Sermon Notes • September 5


Anyone who accepts the Bible cannot question that angels exist. Angels are mentioned over 100 times in the Old Testament and over 160 times in the New Testament. We need to remember that the Bible is not primarily concerned with angels so there is far less on angels than we might wish.  

A Christian, looking at angels, must avoid the danger of getting into the cultic aspect of angels. In recent years there has been widespread interest in angels, especially by those into transcendental meditation. There are books telling us how to contact angels, communicate with them, and get guidance from them. Some books purport to tell one how to draw upon angel power to achieve anything in life by aligning one’s energy field with that of the angels. None of that is Christian. 

Elevating angels to the place where one worships them is forbidden by the 1st of the 10 Commandments. Read Colossians 2:18 and Revelation 22:8, 9

We are forbidden to worship angels and we do not go through them to get to God in prayer. Read I Timothy 2:5-6. One can buy an angel to mount in a car that says, “Protect me, my passengers, and all who I pass by with a steady hand and a watchful eye.” A prayer like that to an angel is against the teachings of Scripture.

What does the Bible teach us about angels?  First, angels were all created by God prior to the creation of man, although we have no idea when. We know that angels were created by God because we are told that everything that is came from His creative hand. God and God alone is eternal! He, and He alone, has neither beginning nor end. Everything else has been created by Him.

We have no idea how many angels God created. Read Revelation 5:11, 12  The word “angel” carries the idea of “messenger” and that gives us some insight into how both the Jews and early church viewed their ministry. 

Second, angels are spiritual beings. They dwell in the world of the spirits, not in a material world such as we live in. It is not accurate to say they have no bodies, but their bodies are very different from ours. Because they have some form of body, they are limited to one place at a time and are, therefore, are subject to that restraint. Paul wrote in I Corinthians 15 of different types of bodies including spiritual bodies that we will one day have. Occasionally angels have been given material properties so that they can be seen but for the most part they are invisible to mankind. Read II Kings 6:8-17. 

In addition to good angels, there are fallen angels. The demonic world is made up of those angels who followed Lucifer in his rebellion against God. The Bible classifies angels as either “holy” or “evil” with the “evil” ones being grouped with “the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41) and “the dragon and his angels” (Revelation 12:7) 

All angels, both good and evil, are created beings and therefore limited. They are limited by space. We must never assume that since they are spirit beings they can be in more than one place at once. Only God is omnipresent. All the rest of creation is limited by space. 

They have limited knowledge. They certainly know things we do not know, especially about the nature of God, but they do not have all knowledge and in fact cannot fully understand redemption. God alone is omniscient. 

They have limited power. Not only do they not have all power, they are responsible to God for their power. God alone is omnipotent. Demonic angels are more powerful than mankind so having on the armor of God is important, as is depending on God to help us in times of temptation.

Angels do not procreate. There are no “baby” angels.  From all we can tell all the angels, however many that may be, have already been created. Their number does not increase or decrease.

All angels, both good and evil, continue in what theology calls a “nonviolable” condition. That is their current condition will never change. Angels were apparently created with the freedom to choose between good and evil, to choose between God and an alternative, which in time Lucifer, presented to them. Having made that choice in history before time, their fate has been forever sealed. Those who are good will always be good, apparently with no additional freedom to choose wrong. Those who rebelled are lost forever with no apparent opportunity to be redeemed. Satan and all who joined him in rebellion are ultimately consigned forever to the Lake of Fire. 

Classification of Angels: God has organized His angels into groups for His purposes. See Ephesians 6:21. We would expect that from a God of design and order. A common title for a group of angels is “host.” Read I Kings 22:19 and Luke 2:13.

Cherubim seem to be the highest order of angels. They are first mentioned in Genesis 3:24 where they are given the responsibility of guarding the Garden of Eden so that sinful man could not re-enter it. They stood there as a reminder that sinful man cannot be in paradise. They appear in the tabernacle as golden images on the mercy seat (Exodus 25:17-22), again as a reminder that God is holy. 

Seraphim or as the NIV calls them Seraphs are mentioned only in Isaiah by name although Revelation 4:6-8 seems to be referring to them where they are called “living creatures.” They are worshipping angels who are also charged with protecting the throne of God from any invasion of ungodliness. 

Only 2 good angels are given specific names in the Bible. One name is Michael, who is designated in Jude 9 as the archangel and is also mentioned in Revelation 12:7. His name means “Who is like God.” Read I Thessalonians 4:16. 

A second named angel is Gabriel, meaning “mighty one.” Read Daniel 8:16 and 9:21 and Luke 1:19 and 1:26. His primary function is to deliver messages from God.  

The Bible gives us a few pictures of the role of angels in reference to God. The first and most obvious function of angels is that of worshipping God. Read Isaiah 6:1-7. 

Angels were also created to serve God and a major part of that service became apparent when  God created our world and man. Angels were present at creation (Job 38:7) and at the giving of the Law (Acts 7:35). They reveal God’s will to individuals (Daniel 10:10-15) and God’s plan (Luke 1:11-38). They are going to be very active in the last days according to Revelation.

Angels are often God’s agents in judgment. Read Matthew 13:41, 42.  On occasion angels announced the coming of judgment and on other occasions carried it out.

What can we learn from angels that is important to us today? First, we need to remember the importance of defending the holiness or glory of God. That we do by being obedient to Him, by being very careful not to take His name in vain, and by taking a stand against sin in our society.

Second, we need to remember it is important to worship the Lord, not just on Sunday but daily in our devotional time and throughout the day as we praise Him for who He is and all He does for us.

Third, angels remind us that we were created not only to have fellowship with God and worship Him but to serve Him. We are called upon as His hands, His feet, and His mouth so as to  display God’s love in a hurting world. 

Sermon Notes • August 29

Naaman the Leper: II Kings 5:1-27

Setting: Damascus, the capital of Syria. There were few places in the ancient world that were more evil or more destitute of any real message of God. God choose this place to display his mercy and love. Deserts and mountains stood between Damascus and the Land of Promise but those barriers that sometimes limit us do not limit God. God was about to work. In a city filled with statues to false Gods God was going to establish a new place of worship. 

Read verses of II Kings 5 as highlighted in the notes.

In II Kings 5:1 we meet Naaman. This may not be his actual name but an honorary title. It literally means was “well-informed” or “beautiful” and may have been the way he was known in a city. Verse 1 tells us a great deal about him but it does not say anything about his religious faith. He is not presented as righteous man or a religious man seeking truth so no one can say God presented Himself to him because of that. He was a man who had everything the world considers important but was missing the one thing most desperately needed by everyone, a right relationship with the creator God. We are told about him:

  1. He was a Captain/Commander: Commander in chief.
  2. He was a great man in the sight of his master, that is respected by the king.
  3. He was honorable/highly regarded. He found favor with the king because of all he had done for the nation.
  4. He had been used by God. Although he was not an Israelite the sovereign God used him in Syria. 
  5. He was a valiant soldier, a brave man who had proven himself equal to any task given to him.

He was a man who had everything except!

  1. He had Leprosy, a dreaded disease that no man could cure. Leprosy was so ugly in ancient times that God used it to picture sin for His people. Healing was only available from God. That pictured the truth that only God could save from sin. 

