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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Pennsylvanian Humor

From my friend Dave:

How to Spot a Pennsylvanian with a DUI Conviction:



Matt's Messages - Korah's Rebellion

“Korah’s Rebellion”
Life in the Wilderness
April 29, 2007
Numbers 16:1-50

How would you like to be Moses?

There are times in the story, when I think it would be great to be Moses.

- Witnessing the Red Sea Rescue as you raise your staff.
- Carrying the 10 Commandments chiseled out by the very finger of God.
- Seeing the afterglow of the back of the glory of the LORD.

There are times when I think it would be great to be Moses.

And then there is...the rest of the time!

Having to lead these grumbling Israelites.

Grumbling, complaining, discontent, unbelieving, rebellious Israelites.

In Numbers chapter 16, we read about yet another rebellion against Moses (and against his brother Aaron, the High Priest).

This rebellion is led by a man named Korah. It’s called, elsewhere in the Bible, “Korah’s Rebellion.”

And it takes up the whole of chapter 16.

As we read Korah’s Rebellion, we will not only learn about Korah and what he wanted, we will also learn about God and how He operates in this world.

There are three words that are going to guide us through the passage this morning as a kind of outline.

They are:

1. Judgment
2. Atonement
3. Remnant

And we will see God at work in all three of these ways.

He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Numbers 16, verse 1.

“Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and certain Reubenites–Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth–became insolent and rose up against Moses. With them were 250 Israelite men, well-known community leaders who had been appointed members of the council. They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, ‘You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the LORD's assembly?’”

Let’s stop there and make sure we know who these people are.

We know about Moses and Aaron. [Though it is interesting to see that Aaron gets a taste of his own rebellious medicine here. Remember how he had sided with Miriam against Moses back in chapter 12? Well, now he’s on the other side.]

Then there is Korah. What do we know about him?

He was the son of Izhar, son of Kohath, son of Levi. What is that saying?

He is a Levite!

What do we know about Levites? Are they priests?

Not all of them. Was Korah a priest?

No. He was a Kohathite. Anyone remember where the Kohathites camped and what their job was?

They camped to the South of the Tent of Meeting (which was a place of honor). And they carried the Holy Things. We read about it in Numbers chapter 4.

So, Korah was not a nobody.

Neither were his buddies: Dathan, Abiram, and On. What tribe were they from?

Reuben. Where did Reuben camp? On the Southside, too. Probably that’s how they got together.

But this isn’t just a group of Southsiders mounting a rebellion. They have at least 250 other Israelite men from around the circle of tribes. V.2 “well-known community leaders who had been appointed members of the council.”

This was a high-stakes attempt at a hostile take-over.

What was their line? V.3

“They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, ‘You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the LORD's assembly?’”

Can you see the scene? 250-some leaders come pointing their fingers at Moses and Aaron. And they claim that Moses and Aaron had overstepped their roles and were sinfully setting themselves above the LORD’s assembly.

And they base this on the fact that everyone in Israel is holy. Not just Moses and Aaron.

Is this true?

It is true that everyone in Israel was to be holy. Remember the tassels on their garments that we read about last week? Everyone was to be holy.

But it wasn’t true that Moses and Aaron weren’t supposed to be charge.

God had put them in charge! Since the burning bush! Exodus chapter 3!

This was a power-play. No doubt about it. Korah tried to make it look like it was about equality and holiness. But it was really about greed and covetousness. V.4

“When Moses heard this, he fell facedown.” He’s probably getting used that position by now!

We don’t know how long he stayed facedown, but when he got up, Moses had a word from the Lord. V.5

“Then he said to Korah and all his followers: ‘In the morning the LORD will show who belongs to him and who is holy, and he will have that person come near him. The man he chooses he will cause to come near him. You, Korah, and all your followers are to do this: Take censers and tomorrow put fire and incense in them before the LORD. The man the LORD chooses will be the one who is holy. You Levites have gone too far!’”

Moses comes back at Korah with the same words, “You have gone too far!”

And he says that there will be contest the next day, a trial by fire, and we will see who really is God’s man.

Korah should be shaking in his boots if he had any kind of memory.

Remember the names Nadab and Abihu?

We talked about them back in Numbers chapter 3.

Whose sons were they? Aaron’s sons. They were actual priests but they offered strange fire (unauthorized) before the Lord.

Do you think that Korah and the others will fare any better?

Moses gets right to the heart of the matter. V.8

“Moses also said to Korah, ‘Now listen, you Levites! Isn't it enough for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the Israelite community and brought you near himself to do the work at the LORD's tabernacle and to stand before the community and minister to them? He has brought you and all your fellow Levites near himself, but now you are trying to get the priesthood too. It is against the LORD that you and all your followers have banded together. Who is Aaron that you should grumble against him?’”

Moses sees through Korah’s false-spirituality. He is actually full of selfish ambition and vain conceit.

God’s been good to Korah and given him a leadership role. But it’s not enough for him.

And it just against Aaron that he’s rebelling. It’s against God.

Which is good word for anyone who is in a position of leadership and they find that people are sniping at them. It’s not just you. It’s God that they are angry with.

And see how insolent and shameless are Dathan and Abiram. V.12

“Then Moses summoned Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab. But they said, ‘We will not come! Isn't it enough that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the desert? And now you also want to lord it over us? Moreover, you haven't brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey or given us an inheritance of fields and vineyards. Will you gouge out the eyes of these men? No, we will not come!’”

They won’t even appear before Moses to make their complaint!

And notice how they have everything twisted around. All of a sudden, Egypt is a land flowing with milk and honey?! And why didn’t they get the Promised Land? It wasn’t Moses. It was their unbelief!

But they say, “You won’t fool us! You won’t gouge out our eyes. We know the score. And we aren’t coming.”

This angers Moses. V.15

“Then Moses became very angry and said to the LORD, ‘Do not accept their offering. I have not taken so much as a donkey from them, nor have I wronged any of them.’”

Moses knows that he is in the right.

And the next day, it is crystal clear. V.16

“Moses said to Korah, ‘You and all your followers are to appear before the LORD tomorrow–you and they and Aaron. Each man is to take his censer and put incense in it–250 censers in all–and present it before the LORD. You and Aaron are to present your censers also.’ So each man took his censer, put fire and incense in it, and stood with Moses and Aaron at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting.

What do you think is going to happen?

Here’s the word: JUDGMENT.

God is not mocked. God does not wink at sin.

God does not let the guilty go unpunished.

God judges justly.

The innocent are judged innocent.

And the guilty are judged guilty.

God swallows rebels in judgment. V.19

“When Korah had gathered all his followers in opposition to them at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, the glory of the LORD appeared to the entire assembly. [God shows up!] The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Separate yourselves from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once.’ [Again, He’s about as angry as it gets.] But Moses and Aaron fell facedown and cried out, ‘O God, God of the spirits of all mankind, will you be angry with the entire assembly when only one man sins?’ [Don’t wipe them all out, Lord!]”

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Say to the assembly, 'Move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram.'’ Moses got up and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israel followed him. He warned the assembly, ‘Move back from the tents of these wicked men! Do not touch anything belonging to them, or you will be swept away because of all their sins.’ So they moved away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. Dathan and Abiram had come out and were standing with their wives, children and little ones at the entrances to their tents. Then Moses said, ‘This is how you will know that the LORD has sent me to do all these things and that it was not my idea: If these men die a natural death and experience only what usually happens to men, then the LORD has not sent me.”

[And Korah was right.]

“But if the LORD brings about something totally new, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them, with everything that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the grave, then you will know that these men have treated the LORD with contempt.’

Do you have the picture in your head?

250 men with censers are at the Tent of Meeting trying to get answer from the LORD as to who should really be in charge of the priesthood and the people.

And the rest of the followers of Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and On and most of their families are standing defiantly at their tents. They wouldn’t even talk face to face with Moses.

And Moses tells them that if these men live and then die of natural causes then Korah was right all along and God hadn’t appointed Moses and Aaron.

But if something happens that had never happened before, namely, the earth swallowing up Korah and his followers, then all will know that God had sent Moses and Aaron and Korah had been treating God with contempt. V.31

“As soon as he finished saying all this, the ground under them split apart and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, with their households and all Korah's men and all their possessions. They went down alive into the grave, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community.”

“At their cries, all the Israelites around them fled, shouting, ‘The earth is going to swallow us too!’ And fire came out from the LORD and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense.”

Judgment.

The Bible says that “Sinners will not stand in the judgment.”

This event was almost too horrible to describe. I’m not even going to try.

Korah and his followers got what was coming them.

Judgment.

This holy, wrathful, avenging, judging side of God is one that is not very popular today.

People don’t like to talk about. People don’t like to think about it.

But God is just. He is angry at sin. And the righteous requirements of His holiness demand justice.

This is what God does to rebels: He swallows them up in judgment.

Our God is a consuming fire.

Do you think about God like that?

Some people have a skewed view of God where this is all that they know about God. They know that God is holy and mad at sin. And that’s it.

They don’t know or believe in His love, mercy, and grace.

But many, many people have the opposite problem.

They think that God doesn’t care about sin. He doesn’t take rebellion seriously.

He’s just a big softie who wouldn’t lift a finger to harm an evil doer.

But this is God right here. V.31

“The ground under them split apart and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, with their households and all Korah's men and all their possessions. They went down alive into the grave, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community.”

“At their cries, all the Israelites around them fled, shouting, ‘The earth is going to swallow us too!’ And fire came out from the LORD and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense.”

