Sunday, December 19, 2010

December 19th - the Humility of Christ

Prayer Requests
Pastor Aaron Recovery and Preaching
Todd Love Recovery
Doomsday Outreach Results
The Henley’s leaving
Tina's job search
Shelby's Aunt
Musical Yesterday and Today
Car Accident - Taylor
Relatives and Friends Traveling

Text – Philippians 2:1-11

Last week we looked at a topical lesson on Christmas. This week we’re going to look at an expositional lesson on how Christ’s birth (& life and death) calls us to live. We’re going to be in Philippians 2; we need to know some things about this letter before we fully understand the passage.

Who wrote Philippians? The Apostle Paul. Does anybody know where he was when he wrote Philippians? He was in prison, in Rome. Any guesses as to what his punishment may be for saying that Caesar is not God, will it be light or harsh? Paul very much expects to die in Rome for his claim that Christ is God and Caesar is not.

This letter was written near the end of his life, he’s been beaten, persecuted, hated, betrayed, and rejected for thirty years now, all for the sake of Jesus Christ, but he still loves Jesus and the church. This ought to be your first lesson, that a genuine saving faith perseveres to the end and thrives in persecution, I want to read two important verses which start and finish this thought.

Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

1 John 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.

Paul rejoiced in his sufferings, and he was able to do so because just as Christ suffered for him, he had suffered for the gospel; he is able to tell us that everything outside of Christ is the equivalent of garbage and that we set our affections on Christ and Heaven and this will produce in us fruitful and Christ-honoring lives. He wants us to live lives with Christ as our example, and that is what chapter 2 of Philippians charges us to do.

Philippians 2:1-11 if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

This is one of my favorite passages in scripture, it has such a humble beginning, such a perfect example, and such an amazing application that it should rock your world, it should leave you with no option but to do what it says; let’s see if this Christmas passage can do exactly what Paul hopes for it to do in the audience at Philippi.

v.1 if there is any encouragement in Christ,

If Christ’s life and sacrifice encourages us to live godly lives,

v.1 (if there is) any comfort from love,

If the great love by which Christ loved us and gave himself for us comforts us, driving out all fear,

v.1 (if there is) any participation in the Spirit,

If the Spirit dwells in you and leads you, he who is our helper and promise of Heaven and glorification, who grows in us the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control,

v.1 (if there is) any affection and sympathy,

If there is any love in the church and empathy towards weakness and hope of sanctification, then verse 2:

v.2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

If Christ and the Holy Spirit are true, and Paul knows from experience and scripture that they are, then he calls for the church to rally around Christ’s perfection, to abound in love, and to set their goals on glorifying Christ, preaching the Word, and seeing souls saved and discipled.

This introduction calls us to look at the great promises of love and hope that Christ has given us through his death and resurrection, and then calls us to live these out. Since Christ loved us and gave his life for us, we’re called to the same for his church. Christ doesn’t need our good works, but beloved, our friends and our neighbors do!

1 John 2:16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

And this of course is not just in death, but also in life. For many people say they would die for their children or friends, but beloved, they don’t need you to die for them, they need you to live for them. The next verses tell us how to do so:

vv.3,4 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit; look not only to [your] own interests

Paul was facing a new type of false-teacher at this point in his ministry. Certain people were preaching the gospel for the sake of trying to rub it in Paul’s face that he wasn’t able to go where he wanted or preach freely because he was in prison. They wanted to be seen as super-apostles and be exalted for their preaching. It was a strange way to try to insult him, but we see in this that it is more than possible to do everything from the wrong motives, even preach the gospel.

Let’s let this be our next application, that it is possible to preach the gospel from a wrong motive, to share Christ and him crucified for the forgiveness of sins only because your pastors tell you to, or because you want to earn favor with God by sharing the gospel, or because you only want to be blessed or for others to think you’re a super-Christian for doing it. Will you receive blessings for sharing the gospel? Absolutely, it is more blessed to give than to receive, but we ought to share the gospel because it is the power of God to salvation, and because just as Christ loved us first, now we love others with the great love by which he loved us, not just to get things.

Philemon 6 I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.

At Christmas we see presents given, and this can be very good, or very bad. If you only give gifts so you get presents, or only get presents and that’s all Christmas is to you, then you’re doing it wrong and you need to repent.

Proverbs 30:15 The leech has two daughters: Give and Give.

What is a leech? It’s a bloodsucking little bug, or it’s a person who only takes and never gives and is hugely greedy and lustful and covetous. It says that sort of person basically only has two offspring, twins, that just say, “Give and Give” all the time. They’re like those sea-gulls on Finding Nemo that say, “Mine, Mine, Mine” all the time. The Bible speaks disparagingly of people like that.

So how do we not be those people?

vv.3-4 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

We count others as more significant that ourselves, looking after the interests of others. How can we do that? Paul here is speaking of sin and godliness and worth, not of learning or gifts. For example, Jimmy shouldn’t esteem me as a better musician than himself and let me sing this morning, neither should Leon count one of the sixth graders as better at Greek than himself, or anybody count Tyler as a better driver than them.

But we shouldn’t look at anybody and say, “They are such a sinner, or such a poor Christian, and I myself am so much more deserving of spiritual blessings and honor than them.” No, we ought to always consider others as more significant and more graceful than ourselves, not abandoning them for their sin, but looking after them and loving them as though they were ourselves. Let’s see if Paul follows through with this,

1 Timothy 1:15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

Ephesians 3:8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,

Beloved, I am the chief of sinners, but I have become the least of saints. We all ought to say as much, knowing our own hearts better than anyone else and being amazed that Christ would die to save sinners such as us anyways.

Now we’ve looked at the fact that we should live lives of love and holiness, esteeming others as worth more than ourselves, now we’ll look at our great example:

v.5-7 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

Christ is our greatest example, he has replaced our sinful hearts which cared only for ourselves, and given us a heart that seeks after godliness that loves others, one just like his. For though he certainly was worth more than all of his creation combined, he did not make that excuse not to come. He made himself nothing, he emptied himself of any pride (which he had every right to have), and took on the body of a man, even a body with no majesty or beauty, being born into abject poverty, and was born not as a prince in a palace, but as a pauper in a stable. Instead of being laid in a golden crib, he was laid in a wooden feeding trough.

2 Corinthians 8:9 You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Christmas time is a great reminder of the humility we are called to for the sake of Christ, that even if we are the greatest king, wisest counselor, most talented painter or architect, that we must empty ourselves of all pride to realize the will of God. Let me boast briefly in Jesus Christ; I haven’t done nearly so much homeless ministry as I probably should, but I’ve done a decent amount. Beloved, in all reality these men and women have made very poor choices in their lives, loved their sin to the point that it has destroyed them, become addicted to all sorts of drugs and alcohol, and rejected all sorts of offers of help. In all reality the world would tell me that I have no business or call to help them, but truthfully Jesus Christ found me in a very similar spiritual state, that if it weren’t for the work of the Holy Spirit in my life, his restraining grace, then any one of us could quickly and easily end up in the receiving line of the homeless ministry rather than the serving line. When I leave those places, drenched in an indescribable odor, it reminds me of my sinful, yet redeemed, state.

If you feel you are of a certain estate above that of your classmates and/or other sinners, or that you are a great saint among lesser saints, then beloved, I encourage you to meditate on the statement of John Bradford, who said so beautifully, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

Christ’s emptying of himself culminated in his death on the cross, which is Paul’s next point:

v.8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

I can’t say this any better than Paul says it in Romans, it is utterly amazing the humility Christ showed in dying, not to save good people who were afflicted or righteous people who were in peril, for the well have no need of a physician, but dying for the sick and sinful, for the Son of Man come to seek and save the lost.

Romans 5:7-8 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

And not only did Christ die for a people who didn’t ask for it, could never repay him, and would constantly need chastening, but he did so by dying on a cross. Beloved, this is the most heinous of execution methods, it was specifically formulated to take days to die on, to cause agony at every opportunity, to be utterly humiliating. And yet Christ endured it, forsaken by men and God, so that we who are in Christ will never face such hellish pain, shame, and abandonment.

Isaiah 50:6 I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting.

And this calls us to hate sin and love Christ, one of my favorite verses, and I bet some of your favorite verses is in Hebrews 12:

Hebrews 12:1-3 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

We see two things that pertain to us especially in this passage, but I wanted to read the whole thing. First of all, it says he despised the shame. He hated the spitting and the pulling out of his beard, that no-one recognized him as the King of the Universe, that they crucified him because he claimed to be God. But beloved, this was due to show that he is a gracious Creator, an impeccable Man, and a perfect Saviour.