How many reasons can you come up with as to why God would choose to send help to Naaman? I know of no reason why God would come to him except to display His glory and because it was while we were all yet sinners that God loved us. 

A Jewish Slave. Read II Kings 5:2-4. What reason did she have to help the man who was a slave master? What reason did she have to share her faith in a Jewish God with a Gentile? She had every human reason to hate her captive and even rejoice when he became a leper. The armies of Benhadad had taken her captive and carried her away into slavery. “Just by chance,” she ended up exactly where she could be used of God. Think about how insignificant her life must have seemed in this ancient city where sin abounded, and God’s witness was so small. We can too easily feel overwhelmed by the abounding sin and limited support for the things of God in our society, but God can work through the seemingly most insignificant of individuals because He is God.

II Kings 5:5-6 give us a picture of how Naaman understood the way in which God works. He assumed that God’s blessings were available for a price. That is how he was raised. Unfortunately, this is the assumption many today still hold. God’s blessing is available at a price. Sometimes it is expressed as “If I am really faithful doing something I don’t want to do God will reward me.” Sometimes it is expressed as “If God does this, I will do this for Him.” For Naaman the assumption was that the magicians of Israel would perform a miracle for the right price. It’s the way of the natural man. Grace is foreign to sinful thinking.

Think about the length Naaman was willing to go to in order to find what he needed. A trip from Syria to Israel was no small undertaking but he was desperate and was willing to try anything. It is amazing the things people try to find even a moment of peace, peace that God offers freely to all who believe in Him.

King Joram: Once Naaman arrived, he went to the one the world would assume could give access to God. The slave girl said a prophet could cure him, but Naaman chose to approach the king. Maybe he assumed the prophet was subject to the king. 

II Kings 5:7 gives a pathetic picture of the king. The king of Israel was supposed to know God and be able to lead the nation in worship, but King Joram did not know God, so he was unable to help. He didn’t even know about Elisha. The king’s behavior should cause us to ask “Had Naaman come to me would I have been able to show him God or take him to a servant of God?” 

God allowed Elisha to know of the events that had transpired and directed Elisha to send a message to the Naaman via the king. 

II Kings 5:9 and 10 tell us that Naaman went to Elisha. But Elisha refused to come out to him, not as a sign of disrespect but to ensure God got all the glory. Elisha directed him to go and dip seven times in the Jordan River. God requires faith and faith alone. The Jordan was not the cure but a test of heart. Washing was a symbol of cleansing. Unless one is washed in the blood of Jesus there is no cleansing of sin. See I John 1:7, Revelation 1:5, 6

In II Kings 5:11-12 we learn that Naaman refused to follow the directions of Elisha. Pride always stands in the way of being cleansed. Naaman says, “I thought.” Sinners always have an idea of how to be right with God.

He let it be known that he was not treated with respect. To be saved from sin one must be willing to admit that he is a sinner with nothing to bring to God. To be right with God we have to acknowledge that even our best deeds and thoughts are still only filthy rags compared to the righteousness demanded by God. 

The rivers back home were better. The world always has a fairer, more realistic approach or better way to God. But Jesus declared that He and He alone was the way and that no one, not Naaman or anyone else, could come any other way. It’s God way or no way regardless of how we feel about it. 

A servant intervenedII Kings 5:13. We must never lose sight of the impact an encouraging word can be to one who is seeking God.  It took courage for the servant to address his master that way but in the end, it led to cleansing. God is so patient. He continued striving to get one to follow His directions. See Hosea 11:4. God never gives up on the lost.

Naaman yielded to God and did it His way. He was cleansed exactly as God said he would be. Naaman had to do something. A sinner must respond by faith and ask God to save him. Repentance is required. When Naaman did what God asked him to do, that is to trust in God’s way, God did something. It all happened just as God said it would. God acted as soon as the faith was evident. 

II Kings 5:15-19. The God once doubted is now worshipped. And it all began when a slave girl shared her faith in the true God who can do all things.

There are multiple lessons here. There is a lesson regarding the necessity of faith for salvation. If anyone has been trying to do church their way and not God’s way the story of Naaman is a challenge to make that personal commitment to Jesus. A personal commitment may at first seem contrary to today’s philosophy, maybe ridiculous or even unnecessary, but it is God’s way or no way as Naaman learned. God has only one way, the way of the Cross. And the only way to that Cross is by faith, not of works, lest any of us boast.

There is also a powerful message for all of us who have made that decision. Are we willing to be simply slaves or servants and tell others about Jesus? That may be the only way they will ever hear that there is a way of salvation or that they will make the commitment necessary. God want us to be faithful in our testimony because in ways we may never be able to imagine, He will use us for His glory and others will come to know that God and God alone is worthy of worship.

1) Leprosy: (From Arthur W. Pink)

  1. Has an insignificant beginning: Almost imperceptible
  2. Is inherited: A communicable disease and easily transmitted from parent to child
  3. Works insidiously and almost imperceptibly: Has little pain until the final stages
  4. Spreads with deadly rapidity: Slowly but surely the whole body is affected
  5. Highly infectious: Spread to others wherever he goes
  6. Peculiarly loathsome: Nothing more ugly to the eye than one infected with leprosy
  7. State of living death: Slowly spreads and destroys every function of the body
  8. Dealt with by banishment: Forced to dwell outside the congregation of Israel
  9. Makes its victim an object of shame: Places him outside of everyone and everything
  10. Incurable in O.T. times: It took a miracle to cure this disease

Sermon Notes • August 22

The Kingdom of God

Which verse is the center one in the Bible? Most often the answer is Psalm 118:8, which reads, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans.” Actually, there are 31,102 verses in the King James translation and since that is an even number, there is no single middle verse of the Bible. Psalm 103:1–2 are the two middle verses of the Bible, with 15,550 verses before and after them. Read those 2 verses.

What is the most common name and most common attribute of God in the Old Testament? What is the most common theme of the New Testament?

The most common name for God and the one God gave to Moses according to Exodus 3:14 is, “I am who I am.” He is the eternal God who does not change and can be trusted to keep every promise.

The common attribute of God in the Old Testament and the only one given emphasis in the Hebrew by use of triple repetition is that of the holiness of God expressed by the angels in Isaiah 6:3. Read that verse. 

The holiness of God means first that He was totally different from all else in creation and second, it carries an ethical concept that reminds us that God is without sin. Because God’s holiness will not allow Him to be in the presence of sin, God had one of two choices. God could either destroy us in our sinfulness or He could find a way to purge that sin from us. The Cross is God’s provision to purge us and acceptance of that provision allows God to do just that. Rejecting that provision means we remain in our sin and of necessity must be separated from God. 

The most common topic in the New Testament is the Kingdom of God, In the New Testament there are 65 verses that refer specifically to the Kingdom of God. There are 31 verses that refer of the Kingdom of Heaven and another 30 plus verses that refer to the kingdom with specific reference to that kingdom. In the Lord’s Prayer we say, “Thy kingdom come.” We should understand what the kingdom really is and what we are asking God to bring about in our lives, in our community and for our world when we offer that prayer. 

