DUE TO UNFORESEEN CIRCUMSTANCES THERE IS NO SERMON THIS WEEK.
Sunday, 18 June 2017
People often say: The Holy Spirit is a gentleman; He doesn’t barge in where he’s not wanted. As we see from the story of Jonah, that’s not quite true. It’s not true because the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. [Romans 11:29]
Jonah was a prophet & despite what he did he continued to be a prophet. He continued to operate as a prophet even while he was being disobedient. He confessed the God of Israel. He confessed his sin. He even knew that if he was thrown into the sea the storm would cease. He knew his God well enough that he was the only man sound asleep in the hold during a life~threatening storm! In that way he reminds me of Jesus.
All the time the Holy Spirit was keeping an eye on things because God was in the storm. He even used Jonah’s disobedience as a testimony but what He did not do was let Jonah get away with it! From the moment Jonah stepped out of the will of God for His life things started to go catawampus ~ & God let them! He did not intervene. He did not say: Well, I’ll just raise me up another prophet who will obey me. No. God is the master of *tough love* & he let Jonah run. He let him run till there was no place left for Jonah to run. He let Jonah run till he ran out of options. We see the same principle at work in the N.T story of the Prodigal Son.
Meanwhile Ninevah was still under threat of destruction. Not only was Jonah not going there, no~one else was going there either.
So here we have 4 tiny islands. When I first came here you had 2 choices for churches: either you were Catholic or you were Anglican. The number of churches has tripled but our evangelization has not. We hide away in our churches & say we are worshipping God when the reality is we are disobedient children because God has said Go! Most of us are doing a Jonah & running just as hard as we can in the opposite direction.
Now you need to understand there are a number of different words translated as *worship.* Shâchâh is one. It means to prostrate oneself. ?âbad is another. *This term literally means to work in any sense, but by implication to serve or enslave. It is used more than 250 times in the Old Testament, most often translated as "serve" and 31 times in conjunction with shâchâh*.
I have pointed this out because we need to understand that in the Hebrew mindset there is no distinction between prostration & service. One aspect of worship is service! So too in Hebrew to hear [shema] implies both to hear & to obey. Always, always God expects action, not passive acquiesce.
Jesus reinforced this idea in John 14:23 Jesus replied, "All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them.” Here we are better of than Jonah for the implication is that we will be enabled to obey. That is part of the work of the Holy Spirit. Jonah understood that also for as a prophet he was anointed with the Holy Spirit to operate in the office to which he had been called.
As individuals & as a church body we have been called to preach the Good News ~ & this good news I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. 1 Cor 15:3
We cannot complain we have not received revelation or know the further will of God when we have not obeyed His clear instructions.
When we willingly & knowingly disobey we place ourselves beyond the protection of the Blood of Christ. When we repent & confess, the Blood covers us. If we do not, we give access to satan & this is what we find with Jonah.
Jonah blames God for the storm. See the only way we can know most of Jonah’s story is from Jonah himself. We know from John 10:10 that The thief's purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. The thief is satan ~ & he was perfectly happy to destroy Jonah & thwart the plan of God for Jonah’s life. God’s purpose & desire is to always bring us into His life. He wasn’t fazed by Jonah’s running. He knew how it would all play out & he had that big fish ready & waiting! Jonah then claims the storm is *all his fault* ~ which is the height of arrogance for Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? [Matthew 6:27]
In amongst Jonah’s confused theology God is still working. Here is our starting point. Wherever we find ourselves God is working. It is easier if we co~operate with Him but it is not necessary. God is God & He will continue to work out His purposes.
We see God let Jonah run as far as it was possible to run. It was only when Jonah ran out of Himself that He admitted what we all know is true: Salvation comes from the Lord.[2:9]
We need to stop running. Satan loves to keep us running. Busy, busy, busy. No time to think. No time to praise. No time to reflect on the goodness of God.
I am going to share with you a joke I heard many, many years ago that is pertinent to Jonah, to us & to how we deal with our Ninevahs.
The devil was instructing his minions on how best to seduce people. He asked the first one, What would you do to convince people not to believe in God? And the minion answered, I’d tell them there’s no devil. Satan laughed & said, Oh, no. They know I’m real alright!
So he asked the second imp, What would you do to convince people there’s no God? And the imp replied, I’d tell them there’s no God. Satan shook his head. No. There will always be some people who will believe.
