The Mark of the Beast
Revelation 13:16 to 14:10
December 2-3, 2017
Perhaps for many, when they think of the Book of Revelation, one of the things that really stands out, one of the things that they remember of all other things that are in the Book of Revelation is the mark of the beast which of course is the number 666, it’s not 6-6-6 but 666. Very, very important difference. When you look at this verses that we’re going to look at tonight, really in many ways they are a study of contrast. What I mean by that is you go back to what we were looking out a couple of weeks ago with regards Satan’s original sin, to remember his original sin was his desire to be like the most high God.
Therefore, you see in many ways that Satan imitates. Lot of mockery and imitation. For example, the mark of the beast, you’re going to read this as we look at these verses tonight, is placed on the right hand or on the forehead. Though it’s very real, it’s actually an imitation of the seal that God places on the foreheads of the 144,000 Jewish witnesses for Jesus Christ- they’re Jews but they’re witnesses for Jesus Christ during the tribulation period and they have this seal on their foreheads.
You see this contrast, you see this imitation, you see that Satan is imitating, because if you notice- we’re going to read this in just a minute- but the mark of the beast tells us the name of the beast and/or the number of the name. What’s interesting is that the seal on the 144,000 is, in fact, the name of the Lamb and the Father. You see again this interesting contrast is very, very important. The satanic mark of the beast, the antichrist, the power of the antichrist is Satan, but also we read this, we’re looking at more on Wednesday, there’s yet another beast that arises and interestingly having two horns like a lamb- again we’re going to look at that on Wednesday- but speaks as a dragon.
Thus, you have Satan himself the dragon of old, we have the antichrist or the beast, then you have this other beast, this one that has two horns like a lamb but speaks like a dragon, you have like we can call an unholy trinity, because you have again this imitation of the trinity of God, God the Father, God the Son, and the beast is the antichrist, the anti-diadem, and then you have of course this other beast who was imitating like the Holy Spirit.
From much of our study from Revelation so far, John has been writing about scenes that he has been given of heaven. He’s to tell us that there’s one sitting on the throne of God that was having a scroll written on the inside on the back with seven seals. No one was worthy to open the book except of course the Lamb who had been called the Lion from the tribe of Judah who had overcome. He was worthy, so when he took the book, the scroll from the Almighty, they fell down and they worship, they sing a new song and it began to break those seven seals. As you broke each of those seven seals, it releases cataclysmic events of the tribulation period.
We’ve been seeing these scenes unfolding from heaven, but when you get to these verses here, this scene actually takes place on the Earth. John’s vision, he’s going to describe for us that he sees Jesus sanding on Mount of Zion, you know Mount of Zion? It’s one of the mounts you might say of Jerusalem but it’s commonly used for Jerusalem itself. As we know Jesus, when He returns at the end of the age- that was being described here- When He returns at the end of the age, He will rule the nations- tells us with a lot of iron, He will rule the nations, He will enter through the eastern gates and He will then set up a throne, a kingdom upon the Earth and it will be out of Jerusalem.
He has this scene unfolding before him, Jesus standing at Mount Zion and with him are the 144,000 Jewish witnesses for Christ that we read about earlier in Chapter Seven. This 144,000 have this seal of God which is the name of the Lamb and the Father on their foreheads. They have been going through the tribulation period but they are victorious. There’s so much to learn because their going through trouble, their going to the difficulty but their witnesses for Christ in the middle of this tribulation period and they are victorious spiritually. A lot we can learn from this. I want us to contrast the mark of the beast with the seal on the foreheads of these 144,000 faithful witnesses and each of those contrast represent.
Let’s read it, Revelation, Chapter 13 we begin in verse 16, “And he causes all, the small and the great, the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, and he provides that no one should be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark.” So you cannot do any kind of business, you cannot purchase any goods or products or any kinds of services unless you have the name, the mark he says which is either the name of the beast or the number of his name. “Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding count the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man, and his number is 666.”
Chapter 14, we continue, “And I looked, and behold, the Lamb who he says was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him the 144,000 having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder.” Have you ever been like in a thunderstorm and like it’s so close to you and like rattles the house, he says many waters like the sound of loud thunder, “and the voice which are heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps.”
In other words, there’s music, but notice that it’s music but it’s loud. It’s really, really loud worship and praise. I’m going some more with this, it’s good to be loud with good praise and worship. Amen?
I just have to speak that, I just have felt that I’m a heart. I just felt like God is telling me to emphasize that point right there. You heard this loud voice and there’s a sound of music playing on many harps and it was the 144,000, “They’re singing a new song, brand new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders and no one can learn this song except the 144,000 who have been purchased from the Earth. These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes.” So they are holy completely dedicated to follow the Lamb. “These have been purchased from among men as first fruits unto God,” which we’re going to look at here in a minute, “and to the Lamb.”
“No lie was found in their mouth, they are blameless.” They love the truth no lie was found in them. “I saw another angel flying in mid-heaven.” Now notice this here, would you please. Verse 6, “I saw another angel flying in mid-heaven, having an eternal Gospel to preach to those who live on the earth and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people.” Would you please take note of that, because so far we’ve been seeing that the tribulation period is the wrath of God that is being poured up on the Earth. But would you please take note that even while this is happening, you have all of this invitation to the Gospel.
I mean the Gospel is also going out in power even during the tribulation. Anyone who wants to be saved in the tribulation can be saved, anyone who wants to honor God in their heart can honor God in their heart, anyone who wants to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior can receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. It’s important for us to recognize the eternal Gospel is being declared 144,000 witnesses throughout the world, then the two witnesses that we looked out last week. Now, an angel, who has the eternal Gospel to preach to those who live on the earth and every nation, tribe, and tongue of people. He said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give Him glory because the hour of His judgment has come and worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and the springs of waters.” Then another angel, a second one, follows after him and he said, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the Great.”
Babylon is the city that was destroyed a long time ago, he’s using this as the spiritual analogy. It’s very important because he’s going to use Babylon here in very short order. He’s going to emphasize this Babylon, a spiritual application of what that city represents. What does it mean today? We’re going to look at that, hopefully, we’ll have time on Wednesday. It’s important to recognize Babylon is significant and that’s going to play into the mark of the beast.
I’ll weave this all together here shortly, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the Great. She who has made all the nations drink of the wine, of the passion, of her immorality.” Then another angel, a third one, follow them and saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast–” Notice the emphasis, the beast wants worship. That again is the imitation because, of course, God is worshiped, so the beast wants to be worshiped.
If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives a mark on his forehead or upon his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of his anger. All right, that’s where I want us to stop and look at these verses. I want us to start with this that which is written on their foreheads. I want to begin with this point which is that, “Victory begins where God’s name is written.”
I. Victory Begins Where God’s Name is Written
It’s God’s name that is written on there, it’s just a beautiful picture. The mark of the beast, this imitation is the name of the beast or the number of his name which is 666. Verse 18 tells us that the number is that of a man and that he says, “Let him who has an understanding, count the number of the beast.” Now, some have taken that to mean that they should use a method called Gematria, which is actually a word taken from the Greek same root as the word Geometry.
Gematria is the same root as Geometry, which means to calculate. Therefore, they use this method called Gematria. Gematria is the process of taking names or words and then finding the numeric value of those words or names by adding up the value of the letters of that name or word. We used letters today that have numeric value, we still do that today. When they do the Super Bowl, they always count off what Super Bowl it is. They say Super Bowl- and this year it’s Super Bowl 52, which is LII, that’s Super Bowl 52. That’s the one where the Eagles are going to play the Patriots, that’s the one.
Just wanted to throw that in there. Here’s the thing, this method of Gematria where the Hebrew an ancient Greek- not modern Greek but ancient Greek- also used letters to represent numbers. Now, we could do the same in English, for example, if we said, “A was one and B was equal to two and C is equal to three and D–” We could do the same thing. Now, using that method, in case you’re interested my name equals 966 so I’m not the– That’s for sure.
Here’s the problem with Gematria methodology, because the problem is that many names end up adding up to 666 is not just like one name. Many names end up adding up. For example, much was made of the fact that Caesar Nero who was just a despicable Caesar and a persecutor of the church, his name famously or infamously added up to 666. The problem is he actually died almost 30 years before John wrote this book so that doesn’t mean anything. In the middle ages, reformers often taught that the Catholic Church and various Popes showed the value of 666.
The Catholic Church, however, shot back showing the numerical value of Martin Luther was 666. It’s very interesting. In recent history, others have suggested that names of world leaders such as Napoleon or Hitler or Stalin. Even more recently, others have researched- of course, people do a lot of this thing- They pointed out that Netanyahu, if you work his name just right, you can make his name come up to 666. Also, Recep Erdogan which is the president of Turkey, they say his name comes up to 666 and many others.
Not to mention Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin all come up with 666. What is the significance however? It’s important to recognize that when that name of the antichrist is known, it will not be a mystery because the antichrist will reveal himself. Those who are on the earth will know who he is and they will know his name. The verification of that will be through the number of that is added up to 666.
Now, what is the significance of 666? You might say, “Well, six is the number of man, it’s the number of incompletion.” Which is true and there’s a lot you can say about that. Seven being the number of perfection, six being the number of man, that’s all very true. The significance of 666 actually goes far back to Babylon. How interesting that Babylon now comes back into the story. Because all the way back to Babylon and the cultic practices of Babylonian occultic religion, which was a blend of religion, astrology, and mathematics actually.
Each of their Babylonian occultic gods were represented by a number, from 1 to 36. An ancient Babylonian astrology divided the starry heavens into 36 constellations. The 36 constellations, each had a god representing those constellations, numerically represented from 1 to 36. The pagan priests had an amulet called the magic square. The magic square which was based on six rows and six columns each with six numbers. Each row and each column equaled 111, and since there were six of them, it totaled 666.
Even if you went diagonally on the magic square, it added up to 111. Now, much is made of this because in that time which was they made them out of gold because the number 666, therefore, represented the one God who was over all the rest of them. The Sun God, Solas, the one who was over all of them. He was the one who gave birth to all the other gods and thus the most powerful, and thus the antichrist is known by that same designation, the number of that one is 666.
By the way, just for your own interest and research, much has been made of the fact that of those numbers from the magic square weaved into various aspects of the building of Washington DC. I’ll just throw that out there and say there’s a conspiracy theory for you if there ever was one. The mark of the beast is on the forehead or on the right hand. The seal of the 144,000 Jewish witnesses is also on their forehead and the significance cannot be missed.
A. Let Him Be Lord of Your Mind
The forehead, the mind, and the right hand is what you do, the power of your life, what you do. The forehead, of course, is the loyalty of your mind. So let Him be Lord of your mind is actually something that we see in the Scriptures. These 144,000 are dedicated unto the Lord and they have the mark of the name of the Lord upon their foreheads. Mark, of course, is a mark of ownership; they’re willingly declaring that they are the Lord’s. The symbolic importance of this on their forehead goes way back in Scriptures. It goes all the way back to the book of Deuteronomy before Israel even entered into the Holy Land. They were told this, Deuteronomy 6, “You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your might.” Please note the significance of those words. Jesus quoted those words. In fact, they asked Him, they said, “Rabbi, what is the foremost commandment? What is the highest that God has even spoken?” Jesus answered, from Deuteronomy, “You shall love the Lord your God.” That’s the highest thing that God wants for you to do. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart.” That’s what God wants for each one of us. What is the fruit of the Spirit? The fruit of the Spirit is love and joy, peace, patience.
These qualities of the Lord but notice how it begins, love. Love is the highest aspect of the moving of God upon your life. If you want revival, you want to see God moving in your life, the highest aspect of that is when you fall in love with the Lord. He says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, with all your might.” These are the words he says to Israel before they go into the Holy Land. “These words which I am commanding you today, these shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and you shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, when you get up.” Which pretty much show that’s a lot.
And He says, “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the door post of your house and on your gates.” These are important words. “You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart.” This mark upon the forehead goes all the way back to the book of Deuteronomy. Notice that it is in the context of loving God. That He says this, “Bind them in the forehead loving the Lord.” When your mind is the Lord, the result is peace with the Lord. Relationship with the Lord comes when you have a love after Him. Isaiah 26, “The steadfast of mind, you will keep in perfect peace because He trust in you.”
Let me tell you how important that is. The enemies, one of the main trust or schemes of the enemy is that of fear, if he can generate fear in your life, and in fact, if you look at even the occultic practices, one of the greatest desires of those that are practiced the occult is to create fear in those who follow those practices. They control people by fear. What is the effort of terrorism today? Isn’t that terror which is fear, rights? The idea is that when the antichrist puts a mark on them, isn’t not of course fear that he brings about. You cannot buy or sell or do any business unless you have this mark, and you will worship the antichrist. It sounds as an a fee versus before this or you will be killed.
Isn’t not the induction of fear that he is attempting to do. That’s why it’s so important to recognize that you can see this thing throughout the Scripture. God has not given us a spirit of fear. God has not given us a spirit of fear but of love. You see the contrast. God has given us a spirit of love and power and a sound mind. Perfect love cast out all fear. God wants us to have an awe and respect of God, that’s right, but He wants us first and foremost to have this love, “The steadfast of mine He will keep in perfect peace because He trust in you.”
Going back now to Revelation, look at chapter 14 where we look at this, who have this mark of God, the name of the Lord upon their foreheads. Would you notice what is happening in their lives because the great examples. First of all tells us there is power in praise. There is power in praise.
B. There is power in praise
The antichrist will set himself up in the temple to be worshiped and honored there. Now, remember what Jesus said in regards to when He was telling them the signs of the times. He said, “When you see the abomination of desolation’s-” which was spoken after the prophet Daniel. He says to Israel, “Run for the hills.” Literally, run for the hills. Don’t even go down to get your coat.
Run for the hills because all hell’s going to break loose. What will happen is the abomination of desolation is this, that the antichrist who has negotiated the treaty of peace between the nations and Israel, which is interesting in itself. Interesting in itself that Israel would recognize the authority and leadership of the antichrist on those days. In fact, did not Jesus say at one point, He says, “I come in my Father’s name but you will not receive Me. But another will come in His own name and you will receive Him.” Very interesting.
The antichrist will take back the temple that he negotiated that Israel could build. He will take it back three and a half years after this and he will set himself up in the holiest of holy places to be worshiped. The antichrist will set himself up to be worshiped and honored there, and it’s only because of fear that people give him honor. Now contrast what John sees in Chapter 14 of Revelation. Here he hears the sound of many waters like the sound of loud music and these are 144,000 who are worshiping. They sing a new song and they praise. There is power in praise because when they singing with all their heart and their might. That’s a beautiful thing by the way.
God loves when His church is alive, God loves when His church worships, God loves that when His church trust near to Him, when there is a hunger and of a thirst for drawing near to the Lord. God loves that. Here does the 144,000, they’re worshiping the sound of loud worship. Praise is a good thing and a new song in Scripture is always good. It will be a declaration of praise and rejoicing and they love. This not this intimidation but rather love. See Psalm 98:1 “Oh sing to the Lord a new song for He has done wonderful things. His right hand and His holy arm have gained the victory for Him.”
I love that declaration. “Oh sing to the Lord a new song.” Like it’s a call out for all of us to follow after. What a great example. In fact, earlier we read in Revelation 5 that the four living beasts or creatures and the 24 elders, they sing a new song. Worship seems to be a very important part of heaven. One of the most important expressions of joy is when there’s a song in the heart. One of the great expressions of joy is when there’s a song in the heart. I was traveling with one of our elders. We just happen to be in New York and we were just driving around looking at the sites and just chit chatting as we go.
Then out of the blue, he says, “Quick, what song are you singing in the back of your mind right now?” and I told him, I knew right away what it was. Did you ever find yourself just walking down somewhere else and you just want to sing? I remember when I was young, I used to be a janitor. My first real job was being a janitor. Of course, I might count picking berries which I did for many years. When I was a janitor, I’m going down the hallways sweeping, pushing a broom or a mop in the hours doing this. I was just a teenager but I was a worship leader at church on the weekends.
I’m just going down the hallway just whistling the worship songs. God loves it when there is a song in your heart, Amen. That’s what you see. Now, you can even have a song in your heart when things are going difficult for you. Do you remember when Paul and Silas on their missionary journey. They were in Philippi and a crowd turned against them. The magistrate had them beaten with rods, thick as a man’s finger and then thrown into the inner dungeon and sent guards upon them. I love the scene that unfolds because here they’ve been mistreated– We have no idea what they experienced, it was such a wrongful tragedy, but Acts 16 gives us this picture of it, verses 25 and 26, “But about midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God.” They’ve been beaten, they’ve been mistreated, they were thrown in this damp, dark, cold dungeon there on the cold rocky floor, chained, stocks.
A lot of people at that point would have started complaining, “This is the way you treat your missionaries, Lord?” They’re praying and they’re singing hymns of praise. It says, “The prisoners were listening.” Then of course as we know God did a miracle, suddenly there came a great earthquake so the foundation of the prison house was shaken and immediately the doors were open and everyone’s chains were unfastened. I just love that scene right there because it shows you the power of praise. I love to just imagine that scene right there, bruised, battered, beaten, hurting, cold dark.
I imagine Paul, “Silas, are you okay?” “I’m hurt but I’m okay.” I just feel like singing. You know that hymn, remember that hymn? Yes, that one. I just want to sing that, me too, I sing that. I just imagine a song like that. It tells us that the prisoners were listening, I imagine that those prisoners listening are just so taken by this whole scene. It’s like, “I want that God, that is a God of peace, that is a God of love, I want that God. I’m tired of the lies of this world.” I had an Iranian fellow show up at the church unannounced, didn’t make an appointment, just walked in ask if he could speak with the pastor so I sat down with him.
I said, “What can I do for you?” and he said, “I’m a Muslim.” I said, “Well, welcome, glad you’re here.” He said, “I’m tired of a God of hate, could you tell me about a God who loves.” Amen?
A few months later we baptized him right here. Amen?
II. The Faithful Heart Bears Godly Fruit
Notice they’re not saying that they were singing songs of praise, there’s power in praise. Then you look at the Revelation 14, this is what you see, you see their faithful hearts, you see their faithful hearts bearing godly fruits. We see how they’re living their lives, we see the holiness of their character, we see how they honor God with how they lived and you see that it is a great example of what we can learn from them. It says, “They follow wherever He goes.” I just love that line, “They follow wherever He goes.”
A. Follow wherever He goes
There is mention here that they were chaste, meaning that they were never married, always pure. For that day of tribulation that would be only appropriate, the world’s gone hell in a behind basket you might say. They’re dedicated holy unto the Lord, for that period of time that was the right thing. Now, there was actually a group in the first century called the scenes that also practiced that, never married and were always chaste, for some reason their sect died out. I was hoping you were following my logic on that. He says, “We follow the Lamb.” I just love the picture because we’re called The Fall of the Lamb, “Take up your cross.” Jesus said, “Take up your cross and follow me.”
That is right, that is the example he’s showing us, that is what God is calling us to do, “They follow the Lamb wherever He goes.” Well, we follow the Lamb when we follow His ways in our life, when we live our lives with our love for Him. It tells us that God’s ways are not our ways but we know God’s ways and we know that God wants to make His ways our ways. Follow after Him, change your ways, that’s what He’s telling you. Change your ways to be like His ways because His ways will bless your life, our ways will get us into trouble.
I like Isaiah 55 where God says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts nor are your ways my ways, declares the Lord, for as the heavens are higher than the Earth so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts are higher than your thoughts.” He’s giving us a great invitation to be transformed, His ways are gracious, His ways are compassion, His ways are forgiveness, His ways are righteous, His ways are patience, His ways are kindness. One of the first praise songs I think it was ever written in the modern era of praise songs was one that was just so simple and yet so powerful, I Have Decided, do you remember that song?
I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back. I have decided to follow. There’s a line in there, one of the powerful lines is, “The cross before me, the world behind me, no turning back, no turning back. The cross before me, the world behind me, no turning back.” It’s just powerful, that’s what it means to follow up and then he speaks about- He says that there was no lie found on their lips, they love the truth. The fruit of our lips is pretty important, too. “There’s no lie found on their lips.” John verse 5. He writes, “They love the truth, the fruit of our lives comes from the treasure that’s in our hearts.”
B. The fruit of our lips is key
Why we say the fruit of our lips, what comes out of our mouths? They love the truth in their hearts and that’s why they spoke the truth. Matthew 12, Jesus made a powerful point when He said, “You want to make the tree good and it’s fruit will be good, I’ll make the tree bad and its fruit will be bad.” The tree is known by its fruit. It says, “You brood of vipers, how can you being evil speak what is good? For the mouth speaks of that which fills the heart.” The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good and the evil man brings out of his evil treasures what is evil.
It’s interesting because in Revelation at the end of Chapter 13 at the beginning of 14 here, we’re seeing this contrast and it’s a choice is like, “I said before you this true thing, this choice.” In time of a spiritual battle like that, it’s like, “You got to choose.” Like the challenge that Joshua may choose you this day, it’s time to choose. He says, “Love the word, love the truth and speak words that are consistent with it. Have a heart that follows God and Godly words will follow.” Proverbs 16:24, “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”
Don’t you love that verse? Would it be awesome if it could be known of you and me that that Proverb 16 verse 24 is true. Wouldn’t it be awesome if people could say of you and me, “His words are like honey, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones when he speaks the words of healing.” I like Ephesians 4:29, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment so that it will give grace to those who hear.” He’s speaking about what comes out of the their mouth, their words. Then notice the fruit, the fruit that God desires is a changed life.
C. The fruit God desires is a changed life
Notice that He says that they are first fruits. They are dedicated to the Lord and the first fruits in the scriptures were always the Lord’s. The first portion, always the Lord’s. It’s a powerful thing when you recognize that they were living in really difficult days, and yet they were just first fruits that dedicated unto the Lord. Powerful, powerful thing for us. John 15 says, “Abide in me and I will abide in you. As the branch cannot bear fruits on itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches, he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit. For apart from Me, you can do nothing.”
Isn’t He calling us here, to have a relationship with Him. That is such that we fall in love with the Lord with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind. The time to choose is now because we are living in days of tremendous contrast between good and evil. Now is the day to make our minds to choose whom we will follow. When you choose whom you will follow, then follow.
Setting the Course of Your Life
March 8, 2020
We are nearing the end of the book of Deuteronomy. I have loved the book of Deuteronomy. It is filled with such amazing insight and application for our lives. The book of Deuteronomy I’ve mentioned before is Moses giving his last speech, his last opportunity to speak to Israel. They’d been in the desert 40 years and it’s coming to close.
They’re just getting ready now to cross over that Jordan and enter into that promised land, and so Moses is pouring his heart out to these people because he wants them to do well. He wants him to succeed. He wants them to prosper. He wants the blessing of God, but he knows that the only way that this is going to happen is if there is revival. If they stay near, if their hearts stay in love with the Lord. Over and over, you see it’s one of the great themes of the book. He admonishes to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all of your soul.
The most important words that God ever said are found in this book of Deuteronomy. The highest, the foremost of all that God’s ever said, “You shall love the Lord your God.” Moses, then he gave instruction in the chapters just leading up to this, that once they enter in, once they crossed the Jordan and go over to the land of Canaan, the first thing that they were to do was to bring the people into this valley. It’s a Valley between the Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim. There they were to station men on each of these mountains, some on one mountain, some on another.
