Sunday Lesson: Protecting Our Message and Mission (Philippians 2:14-16)

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Philippians 2:14-16

Do all things without complaining and disputing,

 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation,

among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain. 

 

This week as we make our way through the book of Philippians, we find ourselves stepping into some of the more practical verses of Chapter Two thus far. One of the typical arrangements of New Testament letters is the giving of doctrine first as foundation, and secondly the giving of commands for implementation.

 

Unfortunately, many churches and individuals for that matter often try to skip the harder concepts for the easy and practical lists of things to do.  This is always to their disadvantage, because a good understanding of biblical truth is highly instrumental to personal practice. In fact, we might say that the foundational principles within the doctrine tend to spill over into practice, though it is still clearly necessary to clarify these commands as it reinforces the directions to take and the standard for conduct.  Additionally, it is a reminder that Scriptural commands are never merely suggestions; they are firm orders that remind us we are under God’s authority.

 

Today’s passage has some stark caveats that are to be honed in on. First of all, let’s begin with verse 14 as it says, “Do all things…” Does the phrase “all things” remind you of other passages of Scripture? Two references that immediately come to my mind are 1 Corinthians 10:31 and Philippians 4:13.  

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Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” The passage he is being quoted from here is referring to weaker brothers and stronger brothers over the issue of eating meat sacrificed to idols and the true principle at hand, the standard by which all of our actions are to be gauged. “All” is referring to scope, the area relative to which the command applies. Here, we see that it is an all-encompassing principle: there are no boundaries outside of which doing things for God’s glory does not apply.

 

Philippians 4:13, also written by Paul, states: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  The question we should ask in regards to this passage is, “What does he mean by ‘all things’?” Contextually, it’s governed by verses 11-12, which speak about abounding in all situations with contentment in God’s provisions. Whether or not he still does, the NBA basketball star Steph Curry had this reference printed on his shoes. While many people will use this verse almost like a talisman for overcoming any difficult circumstance in life, we must return to the context of Philippians to see that “doing all things through Christ” is not a license to forge any old path and find God’s support, but to follow God in whatever lot befalls us and to find the strength of His grace suitable in facing the challenges He has led us into.  Consider that the strength Paul really may be referring to is the strength of God’s grace to be content, to be at rest in Him, even if things are not “okay.”

Having said all that, we return to Philippians 2:14 and must consider “all things” here in light of the context as well. Yes, the scope really is every area of life, not just in church or ministry contexts. Concealed complaining and mental battles with others will certainly still have a negative affect on us, though in this passage we are talking primarily about our public testimony. Given the nature of the passage at hand, this verse is speaking into the engagements we have with others and the reputations that are built off of our interactions.

 

Do all things without complaining or disputing.” Both complaining and disputing are externally directed and publicly aired opinions. It seems that it’s often forgotten that complainers and disputers are showing us more of who they are in character by the choice to fight or complain than those that they attack, defame or disrespect.  If we claim to be Christians, though, we don’t just drag our own names through the mud of our disputes, complaints or grievances; we also stand to tarnish God’s reputation among others as well. Imagine trying to be a Nike shoe salesman but constantly walking around in tattered old shoes; it casts doubt on the belief in the product when even the salesman doesn’t buy into his pitch.

 

Complainers and disputers by nature of reputation establish themselves negatively. What does it mean to be “blameless and harmless?” It would be a mistake to assume, as many do, that “blameless” means sinless. In context, we are not talking about sinless perfection; we are talking about being winsome and not causing distraction from the message and the mission

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Blameless and harmless are both reputation-oriented terms; blameless and harmless to whom? To those that are watching: perhaps looking to find fault, perhaps doubting, perhaps just curious to see if all this Gospel-talk is real. Even for believers, our obedience to God serves to encourage or discourage other believers in carrying on in their walks, too. 

 

Other ways to translate blameless and harmless are faultless and innocent; remember, we are not faultless or innocent as sinners before God, but in Christ we are forgiven of our faults and blame and declared justified. The discrepancy is that while positionally we are treated today as if we’d never sinned, when we look in the real-time mirror at our hearts and actions, we know that we certainly still have many ways that sin is still raring its ugly head within us. Therefore, this passage really is speaking to human perception and reputation: no, we know no one’s perfect, but is their reputation within Christ tarnished to such a degree that it now hinders the effectiveness of the Gospel as relative to them? Have they dealt properly with the failures that have been made public? Those are just some of the concepts to consider in blamelessness. 

 

The point of this passage is that conduct is a conduit by which we either live lives supporting the Gospel message or we live lives that disrupt and diminish the message we preach. The Gospel either flows through us with a growing efficiency or it gets really clogged, like water backing up as it goes down a dirty drain. Think of the goal, in part, as to be as little of a hindrance to the message of life for the sake of other people’s focus on God. The point was never legalistic lifestyles, but lives that did not cause unnecessary stumbling to the paths of other believers or the paths of unbelievers and them finding a relationship with Christ.

 

Now, the next part says, “children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.” Notice that this portion of the verse is referring to a stark contrast between these two (people) groups, the primary governor of each being who they submit to, who their master is. “Crooked and perverse” can only be understood in relationship to God; they have bent away from His straight paths and have defied His moral designs. In submission to God, there is a call to realign with these parameters in direction, morality and spirituality. Road Sign Pictures | Download Free Images on Unsplash

 

Unaltered minds and lifestyles will never serve to reinforce the message God is calling us to promote in a lost and dying world, “among whom you shine as lights.” Lights serve to bring awareness to what is. It is the sin nature within that sees the exposure that lights bring and pridefully desires to put out those lights, as if darkness altered the truth. In darkness, a person may entertain any number of realities surrounding them if their only guide is their imagination; therefore, when the light of truth begins shining, the rays tend to burn upon guilty consciences, and thus there is a movement to either get away from the light or to do away with it. The hope and prayer of evangelism is that people will come to the light and find peace through faith in Jesus Christ.

 

In summary so far, we see that the calling is primarily two-part: to be as little of a hindrance as possible to the message and mission Christ has for us, and to be used to bring exposure to what is good and beautiful and true, as well as what stands in opposition to God. 