To have a kingdom there must be two essential ingredients. There must be a king and there must be subjects. In the Kingdom of God there is a King who is King Jesus Himself and there are subjects, those who belong to Him by faith and as such name Him Lord or King of their lives. 

See Ephesians 5:and Matthew 24:14 

The question is not who is King because that is obvious, but rather who are His subjects? To be a subject of a kingdom first one needs to become a citizen of that kingdom and then one needs to be a loyal subject of the king. Merely living within the confines of a kingdom does not make one a citizen of it. Merely attending a Christian church or having one’s name on the membership roll does not automatically make one a citizen of God’s Kingdom.

God says we are all sinners and Saint Paul wrote that because of their sin they are citizens of this world. He also said that because of that we are enemies of God. We cannot become citizens of the Kingdom until that enmity is cared for. That is done via an acceptance of the shed blood of Jesus on the Cross. His shed blood pays the price of our being enemies of God because of our sin. Jesus made it very clear that in the final judgment He will determine who is a real citizen and who is not. His decision will be based entirely on whether or not one’s name is written in the Book of Life. That book is a listing of all who have personally accepted Jesus as Savior. To the rest, some of whom will plead they were involved in the church and in the ministry of the church, He will simply say, “Depart from me, I never knew you” or literally “Depart from me for you have never really been a citizen of my kingdom, you have never been registered on the official rolls kept in that Book of Life.” Read Matthew 25:31-41. The unfortunate thing is that too many people who attend church every week have never made that personal commitment and yet Satan has convinced them that they are OK since they were baptized, have their name on a church roll and take communion regularly. That is just not so. Becoming a citizen of Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God demands that there is a deliberate act of personal commitment to Jesus as Lord and Savior. 

See John 3:3. 

Contemplate what commitment to Jesus means. Satan has spread at least 2 lies about that commitment. One lie says the Kingdom of God is some sort of democracy in which we get the opportunity to decide which laws we will accept and which ones we will repeal. If popular sentiment is against a law of God, we simply vote to amend that law or even annul it. 

A second lie is that participation in the life of the Kingdom is optional. If we want to participate, we can. If we want to opt out, we simply declare ourselves absent. There are no requirements, just suggestions, and nothing that we can be held accountable for. That is a totally twisted view of the Kingdom. In a kingdom there is not only a king but subjects that are in totally submission to that king.

Over 100 times in the New Testament we see Jesus and Lord used together. See Romans 10:9,  Acts 16:31, and Philippians 2:9-11.

James Merritt, in his book “Crown Him King” wrote the following on the subject of the lordship of Jesus: “While Jesus is His human name and Christ is His holy name, Lord is His heavenly name. Jesus Christ is Lord means:

He is our Master, therefore we are His slaves

He’s our Sovereign therefore we are His subordinates

He is our Ruler, therefore we are His servants

He is our King, therefore we are His subjects.

This is not a choice we make or an option we consider. This is not up for discussion or waiting for a show of hands. This is the way it is. Jesus is Lord whether some of us like it or not, understand it or not, believe it or not, accept it or not.

The question, therefore, is not “Is Jesus Christ Lord?” The question of His lordship has already been asked and answered for all eternity.” 

Merritt went on to write, “The only real question is, “Is Jesus Christ my Lord?” 

That is the question each one needs to personally answer. The question is not, “Have you trusted in Jesus as Savior?” but have you realized that in order to properly make that commitment you must also acknowledge Him as Lord. Remember, “If He is not Lord of all He is not Lord at all.” God does not ask us to accept Jesus as fire insurance for eternity but to accept Him as He really is, the Lord of His Kingdom and, therefore, Lord of every life in that Kingdom. Each one who is seeking to live according to His will needs to regularly evaluate his life and allow God to reveal areas where He still wants to rule and then ask Him to give the power to turn that area over to His Lordship. That is what being a real Christian is all about. That is what being in the Kingdom of God means.

Sermon Notes • August 8

Let Me Ask You a Question Matthew 11:2-15

Matthew 11:3 records that the disciples of John the Baptist came to Jesus with the question from John. Read that verse and read Jesus’ answer in verse 4. 

Background to that unusual question:  John was certainly a unique individual. His birth was special. Luke 1:6-23 records details of his birth to Zechariah and Elizabeth with Luke 1:6-7 noting that John’s parents were righteous and very old.

Luke went on telling his story. Read Luke 3:2-3 and Luke 3:21-22. John the Disciple gives some additional details on the baptism of Jesus. Those details are recorded in John 1. Read especially John 1:29. 

John the Baptist faithfully and fearlessly proclaimed the need of repentance and eventually that got him in trouble with King Herod. Read Matthew 14:1-12. John had declared that Herod was living in adultery, which was forbidden under Jewish law. That took courage and was costly, but it was the truth. The church in America could learn a lot from that.

It was while in prison that John sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He really was the Messiah. Our first response might be, “How could John not have known? In fact, hadn’t he declared as much when he baptized Jesus?” But John was in prison and certainly knew his death could come at any moment, and John began to have questions. John’s faith had been brought into question and he sought reassurance from Jesus.

Probably all of us have had occasions when we doubted the legitimacy of our faith? The circumstances vary but inevitably we all have found ourselves in a situation like John where we expected God to answer in a different way than He did. At those times Satan whispers, or perhaps shouts, “Your faith is meaningless” or perhaps, “Your faith is too small, and you cannot count on God to help you.” John would have been the last person I would have expected to doubt but like all of us, he did. 

John’s disciples went to Jesus as he asked and note Jesus’ response, or perhaps first note how Jesus did not respond. Every time we doubt and wonder where God is when we need Him, Satan whispers in our ear, “God is disappointed with you. You have offended Him by even asking where He is.” We would think Jesus must have been really upset with John. Read Jesus’ answer in Matthew 11:4-5.

A quick reading of that can leave us thinking that Jesus was simply saying to John’s disciples, “Tell him about all the miracles you have seen me do and he will know that I can only do them because I am the promised one.” We would not be wrong in seeing that as a part of the message Jesus wanted John’s disciples to take back to him. But there was something more here that John would have understood.

John wanted to know if Jesus was the Messiah and Jesus answered by quoting the description of the promised Messiah as found in Isaiah. Read Isaiah 35:4-6 and Isaiah 61:1.  

Note the similarity between that which the promised Messiah would do and what Jesus told John’s disciples to tell him He was doing. We can point to the resurrection as a testimony to the legitimacy of Jesus but at the point when John needed reassurance that was not possible. Instead, Jesus answered John’s doubts with the declaration that He was fulfilling the things promised of God, promises John would have known very well.

Note one thing on the list of activities that Jesus had been doing that was omitted. Isaiah continually noted that when the Messiah came, He would “set the captives free.” Jesus made no mention of it in the list of things that John’s disciples were to report on. Perhaps being set free was the one promise John wanted most to hear and perhaps the failure of Jesus to perform it when John knew he needed it was not at the root of his doubts. Satan always comes to us with a question when God seemingly fails in a particular area where we want Him to act. We don’t get a job we wanted, and Satan puts doubts in our minds about God’s willingness to meet our needs without ever thinking about all the other ways He has provided for us. We ask for healing for a loved one and instead death comes, and Satan wants us to doubt God’s willingness to care for us without reminding us of His presence with our loved one and with us or the assurance of where that loved one is. The nature of doubt is that Satan brings into question a particular seeming failure as proof that God has totally failed. 