From Mount Ebal, they were to call out over the people the curses of God. The troubles, the difficulties that would come if they turned their heart away if they followed after the gods of the world, the destruction that would come, the poor decision that would be. From Mount Gerizim, the men were to call out the blessings on their lives of following God with all of their heart and all of their soul. Then he says, “Choose, I set before you, now see I set before you life and death and now choose life,” he says, “That you might live.”
There are things in your life of which you have no control but determine the course of your life. They have a tremendous influence on the course of your life and yet you have no control of them. For example, the family you’re born into, you have no control over that. The country you were born in, the community you were born in, whether you are born into privilege or poverty, you don’t have any control over these things. Yet in many ways, they influence the course of your life; but there are other things, there are many things that are within your power to choose that will determine the course of your life.
The people were brought into this valley between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim and they listened from Mount Ebal then they heard the disasters and the troubles and the difficulties that would come if they did not serve the Lord their God. Moses said, “With joy and a glad heart for the abundance of all things,” but from Mount Gerizim, they heard of all of these blessings that would come and overtake them. “The blessings of God will overtake you,” he said if they would just obey and to love the Lord and to serve Him with all of their heart.
I. Your Course Can be Corrected
He said, “Blessed shall you be in the city. Blessed shall you be in the country. Your crops will be blessed. Your herds, the young of your flock will increase, your basket and kneading bowl will be blessed. Blessed you will be when you come in and blessed shall you be when you go out.” That’s the blessing of God. Then he says, “See, I set before you life and death, choose life.”
It is within your power of choosing and it will determine the course of your life. Choose life that you may live. I’ll tell you every parent understands this heart right here. Every parent knows his heart because you want your children to do well in life. It’s a deep desire of parents. You want it to go well with them and you know, like with your children, you know that there are key things, key decisions that they will make in their lives that will determine the course of their life.
We’re not talking just about the career that they choose. We’re talking about the content of their character. We’re talking about whether they choose to follow after God. You know that if they would follow God and love him and follow and serve him, that it would be blessed that God will bless their life. You know this as parents and you want that for your kids. How much more is that true of God? He knows that this would determine the course of your life.
God wants them to choose life, but he also knows, and this is an interesting part of that, he knows the human condition. He knows the human heart and so he understands. They may crash their lives, they may choose to turn their hearts away. Then he says if they do that, the results will be disaster.
He wants them to know and he wants them to know in advance that should this happen and they turn and come back to the Lord, that God will take them back. It’s never too late. It’s never too late to come back to God. It’s never too late to start your life over. It’s never too late to make the right decisions and it’s never too late to correct the course of your life. What an encouragement?
God sets before us today, “Life and death,” he says, “Good and evil,” and choose because the course of your life hinges on the decisions that you make. “Choose well,” He is saying, choose God, choose life. It determines the course of your life. Let’s read it. Chapter 30, we’ll begin in verse 1, “So it shall be when all of these have come. The blessing is in the curse, which I have set before you and you call them to mind in the nations where the Lord your God has banished you.”
In other words, if they turn their back on God and it turns into a disaster and they’re banished, and they’re dispersed amongst the nations. “But you,” verse 2, “Return to the Lord your God and obey Him with all of your heart and your soul according to all that I command you today, you and your sons, then the Lord your God will restore you. He will restore you from that captivity and will have compassion on you and He will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you.”
Some of this now becomes almost prophetic because he knows, he knows and we know the history of Israel, but it also has an interesting prophecy connection to the latter days in which we are seeing now unfold before our eyes. There’s a prophecy unfolding. Verse 4, “If you’re outcasts or at the ends of the earth and from there the Lord your God will gather you, from there He will bring you back.” In other words, I don’t care how far you’ve gone from the Lord. You turn your heart to the Lord and He will bring you all the way back.
“The Lord your God will bring you into that land which your father’s possessed and you will possess it. He will prosper you and multiply you more than your father’s. Moreover, the Lord your God will circumcise your heart.” That’s an interesting phrase that has a deep spiritual meaning, “And the heart of your descendants to love the Lord your God.” Here it is again, “With all your heart and with all of your soul in order that you may live. The Lord your God will inflict all those curses on your enemies and those who hate you and those who persecuted you.” We have seen that in history.
“You shall look again, obey the Lord and observe His commandments which I am commanding you today. Then the Lord your God will prosper you, abundantly prosper you in the work of your hand, in the offspring of your body, in the offspring of your cattle, in the produce of your ground. For the Lord will again,” look at this, I have it underlined, it’s a great word.
“For the Lord will again rejoice over you. He will again rejoice over you for good, just as he rejoiced over your fathers. If you obey the Lord your God to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in the book of this law, if you turn to the Lord your God with all of your heart and all of your soul,” but would you notice verse 11, “For this commandment which I command you today is not difficult. This is not difficult, nor is it out of reach.
It is not in heaven that you should say, ‘Who’s going to go up to heaven for us and get it out and get it down and to make us hear it that we may observe it.’ No, nor is it beyond the sea that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us and get it for us and make us hear it that we may observe it?’ No, the word is very near you.'” Paul quoted from this. “The word is near you. It’s in your mouth. It’s in your heart that you may observe it.
See,” verse 15, “I set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments so that you may live and multiply and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you will not obey but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you will perish.
You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, by holding fast to Him, for this is your life and the length of your days that you may live in that land which the Lord swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
These are the verses I want us to see because there’s so much to apply starting with this understanding, your course can be corrected. The course of your life can be changed. It can be corrected. It’s not too late. God knows in advance that there would come a time when they would turn their hearts away. God knows the condition of the human soul, that it’s a wandering soul, but in that day, when you turn your heart away in disaster and trouble come and then you look to God and turn your heart toward home–
He wants them to know in advance. He says that this is what God will do. He will welcome you home. It’s not too late. It’s not too late. It’s not too late to correct the course of your life. Many of you know the story of my father who was an alcoholic and difficult all his life, but at 75 years old, it’s not too late, 75 years old, he realized that the course of his life had been wrong, that he had wasted most of his life. At 75 years old at a service very much like this, he received Jesus Christ. He came forward and received Christ.
What a celebration in heaven and what a celebration right here, because it was a glorious day that day and I got to baptize him with my own hands.
A. Return with all your heart
It’s not too late. It’s not too late to change the course of your life but notice what he says. “Return,” but he says, now notice, “But return,” he says, “With all of your heart.” It’s the best possible way to correct the course of your life. If you’ve fallen away from the Lord, if you’ve wandered, if you’ve gotten too far, correct the course by returning with all of your hearts.
What are the most important themes? I tell you it’s– One of the most important books of the Bible, one of the most important themes of the book, when things have gone badly, remember God’s heart, God will not reject you. He will welcome you home. See, if they get off course, come back, but come back return with all of your heart. That’s the best correction possible for the soul.
Notice what he says. He started the book, Deuteronomy 4. He started it in a similar theme. It’s the bookends. Deuteronomy 4:29, “From there, from that place of distress and trouble.” When you’ve turned your heart and adversity comes and you find yourself in big trouble, “From that place, seek the Lord your God and you will find Him. If you search for Him with all of your heart and all of your soul, when you are in distress and all of these things have come upon you in the latter days,” a prophetic word, “You will return to the Lord your God and listen to His voice for the Lord your God is a compassionate God and He will not fail you.”
I tell you, I’ve been a pastor a long time. I cannot tell you– Well, okay, 30 years or so. I will tell you, I’ve seen many, many people who have found that the word of God is true, that there is adversity that follows when they turned their heart away from God and walked towards the world, the adversity follows. I can tell you that it is a glorious thing when you see someone who turns their heart back to God and they turn their heart fully back, they returned with all of their– It’s a glorious day, it’s a day to celebrate.
I’ve also seen others who, they get in the adversity and the trouble and they feel the heat of the adversity. You know what I’m saying? They become contrite and even somewhat humble, but only so much, only so much as to get the heat off, which is I suggest to you is not real repentance. I suggest to you that it’s not real revival. The correction of the course is to come with your heart. That’s the best change of life, it starts with the heart. Joel 2:12, “Yet even now,” it’s not too late. That’s what it means.
“Yet even now, return to me with all of your heart. Rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to the Lord. He’s gracious and compassionate. He’s slow to anger. He’s abounding in loving-kindness.” Notice it’s a theme of the Bible. It’s one of the themes of the Bible. You know why that’s such a theme? Because people misunderstand God. Many people misunderstand God.
Many people are convinced that God’s not gracious and compassionate, God is an angry God. You messed up your life, and you make trouble for your life, He’s angry. That’s why you got all this heat. He’s making trouble because He’s trying to make that trouble to get you for what you’ve done. Then you come back, “You’re too late to come back. I’m angry now.” Many people are convinced God is like this. It’s the theme of the Bible to convince you that that is not so.
God is gracious. God is compassionate. He says He is slow to anger, and He is abounding, generously abounding in loving-kindness. “Turning your hearts away from God,” He says, “Was what got you in trouble in the first place. Return with all your heart.” Then notice what he says in verse 6, he says, “God will circumcise your hearts.” That’s an interesting phrase. The Jews would understand that more than we would. It meant a lot to a Jew to hear that phrase, to circumcise the heart. What does that mean exactly?
Well, it means that it’s a spiritual thing. It means the cutting away of the flesh, cutting away of the influence of the world. That’s what it means, to circumcise your heart, and because that’s the key to revival. That’s the key to the correction of the course. See, because after all, what benefit did you gain from those things? What good did it do you when you went after those things, did you gain anything? Did it help you at all? Did it not result in trouble in adversity and in death?
See, when you see it that way, when you ask yourself this question. In fact, I’ll tell you what, that question really comes out of the Bible. Romans 6:21 Paul says it this way, “What benefit did you gain?” How did it help you? “What benefit did you gain from the things of which you are now ashamed, for the outcome of those things is death.” That verse has meant so much to me over the years. I’ll tell you when I was a young man, someone challenged me to memorize Romans 6. When you memorize something, you repeat it in your mind over and over and over.
When I got to Romans 6:21 I started repeating this, repeating it, repeating it, and then I started to see it differently. I started to see it from a personal– I started to see how right it was as a young man. See, young men particularly I think got to figure this thing out. They struggle a lot with this– The life course and the direction that you pursue. Young men got to figure this thing out because there’s a struggle in life. You got to figure this thing out.
B. The Lord will rejoice over you again
As a young man, that was such a revealing, powerful verse because it made me think, it made me turn my perspective differently. What benefit did you gain from the things of which you are now ashamed? I had to ask myself. That’s a good question. That’s a good question because I had to answer it. Nothing, I gained nothing. See, when you see it differently, that’s a glorious day. You’re seeing it rightly, you’re changing your perspective. You’re seeing it from God. That’s why He wants you to know these things.
That’s why he says, and I love this part of it, he says, “The Lord will rejoice over you again.” See, there’s the heart of the Lord. He wants you to know the Lord will rejoice again. We know that when a person first comes to Christ, we know that God rejoices. We know God has said this. I’ve mentioned this verse several times because it points it out so beautifully. The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exalt over you with joy. He will be quiet in His love. He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.
We know God’s rejoicing when a person comes to faith, but when you come back, when you return after you’ve wandered away, that’s where we often need to see God rejoices again. He will welcome– There is open arms waiting, a loving father waiting. It’s like Luke 15:7 and 10, “I tell you, Jesus says, “In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who need no repentance. In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
There’s a glorious declaration. See God promises He will rejoice again and then there’s this prophecy, very interesting, in verses 3 through 5. This is like this prophetic word. God’s going to restore. He will restore. God’s going to restore, rebuild their nation even, gather them from the places where they were scattered, bring them back. You know what’s interesting? We are living in times when we have seen the fulfillment of that.
There was a fulfillment when they came back from Babylon, there was a similar fulfillment in 1948 when the Jews came from the nations and re-established again their nation in 1948, but there will be in the latter days a greatest fulfillment yet of those words because something is still missing.
After the Babylonian captivity and today when they came back in 1948, God is still waiting for a spiritual revival. That’s what’s still missing. God is still waiting for a spiritual revival.
See, when Jesus comes at the end of the age, when their Messiah returns, the word tells us there will be a great awakening in Israel. There is yet to be, and this is important for us to know because of the days in which we are living. We are living in days where the world is changing before our eyes. Can anybody sense it? The world is changing before our eyes. There is a cloud on the horizon that’s growing deeper and greater in strength. There is a darkness that is arising in this world. Anybody sense what I am saying?
There is a darkness arising in this world and the scripture tells us that the center of prophetic fulfillment will be in Israel. The epicenter will be Jerusalem and the very center will be the Temple Mount. Keep your eyes on Israel. Yet there will be in the latter days a returning of Christ Jesus in the latter days and there will be yet an awakening in Israel. There is not an awakening in Israel today. If you go to Israel, you’ll know that it’s many secular people. God’s going to send His Messiah.
Jeremiah 31:31-34, “Behold, days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, and this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days. I will put my law within their heart. I will write it and I will be their God, they will be my people. I will forgive their iniquity and their sin, I will remember no more.” At the last supper whenever we do communion, we are remembering the last supper.
At that last supper, He took the cup and He said, “This cup is the cup of the new covenant.” That very new covenant it is initiated in my blood. This is first Corinthians 11:25, “In the same way He took the cup. This is the cup of the new covenant initiated in my blood. Do this as often as you drink it in remembrance of me.” The new covenant is initiated in His blood and it will be completed for Israel when Jesus returns at the end of the age and Israel receives their Messiah and Our King and Our Lord and they will receive forgiveness.
C. There is a sadness that leads to joy
What’s interesting, and it’s important for us to recognize these things because of the days in which we are living, that there will be a sadness in Israel, but it’s a sadness that leads to joy. Moses is telling them of the rejoicing of the Lord at the returning of those who fall. Their hearts will be circumcised when they return and love the Lord their God with all their heart and all their soul, but there’s a prophetic word.
At the returning of the Messiah in the last days, the awakening in those latter days begins with sorrow.” That’s an interesting thing. An awakening? How can awakening begin with sorrow? How can a revival begin with sorrow? That’s an interesting insight. Zechariah 12:10 tells us, “I will pour out on the house of David,” this is a prophecy of the latter days, “And on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, I will pour out the spirit of grace and the spirit of supplication so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced, and they will mourn.”
When the Messiah comes, they will mourn. They will mourn as one mourns for an only son. They will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. Why? Because they will look upon Him whom they have pierced and realized, “We betrayed our Messiah all those years before.” When their eyes are opened to what they have done, this begins with a morning and a sorrow, but it also says He will pour out upon the spirit of grace and the spirit of supplication.
Now, this is important because there is a sorrow that leads to repentance that’s good. Revival oftentimes begins with a sorrow. When a person opens their eyes and they see their life for what it really is, actually there’s a sorrow. Well, see, when my dad at 75 opened his eyes, something happened where he said, “I now see I’ve wasted my life, help me make something with what I got left.” Opened his eyes. See, when you open your eyes and you see it, the first response oftentimes is sorrow. “I see now, I see the pain. I see what I’ve done, oh Lord.”
I tell you, it’s a good thing. Paul says it’s a good– Repentance often starts with sorrow, revival often starts with sorrow, but I’ll tell you what, it will be followed with joy. See, 2 Corinthians 7:9-10, “I now rejoice,” Paul is writing the New Testament, “Not that you are made sorrowful, but that you are made sorrowful to the point of repentance. For you are made sorrowful according to the will of God so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that’s according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret.”
II. God’s Word is not too Difficult
You will never regret the day that you came and gave your heart to the Lord. You’ll never regret the day that you returned to the Lord. You’ll never regret that day because he says, “It leads to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.” Then I love this in chapter 30. He says that God’s word is not too difficult. He says, “This is not too difficult. This is not hard. This is not hard.” I love this because there are many who seem to think that the things of God are difficult or they’re out of reach.
He says, “If you love the Lord with all of your heart, with a glad heart,” he says, “That’s when the commandments of the Lord are not burdensome.”
There’s a great verse. 1 John 5:3, “This is the love of God that we keep His commandments and the commandments of God are not burdensome.” Why?
A few weeks ago, I gave an illustration and it’s a perfect illustration of this point and it bears repeating, so bear with me because it’s important to apply it. It’s the story of a farmer who had been plowing for years with these two plow horses. Then all the other farmers around him are getting these new tractor things, but he’s faithful to his plow horses. One finally dies and so he decides it’s time, time to get finally the tractor.
He buys the tractor and goes to the last of the plow horses and comes to the barn and takes his harness off and says, “You’ve done well, you’ve served well, be free. Go off, retire,” basically. He goes and hooks the plow to the tractor, brings it around to the field. As he starts plowing the field, to his surprise, here comes the horse walking alongside the tractor, which is to say, “I love what I do. This is what I do. This is no burden to me. I love what I do. This is what I love. This is no burden to me.”
I love that illustration because it’s a beautiful illustration of what he is saying. It’s not difficult when you love. The key is to love. Someone says to me, “This Christian thing is not working for me.” I say, you got to draw nearer. You got to come closer. You draw nearer to the Lord and you will find out how beautiful the Lord is. You will find out how love, grace, and joy is poured out near the cross. You got to come closer. You draw near the fire, you’re going to catch fire. Come nearer, draw closer. You need to have revival by drawing near.
A. God’s Word is as close as your heart
See, because that’s what he says, God’s word is as close as your heart. That’s what he says. It’s not far. It’s not high. You don’t have to go far to go get it. He said this is not out of reach. You don’t have to accomplish some great feat in order to demonstrate that you mean repentance. You don’t have to climb seven great mountains and reach the spiritual state of Nirvana. It’s as close as your heart. That’s what he says. It’s not hard. It’s as close as your heart.
In church history, there was a concept of this, of making it hard, of making it difficult. There was a concept in Christian history called penance. Maybe you’re familiar with it, if you were raised in the Catholic Church you might know some of the history of that. The idea of penance is that you must do something to demonstrate your contrition. You must do something hard to demonstrate that you mean it when you say that you’re coming back, that you are repenting. You got to prove it.
One of the illustrations of this is a movie that came out some years ago called The Mission. It was about this Rodrigo Mendoza, who was just a despicable fellow, just a despicable person. He had abused and mistreated and tried to enslave the Guarani people, the tribe in South Africa. He was an angry man. One day he found his brother in bed with his fiancé, and in a fit of rage, killed his brother. The movie goes on to describe that he goes to a Jesuit priest who tells him that he must do penance as a demonstration of his sorrow.
Because he was a man of hate and a man of war, he must take all of his armor and his weapons, and he ties them in this net and then he must tie it around his waist and climb the great Iguazu Falls up to the Guarani people. Two priests will walk with you to make sure you do it. He takes all of his armor and his weapons and ties them in the net, puts a rope around his– and he starts climbing the falls dragging this net of burden up, up and higher. Climbing, climbing, climbing, and you can see the pain. The movie does a great job of expressing his pain and agony as he’s climbing.
Maybe halfway up and there’s this ledge and he can’t get it over. He’s just exhausted. He’s come to the end of himself and he can get it over the ledge. One of the priests, out of just a moment of the outpouring of sorrow takes a knife and cuts the rope. Now, if that was the grand part of the movie, we would all go, “Wow, there’s a point there.” Cut the rope. Let the burden fall. That’s a picture of Christ, isn’t it? It’s a picture of Christ. He cuts the rope, but that wasn’t the point of the movie.
They should have asked me to direct it. I would have made that the point of the movie. No, that wasn’t the point. The point was– Then he looks at the priest with, “How dare you,” eyes. How dare you? Then he goes all the way back down, ties it back together again and starts all over. Then he climbs all the way with great pain and agony, he comes all the way to the top and in tears the Guarani people welcome him. It’s beautiful. The movie is absolutely beautiful. It’s just wrong because he says it’s not hard.
No, it’s not difficult. It’s not out of reach. It’s as near as your heart. It’s as close as your mouth. When you come and you mean it, you come with your heart, it’s so near to you, he says. You may feel that you’re far from God. You may feel that God is far from you, but he’s trying to make this so clear to us. God is near. God is near. Correct the course of your life by returning with your heart. It’s as near as your heart. It doesn’t matter what kind of life you’ve been living. Doesn’t matter what has taken you far. Anyone can be saved and anyone can return and He wants it to be so clear.
B. God wants you to choose life
God will welcome you home. Here’s what we got to see, we got to see the heart of God. He says God wants you to choose life. I love you. You are a treasure to me. You are precious in my sight. I want you to choose life. It’s not that God set before them, I set before you life and death. Now it doesn’t matter to me, choose what you wish. No, he sets before them life and death and then He says, “I want you to choose life. I love you. You’re precious in my sight.”
The decisions we make determine the course of your life, but God wants to influence your decision. He wants to influence you by saying, “I love you. You’re precious to me. I love you. You’re the apple of my eye. I sent my son to die on the cross.” I’m asking you to be reconciled to God and to know that He loves you. I love those words in 2 Corinthians 5. “We are ambassadors for Christ.” It is as though God is entreating through us. You know what that word entreating means? It means asking. God is asking, sincerely asking, isn’t that amazing? Isn’t that amazing to you?
I am amazed at this. God is entreating. He says, “Therefore we beg you.” This is amazing to me. “Therefore, we beg you on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God.” God wants to influence your decision. I love you. Come and come with all of your heart and when you come, you got to know that He will rejoice over you again.
Father, thank you so much for showing us. We love to see your heart. It’s beautiful. We love to see your heart. God, you’re calling us tonight to correct the course. Church tonight if you’re here, anyone in this room tonight that needs to correct the course, it begins with the heart. It’s not too hard. It’s not out of reach. It’s as near as your heart and God is the one inviting, God is the one pursuing, God is the one who’s asking you, he’s entreating. Therefore, He says, “We beg you on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God.”
Would you say tonight, I need to correct the course. God, I want to love with all of my heart and all of my soul. I return to you God, sincerely and genuinely. I want to be near and nearer and nearer to my God. Thank you for pursuing me. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for the forgiveness that you bought for me. I correct the course of my life.
Would you just raise your hand if you would say that to the Lord tonight. Just be bold. You got to be bold sometimes in the Spirit. You just be bold and say, “I want to correct the course.”
Blessed are Those Who Hear
February 29 -March 1, 2020
I mentioned before that the book of Deuteronomy is Moses’ last speech, because Israel is just about to cross the Jordan and enter into that land that God promised them, but Moses knows that he cannot go. God’s already made it very clear, he’s not crossing that Jordan. This is His last opportunity to speak into their lives, and you can just sense the urgency in it, because He wants it to go well, He wants him to be victorious spiritually, He wants him to be blessed, and He knows that this is the key, and so He gives him some powerful words. In fact, in the book of Deuteronomy, you will find the greatest words that God has ever spoken. In fact, we know it’s the greatest because Jesus was asked, what are the greatest words, the foremost of all that God has ever said, and Jesus quoted right from Deuteronomy, “You will love the Lord with all of your heart.” That’s what God says. That’s what God wants.
Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. This is a very important message, sense of urgency, because He wants it to go well. When you get to chapter 18, He’s warning them here of spiritual dangers, because He knows that the land in which they’re going is filled with spiritual darkness. These nations, these people, they’re filled with all kinds of dark practices which God detests, He says, and that’s the reason He’s casting them out of there. To have nothing to do with them.
