as he served Moses and made sure that Moses was protected when the Elders began prophesying in the camp.
  3. Faith – when Moses was gone up the mountain for 40 days, Joshua waited in faith and did not sin.
  4. Prayer – Joshua was always in the tent of meeting – praying and developing a relationship with God.
  5. Courage – Joshua stood against the popular opinion of the other spies

But this is not just a story of a man who lived thousands of years ago the principles apply to us in the 21st century. What is God preparing you for? You are never too old or too young to be used by God. He is preparing you today for tomorrow.

The characteristics that Joshua displayed need to become the characteristics of our lives.

But these 5 characteristics are impossible to do in your own strength there is something that needs to take place first; you need a name change. Joshua had a name changed, before he was commissioned and put to work. You need to be born again. When you say yes to Jesus and make him the Lord of your life, you get a new name, a seal, a deposit – the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit enables you to walk out these 5 characteristics that we see in the life of Joshua, and we see in the lives of many other people who have taken the words of Jesus Seriously.

So what is God calling you to do? What is he preparing you for tomorrow? The church, needs Joshua’s; people of courage and faith who will lead fellow Christians into the future.

 

What Happens Next Part 3 The Judgment

 

Revelation 20:11-15

From www.untilallarereached.com

So we have two places, two eternal destinies. Everyone who is alive today and everyone who has ever lived will spend eternity in either Heaven or Hell.

I want to briefly look at the judgment day, the time assigned by God where everyone is judged and their eternal destinies are assigned.

But you may say, well- that is a long way off, it doesn’t really apply to my day to day reality. I want to try to give you some thoughts on why the final judgment does affect the way in which you live today and how you will plan to live tomorrow.

Revelation 20:11 is also called the Great White Throne Judgment.  In this chapter we read about Jesus coming again and ruling for a thousand years while Satan is locked away. After that time, Satan is released for a short time before the final and great battle between God and Satan along with his armies of people who he deceived.

God decisively defeats Satan in this Battle and after that the final judgment follows, where Jesus himself sits on the throne and judges everyone both believers and unbelievers. (2 Timothy 4:1; Acts 10:42)

We read that unbelievers and believers will both be judged. Remember Matthew 25 and Jesus’ teaching on the sheep and the goats and that he would separate; one to eternal punishment and the sheep to eternal blessing of the presence of God. So the question is; why a judgment? Why not just send each person to where they are going to go? Why does Jesus need to judge both believers and unbelievers individually?

Judgment of sinners

So it is clear that unbelievers will stand before Christ. (Romans 2:5-6) It is also evident in the Scriptures that there will be degrees of punishment for unbelievers and likewise degrees of rewards for believers. (Rev 20:12; Luke 12:47&48 and Luke 20:47)

Jesus implies that there will be degrees of punishment and this appeals to our innate sense of Justice. Every thought, deed and word spoken will be brought to light, on the day of Judgment the secrets of people’s hearts will be made public (Ecclesiastes 12:14).

Judgment of saints

This makes sense to us that the unbelievers will be judged, but what about the believers? They will also be judged. (Romans 14:10 & 2 Corinthians 5:10);

This is the judgment of all who have made Jesus Christ Lord and savior of their lives; this is the judgment of all true believers. But here is the good news; it is not a judgment of condemnation or punishment, because we know that the blood of Jesus has washed away all our sins and as Paul wrote in Romans 8:1.

So what is this judgment about?

The Bible tells us that believers will receive rewards for their work and faithfulness here on the earth. Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 6 to store up for themselves treasures in heaven. (Also see 1 Corinthians 3:12-15)

So it is clear that we will receive different rewards for how we live our lives as Christians here today.

We need to be aware of the fact that the Bible teaches that there will be different rewards in heaven not so that we will enter into some kind of competition with each other, but rather that we would encourage one another and spur one another on in our Christian walk. God has infinite capacity to reward us. There is not a limited amount of blessings to be given out, or a “salary cap” on the rewards from God. No my friends we should all be encouraging one another as the writer to the Hebrews states in Hebrews 10:24-25.

I want to make one thing absolutely clear; this is not a salvation by works. We are saved because of our faith in Jesus Christ and what he did for us on the cross. Rather, this is what it means to live the Christian life. We are all called to do certain things by God, whether big or small, our eternal reward is not based on the size or measurable success of our work, but rather on our faithfulness to do what God calls us to do.

I think we are going to be startled on the Day of Judgment; we simply cannot use the measures of man to understand the judgment of God.

The question remains, why is there going to be a judgment? Why not simply send the unbelievers to hell and the believers to Heaven? Because, the final judgment will be public for all to see, it will be a declaration of the Glory of God which, on the one hand we will see his holiness and righteousness and on the other hand we will see his grace and mercy.

The scriptures tell us that God is completely just and that no one will be able to complain his judgments. God does not show partiality, he will weigh up the thoughts and intents of every man, because God is all knowing. The Bible says that on that Day, every mouth will be stopped. Can you imagine a more perfect judge? He knows all things, knows all thought and is absolutely pure and holy in every respect. He will judge perfectly.

But as we look at the coming judgment there are also applications for us today.

Firstly – our desire for justice. We will see the end of God’s plan for mankind and the righting of the injustices that we see and hear all around us. We see in verse 12 of our text, that the books will be opened and all the deeds of all of humanity are recorded. This may be symbolic or literal, but the truth is that a record is being kept of every deed and ultimately all accounts will be settled and all wrongs made right.

Secondly – As we view the doctrine of a final judgment day it enables us to forgive others. We quickly realize that it is not up to us to take revenge, which is the realm of God. (Romans 12:19) My friends this is a wonderful promise that is incredibly freeing. We must be careful to let things go, not to harbor grudges and grievances. We can be assured that God will set things right on that day, and he will judge perfectly.

Thirdly – the doctrine of a final judgment should be a strong motivation for making good choices in life. It should serve as an incentive to strive for those eternal rewards. This is not selfish, Jesus told us to do this. (Matthew 6:20)

Finally the doctrine of a final judgment must produce in us a motive to tell others about Jesus Christ and the Gospel message. The decisions that we make today affects our eternal destiny. Jesus left us the commission to go and tell, we need to be motivated by the fact that so many people are going to a certain eternity in hell.

So as I wrap up this sermon and this series, where do we stand? The 21st century in the western culture has become a source of unending distractions and entertainment. We are so busy trying to make more money, or trying to get that promotion, or sadly – to make sure we don’t miss that episode of our favorite TV show. We focus on movies, food, sport, hobbies, while all the time our perspective of eternity is being whittled away and we seldom think of the fact that our lives are so very brief.

Let us wake up! Wake up those around us. Live your life in the light of eternity – but what does that mean?

Every pleasure you could have here on earth ultimately passes away, it is fleeting, but if we live for eternity, storing up for ourselves treasures in heaven, we will experience pleasure that is lasting, eternally lasting and absolutely unshakeable.

“Only one life, ’twill soon be past.

Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

C.T. Studd