The next thing I want you to see is where it says that for the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross. Christ was laying down his life for many reasons, to save his saints, to defeat the devil, to crush death underfoot in his resurrection, but the main reason he endured the cross was for the joy of accomplishing his Father’s will, for proving that his Father is both the perfect Judge and the Loving God, that he will not overlook sin, but is also gracious to provide a substitute. This is where Philippians 2:1-11 wraps up.

v.9-11 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

For his obedience and humility Christ has received a glorious reward, the name that is above every name. That on that final day, both sinners and saints will cease their sinning and fall to their knees in recognition that Jesus Christ is the only Saviour, that he was dead but he is yet alive, that he is holy sinless and undefiled, that he is Lord of all.

It is amazing where is says these things will happen, both in Heaven, and on earth, and under the earth: Hell. Beloved, on that final day Christ will receive all honor and power and glory, and he will receive it willingly from those who bow in submission and love for him, or he will receive it by force as those who will not bow willingly are put on their faces by innumerable angels.

If we have this mind in ourselves, counting others as worth more than ourselves, pouring out our pride and esteeming our neighbor as in great need of salvation, living for them, dying for them if need be, then we have such a great promise that just as Christ has been elevated, so too will be elevated, for God exalts the humble, but he casts the prideful to the ground.

2 Corinthians 10:17-18 "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord." For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

And Paul concludes this thought in Philippians calling us to work out our salvation, making sure we’re trusting in Christ’s finished work in his death and resurrection, not trusting in our deeds, knowing that anything we do that is good has been worked in us from God. Let us do these things more and more throughout our lives, starting just as Jesus did, at Christmas.

Philippians 2:12-13 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

December 12th - A Survey of Christmas History

Prayer Requests
Pastor Aaron Recovery and Preaching
Todd Love Recovery
Doomsday Outreach (December 17th!)
The Head family in the loss of Phyllis
Charles Wilder last few weeks
The Henley’s leaving
K.Sharpe's root canal
Friend of the Sharpes - Car Accident
Shelby's Aunt and Song
Kids Christmas tonight

Text – Various Christmas

I started to give you a history of Christmas, a look at dates and stuff and beloved I’ll tell you the truth, it bored me to death. It made me almost hate Christmas…there is so much drama and bickering and legalism surrounding this holiday that by the time I was finished researching I just wanted to throw my hands in the air and quit Christmas forever. But then I remembered that I really like Christmas, so I started over and looked at it rather at the lessons we can learn instead of just a survey of the history.

First of all, Christmas is not a celebration in the New Testament. In fact, the only festival we are told to celebrate is Passover. Why would we celebrate Passover? What’s another name for Passover? Easter. We celebrate because it was the day our Saviour died, the day our sin was atoned for; and we are able to celebrate it because Christ defeated death afterwards.

So because Christmas is not a celebration in the New Testament, does that mean we now can’t celebrate Christmas? No, quite the contrary,

Romans 14:5-6 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord.

The New Testament tells us to know why we’re doing things, and the why is to honor Christ in our celebration. Therefore Christmas can be very sinful or very good, it’s going to be our goal today to make it very good. Now, I don’t know of any Christians who don’t celebrate Christmas, but if you ever run into one that doesn’t, the same rule applies to them. For example, Lutherans celebrate Ephiphany on January 6th, if they know why they are doing it and they’re doing it for the right reasons, then great, but it seems many do it just because they’ve always done it.

So, Christmas, first of all, check out the date, December 25th. We really don’t know when Jesus was born, and for two centuries the church didn’t write about it. Around the time of Jesus’ birth, it was thought very arrogant to celebrate your birthday and so most people didn’t do it, so it seems they didn’t even consider it until about ~AD200. It has seemed to be pretty universally accepted that Christ was conceived in March, so add 9 months to March and get December, so I really have no problem saying that December 25th is as good a guess as any. Our Romans verse says one day is as good as another, as long as we observe it in honor of the Lord.

Other dates range all over December and into January, and some are all over the calendar. Let’s stick to December 25th. Recently is has been popular to say that the church chose this date to combat pagan celebrations. The earliest date we have saying that the church did things like that is in the 600’s, and not for Christmas, but for “saint’s days” which really aren’t Christian anyways. It wasn’t until the 1200’s that anyone even mentioned that maybe the 25th was selected to do away with pagan holidays. I believe the 25th was chosen for veracity and not polemics.

It is only a recent thing that our calendars are uniform in different cultures, and on the Roman Julian Calendar, the Winter Solstice was on December 25th, where-as on the Gregorian Calendar we use today, the Solstice is when? December 21st or 22nd, this year it is as midnight on the 21st.

So Jesus was born according to this good guess, on the Winter Solstice, the darkest day of the year. Many Christian leaders in the third and fourth century saw this as theologically important, and saw a direct parallel to Sol Invictus, the Unconquerable Sun, that Christ, though crucified and killed, defeated death and lives forever more.

The first celebrations of Christ’s birth started in the early 200’s, December 25th was the generally agreed upon date by 274, and by the early 300’s it was the official date.

Let’s look at some people who celebrated Christ’s birth. First is the wise men who visited Christ soon after his birth,

Matthew 2:11 And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

These were likely Persians, Magi and Zoroastrians, remembering the prophesy of Daniel some 600 years earlier, seeking the God of Daniel. They give gifts to this King, any idea why they chose these three gifts? What could gold represent? Wealth? How about frankincense? It’s in the name, frank-incense; incense frequently represents prayer and worship. And Myrr? Literally this word can mean suffering, and it’s a spice and preservative that is used both in cooking and in burial. So these wise men did a very wise thing, they gave to the King Christ all of their possessions, worship, and sin and suffering; let us do likewise.

Gifts during Christmas have been a highly debated idea. During the dark-ages gift giving was forbidden, it wasn’t until the early 1800’s when it became really popular. Again, you must do everything you do with the right motives, if Christmas just means getting presents, then you’re doing it wrong and you need to repent.

When Christmas was becoming a popular idea, so was a great heresy by a dude named Arius. This guy was a punk, he claimed Jesus was just the Son of God, not actually God. In AD 323 there was a council called to discussed this, they met in Nicaea in Turkey. Arius preached his false jesus and claimed he was true, the bishop of Myra was so incensed that he rose, approached Arius, and walloped him. The bishops name was Nicolas, and later the Catholic Church officially sainted him, though every true Christian is a saint, and today we know him as Saint Nicolas. By all accounts he was a very loving man with a great desire to spread the gospel and give of himself and out of his abundance.

In German his name is SinterNicholaus, or shortened to SinterKlaus. Martin Luther didn’t like devoting a day to a man, so made efforts on Christmas to celebrate Kristkindle, the Christ Child, but through some weird language error Kriskringle became just another name for Santa Claus.

Even though Arius was officially labeled a heretic, his teaching continued to grow in small groups, and a man named Ambrose in the mid to late 300’s wrote a beautiful Christmas hymn to celebrate Christ as the God who was born as a man; largely to combat Arianism.

O come, Redeemer of the earth,
and manifest thy virgin-birth.
Let every age in wonder fall:
such birth befits the God of all.

Begotten of no human will
but of the Spirit, Thou art still
the Word of God in flesh arrayed,
the promised fruit to man displayed.

All praise, eternal Son, to Thee,
whose advent sets Thy people free,
whom, with the Father, we adore,
and Holy Ghost, for evermore.

In the 700’s a man named Boniface went to Germany as a missionary. Germany at this time was totally pagan, worshipping nature and the gods Thor and Odin. Boniface just so happened in his first visit to find the center of Thor worship, and an oak tree dedicated to him. Boniface announced to the town that he was going to cut their god down, that if Thor was God, he should stop him, but if Christ was God, the tree would fall. The whole town turned out to watch, waiting for Thor, the god of thunder, to strike Boniface down. Legend tells that something supernatural happened and the tree fell. Whether it was totally Boniface cutting it down, or God’s interceding as well, the tree fell, and Boniface preached Christ from the stump, and the first church in Germany was built out of that tree.

A few years later Boniface was in another part of Germany and a young boy ran to find him, crying, “Boniface, Boniface, they’re going to sacrifice my sister!” Boniface leaped to his feat, asking the boy to lead him to his sister. The boy led him into a specially prepared thicket of trees, an altar to Odin and nature, and the 15 year old girl on an altar with a priest hovering over her with a knife ready to cut her heart out in sacrifice. With no time for negotiation, Boniface shoved the priest into the nearest tree, knocking him out cold. He helped the girl off the altar, then climbed up himself in order to preach to the astonished crowd. He proclaimed, “Why are you sacrificing?! Do you not know that Christ was sacrificed once for all, the just for the unjust? These trees are not your brothers, they are not your sisters, they are not your mothers! They are trees! Cut them down and warm your homes with them, homes that at the center should be the Lord Jesus Christ.” And that they did, they cut down this forest cathedral and burned the logs; and from here we get the Yule Log tradition which has been celebrated on and off ever since.