Part of spiritual revival is understanding how to keep your life from being spiritually shipwrecked, and this is the key. He knows that the key, for them to be in the place of greatest blessing, is revival. He wants revival. I’m telling you God still wants revival today. That warning that Moses gives to Israel is very much applied today, because we are living in a time of tremendous spiritual darkness, would you not agree? There is darkness like I have never seen before in my life. Keeping your heart from those things, away from spiritual darkness, is part of revival. With this warning, comes a tremendous promise. One of the greatest promises of the Old Testament are found in these verses, because he says it this way, he says, “Now those nations which you shall dispossess when you cross the Jordan, they listen to those who practice witchcraft, they go to listen to diviners, they go to those who practice witchcraft to get a word, they go to diviners to hear a word.”
God says, “Should not a people seek their God.” He says, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet, like me.” This is a direct prophecy of Jesus Christ, right in Deuteronomy, “You will listen to him, I will put my words in his mouth. He will speak in my name.” There’s just a powerful understanding of the prophecy of Jesus, but how it applies to our lives is critical. Let’s read it.
Deuteronomy 18:9, “When you enter the land, which the Lord your God gives you, you will not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire.” This was so wrong, so despicable what they would do. Actually, they would burn their oldest child in the fire as a sacrifice to The god of fertility, or whatever, so that their crops would be more abundant.
God says, “No, this is detestable. Have nothing to do with this.” It breaks the heart of God to see if people sacrifice their children. Then he says, “Let there not be found anyone who uses divination, or who practices witchcraft, or who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium or a spiritist, so one who calls up the dead. For whoever does these things is detestable to the Lord, and because of these detestable things, the Lord your God will drive them out from before you. You will be blameless before the Lord your God, for those nations, which you shall dispossess, they listen to those who practice witchcraft, and they go to diviners, but as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do so. For the Lord your God, and here’s that prophecy I was telling you, the Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you and your countrymen, and you will listen to him. This is very clearly a prophecy.
In fact, every Jew would tell you, he’s referring here to the Messiah, that great Messiah who will one day come. Well, we know who he is, we know his name. His name is Jesus. He is that exact fulfillment of the Scriptures because he will be a mediator. Notice what it says in the next verses. “This is in accordance to all that you ask of the Lord your God at Horeb, Mount Sinai, on the day of that assembly.” Remember what had happened, they all gathered at Mount Sinai. God spoke to the nation of Israel out of the mountain, out of the smoke in the fire, and the people said, “This is too much to hear His voice. Moses, you speak God’s Word to us.” They asked for a mediator, so God said they did well in asking for that, and I will send a prophet to be a mediator in the latter days.
Notice what it says, verse 16, “This is in accordance to what you said, let me not here again the voice of the Lord my God, let me not see this great fire anymore unless I die, Moses you speak.” And the Lord said to me, “They have spoken well with this. So I will raise up a prophet from you”, here it is, again, “from among your countrymen like you, and I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them as I command him.” Notice verse 19, “And it shall come about that whoever will not listen to my words, which he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.” Wow, these are great verses, and they apply directly to our lives. He’s telling them all of these dangerous, dark, spiritual things. “I detest these things, have nothing to do with him.” Because he wants revival. He knows that these things will draw people away and will destroy them spiritually. He wants revival. He wants people to love God with all their heart.
I. Ambitiously Please God
Really, he’s drawing us to an understanding. God wants you to seek after a relationship where you would ambitiously please God, I just love this phrase, ambitiously please God. We live in a time where ambition is the mantra of the day, they’re driven, they’re ambitious. Well, did you know that the Apostle Paul was ambitious? He had ambition but notice the way he says it. 2 Corinthians 5:7 and 9, “For we walk by faith and not by sight, therefore, we have as our ambition to be pleasing to Him. That’s what I want to do with my life.” Paul says, “I want to bless the Lord, I want to please Him. I want to walk in such a way that God is blessed.” Revival is about relationship.
The key is relationship. There’s two parts to our relationship, there’s two sides to our relationship. That’s why he says, “Here’s the most important thing that God wants you to hear. Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” That’s your part. You love, you pour out your heart and your soul, you love, but the other side is God. God says, “I love you. You are precious in my sight. You are treasure to me, you’re the apple of my eye.” He says, “I love you so much, I’ll send my Son that whosoever would believe in him would not perish but have everlasting life.”
Notice now, part of relationship is the desire to please, to bless one another, but part of the relationship includes understanding what does not please, that’s part of relationship too. We all have things we find displeasing, me too. For example, if we were in a close relationship, you would know that there’s some things I don’t like, I will not tell you what they are. There’s some things that we’re going to have a relationship, there’s just some things I don’t like. For example, I don’t like cussing. We’re going to hang out together and you’re going to cuss, it’s just not going to work out very well between us, I’m just not into it, I just don’t like it. I find it displeasing. I don’t like disrespect, I just don’t like it, I just don’t do disrespect. I think it should be the same, I’ll respect you, you respect me. I just think that that’s what we owe each other. I’m just not into disrespect. Dishonesty, I just think that there ought to be honesty in relationships. These are some things that I just think are good.
Humor, I love humor. I absolutely love good humor. I cannot stand potty humor. It’s just me. Maybe it’s just me, but I just don’t like it. There’s some things that we find displeasing. How much more is that true of God? God says that there are some things that He finds displeasing because God is good, and His nature is holy and righteous. It’s because of His nature He says these things.
Moses wants Israel to know that there are some things that God finds not only displeasing. He finds them detestable, because they’re contrary to His nature. The Scripture, in more than one place, describes this fact. In fact, Proverbs 6:16 and 19. It says very similarly, “There are six things which the Lord hates. Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him,” and He’s going to name them. He’s going to list them right off. Number one, Haughty eyes. God says I can’t stand that. A lying tongue, abomination to me. Hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who out lies, one who spreads strife among brethren, can’t stand that, because of the nature of God.
A. God’s heart is to protect you from evil
Why is he saying these things? Because He knows that these things that He’s going to speak about will bring spiritual destruction. Here’s God’s heart. God’s heart is to protect you from evil, because this is a relationship, and God wants to protect from Every good parent wants to protect their children from evil influences. Any parent that is a good parent at all understands the point of this. You got to protect your children from evil influences because as parents, we’ve lived long enough to know how dangerous evil influences can be. We live long enough to know. These evil influences can be quite dangerous. Here’s the thing, children are not aware, they don’t recognize how dangerous they are, and that right there is why they need a parent.
You all know, of course, we raised five kids, and now we’ve adopted our granddaughter raising her, and one of the phrases that I used to love when raising our kids, things would have been a little tussle over this or that. One of my phrases I used to love is this, “And that right there, my friend, is why you need a parent.”
I’m going to bring all the wisdom I got into this parenting, because I know that these things from the world, these are evil influences and they’ll destroy your life.
Many of you know our story, I mentioned last week. Our daughter was murdered by a 17-year-old boy who fell under every imaginable evil influence this world had to offer. Influenced by gangs, drugs, dark side of the internet, you name it, every evil influence, he fell under it, and the end result was he destroyed his own life, took our daughter’s life, imagine the pain in his parents, the pain in ours. All because of the evil influences of the world around us. That’s why as parents, I urge, I’ve lived long enough, I’ve been a pastor long enough to see how many lives have been destroyed. Keep your children from the influence of bad friends, of the culture of drugs and alcohol, from the wrongful influence of social media, or the dark world of gaming, or the dark world and sexual side of the internet. There’s too many lives destroyed. Every culture, and every time has their own set of influences that come from spiritual forces of darkness.
Pastor Matthew and I are soon going to be going to Africa. We’re going to be teaching at a couple of pastors’ conferences there. I will tell you, in Africa, that these practices are still very much happening in Africa. You go there, and you can see in pretty much every city, there are the witch doctors still there, in fact, they raise up their flags. You can see right where, there’s one there, there’s one over there, there’s one over there. Every occultic practice is still influencing the people.
There’s a pastor missionary friend of mine, who was telling me a story about, he was in a church service, and the pastor was dedicating one of the children. Okay, we do this, it’s a very important part of the life of the church, and he’s dedicating one of the children. The point of that, of course, is you thank God for the gift this child has been to this family, that’s part of it. You’re praying, we always ask the church, extend your hand in the posture of blessing, because we want God’s hand of blessing to be on this child, but part of that is also we’re asking God’s hand of protection over this child because of the evil influences of the culture in which we’re living. God, protect this child.
Well, okay, this pastor was there in this church service, the pastor was dedicating this child. Before he prayed, he turned to the parents. He said, “Before God in this church, promise me that you will keep this child away from witchcraft.” Now, I’m telling you, such a thing ought not to have to be promised, but it needed to be because it was very much part of the culture which they’re living.
I tell you what, that is very much true today in that same sense, there is evil all around us today. Is there not? We are living in a very dark and dangerous time. There’s a very much in necessity of praying, protect our children, but also us. He says have nothing to do with these things because it will spiritually shipwreck your life, so he names names.
When Israel is going across the Jordan, they’re going to be entering into this land, filled with all kinds of spiritual practices of darkness. He’s going to like name names, say what it is, in verses 10 through 14, because there’s a spiritual reality of darkness of demonic nature. Don’t be involved in these things, he says, because they’re detestable to God.
Not only that, but He knows that the nature of man is such that I think they have their way, they would do both. He knows the nature of man, if they get out their way, they would do both. They would want the things that the world does, and they would want God’s things. This is the nature of man, want both. I want the things of the world, and I want God’s things. The same is true today. It’s the nature of man. There are many people today, if they get to have their way, they would do both. They would do the things that the world’s got, and they would do God’s things. The problem is, you do both things and you’re going to find yourself compromised, and you’re going to be what I call the miserable middle, because you’ll be miserable because you’re in the middle. It’s miserable there.
In fact, Jesus said, He called it being lukewarm. “I would rather you either be hot or be cold, but if you’re lukewarm, you’re in the middle, I’ll spit you out of my mouth,” He says, that’s a pretty strong word. Don’t be in middle, but that’s the nature of man, they want both. These very practices, God speaks and says, have nothing to do with them.
It’s like this, in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, He says, “What partnership have righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness? What harmony does Christ have with Belial?” That’s another name for Satan. “Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord. “Do not touch what is unclean. I will welcome you, and I’ll be a father to you, and you will be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”
That’s a great verse right there, because he’s saying, look, this is about relationship. I’ll be a Father to you, you’ll be sons and daughters to me. We’re going to have this amazing relationship, come out, don’t touch those things, be separate, He says. He starts naming names. He starts saying what it is. Divination. Trying to see the future through a cultic means, and there are those who do this today, whether through reading tea leaves, or palm reading or tarot cards, Ouija boards. He says this is a cult thing, have nothing to do with it.
Witchcraft. This is the attempt to use dark spiritual powers to speak against other people’s lives, like casting spells or speaking incantations. Did you know there’s actually a modern resurgence of witchcraft today? Although they call that white witchcraft, I’m not sure what the difference is. I guess white witchcraft is environmentally friendly. I don’t know, but it’s a resurging or soothsayer. These are those who predict the future using astrological signs.
Back in the day when newspapers were a thing, it was common for newspapers to print the horoscopes of the day. People would read the horoscopes for one purpose, to seek counsel, to seek direction. What does the horoscope say that the direction? What should I do? God would respond. You go to that? Should not a people seek their God? That’s a great word.
Then he speaks of interpreting omens. This is the practice, or people would see events in their lives as indicators of either what is to come or what they should do. They look for these omens as indicators of what they should do with their lives, and this has been true in history. Throughout history, long history, they used to cut up an animal to see what the angels would say to them. Or they would cut up an animal to see what the liver had to say to them. God says have nothing to do with these things.
Then there was sorcery, the using of drugs to bring about a spiritual experience. Our modern word “pharmacy” actually comes from the Greek word pharmacia, which originated in the idea of using drugs to create a spiritual experience. The drug culture of the ’60s, I know many of you are not old enough to know much about the ’60s, but I read all about it in history books, so I know that the drug culture of the ’60s, actually, started out as the desire to seek after spiritual experiences, and to use the drugs in order to induce it. The idea was to seek a spiritual influence. He says have nothing to do with this.
Then there’s the communicating of the dead. Trying to communicate to the dead through mediums or spiritists or other means, for what purpose? For what purpose? To seek counsel. To seek counsel from the dead, and that’s why later on in the history of Israel, a great prophet arose, his name is Isaiah. Isaiah said, and this is in 8:19, “When they say to you consult the mediums and the spiritists, who whisper and mutter– I love what he says, “Hey, wait, should not people consult their God? Should they consult the dead on the behalf of the living?” He says, “Have nothing to do with this, because these things are detestable to God,” he says.
Do not imitate the things of darkness that are in the world around you. We are living in a time of spiritual darkness. The spiritual warfare that we are encountering is very, very real. I have been a pastor long enough to see many lives destroyed. Has anyone else seen that? That’s why the words that Paul says in Ephesians 6:11-18 are very much relevant today. He says, and he’s showing us how to be victorious. He says, “Put on the full armor of God.” Then he’s going to explain what that means.
Put on the full armor of God so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil, for our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers and powers, against world forces of darkness, against spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything to stand firm, stand firm, therefore. He’s saying, “Look, we need people who can stand firm in their faith to arise to set your feet on a rock and to stand firm today.” Because he’s giving a warning to Israel, and frankly, it’s a great warning to us. These things will shipwreck your life. He says I want a relationship of revival.
B. God is joy and Pleasing peace
This is what he’s drawing them into, enjoying us into, “Hey, pleasing God is joy and peace.” That’s a beautiful picture. See, there are things which please God very much. It’s joy, it’s peace. “I want that peace. I want that joy. I want that love. I want my soul filled with the Spirit of the Living God. I want those things, desire those things,” he says. It’s peace and joy.
May we come to the end of our lives and hear these words. This is Matthew 25:21. “Well done,” Jesus says. “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master.” What great words. You know you got one life to live. You got one life. Don’t you want to live it in such a way that when you come to the end of it, you’ll hear those words? “Well done, well-lived, my good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master.”
There is that worship song by Timmy Hughes. I love the song. I love the lyrics. I want to just quote some of the lyrics because it captures it so beautifully. He says it this way, “May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart, bless your name. Bless your name, Jesus, and the deeds of the day and the truth in my ways, speak of you. Speak of you, Jesus. For this is what I’m glad to do. It’s time to live a life of love that pleases you, and I will give my all to you. Surrender everything I have and follow you. I’ll follow.” It’s based on Psalms 19:14. It’s a great song.
Listen to those words. Psalm 19:14, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, My Rock and My Redeemer. Isn’t that a great verse? I love those words. It’s time, it’s time to live a life of love that pleases you, Lord.
In the book of Ezekiel, he describes what pleases God. God says, “I am pleased when I see the one who was once wicked, turn from his wicked ways and come into a relationship to the living God. I love to see that.”
There’s another verse in Zephaniah 3:17. I quoted it last week, “The Lord your God is with you. He is mighty to save; He will take great delight in you. He will be quiet in His love, and He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.” That’s what he’s speaking to. Have nothing to do with those things because God wants that kind of relationship where there’s revival, there is rejoice, the rejoicing, there is victory in the Lord.
II. God’s Word will be Required of You
Then He gives this next word, this prophecy that Jesus fulfills, but it’s so important to recognize the significance of what He says, “I will raise up a prophet. We know His name. I will put my words in His mouth. And when He speaks in my name, those words I will require of you. That’s just a powerful statement. It means this, God’s Word will be required. I will put my words in His mouth, take note of this. If you come about that whoever will now listen to those words which that Prophet speaks in my name, I will require it of him.
A. He is the mediator between God and man
God will require it of every man, because He makes it clear in this word of prophecy that he who is to come will be the mediator between God and man, he is that mediator. We need a mediator. We need a mediator, he says, because no man can save himself.
God spoke a powerful word, Jesus is the fulfillment of that. 1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God, there’s one mediator between God and them, the man Jesus Christ. He was eight-six, but now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises.
When John the Baptist was in Israel baptizing for repentance, they came to him and he said, “Are you the one? Are you that Prophet spoken of in the book of Deuteronomy?” All they longed, they waited, they knew one day that prophet would come. John said, “I am not the one, but He who comes after me.” Then later when John was arrested and knew it would end with his life, he sent messengers to Jesus wanting to hear just confirmation. “Are you the one?”
In Luke 7:22, Jesus answered and said to them, the messengers of John, “You go and report to John what you have seen and what you have heard. The blind see, the lame walk, leapers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. You go tell John that and he’ll know the answer.”
Remember when Jesus fed 5,000 with the five loaves and the two fish, it’s in every gospel. One of the great miracles of the Lord, it says that afterward the crowd marveled. It says in John 6:14, when the people saw this sign, which He had performed, they said, this is truly that prophet who was to come into the world. He will be a mediator between God and man, because our sins have separated us from God, and no man can save himself. God doesn’t save us. No man can be saved, but God sent His Son to seek and to save that which was lost. He is the way. He is the truth. He is the life. No man comes to the Father but by Him, Jesus said.
B. Write these words on your heart
Lastly, and I want us to really see the significance of this word. I will put my words in his mouth. He will speak in my name, and I will require those words of you. In other words, those words are so important. Write these words on your heart. Write these down but write them on your heart. Take hold of them, they will be required of you. It’s like in Deuteronomy 11:18, where Moses said, you will impress these words on your heart. You will impress these words onto your soul, bind them as a sign in your hand, and as frontals on your forehead. How do you make a word permanent?
I remember when I was in Bible college, and I was in these classes. I’m amazed at this powerful truth, and I remember I had a favorite professor, Dr. David Needham. He’s spoken here many times. I’m listening in his class. I’m saying to myself; this is good. This is power. This is truth. I need these words. So, what do you do? You’re hearing them. That’s good. You’re hearing the words. They’re too important; I want more. You write them down; you write them on a notebook. That’s not enough. Then it comes time for the test. I got flash cards. I’m memorizing them, I’m going to put him in my mind. No. They’re more important than that.
It’s one thing to have them in your mind. It’s a whole another thing when you put them on your heart. Write them here, Lord. Write them on my heart. Let them be as treasures to my soul, because God will use them. God will use them. It says in the book of Luke 8:15, Jesus is teaching about the Word of God being sown like seed on ground soil. He said the seed and the good soil. These are the ones who have heard the word, but they’ve heard the word in an honest and good heart, and then they hold it fast. Hold on. I would give my words to this one. He will speak in my name, and I will require it of you. Write this down, hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.
Here is another. Proverbs 6:21-22. Listen to these words. Bind them continually on your heart. Tie them around your neck. When you walk about, they will guide you. When you sleep, they will watch over you. When you awake, they will talk to you. I love that verse. Ain’t that good. That’s the way to be transformed. Bind them on your heart, he says. Tie them on your neck. When you walk, they will guide your steps. When you sleep, they will watch over you. When you’re awake, they’ll talk to you. They’ll guide your life.
When you hold His words in your heart, when you take them as treasures with the soul, they will be used of God to make you to a good man. They’ll make you a good woman. When you hold His words, when you write them on your heart and take them as treasures for the soul, they will be used of God to make you into a good man or a good woman.
Psalm 119:9-11, how could a young man keep his way pure, or a young woman? How does that happen? He says by keeping it according to your word. Your word have I treasured in my heart, that I might not sin against you?
Jesus said in Luke 6:45, I love to quote this because it’s so true today. The good man, out of the good treasure of his heart, will bring forth what’s good, but the evil man, out of the evil treasure of his heart, will bring forth what is evil, for the mouth speaks from that which fills the heart. You hold this work, you write this on your heart, you hold it as treasure in your soul, God will use it to make you into a good man or a good woman. I’ll put my words in his mouth. He’ll speak in my name, and I’ll require it. It’s that important.
Father, thank you so much for your word. Thank you for sending it in power. God, we say to you today, write these truths on our hearts. We want to be transformed. We want to take them as treasures into the soul. Write them down. Write them on my heart, God. Imprint them deeply into my soul that I might say to you, may the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart, bless your name. May the deeds of the day and the truth of my ways speak of you, for this is what I’m glad to do. It’s time to live a life of love that pleases you. Church, today, would you say that? Would you say that to the Lord’s time?
I want to live my life in such a way that it pleases you. May the words of my mouth, may the meditation in my heart be pleasing in your sight, oh my Lord and my God. Write this on my heart. Its time. Its time to live a life that pleases you. Church, would you say that to the Lord? You want to live a life that pleases the Lord? Would you say to the Lord, write these on my soul? These words will be required, but these words will transform. Write these on my soul, I want to live a life that pleases you. You want to say that to the Lord, just raise your hand. Raise your hand in a powerful way. Say, God, I want to just say it. I want to live a life that pleases you. Write this down, write it on my soul.
Father, thank you for everyone with a desire after you, with a heart that longs for that kind of relationship where there is revival. You’ve given us a great word of warning, but you’ve given us a great promise. God, we want to take hold of such that transforms our lives. We give you thanks, we give you honoring glory in Jesus name, and everyone say, Amen and Amen. Let’s give the Lord praise and glory and honor. Amen.
A Beautiful Servant Heart
The book of Deuteronomy is Moses’ last opportunity to speak to Israel because they’re about to enter into the land of Canaan. They’re going to cross the Jordan, but he’s not going with them. God’s already said, you’re not crossing the Jordan, and so he has one last speech and it’s so important to him, you can just sense the urgency as he gives this message of utmost importance because he wants it to go well.
When they cross that Jordan and enter that land, he wants them to do well and you can just hear the blessing of God in it because he would say the same thing to us. I want it to go well with you. I want to bless your life and I’ll give you the principles to show you the way of greatest blessing. That’s what he says to them. Israel, you ought to listen, take these words, write them on your heart, do these things, it’s the way of blessing. They need the judgments of God, the wisdom of God. They need the principles of righteousness to guide their steps.
He’s reminding them now of the significance of the words of God and the law that they received. He reminds them now the law that they received that Mount Sinai some 40 years before. Many of them were not even alive when Israel received the law of God those 40 years before at Mount Sinai. They needed to be reminded. It’s interesting to think about because they didn’t have– we have the book of Deuteronomy. We can open the book anytime we want to. We can read Deuteronomy and we can read the words that God spoke there at Mount Sinai anytime we want.
They did not have this and so it was of utmost importance that he speak this to them. Once every 40 years, like that’s not enough. You got to hear the words of God. I was just thinking, this is the fourth time we are on our fourth time through, we do the whole Bible start to finish. This is our fourth time through. It doesn’t take 40 years. It only takes 10 but the word of God is very important. Would you agree? It’s a foundation. It is the principles of the Lord. It’s the wisdom of understanding and he has that same sense of urgency in our lives. These are the things that’ll bless. These are the things.
See, what Moses is seeking after here he wants revival. He wants revival. He knows this is the key and I tell you; God wants revival today. I want to see revival. I want to see revival in my life in this church and in this community. God is still stirring up. God is still moving, and we need revival today and he knows the key to it. Moses calls Israel to have their heart right with God. That’s why he says more than 10 times in the book of Deuteronomy, you shall love. This is the key to revival. You will love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, all your mind, all your strength. This is the key to revival, but then he shows us something.
