Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day, "the blessing"

Genesis 28:3 – 4

“The blessing”


Abraham may have been the “father of faith” but he left behind a conflicted family.  Even today, the world’s oldest civil war (Israel v Palestinians) comes from this conflict.  Isaac seeks to preserve the spiritual heritage of Abraham by passing on his blessing.


Between Isaac’s sons looms a dark sibling rivalry that has deepened from the one he’s experienced from his brother.  Even before birth the brothers have competed.  At one point the elder brother has sold his birthright to the younger brother.  This resulted in bitterness between them.


Isaac remembers the hostility from his family.  As his days near an end, he decides to settle the matter between his sons and pass on to them his blessing.  Unfortunately for him and his family, he as played favorites (which is a family curse), and intends to give his blessing according to his desires.


Into this father son conflict, comes a word of wisdom from the son’s mother.  It may seem like she is scheming but she does have a prophecy from the Lord that the older would serve the younger.


What is happening and why?  Let’s take a look at the story…


I.          God blessed Abraham.


A.        God intended something special to happen through Abraham.


1.         I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, [18] and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” [Genesis 22:17 – 18]


2.         This was to be a generational promise.  That would be the foundation for salvation offered through Jesus.


B.        This blessing is inherited spiritually.


1.         “He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” [Galatians 3:14]


2.         The Bible does not record Abraham personally handing this down to Isaac.  (It doesn’t mean he did not, but the omission is glaring.)


3.         Isaac’s blessing is handed down personally… (it’s different than Abraham’s blessing)


II.        God blessed Isaac.


            A.        “After Abraham's death, God blessed his son Isaac…” [Genesis 25:11a]


1.         God is said to have blessed people regularly. (Adam and Eve, Noah and his sons, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob… it’s a running thread in Genesis)


2.         This one is special because it distinguished between Ishmael and Isaac.


            B.         It may have been the regular practice of families to bless their children.


1.         “And they blessed Rebekah and said to her, "Our sister, may you increase to thousands upon thousands; may your offspring possess the gates of their enemies.” [Genesis 24:60]  (Laben blessed his daughters and grandchildren in Genesis 31:55)


2.         Notice the “formula” used in this family: many children and victory over enemies.


III.       The conflict between Jacob and Esau comes to an ugly episode.  [Genesis 27]


            A.        Isaac creates the confusion with his request.


1.         “Prepare me the kind of tasty food I like and bring it to me to eat, so that I may give you my blessing before I die." [5] Now Rebekah was listening as Isaac spoke to his son Esau. When Esau left for the open country to hunt game and bring it back, [6] Rebekah said to her son Jacob, "Look, I overheard your father say to your brother Esau.” [27:4 – 6]


a.         Certainly Isaac knew what God had told Rebekah about the two.


“The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, "Why is this happening to me?" So she went to inquire of the LORD.  [23] The LORD said to her, "Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.” [Genesis 25:23]


b.         It seemed like Isaac was not listening to God… and had determined to bless Esau.


However, God had another idea: “Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad--in order that God's purpose in election might stand: [12] not by works but by him who calls--she was told, "The older will serve the younger." [13] Just as it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” [Romans 9:11 – 13]


2.         Rebekah gives Jacob this advice: “Now, my son, listen carefully and do what I tell you: [9] Go out to the flock and bring me two choice young goats, so I can prepare some tasty food for your father, just the way he likes it. [10] Then take it to your father to eat, so that he may give you his blessing before he dies.” [27:8 – 10]


a.         Rebekah has a plan.  (It is AMAZING she would think of this so quickly or stick so close to Isaac to know the exact moment he intended to pass down the blessing!)


b.         Rebekah’s details include her fixing the food the way Isaac liked, taking Esau’s best clothing, and covering his hands and neck with goat skin.  (Notice this meal included bread. Esau’s did not…)


            B.        Esau regrets his previous actions.


1.         “After Isaac finished blessing him and Jacob had scarcely left his father's presence, his brother Esau came in from hunting. . . . When Esau heard his father's words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, "Bless me--me too, my father!" [35] But he said, "Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing." [36] Esau said, "Isn't he rightly named Jacob? He has deceived me these two times: He took my birthright, and now he's taken my blessing!" Then he asked, "Haven't you reserved any blessing for me? [27:30, 34 – 36]


                                    a.         It sounds like Isaac can not change his mind, once given.


b.         However, the New Testament tells another story: “Afterward, as you know, when he (Esau) wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears.” [Hebrews 12:17]  (In other words, Isaac COULD have changed his mind, but did not…)


                        2.         Regret is not repentance or change and the sibling feud deepens.


a.         Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, "The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” [27:41]


b.         Esau becomes the ultimate illustration of “godless,” because he threw away something of eternal value (blessing) for something of this world (food).