The early Yule Tide festival seems to be the equivalent to a Christmas Celebration; some try to say that Yule predates Christianity in Germany, but there is no evidence of that. Have you ever watched a Yule Log on TV? In 1966 a television station in New York put it on during prime time for three hours. Until 1989 it was commonplace, then was canceled until 2001. In 2001 it was the most watched program on Christmas Day.

The term Christmaesse, or Christ Festival, wasn’t used until 1038, prior to that it had names like Nativity, Navidad, Advent, and Noel, all basically meaning birth or coming.

In the 1500’s the Christmas tree became more popular. The origins are obscured in mystery. Some say that Boniface rejected the oak and pointed to the evergreen tree as representing eternal life. There is no clear teaching on this, and it may be that it was best to cut the tree in remembrance that the tree is not god. If trees had souls, could we say that fir is murder?

There was definitely a similar thing going on 600 years before Christ, though this practice was definitely connected with some idea that that tree had some magical or mystical powers, something I don’t believe anyone thinks the Christmas tree has.

Jeremiah 10:2-5 Thus says the LORD: "Learn not the way of the nations, nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens because the nations are dismayed at them, for the customs of the peoples are vanity. A tree from the forest is cut down and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman. They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so that it cannot move. Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field, and they cannot speak; they have to be carried, for they cannot walk. Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, neither is it in them to do good."

So look at this, the Christmas tree can be very bad, or if used rightly it can be very good. Again, your motive drives everything. If you remember that your tree is a creation of God, that it is useful to decorate and warm your home, that it has no power to bless you, that it doesn’t draw you closer to nature, then it can be used for good. People that don’t know why they have a tree I believe are in just as much danger as those who thought their tree was god.

By the mid-1700’s the Americans were rejecting Christmas as a British holiday. You’ll remember that on Christmas 1776 George Washington crossed the Delaware and captured a whole Hessian regiment in Trenton? We make a big deal that it was Christmas, but the Americans wouldn’t have been celebrating anyways if they hadn’t known that the Hessians, Germans, would be drunk and unprepared for an attack.

Interest in Christmas continued to wane and by the early and mid 1800’s it was feared that it might vanish altogether. Efforts were put in place to revive it. Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in 1843 to focus on the spirit of Christmas, utterly leaving Christ out of the holiday and overemphasizing family and presents. It was from this book that the phrase “Merry Christmas” became popular.

From 1832-48 the Christmas tree became more popular, overemphasized by Queen Victoria of England. By the 1850’s people were complaining that Christmas had become a shopping spree and that Christ was forgotten.

By 1860 Christmas was a legal holiday in most states, and in 1870 it was officially recognized as a federal holiday.

As Christmas became a secular event with presents, Jews feared their children being lured into Christianity merely for the presents, and in the late 1800’s Hanukah, a good and pure festival in the New Testament, was subjected to the same commercial fate as Christmas.

A song that I particularly like sums up why we should really be celebrating Christmas, it is by Sovereign Grace Music, and it’s called Son of God Came Down:

The Son of God came down and laid aside His crown
Born without great renown, this Sovereign One
All holiness and might, all glory shining bright
Have come to earth this night in Mary’s son

O come, let us adore
O Christ the Lord, our hope and Savior
Son of God yet made like us
O Christ the Lord, our King adored
Born a child, our Lord Jesus

Messiah born so small, asleep in cattle stall
Come to redeem our fall, nailed to a tree
This tiny, helpless child
Through death would reconcile
The holy God and vile, His grace so free
O come, let us adore

Sunday, December 5, 2010

December 5th - The Good Shepherd

Prayer Requests
Pastor Aaron Surgery
Todd Love Recovery
Tamara Slack Recovery
Kennesaw Christmas Parade Preaching
Doomsday Outreach (December 17th!)
Christmas Concerts (James, Hannah, Bethany, Etc.)

Text – Zechariah 10

Zechariah 10 is a NEAT chapter, it tells us all sorts of great things about God, that he is the God of nature, he is the God who strengthens armies in righteousness, he is the God from whom all good things flow, he is the God who will win a complete victory at the end of time, and he is the Good Shepherd. The first thing I want to look at though, which is certainly not the main thrust of Zechariah’s message, but which is hugely important for your life is a tangential lesson from verse 1.

Zechariah 10:1 Ask rain from the LORD in the season of the spring rain, from the LORD who makes the storm clouds, and he will give them showers of rain, to everyone the vegetation in the field.

I love every Bible verse, but recently this has become my favorite, because it rocked my world. Look at it, when are we supposed to ask for rain from God? In the season of rain. Now, God is able to do things outside of the order in which he has decided to work, he can send rain in the middle of a desert in the dry season if he wants to, but he has structured the world in a way which we can trust and rely on a system of reliability. This is a miracle in itself,

Matthew 5:45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

It is a miracle every time it rains, even when we’re expecting rain, this is a blessing from God. It reminded me of another verse which is really taking us on a rabbit trail, but I think it’s totally worth reading,

Hebrews 3:12-13 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

There is a season given to us for every thing we do. As long as we live in a sinful world we must be killing sin, seeking righteousness, trusting Christ, and watching our brothers and sisters to ensure they are doing the same. Someday I’d like to do a study of Ecclesiastes 3 which talks a lot more about this. But the true reason I wanted to look at this is to exhort you all towards a season which comes all too early in most people’s lives, the season of dating and marriage. At 12, 13, 14 you shouldn’t be seeking boyfriends and girlfriends; someone to love, to kiss, to be for all intents and purposes married to, because at your age you are a ways off from expressing your love in the proper marriage covenant. We ought to pray for godly husbands and wives, yes, but in the season that this is appropriate, not a moment before.

Proverbs 6:27-28 Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?

So please at least think on this topic, that we may have perfectly right desires which are made wrong by the timing. While this isn’t remotely Zechariah’s point here, I would like to encourage you as you pray to consider if your prayer is keeping with the will of God. Can God do miracles outside of his normal timing? Absolutely, that’s one of the ways we really recognize it’s a miracle. For example, when Lazarus died, his sister knew he would be resurrected on the final day when everyone is resurrected, the righteous to eternal life and the wicked to eternal death, but Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” And he raised Lazarus and showed that he is the Sovereign of history and nature; he is not subjected to history nor nature.

Song of Solomon 2:7 Young women of Jerusalem, I charge you, by the gazelles and the wild does of the field: do not stir up or awaken love until the appropriate time.

So all that to say, there is a time and a season for everything under heaven. I adjure you not to awaken love before its season, that you would date only for the purpose of marriage, and count every act of love as sacred within that covenant, everything from holding hands to kissing to adequately covering yourself from everyone but your future spouse. I know I speak about this fairly often, and as soon as you get the message, then I’ll talk about it less frequently.

So let’s get to Zechariah, today we’re going to look at some wicked leaders, some false shepherds, and we’ll look at our true Shepherd, who is Christ. Chapter 10 and 11 of Zechariah are one complete thought, but they teach different lessons. Really quick though, we need to know from Zechariah 11 that the so-called shepherds of Israel were only in their positions for the money, they would sell their sheep for slaughter if it meant turning a profit.

We see this rampant in Christianity today, people so greedy that they go so far as to tell their audiences to send in their last bit of money so that they can show God how strong their faith really is, when in reality the leaders really only want a new jet-airplane or house. One of the craziest things I run into is false-teachers who use the very passage against them for their gain. For example, 1 Corinthians 14 is totally against speaking in gibberish, but gibberish speakers quote it frequently to justify themselves in their deep things of Satan. Here in Zechariah it speaks of the "latter rain" and some false teachers have used this passage and others like it to say there was a first "rain" of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, then a drought, and that they are now receiving the second "rain" of the Holy Spirit today. This is utterly untrue because the Holy Spirit was promised to be with us always. These will tell you basically anything in order to get your money. This is forever one of my greatest blessings to be unpaid because it utterly removes this temptation from my life.