How did Jesus respond to John’s doubts besides sending assurance based on His activities that He was the Messiah? Read Matthew 11:7. Suppose in the weeks before his death Billy Graham expressed doubts about his future. What would that say to us? If the man who had preached salvation to millions doubted his faith at the last minute, was his faith real? Those who were aware of the issues John’s disciples brought to Jesus must have wondered the same thing. John was the Billy Graham of his day.

Jesus said to John’s disciples and all who were there, “Hold on, let me point out that while John’s faith was temporarily shaken, that does not take away from who he was or the ministry he has had. Don’t let a moment of doubt define him.” I think that is important for us to understand because I can assure you that at some point someone you have looked up to will fail. It will shake you and cause you to wonder about the legitimacy of that person’s faith. He or she is no different than John.

In Matthew 11:7-9 Jesus made three statements about John, each introduced with the question “What did you to see?” (See verses 7, 8, 9) 

The first thing Jesus said about John was that He was not “A reed swayed by the wind.” Jesus said that John did not compromise the truth just because some other idea was popular. He even held to the truth when he confronted Herod. How desperately we need the church to emulate that today instead of ignoring God’s Word in order to be acceptable to more people.

Second, he was not “A man who dressed in fine clothes.” Jesus is not opposed to proper dress. Jesus was referring to the desire of many in our culture to stand out as proper and with it stylish. Keeping up appearances at any cost is one of the characteristics of our generation. The “at any cost” can easily destroy one’s testimony. John, in his sackcloth, was anything but that. His concern was not how he looked but his faithfulness. He was not concerned with living the soft life but a genuine life.

Jesus went on to ask if the people went out to see a prophet. Jesus said John was “more than a prophet.” He was the promised forerunner that Malachi spoke of in Malachi 3:1. He was more than just a prophet, he was a special servant of God. You are always more to God than the world thinks of you. You are not just a Sunday school teacher; you are God’s representative to those kids. You are not just a witness; you are God’s servant proclaiming His love to a lost world. You don’t just clean the church building; you help maintain it so that the church has a place to meet.

Have you ever had moments of doubt or times when you wondered if there really was a God who cared about you and your needs? Don’t let Satan tell you on those occasions that you are a failure, and that God is upset with you. Like John the Baptist those moments of doubt or fear or uneasiness don’t define you. Just as Jesus understood John’s concerns and assured him that He was not only the promised Messiah, but He understood his doubts completely, so too Jesus would remind us of our worth to Him. Jesus loves us, period. He doesn’t just love us when we have great faith, He loves us when our faith seems to be smaller than a mustard seed. Yes, He wants us to be faithful and will help us to be that, but when we fail His love remains consistent. And that is a message Jesus sent to John and sends to us.

Sermon Notes • August 1

Because He Lives

There is no example of a quicker or more complete transformation of an individual, or in this case of a group of individuals, than that seen in the Disciples following the resurrection of Jesus. When they came to grips with the reality of the Jesus’ resurrection and were given the Holy Spirit as God’s testimony to the truth of His word, everything changed.  

The Disciples had spent approximately 3 years with Jesus during which time they became convinced that He was the promised Messiah. As such they believed He was going to raise up an army and overthrow Rome. 

Peter was so convinced that Jesus was going to lead a rebellion against Rome and set up His kingdom that when soldiers came to arrest Jesus, he pulled out a little sword and single handedly took on a whole slew of them. He assumed Jesus would give them a miraculous victory.

Then everything fell apart. Not only did Jesus not move to overthrow Rome, but He allowed the soldiers to arrest Him. Peter still loved Jesus, but he dared not be identified as one of His followers lest he too be arrested and crucified. When questioned about that relationship, he denied it. If Jesus was not going to overthrow Rome, that was the smart and safe thing to do.

And it got worse. The Romans that Jesus was supposed to overthrow beat Him mercilessly and it did not appear He was going to do anything about it even if He could. It got still worse. They crucified Him. Jesus died. A dead Messiah could not hope to set up a new kingdom. No victory over Rome was going to take place and their dream of a role in the kingdom was over.

If Jesus was not going to use His power to give them victory, then obviously they were on the losing side and their lives in danger. If Jesus, who had displayed many miraculous powers could not win against the Romans, who were they to think they stood a chance. They had apparently picked the wrong side. Rome was still in charge, and they were in danger for being identified with Jesus and crucified like Him. The best thing to do was stay out of sight so off they went to a safe room and once inside locked the door so no one could find them. At least for a while they would be safe.

Then something happened they never expected. The resurrected Jesus appeared to them in that locked room. Try sometime to imagine the looks on their face at that moment. 

Fast forward 50 days. It was the day of the Jewish celebration of Pentecost. Jesus had been with them for 40 of those 50 days so they knew with certainty that He was alive, but they still had no clear understanding of what was going to happen next. They joined thousands of other Jews who had come to Jerusalem from all over the Roman world to celebrate Pentecost. Suddenly the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they understood what the ministry of Jesus was all about.

Read the sermon Peter preached as recorded in Acts 2. Then skip ahead to Acts 4. Peter and John had just healed a crippled beggar. Read Acts 4:5, 4:7-8, 4:10-12.  Acts 4:18 notes that the religious leaders commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.” 

So how did Peter, who a few weeks earlier had denied he even knew Jesus, react? How did John, who a few weeks earlier had hidden behind a locked door so no one could find him, react? Read Acts 4:19-20 for their response.

Peter and John refuse to yield to the pressure of the same religious leaders who had dragged Jesus to the Roman authorities and demanded that Pilate order Him crucified. And, from all history records, they were joined by all the disciples except Judas who, according to Matthew 27:5 “went away and hanged himself,” in a refusal to deny their faith regardless of the cost. 

The only death of a disciple, beside Judas, that is recorded in Scripture is that of Stephen and the record of that death is found in Acts 6 and 7. Read Acts 6:8-15 which records how some opponents of Jesus tried to prove Stephen’s testimony wrong and when that didn’t work, they persuaded some men to falsely accuse him of blasphemy. On the basis of their false testimony Stephen was dragged before the Sanhedrin, that is the ruling Jewish counsel. Rad Acts 7:1. Acts 7:2-53 records Stephen’s answer. Stephen laid out God’s plan beginning with Abraham and ended with the declaration that they had betrayed and murdered Jesus. Needless to say, that did not set well. Read Acts 7:54. Read verses 59-60 which record they stoned Stephen to death. 

I have never known some willing to maintain a lie to the point of dying for it. Stephen declared, in no uncertain terms, that he knew Jesus was alive because he had seen Him following His resurrection. I cannot imagine anyone willingly allow others to stone him to death for a lie. All Stephen had to do was cry out “I’m sorry, I lied” and the stoning would have stopped. He didn’t cry out because he knew it was no lie. He had seen the risen Lord. 

The testimony of the other Disciples added to that witness. Commentators today are dependent on the records of the early church historians and there is considerable difference in the details of those historians.  

