God is Great. We Must Wait
We serve a great God, don’t we?! As children of God we can enjoy all the benefits of our Creator. He has a challenging, yet encouraging message for us in the Scripture. God reminded His people, Israel, through the prophet Isaiah that He has faithfully crafted the whole universe down to naming every single star. If the Lord has taken such care to detail the backdrop to the grand storyline of redemption, how much more does he care for his chosen people!
If you are among God’s chosen people—His children—He has set His love on you. In this relationship, the Father has certain expectations. Throughout the whole canon of Scripture we can see two broad principles at work (among many): rewards for obedience and consequences for disobedience. In our culture, we are encouraged to have a self-starting, self-sufficient, even self-exalting outlook on life—and this sometimes surfaces in church contexts. At least two of these cultural phenomena seem positive on the surface, but there is a problem. All three are self-centered outlooks. Are you a self-centered person? (FCF) Scripture is challenging us to consider whether we are self-centered or God-centered. Those really are the only two options. The Scripture testifies to God’s greatness, and it describes the blessedness of those who simply praise and honor His greatness, regardless of what may come in their lives. GOD IS GREAT. WE MUST WAIT. (MIM)
As we look at Isaiah 40:27-31, let us consider some key terms. We are also going to consider the text in the greater context of Isaiah’s ministry, ultimately culminating in his prophecy of the Messiah. These prophecies were indeed fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Isaiah 40:27-31 says:
“Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel,
‘My way is hidden from the LORD,
And the justice due me escapes the notice of my God’?
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not became weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.
He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power.
Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
Yet those who wait for the LORD
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.”
A Walk Through of the Text
Let us make some important observations. God is addressing His people, “O Jacob,” then “O Israel.” Many of you are probably familiar with the account of Jacob being renamed Israel. This was a sign of God’s covenant, continued from Abraham and Isaac, to continue further to Israel’s offspring—the nation called by that name. God is reminding His people of His covenant faithfulness. This great God is loving, patient and faithful to His promises. The preceding discourse in chapters 39 and 40 illustrates God's faithfulness despite His peoples’ rebellion. Zooming out slightly to chapter 40 as a whole, by way of summary, we can observe God declaring comfort for His people. This comfort is not a fleeting, worldly comfort but an experience of the discipline of the LORD who will reveal His glory. There will be recompense for the rebellious, yet tenderness toward the repentant. The nations, their rulers, manmade items, and creation itself all pale in comparison to the LORD’s might and eternal perspective. Zooming out a little more in examining chapter 39 gives us a character study in King Hezekiah. He hosted messengers from Babylon to brag on the riches of his house. Isaiah brings the word of the LORD to Hezekiah stating that all his riches and even his sons will eventually be carried off to Babylon. Hezekiah’s response? “‘The word of the LORD which you have spoken is good.’ For he thought, ‘For there will be peace and truth in my days.’ “ What a self-centered response from a faithless ruler! Yet God’s word which follows begins, “Comfort, O comfort My people…" What a selfless, faithful God! Clearly, His people are in need of Him. Though Hezekiah was far from perfect, his utter need of the LORD his God is one thing he did get right. As 2 Chronicles 31:21 reads, “every work which he began…seeking his God, he did with all his heart and prospered.” The disobedience of his fathers resulted in judgment, but his obedience, though not perfect, resulted in the reward of prosperity.
A further look at the genre and structure of Isaiah 40:27-31 illuminates more of God’s greatness. This discourse given by Isaiah is poetic. You may notice some of your Bible translations have indents, extra spaces, or incomplete lines. With that, his flow of thought is not necessarily linear. We do see a linear flow of thought from God’s attributes and actions in verses 27-30 to Israel’s proper response in verse 31. In light of God’s greatness, the proper response is to wait on Him. In verses 27-30, we can observe a chiastic pattern. That is, the first statement relates to the last statement, the second statement relates to the second-to-last statement, and so on.
Selfish Ways Cause Us to Stumble
The first statement, “My way is hidden from the LORD,” relates to the last statement in verse 30, “and vigorous young men stumble badly.” The “way” and the “stumbling” in this poetic form should be understood in more than just physical terms. One’s “way” can refer to not only actions taken in their body but also ways of thinking, ways of feeling about things, ways of reasoning, ways of relating to others, and more. Ultimately, it speaks to one’s functional center of operation. If one's way is hidden from the LORD (or so they think), then their functional center of operation is SELF. Functioning this way, according to this Scripture, will cause even the strongest and most capable to “stumble badly.” The context of these verses makes it clear that nothing is hidden from God, who created and sustains everything. The invitation is to surrender to the Sustainer which requires letting go of one’s ways. We can “vigorously” try to sustain ourselves and make a good life on earth or we can wait on the Creator of life to reveal Himself in us.
Illustration / Argumentation
I had to walk with crutches this week. We had a church work day in which some of us were blowing insulation into the attic of the church building. It's pretty dark up there! I decided I would try my hand at spreading the insulation by working the hose rather than functioning as one of our deacons asked me by being the liaison between the machine operators on the floor and the spreaders in the attic. It was pretty disorienting with my headlight and mask on in the dark corners of the attic with insulation floating around. At one point, I lost my balance because, with my hands full, I could not hold onto the beams above me to stabilize myself like I had been doing before. Upon losing my balance, I stumbled badly over some rafters, putting my leg through the ceiling of one of our Sunday School classrooms. My other leg caught me, but some bones were put out of joint. This experience served to remind me that if I fail to follow the Lord's direction, I will indeed suffer harm. Consequences for disobedience. God is not demanding we follow Him because He is some oppressive dictator. He loves us and knows what is best for us.