Zechariah 10:1-11:3 Ask rain from the LORD in the season of the spring rain, from the LORD who makes the storm clouds, and he will give them showers of rain, to everyone the vegetation in the field. For the household gods utter nonsense, and the diviners see lies; they tell false dreams and give empty consolation. Therefore the people wander like sheep; they are afflicted for lack of a shepherd. "My anger is hot against the shepherds, and I will punish the leaders; for the LORD of hosts cares for his flock, the house of Judah, and will make them like his majestic steed in battle. From him shall come the cornerstone, from him the tent peg, from him the battle bow, from him every ruler— all of them together. They shall be like mighty men in battle, trampling the foe in the mud of the streets; they shall fight because the LORD is with them, and they shall put to shame the riders on horses. "I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph. I will bring them back because I have compassion on them, and they shall be as though I had not rejected them, for I am the LORD their God and I will answer them. Then Ephraim shall become like a mighty warrior, and their hearts shall be glad as with wine. Their children shall see it and be glad; their hearts shall rejoice in the LORD. "I will whistle for them and gather them in, for I have redeemed them, and they shall be as many as they were before. Though I scattered them among the nations, yet in far countries they shall remember me, and with their children they shall live and return. I will bring them home from the land of Egypt, and gather them from Assyria, and I will bring them to the land of Gilead and to Lebanon, till there is no room for them. He shall pass through the sea of troubles and strike down the waves of the sea, and all the depths of the Nile shall be dried up. The pride of Assyria shall be laid low, and the scepter of Egypt shall depart. I will make them strong in the LORD, and they shall walk in his name," declares the LORD. Open your doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour your cedars! Wail, O cypress, for the cedar has fallen, for the glorious trees are ruined! Wail, oaks of Bashan, for the thick forest has been felled! The sound of the wail of the shepherds, for their glory is ruined! The sound of the roar of the lions, for the thicket of the Jordan is ruined!

We see first and foremost that God is the true God, the God of nature, the God of providence, the sustaining God. We ought to frequently realize that. We may say, “This morning the sun rose because the sun always rises.” Well really if it weren’t for God’s holding the universe together the sun wouldn’t rise. Centrifugal force would cause it to go zinging out into space and we’d never see it again.

There are many substitutes for God, but only one true God. Check out verse 2,

v.2 For the household gods utter nonsense, and the diviners see lies; they tell false dreams and give empty consolation.

Household gods are personal little figurines or methods of receiving supernatural revelation. These can be as simple as statues or as complex as astrology and horoscopes, or as seemingly innocent as a television. Zechariah didn’t have a television, but this very easily can fit into the place of a household god for us, as The View or Glee or Oprah or Glenn Beck try to form our theology into something that is radically different from true theology.

The false prophets make up revelation and present a god who really is of no account and isn’t able to save. This god won’t send people to Hell, but only because he can’t because he doesn’t exist, and he can’t save anyone for the same reason. Let me give you a controversial example, recently with all of the homosexual suicides several politically and financially successful homosexuals put out public statements that life for homosexuals is getting better and therefore troubled homosexuals should hold on. This seems like consolation, until we look at the fact that it is still a horrendous sin against humanity and God and that it is judged both temporally and eternally as hugely unhealthy for a person’s body and soul. True consolation is found in reconciliation to God, sanctification in the Spirit, and total forgiveness and freedom in Christ.

Another example is the empty pursuit of happiness and patriotic duty which we are constantly bombarded with. This is a false consolation, empty of truth and empty of temporal and eternal benefits. I watch it and am extremely angry, and find great consolation in the fact that so is God. We’ll see how he offers true consolation in a few verses, but first,

v.2-3 Therefore the people wander like sheep; they are afflicted for lack of a shepherd. "My anger is hot against the shepherds, and I will punish the leaders; for the LORD of hosts cares for his flock, the house of Judah, and will make them like his majestic steed in battle.

Even though Israel truly did have people acting as pastors (rabbis) and leaders, this verse says they wander and are damaged just as though they had no shepherds. Beloved, there are so many churches in our area that have youth pastors who are none more than adolescent boys who have no desire nor ability to lead their students into truth. There are churches all over the nation that have men overseeing them who care more for their own personal reputation than the spiritual health of their flock. In this passage God still refers to them as shepherds, but Jesus gives us a much more descriptive title for them in John 10.

John 10:12-13 The hired man, since he is not the shepherd and doesn't own the sheep, leaves them and runs away when he sees a wolf coming. The wolf then snatches and scatters them. This happens because he is a hired man and doesn't care about the sheep.

Hirelings are men who look after the flock, but only as much as they can benefit from it. The moment danger approaches they take off leaving the flock to be decimated by enemies. There is an even worse shepherd which we’ll look at in Zechariah 11, who is a wolf in sheep’s clothing (and sometimes in shepherd’s clothing (see 2 Peter 2)).

Matthew 7:15 Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

I love it that God’s anger is fierce against such men, knowing that I can leave all vengeance up to him and that he is the Sovereign of History who is demonstrating why his Son is the true Shepherd of the sheep, who does care about the sheep, the one who strengthens and equips his flock for the ministry. This is setting up an absolutely fantastic gospel presentation in chapter 13, one which it is so tempting for me to reveal now, but which I will wait a few weeks to show you!

v.4 From him shall come the cornerstone, from him the tent peg, from him the battle bow, from him every ruler—all of them together.

For time’s sake let me just tell you that these are the four major things which Israel needed to be a great nation, they needed a firm foundation, a secure support, mighty weapons, and brave men to act justly and courageously for them. We see that all of these come straight from Christ, apart from him we can do nothing. This is why we sing the song, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow…” If it’s good and a blessing, it’s from God.

v.5-7 They shall be like mighty men in battle, trampling the foe in the mud of the streets; they shall fight because the LORD is with them, and they shall put to shame the riders on horses. "I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph. I will bring them back because I have compassion on them, and they shall be as though I had not rejected them, for I am the LORD their God and I will answer them. Then Ephraim shall become like a mighty warrior, and their hearts shall be glad as with wine. Their children shall see it and be glad; their hearts shall rejoice in the LORD.

They shall be like great warriors, this is believers in Christ who aren’t out to kill people, but to convert them. If we have a firm foundation in Christ, a hope which secures us against every wind of doctrine, the sword of the Spirit which is the Bible, then we will be equipped and led by God to be great spiritual warriors, destroying every argument and persuading people to trust in Christ and Christ alone.

Now at this point it is tempting to follow a heresy that God saved us because he saw great potential in us, but verse 6 destroys that, stating that God raised us up and equipped us only on his compassion, not because of anything we had done or would do, but that both our salvation and subsequent works are his works in us. One of my new favorite verses is at the end of Colossians 1.

Colossians 1:28-29 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

Whose energy? His. Who is working? He is. And we rejoice in this, emboldened, filled not with wine, but with the Holy Spirit. Now it gets extra beautiful, telling us that we have no fear of bad shepherds destroying our eternities if we are in Christ, for we have a much better shepherd,

v.8 "I will whistle for them and gather them in, for I have redeemed them, and they shall be as many as they were before.”

This whistle is a call to the sheep, it’s either a whistle you make with your lips, or with a reed flute, or a specific vocal call. However it is, the sheep know this call and come. It’s amazing that even as dumb as a sheep is, it is able to know the specific call, even the voice, of its shepherd. However Christ will call, we will hear his voice,

John 10:3-5 The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers."

Christ calls for us, and we go to him and follow him. We see that he has redeemed us, from what we will see in chapter 11, but ultimately it is from sin and the very teeth of the world which desired to devour us. Christ will not lose a single one of his sheep.

v.9-12 Though I scattered them among the nations, yet in far countries they shall remember me, and with their children they shall live and return. I will bring them home from the land of Egypt, and gather them from Assyria, and I will bring them to the land of Gilead and to Lebanon, till there is no room for them. He shall pass through the sea of troubles and strike down the waves of the sea, and all the depths of the Nile shall be dried up. The pride of Assyria shall be laid low, and the scepter of Egypt shall depart. I will make them strong in the LORD, and they shall walk in his name," declares the LORD.

This passage is beautifully poetic, but not especially clear on when nor how it is to be fulfilled. We see that God’s people will be so many as there will not be found room for them just in Israel. This has certainly come true in these days, that every Christian in the world would not fit in Israel, so we are in far off countries remembering God and bearing witness to his truth.

We have the language of him passing through the sea. This is certainly reminiscent of Moses parting the Red Sea, a type for walking through death to life, and possibly we can see here that Christ is prophesied living and dying and living again. The language of striking down the waves of the sea is neat because in Heaven the sea will be smooth as glass, because all strife will have ceased, and there we see in verse 12 that Christ does this by cutting off the wickedness and rule of Israel’s enemies.

Finally, let’s read the first three verses of chapter 11 which will further expand on Christ putting an end to all boasting that is not in him,

v.1-3 Open your doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour your cedars! Wail, O cypress, for the cedar has fallen, for the glorious trees are ruined! Wail, oaks of Bashan, for the thick forest has been felled! The sound of the wail of the shepherds, for their glory is ruined! The sound of the roar of the lions, for the thicket of the Jordan is ruined!