 

1,024,943 Mission Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStockFinally, let’s look at the remainder of this selected passage:  “holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.” Many times over, the words “that” or “so that” are used in English translations, and this should never be overlooked. What it is often referring to is what is called in the Greek a “hina clause”. This means that one phrase is relative to the other, usually by means of purpose, result, or sometimes both. By deduction alone, it’s clear that Paul would not have meant that they should hold fast to the word with the purpose of His rejoicing and ease of mind over lasting fruit in ministry. Rather, for them to hold fast to the word of life would lead to (one of the) results being his joy and rejoicing and consolation over the Gospel continuing on in perpetuity in these people’s lives. 

Why do we hold fast to the word of life? Well, going back to verse 13, it’s because God works in us both to will it and to do it. The purpose is for the furtherance of the Gospel, the glory of God and the growth of the believer. The partial result is encouragement of other believers, and in this case of Paul and the Philippians, it is the ministry of the church to the church leader in helping to confirm the human value of his earthly spiritual investment of time, knowledge, experience and talents into them. Still today, it’s such a cyclical process that God does when He leads people to serve Him to the benefit of others who then turn around and serve others as well.

 

In conclusion, we are looking at the high calling of all of us as it pertains to following God and how that impacts the world around us as well as each other. No one is more or less important in effecting change, though the design of each of us may be very different as to our gifting and entrustments. We can support the mission by our actions, but we also have the potential to cause hindrance if that’s the direction we choose to take.

 

A few questions to ponder today as we close are these:

1) How can I be less of a hindrance to the Gospel for the sake of others?

2) How can I be a greater promoter of the Gospel in the way God has made me towards the people He has put in my path?

3) Am I holding fast to the Gospel, and have I thought about the effect that has on others both saved and unsaved?

 

 

Prayer from Pastor Sam:

Lord, we thank you for the truths of Your word, but also ask you for the grace to follow the clear commands with obedience. Help us to remember that we’re here on a mission and not just a tour. Give us hearts for others and help us to consider how we might be a blessing to them. I pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

May God be with you as you ponder His word today. Thank you for your time.

 

 

 

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Jonah 4:2-3 “Addressing the Bitterness Within Ourselves”

Jonah 4:2-3

2 So he prayed to the LORD, and said, “Ah, LORD, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm.

3 “Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!”

 

Put the logic together in today’s verses and it might make you scratch your head as a reader. Let’s sum this up very briefly and then explain a bit more: Jonah is saying here that he knew God would act in accordance with His kindness and mercy and that he suspected that God’s calling him to preach to the Ninevites was because of God’s end intention of relenting from doing them harm.

Note that he moves from there in a more conclusive fashion: therefore (on the basis of God’s kindness), please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live. Jonah is asking for God to take his life because of his bitterness and sense of a lack of appropriate justice doled out. To say that Jonah was consumed with anger and a deep desire for Israel, or his family, or himself to be avenged would be an understatement.

God may at times in our lives call us to forgive those we feel incapable of forgiving and releasing from our sense of justice and even our minds. Long after someone is gone, it’s amazing how long they can still live in our thoughts, isn’t it? St. Augustine, who is claimed somewhat both by Catholics and Protestants (his testimony is the testimony of a Gospel-believing Christian) is quoted as saying, “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” As we read through the book of Jonah, it appears that many times over this poison was sipped by Jonah in a desire to see the Ninevites destroyed, but it is Jonah in the end who looks like the fool, not the Ninevites.

I’m reminded as I was told years ago to remember that it was Jonah who wrote the book of Jonah; that may sound a bit silly at first, but let it sink in because Jonah was putting in written record his own bad attitude but not in a positive manner. Jonah never records that he was justified for poor behavior, and that’s good, because we should never find ourselves having succumbed to the blame game or to the justification of our own sins in lieu of our pain or opinions of others.  Refusing to handle our issues with others in a godly manner will always take its toll on us and our relationship to God.

What should be said about Jonah 4:2-3? We all need to learn to let God be God in our lives. When we pray for something and God doesn’t answer in the manner we approve, or the timing, or it just seems unheard, remember that this is a testimony back to us that we do not have control over God just because we ask Him to do things. In fact, it’s quite good to know that God can and will do as He pleases in His time, and that we are reliant upon Him. He doesn’t get worked up when we’re out of sorts and He doesn’t fret over our disapproval. He is bringing His children where they need to be, not where He needs to be, because He’s already perfectly there. God’s end game is not about serving the wishes of people, but it is about the fame of His name, which we often refer to as His glory.

Why does God forgive Ninevites who have been completely wicked and hurtful to His chosen nation, the Israelites? Why does God forgive, period? God does as He does to reflect who He is both to those He shows His grace to as well as those He pours His wrath upon. Romans 9:22-24 says these words:

22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,
23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory,
24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

Captured in the heart of those verses is the intention of salvation and wrath: the magnification of God’s character. Both ends give a more a holistic picture of who He is, though in a limited sense. You see, God would have been right to forgive the Ninevites and He would have been right to have destroyed them; it was completely whatever He chose to do that was the best course of action.

It’s a deep principle to ponder, but consider this: we often think that God does what is best and what is right, as though He was bound to only do what best and right are, but the best way to understand what “best” and “right” are is whatever God does. God defines good and beautiful and right by whatever He does; He is not bound by the concepts, but rather, the concepts are bound by Him.

Was Jonah right in his desire to die? The short answer is an emphatic “no!” Why? Jonah’s definitions of what was right and just and appropriate were curtailed by his emotions and his sin. He did not allow God the freedom of forgiving others, nor did he allow God to place suffering in his own life. Atheists often have a similar dilemma themselves as many reject God on moral grounds, concluding that if there is evil in the world then God cannot be good nor can He exist, for if He did, surely He would stop it. The problem is a limitations of what a good God can do and what He would do if He were good, when in fact God is good and has done what is right all along. (By the way, He doesn’t fret over the opinions about Him of atheists or anyone else for that matter. He loves people, but He’ll never be undone by the false assumptions they place upon Him).

I wonder, if we’re honest, if there are areas of our own lives that we have failed to allow God the freedom of: placing painful events, broken relationships, long-standing misunderstandings, unappreciated service or sacrifices for others, or anything else for that matter? If we don’t allow God to let us get hurt, we will hold it over Him in our bitterness that essentially He did us wrong. Pride often leads us to think that we are above certain treatment or circumstances, that our service or sacrifice or kindness or commitment have somehow granted us a free pass from certain levels of pain, but it just isn’t so. In fact, it often seems that harder things come as we grow more in our Christian walk.