God Sustains Our Lives
The second statement, “the justice due me escapes the notice of my God” relates to the second to last statement, “though youths grow weary and tired.” This speaks to the one enduring the trials of this life on self-strength. Even those who have the most energy and ambition will wear out if they rely solely on their own resources. The implied meaning to this statement, having been preceded with the rhetorical question, “Why do you say…” is that nothing actually escapes God’s notice. We also may have the wrong perspective about what we actually deserve! Do you ever try to take things into your own hands? Sustaining your own life is wearying, if ultimately futile BECAUSE WE ARE ALL DYING. We indeed have suffering on Earth, and Jesus promised His disciples that this often would be proof that they are following Him as they should. We have to rest, knowing He will make all things right. Things just may not go as I expect, especially if I am operating from a place of selfishness.
Illustration / Argumentation
Let’s say two kids were recruited by their elderly neighbor to help shovel snow off his driveway. In exchange for their work, the man offered to make them hot fudge sundaes and to enjoy a warm afternoon sitting by the fire in his house while he told them stories all about his life. The kids jumped at the opportunity, as they loved ice cream, and the old man was delighted to see their zeal. He brought out shovels for them, and they got to work right away. As they began their work, they looked at each other sheepishly, wondering what they had gotten themselves into. It seemed like the snow was a foot deep and the driveway a mile long! Thinking they would run out of time, they sprinted, shoveling left and right. Soon, as they began to wear out, the handles of their shovels broke. Ashamed, they looked up at their neighbor’s house to see if he noticed. They had indeed gotten a lot done, but they decided to retreat to their own home, leaving the job unfinished. A while later, they heard their doorbell ring. Opening the door, they saw the smiling face of their elderly neighbor. “Come, children, the ice cream is ready!” the old man said. They followed him to his house, wonderingly. As they crossed the fully-shoveled driveway in astonishment, the man beckoned them to enter his house. They sat by the fireplace as the old man brought out three of the biggest bowls of ice cream they had ever seen. “Kids,” he began gently, “why didn’t you wait for me? I was preparing to come out and help you. I knew you wouldn’t be able to finish the job alone, and I had hoped that we could enjoy the afternoon together. Anyway, have I ever told you the story about how my family began?” The kids began to understand their wise, gracious neighbor even better, and, while the ice cream was indeed very good, they enjoyed the man’s stories even more. This serves to illustrate the fact that we do not really deserve anything from God except death. Romans 6:23 says, "The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” God has placed the desire for eternal life in every single person, and we have to realize attaining to it is only possible by accepting God's gracious gift. He is interested in a relationship with us as we recognize in the present time that, “having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:10).
Only God Has the Power to Change Us
The third statement—God’s very name, “The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth” relates to the statement “to him who lacks might He increases power.” In comparison to the LORD, we all “lack might.” Isaiah is speaking to the choice to recognize our need. Any power that we might have to accomplish or understand anything of eternal value will only come from our Creator.
Illustration / Argumentation
God does indeed give common grace, which allows humankind to come to true conclusions about the world around them. Sir Isaac Newton’s First Law of Thermodynamics essentially states that “an object at rest tends to stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force, and an object in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force.” In order for anything to change, an outside force has to act. That is an indisputable scientific fact. Scripture is telling us this truth applies to not only the physical realm but also to the psychological and spiritual realms. Romans 12:1-2 tells us that as we simply “present [ourselves] to God,” refusing to live according to the ways of the world, we will be “transformed by the renewing of [our] mind[s], so that [we] may prove what the will of God is…” Do you fear God enough to recognize His ultimate authority and power? Do you love Him enough to entrust yourself to Him? As you are willing, He will change you to love and fear Him more.
Walk With the Lord, Our Strength
“Does not become weary or tired” relates to “He gives strength to the weary.” God is faithful to finish the work He begins in those who entrust themselves to Him. The weariness in this verse, like the rest of the verses, is not just speaking to a physical weariness. We are all burdened in many ways. Ultimately, we are burdened with understanding our purpose in light of God’s greatness. Jesus told people plainly that He fulfilled the Law and Prophets, to include Isaiah. When John the Baptist’s disciples began inquiring who Jesus is, as the crowds were also wondering, Jesus answered, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Jesus’ offer was and still is to simply walk with Him and experience eternal life—true rest. Only those characterized as “infants,” as indicated in Matthew 11:25, who are humble enough to put their full hope and trust in Jesus, will experience what God has intended for humanity. We must, as Jesus says in the first part of Matthew 11:25, throw off any delusions of being “wise and intelligent.”
Complete Dependence is Required
Now we have arrived at the central statement in the chiasm, the crux of the discourse, and ironically the key to unlocking the meaning: “His understanding is inscrutable.” Some versions say “unfathomable” rather than “inscrutable.” In other words, we will never fully have God’s perspective on things.
