Courageous Faith: An Excellent Spirit

An Excellent Spirit sermon notes download

An Excellent Spirit

Passage: Daniel 6

Father’s Day - Sunday, June 18, 2017

Pastor Paul L. Davis

 

Key Goals: (Know) Understand our need to learn. (Feel) Feel a desire to grow. (Do) Study the Word and God’s people.

 

Introduction: When I see many of the pictures that portray Daniel in the lions’ den, I have to chuckle.  Look at this famous one held in the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. Painted in 1615 by Peter Paul Rubens, it is a beautiful example of classical idealism. But if you are like me and this is how you have imagined the lions’ den event, you’ll be surprised to know that this picture has almost no basis in reality. Look at how old the man is in the picture—maybe 25? As you are turning in your Bibles to Daniel 6, we need to recalibrate our mental pictures. Daniel is about 90 years old by Daniel 6. He is a very old man, but one with a powerful and lasting influence. That is what I want to discuss on this Father’s Day.

 

Guys, there is no way any one of us fathers will be perfect. But we can all have a powerful lasting influence on those around us. That is what Daniel had. What is interesting about Daniel is he never had any children. In fact, he was almost certainly a eunuch.[1] He was never married—no family, kids or grandkids—but I guarantee you there is not one child in our church that has not heard of Daniel. That is what I call influence.

 

There are three distinguishing characteristics of men who have a lasting influence. Let’s go to Daniel 6 and find out what they are. As we begin reading, let me set the stage. Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon the Great are no more. In chapter 6, the Medes and the Persians have taken over and a new government is being formed. Darius the Mede is now king[2].

 

1 It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 satraps, to be throughout the whole kingdom; 2 and over them three high officials, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss. 3 Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.

 

Darius immediately spotted Daniel. We are told specifically it was because he had an excellent spirit.

 

1. Men with a lasting influence have excellent spirits (Dan 6:1-3)

a. Daniel’s excellent spirit flowed from his closeness with God. Back in Daniel 4:8, when Nebuchadnezzar was describing Daniel, he said that within Daniel was the “spirit of the holy god.” Daniel’s excellent spirit began with his intimate, personal walk with God. Before we can influence anyone else, we must allow ourselves to first be influenced by God.

b. Daniel’s excellent spirit had both a spiritual and physical aspect. We are told that Daniel was distinguished because of his excellent spirit, so it must have been visible. Daniel’s inner life (his spirit) was visible in his outer life (the way he acted). Men, if our inner lives are chaos, our outer lives will be too.

c. Daniel’s excellent spirit revealed right thinking. In Daniel 5:11 the queen of Babylon described Daniel. Listen to what she said: There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him, and King Nebuchadnezzar, your father—your father the king—made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers. Men with excellent spirits are wise, intelligent, and full of light, the idea being right thinking that leads to right actions, minds filled with light not darkness.  What we feed our minds will pour out of our spirits.

d. Daniel’s excellent spirit was reflected by good habits. We will find out in a moment that it was Daniel’s habit to pray three times a day. That is a great habit; it can’t be his only one. People who develop good habits grow exceptional spirits.

 

Because of this excellent spirit, the king was going to make Daniel the number one official in the kingdom. This displeased many of the governmental leaders around him. 4 Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. 5 Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.”

 

They made themselves special investigators and were looking for corruption, but they could find none. So they devised a plan. 7 All the high officials of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions.

 

This was actually a clever and shrewd plan, because they knew Daniel was a man of prayer.

 

2. Men with lasting influence pray. (Dan 6:10-11)

Look at verse 10.

When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. 11 Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and plea before his God.

 

The key phrase here is “as he had done previously.” Daniel was not acting out of spite for the new king. He was doing what he did every day; he prayed. This was a key aspect of his inner life that flowed outward. Men, we don’t have to show off our praying; we need not open our windows and face Jerusalem. But if we are to have a lasting impact, it will take God working through us. We must be on our knees! “God, help me lead my family. Grant me strength. Would you save my children? Help them to find joy in obeying their mother. Bless my work.” These quick little prayers call on the living God to engage in our everyday life. He has infinite unlimited power and loves us, why would we not call on him?

 

The jealous government leaders of course catch Daniel praying. They tattle to Darius and pressure him to follow the very law they helped him create. But Darius is visibly upset by what has transpired and most certainly realizes that he has been manipulated. Look at verse 14.Then the king, when he heard these words, was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. And he labored till the sun went down to rescue him.

 

But the government bureaucrats know the law even better than the king. In verse 15 they declare to him,“Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.” So the king did what he knew he had to do. 16 Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” 17 And a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel.

 

3. Men with lasting influence persevere. (Dan 6:20-21)

It is one thing to be a man of prayer. But it is something entirely different to be a man of prayer with your life on the line. One of the reasons we respect Daniel is because he was unwilling to compromise his faith—when he was young with the king’s food and when he was old with his prayer life. His consistency and perseverance in the face of certain death is why we admire Daniel. Men, our consistency and perseverance in doing right (from our youth to gray hair) is key to having a lasting influence on those we love. We have got to be there.

 

Bob Bell just went to be with the Lord. He was in his 80’s and had lived a full life. His funeral was beautiful. Much of the joy was because Bob had been a faithful, committed follower of Jesus here at Calvary for 40 years. Pastors, deacons, styles of worship have all come and gone. But Bob and Jean persevered. There is not a person who knew Bob that did not respect him. His lasting influence on me? He showed me the power of being committed to a group of people for the long haul. 

 

Daniel was thrown in the lions’ den. The door was closed and he spent the night with lions bred and starved so that they would tear prisoners to pieces. The next morning Darius was anxious to find out Daniel’s fate.

20 As he (Darius) came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” 21 Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.”

