Archives: Sermon notes

These are the somewhat unformatted notes of a few sermons preached at Emmanuel church.

1 Samuel 1:20 – Samuel – Given by God and staying with God!

Again and again, children in their teenage years walk away from the church and from Christ….

Despite the fact that their parents having cried out to God for their children…..

At the sports field where my son was playing cricket, we began to talk to a parent who told us that her son was a miracle baby. She went on to tell that she was 38 years old when she had him. He is her only child.

As such, she chooses to raise him herself rather than putting him in the boarding school.

Today we looking at the story of a man whose life was a grant from God and whose life was lived as such…..

  1. Given by God!

His name was Samuel: A name that his mother Hannah, whose faith in God was unquestionable. She had given him the name Samuel declaring that – “I have asked for him from the Lord”. 1 Sam 1:20

We are dealing with someone whose mother had instilled in him not only an understanding that states:

“You are what you are because of God”……but also “You are for God’s purpose” – she had dedicated him to God.

Look at the prayer of Hannah….

She was unmistaken about who was behind this blessing of a little boy…..

“My heart exults/ rejoices in the LORD, my horn/strength is exalted in the LORD.”

In our English bible where LORD is in capitals it always refers and highlights the name ‘YHWH’ –

Which means the God who is self-existent, self-reliant and the God who is over all, created all and above all.

She says, “My heart rejoices in YHWH”, I wonder of you can see this?

She was unmistaken about who her God is and who has granted her this child.

I have no doubt that she must have instilled in this little boy his true identity in God- the couple of years that she had him before she handed him over to the temple in the care of Eli.

I believe, just as it was necessary in those days and for Hannah to know her God……. I believe it’s of utmost important that you and I know who is our God.

In this day and age we are told that it doesn’t matter which god you believe as long as you believe, (it’s just one god after all)……

The God of Hannah was different; he was not the one to be found in the Koran or Hinduism book…..

The God she had prayed to is the God she was now declaring her strength to be.

He was the God of Israel as presented to Moses in Exodus 3:14-15

God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I am has sent me to you.” God also said to Moses, ‘Say to the Israelites, “The LORD, the God of your fathers – the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob – has sent me to you.” This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.”

I believe it is utmost important that we know we are calling to: if we are Christians we are calling upon the “the great I AM” – YHWH.

Again and again Jesus claimed that he was YHWH, that he was the “the Great I AM”, for example:

John 8:58 “Truly, truly I tell you Jesus answered ‘before Abraham was born, I am.”

John 10:14 “I am the good Shepherd.”

Elsewhere he says “I am the resurrection”. “I am the way the truth and the life”.

The God Hannah prayed to is the same God YHWH, whom Christians pray to – he is different from the God of the Hindus and Muslims etc.

He is the One who died and rose again…..

It is to this God that we enter through the blood of Jesus…….

Give credit to your God…..

Hannah knows who her God is……she knows who she owes her blessing to…..she knows that her son is a gift from this God…..do you know who yours is? If you pray to any that seems near you at the time……I have bad news for you…..

Your prayers can never be answered by Jesus……

Let me also hasten to say that just as Hannah owed her child to her God….. and Samuel owed his life to this God of the bible……

The bible also says that you and I owe our being from the same God……..

Yes, in some way Samuel was a miracle baby;

Hannah would come and pour her heart out to God in prayer for a baby…….year after year she cried out to God…..one day God looked with favour to her and she conceived and had the baby….

Yes, we are dealing with a miracle baby, but I would contend that every conception and birth is a miracle on its own and this miracle is owed or belongs to God: turn with me to Psalm 139:13-18.

The psalmist declares that his life is a finished product / a design of God…..

For this he praises YHWH (vs.1 says “you have searched me YHWH).

I am wonderfully made by YHWH…….Hannah knows this God to be her God and she praises him…..

That is the God of those who claim to be Christians – that is the God who answered Hannah’s prayer.

That is God who made every detail of your life – this is the God you must have confidence in.

Samuel was given to Hannah by this God….

  1. Samuel stayed serving this God till the end!

His name was Samuel and he grew up in the temple……he must have known why his name was Samuel. He must have known why he didn’t grow up like any other child.

He must have known he was dedicated to God….he was a grant from God…..

As such, he would serve the Lord forever. (see 1 Sam vs1:22-28) “For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord”. (Meaning for the rest of his days on earth).

His mother had stated this about him……his mother had fulfilled her part of the promise to God……

As the story unfolds, one wonders if anything will deter this boy Samuel or will he serve God for the rest of his days on earth……

Let’s have a look at what happens to him and if he stays the course for the rest of his life:

Chapter 7:15 declares “Samuel continued as Israel’s leader all the days of his life.”

Let me give you some highlights of his service to God:

  1. Regards to the calling of Israel to repentance (see 1 Sam vs 7:3)

Leaders who do not call people to repentance are not godly leaders;

I listened to an interview of Somizi, a self-professed gay man. He declared that he had been at his church for over 20 years and he had never been told that homosexuality was a sin.

Samuel was a servant of God….Samuel was willing to call people to repent….

The church needs the Samuel type of leaders…..

Leaders who will tell people that if you are saying you want to be a child of God……then turn

to God genuinely. Turn away from idols and serve him only….

  1. Regards to listening to God’s voice (see 1 Sam vs 8:1-22)

The voice of God is what he listened to……and he gave them a king as they had requested and God had instructed…..

There are many things that go against our natural self…..and our sinful nature……

We must be willing to listen to the bible for in it the voice if God heard…..

How are you doing there? Do you follow your preferences or do you follow the voice of

God?

  1. Regards to practicing what he taught (see 1 Sam vs 12:3)

In the final speech, Samuel declares and calls upon the people and reminds them that he has, as far as humanly possible practiced what he preached……

Today there are wolves feasting with God’s people……in the church and outside the church you see this……

I had of a story of a founder of a private school in Johannesburg South…….the founder and principal had an affair with a matric girl and when this was discovered, he was asked to leave. He sold the school for R10m and walked away a millionaire…..

You get such stories with churches as well……

We need leaders who will practice what they preach…..Samuel was that kind of leader – he walked with God till the end……

Conclusion:

As he was given by God and dedicated to God for the rest of his days, Samuel dedicated his life to serve the God, who in the first place had brought him into being.

I believe there lies a crown of glory for such people, as Paul would say in 2 Timothy regarding his own journey on earth and in heaven:

2 Timothy 4:6-8

Those like Paul and Samuel – those who dedicate their lives to God – to serve him with their few days on earth, can rest in comfort as Paul would say “there is instore for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge will award me on that day”.

Elsewhere he says 1 Cor.15:58 “Give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, for your labour in the Lord is not in vain.

1 Samuel 1:1-20 – Hannah – Rising above disappointment and ridicule

Hannah’s situation

  • Hannah had no children

As a result, (vs.2) possibly, her husband took another wife who bore him children.

Though he took another wife, the writer points out that “her husband loved her” despite having no children. Because of this, (vs.6), the other wife used to irritate her and ridicule her.

You couldn’t think of a more fertile situation to a life of continual misery than the one she finds herself in….

The other wife continually aggravated and mocked her inability to bear children. This continued year by year (that was her life).

As she went to the house of the Lord to pray and sacrifice (her situation remaining the same), we are told that at this particular time, Hannah would weep and not eat, which gives us an indication that she will go through dark clouds of despair and depression for what was going through her life.

I think it’s easy for us to think that God’s children do not go through depression during periods of dark clouds……

I mean you can imagine the situation for this woman – she continues to go to the temple and seek for God to change her situation but every year she returned to the same situation……

Her rival in marriage tormenting – you could hear her saying “Where is you God? Why do you have no children yet you go and pray?”