Illustration / Argumentation
There is no better illustration than the words of Jesus in Matthew 11. An infant is completely dependent on its mother and father. In the present time, we have come to a fuller revelation than Old Testament Israel, as the Son of God has come in the flesh for our redemption. Further, He has promised to come again to establish His everlasting kingdom. Of the coming of His kingdom, Jesus said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Matthew 24:36). As we wait for His coming again, we also have to be patient for the revealing of His will in our individual lives. He is looking to support a dependent people.
So what is expected of us? The expectation is the same as the encouragement to Israel in Isaiah 40:31. WAIT. “Waiting” does not just entail sitting around twiddling our thumbs. It is an active way of life driven by certain convictions. Selfish ways cause us to stumble. God sustains or lives. Only He has the power to change us. He gives us strength as we walk with Him. He is looking to support a dependent people. He is calling us to rest in his power to prepare us for His coming again. We walk in obedience by the power of the Holy Spirit as He reveals His will. This is not something we can choose how to do on our own strength, our own understanding, our own resources, or our own time. Those self-sufficient and self-exalting attitudes will lead to disobedience and dire consequences. He is promising to do it for us, and His promises are sure. God is Great. We Must Wait.
A Trustworthy God
We Have a Trustworthy God Who Holds Us
Philippians 1:3-6, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in your will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Picture a relay race. The teammates pass a baton after running their leg of the race. While one teammate runs, the next has to wait. After passing the baton, those finished with their leg cheer on the next. Only after the last runner runs his leg of the race do all the runners on the team win. They were in the same race, with the same baton, with the same goal, though each ran at different times. Remembering the 4x100 relay race in Track and Field, it was very strategic. Usually the fastest runner would run the last leg, and each runner had certain strengths which lended themselves well to running either a straightaway, a curve on the track, against the wind, with the wind, etc.
Likewise, God has sovereignly placed us in our time in history, so that He would prove Himself through his people. The course is our time on earth, the goal being glorified with Christ in His coming kingdom. The baton is the testimony of Christ in His Word and the perseverance of the faithful church through history.
vs. 3-4…Paul remembering the Church at Philippi in prayer, thanking God joyfully.
vs. 5…The reason he thanks God with joy is their participation in the gospel. *We can notice that the gospel is something to be participated in.*
vs. 6…”For” (or because) Paul has confidence in God’s ability to finish His work begun in the Church.
vs. 6…Paul is confident because he knows the Lord himself, but also the Lord is proving Himself through the Philippians’ faith! This encourages Paul. He is seeing what he has passed on to the Philippians come to greater fruition—the ultimate goal of being ready for “the day of Christ Jesus”—that is, Christ’s return.
So, “participating in the gospel” is participating in God’s faithful work! It is not just passing along a rote message.
The faithful work of God is to prepare a people for Himself, demonstrated by certain characteristics, as seen in the verses which follow:
vs. 9—abounding in love which stems from knowledge of Christ
vs. 10—discernment on what is of true value, worth focusing on. Sincere and blameless.
vs. 11—full of “fruit of righteousness,” that is Christ Himself being seen in our lives more. It is all about the glory and praise of God—not me.
These are all characteristics of those who entrust themselves to God’s faithful work.
It is not about what we are doing as much as it is about what we are becoming. We all have a different leg of the race we are running. I may have to forget even the ways I have operated in the past in my own life.
Philippians 3:12-14. In view of being perfected in Christ, Paul forgets what is behind and presses on toward the goal. CHRIST HAS LAID HOLD OF HIM, as He has laid hold of us for the same purpose.
THE GOAL OF THE “RACE” IS THE UPWARD CALL.
While we are running different legs of the race with different obstacles and challenges, the same principles are at work which were in Paul’s time. What we have to go through:
“That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11).
—power of His resurrection…to live the new life now
—fellowship of His sufferings…the repercussions of living the Christ life now causes waves in the world around us
—being conformed to His death…we have to deny ourselves—our own desires, comforts, goals, plans, ways of thinking, self images (position, power, personality).
—WE WON’T BE DISAPPOINTED. Our trustworthy God will take us through this, ultimately to resurrect us and glorify us with Him.
THE “BATON” OF THE “RACE” IS THE FULL COUNSEL OF GOD outlined in these brief verses.
Is the full counsel of God what we are holding onto and passing along to the next generation? We can suffer through anything as we stay faithful to the gospel, knowing we have a trustworthy God!
Hebrews 11:39—12:2 carries the same message, also with the race illustration. Those who ran before us will not be perfected before us, but they currently stand rejoicing and cheering us on, as those who have run the previous legs of the race!
The Gracious Offer To All
A trillionaire heard about a volcanic island ready to erupt and sink into the sea. All the inhabitants were helpless to save themselves and would surely perish without outside intervention.
The trillionaire decided he would spend every last penny to build a ship big enough to save everyone on the island. So the ship set sail and arrived at the island. The inhabitants were perplexed. Some recognized that help had arrived, understanding their destiny apart from this gracious act. Others preferred their life on the island, come what may.