We end with what we started with, that the false shepherds are punished and so they wail. Their riches gained through mistreating the flock of God are made nothing. These hirelings flee when danger approaches the flock, they seek only monetary gain. These sins against God’s sheep will be avenged.

So your application, trust wholly in Jesus Christ as your true Shepherd, make sure your leaders and pastors are following him and leading you in his ways, as you grow into leadership positions yourself, be willing to die for your flock, place them at far more value than yourself, refuse to let even a single one be devoured by the world while you still have breath in your lungs. Remember that this is how you were redeemed by your Shepherd, though he was God in every way, he counted you as more valuable than himself and laid down his life for your sake, and if he is willing to die for you, know that he will also equip you to walk in the power of his resurrection.

John 10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

November 28th - Enemies to Heirs

Prayer Requests
Thanksgiving and safe travels
Brianna flying home
Shell - Church Stuff
Tyler's Social Security
High School Applications - Jennifer
Tyler's Awesome Half-Time Lesson
Christmas Party - December 3rd

Text - Zechariah 9

Our passage this morning is one of the most prophecy rich passages in all of scripture. It has near and far prophecies, as well as mid. There is a ton of history here, and names abound. The history of this chapter is quite interesting, but I want to focus on how it all points to Christ's ultimate purposes in coming to seek and save the lost, to exalt the humble and cast down the proud.

Chapters 7 and 8 can be summed up basically as contrasts, what would you call the religion of chapter 7? Worthless. And the religion of chapter 8? True. What is the difference between true and worthless religion? Worthless religion is doing things for God in order to make him be on your side, true religion honors God in action because it's the right thing to do. I think this quote sums up true religion better than any other quote, it's by Paris Reidhead:

"Lord Jesus, I’m going to obey you, and love you, and serve you, and do what you want me to do as long as I live, even if I go to Hell at the end of the road, simply because you are worthy to be loved, obeyed, and served; and I’m not trying to make a deal with you."

How does the Word of God interact with these two? How is the Word to people in worthless religion? It is a curse and is against them. How is the Word to people in true religion? It is a blessing and is called amazing things. For example, in the New Testament it's called the Word of God, the Word of Christ, the Word of Promise, the Word of Faith, Living and Active, and it is Holy, Good, and Righteous.

Today we're going to start out looking at the Word being a curse on a lot of people. Let's look at some that God is really angry with.

Zechariah 9:1-6 The burden of the word of the LORD is against the land of Hadrach and Damascus is its resting place. For the LORD has an eye on mankind and on all the tribes of Israel, and on Hamath also, which borders on it, Tyre and Sidon, though they are very wise. Tyre has built herself a rampart and heaped up silver like dust, and fine gold like the mud of the streets. But behold, the Lord will strip her of her possessions and strike down her power on the sea, and she shall be devoured by fire. Ashkelon shall see it, and be afraid; Gaza too, and shall writhe in anguish; Ekron also, because its hopes are confounded. The king shall perish from Gaza; Ashkelon shall be uninhabited; a mixed people shall dwell in Ashdod, and I will cut off the pride of Philistia.

So verse 1, God is against the land of Hadrach. We're not exactly sure where this is for several reasons, but based on the description of the cities we have a good idea of the size and scope of this country or alliance. It is basically Modern Day Lebanon. The capital is Damascus, and some of its major cities are Hamath, Tyre, and Sidon. These are amazingly wealthy cities on important trade routes. Tyre is super rich because they are the only natural port on this side of the Mediterranean. They have more money than they know what to do with, the richest part of the city is on an island just off the coast, and it has walls up to 150 feet tall in some places.

Because of the wealth and frequent travel through there it has attracted all sorts of people; rich people, smart people, greedy people, and all sorts of people great and small. Tyre at this point was an amazing city. Because of the amazing wealth and wisdom in this city the king elevated himself far beyond the position he rightly held, turn to Ezekiel 28 with me. In verses 1-10 we see the king as man:

Ezekiel 28:1-10 "Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre, Thus says the Lord GOD: "Because your heart is proud, and you have said, 'I am a god, I sit in the seat of the gods, in the heart of the seas,' yet you are but a man, and no god, though you make your heart like the heart of a god— you are indeed wiser than Daniel; no secret is hidden from you; by your wisdom and your understanding you have made wealth for yourself, and have gathered gold and silver into your treasuries; by your great wisdom in your trade you have increased your wealth, and your heart has become proud in your wealth—therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Because you make your heart like the heart of a god, therefore, behold, I will bring foreigners upon you, the most ruthless of the nations; and they shall draw their swords against the beauty of your wisdom and defile your splendor. They shall thrust you down into the pit, and you shall die the death of the slain in the heart of the seas. Will you still say, 'I am a god,' in the presence of those who kill you, though you are but a man, and no god, in the hands of those who slay you? You shall die the death of the uncircumcised by the hand of foreigners; for I have spoken, declares the Lord GOD."

And we're going to see in verse 11-19 that the true king of Tyre is none other than Satan himself.

Ezekiel 28:11-19 Moreover, the word of the LORD came to me: "Son of man, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, Thus says the Lord GOD: "You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle; and crafted in gold were your settings and your engravings. On the day that you were created they were prepared. You were an anointed guardian cherub. I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you. In the abundance of your trade you were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned; so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and I destroyed you, O guardian cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I exposed you before kings, to feast their eyes on you. By the multitude of your iniquities, in the unrighteousness of your trade you profaned your sanctuaries; so I brought fire out from your midst; it consumed you, and I turned you to ashes on the earth in the sight of all who saw you. All who know you among the peoples are appalled at you; you have come to a dreadful end and shall be no more forever."

How the angel Satan interacted with the king of Tyre is hard to say, but either way God's anger is kindled against both.

In 332 BC Alexander the Great razed Tyre and cast her into the sea. The swiftness of Alexander astounded all, Daniel said he moved so quickly his horses' feet didn't touch the ground. All who saw this great bastion of worldliness destroyed were terrified and rightly so, for they were the next to be conquered by Alexander. All of this happened almost 200 years AFTER Zechariah was prophesying this.

Our first application is that God has created examples of his wrath to remind the world that setting our affections on things that perish, and especially considering people as gods and idols, is foolishness and only ends in destruction. It is not at all wrong to see God 's vengeance come on a city and hence forth tell the people to repent or they likewise will perish.

Amos 3:6 Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?

This verse says that disaster does not come unless God has done it. But if people will turn, and look to God for salvation:

Zechariah 9:7-8 I will take away its blood from its mouth, and its abominations from between its teeth; it too shall be a remnant for our God; it shall be like a clan in Judah, and Ekron shall be like the Jebusites. Then I will encamp at my house as a guard, so that none shall march to and fro; no oppressor shall again march over them, for now I see with my own eyes.

Even though God is putting an end to many of his enemies, he is still saving some of them. They will be like the Jebusites, the people who were in Israel before the Israelites, who were assimilated into the covenant. When they are saved God will put away their idols. I love that God says he sees with his own eyes. This is a direct assault on the false gods whom don't see, don't hear, and don't speak.

Psalm 135:15-18 The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see; they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them!

One of their greatest idols is their love of bloodshed, and in this verse we see that God will remove this idol from them. It's powerful when we consider it in light of Psalm 11:5,

Psalm 11:5 The LORD tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.

Even those these enemies of God were totally hated by him, he chose to save some anyways. God has a salvation coming, let's read verse 9-13 as to how it is going to happen.

Zechariah 9:9-13 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double. For I have bent Judah as my bow; I have made Ephraim its arrow. I will stir up your sons, O Zion, against your sons, O Greece, and wield you like a warrior’s sword.

When Christ came, this prophecy was grossly misunderstood, they expected him to come into Jerusalem with flaming sword swinging it and totally taking over. Reading this I can see why they thought that, but I think they totally missed the humility part, that Christ was going to defeat evil in the most amazing of ways, by substituting himself for it so that he could be both the just and the justifier of his saints. This was a well known prophecy for the Messiah in the first century, everyone knew what it meant when Christ arrived on a colt.

Matthew 21:1-11 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, "Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, 'The Lord needs them,' and he will send them at once." This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, "Say to the daughter of Zion, 'Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'" The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!" And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, "Who is this?" And the crowds said, "This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee." And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons.

This prophecy was amazing for Zechariah's time, saying that the Messiah would cut off the war horse from Jerusalem. Certainly the people would understand this to mean that there would be no more need of war horses after the Messiah came, but in the first century it would have had an even more personal meaning that Roman soldiers were stationed all throughout Jerusalem, than an alien government was oppressing the Jews.

Verse 11 is utterly amazing, it's my favorite, "because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit." Jesus quotes it in Matthew 26:27-28.