That’s God’s judgment.

And He doesn’t want us to forget it. V.36

“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Tell Eleazar [oldest] son of Aaron, the priest, to take the censers out of the smoldering remains and scatter the coals some distance away, for the censers are holy–the censers of the men who sinned at the cost of their lives. Hammer the censers into sheets to overlay the altar, for they were presented before the LORD and have become holy. Let them be a sign to the Israelites.’ [Remember!]”

“So Eleazar the priest collected the bronze censers brought by those who had been burned up, and he had them hammered out to overlay the altar, as the LORD directed him through Moses. This was to remind the Israelites that no one except a descendant of Aaron should come to burn incense before the LORD, or he would become like Korah and his followers.”

What a sight!

Eleazer and his helpers had to sort through the smoldering remains of these men who were fried to a crisp and bring out the bronze censers and beat them into an overlay to go over the altar. So that every time an Israelite saw that altar, they were reminded of Korah.

“This was to remind the Israelites that no one except a descendant of Aaron [no one except for WHO GOD SAYS] should come to burn incense before the LORD, or he would become like Korah and his followers.”

Judgment.

The application is to take God seriously.

What God has commanded is of paramount importance.

We don’t pass over God’s commands to do it the way we think we should.

We don’t laugh at God’s way. We do it God’s way.

We take God seriously.

We take God’s judgment seriously.

Korah, Dathan, and Abiram’s names show up again and again in the Bible. And almost every time they do, there is a warning. Don’t be like them!

Don’t rebel. Don’t think you can get away with it. Don’t treat God with contempt.

Take God seriously.

Take God’s judgment seriously.

That means take Hell seriously.

We’ve got to get serious about evangelism and sharing our faith because Hell is real.

There is a judgment coming.

“Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.”

“Our God is a consuming fire.”

Do you believe that? Do you know that? Do you take God seriously?

I take no pleasure in shouting about this.

But it needs to be heard.

We need to be ready for God’s judgment. And we need to get other people ready for God’s judgment.

If we love people, we will pray for them and we will share the Gospel with them. Because without being readied by the Gospel, no one can stand in the judgment.

We need to take God’s judgment seriously.

Don’t be like Korah.

And don’t be like the people of Israel were the very next day.

Yes, the very next day they grumbled again! V.41

“The next day the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. ‘You have killed the LORD's people,’ they said.” Where do they get that?

“But when the assembly gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron and turned toward the Tent of Meeting, [there He is again!] suddenly the cloud covered it and the glory of the LORD appeared. Then Moses and Aaron went to the front of the Tent of Meeting, and the LORD said to Moses, ‘Get away from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once.’ And they fell facedown.”

Judgment has come again.

A plague broke out from the LORD and began to consume the people of Israel.

And they deserved it!

But here’s our second word: ATONEMENT. V.46

“Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘Take your censer and put incense in it, along with fire from the altar, and hurry to the assembly to make atonement for them. Wrath has come out from the LORD; the plague has started.’ So Aaron did as Moses said, and ran into the midst of the assembly. The plague had already started among the people, but Aaron offered the incense and made atonement for them. He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped. But 14,700 people died from the plague, in addition to those who had died because of Korah. Then Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, for the plague had stopped.”

Christianity is no light and airy thing! It’s turn away and death!

Aaron, the High Priest, the one God had chosen took incense and fire from the altar (authorized not strange fire) and ran–he ran! Over 80 years old and he’s running! To the midst of the assembly. And He makes atonement for the people.

“He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped.”

There is judgment here. But there is also grace.

There is atonement.

Atonement is the turning away of God’s anger by the payment of an acceptable ransom by an acceptable mediator.

In this case: the High Priest Aaron.

I can’t imagine what this was like!

People dying everywhere. And where Aaron stood with the fire of incense in his hand was the dividing line between death and life.

14,700 people died but hundreds of thousands were spared.

Atonement.

And the Bible says that Jesus Christ is the atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 2:2)

And the Bible also says that Jesus Christ became a merciful High Priest so “that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.” (Hebrews 2:17)

That’s the Cross!

Jesus Christ made atonement for His people by His ransom paying death on the Cross.

And He’s calling you to put your trust in Him and His atoning work.

Jesus Christ stands between the living and the dead, the plague one side and abundant life on the other!

Trust in Him.

God swallows rebels in His judgment.

Hell is real. Sin is bad. God is mad.

But there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus!

Are you trusting the mediator? And the mediator alone?

Last Sunday, during the invitation, Davey Williamson received Jesus Christ as His own Lord and Savior.

I have his permission to share this with you.

Davey had been taught in the past to rely not just on what Christ had done but also on his own good works and attempts to be a good Christian.

Davey had tried to help Jesus and make atonement for himself.

But Davey has come to understand the Bible’s good news.

That we can’t and shouldn’t even try to make atonement for ourselves.

Instead, we trust in the One mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ, and His perfect atoning sacrifice for our sins on the Cross.

And we trust in Him alone.

And we are saved.

Davey crossed over the line from death to life by trusting in the atonement of Jesus Christ.

Have you? It is not too late if you are listening to this message and want to turn from your sins and your own way of life and come in to Christ.

I invite you right now, right here, to get right with God.

Because God is holy and brings judgement.

But He’s also merciful and offers atonement.

And, not only that, but He’s also gracious and preseves for Himself a remnant.

#3. REMNANT.

A remnant is a small group of faith-filled people that God preserves for Himself, even when He brings large-scale judgment.

A remnant is proof that God is still working even when all seems lost.

The principle of the remnant is all over the Bible.

But what I want to show you this morning is what happened to Korah’s sons.

But you say, Korah’s sons? They all died in the judgment!

Uh uh. Skip ahead to chapter 26, verses 10&11. It tells the story again.

“The earth opened its mouth and swallowed [Dathan and Abiram] along with Korah, whose followers died when the fire devoured the 250 men. And they served as a warning sign. [Catch this!] The line of Korah, however, did not die out.”

It turns out that at least some of Korah’s sons didn’t stand with Korah when the judgment came. They separated themselves from Korah and his rebellion.

And they didn’t die out.

In fact, most Bible scholars believe that they became the Sons of Korah that we read about in the Psalms.

Psalm 42, Psalm 44, Psalm 45, Psalm 46, Psalm 47, Psalm 48, Psalm 49, Psalm 84, Psalm 85, Psalm 87, and Psalm 88 were all written by these men called the Sons of Korah.

They didn’t go in the direction their father did.

God preserves a remnant for His glory.
God saves people out of judgment into ministry!
And He is doing that right here, right now with us.

Praise God! That He preserves a remnant by means of atonement to escape judgment and serve Him in ministry.

If you are a Christ-follower, that’s really a description of you.

Praise God!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

With the Lord

Heather's grandmother, Mary Lundeen, went to be with Jesus on Tuesday.

Her brother has posted some tributes.

Please pray for the Lundeen family as they grieve.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Sir Isaac Du Lac



Here is brave Sir Isaac wielding his sword...and his everloving duckie.

My mom calls him Sir Isaac of the Lake! [Like Lancelot, in case you don't remember the story.]

Sunday, April 22, 2007

This One's For Nana!






Nana & Papa (Heather's folks) are coming for a visit starting this coming Saturday. We can hardly wait!

So, we're getting ready; which includes getting some buzz-cuts in advance.

(Nana wants long-haired boys, so we'll let it grow the entire time they're here!)

Manly and Godly Friendships

Here is a great article by Thabiti A. about men and friendships.

I am blessed to have a number of this kind of friendships.

To my "brothers" out there (and I hope you know who you are), thanks for being manly and godly friends.

Matt's Messages - I Am the LORD Your God

“I Am the LORD Your God”
Life in the Wilderness
April 22, 2007
Numbers 15:1-41

Last week, we read about the lowest low point in the book of Numbers, what we called, “The Retreat of Unbelief.”

All of the those chapters of military, priestly, and collective preparation to conquer the Promised Land were proved futile by the unbelief of 10 spies and the rest of the 603,548 (minus Joshua & Caleb) fighting men.

Israel decided to NOT believe God and NOT obey God and NOT go up to the Promised Land.

And God was very angry, and rightly so, at this wickedness and rebellion. And even after the intervention and intercession of Moses, God’s verdict, God’s sentence for unbelieving Israel was 40 years of wandering in the wilderness (one year for every day the spies had been in the land) and the death of an entire generation.

Forty years of funerals, one on top of another. Funeral, funeral, funeral, funeral, funeral.

The lowest of the low points in the book of Numbers.

And now, if you were writing the book of Numbers, what would you write about next?

Maybe how the Israelites felt about their somewhat-commuted death sentence?

What life in the wilderness was really like?

The next rebellion (like we’ll see next week in chapter 16)?

If you were writing the book of Numbers, what would you write about next?

Numbers chapter 15 turns out to be...law code.

The NIV subheadings for this chapter are excitedly titled, “Supplementary Offerings” “Offerings for Unintentional Sins” “The Sabbath-Break Put to Death” and (my personal favorite) “Tassels on Garments.”

Rules.

Sounds exciting, huh?

I told you that the book of Numbers is one of the strangest books that we’ll ever study together! And remember, there were no chapter divisions in the original. It just flows from chapter 14 right into chapter 15.

Who would have ever thought of putting these things in chapter 15 after the story we just got done reading in chapters 13 and 14?

Well, God did. That’s how His Holy Bible was written!

And there are reasons for it.