On a positive note, though, remember too that just because difficulty befalls us, it doesn’t mean that it’s a reflection of our own failures or our value in the sight of God. This is one of the most common conclusions drawn in the Scriptures and by people today when it comes to a person and their lot in life. Truth be told, if we were to get what we deserved, it would be way worse as we found ourselves suffering under His wrath in Hell. It could always be worse and we have it way better than we deserve.

God uses really hard things sometimes to refine us, to teach us, to train us for godliness and eternity, and to further His mission, which is bigger than any one of us who are a part of that mission.
Jonah’s story didn’t end with God taking him up on the offer. No, Jonah was brought specifically to be used to deliver the message, probably because he so badly needed to deal with his own sin of bitterness himself. Tarshish would have afforded the chance to let Nineveh slip into the back of Jonah’s mind, but Nineveh forced Jonah to face his own ugliness within, which would not have been washed away by a sunny day at the beach in Tarshish. God’s like that: He doesn’t just use us to show mercy, but He also shows mercy to us in refusing to cease refining us from the sins within us still troubling our own souls.

Jonah may have tried to draw the line with serving God by using his own life as a line in the sand, but God wasn’t going to take the bait. Jonah needed to preach the mercy of God as much as the people of Nineveh needed to hear it. Once again, I ask you (and myself), in what ways are we refusing to let God have control in our lives? It’s no great merit if you or I only accept the blessings of God but refuse the adversity He may want us to undergo as well. Job basically says something to that effect to his wife in Job 2:10: “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?”

Pray that we might grow both to accept what we perceive to be good as well as what we often are trying to pray out of existence in our lives: God uses both to mold His people into the image of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:28-29). Praise Him for the good and the bad, the easy and the hard, the desirable and the detestable, for all things in the hands of God are meant for good and all things will be used to bring glory to Him. It’s this kind of thinking that can help us to combat the common problem of bitterness, and it’s a problem that seems to become easier to fall into the older we get and the more we experience life in a sin-cursed world as sinners rubbing shoulders with other sinners. It’s inevitable that events will occur where bitterness could be harbored, but will we allow God to be big enough to be good and allow difficulty as part of His plan for us in the process? Think on this and pray about it, too.

I wish you well this evening as I write this. May God be with you!

 

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Sunday, September 12th, 2020: Philippians 2:12-13 “Understanding The Law Within”

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Philippians 2:12-13 

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;

for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”

 

 

As we get into today’s short passage from Philippians 2, it’s to be strongly noted that there is some incredible correlation between Philippians 2:12-13 and Exodus 20. If you don’t know Exodus 20’s content offhand, it’s the place in Scripture where Moses receives the Ten Commandments, though the chapter in greater fullness also steps into the circumstances surrounding the giving of the Ten Commandments. Before moving into Exodus, let’s catch up on this passage as to how Paul went from talking about Jesus and His mindset from the previous verses (5-11) into obedience, sanctification and the presence of God at work in believers in bringing about their own obedience to Him. 

First of all, therefore.  “Therefore” is always a significant word in Scripture, especially the New Testament, because it is signifying a point to be made on the basis of previously stated information. When I read New Testament passages, it’s words like therefore, because, but, even the simple word and that help draw forth the thought flow of the verses. Always remember that much of the Bible is a recorded train of thought, especially New Testament epistles: there is a logic that flows and turns and develops, kind of like a river if you will.

Verses 5-11 form the passage backing the word “therefore” to be stated, and the general idea is that Christ placed His focus on serving the Father to the point of His death on the cross. His obedience was not an obedience simply given for human audiences; He truly obeyed God through and through.  Jesus has therefore, contextually, served as our example for how to live with a mind not simply set on ourselves. Paul uses this example of Jesus after he says in the previous verses (3-4) to have a humble mindset of one’s self and to look out not only for one’s own interests, but also for the interests of one another. Even this admonition follows the principle of placing our focus on the Lord, which in turn causes us to diminish in the tendency to be self-absorbed.  It’s hard to set our minds on Christ while also being consumed with our own desires, which is why the call to focus on Him is quite powerful from a practical standpoint for believers to implement in their lives.Royalty-free Walk, Away photos free download | Pxfuel

The mind is like a vacuum; we may try to stop focusing on ourselves, but if we don’t find the appropriate replacement, inevitably the void will fill in once again where it left off. If we are to love others as ourselves, the best way to do so is to seek God more with the result of loving others better. All of this to say that the word “therefore” is powerful in Philippians 2:12, for focusing our faith and lives on Christ is the grounds for growth, joy, and obedience as Christians, as well as the way we relate to one another.

Secondly, notice Paul’s commendation to the Philippian believers: “my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence.” What is Paul saying here? The believers are obeying God, not because of Paul’s direct attention, but because of God having wrought spiritual character within them. If you’ve ever seen a class of children who somehow go from being studious and quiet to jumping out of their chairs, shouting, getting in fights or drawing on chalkboards and such, then you’ve seen obedience that is tempered by accountability rather than character. Character moves us to obey whether the teacher is in the class or not, and in a more broad sense, holds us accountable within rather than simply because of the pressure or accountability from without. If Christianity is nothing more than a stage act, we are in trouble, because Scripture tells us that the presence of the Holy Spirit within is a pledge of our eternal inheritance (2 Corinthians 1:22, 5:5; Ephesians 1:4). If all we have is “religious stage apparel” but no substance to the form, there is cause for concern over the validity of our salvation testimony.

ᐈ Self-awareness stock images, Royalty Free self awareness photos | download on Depositphotos®If our faith is in the Lord and the Spirit is within us, obedience must be recognized as something that often accompanies an awareness of the presence of God. To paraphrase Jerry Bridges from his book “Respectable Sins,” godliness is living in light of an awareness of God’s presence. Righteousness, as he states in his book, is essentially the activity that flows from that awareness. In line with the whole passage, and the book of Philippians for that matter, Paul’s commendation of their obedience is deeply tied to their focus on the Lord rather than a focus on spiritual leaders like himself. Whether Paul is present or absent, one thing is for certain: God is always present. If they (or we) are to live obediently with consistency, obedience will only develop with a living awareness of the presence of God, as well as an intention to please Him most with what we do.  I was challenged years ago that whenever we choose to sin, we are in essence choosing “practical atheism,” believing in God’s existence but absolving it from our minds to ease the tension of choosing what we know is wrong. 

Paul’s primary thrust here is a challenge to us as well: who are we living for? Is our obedience to God for Him or for a human audience? Who are trying to please?