Matthew 26:27-28 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

The original hearers of this prophecy would have expected this coming King to offer a sacrifice instituting his new covenant. From chapter 6 they would have known the Messiah would be both priest and king and could offer a sacrifice to God. I don't know how many of them possibly could have expected that it would be himself he was offering as the perfect sacrifice. Certainly none who called for his crucifixion expected as much, since they crucified him for claiming to be God. His purposes were to set the captives free, those who were slaves to sin, which was all of us, loving ourselves more than anything, utterly wrecking the lives of many, failing to turn people towards everlasting life, and in this, God saved us anyways. We were his enemies, just like those in the beginning of the chapter, yet he saved a remnant out of his enemies.

Colossians 1:21-23 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

Instead of slaves to sin, prisoners of the Devil (2 Timothy 2:26), now we are prisoners of hope, slaves of Christ. Verse 13 is beautiful too, because it reminds us that God is ultimately in control, using people as he so intends. Hebrews 4:12 speaks of God's Word as a sword, when you have it committed to memory or you read it and proclaim it to people, you are a sword in the hand of God. These Greeks and Hebrews would have been used for war, but beloved, we are peacemakers, declaring peace between God and man, a sword meant for peace.

Now in verse 14 we transfer to Christ's second coming. It is just a picture of the coming Armageddon that will be described much more fully in chapter 14.

Zechariah 9:14-17 Then the LORD will appear over them, and his arrow will go forth like lightning; the Lord GOD will sound the trumpet and will march forth in the whirlwinds of the south. The LORD of hosts will protect them, and they shall devour, and tread down the sling stones, and they shall drink and roar as if drunk with wine, and be full like a bowl, drenched like the corners of the altar. On that day the LORD their God will save them, as the flock of his people; for like the jewels of a crown they shall shine on his land. For how great is his goodness, and how great his beauty! Grain shall make the young men flourish, and new wine the young women.

This passage beautifully describes Christ's second coming, that he will appear in the sky like lightning, similarly to how he describes himself in Matthew 24, and that there will be a conquering army with him that are impervious to stones slung at them, who are able to step easily over missiles fired at them. The effect of this army is amazing, just like Christ is covered head to toe in the blood of his enemies in Isaiah 63, so will this army be drenched in their victory.

I love this verse 16, it is your major application, that your total purpose is to shine the light of Christ on the world and be a trophy of his grace.

In all of this we see that God has enemies, that he is more than capable of utterly destroying them, but that he also chooses to save some and sanctify them, that he did that by sending his Son the first time to have a humble entrance riding on a colt, that he poured out the blood of the covenant for the forgiveness of sins, that he rose on the third day, and he is coming back to judge the world and rescue his saints. He came on a colt the first time, as he comes back to conquer he will come on a white steed.

Revelation 19:11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.

Be a light shining in the darkness, proclaim the excellencies of Christ, explain to people that they are either prisoners of sin, or prisoners of hope, that there is no other option, that they will face this Christ as either an enemy or as a reconciled friend. They must repent or perish.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

November 21st - True Religion

Prayer Requests
Pastor Aaron Preaching
Todd Love
Open Air Preaching Monday
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Text – Zechariah 8

Zechariah 8 is a great chapter to look at for Thanksgiving this year. We have such a beautiful look at promises of God in this chapter, some of which are fulfilled, some of which are yet to be fulfilled, probably in Heaven, and we have much to be thankful for.

This is complex chapter, quite long, with a LOT of information in it. It was very tempting to teach it over two or three weeks, but the theme of this passage is that true religion is very rewarding and that God is faithful, so I’m going to try to teach it all at once. This lesson is probably going to feel somewhat disjointed because there is so much to teach and we have so little time. It will also be kind of strange because some of these promises are hazy as to when and how they will be fulfilled.

I think you could adequately summarize chapter eight with one sentence, “Because of the coming Messiah you will someday somehow get an amazing gift which you will love!” It doesn’t give us the exact timing, the exact present, or the exact means, it only tells us it will be amazing.

This is a direct contrast to chapter 7. Does anyone remember what Zechariah 7 was about? Worthless religion. What is worthless religion? Doing things from a selfish motive, obeying God only to receive blessings. What then is true religion? Obeying God because he is worthy whether we get anything or not. What is the irony of true religion? When you do things from the right motive not expecting to receive anything, you receive much.

We see that worthless religion ends in desolation, ultimately in Hell, but today we’re going to see where true religion ends. Let me take this moment to say that it is becoming popular today to say that “Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship.” That is half true. Christianity is a relationship with Christ, but it is certainly also a religion, it is the only true religion. Let’s look at the verse that says so.

James 1:27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

Let’s look really quickly at the etymology of religion…if you know one thing about me, it’s that James 1:27 is my favorite verse, and that I LOVE etymology. Religion either comes from Re-logeo, or Re-ligare; Re, meaning, of, and logeo, meaning word. Or Re, of, ligare, something that draws together. Either way, we see that we are people of the Word, or people drawn. I want you to see very clearly that there is false religion and true religion, that true religion is loving people and hating sin. What happened in Zechariah 7 when the people of Bethel were told this? They got angry and wouldn’t listen! Why? Because they aren’t being rewarded directly for their works. And last before we go into chapter 8, what are we rewarded for? Christ’s works.

Let’s read chapter 8 in sections:

Zechariah 8:1-8 And the word of the LORD of hosts came, saying, "Thus says the LORD of hosts: I am jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I am jealous for her with great wrath. Thus says the LORD: I have returned to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, and the mountain of the LORD of hosts, the holy mountain. Thus says the LORD of hosts: Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of great age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets. Thus says the LORD of hosts: If it is marvelous in the sight of the remnant of this people in those days, should it also be marvelous in my sight, declares the LORD of hosts? Thus says the LORD of hosts: behold, I will save my people from the east country and from the west country, and I will bring them to dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in faithfulness and in righteousness."

The first thing we see is that in chapter 8, Zechariah says, “Thus says the Lord of hosts…” over and over and over and over again…in chapter 7 the people wouldn’t listen to the Word of God through the Holy Spirit, and so God wouldn’t hear them; in Zechariah 8 we are hearing the Word of God through the Holy Spirit and we must listen because God speaks no idle words.

For time’s sake we’re not going to read Hebrews 12, but let me paraphrase it for a moment. It says if we try to approach God via the law, it’s like walking up Mount Sinai with blazing fire and lightning and God’s booming voice, and we will surely die. If, however, we approach God via the grace of Christ, we are welcomed into the New Jerusalem: Heaven. This here is certainly meant where God says that old men and women shall live in the city, and children will be playing all over the place, because it will be a city of peace; a city of grace.

Remember at this point that Jerusalem is utterly in shambles. It is a very dangerous place to live because it has no walls, and at this point because of the return from the Babylonian exile there would likely be very few old people, because the journey would just be too hard on them. In view of Heaven we see that we will be without fear of danger, and we will live to exceedingly old age. We have a great privilege over Zechariah here because we understand the resurrection much better than he, knowing that we will inherit imperishable bodies that will never die. Zechariah, and Isaiah, looked into the future and saw people living for eons and eons, and used some amazing language to describe it, Zechariah saying the age must require they use staffs to walk, and Isaiah says it this way,

Isaiah 65:20 No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed.

In Heaven Isaiah sees that our lives will last so long that at 100 years old it will be like we’ve just started life. He also sees that anyone cut off from Heaven will be condemned. I love that God’s language, saying that it will be marvelous in his sight, just as it will be marvelous in ours, since he will be our God forever more having put away all sin and unfaithfulness for his saints.

Our next passage is wonderful, knowing that if we have such a promise coming as Heaven, how ought we to live? Before we read it, what do you think? Let me ask you this, what is one thing which you won’t be able to do in Heaven? Tell someone how about the excellencies of your Saviour. Therefore if we have a promise of glory, Glory-land as Heaven is translated in Africa, we ought to live godly lives with affections set on Heaven.

Zechariah 8:9-13 Thus says the LORD of hosts: "Let your hands be strong, you who in these days have been hearing these words from the mouth of the prophets who were present on the day that the foundation of the house of the LORD of hosts was laid, that the temple might be built. For before those days there was no wage for man or any wage for beast, neither was there any safety from the foe for him who went out or came in, for I set every man against his neighbor. But now I will not deal with the remnant of this people as in the former days, declares the LORD of hosts. For there shall be a sowing of peace. The vine shall give its fruit, and the ground shall give its produce, and the heavens shall give their dew. And I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things. And as you have been a byword of cursing among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so will I save you, and you shall be a blessing. Fear not, but let your hands be strong."

God reminds the people that during the exile they did not work for reward because there was no reward to be had, and that they were always in danger for their lives. He gives now the opposite, stating that his people will be like fruit trees, one tree producing tons of fruit. Check this out, Jesus is going to paraphrase this in Matthew 13, knowing that most fruit trees and vines only produce about six times themselves, but he’s going to say that his people are so much more fruitful:

Matthew 13:23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.