 

While I thought Darius would have been overjoyed, I obviously do not think like a king, because he immediately went into full-out justice mode. 24 And the king commanded, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and cast into the den of lions…That phrase “maliciously accused” is an Aramaic idiom. Literally translated it reads “the men who had eaten his pieces.” It is a wordplay on what happens in a lions’ den.[3] These men who had been trying to devour (“eat his pieces”) Daniel with their plan were now literally going to be eaten by lions.

 

The irony shows up at the end of verse 24…they, their children, and their wives. And before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces. The Persians were famous for their swift and severe justice. That is what makes Daniel’s perseverance so powerful. He stood firm, knowing that the hammer of Persian justice comes down severely on those who disobey.

 

Men, let me recap. Daniel, 2500 years after his death, still influences us today because of his excellent spirit, his tenacious habitual prayers, and his dogged persistence in following hard after God. There are no perfect men. No one expects you to be the perfect man, dad, grandfather, or husband. But you can be a tremendous positive influence.

 

Grow your inner life—because it flows out.

Pray and call on the living God to move in your life.

Persevere—your faithfulness over the long haul is the key to a long term impact.

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L .Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

[1] There are certain indications in Scripture that suggest Daniel was made a eunuch. 1) He was never married. 2) He was a slave in a time and place where castration of slaves was common. 3) In 2 Kings 20:18 some of Hezekiah’s descendants, we are told, would one day be taken from Israel to serve in the palace of the king of Babylon as eunuchs: “And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood that will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” Daniel 1:3 describes Daniel and his friends as under the authority of the “chief eunuch,” a man named Ashpenaz (see www.gotquestions.org).

[2] There are many websites and articles that discuss the fact that we have no archeological evidence for the existence of a man named “Darius the Mede.” That is not a problem for the Bible scholar if you understand the language. The Aramaic word “Darius” means “Lord.” So whoever the king in this story was, he was “Lord of the Medes.” Darius almost certainly is not a proper name but a title. Skeptics like to highlight this apparent conflict with the Bible and archeology, but no conflict exists.

[3] Stephen R. Miller, Daniel, vol. 18, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 187–188.

Courageous Faith: Arrogant Blindness

Arrogant Blindness sermon notes

Arrogant Blindness

Passage: Daniel 5

Sunday, June 11, 2017

 

Key Goals: (Know) Understand our need to learn. (Feel) Desire to grow. (Do) Study the Word and God’s people.

Introduction: Arrogance, blasphemy and idolatry—those were the three dominant sins of Nebuchadnezzar. In his idolatry, he worshipped a stone image called Marduk. He blasphemed the God of the Bible by plundering the temple and taking all its treasures and putting them in Marduk’s temple. We saw his arrogance last week in Daniel 4 when he walked through his kingdom saying, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” But despite his sinfulness, he listened when God broke into his life, and he repented, humbling himself, worshiping and extoling the God of heaven. God blessed him with a long life and a great kingdom.

The first four chapters of the book of Daniel are a beautiful picture of God’s grace! YHWH God graciously revealed himself to an arrogant, idolatrous, unbelieving Nebuchadnezzar. The king listened and God’s grace broke through Nebuchadnezzar’s hard heart and he humbled himself, turned his heart toward the true king of the universe, and worshipped him. What a beautiful picture of transformation. But not everyone listens like Nebuchadnezzar. This morning, we are going to walk through Daniel 5, and if there is one word to describe this chapter it would be: beware. God will not shield people who willfully choose to sin from the consequences of their actions.

 

Background: Let me bring you up to speed with where we are. Just like chapter four, chapter five jumps several decades. Nebuchadnezzar was no longer the king of Babylon. Belshazzar was ruling as the son and coregent of Nabonidus, the last king of Babylon. A number of archeological artifacts have been found that mention him by name—enough, in fact, that we know the events of this chapter took place in October 539 BC.[1] Darius the Mede, king of the Medes and Persians, had laid siege to Babylon. The city was surrounded and had been for two years. But the city was impenetrable. Chapter five begins with the king of Babylon mocking his enemy’s two-year siege by holding a party.

1 King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand. 2 Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them… 4 They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.[2]

Why would they do this? This was a battle strategy. We need to remember how ancient people thought. If two people with two different gods fought, the winner was always the one with the greater god. So, to rally his gods to victory over Persia, Belshazzar worshipped them with the spoils from past victories. The Nabonitus Cylinder tells us that by this time, all the idols from all the cities surrounding Babylon had been brought to the capital to protect them.[3] The king was mocking YHWH to gain favor with not just Marduk, but all the idols from the surrounding area. While this was going on, 5Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. 6 Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together.

 

God has a limit to how far he will allow people to go in their sin. The scary aspect of that truth is that we never know where that limit is. God is longsuffering and merciful, and may allow people to continue in sin for a long time. But God’s word is strikingly clear: a person will reap the harvest of whatever they sow. Galatians 6:7-8 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

 

There is time for grace and mercy if our God is loving, but there must also be times for judgment if our God is good, righteous, holy, and just. The king and his Babylonian dinner guests crossed a line that night in the banquet hall of Babylon. Judgment day had come, and the writing on the wall announced its arrival. Just like the dreams of chapters 2 & 4, none of the wise men or astrologers could understand the meaning of the words until the queen came in.

10 The queen, because of the words of the king and his lords, came into the banqueting hall, and the queen declared, “O king, live forever! Let not your thoughts alarm you or your color change. 11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him, and King Nebuchadnezzar, your father—your father the king—made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers, 12 because an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.”

 

This is important to catch here. Daniel and the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s conversion to the God of the Bible was well-known information in the court of Belshazzar. The queen’s gracious words reveal that the events of Daniel 1-4 had not been forgotten. But when Daniel is brought before the king, he is belittled. Belshazzar is probably still drunk and he is most certainly showing off for his crowd of idol worshippers.13 …The king… said to Daniel, “You are that Daniel, one of the exiles of Judah, whom the king my father brought from Judah.” “That Daniel?” Daniel had loyally and with great renown served the kings of Babylon for 70 years. “That Daniel?” Belshazzar is mocking him.