I. Never Forget What God has Done for You
If you love Him, then do these things, then serve Him. See if you love Him, then serve Him. He goes through and he shows what it means. When you get to chapter 15, he’s reminding them of a particular, an interesting aspect of the law. It has to do with what is called the Sabbath year. Now we know of the Sabbath day. That’s the seventh day. Every week, the seventh day they have devotion, they have dedication, they have rest, but what about the Sabbath year? Every seventh year they were to have this year at the end of which they would forgive all debts.
Now that is an interesting thing all itself, every seven years, all debts paid in full. That’s pretty amazing. There’s two sides of that. One side is it’s pretty awesome to have your debt forgiven every seven years, that’s for sure, but what about the other side? Those who then must forgive when something is owed to them. That’s another important part of it and he’s really speaking to those people. You forgive, you let go all debts. All debts are to be forgiven, he says, and as part of it, as part of forgiving of debt, they were to set free any slaves that had been Hebrew kinsmen.
In that day’s in culture, if a person became severely indebted, they had no such things as bankruptcy laws and whatnot. If a person became severely indebted, they could sell themselves into servitude as a way of paying their debt. Therefore, when you come to the Sabbath year, as an aspect of forgiving of debts, it includes setting free everyone who had sold themselves into indebted slavery.
The spiritual significance of all of this is profound because it’s a picture of Jesus Christ. He is our Sabbath. In Him we find forgiveness of sin, the payment of all debt and being set free. There’s an interesting twist, almost an unexpected turn in these verses. He points out another interesting provision of the law. If a person who is being released at their debts, forgiven their debts and being set free, if that person has said, I don’t want to go out from you, I love this family. I love what I do. I love to serve. I do not want to go out. I love this and I love you. He said that person could then become what we would call a bond servant, servant because they want to servant by choice, bond servant.
Then it says that to make a mark on them. They would actually take their ear lobe and press it against a doorway and then they would take an awl, like a whole punch and then they would punch it through the lobe of his ear and then they would put a gauge in it, see, and then– okay, just kidding about that part, but this was a mark by which they say, I choose to love, I choose to serve. I love this. I want to, I choose it.
What’s interesting is that Paul, the apostle in the new Testament says, that’s what I am right there. That’s what I am. I love to serve my Lord. I love what I do. I do it because I choose to do it. If you love God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength, there’s an interesting provision, then serve Him. Serve Him because you love to, because you want to.
That’s an interesting verse which started in chapter 15, verse 12, let’s read it. If your kinsmen, a Hebrew man or woman is sold to you, then he shall serve you six years. In the seventh year, you will set him free. Notice this, but when you set him free, you will not send him away empty handed. You will furnish him generously, liberally from your flocks. You’re going to provide so that he can get a new start and have what he needs to start out a new life.
You’re going to furnish him generously– generously from your flocks. Hey, here’s 10 sheep. Here’s two of the herd. Here’s a donkey. Provision. Give them generously from your threshing floor. Here’s 10 sacks of wheat or barley. From your wine vat. You shall give to him as the Lord your God, He has blessed you so you bless and you will remember verse 15, hey, you were once a slave in the land of Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you.
By the way, when Israel came out, when they were redeemed out of Egypt, the Egyptians gave generously to them when they left. They actually came out with quite a provision interestingly. God redeemed you, therefore I command you this day, these very things.
Then the twist, verse 16 and that shall come about that if he says to you, I will not go out from you, I love this, I love this family. He says, because he loves you and he loves your household since he fares well with you and he wants to stay, he loves, then you take an awl and pierce it through his ear into the door and he shall be your servant forever because he wants to and also you will do likewise to your maid servant who says the same thing I want to serve.
All right, these are the verses I want us to look at. Of course, we’ll look at the verses and chapters around them on Wednesday, but I want us to see how much they apply to our lives. One of the themes that runs through Deuteronomy that we’ve seen over and over, he captures here again, never forget what God has done for you. That’s the foundation of what he’s saying here. Notice verse 12 in the Sabbath year, they were to forgive all debts, set free any Hebrew slaves that had come into the servitude of indebtedness, but when you set him free, you generously provide so that he can start a new life.
A. Bless because you have been blessed
See when you set him free, verse 13-14, don’t send him away empty handed, liberally, generously, generously give. I love this part, this aspect because it shows a beautiful heart of the Lord. He is a God of new beginnings. I love the fact that God sets people free and sets their feet on a rock, on a foundation on which they can rebuild their lives. God is a God of new beginnings. He wanted Israel to be generous, bless abundantly because God has blessed them.
It’s a principle of the Lord and it’s like this, you bless because you have been blessed. God has blessed you; you bless. Verse 14, you will give to him as the Lord your God has blessed you. Verse 15, it says why. Because you will remember. Don’t you ever forget that you were once slaves yourselves. You were once in that condition. You never ever forget the Lord redeemed you out of that. Never forget where you came from. Never forget who you once were because it keeps you humble, and it keeps you very thankful.
God redeemed Israel out of oppression and slavery. What did He set you free from? If God set you free, never forget what He’s done. When I was growing up, I used to be ashamed of who I was. I was ashamed of our poverty. I was ashamed of my family. I was ashamed of my father and I lived with that shame all growing up years until God did something, showed me a marvelous revelation that He would redeem me, that He would do something with me and that He would take that shame and that He would use it for His glory. It was a tremendous revelation to me that God would take me out and then He would actually use it for His purpose and give meaning to my life.
He set me free, but He set me free for a purpose that He might use me to set other people free because there’s a lot of people held in the bondage of shame and God knows all about it and God is the one who redeems the person out of it and then He uses their lives for His glory. He is not finished with you yet. He’s going to take you out. He’s going to redeem you. He’s going to use it for your life. God showed me that gave me purpose, I can be used of the Lord to bring people into a place of freedom.
God even used me to lead my own father back to the Lord Jesus Christ. He received the Lord into his heart. I baptized him with my own hands. God has redeemed. God has used. I was thinking about all those things and I’ll tell you what, I will never forget where I came from and I will always be thankful because God has done so much for me. How many people would say the same thing? God has done so much for me. I’ll never forget it. It keeps you humble, keeps you very thankful.
I was thinking of the story of John Newton. Many of you know, he is the one who wrote the most famous of all hymns in the church, Amazing grace. The story of that song and of his life is very important because he was involved, he was in England and he was a captain on a slave trading ship. He was involved in slave trading and it said the story of his life is that at one point, God opened his eyes and showed him what a wicked, treacherous, wretched person that he had become. He said, when his eyes were open, it broke his heart. It broke his heart when he began to realize what a wretched thing and what a wretched person he had become.
He said the shame, I was overwhelmed with my own shame. It was too much to bear. He began to write out a confession and he wrote every single name and he said, those names, those beautiful African names, I want never to forget them. Oh, my shame, my everlasting shame, but then, God began to show him, do something with this, use this. He began– as you know, the end result of it, he started to work with those that he could help and because of this, it was ended completely in the British empire.
But he wrote the song, he put his heart out in the song and it’s blessed people to this day. God can take shame. God can do something. God can use it and God can use it in other people’s lives. He wrote one of the most beautiful songs, we still sing it today, amazing grace, the words go, and then he adds the phrase, oh, how sweet the sound of those words. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found. I was blind, but now I see.
Never forget. Never forget all that God has done because if you forget, tragedy will come, but when you remember all that God has done, then you give blessing. You bless because of what God has done for you. I love 2 Peter 1:7-9 it says, in your Godliness supply brotherly kindness and in your brotherly kindness, supply love for if these qualities are yours, Godly qualities– if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind.
This is powerful. If you lack these qualities, you’re blind and shortsighted. Having forgotten his purification from his former sins, never ever forget. I don’t know about you; I’ll just add my own testimony. God has forgiven me much. Anybody want to add their own testimony? God has forgiven me much, how about you? If you forget all that God has done, it’ll become a tragedy in your life. You forgive because God has forgiven you much.
Jesus gave a parable in the new Testament that powerfully illustrates it. What had happened was this, the apostle Peter came to him and he said, now Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him up to seven times. And I’m convinced that Peter thought he was doing something magnanimous here because the rule of the day, the custom of the day was three strikes and you’re out.
That’s once. You know what? That’s twice that you have done that thing. You know what? That’s three times, you are done. You are out. Three times, you’re done. That was the rule. That was the way it was, and actually, that’s common today even. Peter says something magnanimous. How many times shall my brother offend me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times? Jesus answered, this is a Matthew 18:22 Jesus said to him, I did not say to you up to seven times, but up to 70 times seven. That’s 490.
By the way, side note, if you were to do a study of the number 490 in the Scriptures, you would be amazed. The prophetic and spiritual significance of that number alone is amazing. That we’ll save for another day, but Jesus says, I say that to you seven times, I say 70 times seven. That’s 490. The idea here is not that you would actually keep track. Oh, there’s an app for that, I’m keeping track. That’s 463 you know what? Not many more and you’re done.
No, the idea is that you forgive and then you forgive and forgive and forgive and forgive, and then you choose to forgive and then you forgive and then you forgive. I can do this a long time, and then you forgive and then you forgive and then you forgive. Then after a while you don’t have to choose to forgive because you have become a forgiver. It’s who you are now. It’s your nature now. It’s who you are. It’s your character. You have been changed.
Then immediately, now here’s the thing, immediately after saying those things, He gave a parable.
Jesus said, the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wishes to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle accounts, one who owed 10,000 talents. Now, this is a huge sum. One talent is worth 100 denarii. That’s 100 days’ wage, one talent.
This is a million day’s wage. This is massive. This is a massive sum. One who owed him 10,000 talents was brought to him. The Lord commanded that he repay. He could not repay. He demanded that he be put into debtor servitude. The servant fell on the ground, “Have patience with me.” He says, “I will repay.” The Lord of that servant felt compassion and forgave him the entire debt. One million days’ wage, all forgiven.
That servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him 100 denarii. That’s one 10 thousandths. He seized him, began to choke him and he said, “Now you pay back what you owe.” The fellow servant fell to the ground and pleaded and said, “Have patience, I will repay you.” The servant was unwilling and threw him into debtors’ prison until he should pay back what was owed. This came to the ears of the king, who called the first servant back. Matthew 18:32-33 summoning him, the Lord his Lord said to him, “You wicked slave. I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me, should you not have also had mercy on your fellow slave in the same way that I have mercy on you?”
This is such a key word to us, forgive. Has someone offended you? Has someone hurt you? You’re carrying something? He says let go. Forgive because you have been forgiven much. Have mercy because you have received much mercy. Be kind because of the greatness of God’s kindness. Be generous because of the generosity of the Lord. Then He gives this principle to further show us the depth of insight, He says, bless and you will be blessed in return. If you love the Lord your God, love Him with all your heart, then do these things, serve Him. Do these things. But when you do these things, it will come back to you as a blessing.
B. Bless and you will be blessed in return
If you fulfill what God is asking you, further blessing goes back to you. Notice verse 10, because for this thing, the Lord your God will bless you in all of your work and in all of your undertakings. Want to be blessing the Lord? He’s showing you the way. You do these things. You love God, love God with all your heart, then serve Him with all your heart. When you serve Him with all your heart, it comes back to you as a blessing. Luke 6:36 and 38, be merciful just as your Father is merciful. God is a merciful God; you’d be like your father.
Then he says, give and it will be given to you. They will pour it into your lap, a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, for by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you in return. Give grace because you have received much grace and you will be blessed even more when that grace comes back to you.
One of the most powerful principles I know, do these things because you want to serve God, and it will come back to you. It’s one of the most powerful principles I know. You give grace, grace will come back to you. You give mercy, mercy will come back to you. I was thinking of an illustration, many years ago, many, many years ago when the church was very young, very small, there was a woman who was very offended at something I did. She was very upset with me. I know this is very hard to imagine.
What had happened was that she wanted a position and I did not think she was qualified for that position. She didn’t get the position she wanted so she was mad at me, which confirmed that she shouldn’t have had the position anyway. She was mad and she was offended. Apparently, she told her sister who lived 2000 miles away, who then decided to take up her case and send me a scathing letter.
I should have known what was up when I opened the letter and smoke came out of the envelope. I’m exaggerating, but right, this letter was on fire. She’s obviously taken up her sister’s offense and you are not a pastor; you are a wolf in sheep’s clothing. You don’t hear that very often. My first response was to get flush with anger. Do you want to cross words with me? I’m pretty good with words. Let’s do this thing. Have you ever had the Holy Spirit just check you like right now?
As soon as that flushed in me, are you want to cross words, as soon as I thought that in my head, the Holy Spirit just checked me. No, you’re not. No, you’re not. You’re not writing any such thing. What you’re going to do is you’re going to send a letter of grace. Of course, immediately, there’s a witness in your spirit. That’s right. You’re right, Lord. It’s not what I wanted to do, but that check, no, you’re not. If you love the Lord, then serve Him. Do what He’s asking you to do. Okay, Lord, I’m going to do it. I’m going to write a letter of grace.
I sat down and I wrote what I thought was the most gracious letter I could write. I decided I better maybe have another set of eyes on this. I brought it to Pastor Matthew, and I came to his office and I said, “Could you read this? Would you take your yellow highlighter and highlight anything that’s not gracious?” He said, “Sure.” He came back to my office and handed me a yellow piece of paper. You’re kidding? Really? He said, “You asked, it is not gracious.”
I rewrote it and gave it to him again, he brought back a striped one, “Hey, it’s getting better.” I said, “Would you just sit right here, please? Sit right here and if I type even one word, it’s not gracious just check me.” It was so important to me. It’s got to be right. I finished it, printed it, made a copy. I sent it off to the offended sister from 2000 miles away. I sent a copy to the person who was originally offended, that woman. I wrote a note on it. I said I don’t know what your sister heard, but I wanted you to read my response. I love you, and I’m praying that God will bring peace.
Some months passed. My wife and I were in a store. My wife came around the corner and who should she see? The woman who was originally offended, who came up to my wife with tears. “Thank you so much.” I came up to this, she gave me a hug, tears. “Thank you so much. Thank you for your grace. My heart has been healed. Thank you so much.” I tell you what? That is a beautiful thing when God brings peace. It came back. Grace came back.
This is so important. if you go the extra mile even when you don’t want to, do it because the Lord asked you to do it. Do you love him? You love him? He says, Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. If you love Him, then he says then serve Him. Do what He’s asking you to do. That’s why He gives this very interesting twist.
II. Become a Servant by Choice
There’s a picture of this very point, become a servant, serve the Lord become a servant because you want to by choice. Notice verses 16, and 17, God made this provision.
If a person loves, they love to serve they love where they, fares well with them, they want to, he could declare that. They were to take an awl, they would pierce his ear, it would be a mark that he wants to. He’s made his choice. There’s a great application, you can be more than a servant, you can be a bondservant because you want to, you love the Lord. You love the Lord, then serve Him. Do what He’s asking you to do.
A. Jesus was a bondservant Himself
In fact, what’s interesting is that Jesus himself is called a bondservant. Jesus himself was a bondservant. He wanted, he willingly, he did it as an example to us. Let me give you the words of Philippians 2:3-11. I’m going to read several verses. It’s powerful. Do nothing from selfishness, or empty conceit. God’s giving the word. You want to serve God, then do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind, regard one another as more important than yourselves.
Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God and thing to be grasped or held on to, but He emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant and being made in the likeness of man, He humbled Himself. This is what it means to be a bondservant.
He humbled Himself by becoming obedient. He did what God His father asked Him to do. He became obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross. For this reason, God highly exalted Him. It’s a principle of the Lord, you humble yourself, you serve God, He will lift you up. For this reason, God highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. That’s powerful.
B. You get to choose
Jesus was pierced through for our transgressions; He became the greatest of all bond servants. He did it willingly. He did it willingly. John 10:18, Jesus said, “No one takes my life from me. I will lay it down on my own accord. I will lay down and I’ll take it back up again.” Psalm 40:68, “My ears you have opened. I delight to do your will.” Oh my God, I love to do your will. It’s my delight. Do you love the Lord? Then serve Him. The provision He gives and verses 16 to 17 are important to recognize, you get to choose. You get to choose.
The bondservant made a choice. He loves, I love what I do I love to serve, I love this whole family, I love this place, I love these people. I want to. See, it comes out of doesn’t it comes out of love. If you love the Lord your God, love Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And when you love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, then serve Him. Serve Him because you want to, it’s a delight. You get to choose.
It shows us the power of being wholly devoted. It keeps you from being in what I call the miserable middle. Don’t be in the miserable middle, because if you’re in the middle, you’re miserable. The middle, that’s between the world and Jesus. If you’re halfway between the world and Jesus, you’re in the miserable middle. You’re miserable because you got enough of Jesus, that you’re miserable in the world, but you got enough of the world to be miserable in Jesus.
You’re not satisfied. You’re not happy. You’re lukewarm. You’re not hot, you’re not cold, you’re lukewarm. It’s not a very good place to be. God wants you to be hot, wholly devoted. If you love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, then serve Him. In the book of Ezekiel, there’s a beautiful picture of the moving of the Holy Spirit in the last days. It’s a picture of water that comes, there’s a stream of water that comes from the holy mountain. It says that the stream begins as a little trickle. It’s a picture of the latter days of the moving of the Spirit of God. He says it becomes from the holy mountain, and it begins is a little trickle. As it continues to flow, it comes up to the depths of a man’s knees.
Then as it continues to flow, it comes up to the depths of a man’s waist. As it continues to flow, it comes up to a man’s chest. Then as it continues to flow, you must swim. It says, wherever the river flows, it brings life. It’s a picture of the Spirit. It’s a powerful picture of this, how deep you want to go. How deep do you want to go? Some people, they just want to get their feet wet. Some people just get to the knees, I want to swim in this thing.
I want all you’ve got for me, Lord. I know that you are the one that satisfies my soul. You’re the one who’s given to me, your Holy Spirit, and I want all that you got. I want to swim in this thing. I want to do what you’ve asked me to do. I want to walk as you’ve asked me to walk, and I want to see revival. I want to swim. I want the depths. Anybody else? You love the Lord? You love the Lord? Then serve Him. I want to swim in this thing, Lord.
Father, thank you so much for your grace in our lives. Thank you for pouring out your heart on us. God, I pray for everyone in this room, that you would take hold of us, that you would move by your Spirit upon us, and church, as we’re before the Lord this morning, do you love the Lord? Do you love the Lord with all your heart and soul and mind and strength? If you love the Lord, then serve Him. Then serve Him with all your heart. Would you say to the Lord today, “I want to be wholly devoted?” I want to be all in. I want to swim in this thing. God, you have won me. I want to serve you with all of my heart.
Church, would you say that? Would you just raise your hand in a bold way and say it to the Lord this morning, I want to be wholly devoted to You? I want to love you with my heart. I want to serve you with my heart, and I want to be all in wholly devoted, I want to swim in this thing. Would you just raise your hand to the Lord and just say it by raising your hand, God, I want to be wholly devoted?
February 9, 2020
The book of Deuteronomy is Moses’ last speech before Israel crosses the Jordan to go into that land that God promised them. Now, Moses knows he’s not going with them. God had already told him, “You’re not crossing that Jordan.” He could see it. He could go to the top of the peak and see it, but he couldn’t go. Therefore, Moses is wanting Israel to do well when they cross the Jordan. When they get into that land that God promised, he wants it to go well. God gives him this message. There are many powerful parts where he says, “O, Israel. You should listen. You should be very careful. Take these words into your heart. Do them, live by them, that it may be well with you, that God may multiply you greatly as he promised.”
We saw last time as we got to Deuteronomy 6 the greatest words that God has ever spoken, that he gave to Moses where he said, “Hear, O Israel. The Lord Jehovah is our God and the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart.” Those are the most important words that God has ever said. You shall love with all of your soul. Love God with all of your mind. Then he said, “Now these words, which I am giving you today, they shall be on your heart and you should teach them diligently to your sons.” You should talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way. So important are these words, he said. Then he brought us to chapter 8 where we are today, where over and over again he says to them, “Never forget all that God has done for you.”
When you remember all that God has done and the way that God has blessed your life, then you are reminded that God is the one who did it. It keeps you humble, keeps you very thankful, makes you really appreciate God and his heart and his kindness and his grace brings you back to the love that you had at the first. I love that verse out of the book of Revelation where he says, “Remember the love that you had at the first.” What if you do forget? If you forget all that God has done, then you forget that God is the one who did it. You’re no longer humble and you’re no longer thankful and you no longer appreciate that it was God’s heart, God’s grace, God’s kindness that did it because it’s not only the love that you had at the first, it’s also the following after him. When you first came, when you began this journey with God, walked close, you wanted to hear his word so thankful, it was so fresh.
All the principles of wisdom you wanted to take hold of. Those were the things that brought you to the place of blessing but if you forget that it was God who gave you those blessings, then you forget the love that you had at first. You’ll then also now walk by the wisdom of understanding and the principles and the statutes that God had used to bless your life and your heart gets lifted up. Then your proud heart leads you into a path of destruction. That’s why he says, “Never ever forget that God is the one who blessed your life.”
Let’s read it. Deuteronomy 8:1. “All the commandments that I am commanding you today, you shall be careful to do that you may live and multiply and go in and possess the land which the Lord swore to give to your forefathers. You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these 40 years that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not, and he humbled you and he let you be hungry. Then he fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know that he might make you to understand.”
Then we come to some of the most famous words in the Bible where he then says that he might make you to understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord. Your clothing did not wear out on you, your foot did not swell for 40 years. Thus, you are to know in your heart that the Lord your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son. Therefore, you shall keep his commandments of the Lord your God and walk in his ways and fear him for the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land. He’s bringing you to a place of great blessing, a land of brooks of water and fountains and springs flowing forth in valley and in hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates. A land of olive oil and honey, a land where you shall eat food without scarcity, in which you shall not lack anything. God’s going to bless your life. God’s bringing you into this place. A land whose stones are iron. In other words, you can get the iron out of the stones and make tools and out of those hills you can dig copper.
Then, verse 10, “Then when you have eaten and you’ve come to this place of blessing and abundance, when you’ve been satisfied and the Lord has done great things for you, then you bless the Lord your God for that good land which he has given to you.” “Beware.” Verse 11, “Beware, lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his ordinances and his statutes, which I am commanding you today. Lest, when you have eaten and are satisfied and have built good houses and lived in them and you’re herding, your flocks multiply and your silver and your gold multiply and all that you have multiplies, beware, lest your heart become proud and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt.
He brought you out of the house of slavery. He led you through the great and terrible wilderness with his fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water. He brought water for you out of that rock of flint. In the wilderness, he fed you with manna, which your fathers did not know that he might humble you, that he might test you to do good to you in the end. Otherwise, you may say in your heart, my power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth, but you shall remember the Lord your God for it is he who is giving you the power to make wealth, that he may confirm his covenant, which he swore to your fathers as it is to this day.”
Now, those are some epic verses, powerful, helpful, instructive, application for us today. I want us to see how they apply starting with this. He says, “Remember all the ways that God has led you these 40 years.” Remembering. Never forget.
I. Remember All the Ways God has Led You
Remembering all the ways that God has led you in the wilderness will remind you that God did it and it will strengthen your faith when you remember. Never forget because God has proven himself. God has proven himself to you. I’ll tell you what. God has proven himself to me. God has made his power known. He has proven himself to me. How about you? Has God proven himself to you? He’s won us. You’ve proved that, Lord. You’ve won us.