You can imagine the disappointment in her eyes…..the disappointment which eventually reaches a state of depression (continual weeping and not eating).

There are times in the life of God’s children when all seems to be going wrong……..you pray and nothing seems to be happening (disappointments lead eventually to state of depression).

She weeps and she stops eating……

We must understand this; the greatest of God’s servants have known this period that I call “periods of darkest cloud”….

David in Psalm 42-43 when his own flesh and blood, Absalom had staged a coup d’état in his own kingdom………

He knew this period of darkest cloud and even though we go through these periods – we can rise above them….. (see 42:5, 6 -11, 43:5).

Hannah is a clear example:

Number one – she has the support of her husband

He plays some part…….how privileged she was to have a husband like hers……he doesn’t say to her “gather yourself”, but rather he reasons with her.

Vs.8……Though you don’t have children – I am standing with you…..I am yours…….

It helps to have someone reasoning with you, but sometimes there is no one…….

Number two – She has a persistent faith in God….….

Hannah’s persistent faith and prayer

We are told in vs.9 that after she ate and had something to drink “she rose” and went to the temple of the Lord…..

She knows that the comfort of her husband is but temporal – she needs more than man’s words…..she needs God……hence she rises to God’s arms as it were….

As human beings we do not undermine the value of others helping in our time of need…….a counsellor may help you rise and eat, be it a professional or a just good wise Christian …….

But we are not to fool ourselves – we need more than man’s motivation, we need to turn to God in our time of need………

For man’s help is but temporal – but God’s strength remains forever……

Psychologist and Christian counsellor Dr. Larry Crab emphasizes the need for man but also the need for God in times of need:

“The witness of the Scripture, the Holy Spirit and a few Christians persuades me that there is really a path to knowing God in the midst of any circumstance.”

You can rise above any circumstance – all you need is persistence in faith…..

You must persistently trust in God……you must declare that my hope is found in no one else except in Christ…….

You must accept and declare as the prophet Hosea calls Israel to do: take words with you and return to the Lord – Hosea 14:3 “Assyria cannot save us; we will not mount war–horses. We will never again say ‘our gods to what our own hands have made for in you the fatherless find compassion’.”

This is declaration that my hope is in Christ alone……not in man…..not in idols…..

But in Christ alone……

Hannah rises above her circumstances because her faith in God was unshakable.

Put your faith fully on Christ and you will rise against whatever situation even if things remain the same……

Let us now note Hannah’s persistency that God honours……..

Look at her prayer of praise (what an amazing revelation she had)

  1. Hannah’s prayer of praise (2:1-11)

This is a song of praise i.e. vs1-2

But then afterwards it is a declaration that

  • Man’s fortunes depend on God

Have a look at vs.3ff…….

As I read the story of Hannah and her subsequent praise song, I could not miss the fact that there was Hannah going to the temple as always…..to pray.

Little did she know that this was the moment that God had ordained for her?

The God whom she praises as the One who determines seasons and periods for his children……

I always say, we don’t know what tomorrow brings – it only takes a phone call from somewhere……a decision from someone can change someone’s life…….

Today we can be full – and it is for this reason that we must be humble ourselves for we don’t have our future in our hands.

Today we can be is so much need – but then tomorrow may usher something new…….

We are therefore people of faith – unshakable faith……people who never lose hope but are continually waiting upon our God…..

As we conclude look at the story again, and realize that our hope ought to be in God……in Christ alone…..

In Christ alone my hope is found…….

Amen

Psalms 113-118 – Psalm 117-118 The confidence of God’s children on their God

This past week I needed a device installed on a vehicle very urgently……

No fitment centre was available to help so I just walked into one of them and begged.

The gentleman at the front desk went into office upstairs and returned with the news “sorry we cannot help”.

I then said, “Can I go and ask myself?” They said, “No, but if you insist, then go, but nothing is going to change”.

We cannot help you……

At this time I sensed strongly that God will soften the person upstairs, so I told the front desk, “I am going and I am going to come back with a positive answer, wait for it…..the God I serve walks with me”.

At this, the front desk gentleman followed behind me to see what will happen…..

I told the lady upstairs that I know that she is fully booked, but Jesus says “ask and it shall be given”

So I am here to ask……

The answer – “OK, please make sure that your vehicle is here first thing tomorrow morning”.

When we have seen God at work in our lives, we grow in confidence in our trust to his unfailing love…..

Today we are focussing on the confidence of God’s children…..so let’s have a look at it – we noted this last week:

Because of the steadfast love of the Lord, the Psalmist calls for all (117:1) to praise the Lord.

That is to dedicate their lives to Him……

The Love of God can also be seen in the fact that the cries of God’s children never go into deaf ears.

As a result of this fact, the Psalmist declares his confidence in God.

  1. God’s children have confidence in their God (see 118:6-14)

So he says – “The Lord is with me, therefore I will not be afraid” (what can man do to me?); and

“The Lord is with me as my helper, I will look in triumph on my enemies”.

He goes into great details about how he will prevail over his enemies…….

The enemies he is talking about is not a reference to someone that you just don’t like…..this person for whom you have a personality clash (maybe they never greet you; used your milk in the fridge at work without asking for it etc)…..

The enemy he has in mind, is someone who stands against God……

It’s someone who opposes the plans and purposes of God…….

It’s those who oppose the gospel…..

You see he stands as the servant of God……in a mission of God, thus he can declare that his enemies will not stand…..

Because he has seen God at work in the past……his confidence in God is stronger and thus he can declare to anyone that, (Vs.8-9) “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in a princess”.

This person is able to declare this because he has a testimony of God’s kindness over his life…..

He has seen God in the past. (Vs.10-14) In the past he had opposition from every side, he describes as having “swarmed around me like bees”.

In the name of the Lord, he was able to fight them back……and defeat them…..

Thus he can declare not only vs.8-9, he can also declare:

  • vs.14 “The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation”.

This is where I am saved in life….when I am attacked, when I am pushed back and about to fall”.

My Saviour is God…….

  • Vs.15 shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous.”

Those who are covered by God’s righteousness sing songs of joy and victory over the enemies of God…..

As God works in their lives, they cannot help but sing the songs of joy and victory…..

Just in case someone thinks that victory means “a life free of trouble”….

The Psalmist declares, “because I am a child of God despite the fact that he disciplined me, (when God allows difficulties)”.

God has not allowed this to destroy me (vs.18).

Therefore, (vs.17) “I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done.”

All this comes from the realization that God is close to his own children……he stays close to them…..

Their prayers are never wasted….

The Lord has been with him in the past……at the point of falling apart (the enemy did not succeed).

I believe, for those of us who believe that God is our Father because of Jesus Christ……can also have confidence in God, that he will give us victory over our enemy Satan……

Though we know that there are times when he may allow Satan to seem to be winning – for example:-

  • The case of Job.
  • The case of Paul with his thorn in the flesh (see 2 Cor.12:8). God had given him a thorn in the flesh, three times he pleaded with God and the answer “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

You see what is happening, sometimes God allows our weaknesses to prevail so that his power will carry us.”

So that all may see the power of God in us and praise God that despite our weakness we are standing……

Do you see that often the charismatics are misleading people, when they tell them, “You will always succeed if you follow God. You will always be healed when you have faith…..

You will be millionaires if you have enough faith to declare yourself to be a millionaire”.