 14 “I have heard of you that the spirit of the gods is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you. 15 Now the wise men, the enchanters, have been brought in before me to read this writing and make known to me its interpretation, but they could not show the interpretation of the matter. 16 But I have heard that you can give interpretations and solve problems. Now if you can read the writing and make known to me its interpretation, you shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around your neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.”

 

Daniel responds by telling the king he can keep his gifts. Then he does something really interesting. He proceeds to tell Belshazzar the story of his father’s conversion—how God had revealed himself to Nebuchadnezzar and how he brought him low and softened his hard heart, and especially how he was restored and blessed when he worshipped the Most High God. Verse 22 is where it gets serious. And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this… Belshazzar knew the whole story. Three times God had intervened in Nebuchadnezzar’s life, leaving him convinced that the God of the Bible was the Most High God. Belshazzar knew all of it! But he refused to follow Nebuchadnezzar’s example and humble himself.

23… you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.

 

I like the way the NLT translates that last sentence. But you have not honored the God who gives you the breath of life and controls your destiny![4]

 

So, what did God write on the wall? 25 And this is the writing that was inscribed: Mene, Mene, Tekel, and Parsin. Daniel interprets the meaning of the words in the following verse. 26 This is the interpretation of the matter: Mene, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; 27 Tekel, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; 28 Peres, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”

 

There is a lot of word play that happens in this sentence. I won’t bore you with all of it, but the words literally mean: numbered, numbered, weighed, divided.[5] I will point out one significant piece. The word for divided, parsin, had the same spelling as the word “Persian,” as in the Persian empire that would defeat the Babylonians. So, the kingdom was being divided or split away from the king and given to the Persians. Our story ends abruptly in verse 30…That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. 31 And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.

 

Great story, but what are the lessons? Remember when I said the theme of this chapter was “beware”? We should walk away with two incredibly important lessons from Daniel 5.

 

1. Pay attention to how God is working in the people around you. Belshazzar’s kingdom and life ended tragically because he did not learn the lessons that God taught Nebuchadnezzar. He knew them. He heard all about the “holy God” and how he had revealed himself and humbled Nebuchadnezzar. Though he “knew all of it,” he did not change.

Let me speak for a moment to everyone 40 and under. God has given you family, friends, and a church with many people who have walked the path of wisdom ahead of you. Watch and learn from them. Learn from their mistakes and make better choices. Learn from their successes and follow their example. If I am honest, much of how I structure my life is either a reaction against or a copying of things I have seen. I work hard every week preparing a message, typing it out, even giving you my notes, and it is a reaction to having sat through many sermons where I knew the pastor had not prepared. But, I also pray over my message. I get up very early every Sunday and pray for you, the church, and I do it because of men of God who have shown me the power of prayer. Hebrews 13:7 Remember… those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.

God has given us a gift in the church. We are a body of believers meant to grow together. Discipleship is encouraging and shaping each other, and teaching one another the lessons we have learned. Being discipled is far less complicated than you might think—it is paying attention to how God is working in the people around you.

 

2. Draw wisdom from the lives of people recorded in Scripture. Belshazzar is not the only person meant to learn from the stories in Daniel. The reason this book exists is so that you and I can learn the same lessons. Jesus told an interesting story in Luke 16. Two men died—a rich man who went to hell and a poor man, Lazarus, who went to heaven. In the story, Jesus says as the rich man was suffering in hell, he pleaded with heaven to send Lazarus back from the dead to warn his brothers to repent lest they end up in hell as well. The rich man is told “No.” Listen to why. Luke 16:29–31 “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.” The rich man begs, “If someone would go to them from the dead, then they would repent.” The answer is still “No,” and we are told why. “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.”

Don’t go looking for some special sign or knowledge from God; he is not sending it. He has given us everything we need to know for life and godliness in his word. Study it. Join an Equipping U class, do a deep dive and let the Word of God do what it does best: transform your life. Belshazzar let his pride blind him from seeing the critical areas of his life he needed to change. Learn from Belshazzar.

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

[1] Victor Harold Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), Da 5:1.

[2] Scripture quotations are from the ESV Bible unless otherwise noted.

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Opis

[4] Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2013), Da 5:23.

[5] Gleason L. Archer Jr., “Daniel,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Daniel and the Minor Prophets, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 7 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986), 73.

Courageous Faith: Redemptive Distress

Redemptive Distress sermon notes

Redemptive Distress

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

The Church @ Hamilton

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Pastor Paul L. Davis

 

Key Goals: (Know) Understand God’s grace. (Feel) Feel love for God in difficulty. (Do) Stand firm in faith.

 

Introduction: 32 years is a lifetime. Lebron James is 32 years old. Alexander the Great, who conquered the known world, died when he was 32. This morning we are in Daniel 4. It is critical for us to realize that the action that takes place today in chapter 4 happened 32 years after Daniel first met Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel is now around 50 years old and has served the king for the majority of his life. If you have been with us for the last several weeks, you have heard me say that, for reasons we may never know, God was uniquely gracious in revealing himself to Nebuchadnezzar.

 

In Daniel 1: Daniel and his friends decided to honor God by not eating the king’s food. Because of their decision, God blessed them with great wisdom and King Nebuchadnezzar found the Israelites ten times wiser than all his other wise men. God revealed to Nebuchadnezzar that there is a difference in those who worship God.

 

In Daniel 2: While he was thinking about the future, the Lord gave Nebuchadnezzar a dream that only Daniel could interpret. Daniel made it abundantly clear that the dream and the interpretation came from the “God of heaven.” In his dream, Nebuchadnezzar learned that only God’s kingdom will last forever—all others are temporary. As the chapter ended, Nebuchadnezzar proclaimed Daniel’s God as the “highest” of all the “gods.”