A. God will let you be hungry
I love this in chapter 4 where he says, “I personally brought you out of Egypt. I personally, by my hand, I brought you out myself, personally. I walked with you. I was in your presence the whole 40 years.” When I think back on my life, all that God has done for me personally, I am very thankful. I’m reminded again and again when I look back and I think back on all the amazing things, I hope one day I get a chance to write a book on all the amazing ways that God has revealed himself and his hand has moved in my life.
It’s amazing to me how he has loved me, poured his favor out. See, here’s what I know. It’s so important to look back to see that God has done it so that you can look forward and know that God can do it again. God’s not finished. God’s not finished with me. God’s not finished with you. I say to the Lord, “You have done amazing things. You’ve done great things. God, do it again.” Anybody else? Do it again, Lord. He’s not finished with me yet. Is he finished with you? Let’s give the Lord praise for all he’s doing in us.
He says, “Remember all the way that God led you.” How did he lead? Well, that’s interesting because he reminds him of something. He says, “God led you in this way. God let you be hungry. Remember all those 40 years he humbled you. He says testing you, to know what was in your heart. Verse 3. He humbled you and let you be hungry that he then might feed you with manna, which was a miracle. An absolute miraculous provision every single day. Now, the wilderness was a time of testing, it says. It was an opportunity, wasn’t it, to trust God, to look to God, to be the provision of their lives, to look to God, to be helped in time of need. They’re in the wilderness, it’s hot, it’s dry. It was a test so God doesn’t just pour overflowing abundance into your life right away, he says you let them be hungry.
Here’s an opportunity to put faith, real faith, into action. See, it’s one thing to believe that there is a God. If you did a survey today, many surveys have been done, 90 some percent of the people say they believe in God. If you believe in God, you do well, the scripture says but the demons believe that. There’s more, isn’t there? There’s more. To believe that there is a God is wonderful but to believe that God is with you, that while God walks with you in the course of this life and that his favor is poured out on your life is a whole different thing. They didn’t do well in this test. They grumbled, they complained, they even accused God in this.
B. That God would give manna
Why did you even bring us out into this wilderness? There weren’t enough graves in Egypt, was that it? Is that why you brought us out here, that we might die in this wilderness? They’re accusing God in this thing. They didn’t do well in the test. It says God led you by– He let them be hungry, he says, that he might give them manna. That’s what he says. He fed you with manna, which you did not know nor did your fathers know. God let them be hungry in order to give them a miraculous provision but would you notice something with me? Yes, it was miraculous, it was amazing and let’s not forget that manna was delicious and tasty and healthy.
It’s like this. If you took all the good things from a health food store and infused it into a Krispy Kreme doughnut, that’s manna. It’s delicious and healthy, but it’s infused with all good things. It’s amazing, right? Now follow with me on this, because it’s very important. It was delicious, it was healthy, it was a miraculous provision, but it was not milk and honey. It was not pot roast, it wasn’t roasted chicken, it wasn’t roasted lamb with mint jelly gravy. That would come later. They would wait 40 years for lamb with mint jelly gravy.
They had manna and manna was a miracle and manna was enough. That’s the point. It was enough, it was God’s provision, it was a miracle and it was enough to teach him a very important lesson, man does not live by bread alone. Man lives by every word that precedes out of the mouth of God; it was faith. It’s about learning to trust God in the midst of the wilderness, of the midst of the desert. It’s dry, it’s hard, it’s hot. Don’t complain if you’re in the wilderness. If you’re going through the desert, don’t complain, don’t whine, don’t become bitter. God let you be hungry, but God will give you manna and it will be enough.
It’s about faith. It’s about building faith. Matthew 6:9-11 where the disciples came and they said, “Teach us how to pray.” Jesus gave that famous example of prayer in Matthew Chapter 6 where he said, “Our father. When you pray, you pray this way. Our father.” Notice how he begins in such a personal relational way. “Our father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread.” It is enough. God will see to it, God will make a way. He’ll give you the manna. It’ll be enough.
I remember when many years ago, when I was in my young 20s and I was in the restaurant business. Many of you know my story. I was manager, part-owner and God had put it on my heart to go into ministry. I left my position as manager of the restaurant and all of the accouterments of management, if you know what I mean. Brand new car, all that stuff and the salary and all of it. Left it all behind and I go to become a youth leader in this small church. I remember my salary still to this day. $1,250 a month to live on for me and my wife. I know. [laughter] To make ends meet, I had to give piano lessons on the side.
I know, but God- but it was enough. It was enough, it was glorious. It was enough. We even had treats. We discovered we can go to Orange Circle and get an ice cream cone for 25 cents, which we rode our bikes to. Then for Valentine’s Day, speaking of Valentine’s Day, we would go to the store for Valentine’s Day. We’d go to the card section and I’d pick out the card and I would say to her, “Here’s the card I would have bought you.” She’d go, “Aw, that is so sweet.” Then she would say, “Now, this is the card I would have bought you,” and, “Aw, that is so sweet. Thank you.” We hugged and we kissed, and we walked out the door.
Amen, because it was enough. It was enough. They were glorious days. We didn’t feel a lack but then we felt if we’re going to be serious about this ministry thing, then I got to get a good Bible education. Multnomah University was nearby, and that’s where we want to go, but it’s very expensive. I can’t pay for that on $1,250 a month. God, what am I going to do? I started thinking. I had left my position as manager, but I had not sold my partnership yet. I had this idea. My partner was working on a deal. There was this hotel that wanted a restaurant on-site, and it was practically a “give me”.
I thought, “Oh, I got it. We’re going to make this deal.” Then my partnership portion will be worth X more and then I can sell and take all of the profits and pay my way to Bible College. God, I am so clever. Just bless my plan if you can help me. Help me, Lord. Bless my plan. Well, you can imagine, no. I remember very clearly it was a Friday night. I was at a marriage conference in the church I was going to and my partner came because he was– He became a Christian in the course of our friendship and he came also to that conference and he pulled me aside and he said, “I got to tell you some news. I killed the deal today.” I said, “You did? Why?” He said, “These people have no integrity and I will not be in partnership with people that have no integrity. I killed it and I knew as a Christian you’d understand it. I didn’t call you.” I said, “Of course, I understand.” I did understand, but it was a punch in the gut.
God, what am I going to do? What am I going to do? I can’t afford this! I can’t go to the bank and borrow this. As a pastor, I’ll never pay it back. God, I need a miracle. I need a miracle, so all day Saturday, I’m praying. God, I need a miracle, reveal yourself to me, and so that I know it’s a miracle and anyone else, whoever hears this story knows it’s a miracle, I’m not going to tell anyone I need this money. I need a miracle. I’ll go to bed on that Saturday night. Friday night I heard the news, Saturday I’m praying. Sunday morning, I go to the church where I was a youth leader. I walked in the doors of the sanctuary and a fellow stood in front of me like this and he said, “I need to tell you something. God has put it on my heart that I’m supposed to pay your way through Bible College. Yes, amen.
Immediately in my heart, I thought, God your way is way better than mine and he meant every word of it. He meant every word of it. By the way, side note, some of you might have been here when last year he came to me. By the way, they had been in the church the whole time. Incognito, never wanted it to be known who they were. They were just quietly sitting there watching. Then last year he came, he says, “We got to move to another city.” I said, “Would you let me introduce you just one time?” He said, “Oh.” I said, “Pray. One time I want people to know that you’re real.” Sure enough, the next Sunday, I said, “What do you think?” He said, “Okay.” I got up that morning and I said, “You’ve heard this story. Many of you have heard this story. I want you to meet the man and his wife who actually did it.” I had him stand up. They were sitting over here. The church gave them a standing ovation. It was glorious. He came up and said, took the microphone and just encouraged people, “Man, if God puts something on your heart, do it.” It was just a great moment.
Here’s my point. God gave us enough. It was enough but God was showing us that God was going to walk with us through the course of this life because then he did more. I’ll tell you what, when God provided that way for us to go to Bible College, that wasn’t the last of his miracles. God was just beginning. God is not finished yet. See, when God gave them the manna in the wilderness, that wasn’t the last of the miracles. That was the first of the miracles, along with defeating the gods of Egypt and parting the Red Sea and destroying the armies of Egypt and bringing water out of a rock. These were the first miracles. They weren’t the last ones. If they believed God, God was proving himself. If they would believe God, God would reveal himself to Israel all through the way.
God isn’t finished. There is more. God has proven himself to you so that you will look into what God will yet do in your life. See, how about you? Have you stopped looking to God to do something with your life? God hasn’t changed. God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, the same God who walked with Israel in the desert is the same God who walks with us today. Do you believe this? Same God, hasn’t changed. Are you still looking and watching for God to move in your life?
I was thinking of another occasion in the history of Israel. This is revealed to us in the book of Zechariah. When Israel got into the land, after a number of years, they did forget. They did walk away. They did turn their heart away from God. As a result, their nation was destroyed and Israel was exiled into Babylon, modern day Iraq, for 70 years. At the end of 70 years, then they were sent back to return to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. When they came back to Jerusalem, they were so discouraged at what they saw. The city is in ruins, a mountain of rubble and they were just so downhearted. We have to begin again. We have to start all over again.
Now, this is important because many people relate to this. What do you do when you got to start over even? It says in Zechariah 4:10, a very important word, “Do not despise the day of small beginnings.” God, this is nothing. Look, I am nothing. This is nothing. I’ve got a mountain of obstacles and a mountain of rubble in front of me. God says a word, “Do not despise the day of small beginnings.” These will be glad, referring to the eyes of the Lord. These will be glad when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel was the governor.
II. When God has Done Great Things; Bless Him
What’s a plumb line? Well, a plumb line is what an engineer would hold to keep the wall straight. If you’re going to build a wall, the very first thing you do is you set up a plumb line. First thing, first step, set up a plumb line. The eyes of the Lord, which range to and fro throughout the earth, these will be glad when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. Then He adds a very famous statement, Zechariah 4:6-7, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel. Take this word into your heart. This is the word of the Lord. It is not by might and it is not by power, it is by my spirit,” says the Lord of hosts. What are you, oh great mountain? Before Zerubbabel, you will become a plain and he will bring forth the top stone, the finishing stone with shouts of grace. Grace. It was God’s grace that did this. It was God’s grace that did this.
That brings us to this next point, life lesson. This is a life lesson. When God has done great things for you, you bless him. When God has done great things, you bless him. Verse 7, “The Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a good place. A land of brooks and water. A land of wheat and barley, vines, fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil, honey. A land where you will eat without scarcity in which you shall not lack anything.” God is going to bring you to a good place.
Verse 10, “And when he has done it, when God has done it, when God has done great things, verse 10 says, when you’ve eaten and are satisfied, then you will bless the Lord your God for that good land that he’s given to you. It’s a life lesson. When God has done great things for you, when God has done great things for me, bless him. This is a key to spiritual maturity. It’s a key to spiritual victory. It’s a key to taking hold of greater things yet to come because God is not finished yet.
Here’s another psalm that comes out of that same occasion, when Israel came back out of Babylon into Zion, and it says this in Psalm 126:1-6, “When the Lord brought back the captive ones of Zion, we were like those who dream. Our mouth was filled with laughter. Our tongue was filled with joyful shouting.” He’s summarizing this whole thing. Then they said among the nations, they said, “Well, you look at Israel. The Lord has done great things for them. Look at Israel. The Lord has done great things for them.”
Then the psalmist adds, “The Lord has done great things for us. We are glad, so very glad.” Then he adds this key lesson of life. “Those who sow in tears will reap with joy for shouting. He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, but bringing his harvest of sheaves with him.” Here’s the point. You come back. Got to rebuild with tears running down your face. You may be planting that seed. With tears running down your face, you’re setting those stones and laying the mortar. Starting again. Laying the first bricks, laying the first stones, planting the first of the seed, tears running down your face.
The point is, but you do that, you sow that seed, you lay down those rocks, you put down that mortar, and here’s the thing. He who sows in tears will reap and will reap with joyful shouting. Don’t quit because you’re discouraged. You plant that seed. You press forward. You lay down that rock. You put down that mortar. You press. You keep pressing. You sow in tears, if you got to sow in tears, but you keep sowing. You can lay down that rock in tears. It may be covered and wet with your tears, but you lay down that rock and you press that mortar into place and you keep building because he who builds will see that God has done it.
A. God’s discipline is spiritual training
He will reap with joy for shouting. Here’s the point he wants to make. God’s discipline. He says God was disciplining you in that desert. God was disciplining you as a man disciplines his son. It’s a spiritual lesson. God’s discipline is spiritual training. It says in verse five, “Thus you are to know in your heart that the Lord was disciplining you as a man disciplines his son.” I can almost guarantee that this is widely misunderstood. See, when many people think of the discipline of the Lord, they often think of it wrongly. They think of it as negative. They think of something to be avoided. They think God disciplines because he’s angry. No, God disciplines because he loves. That’s a whole different thing. God disciplines because he loves. See, the word discipline, what does it mean, actually? See, the root of the word discipline means to train up, it means to teach, to make a disciple. Same root, isn’t it? Disciple discipline. You cannot make a disciple without discipline. To make a disciple is to make a man or a woman with godly character, spiritual power to accomplish great spiritual things. That’s why in Hebrews chapter 12, the writer says in verses 5 and 6, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faith when you are reproved by Him. For those whom the Lord loves, He disciplines.” He trains up with spiritual training to build something, to bring you to something, to bring something greater in your life.
I was thinking of a way to maybe illustrate this, so work with me on this. If you were an NFL football player, okay, just imagine. Work with me on this. Women, work with me on this. If you were an NFL football player, who would you want to play for? Not the team, the coach. Who would you want to play for? It’s interesting the answers that I often hear from this question. Joe Gibbs, Tom Landry, Vince Lombardi. Wow, these are some names. Why would you want to play for Joe Gibbs or Tom Landry or Vince Lombardi? Why would you want to play for them? Because they’re good. Because they know how to make a player out of a man.
What if he disciplines you? What if he says, “No, you’re going to run that again. You’re going to run that play, and you’re going to keep running that play until you get that play written on your heart. That’s what you’re going to do.” What would you say in response to that? “What did you do? Did you bring me out to this field to let me die of exhaustion? Is that what you’re doing?” No, you wouldn’t say that. You know what you’d say, “Yes, sir. I’ll run that play as many times I got to run that play because I know that you make men. You make great people, so I’ll run it, and I’ll run it, and I’ll run it.” See the difference?
Here’s my point, I would rather be disciplined by the Lord than spoiled by anyone else. Discipline, Lord, if you need to because I know that you’ll make a man or a great person, a place of spiritual victory and power. He will give life meaning. He will give life purpose. Otherwise, verse 17 says, “Otherwise, you may say in your heart, “My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.” I tell you what, success can be a dangerous thing. You finally get to the point where you can pay your bills. You get a promotion, a raise, things are starting to feel good. Starting to feel good. That’s when you got to be very careful.
Otherwise, you don’t think you need God anymore. “I’m good. I don’t need God. How do you think I got this promotion? I worked hard. That’s how. I used my smarts. I worked my way up this ladder. I did this.” God says, “You be careful right there. You are treading on dangerous ground right there.” God is saying, “I built that. I built that, and I can destroy it.” This is a life lesson. When the Lord has done great things, bless Him. Give the Lord honor for it. “I bless you, Lord. You did great things in my life.” I tell you what, God has done great things in my life. Anyone else? Bless the Lord. All my soul and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Can we give the Lord blessing and praise even right now?
Because God isn’t finished. This is the thing. If a prisoner says in his heart, “I did this thing, my power, my might,” they’re diverting the course. That diverts the course. When you bless God and you honor God, then your course is straight before you, and your path will lead you into greater and greater things. Keep blessing God because He’s not finished with you yet. There’s still more. Don’t divert the course. Verse 18 says, “You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who has given you the power to make this wealth, to confirm His covenant.”
B. Man lives by every word God speaks
The last thing I want to say, and we’ll conclude with this, he says, “He humbled you in the desert. He let you be hungry, that he might give you manna so that He might make you to understand one of the greatest lessons of life. Man does not live on bread alone. Man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Verse 3. This is a difficult lesson because life is not found in the things of this earth. That is not where life is found. God made us with his soul, and it’s only when the soul is alive that a person is alive.
Jesus said in Luke 12:15, he said to them, “For not even when one has an abundance does his life consists of his possessions.” The most important part of us is the soul. That’s where life is found. These words out of Deuteronomy 8 were made famous when Jesus quoted them. Do you remember that as Jesus was beginning his ministry, he spent 40 days in the wilderness? Now, that’s interesting. To begin his ministry, he spends 40 days in the desert, 40 days in the wilderness. How many years did Israel spend in the desert? 40. How many days did Jesus spend in the wilderness fasting? 40. That’s interesting.
It says in Matthew 4:2-4, “After he had fasted 40 days and nights, he then became hungry. The tempter came and said to him, “Since you’re the Son of God, then command that these stones become bread.” He answered and said, ‘It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.'” He then later said to his disciples in John 4, the famous story of when Jesus had that encounter with that woman at the well, this woman from Samaria. It was an amazing conversation after which she went into the city to tell the city, “You must meet this man.”
After she had departed, the disciples came, and in John 4 says, “Rabbi eat.” He said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” Verse 34, Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me to accomplish His work. That’s what sustains me. That’s what delights me.” I love that word right there. That’s a great word for all of us. This is what’s sustains me. I want to do your will, God. Pour out your spirit. Let your power be known, because I know this, you’re not finished with me yet.
Father, thank you so much for your word, your grace on our lives. Father, I pray for every one of us in this room this morning, that we will look back, and we would see all the amazing ways that you have moved in our lives, how you have revealed yourself, how you have shown yourself to us. God, I say, I pray with everyone in this room that we would then look at all of those things, and then we would say to you, Lord, do it again. I know that you’re not finished with me yet. There are great things yet to accomplish in my life. I want my life to honor you. God, move with your power, reveal your hand in my life.
Do it again. Do it again, Lord. Reveal your power. Reveal your hand in my life. Do it again. Would you say that to the Lord? Would you just say it by raising your hand in a bold way, raising your hand by saying, “Lord, I know that you have done great things.” You have done great things in my life. Do it again. Do it again, Lord. Do it again. Use me. I want to honor your name in my life. Do it again. Father, thank you for moving in power. Thank you for all that you have moved and done. We say to you, we bless your holy name for the great things that you have done, and then we say, do it again. Father, we honor you and thank you in Jesus name, and everyone said–
The Most Important Words God Ever Said
January 26th, 2020
What are the most important words that God has ever said? Many times they came to Jesus and asked that very question. They said, “Of all the things that God has ever said, what is the greatest and foremost of them all?” Jesus answered by quoting from these very verses out of chapter six in Deuteronomy. He said, “The greatest and foremost of all that God has ever said is this. Hear, O Israel. You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your mind. The second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Now, I suggest that if Jesus said, these are the greatest and foremost of all that God has ever said, but these are in fact the greatest and foremost of all that God has ever said. He meant those words. Therefore, it’s important for us to take hold of the significance of it. We know that scripture says that God is love. It’s who He is. Is part of His nature. Therefore, that we lost your lights there. Therefore, because you are made in the image of God, then that is an important aspect of who you are as well. God is love. It’s who He is. It’s who His nature. You’ve been made in His image.
I was thinking of an illustration. In the new Testament, it tells us that the leaders of Israel, they plotted together how they might trap Jesus in what He said. They questioned Him and listen to the setup. “Now teacher, we know that you are truthful and teach the way of God in truth and defer to no one. Tell us then, what do you think? Is it lawful to give a tax to Caesar or not?”
Jesus perceived their malice. He said, “Why are you testing me?” Actually, what he said was, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used to pay the tax.” They brought him a denarius. He said, “Whose inscription and likeness is this?” They said, “Caesar’s.” He answered, “Then render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar and render unto God the things that are God.” They said they decided to question him no more after that.
What a powerful answer, but it’s a tremendous point. That coin is Caesar’s because his image and inscription is upon it and the same is true for you, God said. God’s image is on you. His word is inscribed on your heart. This is important. He is saying that God is love and you are made in the image of God. Therefore, what you love defines who you are and what you love most is critical to your life because love is a transforming power. You become like that which you love. That’s why you must love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength because you will become like that would you love.
Deuteronomy is the last speech that Moses gives. If you’ve got one last speech, if you got one last one, you are going to make it an epic speech and that’s what this particularly when you look at Deuteronomy 6, he’s going to show them the way of greatest blessing. He said, “Hold these words in your heart, listen, be very careful to do it and God will bless your way.” Let’s read it. Deuteronomy 6:1.
Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the Lord your God has commanded me to teach you that you might do them in the land where you are going over to possess so that you and your son and your grandson might fear the Lord your God to keep His statutes and His commandments, which I command you all the days in your life and that your days may be prolonged. This is the blessing of God that he’s going to show them.
Oh, Israel, you should listen and you should be careful to do it that it may be well with you and that you may be multiplied greatly just as the Lord the God of your fathers has promised you in a land flowing with milk and honey, all the blessings that God wants to pour out on your life. That leads us to these very famous verses starting in verse four. “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God. The Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your might and these words which I am commanding you today shall be on your heart. Take these words and write them on your heart.
Teach them.” Verse seven, “Teach them diligently to your sons. Talk of them when you sit in the house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down and when you rise up. It’s that important. Bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be his frontals on your forehead.” Now, that’s fascinating. If you know about the antichrist, you know that this sounds familiar because it tells us that in the latter days, that the antichrist will put a mark, the mark of the beast on the right hand and on the forehead of those who follow after him.
It is an imitation and mockery of the very things that God says. “You write this on your forehead.” He says, “Let it be on the very forefront of your mind because you have been set aside for me. My seal is upon you. My word sets you apart from all other peoples.” Then he says verse 9, “Write them down on the doorpost of your house and on your gates.”
By the way, when you go to a Jewish home, whether it’s in Israel or here in the United States or many places of the world, they do this very thing. They will have a little container, it’s called a mezuzah and they would affix it to the door of their doorpost of their home and it will contain a scribed-by-hand these very words out of Deuteronomy 6 to fulfill this exact word. “Write them on the doorpost of your house and on your Gates.”
Verse 10, “Then it will come about that when the Lord your God brings you into the land which He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the land to give you great and splendid cities which you did not build, houses full of all good things which you did not fill, human cisterns which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant and you eat and are satisfied, then watch yourself, be very careful, lest you forget, lest you forget the Lord who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
Fear the Lord only. He is your God and you shall worship Him and swear by His name.” These are the verses I want us to look at. We’ll do the other verses around it on Wednesday, but there’s so much here for us to take hold of and to apply to our lives.
I. God Wants it to be Well with You
Starting with this understanding that God wants it to be well with you. It’s His heart. He’s showing you the way of great blessing. “I wanted to be well with you. I will show you that way.” Why? Because He loves you. In fact, that’s why we love Him because He’s won us over. In fact, the scripture says 1 John 4:19, “We love Him because He first loved us.” God, you have won me over. You have shown me your great love and you have won me over. Anybody else? Say amen to that. God, you have shown me your love.