“See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son.” [Hebrews 12:16]


IV.       Ultimately Jacob ends up with Abraham’s blessing as well.


A.        Not only does Jacob have Isaac’s blessing but he is also officially given Abraham’s blessing as well.


                        1.         That makes him the “heir” of the promise.


2.         While Esau ended up with the family fortune, Jacob becomes “Israel.”


“What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? [37] Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” [Mark 8:36 – 37]


B.        The bottom line is that the blessing comes from and through a life of faith well lived before our children.


                        1.         You might think you have not accomplished much. 


2.         You feel you are just one link in the chain or a brink in the foundation.


Isaac did not accomplish “much.”  He was not the main character in great faith quests like Abraham, Jacob, or Joseph. 


However, Jacob did do ONE thing that earned him a spot on the list of those who did great things through faith.


By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.” [Hebrews 11:20]


Fathers, if it is the last thing you do… make sure you do this one thing and do it well.  Bless your children.  Point them to faith in Jesus, bless them with the indwelling presence of Jesus, Son of God, Savior!  Very possibly their future and eternal destiny depends on your blessing.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Worthy of the Lord

Colossians 1:1 – 14

“Worthy of the Lord”



I.          Eternal life requires us to respond to God.


            A.        Faith in Jesus Christ. [v 4]


                        1.         Faith is the basis of all action.


“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- [9] not by works, so that no one can boast.” [Ephesians 2:8 – 9]


                        2.         Anything not done in faith is “sin.” 


“…everything that does not come from faith is sin.” [Romans 14:23c]


3.         Faith is the “active ingredient” which is the line between sin and righteousness.


“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” [Hebrews 11:6]


Faith is our response to God is where it all begins and is the foundation for all our life.


            B.        Love for all the saints. [v 4]


                        1.         Christ-like.  (Unconditional, sacrificial, un-offend, brave.)


“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” [1 Peter 2:21]


                        2.         Love is the expression of obedience.


“But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: [6] Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” [1 John 2:5 – 6]


            C.        Hope comes from the gospel. [v 5]


                        1.         The gospel produces transformation.  (produces fruit, growth [v 6])


                        2.         God says that people change.


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


II.        Spiritual growth requires prayer. [v 9]


            A.        For intelligence:


                        1.         [v 6] Wisdom and understanding.


                        2.         [v 9] Knowledge of His will.


                                    a.         “Filled” literally means “to be made complete.”


                                    b.         Knowledge is what God gives us.


                                    c.         “God’s will”  (spiritual wisdom and understanding)


            B.        For sensitivity to God:


1.         [v 10] “Live a life worthy of the Lord.” (holiness, following Jesus example)


                        2.         Please God.


                        3.         Bear fruit.  (fruit of the Holy Spirit, souls saved)


            C.        For strength:


                        1.         [v 11] “strengthened with all power”


                        2.         Exercise is the key to strengthening…


                                    a.         great endurance (only in difficult or trying circumstances.)


b.         patience (only in difficult or trying circumstances.)


c.        joyfully giving thanks to the Father [v 12] (ESPECIALLY in difficult or trying circumstances.)


Joy is the proof of our relationship with God.  Think about it: we have been “qualified” and “share in the inheritance.”


Because we have eternal life, we see spiritual progress.  The progress transforms our loyalties requires God to intervene to rescue us.

III.       Transformed loyalties God’s intervention (sometimes violently). [v 13] 


“But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. [29] "Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man's house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house.” [Matthew 12: 28 – 29]


            A.        Rescued from old structures.


“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.” [Colossians 1:14]


                        1.         The idea of “dominion” is control (authority).


                                    a.         The biblical expression is “slaves to sin.”


                                    b.         Old structures control our thought process.


                        2.         We move from the tyranny of sin to the Lordship of Jesus.


“That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. [10] For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” [Romans 10:9 – 10]


“Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit.” [1 Corinthians 12:3]


            B.        Transferred to new structures.


                        1.         Literally we are MOVED from one kingdom to another.


2.         We have “redemption.” (Bought back)  (Ill. Of Hosea… told to marry an “adulterous wife” as an illustration of Israel’s relationship with God.  Yet God had plans to do whatever was necessary to win His people back.)