I think that the key to understanding this chapter is, not just that we take a break from the action [my wife suggested that this chapter is a little like a commercial break during an exciting show–giving us all a chance to breath again before the drama gets back underway–I think that’s right. That’s one of the reasons why it’s here. But not just to take a break from the action...] but to remind us in an unusual, attention-getting way Who our God really is.

And I get that from the very last verse in the chapter. Numbers chapter 15, verse 41.

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the LORD your God.”

Numbers 15 is in your Bible for a reason. To break the action after the lowest of low points to remind us, “I am the LORD your God.”

God says, “I am the LORD Your God.”

#1. WHO ALWAYS KEEPS HIS PROMISES. Verse 1.

“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'After you enter the land I am giving you as a home...”

Wait! Stop right there.

Did you catch that?

What was God saying? “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘After you enter the land I am giving you as a home...”

What’s He talking about? He’s talking about the Promised Land again.

Almost as if chapters 13&14 hadn’t happened!

The promise stands.

The original generation won’t see the land.

But the promise stands.

“I am giving [it to] you as a home...”

The march towards Canaan will happen again.

The promise stands!

And when you are there, you will celebrate God. V.3

“After you enter the land I am giving you as a home and you present to the LORD offerings made by fire, from the herd or the flock, as an aroma pleasing to the LORD–whether burnt offerings or sacrifices, for special vows or freewill offerings or festival offerings [these are supplementary offerings, additional free-will, voluntary offerings just because God is worth them!–then the one who brings his offering shall present to the LORD a grain offering of a tenth of an ephah of fine flour mixed with a quarter of a hin of oil. With each lamb for the burnt offering or the sacrifice, prepare a quarter of a hin of wine as a drink offering. With a ram prepare a grain offering of two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with a third of a hin of oil, and a third of a hin of wine as a drink offering. Offer it as an aroma pleasing to the LORD. [A little bit bigger. V.8] When you prepare a young bull as a burnt offering or sacrifice, for a special vow or a fellowship offering to the LORD, bring with the bull a grain offering of three-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with half a hin of oil. Also bring half a hin of wine as a drink offering. It will be an offering made by fire, an aroma pleasing to the LORD. Each bull or ram, each lamb or young goat, is to be prepared in this manner. Do this for each one, for as many as you prepare.”

Now, these offerings were by and large supplementary, additional freewill, voluntary offerings–just because of how good God is.

And when the offered them, they were to include not just the meat but a little carbohydrates and a drink–wine, I think as a celebration of Who God is and what He has done.

Wine is for celebrating. And these offerings would be pleasing to the Lord, as His people worshiped Him.

Why? Because God always keeps His promises.

These were instructions for when they got into the land. Are they there yet?

Not for 40 years. But God immediately gave them these instructions to reassure them that they would get there.

And look at verse 13!

“Everyone who is native-born must do these things in this way when he brings an offering made by fire as an aroma pleasing to the LORD. For the generations to come, whenever an alien or anyone else living among you presents an offering made by fire as an aroma pleasing to the LORD, he must do exactly as you do. The community is to have the same rules for you and for the alien living among you; this is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. You and the alien shall be the same before the LORD: The same laws and regulations will apply both to you and to the alien living among you.”

Now, the main thrust of that passage is that Gentiles (like you and me) should be included (if they become a part of Israel) and treated the same. And that’s good news.

But what I want to point out to you is the fourth and fifth word in verse 13.

“Native-born.”

How many native-born Israelites are there right now?

How many have been born in the Promised Land?

God is saying that there will be native-born Israelites.

There will be Israelites who are born in the Land.

Because God always keeps His promises.

He says it again in verse 18.

“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'When you enter the land to which I am taking you [WHEN, not IF! I’m taking you there! It’ll take 40 years, but I’m taking you there...] and you eat the food of the land, present a portion as an offering to the LORD. Present a cake from the first of your ground meal and present it as an offering from the threshing floor. Throughout the generations to come you are to give this offering to the LORD from the first of your ground meal.”

Do you see how much God is promising here? How much He is calling on them to believe?

It will take 40 more years because of Israel’s unbelief, but God will keep His promises.

And when He does, they should recognize His faithfulness, His gifts to them, and give Him the firstfruits, even the first loaf of bread that is produced from the threshing floor.

Brothers and sister, this is the LORD your God: a faithful God!

Who always keeps His promises.

Do you believe that?

Do you need reminded of that?

Obviously we do, or God wouldn’t have to say it so often in His Word. It’s really the theme of the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Bible).

God always keeps His promises.

What promises are you trusting Him for today?

As a district of the EFCA, we celebrated our 25th anniversary this weekend. God has been faithful to our district, taking a rag tag group of 8 churches and multiplying it to 4 times that in the first 25 years.

On Friday, Super Jeff Powell (our district superintendent) and the district board presented us with a budget that doesn’t make sense. After a year where we didn’t make budget by almost $40,000, they presented an increase in budget of over $90,000.

Now, we have some strategic reserves that they are using for this increased budget, but they have determined that now is the time to get aggressive about church planting among the 8 to 12 million people who live in our district who don’t know Jesus like we do.

And they are saying that our little group of thirtysome churches and church plants needs to reach out and plant scores of churches. And we’ve hired a full-time director of church planting.

That’s pretty big. How do we know that it’s going to work?

We don’t know.

But we know this.

God is faithful.

He always keeps His promises.

And so, we’re going to trust Him and venture out on faith.

What promises are you trusting Him for right now?

And when He comes through, be ready to celebrate Him with worship that is a pleasing aroma to Him.

In the New Covenant, our lives of love and our words of praise are the fragrance that is a pleasing aroma to our faithful God (Ephesians 5:2, Hebrews 13:15).

But God’s faithfulness is not all that we see here in chapter 15.

We also see His graciousness.

“I am the LORD your God”

#2. WHO ALWAYS FORGIVES REPENTANT SINNERS.

This comes from the next set of offerings. They are for unintentional sins. V.22

“Now if you unintentionally fail to keep any of these commands the LORD gave Moses– any of the LORD's commands to you through him, from the day the LORD gave them and continuing through the generations to come–and if this is done unintentionally without the community being aware of it, then the whole community is to offer a young bull for a burnt offering as an aroma pleasing to the LORD, along with its prescribed grain offering and drink offering, and a male goat for a sin offering. The priest is to make atonement [key word] for the whole Israelite community, and they will be forgiven, for it was not intentional and they have brought to the LORD for their wrong an offering made by fire and a sin offering. The whole Israelite community and the aliens living among them will be forgiven, because all the people were involved in the unintentional wrong. But if just one person sins unintentionally, he must bring a year-old female goat for a sin offering. The priest is to make atonement before the LORD for the one who erred by sinning unintentionally, and when atonement has been made for him, he will be forgiven. One and the same law applies to everyone who sins unintentionally, whether he is a native-born Israelite or an alien.”

Notice how seriously God takes sin.

Not all sins are the same. Sometimes we just miss something that we should have caught.

We don’t always set out to do wrong, though we often end up there.

And God knows that. He knows that.

And He makes provision for it.

But He still cares about it.

God is holy and even the most minor sins require atonement.

In fact, they require death.

The Bible is clear, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin.” (Hebrews 9:22 and elsewhere).

Even unintentional sins.

But God is also gracious. He makes provision (atonement) for sins.

He provided these sacrifices as ways to make things right between Him and His people again.

God always forgives repentant sinners.

You know where I’m going now, don’t you?!

The Cross. The Atonement!

Where God’s Son absorbed the just wrath of God the Father.

He shed His blood so that you and I could be forgiven.

But to receive that forgiveness, we have to repent.

We have to turn from our sins.
We have to turn from our own way of doing things.
We have to turn from our own way of living.
Our own gospel and turn to His.

We have to repent and trust in Jesus Christ.

God always forgiveness repentant sinners who turn and trust in Christ.

But He does not forgive the unrepentant...

That’s the point of verses 30-36.

“But anyone who sins defiantly, whether native-born or alien, blasphemes the LORD, and that person must be cut off from his people. Because he has despised the LORD's word and broken his commands, that person must surely be cut off; his guilt remains on him.”

Literally, these sins are called “sins of the high or raised hand.” We would call them thumbing the nose at God or stronger: giving God “the finger.”

If someone sins in arrogance and blasphemy and revolt and will not repentant, God does not forgive.

Do you know that about God?

Sometimes, in stressing the forgiveness of God, we downplay His holiness.

The Cross preserves grace and His holiness in that all repented sins are forgiven through the payment of Jesus for them.

And Hell exists to preserve God’s holiness and justice, as well.

All unrepentant sinners wind up there.

God does not forgive the unrepentant.

And here’s an illustration. V.32

“While the Israelites were in the desert, a man was found gathering wood on the Sabbath day. Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and the whole assembly, and they kept him in custody, because it was not clear what should be done to him. [What do you think?] Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘The man must die. The whole assembly must stone him outside the camp.’ So the assembly took him outside the camp and stoned him to death, as the LORD commanded Moses.”

I think that this passage is an illustration of verses 30 and 31.

This man got up on Saturday, when everyone knows that you aren’t supposed to work and the law clearly says that you aren’t supposed to make a fire, and he goes out and gets busy doing both–in public.

We might have said, no big deal!

God says, “Stone him.” Which is an awful way to die.

This man was thumbing his nose at God.

Unrepentant. “Forget you, God. Who needs you? Get lost! I’ll do it my way.”

And God said, “You’re done.”