Yes, God will grant success to his children and we must trust Him for this; but we must accept that there are times when God allows evil to seem to be having the upper hand……

The psalmist has also declared this in vs.18, but then when he allows this, it is not to destroy us…..

Conclusion:

You must not waiver in confidence and faith in God, no matter what.

The same God who has been with you in the past, will be with you in the future.

Those enemies who want to stand in the way of God’s plan for your life will not succeed…..

But we must also remember that his message to us may be the same as that of Paul whom God said, “You will go through the thorn, but my grace will be with you”.

You will go through the fire as if the devil is winning, but remember my grace is sufficient for you…..

Gods’ message for you today:

Trust in him who has been with his own in the past…..

He will thrash the devil and all God’s enemies under his feet.

Even if he doesn’t grant the success you were expecting, accept that God’s grace is with you moving forward

John 1:1-17: Jesus rejected or received

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

JW mistranslation: “and the word was a god”: this is exactly what it does not say.

 

2 The same was in the beginning with God

Just in case you didn’t get it.

 

3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Same as Hebrews 1:1-2:

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,

2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;

And while we’re there,

8 But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.

v2 The trinity: A clear doctrine in scripture:

Gen 1:1: Father Spirit and the Word:

1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

 

Creation, not evolution:

150 years ago, Charles Darwin wrote, “Man is descended from a hairy, tailed quadruped, probably arboreal in its habits.”

“Clever words”:
quadruped: four legged thing
arboreal: tree climber
He means, “I’m an ape that can’t climb trees anymore.”

cf.

Gen 1:26-27: And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

cf. John 1v3

We in his image

Not he in our image: Darwin thought himself clever, and was a fool. He …

changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

When you think you are cleverer than God, you are stupid.

4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

Jesus, the light of the world. None of the pretenders:

  • Real light: not the fake light of entertainment, or infatuation
  • Not new age inner light of occult stupid
  • Not you yourself (humanism)
  • Not society (ubuntu)
  • Not the government (socialism)
  • Not politicians, not even the good ones: not Jacob Zuma, nor Nelson Mandela, nor HF Verwoerd, Jan Smuts, nor Shaka Zulu.
  • Not the party: your party is not going to save you: the ANC is not going to save you, the DA, EFF, ACDP, IFP, nor their leaders.
  • Not science
  • Not the Pope, nor Muhammed, nor Buddha
  • Not some modern prophet or apostle

One hope, no pretenders

5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

People who do not know Jesus are in the dark

Jesus is

  • Not official
  • Not certified
  • Illogical
  • Not politically correct:

    1 Cor 2v7-8: 7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:
    8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

But shining: blindingly obvious, but for those that will not see

Cockroaches: running away when the light comes on

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

Prophets: speaking from God, sent from God

God sends prophets, not:

  • Spiritists
  • Scientists
  • Archaeologists

God sends real prophets, not false prophets:

Jer 23:28-29: The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord.
29 Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?

7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.

“A witness”: observer that reports what he saw and heard; e.g. witness of an accident (and take pictures too)

Not a false witness: 2Peter 2:3: “And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you”

“Might believe”: Believe is …

  • “That is true.”
  • “I agree”
  • “I’d stake my life on that”

Faith (believe) vs works:

  • Not cease to do evil, but believe
  • Not begin to do good, but believe
  • Not to prove yourself worthy, but to believe
  • Not to make a new start, but to believe
  • Not to be elect, but to believe [calvin]

All men”: this means you too. All men means everyone:

  • The good, the bad, the ugly
  • Every tribe, tongue and nation: our friends, our enemies

8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.

When you go with the gospel:

  • You are not the light (handsome, charming, beautiful)
  • We don’t preach ourselves 2Cor 4:5 For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.

Jesus is the light.

9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

True light: Only Jesus; all others are false – they did not bring the light:

John 10:8 All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.

Every man”:

  • Gospel is for all nations
    Isaiah 49:6: “It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.
    Isaiah 56:7: mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.
  • Racism is evil: hating on account of appearance (skin, face) or language
  • For all languages: gift of tongues in Acts:
    Acts 2:9-11: “Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia,
    10 Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes,
    11 Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our
    tongues the wonderful works of God.

 

10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.

He was: this is an historical record – he was here

in the world: it is not so very odd that he was in the world. We are made in his image:

Gen 1:26-27: 26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

We look like him

He came into the world and looked like we do

Knew him not: The great tragedy of the fall of man: we have fallen into sin: we don’t know God

We know:

  • clever philosophy
  • social structure
  • clever schemes and technology

but not the creator.

 

11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

He came:

Nobody had to go and get him

Received him not:

  • The best people – God’s chosen people
  • Not foreigners: they knew his law, his love, his character
  • You expect: a party, a parade
  • You see: genocide by Herod, traps by Pharisees, condemnation by priests and elders, murder

Why? John 3v19 : And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

 

12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

received – how shall we receive him

power – you don’t have the power

believe – here’s the thing:

  • not by dedicating your life to serve him (“Lordship salvation”)
  • not by giving up sin – not by deciding to try
  • not by good deeds – not reforming life

 

13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

Born again: Jesus discusses this with Nicodemus:

  • of blood: not your family
  • not of flesh: not by trying
  • not by will of man: not by me trying for you

This is the work of God.

It is his grace to those who believe.

 

v14-17 : Epilogue:

Repeating what we have already seen in a different form:

14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

Only begotten: Not adopted, but the genuine family bond

15 John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.

Jesus: from before the world began

16 And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.

Always good to us, and giving us more than we deserve

17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ

Moses brought the law: the great display of God’s character. The greatest commandments:

Deuteronomy 6:5: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might

Leviticus 19:18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.

We all come short of the glory of God because of sin.

Jesus didn’t just bring the law and explain it better.

He brought something new:

  • grace: undeserved favour – the law told what to do for deserved favour
  • truth: the whole story

We cannot keep the law, but Jesus did:

  • Jesus shed his blood on the cross as the penalty for sin.
  • He died, and was buried.
  • On the 3rd day he rose again.

1Peter 2:24: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

John 3:16: 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Rom 10:13: For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Ask him to save you: “Lord Jesus, I’m lost in my sins! Save me!”

Psalms 113-118 – Psalm 116 – Clearly discerned Hand of God

When I lived in Port Shepstone, I enjoyed driving to and from Durban…..

Whether it was winter or summer, (the beautiful green hills of sugar cane) were just amazing to behold…..

There were other times when I would however drive with one thing on my mind – get to my destination.

But otherwise, other times it was a beauty to behold…..

I think life is like that; it can either be 200km back and forth or 80km, where you ponder and behold the beauty of God….

The beauty of the hand of God upon your life…..

I think that life today can be so busy in such a way that we never stop to consider the beauty of the hand of God in our lives…..

These are the best moments of living…..the best moments of walking with God…..meditating and perceiving the hand of God in your life……

The psalmist calls us to join with him as he discerns the hand of God over his life/ their lives as God’s people:

We have said that these (113-118)….. Psalms are called Egyptian Hillel / praise…..praising God for the Egyptian exodus….

  1. The hand of God discerned

The writer recalls and cites acts of God that he had clearly seen in his life, perhaps here he speaks in singular but really representing the covenant people of God…..

God heard my voice and my pleas for mercy…..

Vs. 1 “heard my voice and my pleas for mercy”

Just like you and I, the Psalmist knows the times of great pressure in his life…….where you don’t know where to turn, what to do? Importantly the Psalmist turns to God in prayer, he cries out, he pleads for mercy……

There is no better space in times of great trouble than to turn to our God for mercy….

And the cry is just “Lord have mercy on me”. “Lord be merciful to me”. Our minds and our hearts keep on crying “Lord have mercy”…..