Generally accepted historical records suggest that Peter was crucified in Rome. The most repeated aspect of that record is that he asked to be crucified upside down, saying he was not worthy to die the way Jesus did. Other records place his death in Persia with the same understanding that he opted for upside down.

The one thing all the historical records of the Disciples have in common is not a single Disciple ever recanted of his testimony of the reality of the resurrection of Jesus. Not a single Christian or secular historian even hinted at the possibility of one recanting. 

There are three very powerful testimonies to the truth of the resurrection. First, no opponent ever produced a body that they could identify as Jesus. Everything in our faith hinges on the truth of that resurrection. Had any opponent of Christianity been able to produce a body the whole movement would have been stopped dead in its tracks. 

Second, is the multiple witnesses to Him following that resurrection. Read I Corinthians 15:6. Paul declared that over 500 saw Jesus at one time and if someone wanted to verify that, many were still alive. Had that not happened, the opponents of Christianity would have immediately declared how many they interviewed who denied it. Jesus was seen alive because He lives. 

The third testimony that cannot be denied is that of the Disciples who gave up everything and, if history is even close to accurate, died horrible deaths because they knew it was true. While we cannot be sure of the fate of each of the Disciples, we can say with certainty that not one of them ever recanted of their commitment to the resurrection of Jesus. How do we know that? We know it because we can be 100% certain that had even one of them changed his story the opponents of Jesus would have jumped all over it and declared it everywhere. History does not even hint that one Disciple recanted.

What does that mean to us? All of us have been challenged at some point to prove our faith to ourselves. Satan continually tells us our faith is unreal and the resurrection of Jesus is an ancient myth designed to keep a lie alive. When Satan whispers that in your ear remember, no one ever produced Jesus’ body, He was seen alive by many, and His disciples gave up everything including their lives because they knew He was alive. That’s good enough for me.

Sermon Notes • July 25

Psalm 3

This is the first time the word “Psalm” is used in the book of Psalms, the first time a Psalm is attributed to David in the Psalms, and the first prayer in the book of Psalms.  Although not used in the NIV translation, this is the first time the Hebrew word “selah” is used and it is used here after verses 2, 4 and 8. “Selah” occurs 71 times in the Hebrew editions of the Psalms and 3 additional times in the Psalm or hymn recorded in Habakkuk 3. General speculation is that it had some musical meaning but what exactly that was, has long been lost. 

The ancient rabbis gave the setting in which David wrote this Psalm as, “When he fled from his son Absalom.” II Samuel chapters 15-18 detail that event.While the Psalm itself does not give specific details of either Absalom’s rebellion or the response of some of the people to him, the historical context set forth by the early rabbis seems more than adequate to place the writing in that setting. Realistically none of us will ever face a situation the same as that but all of us have faced and will face situations in which it may seem like everyone, or everything, is against us. The message of Psalm 3 reminds us that we have a God to whom we can turn for help.

Read Psalm 3:1-2. The very first word is “Lord.” One of the characteristics of our self-sufficient mentality is that we assume that there is nothing we cannot handle and so we turn to God when all else has seemingly failed. Critical situations call for us to pray while the rest of the challenges we think we can handle ourselves.

This Psalm is classified as a “lament Psalm” because it details the pouring out of one’s heart to God in a particular situation in which, from a practical perspective, there is little or no hope. When our lives are touched by situations that seemly have no hope apart from God, we certainly should seek His help and strength in a special way. But we must not limit our dependence upon God to those situations. Nothing is either too big or too small to take to Him in prayer.

David’s enemies were telling him that if God had ever been on his side, God had now abandoned him. They declared, “God will not deliver him.” He heard them but didn’t really listen to them because he knew God’s promises to provide and protect.

Verse 2 is particularly interesting because of the attitude of those who reject God too often display today. They declared, “God will not deliver him.” That is the declaration of those who, for all practical purposes, are atheists. They may outright deny the existence of God, or they may select one of several approaches that deny God’s ability or willingness to help us when we are in trouble. Some suggest that if God created, He then left creation to its own end and does not control it or interact with it any longer. A more common form of denial is that God cannot or will not help us when we need Him because we are not worthy of His help. This is one of Satan’s favorite arguments. It suggests that God may help a Billy Graham, but we are both insignificant and to impure to expect Him to help us. 

The idea of God deliverance of him can easily be missed. The word used here is Yeshua, which means helper and one who saves. It is the equilivent of Joshua and Jesus, who came to be our Savior. The God who offers us help in times of trouble is the same one who loves us enough to offer us eternal salvation in Jesus from the penalty and power of sin. Read Psalm 46:1 in respect to today. Read John 3:18 in respect to eternity. 

The Psalm goes on with verses 3-4 expressing David’s confidence in spite of the apparent seriousness of the situation. David was certain that that God would hear his prayer and certain that God would be his shield and restore him to the place God had set for him. Read verse 3. The psalmist noted three things that he can count on. God is his shield, gives him glory and then lifts his head up high.

The first is easily understood, although often forgotten. By declaring God to be his shield he was declaring that God was his protection or defender. Every soldier in his day was protected by a smaller shield that was used for hand-to-hand combat and protected him when the enemy got too close. That was the shield referred to here. The enemy may get close, but God is the shield that protects at that time. Read Genesis 15:1 on God’s promise to Abraham. Read Ephesians 6:16 on Paul’s challenge to Christians.  

The second assurance that David declares is that God will be his glory. Generally, when we think of glory, we think of God’s glory but here is it glory that God gives to His children. Read Psalm 62:7. We reflect the glory of our creator when we are living as God would have us live and doing that which He has called us to do.

The third assurance David trusted in was that God would “lift his head up high.” We often tell our children after they have failed at something to “hold you head up high.” It is easy to feel despondent at times, especially at times of seeming failure, but God enables us to find encouragement. David knew that God would help him to keep his head held high.

Read verse 4.That God answered him comes as no surprise. God has promised to do that. The Hebrew wording for “I call out” denotes an audible prayer. It was not just an inward petition but one that he vocally called to God. That gives us some sense of the urgency of his prayer. See Matthew 26:34. There are times when we can express ourselves better if we pray audibly.

The phrase “from his holy mountain” is a reference to Mt. Zion in Jerusalem. The Ark represented the presence of God. David knew God was not contained in the Ark, but the Ark reminded the people of the promise of God to be with them. One of the challenges we face as Christians is to balance our understanding of God, keeping in perspective both His transcendence, that is His eternal glory and power as found in heaven, and his imminent presence, that is His presence with us here and now in the real world.

Read verses 5-6. Contrary to what one would expect given his situation, David was able to lie down calmly, sleep, and rise the next morning invigorated. Too often when we are troubled, we take our troubles to bed with us and toss and turn all night instead of giving them to God. The old saying “When you can’t sleep at night instead of counting sheep, talk to the shepherd” is all too true.

David slept well and woke up refreshed and renewed in confidence. God had kept him safe all night and the fact that God gave him another day meant that God was not finished with him. Do we face each new day knowing that God has something more for us to do? If that were not the case, we would have gone home during the night.

Read verses 7-8. The Psalm closes with David calling on God to rescue him by disarming or rendering harmless his enemies as He had done on other occasions. Verse 7 begins withDavid’s call to God to rescue him. It reads Arise, Lord! Deliver me, my God! The call to arise is an Old Testament way of asking God to act. David did not think God was sleeping. 