Let’s pause here for an application. The gospel of peace has been sown in your heart, you have found reconciliation with God, yours is the kingdom of Heaven purchased for you on Calvary’s cross. Now Christ is saying that you should go forth and bear fruit, and not just a little fruit, but at least thirty times whatever someone does nice for you, even as much as one hundred times. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but we only have one life, and it will soon be past, and only what is done for Christ will last. Live a life of fruit bearing, fruit of love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness and faithfulness and gentleness and self-control and seeing others come to faith in the Living Christ.

How many of you feel like the world really respects Christ’s church as much as it deserves? The church has never been respected, despite the fact that without the light of the church, the world would be in abject darkness, and we are the byword of the world, the joke of humanity; Vladimir Lenin, the communist, called Christians, “Useful idiots.” The atheist community calls us “dims”, television constantly makes fun of Christianity, and often they are genuinely making fun of stupid traditions, but we have no reason to fear living an unfruitful life if we’re genuinely redeemed, because in this passage God says he will save us and make us a blessing. Live as a light in the world, even when the world ridicules you, let the work you do be done well and so that it will last.

Think about it this way, God’s name is constantly used as a curse word, it is the only name blessed forever and yet the world tries to drag it down into the mud. Does that limit the amount of good which God does, causing it to rain both on the just and the unjust? No, because they don’t respect his name doesn’t limit him at all, just as a lack of respect towards our efforts won’t dampen their impact at all.

How can we know that God’s future promises are true and that he has given us a task to do which will not be in vain? That’s what comes next:

Zechariah 8:14-15 For thus says the LORD of hosts: "As I purposed to bring disaster to you when your fathers provoked me to wrath, and I did not relent, says the LORD of hosts, so again have I purposed in these days to bring good to Jerusalem and to the house of Judah; fear not.

We can trust God’s promises for the future because we see that he has always been faithful in the past. When he told Israel he would punish them, he did, when he said he would save them, he did. God’s faithfulness is shown in his past actions and we can trust that in the future he will remain faithful, because there is no shadow of change in him.

In the next passage he points us once again towards the truth, not towards us earning his favor, but since we have his favor in Christ we now ought to do these things;

Zechariah 8:16-17 "These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace; do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares the LORD."

God wants us to tell the truth, judge rightly, love justice and peace, not plot against one another, and hate lying, because he hates lying. Let’s camp out on this idea for a minute, does God just hate lies, or does he hate the one who lies? As Pastor Aaron said last week, does God send lies to Hell, or liars? Check our Proverbs 6:16-19, this is one of the most amazing passages in scripture:

Proverbs 6:16-19 There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.

These aren’t sins, though God does also hate sin, these are the person that sins. Haughty (proud) eyes are people that think too highly of themselves, lying tongues are obvious, Proverbs 12:22 says that lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, hands that shed blood are violent at least and murderers at most, the heart is the core being of a person and Jeremiah tells us that ours is desperately wicked, feet are nothing without the brain that direct their path, the false witness is the liar, and the divisive one is a gossip or other such person who seeks to incite argument where no argument should exist.

I don’t know if you’ve broken all of them, beloved, I know I have; but thanks be to God that I have been washed in the blood of Christ and sanctified by the Spirit of our God. Therefore, as new creatures, the Apostle Paul gives us one of my favorite exhortations in all of scripture.

Ephesians 4:25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.

Finally, we see if we should be doing things just to earn Heaven or get closer to God. The modern church would do well to read this passage because in Christianity today (astray?) we have ever manner of person telling us we need to read our Bible or pray or fast or do a quiet time to get nearer to God; one person on facebook even claimed they were drawn closer to God through Yoga, which is utterly ridiculous because Yoga is satanic and a tool of the devil. Complete this sentence, “You who were far off have been brought near by”... the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:13) What brought us near? Was it fasting, Bible reading, or prayer? It was Christ; you can’t be any nearer than IN the kingdom, which we are if we are in Christ. So God through Zechariah finally answers the question of whether we should fast to earn his favor:

Zechariah 8:18-19 And the word of the LORD of hosts came to me, saying, "Thus says the LORD of hosts: The fast of the fourth month and the fast of the fifth and the fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth shall be to the house of Judah seasons of joy and gladness and cheerful feasts. Therefore love truth and peace.

We have rested in Christ from trying to earn Heaven, knowing that he has utterly earned it for us. So instead of fasting on Yom Kippur like the Old Testament saints would, now we celebrate days like Thanksgiving, even though not all people remember to thank God always, we ought to especially during feasts remember that Christ has done all of the work and all that is left for us is to enjoy the fruits of his labor.

In everything we are doing, we ought to be loving truth, and peace, seeking to exalt the name of our Saviour who in Revelation 3 and 19 is called Faithful and True, and who is the Prince of Peace.

Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

This isn’t to say that there isn’t a time for fasting. We just don’t do it to earn God’s favor, because we already have God’s favor. Providentially the first time I ever fasted was for something we looked at in this lesson. I couldn’t understand how God can both hate and love a person, so I fasted about it and studied by Bible diligently over 25 hours. At the end of the fast I was amazed at how focused my mind was and how I was consumed with the Bible, and I discovered that God’s hatred is in emotion, but his love is in action. Check this out, if I were in a war and captured an enemy soldier who the day before had killed my friend, there is no way I’m going to call him friend or give him a hug or love him in emotion, truly I hate him in emotion, but I am going to love him in action by ensuring his safety, shelter, and sustenance. God loves his children who have been saved in emotion, but he utterly hates his enemies; extending to them a love in action, a charity, that if they will repent and believe they will be reconciled to him since his Son was crushed in their place.

So you can still fast, just do it for the right motives, because you’re already justified, not to become justified. Hopefully we’ll be doing a youth-group fast sometime in the spring.

Last point, we see that as we live these God glorifying and thankful lives, that it will draw others to the kingdom. This is ultimately what we want, for God gets a little glory by crushing his enemies, but he is greatly exalted in converting an enemy into a friend. We seek repentance rather than wrath, since Christ has already faced an infinite wrath in substitution for his saints.

Zechariah 8:20-23 "Thus says the LORD of hosts: Peoples shall yet come, even the inhabitants of many cities. The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, 'Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the LORD and to seek the LORD of hosts; I myself am going.' Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the LORD. Thus says the LORD of hosts: In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, 'Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.'"

The world, seeing the joy and hope in us, will enquire of our beliefs. We must be ready in season and out to tell them of Christ’s atoning death and resurrection. We must not turn them away when they seek diligently for God, rather we ought to be answering their questions and telling them the truth, explaining that there was hatred from God towards them, but that Christ has appeased it so that there is peace now if they will repent and trust in Christ.

Finally, I heard an amazing sermon once by an old dead guy, who unfortunately I couldn’t find the sermon for you. It was either by Whitefield, Wesley, or Spurgeon, or the like. They preached to a large group with many children in it, they preached basically, “Oh children, if your parents will not come with you to Christ, then you must leave them and come on your own.” This is similar to what Zechariah is preaching here, that we should seek God, but if you won’t go, I myself am still going.

Beloved, let this be your life, exhorting everyone you meet to enter Heaven with you by the narrow gate, but if none go with you, you still will go to him who loved you and gave himself for you. This is true religion.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

November 14th - The Holy Spirit in John's Gospel

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Text – John 14:26

When I want to teach someone about the Holy Spirit, I take them to three major places, the first is the fruit of the Spirit, where is that located? Galatians 5. Then I like how Romans 8 really does a nice job of telling us how the Spirit is interacting with our lives and guiding us in the truth.

My favorite though, is Jesus’ introduction of him in John 14-16. The Bible speaks of the Holy Spirit all over, even in the second verse, so John’s Gospel is obviously not the only place we learn about the Holy Spirit, but the Spirit is the main point of this passage, so it is our most useful passage when we want to learn about him. Before we dig into John’s Gospel though, let’s just look at some other verses about the Holy Spirit.

Genesis 1:1-2 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

Numbers 11:28-29 And Joshua the son of Nun, the assistant of Moses from his youth, said, "My lord Moses, stop them." But Moses said to him, "Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!"

Judges 6:34 But the Spirit of the LORD clothed Gideon, and he sounded the trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called out to follow him.

Ezekiel 2:2-3 And he said to me, "Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak with you." And as he spoke to me, the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard him speaking to me.

Ezekiel 36:26-27 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

Joel 2:29 Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit.

Haggai 2:5 My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not.