So he asked the 3rd imp, What would you do to convince people? & the 3rd imp replied, I’d just tell them there’s plenty of time…
When Jonah landed inside that big fish he was brought to a crashing stop! He wasn’t dead ~ yet, but he had nowhere to go & nothing to do. He was stuck inside a dark smelly fish [with a decidedly limited future] & a fish that was busily trying to digest him & surprise, surprise, he suddenly remembers the God whose prophet he is. Mind you he’s still blaming God. God never drove him from his presence, Jonah ran from it!
We need to remember whose children we are, the Spirit who lives in us. What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Romans 8:31.
2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
We need to be honest with ourselves & before God. We need to be honest about the heart of God for wherever & whatever our Ninevah is, God cares about it. God made his heart abundantly clear to Jonah: Ninevah has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?
On this island alone there are more than 3 000 souls perishing; shouldn’t God care about them?
We sing, God open the eyes of our heart…but do we mean it? Have we counted the cost? Are we prepared to obey?
Now for some practical application.
The first thing is to hear the call of God. We know there is a general call to all God’s people to tell others the Good News but we learn from Jonah that God is pretty specific. He told Jonah exactly where he was to go & to whom he was to preach. I know this was true for us. We tried a number of different approaches but we knew by the Holy Spirit when we had understood how God had called us specifically! If you don’t know ASK!! Luke 11:9 "So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. This is a broad, general spiritual principal. Ask who it is that God wants you to speak to specifically.
Secondly: Pray! You see in Jonah’s prayer in chapter 2 both positive & negative confession. He admits his wrongdoing & disobedience. He admits he’s in rather dire straits. He also proclaims the goodness & mercy of God. He affirms God hears & answers.
Thirdly: OBEY. Jonah got a second chance. Not everyone does. One day we will not have a tomorrow. We will not have *plenty of time*. There will be no further opportunity to share the gospel with those who are perishing & what excuse can we give before God for not speaking out when we knew their end?
Fourthly: learn from Jonah’s hardness of heart. In the end Jonah did what was asked of him but it brought him no joy & no satisfaction! He would much rather Ninevah had gone up in flames; for fire & brimstone to rain down & to be able to say: See! I told you so! He admits this to God. Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful & compassionate God, slow to get angry & filled with unfailing love.[4:2]
Like Jonah we sometimes get more satisfaction out of saying: I told you so, than seeing the redemptive power of God work in a sinner’s life ~ until it hits a lot closer to home. Maybe it is an unbelieving parent or a lost child but that is exactly how God feels about each & every person on the planet. His heart is the heart of a parent whose child has strayed & is in perilous danger. He is asking those of us safely in the fold to act on His behalf showing the unfailing love & compassion of the Lord to others.
The last thing is something we often get wrong but it is the one thing Jonah got absolutely right! He didn’t mince his words. He wasn’t *seeker friendly*. He didn’t compromise the truth. He didn’t beat about the bush. He served it up straight & simple exactly as he got it from the Lord: Forty days from now Ninevah will be destroyed.
There is something powerful about the Truth. It is compelling. People mightn’t like it but generally they will respect it. See the Holy Spirit is The Spirit of Truth [John 16:13] And when he comes, He will convict the world of its sin, and of God's righteousness, and of the coming judgment.
Our job is not to save anybody ~ because we can’t! That is the Holy Spirit’s job. He convicts them & the Father provides salvation through His son, Jesus Christ. We have one job & one job only: to preach the Gospel! Why? Because faith comes by hearing & hearing by the word of God. [Romans 10:17
Friday, 9 June 2017
We began this series on revival with 1 Peter 4:17 ~ For the time has come for judgment, and it must begin with God's household. And if judgment begins with us, what terrible fate awaits those who have never obeyed God's Good News?
We began by defining sin & the purpose for which God’s law was given. We acknowledged that all have sinned & fallen short of the glory of God. [Romans 3:23] Redemption from our sin was the purpose for which God sent His only begotten son; He loved the world that much. We then looked @ the reason for the Holy Spirit & His purpose for coming into the world, His role in the life of the unbeliever & His role in the life of the believer.
This brings us to our study of the first great revival recorded in the bible. As judgement begins with the household of God, so too does revival for we must acknowledge our sin when it comes to our unbelieving neighbours before we can move into our rightful position of helping the Holy Spirit bring in God’s harvest. If nothing else motivates us to share the gospel of Christ surely this should: what terrible fate awaits those who have never obeyed God's Good News?