You say Lord have mercy, because you know that, there is nothing you can offer to God (your righteousness is not good enough)….your works cannot even begin to stand in God’s presence…..

So as the words of the song would say “nothing in my hand I bring” simply to the cross I cling……

There is a story that fits what we talking about here…..found in (2 Samuel 24:1ff). David had sinned against God by pointing a finger at himself…..rather than God…..

The anger of God was very much kindled against David, he took the glory which belonged to God and placed it upon himself……

So he was given a choice in vs.12 as a punishment from God:

  1. Three years of famine in the land
  2. Three months of fleeing from your enemies
  3. Three days of plague in your land

David’s response there shows a man who knew the mercy of God.

Vs.14 “David said to God, “I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men.”

Do you see the point there? Let me fall into the hands of God, for his mercy is great….

I would rather fall in the hands of God, for God does not treat us as our sins deserve…..he deals with us in mercy…..

We need to capture this afresh – (God does not treat us as our sins deserve) instead of punishment, he embraces us and he says “my son it will be ok, this will too will pass”.

“My grace is sufficient for you”.

The psalmist here also pleads with God for mercy……

God heard his pleading for mercy…..he heard his voice……his cries were because whatever matter were pressing (it was a matter of life and death).

God saved him from death……that was :

Vs.3 “saved from death” READ

Whether the enemy was pressing against him to kill him or there was a sickness we don’t know but what we do know is that the issue he faced was a matter of life and death…..

There the psalmist, having cried out to God for mercy, doesn’t then turn around and credit someone else……

Credit must be given to where is due….

God must receive credit…..he is the one that doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve….

He is the one that saves us from all calamities…..

The Psalmist says death seemed real…….the grave seemed to be knocking at my door…..but then the grace of God knocked first and stayed….

I cannot hide this he says, I was overcome by trouble and sorrow.

Then in vs.4, I called on the name of the Lord “O LORD save me”.

Vs.5-6 READ

Gracious, righteous, and full of compassion is our God, he shields the simple hearted…..

In my time of great need – the Lord saved me.

The Psalmist has testified of God’s hand upon him and now preaches the truth to himself (sometimes there is a need for that, for you and I to preach to ourselves).

Vs.7

Find rest my soul for the Lord has been good to you……

But then look down at vs.15

People who are able to discern the hand of God and respond are those:

  1. Those who know that God is sovereign over their lives (every little detail of their lives where God is at work)

They have this trust that though the road seems full of midst…..you cannot see clearly…..

They know God who is in charge over their lives, they turn to him for mercy…..

  1. Those who think through issues and meditate, their lives are not driven at 200 km as it were….

They ponder, they consider, they pause, they turn to God’s Spirit and his word for guidance.

The Psalmist knew the sovereignty of God, knew that there was a need to consider and ponder what is happening in our lives….

Hence he cried out, hence he saw the hand of God…..

But you know what? – he is not just blinded by God’s mercy in this life…..

He knows that God’s prevails even in death……

But he also knows that even if God had allowed him to be swallowed up by death as someday it will happen…..

He strongly believes that.

Vs.15 “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints…..”

It’s precious because God takes them to be with him….. it’s precious because the mercy of God leads God’s children even beyond the grave to the grace of God in heaven…..

Even if he doesn’t save me from death now…..I know that when we die in the Lord we are not separated from the King whom we have served.

Think through the words of our Lord Jesus Christ – John 11:25-26

The discerned hand of God upon us should have an impact in our lives in such a way that our lives are never the same…..

You can’t see God and remain as you were yesterday…..

You cannot see the mercy and the grace of God and remain standing.

  1. The response

Vs.12 is key to this Psalm, “What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits”

Vs.1 “I love the Lord”

He doesn’t hide his commitment to God as a result of his mercy…..he declares this publicly.

Baptism is a public declaration of God’s hand upon our lives…..

Vs. 2 “I will call on him as long as I live”.

Though we know that God is the one that holds us closer to him all the time, we too must commit ourselves to him…..

The Psalmist says, come what may, the song I want to sing, the song I will sing…..

No matter our tomorrow be filled with good or ill, we will rise to bless God still.

Vs.7 “Return on my soul to your rest”.

Be at peace o my peace……don’t fret, but see the hand of God.

Vs.10 “I believed” even when I had said all man are liars.

Despite all that had taken place, “having accepted that I was greatly afflicted”, having been in dismay and accepted that all man are liars…….

Despite all this “I believed”.

I put my trust in the Lord.

Therefore my life will tell a story of thanksgiving…..

A story of faithfulness to my God…..

For I have seen the hand of God in my life….

Conclusion:

The mercy of God…..

The grace of God in his Son our Lord….

Have you seen that? How can your life be the same again?

Shouldn’t your life be transformed from inside out…..?

Shouldn’t your life tell a story of a man or woman who will declare “no matter what our tomorrow be filled with good or ill, will triumph through our sorrows and rise to bless God still.”

May that be our story…..

Psalms 113-118 – Psalms 113 and 114 – Who is like the Lord our God?

In a village, there was a competition between what each group believed to be a real God……

Each was to present their perception of God in a miraculous fashion.

The first group then had their first chance – prepared a bull, had it cut into pieces, placed on the wood but would not light it. They called to their gods for hours and hours but nothing happened…..

Then the other person said to this first group;

“Shout louder, perhaps your god is deep in thought ((meditating), or busy, or travelling and there is no network where he is?”

This went on for hours and hours again, nothing happened, then……they gave up….

The other person who was alone, then had his chance…..

He prepared his bull, and demanded that water be poured on his altar (three times)….then he called once to his God…

And the fire of God came from heaven and burned up the sacrifice.  When the people saw this, they cried out “The LORD, – he is God. The LORD – He is God.”

Today, I would like you to think and not just end there but also decide today for whom shall your life be lived, whom shall you serve?

Is such a God not deserving to be served?

Just like Elijah, here is a psalm that presents God……you must decide whether he is worth your worship….

Turn with me to Psalm 113 & 114 (Some background)

Psalm 113 – 118 form part of what is known as the Egyptian Hallel / praise.

Psalms 113 -114 are known as descriptive psalms whilst 115 may be classified as communal confidence.

116 on the other hand is an individual thanksgiving hymn.

These were sung during the Passover celebration as a reminder of God’s great wonders amongst his people during their time in Egypt.

113 -114 were sung before the eating;

115- 118 were sung after the meal;

Which makes these psalms of particular interest as we note that on the last Passover that Jesus and his disciples had, these were the psalms that they would have sung.

Today we are looking at Psalm 113 & 114.

Who is like the Lord our God?

The psalmist starts by

  1. A call to praise Him at all times (vs.2-3)

This psalm opens and closes with a call to all who serve the Lord to praise him.

To praise him, means that each dedicates his or her life to the honour of God…..

You tell of God’s goodness, you tell of God’s kindness……you tell of his wonders…..

You are unambiguous about what and to whom your life owes its being, in other words, all the benefits and blessings are credited to God……

You cannot begin to have a worship or praise that comes from the heart and that is acceptable in the sight of God unless you can tell what God has done in your life……

Are there things which bear witness to God’s goodness in your life?

If you can’t find anything, then let me show you what the Psalmist calls to mind to his recipients.

  1. Praise him for he is worthy to be praised

Vs.4-9 He is the Sovereign God (over all) yet stoops down to care for the needs of his people……….

Read vs.4-9

That is what the Psalmist brings to the fore……

God is over all, he is in charge over your life and my life…..in charge over every detail of your life….