Zechariah 7:12-13 They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the LORD of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great anger came from the LORD of hosts. "As he called, and they would not hear, so they called, and I would not hear,"

So we see that the Spirit of God in the Old Testament was personal, a protector, a revealer of God’s Word, a maker of prophets, a person, and a massive part of salvation. Here is your first application, that when the Spirit of God lives in someone, that makes them a prophet, not someone who sees the future, but someone who speaks for God. As a Christian anytime you speak about God, Heaven, the afterlife, or morality, you are an official representative of the kingdom and a prophet. Do you absolute best to speak the truth in love and gentleness, never compromising, and always remembering that if the Spirit is with you, you have nothing to fear, nothing even to worry about. My favorite verse is 1 Peter 3:14-15 where it says, “Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy…”

So all that introduction to bring us to John’s Gospel. We’re going to look at five major things, first I want to prove to you that he is a person, then I want to look at the names of the Holy Spirit, then we’ll look at how the Spirit interacts with Christ, then how he impacts unbelievers, then we’ll see how he works in believers.

John 16:7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.

The Holy Spirit is a he, he is a Person. A.W. Tozer said it beautifully when he said,

“Spell this out in capital letters: THE HOLY SPIRIT IS A PERSON. He is not enthusiasm. He is not courage. He is not energy. He is not the personification of all good qualities, like Jack Frost is the personification of cold weather. Actually, the Holy Spirit is not the personification of anything…he has individuality. He is one being and not another. He has will and intelligence. He has hearing. He has knowledge and sympathy and ability to love and see and think. He can hear, speak, desire, grieve, and rejoice. He is a Person.”

So is the Spirit a person? Yes!

Now, names, in John’s Gospel he is called three things.

Pneuma Hagion – The Holy Spirit, or the Holy Ghost. This really shows us that the Holy Spirit is part of the godhead, because God alone is holy. Let’s look at a verse about Jesus first, then a verse about the Holy Spirit,

John 6:69 we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.

John 14:24-26 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. "These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

Pneuma Aletheias – The Spirit of Truth.

John 16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

Paraclete – Helper. This word literally means “One who walks with”, it is the title of a lawyer, an advocate, or a counselor, someone who helps you in your struggles.

John 14:15-17 "If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”

These names really tell us what his priorities are. He is concerned with holiness, with truth, and with helping us into each of these. This is neat, because who remembers what God’s ultimate goal is for all of his saints? Let’s read it:

1 Thessalonians 4:3 This is the will of God: Your sanctification.

Sanctification is making you holier, love truth more, and succeed in living a Christlike life, all things which are the will of the Holy Spirit and are literally his job. Speaking of his names and jobs, I wanted to teach this class totally from John’s Gospel, but at this point I have to take you back to the Old Testament so we can see a beautiful prophecy for Christ and that these names for the Holy Spirit aren’t new to the New Testament.

Isaiah 11:1-5 There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.

So let’s see how he acted in Christ. First of all, have you ever heard us say, “You must be born again to see the kingdom of Heaven.”? Why do we say that? Because Jesus said it in John 3. This is not baptism like some believe, but it is synonymous to when the Holy Spirit gives us new life by dwelling in us. Christ needed not to be born again, because the Holy Spirit already dwelt in him. Since we’ve already stepped out of John’s Gospel, let’s set out again:

Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.

Dude, I think that’s my favorite verse. Or maybe it’s this next one:

John 3:34-35 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.

Check this out, this is how John the Baptist knew that Jesus was the Christ, because the Father gave the Son the Spirit without measure,

John 1:32-34 And John bore witness: "I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.' And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God."

The Spirit’s major goal in his existence is to bring glory to the Father through the Son, to show people who Jesus Christ is. This is done mostly through conversion of sinners into saints. It takes nothing for God to crush sinners into eternity, and he will get glory in that for his justice, but God gets far more glory in transforming lives and turning enemies into friends. Let’s look at how the Holy Spirit does this, first in unbelievers.

Our major verse for this is John 16:8, and the verses following that will explain what it means.

John 16:8 When he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:

This is a fantastic verse to memorize, because it reminds us what all of our preaching should be, showing the world that they are sinners, that God (Father, Son, and Spirit) alone is righteous, and that there are consequences for sin which will either be judged on the last day or were judged on Christ on the cross.

Let’s let the Bible tell us how the Holy Spirit will do this; first sin,

John 16:9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me;

Any idea why sin might be sin because people don’t believe in Christ as God and Saviour? It’s because he is the standard of righteousness, if there were no measure, then there would be no such thing as good and evil. For example, we couldn’t say, “Murder is bad,” we’d be forced to say, “Murder is different…and I don’t like it.” But because Christ is our absolute measure of righteousness, we can call sin sin, and the Spirit will convict of it.

And, probably more important than that, if there were no sin, then Christ died for nothing, so the Spirit will convict that Christ died for a purpose, to substitute himself for his saints and pay for their sins with his own life.

John 16:10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer;

Christ again is the measure of righteousness, but at this point his is explaining that he is leaving the planet bodily, but that he won’t leave his saints as orphans and without a guide. He is the light of the world, but with him gone, that title has come to us, and we’re not yet perfect, though we are declared righteous on Christ’s sake. If I were the standard of righteousness, everyone would go to Heaven, but we have the Spirit to convict us concerning righteousness that we must be perfect as our Father and Saviour in Heaven are perfect.

John 16:11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

This is my favorite verse! In Isaiah 53 it says that we esteemed Christ as stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted; that is we thought he was being punished for his own sins, but we see that he had no sins and he was crushed for our iniquities. It looked like he was being judged, but in reality he was laying down his life willingly for our sake. Christ bore our sins to the cross and died for them, our King died for us, and it looked like the end.

But on Sunday morning the ruler of this world, Satan himself, was shown to have no power over Christ, when in the darkness of a sealed tomb the worst sound Satan ever heard started oh so quietly in Christ’s chest; beloved, it was a heartbeat, and it proved Christ was who he said he was, it proved his payment was accepted, it proved our sins were paid for, and it proved that Christ is the true God, not Satan.

The Holy Spirit will convict us that the resurrection is true. The resurrection is the best attested to fact in all of antiquity; the Christian church is a testament to its veracity. All the Roman government had to do to prove it false was produce a body, but Christ is wearing his body now in Heaven, he is alive forevermore.

When these three things, sin, righteousness, and judgment, are proved to be true by the Holy Spirit convincing us, then we can’t do anything except repent and believe in the Resurrected Christ. What do you think we bring to this equation? Is it a little us and a little Christ and a little Spirit and a little pastor that makes us born again? Let’s let Jesus answer that question, his answer makes a lot of people FURIOUS.

John 6:63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all.

Our salvation is totally accomplished by him, it says we didn’t help at all. If you want to read John 1:12-13 it says again that we brought nothing, but that it was the will of God to make us born again.

So now, how does he act in us after we’ve been saved and he lives in us? He is first our teacher, the Bible won’t make any sense to you unless the Holy Spirit wants you to be able to understand it:

John 16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

We see from earlier that with the Spirit in us, we will become prophets, we will have boldness, and we will be transformed to be new people. All of this happens on the inside. The word for Spirit in the Old Testament Hebrew is Ruwach, it is literally the word for wind; Jesus knew this and makes an amazing parallel in John 3, let’s read it.

John 3:8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.

That’s my favorite verse. Check this out, have you ever seen the wind? Do you believe in wind? How are you going to prove to me that there is such thing as wind? We can hear it, we can feel it, and we can see it do things, like rustle leaves or flap flags. The same with the Spirit, because he’s spirit, we can’t see him, but we see his effects in our lives. If he is indeed sanctifying us, then we should be growing in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, right?

I can’t paint a picture of the Holy Spirit for you, but I can say look at who I once was and who I am today, I can show you your born-again parents and ask them to tell you their testimony, I can show you a life utterly consumed for Christ, I can show you that the mind set on sin is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace. We can’t see the Spirit, but we know he exists because he radically works in our lives, changing us to be more Christlike, and leading us in the truth.

So beloved, trust in Christ, receive his Holy Spirit, set your affections on Heaven, and trust totally in the work of God in your life to transform you. Read the Word of God, written by the Holy Spirit to learn his will for your life, spend your entire efforts glorifying Christ, preaching sin, righteousness, and judgment so that the Holy Spirit will convict of these and cause many to be born again. Know that you are a prophet of God when you speak about his kingdom, so pray for the Holy Spirit to help you memorize Bible verses and bring to your remembrance those verses at the right time. He is your Helper, he lives to help you preach Christ and live a holy life. Finally, let’s take a lesson from him, that though he is totally worthy to be praised, he points all of the glory at the Father through the Son, so let us, who are not worthy to be praised, likewise point all of the glory at the Father through the Son.