Verse 7 goes on, Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked.” That request has to be put in the context in which it was written. To strike someone “on the jaw” or literally in the Hebrew “on the cheek” was a way of saying “shame on you.” The imagery of “breaking the teeth” came from the idea of pulling out the teeth of a wild animal in order to make it harmless. Put together David was asking God to declare the rebellion against him shameful and to disarm it. 

The last part of that verse is what is interesting, David asks God for His “blessing on your people.” David did not pray that God would bless him but the people. The people he wanted God to bless included those in rebellion against him as they too were Israelites. It is easy to ask God to knock the teeth out of those who offend me, but hard to ask God to bless them. 

Psalm 3 reminds us that in the world we will have difficulties and the enemies of God will in some way come against us. When that happens, we have an all-powerful, all-loving, all-caring Father in heaven who will defend us. Because we know that, we should be able to sleep at night and wake up in the morning ready for whatever God has for us that day.

Sermon Notes • July 18

Psalm 2: When the laughing stops.

Psalm 2 is a “Messianic Psalm: because it speaks of Jesus, the promised Messiah. Read Acts 4:25. That verse is a quote from Psalm 2:1 which Peter then applied to Jesus. Twice the author of Hebrews applied this Psalm to Jesus (1:5, 5:5).  

Psalm 2 may originally have been part of Psalm 1 since they are connected in some early Hebrew Bibles. Psalm 1 divides mankind into 2 categories, those who follow God and are righteous and those who refuse to follow Him and are described as wicked. Psalm 2 details the activities of both groups and describes, as Psalm 1 did, the end for each. Psalm 1 ends with the declaration the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.” Psalm 2 presents the Anointed one, or Jesus, who will provide the way for sinners to be declared righteous and will ultimately judge the wicked.

The Psalm divides into 4 stanzas, each 3 verses long, with each stanza looking at man’s sin from a different perspective. In stanza 1 which is verses 1-3, we have the situation viewed through the eyes of the Psalmist, although anyone today who reads the paper or checks the news online can relate to the question of verse 1. Read verses 1-3

The Psalmist looked out at the world and saw that society was in rebellion against God. The leaders of that society wanted to end the rule of God. Verse 3 answers the question of verse 1 regarding whypeople conspire against God. Verse 3 declares that they no longer want to be tied to God’s rules and regulations. The people wanted to be free to live as they desired. It was a society that wanted the freedom to do what every man decided was right in his own eyes. The key to overthrowing restraints was being united, that is agreeing together. All we hear in the news today is that “obviously the commitment of the majority is changing and so must we” or “a new consensus shows… so get in line.” 

In verse 2 the Psalmist described that activity as ultimately a rebellion against God’s Anointed one. You’ll notice that the word “Anointed” is capitalized. The Hebrew word used there is the one from which we get the word “Messiah” and the Greek word “Christ.” The clamor to be free to sin if one wants to, is rebellion against Jesus. The “right to choose” is really the desire to reject God’s standard and Jesus as Lord of lords and King of kings. 

Stanza 2, (verses 4-6), takes us behind the scenes for a heavenly perspective at man’s rebellion. They present the issue from God’s perspective. Read verses 4-6. The Psalmist records that God is laughing at the efforts to dethrone Him. Man can rebel but he cannot unseat God. We are answerable to God. God is and always will be on the throne and His will will ultimately be done. 

Don’t assume that God is laughing at sin. There is nothing funny about that. God is laughing at the efforts of man to dethrone Him. If ever the hope of dethroning Him held a possibility, and it really never did, the Cross and the empty tomb settled it all. Sin is serious and nothing to laugh at but the idea that one can dethrone God and thereby nullifying His declaration to judge sin is a joke. God is on the throne and not moving over.

In verse 5 the Psalmist declared that God will not always laugh at man’s futile efforts to dethrone Him. The time will come when He will speak. When God stops laughing it is all over. Judgment will come. When the laughing in heaven stops judgment on earth begins. 

Verse 6 declares that God has installed His King. Just about every translation capitalizes “King.” Jesus will rule because the God who laughs at attempts to rebel against Him has decreed that He will. Read Philippians 2:9-11. 

Stanza 3 is found in verses 7-9. Read verses 7-9. Here Jesus spoke and said that the Father had named Him “Son,” which is capitalized because it refers to Jesus. The whole declaration of what God has promised is repeated and amplified in the New Testament. Twice, at His baptism and on the Mount of Transfiguration, God called Jesus His Son (Matthew 3:17 and Matthew 17:5). History is going somewhere, and God is not only totally in control of it, but it is right on time. Our legalization of sin is not derailing His plan or even slowing it a bit. Jesus will reign.

Notice particularly verse 7 announces, I will proclaim the Lord’s decree.” Note it is a decree that God made. God can make that decree because He is still on the throne. 

Verses 8 should impact how we view missions and our own personal witnessing. In verse 6 the narrator spoke for God and declared what God had done in the past, that is God’s decision to install Jesus as ruler of the earth. In verse 8 the narrator shared what God’s plan is for the future. That plan is to have the rule of Jesus spread to the entire world. God’s plan is to use the church. Read Matthew 29:19-20. God’s plan is for the whole world to hear the message of salvation and that will only happen through His church and those of us who make up that church.

Stanza 4, which is the final scene, is recorded in verses 10-12. (Read verses 10-12

That stanza presents a warning, a command, and a promise. It begins with a warning to those who are in rebellion against God. It simply tells them to wise up, get smart, wake up and see what they are doing and where it all ends. Think how appropriate that is to our generation when those who are seeking to rebel against God often describe themselves as the wise ones and Christians as the fools unwilling to give up outdated traditions. Sinful man defies God in the name of science, or education, or coming of age. Read Psalm 14:1. God says, “ Get wise, smarten up. I’m on the throne.”

Verse 11 commands us to serve the Lord with fear. In David’s day to serve the king was far more than doing little things for him. It was a commitment to him, to being his subject, to supporting him. When this is translated to the Anointed One, or Jesus, it is a call to belong totally to Him in every way. It is a call to be His subjects who are always seeking to be obedient to Him, to doing His will, to supporting Him in every way. 

The biblical concept of service is not simply what we do, it is what we do as an expression of worship. Some translations actually translate the word “serve” as “worship.”  Genuine worship or service is to be a time of celebration or joy because we recognize the awesome nature of the one who sits on the throne and the privilege we have of serving Him.

Verse 12 is an additional command. To kiss someone was a sign of loving submission to someone. The idea is that we are to not only serve Him, which in a sense we must do since He is sovereign, but that we are to do so lovingly. Psalm 2 called for a kiss of genuine love and commitment to Jesus, God’s Son. 

The Psalm ends with a promise. It literally says that in contrast to those who plot to be free of God’s restraints and live as they want, the ones who honestly take refuge in God are those who are truly blessed, or as a word we perhaps better understand, “happy.” Those who claim the right to do their own thing often do so because they think that sinning will satisfy them or make them happy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Those who follow God’s way are the genuinely happy ones. Read John 10:10.