God does not forgive the unrepentant.

But He always forgives repentant sinners. Those who turn from their own way and trust in Him.

Have you repented? Have you turned and trusted in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and the sure hope of eternal life?

I don’t invite you to do this today.

I’m telling you that it’s what God requires.

Repent of your sins, your way, your efforts. Turn.

And trust in Jesus Christ and Christ alone.

Receive Him as Savior and King. As Rescuer and Lord.

And He will receive you.

He will forgive you.

Because God always forgives truly repentant sinners.

And He turns them into His own holy people.

That’s #3.

“I am the LORD your God.”

WHO ALWAYS CALLS YOU TO BE HOLY. V.37

“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel. You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the LORD, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by going after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes. Then you will remember to obey all my commands and will be consecrated to your God. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the LORD your God.’”

These tassels were like sticky notes.

I don’t know about you, but I go through a pile of sticky notes about every week.

Reminders that you stick up everywhere to prompt you to remember something.

These were sewed onto the Israelites clothing at the hem (considered probably the most important part of the garment).

They had a little bit of blue in them to match the holiest parts of the coloring of the Tabernacle. It was like a uniform to remind them what army they were a part of.

What group they were a part of.

They were the LORD’s people.

And whenever they saw these tassels they would (v.39) “remember all the commands of the LORD, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by going after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes. Then you will remember to obey all my commands and will be consecrated (holy) to your God.”

God always calls His people to be holy.

And He reminds us again and again.

We don’t have a certain kind of clothing now that we wear in the New Covenant.

We could do things like wearing crosses and that sort of thing as a something similar, but the New Testament doesn’t mandate those.

But it does call us to remember who we are and whose we are and to act appropriately.

If anything, the New Testament equivalent of these tassels is our baptisms.

Like we saw two weeks ago with Rusty and Chris, the New Testament assumes that all believers in Jesus Christ get baptized to demonstrate that they are believers in Jesus Christ.

And we who are baptized look back on our baptism and the meaning of our baptism to remind us to live holy lives.

“We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

Again, that’s what your baptism means. What it points to.

It’s a reminder of who you are and whose you are.

You are called to be holy because you belong to a holy God. V.41

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt (salvation!) to be your God. I am the LORD your God.”

Are you living a holy life by faith?

Not perfect. But headed in the direction of holiness?

Trusting the faithfulness of God.
Repenting of sin.
And obeying all His commands, consecrated to your God?
Not prostituting yourself by going after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes?

This is what means to be holy.

To trust Jesus Christ and the forgiveness He offers and then to obey Jesus Christ and live the life He commands, both by faith.

Because He is the LORD our God.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Prosperity Gospel in Psalm 51?

Paul Tripp continues his penetrating series on Psalm 51 with a look at the petition for prosperity at the end of the psalm.

An excerpt: "So is it right to pray for prosperity? It is and you should. But not for the sake of your kingdom, but for the success of His. Not for the sake of your delight, but for his. You see, when God prospers people who are living for him, they use that blessing to serve him all the more, and for this he gets glory and in this he finds great delight!" Amen!

Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

"Revolting Developments?"

Here is a brief article (pdf) I've recently had published which reviews George Barna's book Revolution.

[This article was "reprinted" with permission from the March-April 2007 issue of SGM Magazine. To subscribe, inquire by email at sgmmagazine@atlanticbbn.net. Yearly subscriptions cost $6.00.]

Monday, April 16, 2007

Seek "Better Things"

From Dan Ledford's Sunday Sermon:

"William Sloan Coffin once said, "The church is full of people who are seeking that which they have already found and only want to become that which they already are.

Seek more. Seek beyond yourself. Seek beyond your tradition. Seek more of Christ’s lordship of your life. Seek greater love for God and love for his people. Seek spiritual maturity."

Read the whole thing.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Matt's Messages - The Retreat of Unbelief

“The Retreat of Unbelief”
Life in the Wilderness
April 15, 2007
Numbers 13:1-14:45

I’m almost sorry to take us back to Numbers after the last two weeks of glorying in the Cross of Christ and His Empty Tomb. Last week, especially, was a high holy day of celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ back from the dead. Hallelujah!

But now we must return to the Book of Numbers and read about the lowest low point in the whole book. Really, the lowest low point in the whole Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible).

Because here in Numbers chapters 13 and 14, we read about what I call, “The Retreat of Unbelief.”

Think back for a second on all the things we’ve seen in the last four months of studying the Book of Numbers.

In chapter 1, God had them number the fighting men: 603,550.

And in chapter 2, He arranged them in 4 different divisions of 12 tribes in a circle around the Tent of Meeting.

And then He had them count the Levites in chapter 3: 22,000 divided into 3 major tribes.

And then in chapter 4, He situated the Levites between the other tribes of Israel and the Tent of Meeting and gave them all the work of taking care of the Tabernacle and the holy things.

And the LORD gave them instructions about how to purify the camp (chapter 5) and how to be totally dedicated to Him (chapter 6).

And He gave the priests a special blessing to pronounce over the people (chapter 6).

And they also dedicated the altar with expensive, extensive and expressive offerings in an elaborate 12 day ceremony (chapter 7).

They set up the lampstand and they cleansed and dedicated the Levites to do their holy work (chapter 8).

And then in chapter 9, they celebrated the Passover again. Passover 2.0 and 2.1 exactly one year after the Red Sea Rescue and the Exodus from Egypt.

And then with banners unfurled in chapter 10, they marched out towards Canaan to conquer the Promised Land!

You remember all that?

Then you probably also remember the complaining of chapter 11 and the prideful, envious leadership struggle of chapter 12.

But all of that pales in comparison to what happens in chapters 13 and 14.

In chapters 13 and 14, the people decide to rebel against God and beat a hasty retreat.

All of that preparation turns out to be for nothing!

How could this be? The Bible sums it up with one word: UNBELIEF.

A lack of faith.
A deficit of trust.
A deficiency of confidence in God.

Unbelief.

Israel’s unbelief causes them to retreat.

It is one of Israel’s saddest days that we study this morning.

And it has several lessons for us today.

It all starts with a reconnaissance mission. Chapter 13, verse 1.

“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.’”

We find out in the book of Deuteronomy that the people had asked for this. But God doesn’t think it’s bad idea to send out an exploratory team.

God has promised the people this land. When did He do that?

Way back in Genesis right? Starting in Genesis 12 and then repeating over and over again in Genesis, Exodus, and so far in Numbers!

“Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites.”

This land is a gift from God. All they have to do is march in there and take it.

But it always helps to have some good military intelligence before undertaking a war. And it should (emphasis on should!) encourage the people to find out just how good this land is that they are going to inherit.

So, Moses gets together an exploratory team. V.3

“So at the LORD's command Moses sent them out from the Desert of Paran. All of them were leaders of the Israelites. These are their names: from the tribe of Reuben, Shammua son of Zaccur; from the tribe of Simeon, Shaphat son of Hori; from the tribe of Judah, Caleb son of Jephunneh; from the tribe of Issachar, Igal son of Joseph; from the tribe of Ephraim, Hoshea son of Nun; from the tribe of Benjamin, Palti son of Raphu; from the tribe of Zebulun, Gaddiel son of Sodi; from the tribe of Manasseh (a tribe of Joseph), Gaddi son of Susi; from the tribe of Dan, Ammiel son of Gemalli; from the tribe of Asher, Sethur son of Michael; from the tribe of Naphtali, Nahbi son of Vophsi; from the tribe of Gad, Geuel son of Maki. These are the names of the men Moses sent to explore the land. (Moses gave Hoshea son of Nun the name Joshua.)”

How many men? [When in doubt, say Twelve!]

This is a different group of men than have been named so far. They a probably young leaders within each tribe. And they have been given the task of spying out the land. V.17

“When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, ‘Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified? How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees on it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land.’ (It was the season for the first ripe grapes.)”

These are their orders. And they carry them out. V.21

“So they went up and explored the land from the Desert of Zin [in the South] as far as Rehob, toward Lebo Hamath [in the North]. They went up through the Negev and came to Hebron, where Ahiman, Sheshai and Talmai, the descendants of Anak, lived. (Hebron had been built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.) When they reached the Valley of Eshcol, they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them [It took two of them!] carried it on a pole between them, along with some pomegranates and figs. That place was called the Valley of Eshcol because of the cluster of grapes the Israelites cut off there.”

Whoa! This is some fertile land! Picture this single cluster of grapes that it takes two men to carry home on a pole!

This land is lush and rich and fertile!

And now it’s time to give their report. V.25

“At the end of forty days they returned from exploring the land. They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land. They gave Moses this account: ‘We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit.”

And they should have stopped right there! Instead, they have to say, “But.” V.28

“But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there [big people!]. The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.’”

What’s going on?

They’re scared, aren’t they?

And they are telling Moses and the Israelites that it’s too difficult. They shouldn’t march in and conquer.

That list of peoples in verse 29 should have been a checklist of victories that they should be expecting.

Way back in the book of Genesis chapter 15, all of these peoples (Amalekites, Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites, Canaanites) are mentioned as peoples whom the LORD will deliver into their hands.

They shouldn’t be afraid of them. YHWH’s got them covered.

And there is at least one of the twelve that thinks that way. Caleb. V.30

“Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, ‘We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.’”

There’s faith!

“But the men who had gone up with him said, ‘We can't attack those people; they are stronger than we are.’ And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, ‘The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.’”