The terms were simple. Those on the island were to leave everything behind and trust that the ship would bring them to safer shores. They would be expected to live with their rescuer and serve him in his mansion--a cushy life, though subject to the one they would serve for the rest of their lives. They would be expected to read the book on what life would be like living with the trillionaire. They were told to stay on the boat, even if they did not like the terms. They were promised that their new life was even better than what they could read, and they could hear recordings on the boat of the trillionaire describing himself and their future home--which gave them further hope.
They had their times of restlessness and would often not get along with one another as they were in such close quarters, but, remembering the gracious character of their new master, they grew in that same character--which also gave them further hope.
Finally they arrived to safer shores--a glorious new home. The trillionaire, though he had spent everything, received back what he had spent and more. The ship returned, as it had never ceased to be HIS ship--his wealth had just changed forms for a time. His dependents would graciously and adoringly live with and serve him for the rest of their lives.
This to illustrate some things. Jesus did not cease to be God. He just "emptied himself," "[becoming] flesh," one day to be glorified once again, having accomplished His mission (Philippians 2:6-7; John 1:14). Calvinists and others point to the limited atonement--and misconstrue many Scriptures--because they struggle with the idea that somehow some of Jesus' blood would have been wasted. If he truly died, was buried, rose, and ascended to the right hand of the Father to return again and establish his everlasting kingdom, then nothing was wasted! Yes, not all of God's creation would choose to honor Him as God, but they did indeed have the chance. Romans 1:20 speaks very clearly, "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse."
A verse cited for the idea of exclusive predestination (related to limited atonement) is Revelation 13:8, "All who dwell on the earth will worship him [the beast], everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain." The Greek verb tense translated "has [not] been written" is a combination of perfect and imperfect tense. The perfect tense implies a completed action with continued results. The imperfect tense implies past action which was continued, repeated, or habitual. John is writing of future events, so the "past" in the context could still be our future from the standpoint of our current time.
Considering the imperfect tense: If God did the writing continuously or repeatedly, that implies a work completed over time--from the foundation of the world onward. This further implies that everyone will have had a chance to have their name written in the book of life.
Considering the perfect tense: their names, once written, would always be written.
Interpretation: Those with a true saving faith have assurance of salvation, and the opportunity for this kind of faith has been given every person from the creation of the world onward.
The sad reality is that many have rejected this gracious offer. Some even put on a ruse or deceive even themselves who make a profession of faith without an actual conversion--submission to the Holy Spirit's work of regeneration.
The key is understanding that God, not man, is the center of all things. It does not diminish God's attributes to say that He has truly offered eternal life to all. In fact, it magnifies His character.
What Do You Adore?
Revelation 4:1-11. This passage is a picture of true worship, and it is fitting that it follows messages to the seven churches (each message was really for the universal Church).
--There are four living creatures which cry “holy, holy, holy.” These most likely represent the cherubim—angels which are messengers or intermediaries. The description of each speaks to an aspect of God’s character.
--There are 24 Elders crying along the lines of “you are Lord & God & Creator.” Most recognize the elders represent the faithful Church before the tribulation. This can be supported by Revelation 3:21, “He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
--There were seven churches being spoken to, each with an exhortation to overcome—and something in particular to overcome. By the power of Christ, the Church can overcome the love of self (Ephesus); death (Smyrna); satan (Pergamum); the world (Thyatira); apathy (Sardis); testing/trials (Philadelphia); and the Flesh (Laodicea). Those who do so get the awesome privilege of sitting with Christ—a place of honor and victory.
vs. 1…this is a vision of the future, unlike the instructions just given to the churches for the present.
vs. 2…John saw God on His throne
vs. 3…jasper—crystal clear like a diamond (Rev. 21:11); sardius—bright red (fire, blood); Rainbow—a reminder of God’s covenant faithfulness! Emerald (green is a picture of renewal). NEW COVENANT IN CHRIST’S BLOOD. WE WILL SEE HOW BEAUTIFUL HE IS ONE DAY!
vs. 4…24 elders around the throne—these are those who have overcome (Rev. 3:21)
vs. 5…”flashes of lightning and sounds of thunder.” God in His majesty and righteous judgment speaks. The very presence of God, much like Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19:16-19). “Seven lamps …are the seven Spirits of God.” This likely refers to the seven functions of the Holy Spirit as in Isaiah 11:2: Spirit of the I AM (LORD)—his very presence, wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, fear of the LORD. It is also in fulfillment of Zechariah 4:1-10. The word to Zerubbabel was that the LORD would give the Spirit to accomplish the rebuilding of the temple—God’s dwelling place. No human resources would be sufficient. In the vision, the oil was flowing from the olive trees to the lamp. Olive tree represents God making peace with humankind. The expectation on our part is that we would cease from our vain efforts to reach God on our own.
vs. 6…the way to the throne has been paved with what is pure, clean and clear. Nothing is blocking access to those who have overcome.
vs. 6-8..the four living creatures are likely cherubim, or angelic servants. They have eyes in every direction—the purpose is to take in all of God’s holiness and declare it! (Ek 1, 10; Isa. 6)
vs. 9-11…those who have overcome and been given crowns cast them at God’s throne and fall down in worship.
-All things created by God, and all things are to be rendered back to Him (see also Rom. 11:36).
What about NOW?
The Question is, “What Do You Adore?”
In light of the future expectation of seeing the fullness of God’s glory, honor and power, we should be seeking that in the present by overcoming what the 7 churches were expected to overcome.