 

In Daniel 3: Nebuchadnezzar saw the faith of those who followed the Most High, the God of heaven. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had an objective and exclusive faith that led them to reject idol worship. Thinking no god could deliver these men from his wrath, Nebuchadnezzar had them thrown into a fiery furnace. He watched as the God of heaven did what no other god could—rescue his people. Nebuchadnezzar watched the Lord step into a blazing furnace to be with those who followed him. Nebuchadnezzar blessed the Lord and made it a crime to speak against the God of heaven.

 

Nebuchadnezzar seems to have a growing understanding of the Lord, but was he a believer? He was close, but this morning we will find that he had one more very important lesson to learn. Chapter 4 is unique because it is either written or dictated as a proclamation by Nebuchadnezzar himself. Proclamations like this were common and were usually written on a “stele.”  

Daniel 4[1]

1 King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you! 2 It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me. 3 How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation.

Nebuchadnezzar learned well what God had revealed to him at this point. You can almost hear the stories of chapters 1-3 behind this introduction.

4 I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and prospering in my palace. 5 I saw a dream that made me afraid. As I lay in bed the fancies and the visions of my head alarmed me. 6 So I made a decree that all the wise men of Babylon should be brought before me, that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream. 7 Then the magicians, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers came in, and I told them the dream, but they could not make known to me its interpretation. 8 At last Daniel came in before me—he who was named Belteshazzar after the name of my god, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods—and I told him the dream, saying…

 

I want you to catch something. At this point in his narrative, Nebuchadnezzar talks of “his” god being the god that Daniel was named after. “His” god was Marduk. But Daniel had the spirit of the “holy gods.” It is interesting that Nebuchadnezzar uses the Aramaic word “holy.” Daniel’s God is different from the other gods by being unique in his moral purity.[2]

 

The Dream:

9“O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that no mystery is too difficult for you, tell me the visions of my dream that I saw and their interpretation. 10 The visions of my head as I lay in bed were these: I saw, and behold, a tree in the midst of the earth, and its height was great. 11 The tree grew and became strong, and its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth. 12 Its leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, and the birds of the heavens lived in its branches, and all flesh was fed from it. 13 I saw in the visions of my head as I lay in bed, and behold, a watcher, a holy one, came down from heaven.

 “Watcher” is the Aramaic word for angel. Biblically it is used only in Daniel, but there were entire books written about the good and evil watchers.[3]

 14 He (the watcher) proclaimed aloud and said thus: ‘Chop down the tree and lop off its branches, strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the beasts flee from under it and the birds from its branches. 15 But leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, amid the tender grass of the field. Let him be wet with the dew of heaven. (The Babylonians believed that “dew from heaven” is what brought sickness and disease, so Nebuchadnezzar would have viewed this as an ominous warning.)[4] Let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth. 16 Let his mind be changed from a man’s, and let a beast’s mind be given to him; and let seven periods of time pass over him. 17 The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men.’”

 

While Nebuchadnezzar does not understand what the dream means, the watcher is very clear as to its purpose. The dream represents events that will happen so that the “living” may know that Most High rules the kingdom of men, gives it to whom he will, and sets over it the lowliest of men.

The Interpretation: Daniel is dismayed. He immediately understands that the dream is about Nebuchadnezzar and that it is not good.

25 “…you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.”

 

Nebuchadnezzar is going to go through a significant period of hardship, hardship that will teach him a powerful lesson about who is in charge and who isn’t.

 

Redemptive Distress: There are times in my life when I feel like I am in charge. I make decisions, my plans work out, and I feel good and powerful. If I am honest, there have been times in my life, especially when I was young, that I felt almost invincible. But I don’t feel like that today because of “redemptive distress.” What is it? Redemptive distress is the hard or painful circumstances in our lives that God uses to get our attention and draw us to him. Don’t waste your difficult times. Depression, anger, bitterness, lashing out—these are inappropriate and unbiblical ways to face hardship, but they often show up first. Instead, use your difficulty to soul-search: is there something I need repent of or change? Use your difficulty to pray. Use your difficulty to intensify your faith. Use your difficulty to strengthen your bond with those suffering around you. Use your difficulty to deepen your relationship with God. This was the advice Daniel gave the king.

27 “Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.”

 

We don’t know whether the king listened or not. But we do know that twelve months later, Nebuchadnezzar’s dream became a reality. Nebuchadnezzar 29… was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?”

 

You can just hear the arrogance dripping from his words. In his pride, Nebuchadnezzar took for himself the glory that rightly belonged to the Lord, inviting upon himself God’s judgment.

31 While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, 32 and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” 33 Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws.

 

The king who thought himself a god became subhuman. The key to redemptive distress is the redemption part. Nebuchadnezzar was graciously broken so he would look to the God who made him. Difficulty will draw us to the Lord if we think biblically. For example:

 

1. God designs our distress specifically for us. Paul had a “thorn in the flesh,” David had Goliath, Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son. God did not give Nebuchadnezzar cancer; his distress was uniquely tailored to his pride that had to be broken. If you are going through difficulty, it is yours. It may not be to break you; it may be to mold you or to strengthen your faith. Whatever God is doing, he is doing for you not to you! God’s goal was to lovingly turn Nebuchadnezzar away from self-love and to him!

 2. Our distress opens our eyes to God’s closeness. God knew Nebuchadnezzar intimately. He knew exactly what it would take to get his attention—not because he is mean and capricious, but because he is loving and close! Remember Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

3. Our goal in distress must be intimacy with God, not relief. Watch what happens to Nebuchadnezzar’s heart.

34At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; 35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”

36 At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

 

What a powerful testimony! Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven.” It is hard for you and me to understand the significance of this statement. This is as clear a statement of faith as was ever given in scripture. To put it in New Testament language, Nebuchadnezzar “got saved.” Redemptive distress through the power of the Holy Spirit is what drew him to the Lord.