                        3.         We have “forgiveness of sins.”


a.         Extreme love means Jesus had to die for our salvation… it was, is, and always will be the ONLY way for us to have forgiveness.


                                    b.         That means that all sorts of NEW things have to happen.


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


“He told them this parable: "No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old.” [Luke 5:34]


To consider:


            1.         Do you believe and trust that Jesus died to provide the ONLY means of

your forgiveness (redemption)?


2.         Has faith changed you, so that you are able to declare (publicly) that Jesus is Lord (of your life and Lord of all)?


            3.         Is your life governed by love for God and others?  (How so?)

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Be holy

1 Peter 1:16

“Be holy”


Since “holiness” is probably the most misunderstood issue in the church… I’m going to cover some things about it this morning.  I will probably offend most of you by countering what you thought you knew about the subject.


In the past there has been poor understanding about holiness because of poor teaching or a need to react to something.  Bad home brewed theology is a serious problem that pushes us into heresy.  Reacting to an issue is a serious problem because it creates the possibility of missing God’s real plan for our lives.


We must understand, God wants us to be holy.  Running from the issue does not help any more than twisting it.  The problem is it has become easier to ignore holiness than deal with it or defend it.


[For the purposes of this sermon: “Holy,” “holiness” and “sanctification” will be used interchangeably. Keith Drury’s 25th edition of “Holiness for ordinary people” has now been published.  Drury is one source for this sermon.]


I.          Impressions:


            A.         Holiness is desired because…


1.         Holiness is commanded in the Bible.  (In fact it is the most frequent commandment.)


                        2.         Holiness is seen as some form of “excellence.”


B. T. Roberts: “If we would attain an excellence we must know what it is.”


3.         Holiness is seen as the standard for a daily “walk.” (Christian life, including habits, language, and mannerisms.)


            B.         Holiness is NOT desired because…


1.         Holiness is seen as the property of a few elite Christians who are possibly “gate keepers.”


2.         Holiness is often misunderstood and historically associated with some wrong ideas.


II.        Historical problems:


            A.         Holiness is confused with false (human) standards.


“For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” [Matthew 5:20]


(The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were the “holiness” people of Jesus day.  Externally it seemed they had everything right.  Internally they had attitudes that the Bible declares as sin.  The most significant was “unbelief.”)


1.         Holiness has been mistaken for the standard of whatever the group thinks as acceptable and unacceptable behavior.


2.        Holiness has been mistaken for the circumstances that caused a special moment in time (such as a revival).  The effect is to try to recreate or return to those circumstances.


            B.         Holiness is confused with imaginary standards.


1.         The idea of “flawless” or “sinless” is often connected with holiness.  (Instead of mature, growing, useful in ministry.)


2.         Drury: “There is no level of spiritual maturity which is impossible to fall into sin.”


a.          Two statements: “It is NOT possible to sin” vs “It is possible to NOT sin.”


b.         The first is not Biblically correct.  The second one expresses the Biblical concept being sanctified (holy).


            C.         Holiness has been associated with things that misdirect us spirituality.


                        1.         Holiness has become a tool to measure (judge or rate) people.


a.          Thus, holiness becomes a tool to impose one person’s convictions on others.


                                    b.         Result is we lose our children. (Drury)


Drury: What God “requires of me, He may not require of you.”  [FACT: this is too messy for comfort!]


                        2.         Holiness has been a weapon to pervert salvation.


                                    a.          “Holy or hell.” (pointed out by Drury)


b.         Perversion comes when we make salvation a result of our effort.  Here is the reasoning:


                                                1.)        God wants me to be holy.


2.)        I am not holy (I still sin) because of resistance to God’s will.


                                                3.)        Resistance displeases God and is therefore sin.


                                                4.)        Sin breaks my fellowship/relationship with God.


5.)        A “broken” relationship with God sends me to hell because God can not look on any unclean/sinful thing (I am unclean because I sin).


                                                6.)        Therefore, I must be holy or I will go to hell.