A. Watch over your soul diligently
He says, “I love you. I want to give you the wisdom and the understanding to do well in your life. My blessings will flow. I will pour my favor out on you.” Then he adds a caution, “But watch over your soul very diligently.” Leading up to this in chapter 4 I mentioned as He’s bringing us to this grand point over and over in chapter 4 he says, “Give heed to yourself. Watch over your soul. Keep your soul diligently lest you forget all the things which your eyes have seen. Lest they leave your heart.” Never ever forget all that God has done for you all the days of your life. I’ll tell you what, that’s a tremendous statement for us today.
Never forget what God has done for you. I’ll add my own testimony and I’ll tell you God has done great things for me. Anybody want to say yes and amen? God has done great things. Never ever forget. He says, “Watch your soul, lest you forget. Hear, O Israel. Listen, be careful. Keep this word that it may be well with you.” He’s connecting them together. Watch over your soul. Press into these things because the blessing of God is found in spiritual maturity. By watching over your soul, more blessings flow from God.
One of the things that I’ve been mentioning, it’s important for us to see is that Israel here is in many ways an analogy, a picture of the relationship that a Christian has with God. Here’s what I mean. God bringing Israel out of the desert, excuse me out of Egypt, rather, saving them from oppression and slavery is a picture of us being saved.
Bringing us out of the world, out of the oppression and in the slavery in which we were held. God set us free. It’s a picture of that. The Promised Land is not a picture of heaven, it’s the picture of spiritual maturity, of moving into the blessings, of following Him obediently. That’s what it’s a picture. What’s the desert then? What’s 40 years in the desert picture? It depends.
Remember, now there were two generations there. One generation died in the wilderness. That is a picture of those who have been saved, they’ve come out of Egypt, you could say, but they don’t have the faith to move into the promises. They don’t have the faith to move into spiritual maturity. They spend their lives in the desert. I’ll tell you what, there’s a lot of people today who spend their lives in the desert. God wants more than that for you. Amen. God wants more than that for you.
Because it also can picture for that next generation. It pictures growing in faith, learning to have a relationship, pressing into, moving into spiritual things. Let it be a picture of that because here’s the thing, there are certain promises that God gives when a person receives Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. There are many blessings that come just by receiving Jesus as Lord and Savior.
But there are further promises that you receive when you press into maturity spiritually, when you begin to walk in the deeper things of the Lord. When you watch over your soul diligently. Let me give you some verses. 2nd Peter 1:4, by these things He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises so that by them, you may become partakers of the divine nature, your character, your very nature will be transformed as you press into deeper things having escaped the corruption that’s in the world by lust.
Here’s another one. Hebrews 5:13-14, everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness. He’s an infant, he’s just a babe. God wants more than that for you. He said, solid food is for the mature, who because of practice. That means they take God’s word, they hold it in their hearts, and then they do it. They live by these things. He said they have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
Think of the blessings that come from spiritual maturity, from watching over your soul diligently how would we describe that? How would we describe spiritual maturity? I think we could describe it in several ways. One might be deeper love for God, a heart that’s forgiving, a heart that’s gracious, peace, joy, a servant heart, a kind heart. We could go on and on. This is just to name a few. These are the blessings, the qualities of spiritual maturity.
I suggest that these qualities certainly bless others, but also they bless you. Here’s what I mean. Forgiveness. Forgiveness, you would agree, is a quality of who God is. It’s part of His nature, He is a forgiving God, is He not? Therefore, when you become a forgiving person, you are moving into spiritual maturity, you are becoming like your God. He is a forgiving God. When you move into spiritual maturity and become a forgiving person, certainly that’s a huge blessing to the people around you.
I suggest it’s also a blessing to you for you don’t have to carry the burden of unforgiveness. You don’t have to carry the burden of a bitter heart. God has blessed you, because you have now become like him, in the sense that you are forgiven.
Here’s another aspect of grace. God is a God of grace, is He not? We love the grace of God. Your amazing grace, how sweet the sound. We love God’s grace. When you become a person who also has grace toward others, you are becoming like God. It’s part of His nature and you become partaker care of that when you also have grace toward others in your life. Now I’ll tell you what, if you have grace toward other people in your life, you will bless those people I can tell you. It’s also a blessing to you. For to have a heart that’s full of grace is a heart that’s beautiful, filled with joy and peace. It comes back to you.
Matthew 5:7-9, Jesus said, Blessed, are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the peacemakers, that’s another quality of God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God, they’ll be like their father.
In contrast, Paul writes about spiritual immaturity. He says, this is Galatians 4:9, now that you have come to know God or rather be known by God, which is to say he’s speaking to the church here. Now that you’ve come to know God or rather be known God, how is it? How is it that you turn back to the weak and worthless elemental things? To which you desire to be enslaved all over again. Those things are weak, those things are worthless. God has better things in mind for you than that.
B. Faith works through love
Move into spiritual maturity. Watch over your soul diligently because there are blessings of God that come with those things. Watch; be very careful. Then He shows a connection that we’ve got to see. Faith works through love. We see they’re both connected, they are intricately together. Moses is calling Israel to believe, believe God. This is the way of greatest blessing, believe God. Write these words on your heart; believe.
Then he begins to show them what love is. It’s absolutely essential to understanding connects faith with the highest, not most love. They are intricately connected. Faith works through love. Let me give you a verse. Galatians 5:6, in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision mean anything but faith, working through love, in other words, means everything. In fact, Paul went on to say something absolutely amazing. He said if you have faith, even great faith, but without love, you are nothing. That is an amazing statement.
1 Corinthians 13:2, it’s very famous. If I have the gift of prophecy and I know all mysteries and all knowledge even, if I have all faith, even so as remove mountains, but don’t have love, I am nothing. That is an amazing statement. Love is what makes you something. That’s why this is such a key section of scripture.
C. All laws come from this law
What he shows us is this. He says all laws come from this law. All laws come from this law. Matthew 22, Jesus was asked there again, what is the foremost and highest of all that God has ever given his commandments.
He responded by quoting from Deuteronomy 6. The second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself. Then he added Matthew 22:40, and all the law, all the profits, that is to say all of the Old Testament depend on these two commandments. All come from this one law. In other words, loving God is greater than all other laws. If you love God, then there will be a desire to live by those things. Let me give you another verse. This is Jesus teaching a very similar thing, John 14:15 and 21. Jesus said, If you love me, you will keep my commandments. He who has my commandments, and keeps them, he’s the one who loves me.
He who loves me will be loved by my father. I will love him and will disclose myself to him. In this speech, Moses is reminding them of the statutes and the judgments and the principles of wisdom and understanding. Then he says, but the greatest of all things, all of those things come out of love. Because God knows the way of greatest blessing. It flows out of His love for you, and your love for Him. He gives you the principles and the wisdom to direct your steps. Then when you live in those ways, when you walk according to the way that God gives to you, it says, He loves it.
God delights to see it. Let me give you a great verse. I love this verse, Psalm 37:23, the steps of a man are established by the Lord. He delights in His way. God delights when you walk in the ways of the Lord, when you walk in the ways that He has given to you, God loves to see it, He delights in it. Too often, people have a very short-sighted view of what God is doing. If God isn’t doing what they think that God should do the way they think that God ought to do it, then they wonder if God is really working in their behalf and if He loves them.
God can make it well with your soul even in the midst of the troubles and the trials and the storms of life. I was thinking of an illustration. Many of you know about a hymn that we’ve sang in the church many times very powerful, It is well by Horacio Spafford. The backstory to it is so important because it shows us the very thing that God is showing us in Deuteronomy. The backstory is this. There were many tragedies in his life starting with, they lost their son. He died at a very young age. He was three years old when he died.
Then they were living in Chicago. The Chicago fire swept through the city and left him financially ruined. He had many properties and buildings and whatnot. All of them destroyed, left him financially ruined. They decided to book passage to Europe. As he booked passage on the ship, a last-minute urgent matter arose that he had to attend to back in Chicago, so he sent his wife and three daughters on ahead. On the journey across the Atlantic, the ship perished at sea. Only his wife was rescued.
She sent the cable back to him from Europe, saved alone. Devastated, he decided to book passage on the next ship to join his grieving wife. As he got onto the ship, he talked to the captain and he said, “Please alert me when we come to that place where the other ship was lost. Some days later, the captain came to him and said, “I think it’s about here.” It was during the middle of the night.
He came up to the deck, looked out over the sea, and these words of this hymn came to him, “When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, let this blessed assurance control, that Christ has regarded my helpless estate, and hath shed his own blood for my soul. It is well, with my soul. It is well with my soul.”
II. Love is Above All Things
I can add my own testimony. When our daughter was murdered five years ago, it brought us to the depth of grief, our heart was broken. I can tell you this, God was with us all through and it was well with our soul. He is still with us today. It is still well with our soul. Amen. Because He’s showing us something key here. He’s showing us this, that love is above all things. Love is the transforming power. You become like that what you love. He says, love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul with all of your might otherwise you’re going to love wrong things that will poison your soul.
A. Love is the law above all other laws
What we understand, what he’s showing us is this, love is the law above all other laws. In Jesus’s day, the law of Moses was actually a heavy, heavy burden. The leaders of Israel would often argue over which laws were heavier than other laws. What they had done was this, the 10 commandments contain in the Hebrew language– the Hebrew letters of the 10 commandments are 613 letters. They took the 613 commandments, some positive, some not to do things, and they assign them to each of these letters so that they can memorize them. Then the debate began. Well, what if one law is in conflict with another law?
Well, then, which one is weightier? Which one has more weight? They started arguing and debating amongst themselves. In fact, by the way, we have something similar to that today, we actually do. In the sense that today, a one law can conflict with another law. One of my illustrations I used to illustrate that is, back when we were having kids some years ago, ee were pregnant with our third– I say we because I was a coach, so there you go. We were pregnant with our, we– my wife was pregnant. That part I know.
We were pregnant with our third and we were about 10 days before the delivery. She woke up that morning with a terrible pain, she says the pain was so bad that she thought maybe that her pelvis was broken. I called the hospital and they said, this is a medical emergency, either you get an ambulance, or you get in the car, but you get here now. I went into the room where she was and I said, “They say it’s a medical emergency, we’re either getting an ambulance or we’re getting in the car.”
She says, “Don’t let us make a fuss. Don’t call an ambulance, we’re going to take the car.” I said, “Okay.” Here’s the thing, she’s nine months pregnant, and she can’t walk. I picked her up in my arms, I brought her in the car and then off we go. We’re driving down to the highway, and we come to a red light.
Now, there is a law that says, “When you come to a red light, you stop, and you wait at that red light until it turns green.” Is that not the law of the land? If you don’t do that, you will get a ticket and you do that enough, you will lose your license. What do you do? That is the law. I came to the red light, looked both ways and blew right through it. I have to tell you, I enjoyed it. Came to another red light, looked both ways blew right through that one. I noticed somebody keeping up with me a bit. Then I came to another red light, looked both ways blew right through that.
All right, so we get to the hospital. They do this test and another and discover that– They said the baby had a raging blood infection. If you had not brought that baby in when you did, that baby could have died in the womb. I said, well, explain that pain. What was that pain about? She thought her pelvis was broken. It was so bad. They said, “We have no explanation for that whatsoever. We have no idea. We didn’t know this, if it wasn’t for the pain, you would not have brought that baby in.” I said, “That’s amazing.”
They said, “We have a word for that in the medical world, we call it providential intervention.” I said, “That’s an interesting thing. We have a word for it in the church too. We call it a miracle.” They treated that; it took quite some time. Eventually, we came home and there was a letter from the sheriff. “You were seen going through red lights of this and that.” He was getting my license plate. He turned me in. “You were seen going through red lights at this and that intersection, on this and such time.” I thought, “Oh, my goodness, we’re going to have to call the sheriff’s office.” I can just see the news now pastor arrested for going through red light.
I call the sheriff’s office and I’m explaining to them. This is what, this is why, this was what was happening. The sheriff’s office responded and said, “You did the right thing. There are times when it’s right to break the law. When there is something higher, then you must do it, life is higher.” That’s his point. In other words, when they asked Jesus, what is the highest and foremost of all that God has ever said. Jesus answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all of your soul and with all of your might. In other words, this is the most important thing in your life.”
That’s what it means. This is the most important thing in your life, to Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul and with all of your might. Here’s why. Because love gives meaning to life. He gave it as this commandment that they should love with all of their heart. Now if they did something for God but without love I suggest that it’s void. It’s empty. It’s hollow. It means nothing. For love is what gives it meaning. Love gives meaning to life.
B. Love gives meaning to life
That’s why in Isaiah 29:13. Now in Isaiah 29, God is accusing Israel here because they did not hold these words to their heart. They did forget all that God had done for them. He writes in Isaiah 29 to accuse them, “Then the Lord said, ‘Because these people, they draw near with their words and they honor me with lip service but they remove their hearts far from me. The reverence for me consists of tradition, learned by rote. It’s empty. It’s void. It’s hollow. It means nothing. Because love gives meaning to life. May I suggest that when you do something for the Lord, do it because you love Him. Because you mean it.
I was thinking of an illustration. I love this illustration. Because we are so close to Valentine’s Day, I think it is especially appropriate. There’s a Valentine’s Day law. There is a Valentine’s Day law. It’s an unspoken unwritten law but it goes like this, “Is Valentine’s Day, thou shalt buy flowers for thy wife”. It’s a Valentine’s Day law. Everybody knows this. Okay. You wake up it’s Valentine’s Day. Well, it’s a Valentine’s Day law. You go to the florist and you buy your flowers and you bring the flowers home and you put them on the counter. “There’s your flowers”. To which any wife would say, “That’s empty. That’s hollow. That doesn’t mean anything”. Because love is what gives it meaning. Love is what gives it meaning.
That’s why he says, “This is so important. Teach your children this. You want to give your children a life lesson, teach your children this”. See, if you love God, then you’ll want to honor Him. That’s why you do it. That’s why you do it. Because it’s got meaning to you. That’s why you do it. Let me give you another verse 1st John 5:3, “For this is the love of God that we keep His commandments and His commandments are not burdensome”.
Now that is a great verse right there. This is the love of God that we keep His commandments. I think some people are quite surprised that the word commandment is in the New Testament. “Commandment? I don’t think I should like the word commandment”. He says, “This is the love of God that you keep His commandments and His commandments are not burdensome”.
I was thinking of an illustration and I love this illustration. It’s the story of a farmer some years ago who had to plow horses. Other farmers around him were buying tractors, but he loved his plow horses. He’d just keep plowing. Well, one day one of the plow horses died. He decided, “Well, it’s time,” so he bought a new tractor and decided to let the other horse go free.
One day, he went out to the barn and took the harness off the horse, opened the barn doors, “You earned it. Go. Be free”. Then he went out and got on the tractor and started it, brought it around with his plow and started plowing the field. Then to his amazement he looked up, and out came the horse, coming up right alongside the tractor just walking alongside the tractor as though to say, “This is my job. I love what I do. Let me plow this field. Let me plow this field. I love what I do”.
I was thinking about that and it made me think of myself. It made me think about what I do. I tell you; I love pastoring this church. This is not a burden to me. I love this church. It is an honor to do it for you, Lord. It’s not a burden. I love it. It’s what I love. I do it for you, God. It is a privilege and an honor. I love this church. This is not a burden to me. How about you? What do you love? What do you love? Can you love as an honor to the Lord? I love doing this. It’s an honor to do it. His commands are not burdensome. I love. It’s an honor for me, God. It’s an honor for me. I delight to do this.
January 18-19, 2020
We are going to be in Deuteronomy 4:29. Remember that during the Wednesday service, we’ll be doing the other verses around this, so we do verse by verse on Wednesday, and then we drill into these places on the weekend services. Deuteronomy 4:29. The title of our message this morning is Pursuing God. However, the title could also be said, A God Pursuing You, because both things are true. Both things are very important to understand as part of our spiritual life.
In fact, in Deuteronomy 4, this first verse; verse 29, is perhaps one of the most famous verses in the Bible in regard to seeking and pursuing God. It says, in Deuteronomy 4:29, it says, “But from there, you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart, and all your soul.” “From there,” He says. From where? From where is He speaking? From the point in which you’ve come to the end of yourself when the pursuit of the world has left you empty, void of meaning and life.
“From there.” He says. From that point. From there, you seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him. If you search with all your heart and with all your soul. See, here’s my point that I want us to recognize. When you seek for Him from that place, you will find Him, and that is when you will discover that He was pursuing you all the way through. He was just waiting for you to seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.
The Book of Deuteronomy is Moses’s last speech. This is it. This is the last speech he’s going to give Israel before they enter into the promises of God. Before they go into the Promised Land. Now, if you got one last speech that you’re going to give, I suggest that last speech is going to be epic. That’s exactly what we see. Moses is pouring it all out. This is his last opportunity. What does he do? He gives warnings to them. He gives admonitions, but he also gives words of encouragement and of revival. He says, “If you would listen to the statutes and the judgments of the Lord, it will go well with you.” He wants them to be blessed. I want it to go well with you. I tell you what, that’s a great word for today. I want to be blessed. I want it to go well. Anybody else? He said, “I’ll give you the keys. I’ll show you the way. You listen to the judgments of the Lord.”
Then he says, “Now, let me admonish you, don’t add one word to this. Don’t even subtract a word from this. For these words are life. Keep them, do them. That is wisdom, that is understanding.” Then he says, “For what great nation is there that has a God so near as the Lord our God whenever we call on Him.” Then he gives this warning. Now, this is all leading up to where we are. He gives this warning, and he says, “Only give heed to yourselves and keep your soul diligently. Watch over the condition of your soul, lest you forget all the things which your eyes have seen, which the Lord your God has done for you. Never forget. Never forget all the amazing things lest they depart from your heart. Watch yourselves very carefully, lest you go after the things of the world. Beware, lest you be drawn away. Watch yourselves,” he says. “lest you forget that covenant with the Lord your God made with for the Lord is a consuming fire.”
Now, that’s just a great Word. Beware, never forget. Remember the day that you came to faith in Christ? If you haven’t, that day is coming for you. It’s a day of revival, a day when God takes hold of his soul and ignite something. Remember that day? That’s a day of revival. He said, “No, never forget. Never forget all that God has done for you.” I tell you what, God has done amazing things for me. Anybody else want to agree with that? God has done amazing things for me.
He says, “Never forget it.” Never forget. Watch over your soul very carefully. Then he foretells them. He said, “I will tell you what will happen if you do forget. If you do draw away, you let your heart draw away and serve the work of man’s hands. I will tell you in advance what will happen. Your lives will crash. Your nation will be destroyed and you will be scattered amongst the nations.”, he says.
It’s a good word. He’s giving them words of revival. Showing them what it means to be on fire for the Lord. Be careful, watch your soul, because if you forget, if you’re drawn away and your life crashes and you’re in distress, he says, “From there, from that point, you seek God, and you will find Him. You will then discover that He was pursuing you all the way.”
Let’s read it. We’re in Deuteronomy 4:29, last speech of Moses, “But from there, you will seek the Lord your God and you will find Him. If you search for Him with all of your heart, and with all of your soul when you are in distress, and all of these things have come upon you. In the latter days, you will return to the Lord your God, and you will listen to His voice.”
In other words, you call God from there and you will find revival. Here’s why. Verse 31, “For the Lord, your God is a compassionate God.” He wants them to know in advance who God is and what is he like. He’s a compassionate God. He will not fail you. He will not destroy you. He will not forget the covenant with your fathers which He swore to them.
Verse 32, “Indeed ask now, concerning the former days, which were before you since the day that God has created men on this earth, inquire from one end of the heavens to the other, has anything been done like this great thing? Has it ever happened? Has anything been heard like this?” You tell me, has anything ever happened like this? Has any people ever heard the voice of God speaking from the midst of the fire as you have heard it and survived, or has it God tried to go to take for himself a nation from within another nation by trials, and signs, and wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand, and by an outstretched arm with great terrors as the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes? You tell me, has this ever happened in the history of man? Has it ever happened?
In fact, do you know what’s interesting? You could ask the same question today. When you see what is happening today, what God has done for Israel today, we could actually ask the same question. Has it ever happened in the history of the world that a people who are living in their land, who were then scattered amongst the nations, has it ever been in the history of man that that people has returned to their land from which they came and reestablished their nation again? Has this ever happened in the history of the world? Answer is no, it’s never happened, but it’s happened to Israel three times. It’s a declaration that God is faithful to His word, God is faithful to His promises, you can count on it.
Verse 35, “To you, it was shown that you might know that the Lord He is God. There is no other beside Him. Out of the heavens, He let you hear His voice to discipline you. On earth, He let you see His great fire, and you heard His words from the midst of the fire. Because the Lord, He loved your fathers, therefore, He chose their descendants after them. He personally brought you from Egypt, by His great power, driving out from before you nations greater and mightier than you to bring you in and to give you their land as an inheritance as it is to this day. Know, therefore today and take it into your heart, that the Lord, He is God in heaven above and on earth below there is no other.” This is an epic speech. “Take this into your heart, there is no one like our God.”
Verse 40, “You will keep His statutes and His commandments which I am giving you today, that it may go well with you. I want to bless you, I want revival for you, and with your children after you, that you may live long in this land which the Lord your God is giving you for all time.”
I. Don’t Let the Fire Grow Dim
Now, these are the verses I want us to look at. As you know, we’re going to cover the other verses around it on Wednesday. I want us to see what He’s speaking to us here, because there’s so much to apply to our lives. He’s giving them the way of greatest blessing. I want to bless your life, but it’s based and founded on revival. Let there be a fire that burns. Never forget what God has done for you. Therefore, He’s giving him this word. What is he saying? He’s saying, “Listen, don’t let the fire grow dim. Don’t let the fire that one started in your life, never let it grow dim.”
One of the most famous preachers of church history has to be C. H. Spurgeon. One of his most famous quotes. Somebody came to him and said, “Obviously, your ministry is amazingly blessed of God. What is the key to this?” He answered famously, he said this, he said, “I am on fire for God. When I preach, they come to watch me burn.” That is a famous quote. Every pastor has heard that quote, because it’s a call. Let the fire of God burn for the Lord, be on fire for God. Here’s the thing I suggest, I think it’s not just the pastor who should be on fire. I’m saying, let the whole church be on fire. Let there be a revival in the church. That’s what God wants to do. Amen.
He said, “Well, how does that happen? How does that happen? How is it possible that a people catch fire? How does that happen exactly?” Here’s the answer. You draw near to the fire, and you’ll catch fire. That’s the answer. You draw near to the fire, and you will catch fire. The words of Moses are an admonition. He wants revival. Don’t let that fire grow dim.
One of the songs I used to love when I was young. I’m going to quote from the words of it. When I was young, I had an addiction to worship and piano, singing, playing and worshiping myself. I first learned piano when I went to Oregon State. I was studying business management. I had electives, and so I chose piano and music theory and such. I was playing, I’d play hours and hours. Many of you know, I went into the restaurant business and did that for a while. Then God really put a call on my life to go into ministry to be a pastor. I went into Bible college at Multnomah University, went to Western seminary.
While I’m there, I got this addiction to worship. I discovered that there were 10 minutes between classes. If I ran to the piano hall, I could play for eight minutes, and then run to my next class. Then when that class was over, I could run back to the piano, play for eight minutes and then run back. Then I discovered I started finding different pianos in the community that would let me play. There was that church over there, and that church there. The Hillsborough library let me play. I found all these places.