Psalm 2 ends in the same way as Psalm 1 did. It presents only two alternatives for man. Man can refuse to acknowledge God and in which case “He will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction, for his wrath can flare up in a moment.” Or man can commit to following God, in which case God will “Bless all who take refuge in him.”

Psalm 2 reminds us that Jesus is on the throne. He will rule forever and ever. The rebels in any era who seek to deny that truth will ultimately be judged for their foolishness while those who trust God and His Word will ultimately be happy. 

Sermon Notes • July 4

2021 Independence Day

On July 4th America celebrates its 245th birthday. July 4th celebrates our independence from England, a freedom we cherish and will defend. Christians have an Independence Day also, it’s called Easter. It is our Independence Day because the purpose of that day, as promised in the Old Testament, was to set people free from the penalty, power, and ultimate presence of sin.

Read Isaiah 61:1. Approximately 700 years later Jesus had begun His ministry. Early on in that ministry, Jesus entered a synagogue in Nazareth and read from the scrolls. Read Luke 4:18-20 to see what He read. Then read in verse 22 what Jesus said next. Jesus declared not only that He was the Promised One sent to fulfill that prophecy, but He also declared that at the heart of His mission was setting captives free.

The Jews worshipping in the synagogue who heard Jesus make that declaration thought only of freedom from Roman rule and Roman taxes. That belief or hope continued throughout His ministry and was seen most vividly on Palm Sunday. But Jesus did not come to set us free from an earthly government, but to free us from slavery to sin. Read John 8:32. 

Read in John 8:34-36. Jesus’ response to a challenge by the Pharisees. Read also Romans 8:1-3.

There are a variety of things worthy of study in John 8:31-36. First, we have the objection the Pharisees raised as recorded in verse 33. For any Jew to declare he had never been a slave seems ludicrous, Certainly they understood that as a people they had been nothing but slaves for most of their existence. In the beginning they were slaves for 400 years in Egypt. As a nation leading up to the time of Jesus their slavery began when they had been carried away in slavery by the Babylonians. After their return one nation after another controlled them. They had been slaves to the Syrians, the Egyptians, the Greeks and at that time they were slaves to Rome. 

What we need to understand is the context in which they spoke. The Jews believed, according to various passages in the Torah, especially in Deuteronomy, that regardless of who they might be a slave to in this life, they were, in the final analysis, servants of God. While the rest of humanity might be judged for their sins, the fact that they were descendants of Abraham meant that they were exempt from that judgment. In the end they viewed themselves as slaves to no one but instead as servants of God.

Their attitude can be reflected in people who think that because they have their names on a church roll, and perhaps their lineage includes a long line of Christians, somehow, they are saved from the judgment on sin.

Perhaps deeper than believing that one’s heritage exempts one from judgement is the broader belief today that one is not a slave to sin unless perhaps one is addicted to some substance that he cannot break free from. Even then we hear over and over “I can quit anytime I want” which literally means they are not really in bondage to it. Attitudes such as “I can do whatever I want since it is my body and my life” deny the fact that in some way sin controls an individual. Further, if there is no God to judge sin there is no one to legitimately tell me I am a slave to it, so I am free.

The Bible, however, has a different message. The Bible teaches that sin is real, and sin has consequences that we cannot escape. Therefore, we are bound to those consequences even as a slave is bound to a slave master. 

The Bible tells us that we are slaves to the judgment on sin which is death. We cannot simply walk away from it. The wage of sin is death and since we cannot pay that price, we are slaves to it.

The message of John 8, and in fact the whole New Testament, is that Jesus and Jesus alone can set us free from the bondage to sin. In the discussion Jesus had with the Pharisees, Jesus began by stating that the truth will set you free.”

While Jesus did not spell it out initially, He was referring to Himself. It is not until verse 36 where we read that Jesus said “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” that we know for sure Jesus is clarifying what He had earlier declared when He said He had come to set prisoners free.

Jesus declared that when He sets us free from the slavery to sin, we are really free. The freedom Jesus provided gives us freedom first, from the penalty of sin, second, from the power of sin and finally from the very presence of sin. It is complete and glorious freedom, far more valuable than even our American freedom that can be either lost or abused.

The death of Jesus allows us to be set free from the penalty of sin. The penalty of our sin is death but when Jesus paid our death penalty, He set us free from that. The loss of fellowship with God because of sin was restored as was the penalty of an everlasting separation from Him. When the payment of our sins is accepted, we are given everlasting life.  

If freedom from the death caused by sin were all that was provided for us on the Cross, we would have incredible reason to rejoice and give thanks. It is, however, only one part of the freedom available because of the death of Jesus for us. His death provided us with the potential of freedom from the power of sin. We are given the power to be set free from the slavey to sins. Read Galatians 2:20 and I Corinthians 10:13.

What we need to do is determine where we need to change and then realize that the power to make that change is available to us. We don’t have to be slaves to sin. We can have freedom from its power if we allow God to work in and through us. Too many Christians are slaves to a habit or character trait that has been a part of them too long. They would like to see it gone but have decided it is simply something they and their family must accept and live with. We forget that there is freedom available in the power of Him who was raised from the dead. 

Even as we celebrate that freedom let’s not fail to celebrate and live in the freedom all who have accepted the finished work of Jesus on the Cross have. In Jesus we have freedom from the penalty of sin that allows us to have true fellowship with God and guarantees new glorified bodies and an eternity with God. We have a freedom from the power of sin that enables us to overcome temptations and live as He would have us live. Ultimately we will be in heaven with our Lord and there we will be free from even the presence of sin. That is freedom to be enjoyed each and every day and therefore should be celebrated daily and shared with all around us.

Sermon Notes • June 27

Psalm 1

Psalm 1 is a favorite of just about everyone and one many Christians have memorized. The Psalm sets forth a series of comparisons or contrasts with the first being between two groups of individuals, those identified in verse 6 as “righteous” and those identified in the same verse as “wicked.” In all there are at least 5 comparisons that are made either directly or indirectly in this Psalm regarding those two groups.

Psalm 1, like all of Scripture, presents only 2 alternatives for one’s life because God has on only two classifications. One either belongs to Him via his acceptance of Jesus and is therefore viewed as “righteous” or one is a sinner separated from Him by sin and, therefore, viewed as “wicked.” Read Matthew 7:13-14.

The second comparison in this Psalm found in the 1st verse when the Psalm introduces “righteous” as the ones who are blessed. Implied, although not specifically stated, is that one is either blessed because he is “righteous” and doing what this Psalm describes, or one will not know that blessing. The word “blessed” is actually plural in the Hebrew and is also translated as “happy.”

Men and women will do just about anything to find happiness only to discover that nothing this world has to offer will meet that need. The Bible says real and lasting happiness is found in living God’s way. Incidentally, there are so many similarities between Psalm 1 and the Beatitudes of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount that many feel as if Jesus had this Psalm in mind when He gave us that teaching on being blessed or happy.

The third comparison is between the lifestyle of the righteous and that of the wicked with the lifestyle of the wicked being the total opposite of that of the righteous. In verse 1 the Psalmist wrote that the righteous do “not walk in step with the wicked, stand in the way that sinners take,or sit in the company of mockers.” Instead, according to verse 2, they “delight in the law of the Lord,and meditates on his law day and night.”