We don’t like to think about hell & there are plenty of people, good people, even Christian people, who will tell you there is no such place, that a loving God would never condemn His creation to an eternity in a place of torture. Scripture teaches otherwise. I will give you 3 references though there are plenty of others.
· Psalm 9:17
· But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This is the second death.” Revelation 21:8
· They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might
2 Thessalonians 1:9
God did not create Hell for mankind but for the fallen angels [Matthew 25:41] However those who choose to give their allegiance to satan will find themselves there by their own choice & despite what the songs say there is no partying in hell. It is a place of torment & gnashing of teeth. We were created by God to reflect His image & enjoy Him forever but those who choose satan & this world neither reflect God’s image nor can they enjoy His presence, therefore they cannot abide in the presence of God.
So come with me to one of the minor prophets: Jonah. I love Jonah. He so reminds me of God’s people! Here is this man of God ~ & let’s be clear; he was a man of God. He came from Gath~Hepher, a few miles north of Nazareth, so he was a Galilean like our Lord Jesus, a country bumpkin, like our Lord, & he came from a region, as we have discussed before, that was passionate in its allegiance to God’s Torah. He was a Torah observant Israelite & he lived @ a time when the byword for immorality & cruelty was Assyria. Jonah didn’t have much time for the Assyrians.
Already he is more like us than is comfortable. He was doing the right things according to the Torah ~ & he was self~righteous because of it. This is true of many Christians. We do the right things, live moral lives ~ & become self~righteous because of it!
He was passionate, as many Christians are, but like us He forgot that God’s love is not limited to those who obey Him because God wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth [1 Timothy 2:4]
I want to deviate briefly here because so many of us have the wrong idea about what love is because biblically speaking love is not about how you feel about someone or who you have sex with. It is about who you are prepared to die for. There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends. [John 15:13] That is how God showed His love for us [John 3:16] For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
Hebrews 10:2 says But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honour at God's right hand. That sacrifice can be claimed by anyone but there is a proviso in Hebrews 10:26: Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins.
So let us not be confused.
On our salvation we receive the Holy Spirit & He sheds the love of God abroad in our hearts [Romans 5:5] but this is not a snuggly, cuddly, woozy~doozy feeling but a robust call to the action of self~sacrifice where we become willing to be seen as fools for Christ’s sake in order to share the Good News 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. [1 Corinthians 1:18]
It is here the gospel becomes a stumbling block for so many Christians, just as it did for Jonah. Jonah knew the truth. He understood God’s requirements. He knew the voice of God but when push came to shove his reaction was: They don’t deserve it!
And he was right! They didn’t! The people of Ninevah were bloodthirsty Assyrians. They invented & practised the most barbaric of cruelties. They were hated & feared by every nation they had contact with. They were idolaters ~ they were the worst of the worst. Going to Ninevah, warning them, was obviously not Jonah’s idea of justice.
Jonah 1:1 The Lord gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai: There was no confusion. Jonah was a prophet of the Lord. He got the message ["Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me."… 2]; He understood the message ~ & he didn’t think much of it. In fact he thought so little of it he got up & headed as far in the opposite direction as it was possible to go!
There is no confusion in the New Testament either: Matthew 28:19~20 “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
As Jonah ran so has most of the church. Somehow we have got hold of the mistaken idea that this command was only for the select few. It is not. It is for every disciple of Jesus Christ. Somehow we think it refers to missionaries who go into foreign countries. It does not. It refers to every nation, every state, every suburb, every street, every household. Their blood is on our hands. Ezekiel 3:18 says If I warn the wicked, saying, 'You are under the penalty of death,' but you fail to deliver the warning, they will die in their sins. And I will hold you responsible for their deaths.
We know the truth; why are we so reluctant to share it?
One reason, though not the only reason, is very much like Jonah’s: We believe sinners deserve what they get! We don’t care that they are perishing. We don’t want God to care. We don’t want them to repent [It would make us look foolish for saying God was about to destroy them, just as Jonah felt] Ultimately this is an issue of the heart & Jonah reveals the hardness of his heart when he admits: This is why I ran away from Tarshish, I know that you are a merciful & compassionate God, slow to get angry & filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. [4:2]
Where is your Ninevah?
· It is the people who make you uncomfortable
· Ninevah is the place God calls you where you don’t want to go.