Even in times of confusion, it helps to remember that God is still God…..God has lost his Throne…..

God will not lose his throne……God still sits and reigns over all. Will you remember this today? Will you rise from your ashes as it were and praise Him, He is still the Lord?

You may not see the full picture, but will you remember and will you hold on to the fact that he is in charge over all?

Such a great reminder of such a great God evokes this – vs.5 “Who is like the Lord?

Yes, enthroned above all and yet stoops down to meet the needs of his people……

Vs.7-8 “poor and needy” and he rescues them and he sits them with princes (Israel knew that)

Vs.9 – many in the history of God’s people – Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah……..these were blessed with children of their own……

Every little detail…..God stoops down and he cares about these……

Whether you have food, you have money for the house, money for school, able to have a child…..able to call a child your daughter…..

You will do well today to remember that God cares about your every detail of your life…..

Where else do you find God presented as the one who stoops down and as the God that sustains all things yet stoops down?

Do you remember these words said about our Lord Jesus Christ?

Hebrews 1:1-3 ; Read

Philippians 2:5-8

Here is God in every way……he is presented as the very God in heaven…..presented as the one who sustains all things (thus sovereign over all).

He stoops down takes the form of a servant and he even dies (death on the cross).

Just so that he meets the needs of his people…..just so that you can God (My Father).

You can cry out in your time of need (knowing that somebody out there sees and cares about my life).

His death on the cross has achieved this…..

The Psalmist says that is the reason we must praise him (he stoops down to care for you).

Further reason we are called to praise is given in Psalm 114.

Why should we praise Him?

The nature listens to him? Vs.3-8

Here the Psalmist calls to mind the great miracles of God upon his people when he rescued them from Egypt……

Vs.3-6 & 8

What God is this who does such things? Who is like our God? Can we actually compare any God to this?

What have they done?

Which God has stooped down and died so that he meets the needs of his people (so that he pays for their sins)

Which God summons the seas and rivers and rocks to do as he pleases?

Which God can even be seen centuries later doing the same things?

Speaking to the nature so that it listens to him.

Was this not the Lord Jesus Christ presented by Mark in 4:35?

He is with his disciples and is asleep and a storm (heavy and rough storm) begins.

He is in a boat with his disciples and they are afraid and they cry out “do you not care that we die?”

The one who stoop down because he cares about his people – is asked “do you not care that we drown and die?”

He wakes up and rebukes the storm “Be quiet” and it’s quiet.

And they asked the question – who is this man that even the storms listen to?

Beloved, this is the God who illustrates such care for us that he stoops down and dies on the cross…

This the God in charge over all, the God who sustains all things by his powerful word.

Conclusion:

What response deserves such a God?

Vs. 7

Bow before Him……for there is none like Him…..there is no God beside Him……

Offer your life to him…..dedicate all that has to do with your life to this God….

Even when you don’t see the direction…..remember “He stoops down to meet your needs”.

He left heaven and died for you……how much proof do you need?

 

 

Ephesians 3:1-13 – The mystery of God (part 1)

Is God a racist?

When God called Abraham, he worked through him, and he worked through his sons (Isaac, Jacob and the whole tribes of Israel)….

Was God being a racist? God was not just interested in one small tiny people……

God had and has a bigger plan / bigger purpose for the rest of mankind….

So as we can see, when God first calls Abraham……

Read: Genesis 12:1

We see him calling Abraham, but we see that tucked in that promise is God’s plan for all the families of the earth……

I want to boldly say that God calls Abraham not just to bless him….but significantly so that the true God of Abraham may bless all the families of the earth.

Rarely would God call someone without having a bigger picture, without a purpose to bless many people…..

So the Jews were called, or Abraham was called and then the Jews who descend from him were called…

But this action was meant to touch all the families of the earth……

In fact we must emphasize that such a calling, “I will bless you. Anyone who blesses will be blessed, anyone who curses you will be cursed”.

That promise was meant for you and I. We are the possessors and recipients of that promise…..

If we have come under Christ, thus spiritual children of Abraham, we are not under any curse, we are under a blessing…..

Look at this – from all the corners of the earth……God wants to bless his people…..

The sad part of this is that the people of the world are slowly withdrawing from God’s hand of blessings…..

They want to live their lives without God in the world…..

This is the mystery that Paul refers to here in Ephesus – let’s have a look at this:

  1. The Mystery of God

Let me explain the term ‘mystery’ – In English this word has a meaning of something dark and secret, but to Paul in his Greek thinking, mystery refers to the truth hidden from human knowledge or understanding but only revealed by the revelation of God….

In other words it’s a ‘specially concealed and revealed truth’.

We note therefore few points about this mystery:

  1. Mystery was made known to the apostle by revelation (vs.2-3 & 7-8)

In Ephesus 1:17,

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that you may know him better”

This revelation from God which he prays for is something that Paul himself has experienced, as he states in vs.3.

Here, Paul by revelation, he is referring to his experience which is outlined by Luke in Acts 9. You might remember Paul (known as Saul at that time) was the enemy strongly fighting against Christianity and we are told a lightning / light flashed, and then he was addressed by Jesus himself vs.5 “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.”

Paul went for three days blind and lead by another to a place where he received this message from a man called Ananias. This message comes from God and states this about Paul:

But the Lord said to Ananias, Go this man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.”

That is the revelation, and thus we can conclude that this mystery does not come from a self-proclaimed man.

But this comes from a man who has been given a special revelation towards his task at hand……thus you can trust his interpretation of this mystery…..

May I say that as Paul prayed in chapter 1 for a Spirit of revelation for the church in Ephesus…..that prayer should be ours….so that we can point to a time and times when God took our path and turned upside down…….when God took a normal, perhaps a religious day and turned everything in your life upside down…..

In such a way that if you were fighting against God but instead you bowed the knee and confess Jesus as Lord and Saviour.

In such a way that even as a Christian that you can tell of God’s wonders in revealing his purpose for your life……

Maybe you were about to kill yourself, but somehow God showed you something in his word and your life was saved……

Do you have something like that in your life?

Those are people that the church of God needs, people who are continually being shaped by God’s revelation……

Those are people that God uses….

Have you had a revelation about Jesus Christ? is there a day when you were headed in another direction and God turned everything around and thus you bowed the knee and confessed Jesus Christ is King? Without that experience, you cannot have any claim with Christianity and Jesus (you are not a child of God).

The message for you, is as it was for the Jews who turned a blind eye to Jesus, Luke 13:34-35

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings and you were not willing. Look, your house is left desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

Will you be left desolate or will you bow and declare, “Blessed is Jesus who has come in the name of the Lord”?

  1. This mystery is the mystery of Christ

Look at vs.4

It’s a mystery (of) Christ – that is, it belongs to him, he concealed and he revealed at the time of fulfillment…..

Yes, it is about him, but Paul is raising the fact that this mystery is of Jesus Christ.

He concealed it – he revealed it to Paul…….

He was there in the beginning and he revealed this plan in part with the Jews….but now he makes known. See vs.5 & 9

Paul says that it was revealed in part (somehow concealed). Vs.9 says, “was kept hidden in God, who created all things”.

How can this be of Christ and at the same vs.9 points out that it was “hidden in God who created all things?” Unless Paul wants to point out that Jesus and God are one, in such a way that it can be said that this belongs to Jesus and yet hidden in God…..

May I say then, Jesus is the one who was there in the beginning, is the one who ushered the new era of the revelation of the mystery…..

He is the author and the perfect-er of life……

At the time of concealing, he was right there, when it’s time to reveal things in your life (he is right there)

The whole calendar of God is in his hands…..the whole plan of God is his hands…..