Here’s the first lesson about unbelief that I want us to take home today:

#1. UNBELIEF INVERTS MY PERSPECTIVE.

What are these guys focusing on?

They’re focusing on their problems and these big people.

What are they missing? God!

There’s a great book called, “When People Are Big and God Is Small.

That’s the problem here.

People and problems seem big, and God seems small. In fact, they’re not thinking about Him at all!

That’s what unbelief does. It inverts my perspective. So I’m not seeing things right.

They talk in verse 33 about the Nephilim (which were mighty men probably huge gigantic men).

And they said, “We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”

What about God? How did God figure in here? How did the sons of Anak seem to God?

Where did they encounter these sons of Anak?

V.22 says “Hebron.”

Now think back. What should they have thought about when they were in Hebron?

Do they have any history in Hebron?

Do you remember a little place called the Cave of Machpelah?

Who is buried there? Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and their wives.

It’s the only little plot of land that God had so far given them. But He’s about to give them the whole thing!

That’s what they should be thinking about. But their perspective is inverted.

And it leads to grumbling and complaining. Chapter 14, verse 1.

“That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, ‘If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn't it be better for us to go back to Egypt?’ And they said to each other, ‘We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.’”

Notice how inverted their perspective is!

It’s downright irrational!

Again, they talk about going back to Egypt like it was better.

Then they say that it would have been better to have died[!] in Egypt or in the desert than to die fighting for the Promised Land.

How would that be better?

Their whole perspective is skewed.

And it leads them to rebel. V.4 again.

“And they said to each other, ‘We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.’”

Let’s retreat!

Let’s disobey the LORD’s marching orders.

Let’s get rid of Moses and go back to Pharaoh.

Let’s un-do the Exodus.

Retreat!

Now, before we shake our heads in disbelief at their unbelief, we probably ought to examine our own lives for the same thing.

Can you see how your perspective can get inverted?

I often see bigger problems and bigger people than I see how big my God is!

The truth is that God is big and people and problems are small.

But it takes faith to see it that way.

What are you dealing with right now where God is calling for faith from you and you’ve been feeling like grasshopper?

You may be a grasshopper. But you are God’s grasshopper, and He is big enough.

Let me draw out one area: witnessing. Sharing the gospel with people.

I don’t know about you, but I often start to shrink to grasshopper size when it’s time to talk with someone about Jesus. I mean someone who doesn’t necessarily want to talk about Jesus. I love talking about Jesus with people who ask me.

But to step in? To push a little on the door? To cross a boundary?

The land is good on the other side. All I have to do is trust God and move forward.

How does that make you feel? Grasshopperish?

People are small. And God is big. That’s the truth. Trust Him.

Don’t be like these people who are planning a retreat!

When they said, “Let’s retreat,” Moses hit the deck. V.5

“Then Moses and Aaron fell facedown in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there.” They are afraid of what is going to happen next.

And Joshua and Caleb stand up. There are 2 of the 12 spies that have faith. V.6

“Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes [mourning this lack of faith] and said to the entire Israelite assembly, ‘The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them.’”

These guys can see it!

They can see God!

Their perspective is not inverted. It’s right side up.

“If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the LORD ...The LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them.’”

V.10 “But the whole assembly talked about stoning them.”

This is where it sunk to.

All of those months of preparation down the drain.

They talked about stoning the people who had faith in God!

And that put them in a dangerous position.

#2. UNBELIEF INVITES THE WRATH OF GOD. V.10

“Then the glory of the LORD appeared at the Tent of Meeting to all the Israelites. The LORD said to Moses, ‘How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me [UNBELIEF!], in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them? I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you into a nation greater and stronger than they.’”

God doesn’t get much angrier than this with His covenant people.

He points out their unbelief. “They refuse to believe in me.”

And He says that that is treating Him with contempt.

And He threatens to wipe them all out and start again with Moses.

Unbelief like this invites the wrath of God.

God requires that we trust Him.

He is infinitely trustworthy! And when we tell Him that we don’t trust Him, we diminish His glory and hold Him in contempt.

And it invites the hot wrath of God.

But Moses intercedes.

Just like he did back at the end of Exodus with the golden calf incident, Moses intercedes.

I believe that God wanted him to. The reason he said vv.11&12 to Moses was to cue up Moses’ intercession.

And Moses spoke up using the thing that God cares about most: His name. V.13

“Moses said to the LORD, ‘Then the Egyptians will hear about it! By your power you brought these people up from among them. And they will tell the inhabitants of this land about it. They have already heard that you, O LORD, are with these people and that you, O LORD, have been seen face to face, that your cloud stays over them, and that you go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. If you put these people to death all at one time, the nations who have heard this report about you will say, 'The LORD was not able to bring these people into the land he promised them on oath; so he slaughtered them in the desert.' Now may the Lord's strength be displayed, just as you have declared: 'The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.' In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now.’”

And this intercession is successful, to a point. V.20

“The LORD replied, ‘I have forgiven them, as you asked. Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the LORD fills the whole earth, not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times–not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it.”

There is gracious pardon but there is also terrible judgment. V.24

“But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it. Since the Amalekites and Canaanites are living in the valleys, turn back tomorrow and set out toward the desert along the route to the Red Sea.’”

Back to the sands. No Promised Land for you yet. More, v.26:

“The LORD said to Moses and Aaron: ‘How long will this wicked community grumble against me? I have heard the complaints of these grumbling Israelites. So tell them, 'As surely as I live, declares the LORD, I will do to you the very things I heard you say: In this desert your bodies will fall–every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me. Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. As for your children that you said would be taken as plunder, I will bring them in to enjoy the land you have rejected. But you–your bodies will fall in this desert. Your children will be shepherds here for forty years, suffering for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies lies in the desert. For forty years–one year for each of the forty days you explored the land–you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you. I, the LORD, have spoken, and I will surely do these things to this whole wicked community, which has banded together against me. They will meet their end in this desert; here they will die.’”

Do you see why this is the lowest low point in the whole Pentateuch?

Do you remember when I had all of the men stand who were 20 years old and able to fight? 603,550 fighting Israelites.

They all were going to die. In the next 40 years, they were all going to die.

If you are a boy 19 years or younger, please stand.

This is all that would be left. These and the ones to be born in the next 20 years.

[You may be seated.]

A whole generation would be lost. All of those preparations for nothing.

All because of unbelief.

Unbelief invites the wrath of God: with disobedience comes danger.

God’s judgment is 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.

One year for each day that the faithless explorers walked through the land.

And they all died immediately. V.36

“So the men Moses had sent to explore the land, who returned and made the whole community grumble against him by spreading a bad report about it–these men responsible for spreading the bad report about the land were struck down and died of a plague before the LORD. Of the men who went to explore the land, only Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh survived.”

And the people still didn’t get it. V.39

“When Moses reported this to all the Israelites, they mourned bitterly. Early the next morning they went up toward the high hill country. ‘We have sinned,’ they said. ‘We will go up to the place the LORD promised.’ [No, no, no, no! Too late!] But Moses said, ‘Why are you disobeying the LORD's command? This will not succeed! Do not go up, because the LORD is not with you. You will be defeated by your enemies, for the Amalekites and Canaanites will face you there. Because you have turned away from the LORD, he will not be with you and you will fall by the sword.’ Nevertheless, in their presumption [and I would add: half-hearted repentance] they went up toward the high hill country, though neither Moses nor the ark of the LORD's covenant moved from the camp. Then the Amalekites and Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and attacked them and beat them down all the way to Hormah.”

Defeat. “The LORD is not with you.”

I think those are the scariest words that I could ever hear: “The LORD will be against you.”

They were alone.

When they went into battle, they were alone.

Now you want to do battle with the Canaanites?

You thought you were a grasshopper before?

God is not with you.

Unbelief Inverts My Perspective.
And Unbelief Invites the Wrath of God.

The rest of the Bible refers back to this Retreat of Unbelief again and again and again.

The biggest is in Hebrews chapters 3 and 4.

I recommend that you read it this week as you think back over this sermon.

The writer to the Hebrews tells his modern day audience, “Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, 'Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.' So I declared on oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my rest.'" See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.”

And that’s what God is saying to us today.

“See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.”

Don’t turn away. Don’t harden your heart to God.

Trust God. See Him as big. And see Him as your Savior through Jesus.

Because #3. UNBELIEF INDICATES MY NEED OF JESUS.

We have all been unbelievers.

And we have all stood under the wrath of God.

But Jesus has made intercession for us.

Like Moses! But even better.

Moses could only plead God’s name to Him.

Jesus is God’s name!

And He succeeded where Israel failed.

Do you remember His temptation in the wilderness?

How many days was Jesus in the wilderness tempted by Satan?

40 days and 40 nights. Do you think that was just a coincidence?

40 days in the wilderness.

Israel failed their test in the wilderness.

But Jesus passed His. He perfectly believed God!

And on the Cross, He gave us His passing grade.

If left to our own devices, we’d all be lost in our unbelief.

But Jesus passed the test, and He gives us His righteousness through His sacrificial death on the Cross.

The Retreat of Unbelief was undone by the Lord of the Cross who did not shrink back from complete obedience and faith.

Trust in Jesus.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Hard to Get There from Here

A friend of mine sent me these google maps directions from New York to London.

Step #23 is the doozey!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Smiley Faces!




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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Matt's Messages - New Life

“New Life”
April 8, 2007
Resurrection Sunday
Romans 6:1-14

Christ is Risen!
He is Risen Indeed!

Jesus Christ didn’t stay dead.