The questions to reflect on:
1) Where am I selfish? …*I could want attention and recognition for service. *I can set goals and aspirations without thinking of others. “What’s in it for me” rather than laying down my life.
2) Afraid of death? …Or Afraid of losing anything? …Relatives or friends: I can be overprotective or possessive of those relationships. Job: I’ll do what I have to, even lie cheat or steal. Dying: I’ll exhaust my family’s and my resources to preserve my life instead of trusting in my Heavenly Father.
3) Succumbing to temptation? I am not content with what I have, so I could develop obsessions and bad habits—overeating, tobacco, technology, immoral thoughts of others…”Why not if it doesn’t hurt anybody?”
4) Following worldly patterns? Have to live the “American Dream” with what I own. I could get caught up in gossip or course joking. I could get involved in church activities while neglecting my own relationship with the Jesus.
5) Apathetic? *Many needs around me I could fill easily, but I think others can take care. *Children in need of a home…soften my heart to help! *Lost and dying world needs the hope of the Gospel.
6) Victorious or defeated over various trials? Health: I can see God’s hand at work and adjust my outlook/lifestyle, or I can get down on myself. *Mistreatment: I can love others, knowing I am accepted in Christ, or I can return insult for insult. *World systems: I can have peace, knowing Jesus will make all things right, or I can force peace.
7) How is my submission to Christ?
SOLUTION: Christ at the Center
WE SEEK TO OVERCOME BY THE POWER OF THE SPIRIT. THIS IS NOT FOR OUR GAIN EXCEPT THAT WE WOULD SEE GOD FACE TO FACE!
THE ROOT PROBLEM OF ALL WE NEED TO OVERCOME IS SELF AT THE CENTER.
(See Diagrams below)
He came once, and He is coming again!
Do you adore Him and value Him above all else?
He is not asking us to “pick ourselves up by our bootstraps,” but to simply submit to Him.
Rely on Him, and He will finish His work in you.
OVERCOME AS HE OVERCAME.
RESPONSE: Are you self-centered or submitted to Christ? Those are the only two possibilities. THREE TYPES OF PEOPLE: Those who have not committed to Christ (Self-centered by default), 2) Self-centered Christians, 3) Submitted Christians. Are you content where you are, or do you want to grow?
This day represents the harvest--an enjoyment of what has been given and worked for all year long. For many, it is a time to remember all the blessings that are in one's life, yet it is a lonely time for some.
The Lord is reminding us that it is a time to give thanks to His name--the giver of all good things--and to remember that no matter our situation in life, Jesus loves us, is calling us back to a relationship with our Creator, and He is faithful to His promise of eternal life for all who believe.
There is a harvest to come, as the parable of the sower in Matthew 13 shows us. Seed is down by the road, on rocky places, among thorns and in good soil. The word of eternal life from the King of kings is offered to all--to "fakers," "flakers," "makers," and "shakers."
The Fakers are those who in their heart still value what God calls evil. They have not truly turned from the way, or road, which leads to death.
The Flakers are those who lack resolve to follow the Lord, and they do not walk in obedience to Him when things get hard. They may have a shallow faith.
The Makers are those who think they can make a life for themselves, maybe even earn everlasting life. Maybe they have even said a prayer of salvation, but Jesus is not enough for them. These self-centered will not see true fruit despite their efforts.
The shakers are those who rest in God's faithfulness, who experience victory in the eternal life, and they increasingly display Christ to those around them as He causes the growth. They are the ones whom God is using to share His message of hope and to ask the question, "What kind of person are you going to be when God's harvest of souls comes?" We do not know the day or the hour, so let's be ready. Let us be found faithful as Jesus is faithful.
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”
Observations / Interpretations
-Crucified with Christ—What Jesus experienced should be my experience. His flesh was put to death, and so was mine. All who accept Christ—having been baptized into Him— are now free from sin (Romans 6:6-7). POWER of sin, not just past actions.
-No longer I who live; Christ lives in me—my life does not belong to me. Freed from sin, we are now constrained to live the new life (Romans 6:4). newness of life: Romans 6:11
-Live by faith in the Son of God—Paul knows who Jesus is—who He proved Himself to be. He rose from the dead, proving He was indeed the Son of God. Therefore, the “life which I now live” is a resurrected life, and one that has to be lived by faith. It is not necessarily a life that can be physically seen, at least not right now.
-Who loved me and gave Himself up for me—everything Jesus has done is out of His love for us, the ultimate proof of which is Him giving up His life for us.
-I do not nullify the grace of God--grace instead of wrath! (Rom. 6:23)
For if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly. (cite a few 10 commandments, ask who has never broken). The grace of God is what empowers a person to live a righteous life. The righteous life is not something which can be done through a set of rules and practices by human effort. The righteous life is the resurrected life of Christ working in a person. MY RIGHTEOUSNESS IS BASED ON HIS PERFORMANCE—NOT MINE.
By the grace of God, a person can be put to death and be given a new life pleasing to God—CHRIST’S LIFE.—The Exchanged Life.
Watch the video above for application points and for an illustration. The diagrams in the sermon were used by permission of Grace Fellowship International (https://gracefellowshipinternational.com/), specifically from Charles R. Solomon's Handbook to Happiness.