Now, third and finally, let’s come to the last part of Philippians 2:12-13 and also see the correlation to Exodus 20 (and Hebrews 12:18-21). “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” The command to “work out your own salvation” is not a call to maintain salvation as though it could be lost, or that they had some part in saving themselves. The best theological term to be related here would be sanctification, which is the transformative process of the believer between initial salvation and glorification. In saying that, know that it is extremely important that our theology of salvation be biblical, that a believer doesn’t just believe and go 20, 30, 40, 50 years without having a working relationship with God to just wind up in glory; the true trajectory of the believer is a coursing path through life of ups and downs, faith as well as moments of failure, but the general course is on the up and up.  Think of sanctification like a stock market graph, the lows getting higher and the highs getting higher as one moves towards glory. Does it mean perfection on the way? No, but it does mean growth that moves overall in the right direction.

Sanctification, as well, is both an active and passive transformation in that we are called to submit and serve and obey actively, but passively we are being drawn into that very plan by the Sovereign hand of God. This active and passive nature of sanctification is the essence of verse 12b-13.2,746 Mt Sinai Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock

(Mt. Sinai)

Additionally, there is a peculiar wording used in these two verses when it says “fear and trembling.” The Greek words in English would be phobos and tromos: think phobias and tremors or shaking. If you’ve read Scripture much, you may be reminded of that phrasing being used elsewhere. Hebrews 12:18-21 will bring it up:

 18 For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest,

 19 and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore.

 20 (For they could not endure what was commanded: “And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow.”

 21 And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.”

 

Going back to Exodus 20, almost immediately after the Ten Commandments are dictated, we see these verses: 

 

18 Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off.

 19 Then they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.”

 20 And Moses said to the people, “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.” (Exodus 20:18-20)

Notice that both Hebrews and Exodus capture the emotion of fear to the point of trembling. Perhaps Exodus 20:20 might help the best in relationship to obedience as it refers to a fear of God being a helpful aid in not sinning. When that fear is lost, so too does the inner inhibition to sin shrink up as well. Were Moses and the Israelites deeply aware of the presence of God in Exodus 20?  Absolutely, and that translated into somewhat of a spiritual paralysis before God. Unfortunately, this didn’t last too long because by Exodus 32, they were crafting a golden calf to worship while Moses had been on the mountain for a long time, at least in their estimation.

What Philippians 2:12-13 is most likely referencing, therefore, is the presence of God not simply on a mountain full of fire and darkness and thunder, but His residence within. It both correlates and contrasts with Exodus 20. Not only does He reside within, but the heart of those commandments given on Mt. Sinai is placed within us as well. Like an anchor to the soul, honoring God and living under His command becomes something that may be tested, but is hard to resist when it’s now a part of who we are. 

Work out your salvation (sanctification) with fear and trembling, for (because) it is God who works in you both to will and to do His good pleasure.” The cause of fear and trembling is therefore tied not to scary circumstances but to an observation of the Holy Spirit within us at work in our hearts and lives. Spiritual sensitivity, conviction, a desire for God, hearing Him through His word and so forth–these don’t just happen, they are signs of spiritual life. When trusting God becomes foundational to the way we live our lives and not just a fleeting moment of spoken faith, we are talking about the Spirit-born faith spelled out in the Bible. 

No one stays true to God long-term on God’s terms without God having taken residency within them and putting His word into their hearts. No one obeys with or without a human audience without a focus on pleasing God rather than just pleasing men. Nevertheless, the beauty of this verse as well is found in seeing God at work in us and being in awe of that work that He’s doing. Yes, we can live to serve God and do many religious activities, but nothing can bring comfort to the soul like watching God at work within one’s self. As a pastor, I also take great joy in watching God at work in others, and for the small parts I can play in helping, I’m thankful to see Him moving in them through the use of His word and bringing joy to their souls in their walk with Him. 

One of the interesting things I’ve found in my time reading Scripture is drawing the connection as to what an author is thinking about when they’re writing a particular passage of Scripture under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. In this passage, we are seeing the difference between an external God and an external Law and a modern-day believer who also has God within them and His law written on their hearts as well. Is this found in the Bible? Yes, in Hebrews 8:8-10:

8 Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah–

 9 “not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the LORD.

 10 “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”

 

While these verses speak specifically to the Israelites, we know from the New Testament such as in Acts 2:17-21 that the giving of the Holy Spirit to the church is the giving of His presence within as well as the word being illuminated to the heart.

 

The simple takeaway today is this: take heart in the Lord and place your focus on Him. If you’ve seen Him at work in you, rejoice in that and continue to follow Him in your sanctification as you make your way to glorification. God calls us to honor, serve, and obey Him, but He also sovereignly guides us and empowers us in that calling. Salvation begins with faith in Jesus Christ, it is continued on with sanctification in Christ through the means of faith, and it is consummated with glorification as our hope is fulfilled in the glorious presence of our Lord. 

Thank you for your time in worship today.  May God bless you as you ponder His word.

Prayer from Pastor Sam:

Lord, help us to keep our eyes on You. Help us to remember the mission to which we’ve been called, and to surrender daily to You within Your desires for us. Forgive us for the many times we doubt You or selfishly cling to our own desires and help us to realign with You today. If anyone reading this doesn’t have a real relationship with You, I pray for them, that You’d impress upon them that need to call out to you in faith today for salvation. Please be with the many folks struggling with sickness and we pray comfort for them today. Help us to watch our walk in this world and our attitudes for that matter.  We pray for our country and for our leaders and the great spiritual need of the Gospel that exists both in the U.S. and abroad. I pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen. 

 

 

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Mid-Week Devotional: Jonah 3:10-4:1

Thank you for joining us for this devotional. There may be some elements missing in the email, so click here if you’d like to see it on the web page.

 Jonah 3:10-4:1

10 Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.

4:1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. 

 

Have you ever read through the book of Jonah and been a bit confused as to how the prophet Jonah left on such a sour note? We recall that he was called and ran away, and then he rode on the boat though the storm and was eventually tossed into the water to rescue those on board in chapter one. In chapter two, he repents in the belly of the whale and is vomited forth to go back to Nineveh. In chapter three, he preaches the coming wrath of God and we see the subsequent repentance of the people.  Note that they had no guarantee that God would relent of His wrath, though they recognized their sin.

depression | Body ReviewersI would like to take a moment to focus just on that principle alone, this concept of repentance without an assurance of wrath being removed. It’s very powerful if we think about it, because repentance is far more about recognizing what we’ve done is wrong and that God is right than it is about God removing His wrath from us. Sorrow without the guarantee of God changing His mind, but being sorry nonetheless, is really where repentance lies. Yes, God does forgive and it is on the basis of His grace and mercy that He does so, but how many people would truly be sorry if they knew their sorrow would have no effect on their eternal outcome? (As I say that, though, remember it’s not sincerity or sorrow that saves, but faith in Jesus Christ.) This may very well be the distinction of godly sorrow and worldly sorrow from 2 Corinthians 7:9-11:

Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter. 