The idea of “delighting in the law of the Lord” is important. To the Psalmists the Scriptures centered on the Torah, that is the first 5 books of the Old Testament or as it was thought of, the law. With the giving of additional revelation by God the idea of “the law of the Lord” would have to be expanded to read, “A righteous man delights in the whole Bible as the Word of God.” That certainly stands in contrast to the individual who, if not rejecting the Bible completely, feels free to pick out what he wants to accept and then writes the rest off.

The fourth comparison is between the difference one’s lifestyle makes in the value of a life from God’s perspective. The righteous person is, according to verse 3, “like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.” In contrast the wicked are described as “chaff that the wind blows away.” Both of those illustrations were pictures easily understood to those in Old Testament times and easily understood by anyone familiar with farming today.

The righteous individual or the Christian has a source of inner happiness, strength, peace, purpose etc. that does may not make a lot of sense in a world that sees only barrenness. In the midst of what seems like barrenness, the righteous person or Christian bears fruit that makes no sense to the world but shines as a testimony to the love and care of our God.

In contrast to that, a sinner who may appear initially to have it all together, is in the end simply chaff. The sinner’s life is worthless and will ultimately be blown away regardless of how well he supports his family and the community or how many toys he collects.

The fifth contrast/comparison notes that because the commitments and lifestyle of the righteous are radically different from that of the wicked, their ultimate ending is different. Verse 6 records that the “the Lord is watching over the way of the righteous” but for the wicked, their end is destruction. Read John 3:36.

In a world that seeks happiness at any cost and in just about every conceivable way, the Bible is clear that true happiness is found in a right relationship with God with a vital part of that relationship being right living described in verses 1 and 2.  True happiness is found in avoiding sinful ways while delighting in God’s Word and following it in every aspect of life. That is the source of real happiness and the goal each of us should have. 

Psalm 1

1. Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers,

but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day  and night.

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.

Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

Sermon Notes • June 20

Joshua 24:12-18: A Father’s Role

Very few Bible characters are as challenging as Joshua. His exploits, recorded largely in the book that bears his name, are always exciting and challenging. Among other characteristics, we see him as a family man who took seriously his responsibilities as the spiritual head of his family.

A Godly father’s motivation: 24:12-13: Joshua saw God as a gracious God who had blessed him as well as Israel in so many marvelous ways that it would have been all but ludicrous to do anything less than make God the center of his life and the life of his family. 

God had been so good to the Israelites so Joshua, serving as God’s spokesman, reminded the people of God’s great mercy and provision. Read Joshua 24:12-13

Israel had done absolutely nothing to deserve Canaan, but God gave them the land anyway. Skim through Joshua and see over and over how God worked in miraculous ways as He gave His people the Promised Land. All they did was walk around Jericho and the city was theirs. The Israelites lived in cities they had not built and in homes that that were already there. They ate food they had not planted. The land was so rich in crops, yet the Israelites simply walked in and claimed it as God had promised.

How much more motivation do we have to follow God when we remember God’s great love in providing us with salvation and then blessing us in so many other marvelous ways. Read Romans 5:8 and Ephesians 2:4, 5.

That loving provision is certainly a powerful motivation to lead our children in the ways of righteousness. How can we not want our family to love and obey a God who loves us that much?  

Joshua went on to tell the Israelites that because of God’s love and provision, they need to set Godly standards for their families. Read verse14.

Joshua gave two characteristics of a godly family. Godly families “fear the Lord” and “serve Him faithfully.”  To “fear the LORD” means to honor Him. Fearing God as a family is recognizing who God is and how we are to behave because of that. It means we are seeking to live as God would have us live because He is worthy of that kind of family life. Who He is should be reflected in every aspect of family life from the priorities placed on every aspect of life, to the way we treat one another.

To “serve” the LORD primarily has the idea of worship. We read over and over that the Israelites were not to serve idols but only the Lord (Deuteronomy 4:19). Not to “serve” meant they were not to worship them. Given all God has done for us He is certainly worthy of our worship, which includes, in addition to Sunday worship, family devotions and the rightful place for God in every aspect of family life.

They were do that with all faithfulness. They were not to give God half-hearted worship, but they were to give Him their whole lives. God has always required that kind of commitment and service from His people: Read Matthew 22:37.

For the Israelites to truly fear and serve God, they had to “Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. While God is rich in mercy toward us and wants to bless us and our families He will not do so as long as we want Him plus other gods of our own making. To be the people God wanted the Israelites to be they had to turn away from idols. They had to reject the influence of idols in their lives. In order for us to lead our families properly we need to rid ourselves anything we trust in or depend upon in addition to God. One cannot lead his family righteously if he is knowingly following idols or living in sin. 

Now no one ever suggested that living such a life was going to be easy. Read verse 15. 

All of us, including our children, face many challenges with many contemporary gods vying for our attention. That means that we, like Joshua, must decide who we will follow.

God has never forced people to accept or obey Him. It becomes our responsibility as parents to lead them into the truth and work with them by way of example and instruction so they can make the right choices.

It is not easy but at the same time if we are faithful there is no reason to despair. When truth and lies are placed side by side and the presentation of the truth has been bathed in prayer to the Holy Spirit, then honest hearts will most often choose truth. The challenge is not “How can we raise children in a pluralistic world?” but “Are we placing truth in front of our children?” The Psalmist reminds us of the importance of keeping before our families the truth when he wrote in Psalm 119:9, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.” Read Deuteronomy 6:6-7. We must not minimize the importance of making sure our children know the truth of God. 

Note one more truth. A Godly father leads his family by example and by assuming responsibility for the family. Joshua pledged himself to leading his family by making a personal commitment to being the father God wanted him to be. Joshua declared: “As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua promised to serve the Lord himself before he pledged to lead his family. Of course, Joshua could not lead his family in doing what was right unless he himself was doing what was right.

There is the important principle to note here. If we want to lead our children into righteousness, we ourselves must seek to walk righteously before God. We find that principle throughout Scripture. Read Acts 20:28, and I Timothy 4:16. We should never minimize the importance of making sure our children know the truth of God in practical ways day by day and not just on Sunday. 

Seeking to live righteously as godly fathers means we must also take the position of spiritual head of the home and lead our family in the right way. Note that Joshua didn’t open his family’s spiritual future to discussion. It was not a majority vote or a compromise to keep everyone happy. Joshua understood that as a man it was his responsibility to determine the direction for his family. God has given to us as men the awesome and exciting responsibility of leading the family.

I don’t believe that Joshua was trying to use his authority simply to dictate to the family nor do I sense he was ordering his wife and kids around.  It was a decision he hoped and prayed would be made as a family because of his example and commitment. He was using his position as father to help his family move closer to the Lord and in turn closer to all God’s love wanted to do for them.

Is there more you can do to lead your family in doing what’s right?  What a powerful gift it would be to your family if you re-committed yourself today to being the spiritual head of the family. God has offered so much to us why would we not want to see our family drawn closer to Him? Let’s recommit ourselves as grandfathers and fathers to that role and moms, recommit yourselves to both allowing and encouraging fathers to have that responsibility. Society today is continually trying to redefine family roles but as Christians we follow not the trends of that society but the Word of the Lord.