· It is the people that God tells you to Go & give them my message that you don’t want to speak to.
· Ninevah is those that God loves deeply, that He died for just as He died for you, whom you do not care for.
· Ninevah is the crossroads of obedience & choice.
When it comes to sharing the gospel every believer has a choice, just as Jonah had a choice. Jonah ran & he went down! He went down to Joppa, down into the hold of the ship, down into the sea & finally down into the belly of the great fish. The further he ran the further down he went ~ & God let him run! Be warned. Satan will always supply *a ship to Tarshish* when we are disobedient. We can probably even convince ourselves God supplied the ship but it will do us no good.
Here is the first great challenge for every Christian: Are you willing to go to Tarshish?
Romans 2:4 says this: Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
We often speak lightly of the Grace of God but we need to understand grace does not sit in the heavenlies, far away & out of the reach of men. Grace came down to earth. Grace walked amongst sinners. Grace did not partake of those sins. Grace did not condone those sins but God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
As God’s grace reached down & plucked us out of satan’s hand so too does he desire to save others. We have been given a huge responsibility; a great privilege, for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? Romans 10:14
Jesus paid the same price for others that He paid for you & me. He shed His blood upon the cross. As we look further @ the story of Jonah next time we will find some principles for sharing our faith under the power & anointing of the Holy Spirit.
Sunday, 4 June 2017
Our God is a giving God. He loves to give good gifts to His children. His gifts, being good, will always be beneficial. They help us to live the best life we can.
That is not to say our lives will be trouble free but that God’s gifts enable us to live above that trouble.
That is not to say our lives will be trouble free but that God’s gifts enable us to live above that trouble.
In Matthew 7:11 Jesus told His disciples: So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him.
It is important to settle this matter in our hearts before we approach the matter of the very first gift God gave after Jesus left earth because many, many people have attributed God’s good gifts to the devil & called them evil. How like satan to malign God’s character in this way & lead people to believe his lies!
We cannot think of God in the same way that we think of people. His character is not a mix of good & bad, righteousness & evil. Rather This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. 1 John 1:5 This is the essence of His Holiness, of being supremely unique. He is untainted by anything evil. All His judgments are righteous.
I want us to be very clear in our own minds so that we do not become confused about the gift of the Holy Spirit. He was given for a very specific purpose but His job description depends on whether you are God’s child or God’s enemy.
If you are God’s enemy the Holy Spirit’s job is to convict the world of its sin, and of God's righteousness, and of the coming judgment, [John 16:8] but if you are a child of God Jesus promised in John 16:7 But I tell you the truth, it is for your benefit that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.
Jesus understood something fundamental about people: They are like sheep. They are easily led astray. They like things that are bad for them ~ just ask any shepherd! They know their own shepherd. So Jesus understood that if He left His disciples as orphans they would be easily led astray & go after things that are bad for them ~ but if He left them a shepherd they would follow their shepherd.
With this in mind He instructed them: "Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before.” Acts 1:4
Fifty days after Passover that gift arrived. For 40 of those days, according to Luke, Jesus was still around giving His final instructions to His disciples & proving to them that He was indeed very much alive. [Acts 1:1~3] Then at Shavuot, or Pentecost, about 120 believers were gathered in the upper room of the house where they were staying when the Holy Spirit suddenly arrived ~ & He didn’t do it quietly. He didn’t do it decorously. He didn’t slink in through the back door. No!
He arrived with a sound like the roaring of a mighty windstorm. He filled the house. He appeared as of fire & the believers began to speak in tongues. It was noisy. It was messy, it was in your face. They came running from all over Jerusalem to see what was going on & what was going on was weird enough for them to declare the disciples drunk!
We need to set aside our ideas of who we think God is, what He does & how He acts & listen to what He says, & does & is! He is not always decorous. He is not cute & cuddly. He will not wink at your sin. He does not abide by the traditions of man when He comes into your life. He comes as God. He comes with power & authority & majesty.
Turn with me to the gospel of John, chapter 14. Here we find Jesus instructing about the Holy Spirit. V 17 ~ Who leads into all Truth….The Greek word *truth* is alētheia & refers specifically to divine truth as revealed to man & the practice of gospel truth. It is the Holy Spirit who confirms in our hearts the truth about Jesus Christ. This truth has a very specific role to play in our Christian lives: It makes us holy ~ hagiazō [John17:17] when we become doers of the word. Hearing & doing are meant to go together in the believer’s life. If we hear but do not obey how are we Jesus’ disciples? For a disciple models themselves on their teacher.