Oh yes, He was crucified. He was murdered. He was killed. He was dead. Flatlined. No brain-waves. No breathing. No heartbeats.

He died on the Cross. And He was buried. He was placed in the tomb.

But, as we have sung this morning with all our hearts and lungs, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.”

Jesus Christ didn’t stay dead.

He was resurrected–to a new life.

And that’s what I want to talk about today. “New Life.”

Jesus’ New Life and Ours.

In just a few minutes, we’re going to witness the baptisms of Rusty & Chris Maines.

And I’m so excited! There is no better day to do baptisms than Resurrection Sunday.

You know why? Because every baptism is what I call a “mini-resurrection.”

A miniature resurrection.

As Rusty and Chris go down into the waters, they are symbolizing and signifying death and burial. And as they come up out of the waters, they are symbolizing and signifying resurrection and new life!

And there is no better place in the Bible to see this than Romans chapter 6.

“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin–because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.”

There are way too many details in Romans 6 for me to explain them all. I could preach for a year on the wondrous truths of Romans 6 through 8, and someday, Lord-willing, I will. But I don’t have time this morning to show you even half of what is here.

Instead, I want to point out three simple life-changing things that this passage teaches us that directly relate to baptism, resurrection, and new life.

And then I want to briefly apply these truths to our lives.

These points are so simple, I don’t need the overhead this morning. You’ll pick them up very easily.

#1. If you are a faith-follower of Jesus Christ, you have died.

If you are taking notes this morning, you might want to write down “Truth #1. I have died.”

Did you hear all of the DEATH in these verses?

V.3 “All of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?”
V.4 “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death...”
V.5 “We have been united with him like this in his death...”
V.6 “We know that our old self was crucified with him...”

If you are a faith-follower of Jesus Christ, you have died.

That’s what baptism signifies–being united with Jesus in His death.

When Jesus died, you and I died, too.

Somehow, mysteriously, because of the power of God, when Jesus died, you and I died, too.

V.5 “We have been united with him like this in his death...”

For those of us here who have put their faith in Jesus and Jesus alone, we have been united to Jesus and therefore we have died with Him.

Died in what way?

The key way that Paul is pointing out here is died to sin.

We have died to the penalty and enslaving power of sin.

If we have been united to Jesus, then the penalty that our sin deserves has been paid for in His death.

And more than that, the enslaving power of sin has been broken, as well–decisively!

Dead men don’t sin. V.7 “Anyone who has died has been freed from sin.”

And that’s what we are in Christ, dead people.

You have died.

When Rusty and Chris go down under the water, they are proclaiming that they have been “baptized into His death.”

You have died.

But just as that was not the end of the story for Jesus, it’s not the end of the story for us, either.

Truth #2. If you are a faith-follower of Jesus Christ, you have a new life!

If you’re taking notes this morning, you might want to write down “Truth #2. I have a new life!”

We’re not going to keep Rusty and Chris under the water.

We’re going to bring them up out of the water symbolizing resurrection and new life.

That’s in this passage, as well.

V.4 again. “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. [King James, “walk in newness of life.”]

If you are a faith-follower of Jesus Christ, you have a new life.

2 Corinthians 5:17 “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

You have a new life.

You didn’t just die with Christ, you came to life with Christ, too.

You aren’t the same person you were before you were united to Jesus.

You’ve been given a new life.

A new life that is no longer characterized by enslavement to sin–doing whatever sin says to do.

But a new life that is like Jesus’ life. A life of righteousness, of living the right way, God’s way. A life lived for God.

You have a new life.

I know it doesn’t always feel that way. Verse 11 tells us that we have to remind ourselves that this is the truth, “Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

But this is the deepest truth about us who are believers in Jesus Christ and is symbolized and signified in our baptisms–we have a new life!

Does it get any better than that?

Actually, it does!

Because the new life that we experience now is just a down-payment on the new life that is coming for us when Jesus Christ returns.

Truth #3. If you are a faith-follower of Jesus Christ, you will live forever!

If you’re taking notes, you might want to write down “Truth #3. I will live forever!”

This truth is found in the future tense of both verse 5 and verse 8.

Verse 5. “If we have [past tense] been united with him like this in his death, we will [future tense] certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.”

Verse 8. “Now if we died with Christ [past tense], we believe that we will also live with him [future tense].”

Paul is not only talking about a new way of living–a righteous way of living, but a new body to live in.

Did you know that you have a new body “on order?”

Jesus was resurrected into a new body with indestructible properties.

It was the same body He died in, but it was also new.

And the Bible promises His faith-followers, new bodies like His.

Philippians 3:20–“We eagerly await a Savior from [heaven], the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”

If you are a faith-follower of Jesus Christ, you don’t just have new life, you will live your new life–forever!

V.5 “If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.”

What a glorious truth!

On Resurrection Sunday, we have to remind ourselves that we have a resurrection coming for us!

Death was not the end for Jesus, and it won’t be the end for us, either!

Truth #1. You have died.
Truth #2. You have a new life!
Truth #3. You will live forever!

And baptism symbolizes and signifies these wonderful truths.

Let me suggest 4 simple and direct points of application.

#1. Get Saved.

Because all three of these truths are not yours if you are not united to Jesus.

You have not died.
You do not have a new life.
You will not live that new life in a body like Jesus’ forever.

You must be saved.

And the way to be saved, the way to die and be given new life and be promised a new life forever is to trust in Jesus Christ and Him alone.

The rest of the book of Romans (and the rest of the Bible) says that salvation is by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.

Paul says it very succinctly in Ephesians 2:8&9: “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Baptism does not save. It symbolizes and signifies what does save.

Jesus saves, and we trust Him to do it.

Are you saved?

Do you know it 100% for sure?

Do you know that you have died with Christ and been given a new life?

I challenge you right now, right here to make sure you are right with God.

Jesus Christ died on the Cross to save sinners, and He invites you to put your faith and trust in Him and Him alone to save you.

You must turn from your own way of doing things and trust in Him and what He did on the Cross.

If that is the desire of your heart, then tell Him.

Tell Him that you are a sinner needing saving and you are trusting in Him.

Tell Him that you want to receive Him as your Rescuer and King and want to begin following Him by faith.

Tell Him that you want to have died with Him to sin and have a new life that is lived to God.

And tell Him that you want to live with Him forever in a body like His.

...And He will not turn you down!

Get saved. I challenge you today, right now, right here to make sure that you are right with God.

#2. Get Baptized.

If you haven’t already, as a believer, I challenge you to get baptized.

Notice that Paul just expects that everyone who is a believer at Rome has been baptized!

His whole argument about their new life hinges on the fact that they’ve been baptized!

Now, don’t get baptized to get saved. It doesn’t work that way!

Baptism is an outward sign of an inward reality.

Putting on the outward sign doesn’t create the inward reality.

But if you have the inward reality, you ought to put on the outward sign.

Have you been “buried with [Christ Jesus] through baptism into death?”

My guess is that there are a number of people here who profess faith in Christ, but haven’t yet been obedient to follow Him in believer’s baptism.

And you know who you are.
What are you waiting for?

If you are saved, get baptized.

Baptism, in our culture right now, isn’t seen as a big deal.

But it was in the early church.

Timothy George writes this in the book, The Mark of Jesus:
“Baptism...involved a decisive transition from an old way of human life to a new and different way. Baptism was an act of radical obedience in which a specific renunciation was made and a specific promise was given. The renunciation part, the act of publically saying, ‘No!’ became prominent in the baptismal liturgy of the early church, as we read in documents from the late second century such as Terullian’s On Baptism and Hyipplytus’s Apostolic Tradition. From these sources we learn that baptism was often done on Easter eve, following a period of intensive preparation that included fasting, prayer, and the reading of Scripture. When at last the time for baptism itself arrived, the candidate would be called upon to renounce the Devil and all his pomp. Facing westward, the direction in which the sun went down, he would exclaim, ‘I renounce thee, O Satan, and all they works!’ Then he would deliberately spit three times in the direction of darkness, signifying a complete break with the power of evil and all their former claim on his life. Next, turning towards the sunrise, he would say, ‘And I embrace Thee, O Lord Jesus Christ!’ This would be followed by immersion three times in the name of the triune God, the receiving of a new robe, anointing with oil, laying on of hands, and participating in the Lord’s Supper. Baptism was not a private ritual to be performed in secret. It was a public confession of allegiance to Jesus Christ” (The Mark of Jesus, pg. 33-34).

If you haven’t already, as a believer, I challenge you, too, to spit in Satan’s face and get baptized.

Application #3. Live a New Life.

That’s Paul’s major application in this passage.

He teaching them all of this to help them to live godly lives that are different from the lives that they lived before.

There were some people who thought that if Jesus saves by grace through faith, then you might as well sin some more so that grace would increase even more.

But Paul says, “May it never be!” You can’t do that! You have been united to Jesus, have died, and have a new life. You can’t live your old life now!

So he says, V.11, “Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

V.12 “Do not let sin reign in your mortal bodies so that you obey its evil desires.”

V.13 “Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought (as baptism symbolizes) from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.”

What he’s saying is basically, “Be what you are.”

Live out your new life.

You have a new life–live it!

As you know, Blair as been discipling Rusty.

And one of the things that he tells him when Rusty tells him what he used to do and how he used to act which we’ll hear about in a little bit is, “Well, that was the old Rusty. This is the new Rusty.”

And that’s right.

That was the old Chris. And this is the new Chris.

That was the old Matt. And this is the new Matt.