The Wise, Able Father
A father took his 2-year-old son on a hiking trip to the Appalachian Trail. They pulled in to the trailhead and the father got a brand new backpack out of the car, as the son looked on with glee.
"Ok, son, this is going to be a long, hard walk, but I know this trail well. Stay close to me and listen to my instructions and we'll get to the top of the mountain safely."
Before the father could finish his pep-talk, the little boy grabbed the backpack, stuffed in a few of his favorite toys, and ran to the trailhead, looking back at his father with a huge smile on his face.
The father smiled back with joy over his son's eagerness to walk with him. So they began the trek. As they went, the son would stop to look at all the beautiful leaves and rocks, stuffing the backpack full. The terrain began to get rough, and the son continued to struggle.
"You okay, son?" the father asked.
"Uh...yeah?" the son said sheepishly. Then he sat down and began to cry.
"Oh, my dear son. Let's empty this backpack of all this worthless stuff. This isn't why I gave it to you--to fill it with everything in the world. I gave it to you so you will know that I can carry you. I love you and I want you to enjoy this trip." The father said this tenderly as his son looked up at him with teary eyes and reached up to his wise, able Father.
The rest of the trip, the son sat in the backpack with his arms wrapped around his father's neck. They both felt so much joy as they walked and talked together--and the view at the top was truly magnificent.
The Lord, our Heavenly Father, is looking to support a dependent people. The little boy, while eager to walk with the father and excited for the journey, did not understand the nature of the relationship nor the dangers ahead. Too often, Christians trust in Jesus Christ for salvation yet forget the implications of eternal life given in the present time. We need to remain teachable, recognizing our need of Him every moment of every day.
Jesus said, "I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. ... Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light" (Matthew 11:25, 28-30).
The wise and intelligent think they know how to live life, to "carry their own weight," so to speak. Jesus is not telling us to take His yoke upon us and figure things out. No. Our burden is our very life. He is simply offering to carry us.
Are you among the "wise and intelligent," as Jesus said, or are you okay with being dependent on the Lord?
Rest in God's Grace
The one who in his heart loves God's righteousness more than anything will see a mighty work of God. To find our life in Christ alone, rather than anything in this world including ministry, is the wisdom by which souls will truly be saved. We can rest in that as we labor in our faithful efforts which in this time may seem unfruitful.
To force "results" can be deceptive wages. A tree takes a long time to grow, and those who take its fruit can most definitely not give it life...to sow righteousness is to put our fleshly efforts to death by the power of the Holy Spirit...
"The wicked earns deceptive wages, but he who sows righteousness gets a true reward" (Proverbs 11:18).
"The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who is wise wins souls" (Proverbs 11:30).
"...God was causing the growth...each will receive his own reward...you are God's field..." (1 Cor 3:5-9).
"I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls..." (2 Cor. 12:15)
We have nothing to gain, as we already have everything we need in Christ!
REST IN GOD'S GRACE.
" 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me" (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Review (chapter 1 in a nutshell): God our creator has shared his life with us through His Word. God is recreating willing vessels who will receive that Word and live a grace-driven life. God by His grace has come in the flesh as the Lamb of God to take away sin and the Son of God to give the gift of the Holy Spirit. The invitation is that we would “come and see,” that is, to take part in this life by the power of the Holy Spirit as we witness His glory, with the future hope of the revealing of His everlasting dominion.
vs. 1-2, A wedding in Cana of Galilee which Jesus, his disciples, and “his mother” are invited to
vs. 3…The “mother of Jesus” comes to Jesus when they run out of wine
vs. 4…Jesus replies, “my hour has not yet come.”
vs. 5…”His mother” tells the servants to do whatever Jesus tells them.
vs. 6-8…Jesus tells servants to fill up water pots used for “Jewish custom of purification” then draw some and and take it to the headwaiter
vs. 9-10…the water had become wine, and the headwaiter recognizes it as the best tasting wine of the day.
vs. 11…This was the first of Jesus’ signs. He manifested His glory. His disciples believed in Him.
vs. 12…Jesus goes down to Capernaum for a few days with “his mother, his brothers, and his disciples.”
vs. 13…Jesus went to Jerusalem in time for the Passover.
vs. 14…He found people selling animals for sacrifice in the temple.
vs. 15-16…Jesus drives out the money changers and the livestock. To the sellers of doves he says “stop making my Father’s house a place of business.”
vs. 17…His disciples were reminded of an OT Scripture when seeing this.