Many people miss the direction and the plan of God for their lives because they ignore Jesus Christ.

You cannot know God’s timing for your life – if you ignore Jesus Christ.

I appeal to you today – if you want to walk in God’s plan for your life (draw closer to Jesus, listen to Jesus’s words, walk in Jesus’ words)

We come now to what this mystery is:

Read Vs.6: Gentiles and Jews are heirs together

Heirs of the kingdom –

Luke 12:32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you his kingdom.”

God reigned and ruled for Israel (they were his kingdom).

But now God in Jesus Christ, all people have a privilege of having God ruling and reigning over their lives…..

You know what that means – that we don’t have to fear a thing for we know that as we live in this world:

God rules and overrules

God closes and opens doors

God guides and shields us

God rules over our lives, just as he did to the Jews, so he does to us……

Members together of one Body (In the OT, phrases like “my people” were exclusively referring to Israel i.e. Isaiah 40:1 says

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem….”

There was only one people of God then, but today God has revealed that he refers to even Gentiles as we saw in Isaiah 56:1-8,

“God’s house will be known as the house of prayer for all nations”.

This was revealed in part, but now in Jesus…….both Jew and Gentile can claim to be “God’s people”.

God himself calls them “my people” and sharers together in the promise in Christ.

In Genesis 12, the promise was that God wanted to bless Abraham, and that some day all the families of the earth will be blessed through him…..

That promise for the blessings of God is now fulfilled and it’s for all people.

Just as the angel said to the shepherds who were keeping their flock, Luke 2:10

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.”

The promise of Abraham and Israel is now shared together by all people (not second class or first class).

All are equal and all are sharing in God’s blessing in Jesus Christ.

What this means is that if in Christ, we are on the blessed side……

Whoever curses you – God will deal with.

Whoever blesses, God will bless.

For we are the families of the earth who are blessed in the Son of Abraham……

Conclusion:

We plead with you – praise the Lord for his many blessings that are ours in Jesus Christ.

Let your life tell a story of people who are blessed by God.

All this has been made possible through Jesus Christ.

 

  1. The mystery and the church
  1. The church is the instrument of God in revealing the mystery Vs.10
  2. The church can now approach God with freedom and confidence Vs.12

Ephesians 1:15-23 – A fresh comprehension of God’s work in us

The words of the song by Jimmy Cliff, “I can see clearly now the rain is gone” portrays someone who sees an imminent and certain positive change. He talks about the rainbow, and blue sky as signs of how he clearly sees a bright sunny day appearing…..

This is a prayer for that type of comprehension for something new that God is achieving in Jesus Christ…..

Having pointed out the blessings that are for God’s children in Christ, Paul opens up his heart to these Christians……as he reveals how they feature in his prayer life.

Something special about these Christians – something that moves the apostle’s heart to remember these Christians.

I suppose this is a critical element – Christians are attracted to us due certain qualities that they can observe in us.

There are certain fruits that are strictly of God’s children.

Paul has heard something about these Christians:

Vs.15, “your faith” and your love for all the saints”…..

These are qualities that the world would not necessarily look for.

But for us, they are paramount. These are observable in the churches in Ephesus…..these move the heart of the apostle to pray for them……for they are known as people of faith…..people of love.

Look at the content of his prayers for them:

  1. God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

In life, it is one thing to have knowledge and education and the capability to make money and fame etc., but, and very importantly, it is another to know what to do with what you have……what to do with your life, to perceive and to comprehend what is beyond the surface.

So he prays for wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Jesus.

This is to know Jesus and as a result have superior, discernible comprehension of life as a whole…..

Let me give you an example of what the spirit of wisdom and revelation looks like in someone’s life:

  1. A spirit of wisdom can be observable in Solomon in 1 Kings 3, there you see someone faced with a difficult situation; but shows a great spirit of wisdom……

One child has died and the other is alive (two mothers fighting over the living one), knowing that the real mother would not let her child die, he devised a plan to have a child cut into two thus exposing the lying mother…..

That is a spirit of wisdom…..

This is what James speaks about when he says that if anyone lacks wisdom he should ask;

James 1:5if any of you lack lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault; and it will be given to him.”

This spirit of wisdom is something that we need to pray for others, but also for ourselves…..

We need to be known as people that possess great discernment of life as a whole, who act in a special way, a way that honours our Lord.

That is the spirit of wisdom, let’s have a look a spirit of revelation – to be able to see beyond the natural: see Shadrack, Mishack and Abednigo when they were before Nebuchadinezzer.

Their words show a great level of revelation, when they were told to bow to the statue or they would die they respond – Daniel 3:16

“O Nebuchadnezzar, we do need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand O King. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king that we will not serve your gods or worship the image you have set up.”

Now, often we are called upon to act under difficult situations and we don’t know what to do, I think this prayer brings to the fore a very important aspect:

A spirit of wisdom and revelation: whereby you are able to see beyond what is happening…..see beyond the natural…….see life from God’s point of view……

I want to say to you this morning, this prayer is a prayer we need to have for ourselves and for Christians in general, so that when we are called upon, we know how to respond.

I saw an interview with a lady on a Christian TV station, she was testifying how God had saved her from her life of multiple men relationship / almost from prostitution…..what stood out as she spoke was how she lacked a spirit of wisdom in the way she was dressed: she was dressed like a prostitute, in her mini-skirts…..

She was still dressed as if she wanted to seduce someone…..and yet now she is testifying about how God had saved her from the life of seducing men……

We need wisdom in how to behave as Christians, spirit of revelation, so we look at life from spiritual point of view.

That reveals that we are experiencing growth in our knowledge of Jesus ……

  1. The eyes of your heart (heart may be moved / comprehend) enlightened so that you know the hope to which he has called us.

The world doesn’t know real hope. It knows hope that is no hope but just wishes……Christians, on the other hand know something special…..

For there is a hope that God has called them into……

It is the hope of eternal life……the hope of life not remaining as it is forever……a time when God will do a reversal of fortunes……

A life whereby God would turn our mourning into dancing……tears into endless joys; death into endless days.

Sometimes, we are not able to see this, faced with a life like everyone else, difficult times come to us as to others……

The hope of eternal life doesn’t seem to make a difference in our lives.

Beloved, when we are faced with difficulties, we need like no other, to hold on, to reclaim God’s promises to us.

Who I am today, what I experience today is not the final experience by any means….

God has reserved something special for his children…..something that cannot be fully comprehended in this life…..

But this is our hope – that God will turn our experience of lacking and mourning into a time of endless joys……

We need to comprehend this, we need to pray for such comprehension……in these days of sorrow and sin and fear, we need to refocus again on the fact that God has a special day coming for his own……

A day when no pain or suffering, or lack will be experience – that is the hope God has called us into.

And that is, (according to vs.18) the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, which basically means that this great future, our future where mourning is turned into dancing; is God’s glorious inheritance in the saints……this future will benefit us in ways we cannot fully comprehend today.

But also, this future is God’s glorious inheritance, he looks forward to what he will do in us……

When we will forever be dancing a song of joy…..song of praise forever……that is his inheritance.

  1. To discern the great power that is at work in us who believe, vs.19-20.

We Christians often live our lives as if we were part of a defeated, dead Christ…..Christ who claims to be the Messiah, but was not and was proven by being crucified and his life ended at the grave.

We miss the fact that we belong to the Messiah, the true Messiah, the One who was dead but now is alive…..the one whose claim as the true Son of God were all proven true when God raised him from the dead….