Turn to the person next to you and say, “You’re talking to the new me.”

You have a new life–live it!

Change is possible because you are united to Christ.

Recently, I have been convicted of having given up on my battle with gluttony.

As I have said before, I have an “extra-plate addiction.”

And recently, a few of my closest friends have been confronting me on that problem.

And I have [in my head, not out loud!] said, “Well, that’s seems to be just who I am, I can’t change.”

But that is not true, is it?

That’s not what my baptism says!

I have died.
I have a new life in Christ!

I can change.

I can “not let sin reign in my mortal body so that I obey its’ evil desires.” Sin is not my master. I can live a new life.

What area of your life needs to change because you have a new life?

Your baptism says that you can change.

You have a new life–live it!

And #4. Look Forward to Life Forever.

Get Saved.
Get Baptized.
Live A New Life.
And Look Forward to Life Forever.

Because this life is not all there is.

There is a whole other life to come.

Resurrection is on the way!

And faith-followers of Jesus Christ don’t live for today.
We don’t live for tomorrow.
We live for That Day!

Paul says in the Resurrection Chapter of 1 Corinthians 15:

“Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed–in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

Look Forward to Life Forever.

That’s what your baptism says.

Romans 6:4&5–“We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.”

Friday, April 06, 2007

Suffering Servant

Carolyn McCulley (and Joni Tada & Steve Estes) on what Jesus suffered for us on Good Friday.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Don't Stop Now

My buddy Dan Ledford encourages his congregation in where they've come from and where they're going.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Pastors Edify

From Thabiti today.

And how soon we forget that! As we used to say in Bible college, "Edify, Stupid!"

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

No More "If Only"

From Paul Tripp (part of a series our sin from Psalm 51)

Monday, April 02, 2007

On The Death of Jesus Christ

My wife's doctor gave us this amazing article from the Journal of the American Medical Association many years ago. Very sobering to think about what was going on physically in the crucifixion.

Even more sobering is to consider what was happening spiritually.

For Jesus to yell, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

What must he have gone through...for me?

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Matt's Messages - What's So Good About Good Friday?

“What’s So Good About Good Friday?”
April 1, 2007
John 19:16-42

Today is Palm Sunday, and next Sunday is Resurrection Sunday.

Palm Sunday reminds us of the Triumphal Entry of Jesus as King into Jerusalem which we’ve sung about this morning (and He’s a king like no other – riding in on a donkey!), and Resurrection Sunday is the day when we celebrate [big time!] Jesus rising from the dead. And we’re going to celebrate it next Sunday with some baptisms (some mini-resurrections).

The Friday between Palm Sunday and Resurrection Sunday is often called “Good Friday.”

This is the day that we remember the crucifixion. The day when Jesus died on the Cross.

We don’t normally have a Good Friday service at this church, so I want to take some time today to think about Good Friday.

And here’s my question: “What’s So Good About Good Friday?”

I mean, after all, this is the day that our Lord was killed!

Good Friday was the day that the most wicked act in all of human history was committed.

More wicked than the Nazi Holocaust.

More wicked than Cambodia’s Killing Fields.

More wicked than September 11, 2001.

More wicked than the Fall of Man in Genesis 3!

A perfectly innocent man was murdered on Good Friday. How is that good?

What’s So Good About Good Friday?

John chapter 19 tells the story of Jesus’ crucifixion and of some of the things that happened that day.

And while many of them were EVIL with a capital E-V-I-L, God had good plans for each of them. And we benefit from them today. They are good for us.

John 19 tells the Good News about Good Friday.

The Good News begins with bad news. V.17

“So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). Here they crucified him, and with him two others–one on each side and Jesus in the middle.”

For any Christian, these words are terrible to read. Roman soldiers made Jesus, as was the custom, carry the cross-piece, the horizontal bar across his scourged back out of the city to a place called the Skull–what the Hebrews called Golgotha (or what we call (from the Latin) Calvary). At the place called the Skull were probably 3 or more wooden posts pitched vertically from the ground.

And our Lord Jesus, and two other men, whom we know (from the other gospels) were thieves and robbers deserving of this death, the Lord Jesus and these two men were laid down on the ground on top of their cross-beams and nails were pounded into their wrists to attach them to the cross-pieces. And then the cross-beams were lifted up onto the stake-poles and fastened. And then, nails were driven into their feet to attach them to the stakes. And then, they hung there and died.

One scholar writes, “the victim could hang in the hot sun for hours, even days. To breathe, it was necessary to push with the legs and pull with the arms to keep the chest cavity open and functioning. Terrible muscle spasms wracked the entire body; but since collapse meant asphyxiation, the strain went on and on” (Carson, 610).

That's what it means in v.18 when it says that they crucified him.

We’re used to crosses being decorations. We wear them around our necks and put them on our church walls.

But the cross was a cruel instrument of torture and death. And sometimes we need to take some time to think about it.

“They crucified him.”

What’s so good about that?

Let me tell you one. #1. JESUS WAS PROCLAIMED THE KING. V.19.

“Pilate [the Roman governor] had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross [the word “cross” appears again and again in this chapter. And we should wince every time it is mentioned]. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, ‘Do not write 'The King of the Jews,' but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.’ Pilate answered, ‘What I have written, I have written.’”

Pilate was a loser. He wasn't able to say “no” to the Jewish leaders who wanted to kill Jesus, he didn't have the guts to let him go free, and he refused to consider Jesus' claims to true kingship (read chapters 18 and 19). But, out of spite for the Jews, he had this placard made to hang above Jesus' head. The Jews hated it, but Pilate, out of scorn, would not change it. It read very simply, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”

Pilate meant it as an insult. But he couldn't have been more right. As hundreds of Jews walked the road into and out of Jerusalem that day, they read that sign. A proclamation of his kingship, of his Messiahship, the fulfillment of all the Old Testament promises of an anointed leader who would lead the Jews out of bondage and into freedom. A sign that proclaimed the king.

It was written in 3 languages: Aramaic (the common language of the Jews of that day), Latin (the official language of Roman law), and Greek (the trade language that allowed everyone in the Western world to speak with one-another). There was no mistaking what was being proclaimed here. Jesus of Nazareth is the King of the Jews!

Jesus Was Proclaimed the King!

Now, you say, “Pastor Matt, that's not what they saw.” And you're right. But it was there! Jesus was reigning as King of the Universe on that tree. He was winning a people for himself–a kingdom unlike any other kingdom there ever was or ever will be.

Colossians 2:15 puts it this way, “...having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”

And that notice hung above his head was the universal proclamation of his kingship. Just as he said, he died. He was lifted up. But his shame was to be his glory. He reigned from the tree!

I know it doesn’t seem like it.

Heather and I went to see the high school musical on Friday. A lot of very talented West Branch kids doing the West Side Story.

There was a line it that really caught my attention. Nearly everybody was getting killed in various rumbles and doing awful things.

And one of the better characters said this to a gang member. “You make this world lousy!” To which the kid replies, “That’s the way we found it.”

This world is lousy was the message.

This world is messed up and broken.

It needs a king to set it right.

Well, that King has come. And the world put Him to death.

But in that death, He was reigning.

And one day! One day, coming soon, He will set it all right. And it won’t be lousy again.

One day that proclamation of the Kingship of Jesus that Pilate started will be universal–“at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil. 2:10-11a)!

Just like the sign above his head on Good Friday. Jesus of Nazareth–The King of the Jews.

Jesus was Proclaimed the King.

Believe in His Kingship. And look for the day when He will return.

#2. JESUS FULFILLED PROPHETIC SCRIPTURE.

What’s so good about Good Friday?

Jesus fulfilled prophetic scripture. Verse 23.

“When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. ‘Let's not tear it,’ they said to one another. ‘Let's decide by lot who will get it.’ This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said, ‘They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.’ So this is what the soldiers did.”

Don't lose the horror of this.

While Jesus was beaten to a pulp and hanging basically naked on a Cross, suffering for breath with nails through his hands, the soldiers are playing a game of dice for his clothes.

It appears that there were four of them entrusted with the job of executing these prisoners. And it was the privilege of the executioners to possess the clothes of the doomed. One got his belt, one his sandals, one his head covering, and one his outer robe. That left only his inner garment or tunic. This was too valuable to just cut up because it was woven in one piece, possibly by Jesus' own mother who was standing nearby. So they played a game of chance to see who would walk away with his tunic.

Cruel and heartless, was it not?

But underneath and behind their actions was the fulfillment of the words of David in Psalm 22:18, “They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.”

John saw here nothing less than the fulfillment of the Scriptures! What God had said would happen to Great David's Greater Son the Messiah came to be. The soldiers meant it for evil, but God was fulfilling his Scripture through them–for our good.

There is more. Skip down to v.28.

“Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips.”

The soldiers unwittingly fulfilled Scripture. But v.28 says that Jesus knew that He was fulfilling all the Old Testament Scriptures of a suffering Messiah. He even asked for something to drink and was given wine vinegar, a common sour wine to fulfill David's words in Psalm 69:21, “They gave me vinegar for my thirst.”

What was happening here? Was Jesus just parched?

Of course he was thirsty, he was dying in the noon-day heat and struggling against asphyxiation. But more than that, he was being the perfect fulfillment of the promises of a Suffering Servant who would save his people from their sins by going through great torture and humiliation.