—Specifically, “Zeal for Your House will consume me.”
vs. 18…The Jews are asking for a sign of Jesus’ authority.
vs. 19…:Jesus: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
vs. 20-22…Jews thinking he is speaking of physical building, but He was talking about His body—something which his disciples realized in hindsight. Upon the sign of being raised from the dead, his disciples believed the Scriptures and Jesus’ word.
vs. 23…Many believed in Jesus during the Passover, given the signs he was performing.
vs. 24-25…Jesus not entrusting Himself to people because “he knew all men” (plural) and “knew what was in a man” (singular).
vs. 1-3…”His mother…” Much like John the apostle who simply refers to himself throughout as “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” and like John the Baptist who says he is unworthy compared to Jesus, Mary is downplayed. Her significance is only that she is related to Jesus.
vs.3-4…Jesus and his mother both knew what he was able to do and, more importantly, who He was. “My hour has not yet come…” It was not the time for his death, resurrection and exaltation. While the promise of the Messianic kingdom includes “abundant wine,” Christ’s atoning death and resurrection had to be accomplished first.
vs. 5…Mary’s command: do what Jesus tells you. She recognized Him as Lord (Luke 1:26-35).
vs. 6-8…”jewish custom of purification.” Jesus’ cleansing work is permanent and transformative, unlike the Jewish traditions.
vs. 9-11… There is new life in the wine, just as Christ offers new life—the best one—HIS.
vs. 12…Jesus’ brothers are also now with Him. They must have been convinced of who Jesus is. “The disciples” also refers to more than just the 12. Jesus often had a large crowd following Him wherever He went.
vs. 13…The Passover in Jerusalem…*See “Christ in the OT Festivals” handout.*
vs. 14-16…driving out the “marketplace” from the “Father’s house.” The temple a more permanent dwelling of God than the tabernacle, but still merely foreshadowed Christ Himself.
vs. 17…Psalm 69:9…JESUS’ PASSION FOR REVERENCE.
vs. 18-19…the sign which the Jews will be shown is Jesus’ death and resurrection. THE CROSS as a sign. THE RESURRECTION as a sign.
vs. 22…The Scripture and Jesus’ words are equally authoritative! The proof of that is that He indeed rose from the dead. Also, the Scriptures all speak to the Messiah achieving victory through atoning death and resurrection—not just an earthly conquering king as many supposed. Jesus’ POWER OF RESURRECTION.
vs. 23…Many believed because of the signs, unlike his disciples such as Nathanael who believed because of what kind of person He was and that His words were consistent with Scripture.
vs. 24…”Men” refers to all the individuals. Just like He had proven in the previous chapter that he knew the individuals whom He had called. He was not entrusting himself—that is the full revelation of His glory—to those who were not looking for Him, unlike the disciples.
vs. 25…”What was in a man” refers to the natural condition of man. can be seen in the Pharisees who merely sent a delegation—PROUD. Can also be seen in the moneychangers—GREEDY. Can also be seen in those buying and offering sacrifices—HYPOCRITES. They see God as someone to appease based on their performance/offering. Again, “men love the darkness,” which is their natural way of life, ways of the world and ways of our enemy, satan. “What was in a man” will be fleshed out more in the dialogue to come (John 3:19). Men are fickle. They only believed because they saw results/outward displays of power. Those who only look at the outward miss seeing Jesus’ glory. Jesus had the proper PERCEPTION OF REALITY.
Jesus’ glory is seen only by those who seek Him—not self gratification. True disciples’ hearts are enraptured with the words of our Lord, the words of Scripture, when He proves Himself in this physical realm. The message is “Life in His name,” (20:31) which requires leaving the old life as the disciples in chapter 1 did. We have hope as we look to the power of His resurrection to overcome the reality of our condition (pride, greed, hypocrisy).
Do I have the same Passion for Reverence which Jesus (and David) has?
How have I seen the Lord proving Himself in my life and the world around me? Do I experience the cross and resurrection daily (Power of Resurrection)? (Paul’s example: Phil. 3:7-11)
How am I living a life of pride, greed or hypocrisy? ( Do I have Jesus same Perception of Reality?) Jesus has given power to overcome that.
Has the power to overcome directed me to the message of Scripture, “life in His name,”(by denying self) or something self-gratifying? Perhaps I need to check my understanding if the latter…
Review: Chapter 2 showed Jesus turn water into wine and clear the temple during the passover. The Lamb of God came to the temple to see who were seeking God for the new life He offers. His disciples had been looking and recognized Him when the saw Him (Chapter 1). Those who do likewise will behold his glory, even now. “What was in man” is pride, greed and hypocrisy—a self-sufficient and self-gratifying life. Those who recognize Jesus as Son of Man (everlasting dominion) and Lamb of God (atonement for sins) leave their old, worthless life behind.
John 3: 1-21
vs. 1-2…Nicodemus, a “ruler of the Jews”—a Pharisee—came to Jesus at night.
-He addresses Jesus as “Rabbi,” that is, teacher, and acknowledges that he is sent from God. He is wondering what Jesus is teaching, having observed the signs (ch. 2).
vs. 3…Jesus tells Nicodemus the whole message of His ministry in a simple statement: “unless one is born again he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”
vs. 4…Nicodemus doesn’t understand the statement. Natural birth is what came to his mind.
vs. 5…Jesus clarifies—must be born “of water and Spirit” to enter kingdom of God.
vs. 6…that which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of Spirit is spirit. Two different births beget different types of people.
vs. 7…”do not be amazed” implies that Nicodemus was amazed.
vs. 8…Just like they could not understand the path of the wind, so the one born of the Spirit also cannot be understood.
vs. 9-11…Nicodemus doubts, and Jesus points out Nicodemus’s rejection of the “testimony.”
vs. 12…How will you believe heavenly teaching if you don’t believe earthly teaching?
vs. 13…Jesus once again claiming the title “Son of Man” and pointing out that He is the only man on earth who has been in heaven.