The sorrow of the world is a sorrow concerned with alleviating consequences, whereas godly sorrow is a sorrow over actions taken and attitudes harbored; godly sorrow is concerned with the offense. Godly sorrow can face the consequences without running away, but worldly sorrow runs from the consequences if by any means necessary. Godly sorrow leads to repentance and turning to God, trusting in Him and while taking responsibility for one’s failures, recognizes that one cannot save themselves–it must come through faith in the perfect, sinless Son of God and His perfect sacrifice upon the cross in our place.

The Ninevites in the book of Jonah truly captured the essence of repentance, and then God relented.  Remember that Jonah said “yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” in Jonah 3:4. We might surmise that this was the 40th day, for on that day, while God relented on a spiritual plane, in the physical world nothing happened that had been foretold. Yet again, isn’t it interesting that the Ninevites didn’t go back to their debauchery immediately if the only reason for repentance was destruction? On that day, it’s interesting that we find Jonah uncertain, too, about what would transpire.

Jonah preached a message that he did not originally want to preach. He saw the people repent, which he did not want them to do, because he wanted them to suffer. They repented, and then God did not destroy them. The lack of destruction, which no one could confirm would happen until the day it had been said (Jonah 3:4), threw Jonah into a place of anger and displeasure. Why? Once again, let us assume that it has something to do with the uncertainty of the coming wrath despite the Ninevites repenting, and perhaps his hope that they would still be destroyed–which is a sign of great bitterness, isn’t it? 140,104 Angry Illustrations, Royalty-Free Vector Graphics & Clip Art - iStock

It’s been mentioned in previous devotionals on Jonah, but one of the themes of this book continues to course its way through the story: God can do as He pleases. He can forgive anyone He wants to forgive, and He can call anyone He wants to call to serve Him. Additionally, God is right to do as He pleases, and that is one of the points of contention in this story, for Jonah does not want to agree with it even if He knows it’s true.

In very practical terms, today’s short passage addresses something in us as well: whose will are we about? Many things may happen that don’t go according to our plans, but have we ever asked if they were going according to God’s plans? Jonah could have rejoiced in the removal of God’s wrath upon the people; He could have rejoiced in God being exceedingly merciful. Nonetheless, because Jonah wanted his own ends for the people he had preached to, all that could be drawn out of him was displeasure and anger.

There are many times God does things that we are not on board with in the moment, but aren’t you glad He doesn’t wait for us to be okay with it in the long run? If God only did the things I was willing for Him to do in my life, I would never have learned the lessons He’s taught me or had things ripped out of me that really couldn’t remain if I was to grow in my relationship with Him.

Chapter Four of the book of Jonah is truly a heart check, and it’s not just for Jonah; it’s for us, too. Let God do the work in you that He seeks to do. Someone once said, “If we saw things as God saw, and were perfect like God is, we’d do things like He does, too.” The point was that we, as sinful humans, have very limited ways of looking at life, and though we may see what we think is right from our perspective, God sees everything and He does what is best, most loving, and most appropriate in every circumstance. Therefore, we’ll have to trust Him, and grow into trusting Him more.

Keep each other in your prayers. Many of us have or are fighting sickness and could use the prayers of one another. Thank you for your time.

God bless you wherever and however this may find you-

 

 

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Sunday, September 6th– Grounded in the Truth of Jesus’ Lordship

Let’s start this morning with some worship if you cannot see the video, use this link. 

Philippians 2:9-11

Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,

 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,

and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 

Time is short, isn’t it? Sometimes it’s easy to forget this fact in the midst of events and circumstances that vie heavily for our attention. If we’re not careful, we can lose sight of where God is taking us, the control He has over everything we go through, or even God Himself. Unfortunately, when this happens, we often find ourselves prone to distractions in an attempt to numb our emotions or keep ourselves happy. As I write that, I’m reminded that sometimes God wants us to be in difficult places and to be weak and vulnerable, as some lessons can only come not only from difficult circumstances but also the emotional distress that accompanies them and where we go in such dark times, as well as to whom.

 

In calling believers to have the mind of Christ and to follow in His humble orientation to God the Father, we find in Philippians 2:9-11 a bit of a digression from the call that highlights the Lord Jesus Christ and His eternal designation on the basis of His sinless life and perfect sacrifice for sin upon the cross.

 

In reviewing the previous verses, we see in Jesus a humble attitude residing in the Maker of the universe, dwelling among men but not making it a point to remind them of how much He had condescended to be among them. The mind of Jesus was set on the Father’s will and the fulfillment of that will.

 

This is why, in conclusion to His life and death, the Father has determined to magnify the Son eternally. Even now, it is our duty to magnify Him who will forever be set at the center of it all, for He gave His life that we might have life eternally with God found through faith in Jesus Christ.

 

It’s September 2020, and it’s been quite the year. Some might say that we have lived nearly a decade in this one year, for that’s how it has felt. It’s very easy to get bogged down with the rest of the world in the constant changes we face, as well as the great uncertainties that abound in nearly every direction we look. 

 

How ought we to face such uncertainty, and what can anchor us when the world around us seems to be quickly loosening from its moorings? Look no further than the Scriptures and the Lord Jesus Christ found therein. 

Today, let’s look at Philippians 2:9-11, a brief set of verses that show us three powerful concepts to contemplate regarding Christ.   This passage is a great place to go when we find that we need grounded once again. My family was able to go on vacation the last two weeks, and it was great, but I’ll tell you, there’s no place like home.  That’s what grounding is, that place where things that are off-kilter get reestablished.  The three concepts we’re going to look at from this passage are: 1.  Authority; 2. Certainty; 3. Finality.  Join me for a bit of an explanation:

 

  • AUTHORITY  Verse 9 says, “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name.” There are many voices speaking into our lives today, and all claim some level of authority on life and the issues therein. To speak authoritatively that which is false will certainly lead to failure and confusion, for speaking into matters when not based upon what is true will only flop in time. Who can speak authoritatively into all matters that take place but God alone? He created all things, holds all things together, has determined the end of all things, and is sovereign over all people, spirits, and circumstances.  God the Father, according to v. 9, has highly exalted the Son and given Him preeminence to all others. We can see this preeminence as well in Colossians 1:15-20:

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that  in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.”