The Holy Spirit will also *teach you everything & will remind you of everything I have told you.* V26 According to Jesus [16:13] the Holy Spirit will not speak on His own accord but will tell you what He has heard…whatever He receives from me…That being the case we can easily check if something we believe we have received from God is or is not from Him because it will align up with the Word of God. It will not say something different because God does not change. God has not changed His mind about sin just because the world chooses to redefine what is or is not right. The world is notorious for getting this sort of thing wrong.
Consider for a moment how Israel manages not only to survive but to thrive in the midst of her enemies. She still adheres to God’s Torah & so God can bless her.
Proverbs 3:6~7 says Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Don't be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the LORD and turn away from evil. If we lean on our own understanding & do what seems right in our own eyes we will miss the mark.
The Holy Spirit has been given to strengthen us that we won’t abandon our faith.[16:1] Jesus warned very clearly, very specifically that as the world hated him without cause [15:25], so too would it hate those who believed in Him. [15:18]
Sin loves company. It validates the sinner’s wrongdoing but righteousness is prepared to stand alone ~ & that is almost impossible to do unless the Holy Spirit strengthens us because we all want to be liked & accepted, yet Jesus said: "Don't be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” [Matthew 10:28]
Here is a list of other things the Holy Spirit does:
· He teaches – John 14:26
· He testifies – John 15:26
· He guides – Rom. 8:14
· He speaks – 1 Cor. 2:13
· He enlightens – John 16:13
· He strives – Gen. 6:3
· He commands – Acts 8:28
· He intercedes – Rom. 8:26
· He sends workers – Acts 13:4
· He calls – Rev. 22:17
· He comforts – John 16:7
· He works – 1 Cor. 12:11
I am not going to expound on all of them. Most are self~explanatory but they serve to show how widespread the work of the Holy Spirit is in our lives. What I do want to draw your attention to is the complementary work of God the Father, Jesus the son & the Holy Spirit. God sent His son so that we might be reconciled with Him through the blood of Jesus. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit so that we might know the Truth & walk in it & then the Holy Spirit also gives gifts that we might do the work to which we are called.
The Holy Spirit manifests in 2 major ways in our lives. As we grow in the knowledge & truth of our Lord & saviour, Jesus Christ, we will more & more see evidence in our lives of the fruit of the Holy Spirit at work in us. Galatians 5:22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! If we are not seeing fruit there is something very, very wrong & we need to address that.
The other way the Holy Spirit manifests is through the gifts He imparts & here is why we need to be very clear about what we believe about God. Is He good? Does He give good gifts to those who ask? If the answer is yes then we have no reason to fear the gifts of the Holy Spirit because Paul’s instruction is clear: Let love be your highest goal! But you should also desire the special abilities the Spirit gives ~ especially the ability to prophesy. [1Cor. 14:1]
See Jesus also gave gifts. He gave them to the church according to Ephesians 4:11: Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors & teachers. Their job is to equip God’s people to do His work & build up the church…[v12] but the body can’t do its work unless they are equipped by the Holy Spirit. It is foolishness to argue God only gave these gifts to the apostles or to the 1st century church! Has God’s work of saving souls changed? Has He assigned a different agenda to this century?
And then he told them, "Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone…. These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak in new languages. Mark:~15/17
It is not ever us who heals or prophesies or casts out a demon. It is Jesus Christ in us through His Holy Spirit! We do not elevate men. We glorify Christ in us who wishes to set all men free.
As we come to communion we are instructed to remember Jesus death & resurrection until He comes again. Part of that remembering is to give thanks for everything he has done for us: Redeemed us, transferred us out of satan’s kingdom, washed away our sins, imparted His righteousness, given us His Holy Spirit to stay with us as friend & comforter & enpowerer until Jesus returns for us.
As you come to communion remember all things are to be found in Jesus Christ for in Him we live & move & have our being. [Acts 17:28] His Holy Spirit resides in us so if, in any way, you have grieved Him, if you have quenched His leading, humble yourselves & ask forgiveness. If you need a fresh anointing, an outpouring of the Spirit in your life, acknowledge your need & humbly ask Him. His greatest desire is to magnify Christ to you, to reveal Christ to you that your love for Him might increase & the Kingdom of God reign upon earth.