 

Jeremiah’s letter: Let me end with this thought. Before any of the stories of Daniel took place, the prophet Jeremiah wrote a letter to all the people of Israel taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar, every one of them ripped from home and family, every one of them in distress. In the letter, God specifically says that he was the one who caused their pain,[5] but then he says these famous words in Jeremiah 29:11–13 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

[1] Scripture quotations are from the ESV Bible.

[2] James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Aramaic (Old Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

[3] See the first three books of Enoch (there are 8) which discuss the fall and activities of the watchers.

[4] Victor Harold Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), Da 4:15.

[5] Jer 29:4

Courageous Faith: Faithful in the Face of Death

Faithful in the Face of Death sermon notes

Faithful in the Face of Death

Passage: Daniel 3

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Pastor Paul L. Davis

Key Goals: (Know) Understand the exclusivity of God. (Feel) Feel the power to remain faithful. (Do) Stand firm in faith.

 

Introduction: In May of 1940, 365,000 Allied soldiers were trapped on the coast of Dunkirk, France. German Panzer divisions were on their way, and they had the capacity to wipe out the Allied force. When it seemed certain that the forces at Dunkirk were about to be massacred, a British naval officer cabled just three words back to London: But if not. These words were instantly recognized by the cable officer as a reference to the book of Daniel. The message in those three little words was: the situation is desperate. The Allied forces were trapped. It would take a miracle to save them, but if not they would remain faithful and not give in. One simple three-word phrase communicated all that. The British leapt into action and assembled 850 boats—some large ships, some small fishing boats. The plan was to rescue 45,000 of the men before the Germans crushed the entire force. For some unknown reason, Hitler ordered his divisions to hold. The German generals were furious, but as they backed off, what’s known as the Miracle of Dunkirk took place. What was to be a one-day rescue of 45,000 turned into a nine-day rescue of more than 365,000 soldiers. “But if not.” My prayer this morning is that when we leave here, we will clearly understand that phrase.

 

When I was a child, I picked up an understanding of faith that caused me to seriously question God when I was a senior in high school. What I had picked up was this thought: if I trust God with a sufficient quality and quantity of faith, everything will work out well for me. The kicker is, I think I accidentally learned this in Sunday School. Let me tell you the story of Daniel chapter 3 the way I had always heard it.

 

My understanding: King Nebuchadnezzar created a large image (90’x9’) and he required everyone in the kingdom to bow down to it when music began to play. When the music played, several evil jealous satraps (whatever they were…governors or something) told Nebuchadnezzar that three Jewish guys refused to bow. (Now where Daniel went in this story, I was never told.) So, the king called Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in front of him and demanded that they bow down to the idol or they would be thrown into the “fiery furnace.” But because of the young men’s incredible faith (giant faith…it was even mentioned in Hebrews 11), they refused to bow and instead were thrown into a furnace heated seven times hotter than normal. Then to the surprise of the king, the three Jewish guys not only survived the fire (the soldiers that threw them in didn’t), but the Son of God walked around in the fire with them. They came out of the furnace unscathed and they did not even smell of smoke.

 

That’s the story. I was hearing this story for the first time in junior high, but to me the message was very clear: put your faith in God and he will save you. Right? Now, I was a pretty sophisticated junior higher, so I put together that you probably had to have a lot of faith, and it had to be the “super high quality” type of faith. But that was perfectly fine because, as a junior higher, I had both in spades. But when I hit 16, 17, 18…I discovered the hard reality that many people with tremendous faith suffer terribly. Here is where I landed as a 17-year-old: while faith worked in the Bible, it did not always work in real life.

 

Let’s take a closer look at the story and see if I missed anything about faith. First of all, this section is a continuation of the story from chapter 2, where Nebuchadnezzar was introduced to the “God of heaven” by Daniel. Daniel’s incredible God-given ability to reveal and interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream astounded him, and Nebuchadnezzar’s response was to praise God. We did not find a “believing” Nebuchadnezzar, but he had certainly added the God of Heaven to his “list” of gods (See Dan 2:47). Last week I mentioned that God had a surprisingly unique relationship with Nebuchadnezzar. He was not the “hated pagan king” (the bad guy of the story as he is so often portrayed). In fact, the action and drama surrounding Daniel and the three children of Israel seems to revolve around God graciously revealing himself to the king. Turn to Daniel 3:2–7[1].

Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps (local governor), the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. (Notice how the governmental offices are mentioned.) 3 Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. (They are all listed again. The idea is that EVERYONE is worshipping!) And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 4 And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.” 7 Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

 

This passage paints a picture of the whole world bowing down to the image—all peoples, all nations, all languages. All the magistrates, governors, treasurers, justices, everyone everywhere obeyed, except three men. The story moves from the Plain of Dura where the image was, to the throne room of Nebuchadnezzar where certain Babylonians informed the king of the three men who refused to worship.

12 There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

 

These accusers insinuated that government officials who refused to worship the idol were dangerous, disobedient, and unqualified to serve. They were unwilling to follow the “party leadership,” therefore they must be removed. These men had a dangerous faith that was objective and exclusive. What do I mean by that? The faith that the three children of Israel had was not just “believing,” their faith had an “Object” and that was YHWH God. They were not into the “power of positive thinking.” They trusted in and obeyed the powerful, sovereign God of the universe as revealed in the Ten Commandments and the law of Moses—the number one command being, You shall have no other gods before me (Ex. 20:3).

 

For our guests: Can I just encourage you? You do not have to bow to idols to be good leaders and civil servants. Idols today may not look like 90 ft images, but the idols of money, power, and party politics often stand just as tall.