No one on the TV or in the headlines has the authority in any comparison whatsoever to that of Jesus Christ. What He says is true, reliable, and resolute.  His authority is the supreme authority of all authorities.  Rest in that, for what the Scriptures tell us need to speak into our lives today; we need to slow down, listen, and trust what He says is true no matter the day or age.

 

  • CERTAINTY  Philippians 2:10-11 says,  “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” The NASB translates “should bow” and “should confess” a bit more emphatically in our modern vernacular as “will bow” and “will confess,” the point being that it’s not just the hope of the design that this will transpire, but that it is certain that at the appointed time, all beings will bow the knee and all tongues will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. 

 

Sometimes, given the diversity of beliefs out there and the backlash that Christianity faces, it feels like things will never be set straight. The fact of the matter, though, according to Scripture, is that every person out there is going to recognize the truth in time, whether they accept it or reject it in this lifetime, and they will absolutely know that Jesus is Lord and confess it as such. 

 

There are a lot of uncertainties in our lives. We don’t know what this week will look like if we’re really being honest, and we certainly don’t know what to expect of the rest of 2020 nor 2021. There are hopes as well as disappointments, but regardless, no one really knows, nor do we know our personal parts in those times to come. What do we know from Scripture? The certainty of the future is under the sovereign hand of God, and Jesus Christ will be magnified in time. Thinking and living in light of the truth of Philippians 2:9-11 can certainly bring peace and firmness to our hearts and minds today; make sure you don’t forget how this all “ends.” 

 

  • FINALITY Once again, vv. 10-11 say, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

 

Think with me just a bit here over the many times we have thought, “finally…” only to have that sense of completion undone. You’ve finally gotten the house cleaned, only to have it get dirty again the very same day. You’ve finally got your finances under control, only to have another surprise expense come knocking at the door of your bank account. You’ve finally lost those last five pounds…and then the holidays hit or the diet just doesn’t seem to work like it once did. There are many moments in life that we look forward to only to soon find ourselves back in the rut of waiting for the next great milestone, none of them truly fulfilling us like we had often hoped.

 

Consider this kind of cycle within 2020: what if some other coronavirus comes out in 2021 or this decade? We’d hate to think it, much as its affected policies and procedures in so many ways and our whole way of living socially, but it is always possible. Wars are always possible; what if a war breaks out in the 2020’s, making 2020 itself feel like it wasn’t that bad of a year? I don’t want to be a fear monger here, but the point is that we do not know, and while folks hope for finality in various ways throughout life, it can only be found ultimately in Jesus Christ. 

 

When Philippians 2:9-11 speaks about Jesus and His authority, it speaks of all other persons having that final moment of recognizing, bowing, and confessing His Lordship. It’s final, because this will not waver. It won’t be a moment of recognition that is taken back later on; Jesus Christ is Lord and all will know it. 

 

Not only is there a finality to the activity of all created beings, but there is also a finality to God’s glory: He will be glorified and that glory will endure. 

 

All time is headed in the direction of this passage coming to fruition. No matter what takes place between now and then, we must remember that Philippians 2:9-11 is a destination towards which we are all headed. Saved or unsaved, all people will recognize the authority of Jesus Christ. The great question to the reader is, “On which side of that day will I be on, and will it be a moment of joy or a moment of shame?” 

 

Remember that the Lord died upon the cross to offer us eternal life through faith in Him. Only Jesus is enough for acceptance with God the Father, and salvation means trusting in Him that the death He died and the record He has might both cover our sins and grant us that righteous record before the Father for full acceptance as beloved children in His presence. So we will close today’s time with these words taken from Acts 16:31: “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” That is a promise that we too can claim and I encourage you to do so if you have not already.

 

Authority, certainty, and finality: the more you and I trust in the claims of Scripture, the more it will affect our lives today by our hope for the future. Preach His sovereignty to your heart!

Let’s close with this worship song today. Click this link if you do not see the video below. 

 

Prayer:

Lord, help us to look to You for our hope in this life. Lead us back to the Gospel today, and help us to be reminded that it’s your grace and mercy that make us acceptable in Your sight. Help us to be good stewards of the time and resources You have given us, and help us to live in light of the truth of the coming day when all will bow the knee and confess that Jesus is Lord.  I pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Blessings upon you today, my friends!

 

 

 

 

Having the Mind of Christ

Where does your mind go when it has nothing to do? What have you trained your mind to think about naturally? What do you surround your mind with? Pastor Sam Stringer talks about “having the mind of Christ” from Paul’s letter to the Philippians and its implications in an ever darkening world.

 

For the PowerPoint that goes along with today’s sermon – click here

Devotional: Jonah 3:4-10 “Godly Repentance”

Jonah 3:4-10

4 And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.

5 So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.

6 For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.

7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water:

8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.

9 Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?

10 And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.

 

Solomon writes in Psalm 127:1, Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.”

667,736 House Construction Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free ...

Jesus is quoted in John 6:44 as saying, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Medraws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

 

Paul writes in Romans 9:14-16, What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.  

 

All of these references are but a few of the many verses highlighting the preceding work of God in the decisions of men, namely in those choosing to seek Him, repent before Him, and follow Him in faith.  

 

Jonah 3:4-10 should strike intrigue in the reader, for what guarantee had Jonah that he would not die in attempting to call the Ninevites to repentance or that they would ever respond positively to the message? A fascinating passage indeed, for God was calling Jonah into a work He was already doing. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that this repentance process began at the words of Jonah; no, he was entering into obedience by proclamation over a matter that God had been working in these people, and because of that, it may very well appear that a monumental task took but the slightest of efforts to cause national repentance. (Consider Jesus’ conversation with the disciples in John 4:35-39).

 

God called Jonah to preach a message, which he truly struggled over, but the work that took place was not because of Jonah’s persuasiveness. Some have speculated that Jonah may have looked quite disfigured by the gastric juices of the fish he “camped out in” for three nights and that this caused incredible stir among the Ninevites. In many ways, it is a moot point because the repentance we see taking place here can only come if God is in it, whether Jonah looked like a fish’s leftovers or a model.Large White Birch Fireplace Logs, Set of 5 - Traditional ...