And that's good news. Because if God could not keep his promises in little things like gambling for clothes and drinking vinegar-wine, then we could not trust Him to keep His promises in the big things: like our forgiveness, and the Holy Spirit, and answered prayer, and turning all things for our good, and graciously giving us all things, and never leaving us or forsaking us, or resurrecting our bodies to enjoy him forever.

You and I can trust God to keep His promises because in Jesus' death we see the perfect fulfillment of the Scriptures.

And there is more.

After He died. Skip down to v.31.

“Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. [He was totally dead.] The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. [John wants you to believe!] These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: ‘Not one of his bones will be broken,’ and, as another scripture says, ‘They will look on the one they have pierced.’”

Even in His death, Jesus was fulfilling prophetic scripture.

Here we have Psalm 34:20 about His unbroken bones (which we’ve seen again the book of Numbers!) and Zechariah 12:10, “They will look on the one they have pierced.”

Even in His death, Jesus was fulfilling prophetic scripture.

And John writes it here so that (v.35), “you may believe.”

Do you believe God’s Word?

Do you trust in His promises?

The men have been studying 2 Peter. And in chapter 1 of that book, Peter makes this bold claim: God’s divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness. How? Through our knowledge of him who called us by His own glory and goodness. And through these, He has given us His very great and precious promises.

And He keeps every one of them!

Jesus fulfilled prophetic scripture.

Believe Him for His promises.

Here’s one of His promises. “Cast your cares on Him because He cares for you.”

And that’s illustrated here by #3. JESUS CARED FOR HIS PEOPLE.

Go back up to verse 25. After they cast lots for His clothing. V.25

“Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother [that should make us think, huh? Imagine watching the bloody execution of your son!], his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Dear woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.”

Jesus is in utter agony right now, but there is still a tender moment at the Cross.

Not only were there four hardened soldiers at the Cross, but according to John, there were also at least four loving ladies there, too. Three Mary's and one sister: Mary the mother of Jesus, her sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary from the city of Magdala, (that is Mary Magdalene).

The disciple whom Jesus loved was standing nearby, too. I think that is probably John, our Gospel-writer. And Jesus, between excruciating breaths, gives Mary to John and John to Mary. There is a little, informal adoption going on here. Jesus was making sure that Mary was going to be cared for. None of his natural brothers were yet his disciples, and so, Jesus made sure that Mary had someone to look after her. And vice-versa, too. Jesus was giving someone else to John to love him, to be a loving companion, and care-giver. “Here is your mother,” he said to John. And John took that responsibility to heart.

What I see here is the loving care of Jesus for his people.

He could be thinking just about himself–He’s going through torture! More than just the physical, the weight of the sin of the world was on His shoulders! But even with His last dying breath, He is caring for the needs of those who belong to him.

That's good news isn't it? Because He isn't suffering now at the right hand of the Majesty on High, and so now we can be assured that He will take care of those of us who believe on Him.

My logic is this: If Jesus took care of His own at the darkest hour of His life, how will He not also, take care of us now that He has been restored to the glory that He had before the foundation of the Earth? He will!

Jesus Cares for His People.

So, cast your cares on Him because He cares for you.

Are you worrying about something right now?

Cast it on Him!

#4. JESUS PAID THE FULL PENALTY FOR SIN. Look at v.30.

“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

Jesus died with a loud cry. In Greek, it is just one word, Tetelestai, "It is Finished!" or "It is Accomplished!"

This was not a shout of desperation. It was not “I am finished.”

No, it was a cry of triumph and victory, “It is finished!”

What Jesus was saying was that His redemptive, saving work on the Cross had been accomplished. He had brought the Father glory by doing the work He gave him to do. He had made the Father known. He had fulfilled all the prophecies in Scripture about His death. He had born the sins of the world on His shoulders. He had been the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. His work was accomplished. Sin had been dealt with. The wages of sin is death, and Jesus had paid the wages in full–for all who put their faith in Him.

Peter put it this way, “Christ died for sins once for all (it is finished!), the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18).

Paul said it this way, “God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Jesus said in Mark 10:45 that He came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. He paid the ransom. He took the Father's wrath.

It is finished. The full payment for our sins was accomplished by His death on our behalf.

There is nothing more that we can do or could add to pay for our salvation.

The debt is paid for. We can be forgiven! It is finished!

Have you put your trust in the finished work of Christ? And the finished work of Christ alone?

You can’t pay the penalty for your own sins.

You can’t work it off.

You can’t deserve it.

But if you trust Jesus and Jesus alone: It is finished FOR YOU!

Jesus paid the full penalty for sin.

I challenge you, if you have not, today, put your trust in Him and what He did on the Cross–alone.

What’s so good about Good Friday?

The good news! The glorious gospel of grace!

Put your faith in Jesus and Jesus alone.

With His last dying breath, He proclaimed the Good News: It is finished!

So proclaim the good news!

I want to you show one last thing.

In His death on Good Friday, Jesus was inspiring bold witness.

#5. JESUS INSPIRED BOLD WITNESS. V.38

“Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate's permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus' body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.”

And we’ll get the rest of the story next Sunday.

But I want to you to think about these two guys for a second.

First, there was a man named Joe, and his hometown was called Arimathea. And at some point, Joe had come to believe that Jesus was the Christ, but until this day, he had not done a thing about it in public, where it counts. Joe was a secret disciple (which is really no disciple at all!). Though a wealthy man, he was afraid of the Jewish religious leaders and what they would say and what they would do to him if he came out for Christ and stood for Jesus.

But now, God worked in his heart to be bold. The Gospel of Mark tells us that Joe boldly approached Governor Pilate and asked for permission to bury Jesus. Normally, crucified man would get tossed with a bunch of bodies in a shallow common grave, if they got buried at all. But Joe boldly approached Pilate for permission to give him a proper Jewish burial.

Think about that. This man, Jesus, was just convicted of treason and hung on a Cross. And Joe was publically identifying himself with that convicted, executed prisoner. It would gain him nothing in the eyes of men, except scorn and possibly the same fate, if he was judged to be a partner with Jesus in the rebellion. But boldly, he identified with Jesus in his death. Jesus was inspiring bold witness.

And Joe wasn't all. There was also this man named, Nick.

Jesus was placed, somewhat hurriedly (because the sun was going down) in a new tomb in a nearby garden, a place that everyone knew. [Which puts away all of the theories of that Jesus Family Tomb nonsense, of course.]

And Jesus was buried by Joe and Nick.

You remember, Nick, the Jewish Religious Leader and Teacher. In John 3, Nick came to Jesus at night time [Nick at Nite], probably so that the other Jewish Religious Leaders would not know that Nick was interested in Jesus. He was afraid of them.

And on that night, Nick learned about the kingdom of God and how you must be born again to enter it. And how you must your faith in the Son of God who was given by God the Father because he so loved the world, and that the Son of Man would be lifted up that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life (John 3:3, 16, 15).

And at some point, it seems that the fear of Nicodemus turned to faith. Because now, at Jesus' death, he is boldly helping Joseph of Arimathea take the body down and wrap the lifeless corpse of our Savior in strips of linen, laden with the Jewish burial perfumes of myrrh and aloe.

Why do I say that his fear had turned to faith? Not only because he was burying a convicted criminal and sure to be, at best, ridiculed, and at worst, tried for treason himself. But also, because of the amazing amount of costly perfume that he brought.

In Greek measurements, it’s 100 litrai, which is about 75 pounds. He must have had servants along to carry all of that and help with the body! That was a weight of perfume reserved for royalty. A great Rabbi (Rabbi Gamaliel) was once perfumed at his burial with 80 litrai. This was 100 litrai! This was an embalming fit for a king!

Nicodemus had come to recognize the (#1) Kingship of Jesus, and he treated Him even in his death as a great King! His fear of the Jews had turned to faith in Jesus, and publically, he was showing it by putting his money where his mouth was, his wealth where his faith was.

Even in his death, Jesus was inspiring bold witness. These men were risking their money, their reputations, and their lives for King Jesus.

What about us?

What are we risking for King Jesus?

Are you a “secret disciple?” Which is really no disciple at all?

Or are you bold in witnessing to King Jesus?

It should be easier for us! Because we know that He came back to life!

What about us?

Are we only coming to Jesus at night (maybe just on Sunday mornings and not all week.)?

Do our neighbors know, do our co-workers know, does our family know that we believe that Jesus is the King and that “It is finished?”

Can they tell by what we sacrifice and risk for Jesus: our wealth, our reputation, our lives?

Are you a bold witness for Jesus? Am I? Or are we too afraid?

Next Sunday, Rusty and Chris Maines are going to stand up and give their testimonies.

And then they’re going to come back here and get dunked.

That takes some guts. They are going to run a risk.

But what’s so good about Good Friday is the Good News of Jesus Christ!

And He is worth it!

Who do you need to tell this week?

Tell everybody you can – without fear!

Tell them:

1. Jesus Was Proclaimed the King of All.

- Believe in His Kingship! It’s coming!

Tell them:

2. Jesus Fulfilled Prophetic Scripture

- Believe in God’s Promises! They are great and precious and sure.

Tell them:

3. Jesus Cared for His People. He was carrying the weight of the world, and He still took time to care for the temporal needs of His people.

- Cast Your Cares On Him!

Tell them:

4. Jesus Paid the Full Penalty for Sin.

- Trust in the Finished Work of Christ Alone.

Tell them:

5. Jesus Inspired Bold Witness. You’re not going to be a secret disciple any more.

- Tell Everybody You Can - Without Fear!

What’s so good about Good Friday? The Good News of Jesus Christ.