Well, one day, I’m in this church, and I’m there in the sanctuary, I’m playing and singing and I’m worshiping, and I’m singing this song. Then the pastor comes to the sanctuary. I stopped and I said, “Hey, come here. Listen to this song. Come here.” He did. He came and sat down. I started singing the song. Here are the words, it’s by Steve Camp. “Oh Lord, take your plow to my fallow ground.” What is fallow ground? It’s hard. It’s ground that is hard, it produces nothing. Nothing will grow on fallow ground, it’s hard. Only way it will produce, bring a plow, plow it up, dig deep.
I’m singing this song, “Oh Lord, take your plow to my fallow ground. Let the blade dig down in the soil of my soul. For I’ve become dry and dusty. Oh Lord, I know there must be richer earth lying below. For I’ve been living in Laodicea. The fire that once burned bright, I’ve let it grow dim.” It was at that point of the song that the pastor stopped me. He said, “Whoa, no, hey, don’t be singing that song.” I said, “Why not?” He said, “Don’t you understand? That’s a prayer. God will do it.”
A. Be careful not to drift away from the Lord
To which I said, “I think that’s the point.” Because listen, if I’m hard, if my heart gets hard, bring your plow, plow it up, Lord. I don’t want to be hard. I don’t want to be dry and dusty. I don’t want to get a hard heart. Anybody else who agree with this? I don’t want a hard heart. If I get dry and dusty, plow it up, Lord, plow it up. Because we are all living in Laodicea. I’ll tell you right now.
Book of Revelation speaks of that city of Laodicea. It’s worldly. It’s a worldly city. We are all living in Laodicea. It’s easy for the heart to be drawn away. If I get hard, if I get dry and dusty, plowed up, Lord, for the fire that once burned bright, don’t let it grow dim. That’s why he gives this admonition, “Watch over your soul very carefully.”, He says, “Be careful not to drift away from the Lord.” He gives this warning.
When God gave the 10 commandments, which we learned of earlier. He will speak of again in this epic speech. The first of the 10 commandments is, “Have no other gods before me.” God knew that they must have God first. You must love God most. Have God first in your life, or you’ll drift away, be drawn away into things that are worldly and very dangerous. Have God first. Why is this so important? Because God knows that you will become what you love most. Love is the transforming power. You will become like that what you love most, you will become like that what you idolize, you could even say.
I was thinking of an illustration. Back in the 60s, now I know a lot about the 60s because I’ve read about in books. Back in the 60s, The Beatles were a thing. People idolized The Beatles; they loved their songs. Here’s the thing. They became like them. If you remember, The Beatles brought in Eastern philosophy into their lives and into their songs. When they brought Eastern philosophy into their lives and into their songs, it changed the entire culture of our country. Eastern philosophy then became a thing in this nation. You become like that which you love, you become like that what you idolize. “Be careful.” He gives a warning.
Psalms 115:4-9. He says, “Their idols are silver and gold.” That’s what their idols are. “The work of man’s hands, oh, they have mouths, but they cannot speak. They have eyes, but they cannot see. Those who make them will become like them. Everyone who trusts in them, beware.” Then he says, “Oh Israel, trust in the Lord. He is your help. He is your shield.” He’s giving a warning there. Then the writer of Hebrews gives a similar admonition. Hebrews 2:1. For this reason, we must pay close attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. Watch over your soul, diligently watch your soul. Pay close attention. Do not allow your soul to drift away, just drifting with the world. This flowing ride along, it’s easy to drift. This move– In fact, there’s no resistance when you drift.
I was thinking of an illustration. A number of years ago, my wife and I went hot air ballooning. We had a gift certificate or anniversary thing or something. We get there super early in the morning, and the guy greets us, and there’s a big basket. He’s explaining how this is going to go. He says, “Oh, you’re going to love it. We’re going to go up in this basket. When we get up in the air, oh, you’re going to love it. It’s just so calm there. There’s no wind. You feel no resistance at all. Oh, you’re going to love it.” He says. Why don’t you feel any wind? Because you’re moving with the wind. We’re just beautifully calm.
The thing is, he says, “Now, you’re going to love it.” Let me give you this. When we come down, we may have some issues landing, because the faster we go, the more dangerous is the landing. I’m thinking, “This is a great speech. This is great. I can’t wait to do this thing.” Because you see, you not know how fast you’re going until you have a fixed point of reference. You could be up there just drifting along, no resistance at all. “Oh, this is so wonderful.” Then you get near to a fixed point of reference and realize, “Whoa, we are flying.” This is going to be a hard landing. It’s like that. It’s like, Oh, you can just drift right along with the world, you have no idea how far you’ve gone, how far it’s taken you. It’s like you could be floating down a river, and you have no idea how fast you’re going until you see a boulder on the shore. You’re going along and then you see this boulder and go, “We’re flying now.” It’s a fixed point of reference that shows you just how far you’ve gone.
Back in the days, when I was going to Bible College, I was also a server at a restaurant. Back in the back, it was common to banter and talk to other servers and whatnot. I always let it know who I was. I let people know I’m a Christian and going to Bible College. I want to be a pastor, and I let people know.
We’re in the back, and this young fellow comes up to me and he clearly knows who I am, he knows what I’m about and he clearly wants a reaction. He comes up to me and he says, “Hey, I am so excited. I moved in with my girlfriend.” He’s obviously he’s looking for a reaction, so I figured I’d give him one. I said, “You moved in with your girlfriend.” I said, “Does your mother know?”
I’m trying to bring a fixed point of reference, let’s start with your mother, “Does your mother know?” He said, “My mother? Of course, of course, my mother knows.” Then he says, “Welcome to the 90s.” This was a few years ago. “Welcome to the 90s? What does that mean?” “What do you think that means, welcome to the 90s? It means, hey, this world’s changed a little bit since you grew up.” “Welcome to the 90s?” I said, “It was wrong when God said it was wrong 2,000 years ago and it’s still wrong today. Amen.” He said, “Why do you have to be so serious?” I said, “Hey, you brought it up.”
B. Search with all your heart and soul
We need a fixed point of reference. God’s Word is that rock. You don’t know how far you’ve gone until you look at God’s word. He gives this warning, I will foretell you, I will tell you in advance what will happen. You’ll crash your life, you’ll find yourself in distress. Let me tell you this, on that day when that happens, I will also tell you that you will search for God, and you will find Him. I want you to know who God is, I want you to know God’s heart. On that day, you will search, and I will tell you right now, you will find Him. If you search with all your heart and with all your soul. When you seek Him, seek Him with all your heart, because the heart is the key to the repenting, the heart is the key to revival.
Let me give you this verse, it’s very famous, Hebrews 11:6. “He comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” God wants us to be a seeking people. God wants us to seek Him.
Let me give you another verse. Talk about epic speeches, David, in his last speech to his son Solomon. Now, if you’re going to do your last speech, you’re going to put out some big words. Last speech. He’s going to give Solomon some words for his life. 1 Chronicles 28:9, “As for you, my son, Solomon, know the God of your father.” Giving him words for life now. “As for you my son, know the God of your father. Serve Him with a whole heart, and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts. He understands every intent of the thoughts.” Then he says this statement, really amazing. “And if you seek Him, He will let you find Him.” I love that statement. “If you seek Him, He will let you find Him.” He wants you to seek. “Seek Him from there,” he says, “In that day of distress, in that day and trouble, you seek Him from there, from that place. Seek Him there. Don’t wait.”
Some people feel like they got to get their act together before they got to make themselves worthy for God to receive them, they’ve got to get their act together before they can come back to the Lord. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard people say, “Look, I just got to figure this thing out on my own. I just got to figure this thing out on my own.” To which I had the same answer, “No you won’t, you figuring things out is what got you into trouble in the first place. What you need is to seek God from there right where you are, you seek Him from there, search for Him, for He is the one who will rebuild your life when you search for Him with all your heart and your soul.” The point is to seek Him from there, from the point of distress, from the point of despair when you’ve reached to the end of yourself, you seek Him, and here’s what He’s trying to show you. He will not reject you, He will not reject you.
See, many suppose that He will, because they know that that’s what they deserve, and they think that’s what God is about. No, He wants you to know in advance, God is a compassionate God. Know this now, God is a compassionate God, and He will welcome you. When you search for Him from that point of distress, you will find Him, when you search for Him with your heart and your soul.
What are the, I think grandest stories that shows us this has got to be the story of the prodigal son at Luke 15. Jesus is giving a parable, and He said a man had two sons, and the youngest son came to his father and he says, “Father, give me my inheritance early.” He had a vast sum, and he went into the city and he spent it all. Worldly living, parties, women, all of it. He spent it all. Which reminds me of a proverb out of the book of Proverbs, “A fool and his money are soon parted.” It’s a great Word. “A fool and his money are soon parted.”
The son, he had a fortune. He went into the city, wasted it all. Women, parties, worldly living, and then after he had spent it all, he had nothing left, a famine hit the land. He couldn’t even get a job. Finally, he lands a job, but it’s the worst job a Jew could possibly have, feeding swine. Now you might say, “Oh, it can’t get any worse than this.” Oh no, it gets worse, because he then becomes jealous of the pigs. They have food and he does not. Then it says, “And that’s when he came to his senses.” It’s a glorious day when someone comes to their senses. He says, “My father’s servants are treated better than this, I’m going home.” He has a speech already in his mind. He will say, “Father, I have sinned. I sinned against heaven and in your sight. I am no longer worthy to be your son. I’m not coming home to be a son, I just need a job. Take me as one of your hired men.” He has a speech all ready to go.
He goes to his father, and we pick up the story in Luke 15:20-24. It says, the parable continues, “While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion.” He’s trying to show us, in advance, God is a compassionate God. God pursues. He felt compassion, and he ran and he embraced him and fell on him and kissed him. The father said to His servants, “Quickly, bring the best robe and put it on my son.” He heard the speech. Take me as a heard man, bring a robe, put it on my son. Put a ring on his hand, authority. Put sandals on his feet, for this son of mine was dead, but has come to life again. The son of mine was lost, and has been found. In other words, who was searching for whom? They began to celebrate and rejoice.
II. God Pursues Sinners with His Love
I kind of love this story because it shows us when from there, from that point of despair and distress, you search for Him, you seek Him, and you will find Him, because God is a compassionate God, and then what you will discover is that God was pursuing you all the way, because here’s the point, God pursues sinners with His love. When you’ve come to the end of yourself, He says, “Seek God from there and you will find that He was searching for you.” He was pursuing you, because God loves sinners, that’s why He pursues them. He wants sinners to come, He wants sinners to seek Him with all of their hearts, because they have been searching. They have been searching, that’s why they got into that, because they were searching, but they were searching for the wrong things.
What is that saying? They were searching for love, but all the wrong places. They were searching, and in fact I suggest that there is a great searching in the human soul. It’s an aspect of the human soul. There’s a great looking, there’s a great longing and searching in life. People are looking, searching for meaning, for purpose, something deeper. They’re looking for meaning, they’re looking for love, they’re looking for purpose. They’re searching. Why does God put a searching like that in the soul? God puts a searching like that in the soul so that you will search and you will find him because there’s a great joy in the finding. Search with all your heart. There’s a great joy in the finding.
1 John 4:19, “We love Him, because He first loved us.” He pursued us. Now, seek after Him with all your heart. There is a joy in the finding. Because what we see is that God does pursue, God pursues with His love, and God is pursuing, God is seeking the wounded. That’s God’s heart. That’s what we see.
A. God is seeking the wounded
One of the most powerful scriptures, I think, that shows the heart of God in the seeking and in the pursuing for the hurting, and the wounded, has to be Ezekiel 34. You’ve got to read the whole chapter sometime. He begins the chapter by speaking against the shepherds, the leaders of Israel who were feeding themselves and not the sheep, and the sheep became scattered. This is Ezekiel 34:4. He accuses these leaders, says, “Those who are sickly, you have not strengthened. The diseased, you have not healed. The broken, you have not bound up. The scattered, you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost.” You want my heart? You have to be doing this. This is my heart.
This is a key. He wants us to see His heart. He pursues those that are hurting, those that are wounded. I tell you what, there are so many wounded today. It seems to me that there are more woundedness people, broken people, today than ever before that I’ve ever seen. There’s a great lostness, a brokenness, a woundedness. Therefore, He’s trying to make a point. He says, “I will pursue them, I will seek for them.” What is He saying in Ezekiel 34, “I will seek for them myself.” Ezekiel 34:11, and then verse 15-16, “For thus says the Lord God, behold, I myself will search for my sheep. I will seek them out.” I just love the heart that He is showing us here, “I will find them. I will seek for them. I will feed my flock, and I will lead them to rest, declares the Lord God. I will seek the lost, I’ll bring back the scattered, I’ll bind up the broken, I will strengthen the sick.”
B. God is seeking the lost
Now, this is a great Word, because He wants us to see His heart. If you’re here today, and you’re carrying some wound, somebody has wounded you somehow, you’ve been hurt in life, you’ve got to know this, God loves you, and He is pursuing you because He wants to heal that wound. He wants to bind it up. He wants to bring healing to your life. He wants to bring revival to your soul, because if your soul is alive, you are alive. He wants to bring revival to you. God loves you. He is pursuing you, because what we see is God’s heart. God is pursuing, God is seeking, and God is seeking the lost.
Luke 15 is filled with parables that have this one theme, God is seeking the lost. The chapter begins very interestingly, Luke 15:1-2, “Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him.” Now, right there, we love that first sentence, because we can relate to this story. “Oh, yes, we would be in that group too.” Sinners came to Him, to hear Him, to listen to Him. “We want to hear.” But the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, “Would you look at this man, this man receives sinners. Can you believe this? He says he’s holy. He says he’s righteous. Would you look at this? He actually receives sinners. He ought to be casting them away. He’s holy. He says He’s holy. You’ve got to be casting them off. Oh, no, He receives sinners, and He even eats with them. Can’t believe it.”
He answers. He says, “A shepherd had 100 sheep, and one of them was lost. Would he not leave the 99 and go and search for the one that was lost? When he found him, would he not put him on his shoulders and bring him home? Then he would call his friends and his neighbors and say, ‘rejoice with me, that which was lost has been found.”‘ He says, “I tell you, there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than 99 who think they need no repentance.”
Then He gives another parable. He said, “There was a woman who had 10 silver coins. One was lost. Would she not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, would she not call her friends and her neighbors and say, ‘rejoice with me, that which was lost has been found.”‘ Then He says it again, “I tell you, there is rejoicing in heaven when one sinner repents.”
I have a question. Did Jesus mean that? When he said that right there, when he said, “There is rejoicing in heaven when one sinner repents.” Did He mean that? I suggest that He did mean that, and I love imagining it. Maybe my imagination is a little much, but I love imagining it. Rejoicing in heaven. What’s interesting is the parable says that when that shepherd finds the lost sheep, he calls his friends and family, “Rejoice with me.” The woman who found the last coin says to her friends and neighbors, “Rejoice with me. I found that which was lost.” He’s showing us something. The angels of heaven rejoice with Him. A sinner has been found, a lost sheep has been found. A sinner has come home. Let’s rejoice.
I love imagining the angels shouting and rejoicing. “Oh, praise God. A sinner. Everyone see this? A sinner has come home. This is a great day. This is a grand day.” Angels of heaven are rejoicing. It’s a powerful picture, because God pursued that lost sheep. It’s His heart to pursue. Jesus said, “I’ve come to seek and to save. That was the whole reason my father sent me, to seek after them, to find them, and when I find them, to save them.”
One of the great stories that shows us the heart of God has to come out of John 4. It tells us the story of a woman from the city of Sychar. It says at the beginning of the chapter, that Jesus had to go through Samaria. Now, you might know that the Jews despise Samaritans. They look down on them, they thought of them as half breeds, because they had intermarried with the Gentiles, and Jews would have nothing to do with them. Most Jews would go around Samaria, but it says Jesus had to go through it, not just because He wanted to get from one to another place, but because, I suggest, He was pursuing a lost sheep.
He comes to this place, and there’s a well. He sends the disciples into the city to buy food. While He’s there, a woman comes to the well by herself. Now, this is very unusual. Women would not come by themselves, it’s dangerous, but she’s by herself. As she approaches, Jesus says to her, “Woman, give me a drink.” She says, “How is it that you being a Jew would ask a drink from me, since I’m a Samaritan? How is that?” Jesus said, “If you knew who was asking, you would have asked of Him and He would give you living water.” She said, “Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and this well is deep. Where do you get this living water?” He said, “Anyone who drinks from this well, will thirst again, but the water that I give when he drinks, he will never thirst. For the living water that I give will spring up into him as eternal life.” She said, “Sir, give me this water. Give me this water.” He said, “Go call your husband.” “I have no husband.”
“You have answered correctly, that you have no husband. For, in fact, you’ve have five husbands, and the man you are now with is not your husband.” She said, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you people say that it is in Jerusalem that we must worship.” He said, “I tell you a time is coming in now when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem where people worship. My father is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth, and such, My Father is seeking.” And such, my Father is seeking. She says, “I know that when the Messiah comes, He will speak all things.” He said, “I, who speak to you, am He.”
I’ve thought about this story, and I’ve come to change my view of this woman. I used to think that when He says, “Call your husband”, she says, “I have no husband.” “Correct, because you’ve had five husbands, and the man you’re now with is not your husband.” Then she says, “Sir, I perceive you’re a prophet.” For a long time, I thought, oh, she’s ashamed of herself, and so she just wants to change the subject. Let’s not talk about me, shall we, let’s talk about you. I’ve changed my view. I think perhaps what was happening, was that Jesus was seeking a lost sheep. He touched a very deep wound. Something very hurt and broken.
How many times has she gone out into the night under the stars? “God, what’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with me? Everything I touch fails. I’ve had five failed marriages.” No one enters a marriage thinking that it’s going to fail. They always think it’s going to be wonderful. This could be the one. Everything I touch and despise, no one wants me. These women did not want her around. Don’t be near my man. No one wanted her. She’s given up on the idea of marriage. Now she’s violating her conscience. She’s living with the man. I give up. I’m lonely. What’s wrong with me God? I know yet I know. You say that hope will come, that you will send the Messiah, who will speak of things, who will have the answers. Where? Where, God? Where is hope?
Then Jesus comes seeking the lost sheep, touching the deepest wound that she has. She is so radically transformed. She’s so radically changed that she goes into the city and she says, “You’ve got to meet this man who just told me everything I’ve ever done”, and the whole city comes out to see Jesus and to hear His words. I tell you, Jesus loves sinners. Do you believe it? Can we give the Lord praise and glory?
There is a song that we love to sing.
Oh, come to the alter. I want to quote just some of the words. Are you hurting and broken within, overwhelmed by the weight of your sin? Jesus is calling. What does that mean? It means Jesus is pursuing. He is seeking. He wants to find those that are hurting and broken. He wants to find those that are overwhelmed by the weight of it. He’s calling. Have you come to the end of yourself? Do you get thirst for a drink from the well? He’s pursuing. Jesus is calling. Oh, come, come to the alter. What does that mean? It means Jesus wants you to be seeking. He wants you to be looking. He wants you to be searching. You come, and you’ll find that the Father’s arms are open wide. Forgiveness was bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ. Oh, my Savior. Isn’t He wonderful? Sing hallelujah. Christ has risen. Glorious.
Father, thank you so much for your heart, for pursuing, hurting the broken, those that are overwhelmed, those who have come to the end of themselves, those that are thirsty. You pursue them, but then you say, now you seek, now you come, and come with all your heart, for the Father’s arms, are open wide.
Church, today, as we are before the Lord, as the Spirit is speaking life, even this morning, the Spirit is speaking life, are you hurting? Carrying some wound? God is pursuing you. God will bind up. God will heal. God will strengthen. Jesus is calling. Would you open your heart to Him? Would you let Him heal? Would you let Him strengthen? Would you let Him bring revival? God wants revival. God wants revival here. God wants revival now. God wants this church to be on fire. Now is the time, now is the day to let the Spirit revive the church. Would you open your heart, would you say, God, bring revival to me, bring revival to my heart, to my life? I want you to be that fire in my soul. Would you say that to God? Would you say it by just lifting your hand in a bold way? Revival comes from boldness, does it not? Revival comes from boldness. Open your hand, open your heart, raise your hand to the Lord and say, God, I’m asking, I want that fire. I want revival. Would you say it to the Lord? Would you raise your hand to the Lord and say, God, I want revival. Let Him bring the fire and the spirit, let Him bring His life. He is pursuing you, because He knows that revival is life.
Father, thank you for everyone who has responded to the Lord, moved in power. We give you thanks and glory and honor for all that you’re doing at us today. In Jesus name.
God’s Favor Even in the Storm
January 11-12, 2020
The favor of God is a very beautiful aspect of our relationship to the Lord. When you think about the favor of God, what does that actually mean? I think for a lot of people, when you think of a favor of God, it means, oh yes, they get the best parking place next to the entry or the lane that they’re in is the lane is actually moving, or they get a raise or they get a promotion. A lot of times people think of the favor of God in this way, but this is why many people miss, God’s hand of favor and blessing often comes in the midst of suffering, in the midst of the storm, in the midst of the difficulties of life.
I can give you many examples. David was anointed King of Israel, now this is clearly the favor of God on his life, but then the troubles began to come into his life, but through those troubles, he saw the favor of God. It was when he faced that Philistine giant that yet again he saw God’s hand of favor. Daniel, Daniel was one of the greatest prophets in the Old Testament and was given the gift of interpreting dreams, clearly the favor of God is on his life. He’s given the position of power and the authority in the Babylonian kingdom. Clearly the hand of God, the favor of God is on his life. But then persecution arises and he is cast into a den of lions.
Talk about trouble, but there again, he saw the favor of God in his life. You want to think about a modern example of this. Do you know where- in the all the world today, do you know where the church is growing the fastest and strongest? In Iran. Here in Iran, the church is heavily persecuted, heavily going through trouble and there is revival like they have never seen before. As many of you know, we have an Iranian pastor on our staff and we have an Iranian church and many have come to faith out of Islam through that.
So they understand what’s happening and there’s revival in the midst of persecution. Then you look at Paul. Paul clearly had the favor of God on his life. He had the privilege of being one of the greatest apostles in the New Testament. Most of the New Testament scriptures were written by Paul more than any other apostle. Yes, he suffered greatly, perhaps more than any of the other apostles. He writes and describes some of the challenges and difficulties. He says five times he received from the Jews 39 lashes, three times he says he was beaten with rods, once he was stoned and left for dead, three times he was shipwrecked, he spent a day and a night in the deep, yet clearly, unequivocally, the favor of God was on his life.
Now, after hearing all that, you might say, “Oh, I’m not sure I want God’s favor on my life if that’s what it means,” but here’s the thing, this world is filled with difficulties and troubles. You’re going to encounter troubles and difficulties no matter where you are. I would rather go through difficulties and trials with the favor of God revealed than any other place to be. Anybody else agree with me? See, Paul’s story is a story of the favor of God. I want us to look at this in Acts chapter 28, it’s the favor of God even in the midst of the storm. Last week we journeyed with Paul as he was on this ship in a raging storm in the middle of the Mediterranean for a full two weeks.
Can you imagine being on a sailing vessel in the middle of the Mediterranean in a raging storm for two full weeks. Then they’re shipwrecked on an Island. We know that Island is Malta, two or three journeys ago when we did the footsteps of Paul journey, we went there and it was so amazing, because of all of the days- I mentioned this before, of all the days that we were there, the one time we had a storm was when we went to Malta and everyone was so excited that we were actually experiencing a storm on Malta. It’s like, this is just like Paul, except we were on a cruise ship. Here you see in this story the favor of God even in the midst of the storm, there’s a lot of principles out of this.