 

Nebuchadnezzar was furious. He called in Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 15 “Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”

 

That last phrase is why I think this story is really more about God revealing himself to Nebuchadnezzar than it is about the faith of these three Jewish men. “Who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” What a perfect set up! It is like God is playing a sovereign game of tee-ball with Nebuchadnezzar and the ball is teed up for a home run!

 

Verse 16 is the most powerful verse in the entire section. 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

 

There is so much here to talk about, but let me draw out three key components of these three men’s faith.

 

1. Their faith was exclusive. These men knew the God of the Bible and, unlike the Babylonians who were willing to worship new gods as they were set up, these three men knew that the God of heaven had clearly established how he was to be worshipped: exclusively. Exodus 20:3–6 says,

You shall have no other gods before me. 4 You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

 

2. Their faith assumed God’s wisdom and sovereignty. Notice that these men’s faith did not assume God was going to make “everything better.” They worded their statement carefully. “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace.” They did not say he would, just that he was able. Their faith was that God in his wisdom and sovereignty would do what was right as they did what was right. Many believers have been in similar situations and died for their faith. Based on how this is worded, I think it is clear these men were ready to die. They were not “positive thinkers;” they had a deep faith based on God’s very nature as he had revealed himself throughout biblical history, through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and Elijah. The bravery behind these men’s actions flowed from their knowledge that God was in control and that he always does what is right.

 

3. Their faith anticipated God’s provision to be sufficient, loving, and good. Verse 18 is amazing. “But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Those who want to stay alive don’t talk to kings this way. But they had not put their lives in the hands of the king; they had placed their lives in the hands of their God, because he is sufficient and his hands are loving and good. I want to remind us what Nebuchadnezzar should be picking up on. He knows that there is a God in Heaven. God graciously revealed himself. Now God is graciously revealing to Nebuchadnezzar that he is the ONLY God in heaven.  But no king likes defiance.

19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face (the word is “image,” the same word used for the idol) was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated. 20 And he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind [them], and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace…  22 Because the king’s order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

 

God does not save the men from the furnace; they are thrown in. Verse 24 is where it gets miraculous.

24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 25 He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”

 

The fourth person was Immanuel, God with us (Is. 7:14). Our God is the God who blesses faith with his presence. God met with Abraham, Isaac, and Moses by faith. Today we are told that salvation and God’s presence in our lives comes by “grace through faith” in Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:8-9). Nebuchadnezzar was amazed at the presence of God.

 

 26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!”  Notice the phrase he uses to describe God. In the last chapter, he was the “God of heaven,” now he is “the Most High God.”

 

Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. 27 And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them. The miracle is amazing, but not as amazing to me as what Nebuchadnezzar says next.

28 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.”

 

There is no other God who is able to rescue at all. Trust and follow him—exclusively—assuming that his ways are best and anticipating that, as you live for him, God’s provision for you will be sufficient, loving, and good.

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

[1] Scripture quotations are from the ESV Bible.

Courageous Faith: The Rock

The Rock sermon notes

The Rock

Passage: Daniel 2:29-47

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Pastor Paul L. Davis

 

Key Goals: (Know) Know that Jesus Christ is the “Rock”. (Feel) Feel a desire to join or recommit to God’s eternal kingdom. (Do) Pray for faith in Jesus Christ.

 

Introduction: Last time we left Daniel, he was in Babylon—the dominant world power in the year 602 BC. Nebuchadnezzar had conquered almost all the Middle East and had returned to his capital city to build and rule his vast empire. But he had a dream that bothered him terribly, so much so that he called on all the wise men, astrologers, magicians, and sorcerers of Babylon to tell him the dream and its interpretation. This was an impossible task for sure, but Babylonian astrologers were famous for telling kings what they wanted to hear. Nebuchadnezzar had to be sure that the interpretation was accurate. The God of heaven revealed the dream to Daniel, and this morning we are going to look at his dream. Caution: Many people have speculated on what this dream meant. We are not going to do that this morning. We are going to take a slightly different approach and try to grasp what Nebuchadnezzar would have heard. Let’s turn to Daniel 2:26.[1]

The king declared to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, “Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?” 27 Daniel answered the king and said, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days.

 

Before Daniel interprets anything, he exposes the God who reveals mysteries. “There is a God in heaven,” he says. This statement sums up the entire book of Daniel. There are many great stories in this book, but you can summarize all of them with the phrase. Last week I was working with Karl on his sermon, and I told him that he should be able to sum it up in one sentence. The book of Daniel’s “sermon in a sentence” is: There is a God in heaven.

  • There is a God in heaven that gave Babylon the victory over Israel (1:2)
  • There is a God in heaven that brought Daniel to Babylon (1:4)
  • There is a God in heaven who showed favor to Daniel (1:9)
  • There is a God in heaven that gave Daniel the gift of wisdom (1:17)
  • There is a God in heaven that reveals mysteries (2:28)

Later we will find that:

  • There is a God in heaven who will walk with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace. (3:8 ff)
  • There is a God in heaven who will protect Daniel in the lions’ den. (6)

 

To me, one of the most interesting aspects of the book of Daniel is to whom God is revealing himself. We are going to find over the next few chapters that the God of heaven has a unique relationship with Nebuchadnezzar. It is tempting to read the Old Testament (stories like Sodom & Gomorrah or David & Goliath) and think that God loved Israel and hated all the other nations, when in fact it was God’s desire for Israel to be a light and reveal him to the nations. Listen to what God said to his people in Isaiah 49:6. “I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”  God does not hate the nations. In fact, as we walk through this passage, I want you to look for how gracious God is to this pagan king. He goes to extraordinary lengths to reveal himself and his future plans. Look again at verse 28.  …but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days.

 

The phrase “what will be in the latter days” is used here by Daniel, but it also shows up in Hosea, Ezekiel, Micah, and Isaiah.[2] Almost every time this phrase is used in Scripture, it describes the actions of, or the times surrounding, Messiah. Daniel did not accidentally use this phrase. This dream and its interpretation are about Jesus the Messiah and the kingdom he will set up.