 

Ministry in any context might be best illustrated by the act of building a stack of wood made ready for a fire. We may preach, teach, exemplify, serve, etc., but when it comes to the work of God in the hearts of others, only God can bring the fire. The “wood” matters because it’s what He works with, but the fire can only come from Him.  How to Build a Campfire - Fishing & Camping

 

In the last part of Jesus’ parable about the rich man and Lazarus, a powerful point is made in the same vein of the wood and the fire:

“Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’ ” (Luke 16:27-31)

 

Jesus’ point here is that if people will not hear the word of God (Old Testament being referred to), they will not listen to someone even if they were to come back from the dead, as extravagant and eye-catching as that might seem. Why is this? It is because God must be at work in the heart, for the heart of a sinner if left to themselves will never choose faith.  

 

Royalty-free gift photos free download | Pxfuel Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” What is the “gift of God” referring to, exactly?  Well, it actually is referring to the whole phrase, “by grace you have been saved through faith,” and if broken down, tells us that there are three gifts essentially: grace, salvation, and faith. All come from God and are given freely to whomever He pleases. 


Finally, look over the verses once more. Note that there is a qualitative difference, biblically speaking, between
godly sorrow and worldly sorrow. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 7:10, “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.” In a simplified way, we might consider godly sorrow as a sorrow over causing grief to God, whereas worldly sorrow is a sorrow over consequences incurred. Godly sorrow is concerned with God’s glory, and worldly sorrow is concerned with the loss of one’s desires.

2,553 Repent Photos - Free & Royalty-Free Stock Photos from DreamstimeThe repentance we observe in Jonah 3:4-10 is a repentance of godly sorrow; it is concerned with God’s defamation and it is godly, too, because it is a repentance that God has worked within them. The Ninevites from greatest to least were convinced of their wrongfulness, God’s righteousness, and their unworthiness before Him; therefore, they sorrowed before Him over their sins. It was not a given that God would relent from His wrath against them, but they concluded that He might do so if He so desired. What does this mean but that they did not show sorrow in hopes of simply dodging a bullet.  

 

You see, worldly sorrow is only a manipulation tactic meant to prolong one’s agendas and ambitions; it does not truly care about the sin as much as avoiding the consequences. This, too, shows that consequences have unfortunately been learned in the wrong light, being that consequences are actually grace themselves meant to keep us from worse ends (see how Paul describes it here). If we only see consequence as punishment, we fail to see that many times over we as sinful humans bear the responsibility of the pain over which we cry and that God is kind and merciful should we seek Him out.

 

Praise God when repentance is truly expressed. Praise Him when sorrow is felt over offending Him and not just an expression intended to garner pity with the hopes of avoiding certain consequences. Praise God when people who may have strongly opposed Him, even in very gross ways like the Ninevites of Jonah’s day, turn from their sin and seek His mercy and favor as they realize that they are doomed without it. Pray that many more people would come to know and experience true repentance before Him in our times as well.  There is so much to learn from the book of Jonah, and I hope you’ll give it the time necessary to draw out the many insights that can be found in this small Old Testament book.

Thanks for your time if you read this, and I truly hope this finds you well. The next couple of weeks will be down time for these devotionals as my family gets away, but we will be up and running right away when we get back.  Take care.

 

Blessings in the Lord Jesus Christ,

 

 

 

 

 Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Signs of Repentance–Jonah 2:10-3:3

Jonah 2:10-3:3

 “So the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying,

‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.’

So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD.”

 

Reluctancy would be a good word to use for many portions of the book of Jonah, but that is not the case as we begin Chapter Three.  Jonah had gone through a time in the sea in the belly of the great fish, and in that time cried out to God in a repentant spirit and great humility. Truly, though, the testing of his repentance would come after God showed him mercy.

 

By the way, notice that the mercy of God is one of the great themes of the book of Jonah.  God showed mercy to the sailors on the boat headed to Tarshish; God showed mercy to Jonah in saving him from perishing in the belly of the fish; God led Jonah to show mercy to the Ninevites by calling them to repentance and by relenting from the promised judgment against them when they would later cry out to Him upon hearing Jonah’s call for repentance.  This book may at times be read with a focus on Jonah, but the hero of the story is God and His kindness to pagans and pouting prophets.

 

We see in Jonah 2:10 the sovereignty of God once more over His creation.  God spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.” Whenever God commands His creation to obey, it obeys; only those with minds and wills does he implore to obey, whereas nature and animals are made subject to His will in a reactive sense (He commands, they respond).

 

God’s word came to Jonah the second time and in doing so, He returned to his first command to go to Nineveh.  This time, though, Jonah obeyed in immediacy much like the fish in vomiting him forth.  Jonah did not protest the command of God, nor did he try to tailor God’s word to suit his pleasure.  Repentance has come when we no longer try to barter with God over His terms, but rather are seized in the heart before Him, torn over our sins, and in agreement with His judgments and His righteous offer. The salvation God offers is never something that humanity can concoct on its own terms; our justification before God can only come in line within the parameters God has laid out, and given that His word makes it clear, we do have the responsibility of searching the Scriptures, studying them well, and placing ourselves under the authority it speaks over our lives.  

Repentance before Salvation? – Media 4 Life Ministries

Genuine repentance is shown, in part, by submissiveness to the Lordship of God, and in our time it would be better put, the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  Jonah displayed submission to God by hearing the command and promptly acting upon it as he was commanded without trying to negotiate the terms. Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord.  Much like the progressive sanctification of a believer today, though, there would still be failures on the part of Jonah as the story progresses.

 

I am reminded in mentioning progressive sanctification that the trajectory of the believer ought never be assumed to be a straight ascent upwards.  Much like a stock market graph, we know growth takes place over the long run when the “highs” get higher, and the “lows” get higher. The direction of the heart, though it has its many failures along the way, is set in the general trajectory of the glory of God.  

 

It’s hard to see any point in the story of Jonah that isn’t teaching us something about God, even when Jonah has his worst moments. God is good and His mercy is relative to His determinate will towards whomever He chooses to bestow it upon, never as a result of their performance, but of His own free will and goodness. I, for one, am thankful for the grace, mercy, and love of God, all completely dependent upon a faithful God who keeps His word and blesses in accordance with His good pleasure.  I hope you, too, can bask in the glory of God as shown in the beauty of the Gospel of grace and have claimed that grace through faith in Jesus Christ. There’s no gift greater than the gift of eternal life and no hope higher for the believer than the steady, patient hand of God guiding us along the way to meet Him one day in Heaven as glorified children of God.