Paul here reminds and prays that we would comprehend this truth, that the God we are serving has this incomparable power (power that raises someone from the dead).

Paul prays that we may comprehend the fact that the same power that was at work in raising Jesus from the dead ——is at work in us today…..

Think through this – what is impossible with this God? If he conquered the grave, what would be impossible for him……what would he find difficult to do in our lives if it’s in his will to do…..

Think through this – the things we fear most……the things that greatly concern us…..are things that are powerless when they capture afresh the power at work in us……

Do you see what we fear, in the light of what God has done in Jesus, we should not fear?

We should be like the Leper who once said to Jesus, “If it is your will you can make me whole.”

The leper believed nothing was impossible with God…..that same attitude should be present in us…..

As we close, our prayer is that you can say, I can see clearly now the future is full of hope (eternal life is real).

I can see clearly now the power is at work in us (me).

I can see clearly now the wisdom and revelation in Jesus Christ…..

That your life may be clearly discernible……that you can stand and face whatever demon, whatever fear, whatever challenge you may be facing today, knowing of God’s power at work in you…..knowing the great hope of God’s great future for us who believe.

Amen

Ephesians 1:7-14

This past week I was discussing with a Muslim gentleman about Jesus……for which he declared that he also believes in Jesus and he believes that there are no differences between the two religions.

I then responded by pointing out that according to Islam, Jesus did not die on the cross, but Allah took him away – and according to the bible Jesus died (in fact at the centre of Christian faith is the death of Jesus Christ).

I would like to reaffirm that statement and point out that without the cross of Jesus, we have not Christianity…..we are still in our sins…..

Just as the heart is at the centre of every life – so is the cross of Jesus, the crucifixion is at the centre of every Christian…..

Without the crucifixion, there is no resurrection…..without the resurrection there is no hope for eternity (since our hope to new life is intertwined with the resurrection of Jesus Christ).

Would you then turn with me to Ephesians 1:7ff

Note what this text does not say;

In him we have redemption through church attendance, through our parents’ faith, through our own good works……through our own. At the centre of our redemption is a person (In Him)…..it is through his blood”.

But what it does say is:-

Through the blood

In him (Christ), we have redemption through his blood…..

But before we focus on this, some explanation of term ‘Redemption’ is necessary:

Redemption:

Redemption is an act whereby a price is paid to free another (could be a slave, land, someone who went bankrupt).

Redemption for our text has an understanding of someone who was enslaved to hell, and complete bankruptcy towards heaven / towards God.

In this text it says “In Him we have redemption through his blood”.

In other words in Christ, man’s bankruptcy towards God is brought to an end. The one who couldn’t come into the presence of God can now stand before God in his presence.

The one who couldn’t cry out to God, today, when he or she turns to God, knows that he can be heard……

The one whose life was confused, had no direction, no hope……today has hope and a clear direction for his life, because God in him, has drawn himself to us and drawn us to Him (heaven has come down to us, and us have been given a place heaven).

We are known, we are loved, we are cared for, we are shielded, we are guided, and we are not alone…..

In this life, that can be lonely and scary, we can know that we are not alone (God has come down to us from heaven).

All this has been made possible through his blood……

Without the blood……it is for this reason I said, “The cross, the crucifixion, the death of Jesus is at the centre of our move and being and our faith”.

This was a message that God has been communicating right from the beginning of time…..

For Adam and Eve, God killed an animal and used the skin to cover their nakedness.

An idea that seem to have come to the fore even with the offering of Abel.

Then the whole sacrificial system in the OT, was a prophetic word to his people, that God would one day let one die for the sake of the other……

Animals had to be slaughtered.

Animals had to be killed. These animals would serve as an substitutionary atonement for sin (the idea of the substitute did not start with soccer, but it started with God).

When an animal would die as a substitute for man….

There is a beautiful story in OT that illustrates this so well; Leviticus 16:20-22 reads “when Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the Tent of Meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat. He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of Israel – all their sins and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the desert in the care of a man appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place and the man shall release it in the desert”.

On the Day of Atonement, two goats were required (one was slaughtered as a sin offering), the other was then brought before the people and the priest would pronounce all the sins of the people). He would say something like this –

Idolater here is your sin, immoral people here is all your sin placed on this goat ….”

God taught his people the idea of another given for the sins of another.

That is what God did in Jesus (he punished him for our sins). He paid the prize for us (he punished his Son for our sins).

God still punishes sin (instead of punishing you – he has punished his Son).

So that it would be possible for you to live your life (in a riddled with sin, fear, sickness, death), you are able to stand and face life because God has made him who knew no sin to be a sin offering for you…..

You can face life – because God is on your side…..God is for you – “If God is for us, who can be against us?” says Paul elsewhere.

I want you to get this right: God has done all this for you and I (not because we were good people, but rather the opposite).

Look at vs.7c, “according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us”.

That simply means our forgiveness or his blood was offered because God is rich in grace.

Rich in grace – God is very generous in giving that which we don’t deserve. What motivated him was his generous heart in giving that we don’t deserve (that is what grace is) getting what we don’t deserve….

God’s heart is so generous – so generous that he would have a plan to give his own Son so that justice will be served on him instead of us…..

So generous that he would not treat us as our sins deserve…. That is the God we serve; is that not good enough reason for you and I to offer our lives as a praise of his grace?

This plan was not an afterthought, it was not trial and error – look at vs.8:

Vs.8b “in all wisdom and insight, making known to us the mystery of his will”.

This was done with precision and complete knowledge on what he was doing – of course revealing the mystery of his will”.

If you are anything like me – you would agree that there was a time in your life where you thought you knew all things? Where you thought you were the wisest man to live on earth?

Maybe you were 18, 28, 38, or even 58, then something happened (bang) then you realized that you were not as knowledgeable and wise as you thought ….

You don’t always have the answers, you don’t always know what will become…..

But what we are dealing with here – it’s something completely different from what you have seen before “in all wisdom and insight, making known the mystery of his will”.

God has a clear picture, not just how to do it but also what it will achieve, when it will happen….he knows all angles….

He possesses wisdom and insight into all things – He is the all-knowing and the all-wise God.

He doesn’t walk by faith as we are, he walks by sight ……the full plan was laid before him.

He possesses all wisdom and all knowledge….. The plan of Salvation and our redemption as Paul says was planned before the foundations of the earth…. He will die for us…..he dies in our stead….

However for many this is foolishness – The cross is foolishness – who should send his son to die for the sins of others? (that is foolishness)

From 1 Cor. 1:18 Paul writes “for the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God”.

It doesn’t make sense – for them – God is like a foolish old man.

Paul wants you and I not to get confused – God’s plan was done with all wisdom and insight…..

Mind you, the pagan gods of the time were understood to be often inconsistent or bound by an uncertainty as to what they could do.

Paul says, “Don’t confuse them with God, he is the all knowing and all wise God at his best……. Revealing his plan”.

A plan that he had put in place…..

Know this and receive this – you are not an afterthought!

You are not second thought; You are not a product of trial and error…..

You are a product of the One and Only who planned his Son to die for you…..and planned your life to be found in his Son…..

Paul questions, “Is that not sufficient for you to join with us and offer your life in praise of this God?”

God has this plan perfect for you, that at the exact moment he sent his Son……

Read vs.9,

“Making known to us the mystery of his will according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth”.

For the fullness of time” – there was an exact moment and time that God’s plan, which comes from his full understanding and wisdom, would be fulfilled…..

In AD27 Jesus began his ministry up to the year 30AD. For man, this was an opportunity to get rid of him at his prime time dying at the age of 33yrs.