                        3.         Holiness has become insulation from dealing with the real issue.


                                    1.         We avoid the inward reality by focusing on the external.


                                    2.         Done by exchanging the external for what is real.


“Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” [Matthew 23:26]


“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. [11] The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: `God, I thank you that I am not like other men--robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax collector. [12] I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.' [13] "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, `God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'  [14] "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” [Luke 18:10 – 14]


[Ill.]  Once upon a time, I thought that the idea of holiness/sanctification was that the sinful nature/principle/law (what caused me to sin) had to die.  Once this sin principle was gone then I could not sin any more.  This home brewed theology also said that if I did happen to sin then I was going to hell and must be either “re-saved” or have some sort of sanctifying experience again.


CORRECTIONS: (from history)


            A.         Historical perspective:


                        1.         John Wesley: “live above sin” and “perfect love.”


For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.” [Romans 6:14]


“You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” [Romans 6:18]


“No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.” [1 John 3:9]


(Wesley argued that “God does nothing to denature” the person.  In other words, the sinful nature does not die, it is not removed, nor does it magically go away to attempt to return to reclaim lordship another day.  When I read this, I realized that salvation and sanctification was a relationship centered on the person of Jesus Christ and not around (or about) the person of Dan Waite.)


2.         Keith Drury: “holiness is Christ-likeness.”


“Jesus replied: ‘`Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ [38] This is the first and greatest commandment. [39] And the second is like it: `Love your neighbor as yourself.” [Matthew 22:37 – 39]


  • Whenever we take our eyes off Jesus Christ, we have stumbled into error or heresy.


III.       What is holiness?


            A.         Holiness is like a compass.


1.         “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. [15] But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.” [1 Peter 1:14 – 15]


a.          Notice: God says “be holy in all you do” not “do holy.” 


b.         Notice: God does not say “be holy or else.”  (“God does not threaten His children.” – Drury)


c.         Notice: God contrast ignorance with relationship.  (“Just as he who called you is holy…”)


2.         May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.” [1 Thessalonians 3:13]


a.          Notice: Holiness (“blameless”) is something God accomplishes as a result of working in our lives.


b.         Notice: Holiness happens in the “heart.” (central loyalty, choices, feelings, motivations.)


            B.         Holiness is like a map.


                        1.         Reality of sin:


The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; [20] idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions [21] and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. [22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, [23] gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. [24] Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. [25] Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. [Galatians 5:19 – 25]


a.          Notice: the acts of the sinful nature are contrasted with the fruit of the Spirit.  (Outward behavior v inward qualities)  In other words, the sinful nature is without control but the fruit of the Spirit are inward things that bring control.


b.         Notice: not inheriting the kingdom of God (heaven) is contrasted with keeping in step with the Spirit.


                        2.         Reality of effort:


“Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” [2 Corinthians 7:1]


a.          Notice: “Purify” in the Greek is where we get “catharsis.”  (Catharsis is a medical term that means “to purge.”)


b.         Notice: Salvation is legal standing (most of the words associated with salvation, such as “redemption” and “justification,” are legal terms) but sanctification (holiness) is healing progress.


            C.         Holiness is like shifting gears.


1.         It is possible for the Christian to be “carnal” or “worldly.” [Carnal/worldly = Immature or sinful]


“Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly (KJV = “carnal”) — mere infants in Christ. [2] I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. [3] You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?” [1 Corinthians 3:1 – 3]


(Jealousy is listed as a sin in Galatians 5:20 and quarreling is listed as a sin in 2 Corinthians 12:20)


a.        There seems to be an awkward stage were a person is “justified” (knows and is effected by grace) but is immature (“infant”) and still practicing sin (“jealousy” and “quarreling”)


                                    b.         Paul was telling them that this was unacceptable.


2.         It is possible to be a Christian but not yet have experienced a point of sanctification.


May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. [24] The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” [2 Thessalonians 5:23 – 24]


a.          Paul prays for God to sanctify… implications: this had not yet happened.


b.         The Thessalonians were known for “work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” [1 Thessalonians 1:3b]


Questions:  [From Keith Drury]


            1.         What is your heart’s desire?  [Is God your best love?]


2.         What is your love for others? [Especially those who are unfriendly, unkind, poor, helpless, needy, without Jesus.]


3.         Are you totally consecrated/dedicated to God? [Have you made the commitment that all other choices are based on?]


4.         Have you experienced a growth leap toward being like Jesus?  [Have you the power to resist willful sin?]


            5.         Has the Holy Spirit witnessed to you that He has performed this work?

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