29To you, O king, as you lay in bed came thoughts of what would be after this, and he who reveals mysteries made known to you what is to be. 30 But as for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living, but in order that the interpretation may be made known to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your mind.

 

God reveals the dream to Daniel for one reason: so that the interpretation would be known and clear to the king. This is part of that special relationship I discussed earlier. God is reaching out through time and space to reveal his Messiah to a pagan, idol-worshipping king, for no other reason than that he is gracious.

 

The Dream (video)

Daniel 2:31–35

31“You saw, O king, and behold, a great image. This image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, stood before you, and its appearance was frightening. (or awesome)

 32 The head of this image was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its middle and thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. 34 As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.

 

Ok, so that’s the dream. Now, what does it mean? What is the “Revealer of Mysteries” trying to reveal to Nebuchadnezzar? 37You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, 38 and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all—you are the head of gold.

 

God has given Nebuchadnezzar an image that represents kings and kingdoms. The golden and most glorious part of the image represented Nebuchadnezzar and his kingdom. This is certainly historically accurate. Nebuchadnezzar created a city which was not only wondrous to behold, but it was also the center of the world for the arts and intellectual pursuits. Women enjoyed equal rights with men under Nebuchadnezzar’s rule; there was indoor plumbing; schools and temples were plentiful; and literacy, mathematics, and craftsmanship flourished along with a tolerance of, and interest in, other gods of other faiths.[3] Fifty-six miles of walls surrounded the city, all of it enameled in blue proclaiming Nebuchadnezzar as the “lion of Babylon.” If I’m Nebuchadnezzar, I’m thinking, “So far, so good.”

 

39 Another kingdom inferior to you shall arise after you…(represented by the silver part of the image)…and yet a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. We have three kingdoms, each one inferior to the preceding one. But we also have new information here. We are told each of the kingdoms being represented is a kingdom that rules “over all the earth.”

40 And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things. And like iron that crushes, it shall break and crush all these. 41 And as you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom, but some of the firmness of iron shall be in it, just as you saw iron mixed with the soft clay. 42 And as the toes of the feet were partly iron and partly clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle. 43 As you saw the iron mixed with soft clay, so they will mix with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay.

 

It is interesting that Daniel shares almost no information about the “silver” kingdom, but there is a lot of detail about this fourth kingdom. It is iron and it will “break and crush.” But it will not be a unified kingdom; it will be strong but divided and brittle. That is the image. Now let’s get to the action.

44 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. God is revealing to Nebuchadnezzar something amazing here. He is going to “set up” a kingdom that will never be destroyed and will never be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, 45 just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold.

 

The stone that smashed the image into little pieces is the future kingdom that God will establish through Jesus Christ. Notice the stone is specifically described as being cut by no human hand. This kingdom is not an earthly kingdom, but a heavenly one. It is interesting that Jesus referred to himself as a stone in Matthew 21—specifically a stone that had been “rejected” but would become “the chief cornerstone” (v.42). In the context of the Kingdom of God (v. 43), Jesus added (v.44) “And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

 

There are two intended audiences for this story and the dream.

Audience #1: Nebuchadnezzar

This dream was an introduction and a call for Nebuchadnezzar to put his faith in the God of heaven. God introduced himself through Daniel and his ability to tell Nebuchadnezzar his dream. Then he clearly showed him that while his kingdom is marvelous, it will be handed over to another who will hand it over to another who will hand it over to another until the Lord’s Messiah appears and sets up an eternal kingdom that will last forever. That is the message to Nebuchadnezzar: turn to God through his Messiah.

Nebuchadnezzar’s response to this dream is surprisingly appropriate. 47The king answered and said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.” He rightly describes God. But, like so many, just because he understood who God was does not mean he put his faith in him. In fact, as a polytheist, Nebuchadnezzar probably just added Jesus to his list of gods to pray to; he was not committed to the God of Heaven.

 

Audience #2: You and Me

This vision is an incredibly accurate picture of the next 600 years of world history. The Babylonian Empire ruled from 625 to 539 BC, as predicted by God through Daniel (both in this vision and Daniel 7). The next great kingdom was the Medo-Persian Empire. We know from history that this empire began in 538 BC and lasted until 330 BC. The Medo-Persians were overthrown by the Greek Empire, led by Alexander the Great. The Greeks conquered the Persian Empire in a matter of three years (333-330 BC). A short time later, Alexander died, and his empire was split among his four generals. (This is predicted in Daniel 8:8 & 11:4.) The fourth kingdom was the Roman Empire (31 BC to AD 476). The armies of Rome crushed any opposition they encountered and defeated the four generals one after another. The Roman Empire—the kingdom of iron—was the greatest war-making machine the world had ever known. As predicted by Daniel, it was incredibly strong, cunning, and cruel.

 

During the time of Rome, the “rock” would come. Small at first, it would grow into a “large mountain” and all the kingdoms before it would be dust. If you have eyes to see, see this. Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God everywhere he went:

  • In Mark 1:15, Jesus begins his ministry by stating, “the Kingdom of God is at hand!”
  • In Luke 10:9, standing close to his disciples, Jesus declared that “the Kingdom of God is close to you.”
  • In John 18:36, Jesus declared that his Kingdom is “not of this world.”
  • In Luke 17:21, he told his followers that the Kingdom of God was in the midst of them!
  • Revelation 19:16 tells us that Jesus is high and lifted up and on his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

Jesus Christ, God’s son, is the Rock. He is building an eternal kingdom that will never end. He will not pass it to another; it will stand forever. He wrote this book for you to see it clearly. 600 years before Christ, he gave a pagan king a dream so that 2000 years after Christ, you might believe in him. You can be part of God’s kingdom, but Jesus himself said in John 3:3 “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Being born again is trusting and believing that Jesus is the Messiah—that he is the “rock”—and that his death, burial, and resurrection have paid for your sins. It is his Kingdom, and he is the Lord of lords and King of kings. Come to him. Trust him.