However, as he walked up to Jerusalem – in AD30 – telling his disciples that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be killed, he knew this was the moment – God’s plan had reached its climax….the time had come – the Son of Man was to be given to man to spit upon and even be killed.

Jesus was not killed by circumstances – by chance – it was all the plan of the all knowing – all wise God…..

God doesn’t work through guess work…..or throwing dice…..no!

In fact, in Acts 17 we have a similar statement made about you and I in 17:26, “From one man he made every nation of men that they should inhibit the whole earth, and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.”

He didn’t guess when you will be born (he set your day of birth) he didn’t guess and be surprised where you were born (he set the exact places where you and I should live).

That was his accuracy…..it’s all the plan of this wise, all knowing God.

The purpose – For what purpose?

Vs.10c “To bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ”.

That which was not revealed in full previously…….that which was according to his purpose.

That which was worked with such precision and foreknowledge – was done to unite all things in Him.

What does it mean “all things united in Him” (in heaven and on earth)? It seems Paul has in mind the cosmic renewal – where creation finds it restoration and its purpose again….

It is in Jesus’ ministry that everything is restored to God’s first intended plan…..

As we stand today the whole of creation is fragmented and frustrated……

Romans 8:22-23, “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of child bearing until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies”.

Somehow in Jesus the whole creation finds its meaningful and restful relationship in God….

The purpose for all of this is to make sure that God’s creation is restored to God’s intended plan…..

To that meaningful relationship with God…….to that relationship that Adam and Eve enjoyed before the fall…..

The entire salvation history has been directed and guided to just this one purpose: the unification of all in things in Christ…..

From a troubled, fragmented, frustrated creation – To a restored, restful, in the right place in God (its all been heading towards this aim….this Man, Jesus Christ)

So for you, child of God, I wonder if you can see part of something bigger than yourself …..of something that history has been directed towards … it’s a grand plan of God….. to restore you your Creator God?

This is not an overnight cooked plan…..this plan has existed throughout eternity…..it’s been guided by the hand of God throughout history and in the fullness of time – It’s been brought through…..in the person and the ministry of Jesus…..

Creation finds its purpose – man and woman find their purpose…..

Maybe you haven’t come? There is something bigger than you at stake here……will you ignore such a great plan? Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer – Temptation

(Throwing books at the door). If you saw me throwing books, what would you say? ‘He is getting mentally challenged!’

But this was an act of a sane man of God – Martin Luther.

It is said that he threw books at the devil as he felt the urge to fall into temptation.

This may seem extreme, but someone who knows the Lord, who knows what a joy it is to walk holy before him (this is no joke), but also for someone who knows how real sin and temptations are:

This is what Jesus is teaching here:

Jesus says that we should pray for protection against temptations, he says “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” which basically means shield / protect us from the tempter.

I would like to point out a few reasons you need to pray this prayer:

  1. In dealing with temptation, you need more than just resolve

Yes, there is a part I need to play: to fight against the tempter: I am not passive, I actively take the fight to the enemy.

So there is a resolve and efforts that are my role in my struggle against tempter

James 4:7 points this out, “Submit yourselves, then to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you”

When the devil continues to nag you to give into sin, keep on putting him off – keep on saying no – and James says that the devil will give up – Of course this is for while.

There is that role that I must play.

However, in dealing with temptation I need more than just resolve, hence the call by Jesus to pray.

This is a spiritual battle. You may remember Paul saying in Ephesians 6:10, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities etc.”

It is not the obvious, it is the hidden one, it is the unseen, the spiritual forces at work in this world.

You need more than just human fight, you need a godly intervention in your life.

A spiritual intervention that doesn’t expose you to your lust and coveting and sinfulness.

A spiritual intervention that causes evil not to flourish against you – that restrains evil – that shuts doors to evil – that “shuts the mouths of the lions” as it were, lions on the verge of destroying you.

A supernatural intervention that shuts the devils as they try to cause you to stop believing in God – to stop you from serving Jesus – stop you from giving your life wholly to Jesus.”

A supernatural intervention that stops you from what I call “Job’s wife syndrome”. By that we mean, cursing God because life has thrown at you the most difficult of circumstances.

Hence Jesus says pray and say “Lead us not into temptation” for you and I need that spiritual intervention.

  1. In dealing with temptations, there is a real threat

We are not immune to the lures and attractions of evil – we are not immune to these matters:

The greatest of spirit-filled servants of God have fallen into the trap:

Job’s wife, though we know very little of her, but one would think that she was a fine woman, who when they gathered to praise God she would sing to the top of her voice.

When her husband offered sacrifices for her children’s sins – she agreed with a resounding amen.

Have you ever imagined the pain of that woman? I know we have looked at her husband.

Think for a moment – here was a man who, as far as she knew him, was as godly as they come: a man of great wealth, a man of great blessings, that man was her husband, a man with whom she had borne 10 children.

She had carried each of those children in her womb; put together she carried them in her womb for 90 months (7.5 years) – she had nurtured them from infants to adults, who would now invite each other to celebrate life.

Yet at this critical moment in her life, we read: Job 1:18-19 “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and behold a great wind came across the wilderness and struck down the four corners of the house, and behold it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”

This woman holds her peace, no doubt shattered beyond any human pain, she hides her pain as she buries her children all at once.

But her problems are far from over, her only hope in life, her husband we are told in 2:7 “So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.”

Then she cracks and says to Job, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.”

Talk about being tempted to the extreme!

Now friends, maybe we have not been tried as she was, however temptations to curse God are real.

Temptations to live the True One God are real, as the words of the song say:

Let that grace, Lord, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
Take my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.

It is real threat for us when we are going through difficult times – hence cry out “Lead us not into temptations”.

Let me give you another example; from what I call, “The Isaiah dichotomy” or “A Christian dichotomy” :-

Isaiah 6:4: “And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said, Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”

Isaiah feels that he is “ruined” – he has seen God and yet he is so aware of his own uncleanness.

He doesn’t talk much about his experience with God, but he is so aware of how far he falls short.

The sin he has been denouncing on others, is the very sin that is brought to the fore by his comprehension of God’s holiness.

I wonder if you can see here, it’s not degree of sin that comes to the fore to Isaiah as he stands before God, but it is his own unworthiness.

Now this was Paul’s cry in Romans 7: 21-25

And this dichotomy is our Christian experience.

Sin still lurking behind us, as if to catch us – all the more we need to pray, “lead us not into temptation but deliver us.

One last example, Psalm 73 (Asaph) Vs.1 “My feet had almost slipped when I envied the arrogant.”

Asaph was tempted through what can be called “an ungodly observation”.

This was more than just been spured on to work harder to improve his life – he began to look at his life in relation to God – and how those who do not fear seem to have life easy.

Envy was his problem, failing to realize that God is at work in his children – fortunes and misfortunes are not without his hand.

The tempter tempts us through others, through observing life in an ungodly fashion.

It’s not, as Jesus would say “Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you.”

It’s the attitude that says these people cannot have what they have, in fact if I can’t have that – it means God has failed – God is not good.

These are real temptations for us: hence Jesus says pray:

Father lead us not into temptation

We can be like Asaph, we can be like Job’s wife, we can through the Christian dichotomy experience and that can kill us.

In all this, commit yourself to God, trust in his mercy and grace, trust in his sovereign hand.

For you can clearly see, you and I need a supernatural intervention – for these things happen to people just like us.

Perhaps that is where somehow the tempter is winning, and today you need to turn to God and say, “Lord free me and deliver me from these temptations”.

Perhaps on the verge, irrespective of where you are: let us cry to God to shield us from the evil one. Amen