Remember what had happened, they had battled this storm for two weeks and it says all hope was lost. Paul stood up in their midst and he urged them, he gave them courage, which is to say Paul had strength of faith to encourage them. “Keep up your courage men, for I believe God.” See, this is the key. “I believe God, it will turn out exactly as I’ve been told but first we must run aground on a certain Island.” So about midnight on the 14th day, it says, the sailors began to surmise that they were approaching land.
Fearing they might run aground somewhere on the rocks, they cast four anchors from the stern and wished for daybreak. When daybreak finally came, they observed a certain bay with a beach and they decided to drive the ship onto that beach if they could do it. So casting off their anchors, hoisting the foresail to the wind, they headed for the beach, but they struck a reef and the power of the vessel stuck fast, and soon the force of the waves began to break up the ship at the stern.
So they commanded those who could swim to jump overboard and make it to land and the rest would follow on planks or various things from the ship. They again then to the Island of Malta, which is where we pick up the story. Now, storms come in life. There’s a big difference between going through a storm and shipwrecking your faith. There’s a big difference between going through an actual ship wreck and ship wrecking your faith. It’s all about what God is showing us here. The favor of God can be seen and oftentimes is more seen in the midst of the storm.
Let’s pick up the story. We are in chapter 28 verse 1. When they had been brought safely through, we found out that the Island was called Malta and the natives showed us extraordinary kindness, for because of the rain that had set in and because of the cold, they kindled the fire and received us all. But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and latched onto his hand. Here’s Paul, now, a viper is hanging off of his hand.
Now, when the natives saw this creature hanging from Paul’s hand, they began saying to one another, “Undoubtedly this man is a murderer. For though he has been saved from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.” However, Paul shook the creature off into the fire and suffered no harm. They were expecting that he was about to swell up suddenly or to suddenly fall down dead. But after they had waited a long time and had seen nothing unusual happen to Paul, they changed their minds and began to say that he was a God.
Now, in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the leading man of the Island named Publius who welcomed us and entertained us courteously three days. It came about that the father of Publius was lying in bed afflicted with recurrent fever and dysentery and Paul went in to see him, and after he had prayed, he laid his hands on him and healed him. This is the favor of God. He’s gone through a raging storm for two full weeks, shipwrecked on an island, having to swim to make it to shore, and he’s helping with the fire, a viper latches onto his hand and now the favor of God in the healing aspect of the Holy Spirit.
After this happened, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases were coming to Paul and getting healed. This is the favor of God in the midst of it. And so they honored us with many marks of respect, and when we were setting sail, they supplied us with all we needed. At the end of three months, we set sail on an Alexandrian ship, which had wintered at the island and which had the twin brothers for its figurehead. After we put in at Syracuse, we stayed there for three days. From there, we sailed around and arrived at Rhegium. A day later a south wind sprang up and on the second day we came to Puteoli.
You know you’re getting close to Italy when you come to Puteoli. There we found some brethren, in other words, Christian brothers and we were invited to stay with them for seven days, and thus we came to Rome. The grand Rome that Paul has so long to come to, he finally arrives, though he’s a prisoner. The brethren, when they heard about us, came from there as far as the market of Appius and Three Inns to meet us. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage. When he entered Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself with the soldier who was guarding him, he is chain to a Roman guard.
It happened that after three days, he called together those who were the leading men of the Jews. When they had come together, he began to say to them, “Brethren, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans, and when they had examined me, they were willing to release me because there was no ground for putting me to death. When the Jews objected, I was forced to appeal to Caesar, not that I hide any accusation against my nation.
For this reason therefore, I requested to see you and to speak with you, for I am wearing this chain for the sake of the hope of Israel.” They said to him, “We have neither received the letters from Judea concerning you nor have any of the brethren come here and reported or spoken anything bad about you, but we desire to hear from you what your views are for concerning this sect.” Now, remember in those days that Christianity was considered to be a sect of Judaism. “We want to hear from you, for it is known to us that it is spoken against everywhere.”
When they had set a day for him, they came to him in his lodging in large numbers. He was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the Kingdom of God, now, listen to this part, trying to persuade them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the prophets. In other words, he was speaking to them out of the Jewish Scriptures in the Old Testament proving to them that Jesus was the Son of God, the Messiah. He said he did this from morning until evening. I would love to have been in that Bible study. Now, it says, verse 24 that some were persuaded by this. Some came to Christ through this, but others would not believe.
I. You Need a Better Perspective
This is a really key part of the history of Paul’s journey and the Gospel itself. I want us to look at this because there is so much to apply to our lives. Starting with this, you need a better perspective. It’s all about how you see the thing. How do you interpret the events of life? What is the perspective? How do you see it? See, the natives are exceptionally kind, and because of the cold, they kindle the fire and Paul is gathering sticks. I love this part about Paul because he’s being so helpful.
I like that because I tend to be maybe sometimes even a little too helpful. Anyone who knows me knows I can be a little too helpful, but I love this, Paul is being helpful, he grabs the sticks and he throws them in them into the fire and that’s when a viper comes out and latches, fastens onto his hand. How do you respond when troubles come? I suggest it’s all about the perspective. It’s all about how you see the thing. Therefore, I suggest, respond with faith when troubles come. See, how you respond, how you see the thing, your perspective has everything to do with your faith. It has to do with how you see it.
A. Respond with faith when troubles come
A lot of people, I think that at this point in all of the troubles that have amassed in his life, I think there is a lot of people frankly that would’ve been upset, they would’ve been exasperated and they would have accused God. I think a lot of people would give a speech like this, “All right Lord, I’ve had just about enough. I’ve had all I can take. Here I am, I’m serving you and then I get attacked by a crowd and then there is a plot to kill me. I sit in prison for two years and then a raging storm I go through for two full weeks, then I get shipwrecked on an island, and now this, I get bitten by a viper. How much can a man take? I’ve had it. That’s it Lord.”
That’s not Paul’s response at all. He gets bitten by a viper and he calmly shakes it off into the fire. So when you’ve been through as many storms as Paul, it begins to change your view, it begins to change your perspective, but that’s the point. It’s about changing your perspective. It’s about changing how you see it. I think a lot of people at this point would’ve panicked. I think snakes and vipers have a tendency to bring that out in people. I, being one of them, I cannot stand snakes and vipers.
In fact, I mentioned this story, when we were visiting our family when I was 15, we were in Arkansas, we went down to the Buffalo River, and there was a baby water moccasin and something arose in me. Some kind of hidden anger and aggression just came out of me. I’m a nice guy, then all of a sudden, I see this waby- waby, I made that word up, a baby water moccasin and something arises and I take a stone and I throw it. Everybody else just walks past it, “Oh, look, it is a water moccasin.” Not me, I take a stone and I throw it at the thing and I hit it, then I take another stone and I just keep hitting it until I’ve got viper soup. It’s like something arises me.
This is not Paul. Paul knew that God had made a promise to him that he was going to stand before Caesar and he was going to speak the Gospel in Rome and he believed God. He knew that God will be true to His word. You see, this is where troubles and difficulties of life actually can strengthen faith. When you’ve been through many troubles and have seen God’s favor in the midst of those troubles, you come to learn that both things are true, that there will be many troubles.
The longer you live, the more you’ll understand that is an aspect of life. You will have many troubles. But when you’ve been through those storms and then seen the favor of God, you know that that is true also, troubles will come, but so will God’s favor. In fact, that’s when you will see God’s favor most. Trouble, favor. Trouble, God’s favor. Trouble, God’s favor. It begins to change your view. It begins to change your perspective. It begins to strengthen your faith. Because the more troubles you’ve been through and the more you’ve seen God’s favor in the midst of that trouble, the greater the problems and troubles that you can face.
There is an old saying, I don’t know where I first heard it, maybe it was in the men’s discipleship book, The Measure Of A Man. I’m not sure where I read it. There is an old saying that, “A measure of a man can be measured in the size of the problems that he can face and face with strength and face with faith.” I mentioned last week that when they were in the midst of the storm, the storm is raging against the ship, they sat down a sea anchor. Now, a sea anchor is not an anchor that drags along the bottom, far too deep for that.
It’s a underwater sail and it has the effect of keeping the ship upright and stable in the midst of the storm, but the second effect is that it keeps the bow directly in the face of the wind and directly facing the waves. I love that part because I think it makes such a great point. If you’re in a raging storm, you want to be facing the wind, you want to be facing the waves. A lot of people, they want to run. They want to run from trouble. I just love this point, no, you face it straightforwardly. You face it believing that God’s favor will be seen in the midst of it and that God will be with you in it.
Let me give you a great verse. 1:38, verse 3 and then verses 7 to 8, notice what he says, “You God, you made me bold with strength in my soul.” Now that’s a great word, because it’s describing a faith that is victorious. It’s describing a person who has a better perspective. He can understand that God’s favor will be seen in the midst of the trouble. “You made me bold. You made me bold with strength in the soul.” Notice what he says, “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you will revive me. I know this. I know my God. I know how He is. I know that you will revive me though I walk in the midst of trouble and your right hand will save me. I know this.”
See, it’s perspective. The Lord will accomplish what concerns me today. I know this. It’s perspective. “Your love and kindness, oh Lord, is everlasting.” It’s how he sees it. It’s the perspective of faith in the midst of the trouble. We can learn a lot from Paul. One of the things we can learn to apply to our lives is this, nothing can separate us from God’s love. This is the foundation of Paul’s faith. This is the foundation of the way he sees it, his perspective. He knows that God’s love is everlasting and that nothing can separate him from the love of God.
B. Nothing can separate us from God’s love
He writes that to us so boldly and clearly in Romans 8. I love Romans 8. It’s one of the most powerful chapters in the Bible. It’s one of my favorite chapters in the New Testament. Here in Romans 8, verse 35 and verses 37 to 39, he writes it this way, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ?” It’s like an open declaration. It’s like an open challenge. You tell me, who can separate us from the love of Christ, tribulation? Will tribulation separate us from the love of Christ? Will distress? See, will distress separate us from the love of Christ?
You tell me, he says. Will distress separate us? This is important perspective, isn’t it? Because I think a lot of people going through distresses, a lot of people going through tribulation will be convinced that, that’s proof that God does not love them. “Oh, you say you love me, you say you love me, now, look I’m going through distresses. I’m going through tribulations and trials and snares. Oh, you say you love me, this proves it God, you don’t.” Wrong view. Paul would never have that view.
His perspective is quite different. Nothing, I know this, nothing can separate us from the love of God. Tribulation? No. Distresses? No. Persecution, famine, nakedness, peril or sword? Nothing. In all of these things, now get this, this is a great verse, in all of these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. It’s that love. It’s that faith that He understands, we can overwhelmingly conquer, which is to say that your faith is the victory in the midst of it because you know and believe that God’s with you. He never said that He would keep you from trouble, He said, “I’ll be with you in it.”
We can overwhelmingly conquer for I am convinced, that’s perspective. I am persuaded that nothing, neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord. That is victory. That is perspective. No matter what tribulation or distress or peril Paul is going through, he has every assurance that he is in God’s love, and if he’s in God’s love, then he most assuredly is convinced that he is in God’s favor.
For it is oftentimes in the midst of the storm that you see the favor of God most abundantly. One of the perspectives I think is– from Paul is like, “Well, what’s the worst that can happen?” That’s a great question. What’s the worst that can happen? Well, I could die. That’s the worst. That’s the worst, that you could die. We need a different view of the thing, that’s the worst? See, many people think of death as a tragic end. It’s not a tragic end, it’s a glorious beginning. That’s what that is. It’s a graduation day. It’s a coronation day. It’s the day to enter into the joy of your master.
We needed a different view of the thing. The favor of God is seen even as Paul is going through the storms and the trouble, he brings beauty out of ashes. I face the storm, set your face in the midst of it, press into the storm. That’s when you’re going to see the favor of God. I was thinking of a personal illustration. Many of you know that when we were wanting to go into ministry that God miraculously provided, the favor of God was so amazingly evident in all of it. I’d been in the restaurant business and even though I had left my position as a manager, I was still part owner, and so I had this idea, because we felt that if we’re going to be serious about ministry, we need a good solid Bible education, yet we couldn’t afford it.
I had this idea that we were going to sell one of the restaurants and now it’s going to make this profit and then I can make my way through Bible College, but on this particular Friday, I found the whole thing just fell apart. Like, “No, that’s not going to happen.” This Friday night, I remember very clearly, Saturday, I’m praying, all day Saturday, pressing in, pressing in, “God, I need you, reveal your hand to me. I need a miracle. I’m asking, I’m pressing in now. I’m asking, I need a miracle here.”
Sunday morning, literally from Friday night to Sunday morning, I get to church and a man comes up to me and he said, “God has put it on my heart that I’m supposed to pay your way through Bible College.” Like, “Okay, God, your way is way better,” and he meant every word of it. Favor of God so clear. Now we’re in Bible College and it was a difficult time. A full load of classes and we had two babies in the house and I was getting like four or five hours sleep every night. I know, and it’s like, “This is really hard.”
Then my partner– I had gotten out of my partnership just for what I owed on it, so I made nothing, but my partner came to me and he said, “Listen, I need you to do me a favor. I need you to take a year off of school and I need you to help me open this restaurant, a new restaurant.” Like, “Okay, something finally came together for-” “I need you to open this restaurant for me. Take a year off of school. You know all our systems, you know all the whole thing. I need you to open this restaurant, get it all going, and then you can go back to school. I’ll pay you well for a year.”
I thought, “Hmm.” We were managing apartments at that point, so we had basic costs covered and I thought I could save almost all of that money and the life would be easier. I don’t really have to have two jobs and all this stuff that goes with all their pressures, life would easier. Then I thought, I better get some counsel from the man who was paying my way through Bible College. We got together and I was giving my grades because I wanted him to see like, “Hey, if God is doing this for me, I’m going to pour myself into this.” I did it just to be thankful. “Oh God, I am so thankful for what you did. I’m going to sit in the front, I’m going to take notes, I’m going to– I want to learn everything I can learn because you did so much for me.”
I met with him and I said, “I want to run something by you. My former partner has asked me to take a year off. He’s going to pay me well. I could save this money and life would be easier. What do you say?” He said, “Let me make sure I understand this. Did I hear you say that this was about money?” “Well, yes.” He said, “Then you don’t understand. You need money? I’ll make sure you have what you need. Your car breaks, I’ll fix it. You need groceries, I’ll pay it. No, you press in. God has allowed this door to be opened, press in. Secondly, did I hear you say that life would be easier?” “Yes, I did say that.” Although I was regretting saying it at that moment. “Yes, I did say that.”
He said, “Did it ever occur to you that may be God doesn’t want life easier for you?” “Actually, no, it had not occurred to me.” He said, “You want to be a pastor? You think that’s easy? You think that’s easy? God is using the difficulties of this, it’s part of the preparing you for what God has in store for you. No, God doesn’t want life easy for you. You press in. In fact, I suggest to you that you make it even harder. Don’t even take the summers off. Press in, take two Greek classes at once, press in.” “You know what? You’re right.” That’s exactly what I did. “You’re right. Thank you for the wisdom of God in it. You’re right.”
See, because so many people– He showed me a great truth. So many people, they want the easy, they want the easy, want life to be easy and they think that’s the favor of God make it easy. Maybe God doesn’t want it to be easy. It’s oftentimes the trouble, press into the troubles, press in to the difficulties, face them straight on, face them with faith, and know that God’s favor is oftentimes revealed in the midst of the storm, in the midst of the difficulty.
The people on this island had never heard of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and here, after Paul had a viper latch his hand and he shakes it off into the fire, nothing comes of it, clearly the favor of God. He then is given the power of the testing miracles as he then begins to lay hands and heal these people. That’s the favor of God.
In the midst of the storm the favor of God is amazingly revealed and then I think about this, about the Centurion Julius who was watching this whole thing, what must be going through his mind? What is this? I’m convinced that Julius has got to have been saved out of seeing all that God was doing. The favor of God was revealed. Here’s another example, back when Israel had entered into the Promised Land, at first, there was a great victory at Jericho, many know this, we’ll study it soon, but then immediately after there’s a shocking defeat when they come against a small little village named Ai.
What had happened was that there were some in Israel who had turned her back on God and they brought trouble in Israel, so they called it the Valley of Achor, the valley of trouble. Here’s something interesting, for many years later, in the prophet Hosea, he says something, he connects this to a great truth. He says, Hosea chapter 2 verse 15, “I will give a Valley of Achor as a door of hope.” That’s a great verse. I will give the valley of trouble as a door of hope. It’s the door that opens to hope. Trouble is the door that opens the hope of God. It is often in the midst of the trouble and the storm that God’s favor is most revealed. It’s a door, and she will sing there as in the days of her youth. They will sing there.
C. The curse of sin is broken
When they see the door of hope opened in the Valley of Trouble, they will sing. God will bring the favor of God. I’ve seen the grace of God and the favor of God over my life through the troubles and the trials and snares, even some of the troubles of my own making. For what we have come to understand and see is it’s because the curse of sin is broken that the favor of God is on your life. It’s interesting that this viper, it’s a viper that latches onto his hand because a viper or serpent has represented the enemy from the beginning.
It’s the enemy of the soul that wants to latch onto you and bring destruction and death to your life, but the curse of sin is broken. The grip and the power of the enemy has been defeated so that we can confidently say, this is First Corinthians 15 verse 55, Paul says, “Oh, death, where is your victory? There is no victory. Death cannot have victory over me. Oh, death, where is your sting? There is no sting of death. The sting of death is sin,” see, that’s been broken.
The power of sin is the law, but it’s been gloriously nailed to the cross, but thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ, when the viper takes hold of Paul’s hand, they conclude he’s a murderer. Many still think this way, but the truth for believers is that the curse of sin has been broken and that’s why the favor of God is on your life. Notice Romans chapter eight, speaking of my favorite chapter, Romans eight verses one to two, “There is therefore now no condemnation, literally no damnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Are you in Christ Jesus? He says there is no damnation for those who are in Christ Jesus for the law of the spirit of life has set you free from the law of sin and death. You’ve been set free from this because He has taken it all upon himself. It’s the glorious Gospel. He took what we deserved. I was thinking of an illustration and I was thinking this one, many years ago, we were doing some work here in the sanctuary, way up in the lights there, so we needed this super long extension ladder that we have.
It’s really heavy duty so you can reach way up there, and it’s basically two ladders in one, the other one slides up way, way, way even latches on the other one. So we finished our work and I was putting the ladder away. So I’m standing at the base of this thing and you pull a rope, which unlatches it and then you let it down on a pulley. So I’m holding this thing way, way up there and I pull with the rope and then something happens and it slips out of my hand and the whole top ladder comes flying down and smashes my hand. That should have broken my hand, but it didn’t even hurt.
You say, “How’s that even possible?” That’s what I thought. How is that even possible? Then I looked and realized what had happened. I was gripping the rung of the lower ladder and it pushed my ring up like this, and the ladder came down and smashed right on that ring. The ring took the whole thing. Her love took the whole thing.
II. Faith Must be Your Own
I realized I had to take it to the jeweler to get it straightened, but oh was I thankful, oh was I thankful that that ring took it all because oh my, I should have broke my hand. It took it. What a picture. I just immediately realized, this is a powerful picture. He took what we deserve, the brokenness that we deserved and the sin that we brought about, He took it all. What a powerful statement. Then, what we recognize then when we look at Acts chapter 28, is that God wants to make this personal with you. In other words, faith must be your own.
Each person is on his own journey with their own set of troubles, their own set of trials and snares. Everyone has their own journey, but God wants to walk with you in this journey. God wants to strengthen you in your faith on this journey. God wants to make it personal with you, and what we recognize when we see it is that God’s Word is personal. He’s speaking to you and it’s personal. Three years earlier, Paul had written the letter that we call today the book of Romans, he wrote it to them and he’ll name names of people he wanted to bring greetings to that he’s praying for, very personal.
A. God’s word is personal
The point is, actually, the whole of the Word of God is personal. Let me give you a great verse that’s so powerfully shows it. Isaiah 43 verses 1 to 5, “Do not fear, don’t have anxiety, worry, don’t be afraid for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name. I know your name.” If you’re here this morning, be assured of this, He knows your name. This is very personal to him. He says, “Child, you are mine. Let this be personal with you.” When you pass through the waters, and He means here the waters of trouble, when you pass through the waters, I will be with you. He never ever said that He would keep us from all troubles.
This world is filled with troubles, but when you pass through the waters of trouble, I will be with you, for I am the Lord, your God, the Holy one of Israel, your Savior, and then he says, “You are precious in my sight and you are honored.” See, this is the key. Do you know who you are? Do you know who you are in Christ? You know God’s heart for you. You are honored. You are precious in my sight. I gave my Son for you.
You are honored. Can you imagine the honor of that? I gave my Son for you. I sent my Son to die on the cross for you. I know you by name. You are honored. What an honor, the Son of the living God gave his life for you. That’s an honor, and He says, “And I love you. I love you.” Do not fear. Don’t be afraid. Don’t have anxiety in life. Face this storm. Put your face to it. Press in. That’s when the favor of God will be revealed to you. I am with you. I think of these Roman soldiers chained to Paul, wonder how many of them came to faith in Christ. Can you imagine?
B. Have faith with full conviction
Now, Paul spoke to many people, but don’t you imagine they’re chained to a prisoner at some point it’s going to turn to that soldier and say, “Sir, what is your name? Tell me your story. Let me tell you about a God who loves you, who sent his Son to die on the cross for the payment of your sin.” How many soldiers do you think came to faith in Christ? Maybe the question is, who is chained to whom? Paul would say, “Yes, chain the whole city of Rome to me,” because you know what happens? A revival broke out in Rome. You might know this.
After Paul arrived, a revival broke out in Rome, and eventually the empire took hold of the faith of Jesus Christ. God’s favor is seen in the midst of the trouble and the trials and the snares of life. Don’t run, face them. Face them with faith, believing that that’s when the favor of God will be seen most.
Father, thank you so much for your word, your power on our lives. We give you thanks and honor for all that you’ve done in us. God, I pray today that we will understand how personal this is. Church today, as you are before the Lord, would you know He says, “I know you by name. Child, you are mine. I have redeemed you. Don’t be afraid. I’ll be with you.” Do you believe this?
Would you say to the Lord this morning, “I believe, God. I believe. You are my hope. You are the door of hope. I’ll trust you with the trials, the troubles, the snares, the difficulties. I’ll face them straight head-on because I believe that my God is with me. I trust you. I trust you.” Church today, would you say that to the Lord? “I trust you. I believe you. You are my God and I want to walk with you in this journey. Walk with me. Reveal your favor to me. God, make your way known to me. Make your Spirit known to me. I want to know your ways. Order my way. I trust you.”
Would you say that to the Lord? Would you say it by just raising your hand to the Lord this morning? Just raise your hand in a bold way, I want to just say it, I want to just declare it, I say to you, I’ll trust you. You are my God, I believe you, Lord. Thank you for all that you’re doing in my life. We give you honor and praise and glory in Jesus’ name, and everyone said– Can we give the Lord praise this morning, and honor and glory, amen?