vs. 14-15…As Moses lifted up the serpent, so the Son of Man must be lifted up to give eternal life to whoever believes.
vs. 16…God in his love has made eternal life available to the whole world.
vs. 17…The Son was not sent to judge the world but to save it.
vs. 18…Those who believe are not judged. Those who do not believe in the name of the only begotten Son of God are already judged.
vs. 19…the judgement is that men loved darkness rather than the Light. Evidence of that is that “their deeds were evil.”
vs. 20…those who do evil hate the Light because they don’t want to be proven they are evil.
vs. 21…Those who practice truth come to the Light. The purpose
Interpretation / Correlation
vs. 1-2…Nicodemus was somewhat ashamed/proud (came at night), yet showed more humility than other Pharisees. He wants to be taught, so he came to Jesus.
vs. 3…The first birth does not make one worthy. Nothing you can do—you need a new life
vs. 4…We don’t have understanding of new life apart from Jesus explaining to us.
vs. 5-6…Born of water refers to natural birth (amniotic fluid). Can’t be spiritual if you have only experienced natural birth.
vs. 7…Nicodemus was amazed at the spiritual nature of the message of the kingdom.
vs. 8…I won’t understand my own life—“where it comes from or where it is going.” Only God knows.
vs. 9-11…Jesus interpretation of Israel’s history—and the history of creation—is different than Nicodemus.’ Jesus pointed out Nicodemus’ hardness of heart. The “testimony” is that of John the Baptist: God is making this message of true LIFE available to all, which John was to share with his life (ch. 1:6-8).
vs. 12…There is a greater meaning beyond even what Jesus has taught regarding being born of the Spirit. The “earthly things” are the taking away of the sin of the world. They did not see Jesus as the one who could be the once-for-all sacrifice as the Lamb of God. The “heavenly things” are the experience of eternal life through the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This goes beyond the mere Jewish understanding of the Messiah who would be a natural king to establish an everlasting earthly kingdom. They had no concept of the Messiah as being God Himself.
vs. 13…Like Jesus alluded to in ch. 1:51, Jesus claiming the title “Son of Man”—the one with everlasting dominion (see Daniel 7)—and the fact that he is the one who offers direct access to God. This also reminds us of his humility in becoming like us (man) —See Phil. 2:5-11. GOD ALMIGHTY MADE HIMSELF NOTHING FOR US.
vs. 14…”As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness” is an allusion to Numbers 21:5-9…The people spoke against God, complaining about no food or water despite God’s miraculous deliverance from their enemies and provision of manna. What God provided for them was not good enough. The fiery serpents were a picture of the peoples’ nature—like satan. The serpent on a standard was a picture for them: put your natural desires and rebellious nature to death and be healed. To look upon it was to see one’s own condition. Similarly, we look to Christ.
-The Son of Man must be lifted up…Jesus is interpreting “Son of Man” (Daniel 7:13-18). The Jewish understanding was one of a conquering king whose victory they would share in. This would have turned Nicodemus’ understanding upside down. Jesus not only made Himself a man, but made himself the object of God’s wrath to bind forever the work of satan.
vs. 15…Eternal life is available to “whoever believes.” To believe in Christ, in the context, means that I accept He is the one who took the punishment I deserve so I can escape God’s wrath. I recognize His authority in giving access to God and his everlasting dominion to which all nations will be held accountable. The eternal life is experienced through being born again—or baptized—by the Holy Spirit.
vs. 16…This is all an act of God’s love. The snake on a stick foreshadowed Jesus on the cross. The snake healed the disease, but the fiery serpents were still present. They had to continue to look to the snake; likewise, we must continue to look to Jesus to overcome. This is available to anyone in the world, not just Israel.
vs. 17…The time for judgement had not come, accept a choice to accept the offer of eternal life
vs. 18…The name of the only begotten Son of God is the Word, The Lamb of God, the Son of Man. Those who do not repent of their way of life and accept Jesus as divine revelation, atoning sacrifice and the everlasting ruler of creation are judged already.
vs. 19…The “evil deeds” are the way of life exposed by the Light which is in complete opposition to the life God is offering. In other words, there is nothing good in a person.
vs. 20…People don’t want to admit they need to change. Again, “what was in a man” is pride, greed and hypocrisy (chapter 1 and 2).
vs. 21…”Practicing the truth” is sharing in the eternal life by the power of the Spirit in the present time. This starts by coming to Jesus and recognizing the need for a new life. God will accomplish His work in those who recognize this need. Those people desire to see God glorified in this. The question left with Nicodemus is, “now that you know the truth, what are you going to do with it?” Will you practice the truth by letting the Light search you and have His way?
There is nothing good in a person, but God in His love has made it possible to have eternal life now in which we witness His working in us. This experience is one we will not fully understand as we simply fix our eyes on Christ; therefore, we are dependent on Him.
Practice the truth that only Christ in you is good.
Prayer: “Lord search my heart because I don’t even know what is in there!”
Do I think more highly of myself than I ought?
Do I think I lack something?
Am I okay with not understanding the course of my life as I trust Jesus to do HIS work?
This is the blog of Tyler Shepard, the Associate Pastor for Centre Union Church in Yeagertown, PA.
I hope you are encouraged and challenged to walk more closely with Jesus Christ!