 

Blessings to you-

 

Deep Worship–Jonah 1:17-2:9

Jonah 1:17-2:9

17 Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the fish’s belly.

 2 And he said: “I cried out to the LORD because of my affliction, And He answered me. “Out of the belly of Sheol I cried, And You heard my voice.

 3 For You cast me into the deep, Into the heart of the seas, And the floods surrounded me; All Your billows and Your waves passed over me.

 4 Then I said,`I have been cast out of Your sight; Yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.’

 5 The waters surrounded me, even to my soul; The deep closed around me; Weeds were wrapped around my head.

 6 I went down to the moorings of the mountains; The earth with its bars closed behind me forever; Yet You have brought up my life from the pit, O LORD, my God.

 7 “When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the LORD; And my prayer went up to You, Into Your holy temple.

 8 “Those who regard worthless idols Forsake their own Mercy.

 9 But I will sacrifice to You With the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.”

 

God knows how we will respond both to favorable as well as adverse conditions.  Nothing takes Him by surprise; in fact, He allows things to happen far more often with the intent of showing us what’s inside of us.  In his book “A Grief Observed,” C.S. Lewis wrote these words as he reflected on his grief in the loss of his wife:

“God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn’t. In this trial He makes us occupy the dock, the witness box, and the bench all at once. He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact was to knock it down.” Lewis, C. S. (2001). A Grief Observed. United Kingdom: HarperCollins, p. 52.

 

Today’s passage shows a quite different person as it comes to Jonah from the man we saw in chapter one. It’s a man held in the grasp of death, whose greatest concern in the book of Jonah tends to highlight his own preservation but here is also humbled before God. Compare how he responds to nearly dying with seeing people respond in repentance throughout the book and you may soon begin seeing that Jonah’s reluctance had much to do with the focus of his life: his life! This of all things on Jonah’s behalf was more than likely something God was working out of him in directly calling him to the task of preaching to the Ninevites (and the rest of this ordeal for that matter).

Deep Blue Sea Wallpaper posted by Sarah Simpson

 

Let’s look at this passage positively, though, for the heart expressed in words shows a side of Jonah that has a relationship with God and reverence for Him. What we do when we come to very difficult circumstances says much about who we are, which is why Jonah’s prayer tells us more about him than simply his reluctance as well as his sulking at the end of the book. 

 

What this book shows us is that not all of Jonah was out of sorts, but there were certainly parts of him that God was performing surgery on out of love for Jonah. It is inevitable for every believer that no matter the calling and positioning of our paths, we will have elements of our character that are being beautified as well as those painful places where character is being buffed out or idols of the heart are being removed. The path of transformation will always be a path of pleasure mixed with pain.

 

All of this being said, let’s take a moment to highlight a handful of points to be made about today’s passage:

1.There was no question that the events unfolding were from the Lord. Jonah knew God controlled the circumstances and even that (v.2) the Lord used affliction to move him to cry out. Jonah was unmoved and attempting to isolate himself from God in chapter one; in chapter two, he could clearly see God pulling him back into Himself. “All your waves and billows passed over me.” Think about that–Jonah recognized the calamity at hand not in isolation from God but in submission to Him. All things that come to pass, in the hands of God, are either determined or permitted but nothing happens outside of God’s sovereignty. 

 

2. One of the marks of having a true relationship with God is a spiritual sensitivity. In saying that, what I refer to is the awareness that God is at work. It is quite possible to be a religious person but to completely lack spiritual sensitivity; in this “setting,” all Christian events happen as a matter of education and duty (not that that’s bad, but there’s more to it than just head knowledge and service). Spiritual sensitivity happens, for example, when we are confronted with sin and convicted or confronted with truth and gripped by it, and other happenings of the like. Really, though, it’s the awareness that God has caused the conviction, the gripping of truth and the circumstances that move us back into Him. Jesus says in John 10:27, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” Consider spiritual sensitivity from the words of Jonah: he was highly sensitive to God in the belly of the fish.

 

3. The mercy of God is on great display in our text today. Mercy moved the storm; mercy sent the fish; mercy made it impossible for Jonah to not be thrown overboard. Mercy allowed Jonah to be swallowed whole and kept alive miraculously in order that repentance might take place in the most unlikely of places. Mercy moved Jonah to remember the Lord as his “soul fainted” (v. 7). Mercy also moved God to allow Jonah to be used even after he tried to abandon God and His plans.

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4. Repentance is the heart of this portion of Jonah. Jonah did not just give lip service to God in hopes that God would bail him out. There was an awareness of his failure, an awareness of God’s righteousness and sovereignty, and a forsaking of his ways as he called upon the Lord. In a play on words, Jonah’s prayer in the belly of the fish was deep; in his most vulnerable of moments, Jonah prayed in a manner that reflected sound theology. God is found even in the moving of Jonah’s thoughts in this passage, for the things Jonah knew about God came to the surface of his mind in the depths of the sea. He was not alone and he knew it.  Once again, let me tie mercy, #3, to repentance, #4. Repentance and mercy are deeply intertwined.

 

Paul writes in Romans 2:4, “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” The goodness of God leads us to repentance; a true believer will look at their repentance and not pat themselves on the back, but look to God as the cause of their repentance before Him. In looking over Jonah 2, it would be very safe to say that Jonah, too, saw that he needed correction and that the correction that came was from the loving hand of God, to whom He submitted. 

Remember that when God has us where He wants us, and He’s working upon us, the proper response is always worship!

I hope you have enjoyed this brief portion of Scripture; go over it again and just read through it, seeing if there’s anything else you might take note of. Jonah 2 is very applicable to gaining insight into repentance and whether we’ve truly done so, as well as God’s hand in the circumstances we face. Take a moment to thank Him for His goodness on a personal level, as well as the sensitivity to Himself that He gives in His grace. 

 

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

 

Blessings to you–

 

 

 

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Guarding a Godly Perspective of Life: Philippians 1:19-24

If you base your happiness, your contentment, your joy off circumstances they you will always be left wanting. But that begs the question, how do we find joy in a world that is so obviously decrepit? The answer lies in where your focus is, what you perspective is.

Pastor Sam Stringer brings this message out of Paul who, being imprisoned while writing Philippians, talks about finding fulfillment, joy, and purpose.

PowerPoint Outline can be viewed while you watch here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Izd6…