 

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

[1] Scripture quotations are from the ESV Bible.

[2] Is 2:2, Mic 2:1-4, Hos 3:5, Ezek 38:16

[3] Mark, Joshua Nebuchadnezzar II Ancient History Encyclopedia July 20, 2010.

Courageous Faith: The Dreamer

The Dreamer sermon notes

The Dreamer

Passage: Daniel 2:1-28

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

The Church @ Hamilton

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Pastor Paul L. Davis

 

Key Goals: (Know) That God desires to answer our prayers. (Feel) A desire to pray. (Do) Pray.

Introduction: I love the book of Daniel! An incredible man with an incredible story who is courageous, faithful, wise, bold, intelligent, and honest. But the book of Daniel isn’t really about Daniel; it is about Daniel’s God. Last week we studied chapter one and saw that it was God who took Daniel to Babylon, it was God who gave Daniel favor, and it was God who gave amazing gifts to him and his three friends so that they were ten times better than all the other servants of Nebuchadnezzar. This book, like none other, gives us a glimpse of God’s sovereign hand at work in our lives.

 

We left Daniel last week in the middle of a three-year training course meant to teach him the ways of Babylon. Turn to Daniel 2[1]. The year is 602 BC. The location is Babylon, the capital of what has become the most powerful nation of the world. Nebuchadnezzar has moved from conquering the Middle East to building walls, temples, and monuments to his greatness—one of which is the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the seven ancient wonders of the world.

1 In the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his spirit was troubled, and his sleep left him. 2 Then the king commanded that the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans be summoned to tell the king his dreams.

 

Babylon was famous for its wise men. Since 1800BC (so for over 1000 years) Babylonians had studied the stars for signs from the gods as to what would happen in the future. They were so good at watching the stars that by this time they had calculated the length of the year at 365 days, 6 hours, 15 minutes, 41 seconds.[2] For 1200 years they had watched astrological events in the sky and compared them to what was happening on earth and then recorded the connection, so when the same type of astrological event occurred in the future they could predict what would happen on earth. Here is the thing, though. Babylonian astrologers were famous for telling kings what they wanted to hear. Nebuchadnezzar summoned them.

So they came in and stood before the king. 3 And the king said to them, “I had a dream, and my spirit is troubled to know the dream.” 4 Then the Chaldeans said to the king in Aramaic…

 

Push pause for a second. We can’t see this in our English Bibles, but up until now, the original language of the book was Hebrew. From this point to the end of chapter seven (2:4 -7:28), the book is written in Imperial Aramaic, the language of the Babylonian elite. So, this next conversation is a direct quote. The magicians say to the king…

 “O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation.” 5 The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, “The word from me is firm: if you do not make known to me the dream and its interpretation, you shall be torn limb from limb, and your houses shall be laid in ruins. 6 But if you show the dream and its interpretation, you shall receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. Therefore show me the dream and its interpretation.”

 7 They answered a second time and said, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will show its interpretation.” 8 The king answered and said, “I know with certainty that you are trying to gain time, because you see that the word from me is firm— 9 if you do not make the dream known to me, there is but one sentence for you. You have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the times change. Therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can show me its interpretation.” 10 The Chaldeans answered the king and said, “There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand, for no great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean. 11 The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.”

 

Did you catch that last sentence? This is a striking admission! Only the gods knew the dream, so whoever revealed the dream must be in touch with the gods. Nebuchadnezzar probably thought that since these astrologers claimed to be able to communicate with the spirit world, they should be able to discover the dream and its interpretation.[3] This statement is a perfect set-up for YHWH God to reveal himself to Babylon.

12 Because of this the king was angry and very furious, and commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be destroyed. 13 So the decree went out, and the wise men were about to be killed; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them. 14 Then Daniel replied with prudence and discretion to Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard (the word ‘guard’ literally means “to slay or execute”—Arioch was the chief executioner), who had gone out to kill the wise men of Babylon. 15 He declared to Arioch… “Why is the decree of the king so urgent?” Then Arioch made the matter known to Daniel.

16 And Daniel went in and requested the king to appoint him a time, that he might show the interpretation to the king. 17 Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, 18 and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. 19 Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night.

 

Prayer & Praise: There is something incredibly important in the passage that we must catch. When Daniel—a guy who was ten times wiser than anyone in the entire kingdom of Babylon—was in trouble, the very first thing he did was to pray. Did you see that in verse 18? He didn’t pull together a strategy session; he did not try and talk his way out of it; he did not run away or even worry. He gathered three friends to pray. He told his friends to specifically ask for “mercy.” Actually, it should read “mercies” as it is an “intensive plural,” meaning the word is pluralized to really emphasize it. It is an Aramaic word pronounced “ra-cha-min” and often translated mercy or compassion. But the word always carries two important ideas:

 

1. First, it describes the strong bond God has with his children (Ps 103:13). God looks upon his own as a father looks on his children; he has compassion and pity on them (cf. Mic 7:17). This word is the reason given throughout the OT for why  God acts (see Is.49:15): because he had compassion. Our God is a compassionate and merciful God. When we pray for mercy, we are asking God to act in accordance with his character. I think this is important to understand. When you pray and ask God to be merciful to you, all you are saying is, “God, would you be you in my life?”

 

Jesus told a parable in Luke 18 about two men who prayed. One was a self-righteous Pharisee who prayed and told God about all his good deeds and thanked God that he was not like other people. The second man was a tax-collector (there was no one more evil than that). When he prayed, he stood far off, and would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast saying, God, be merciful to me, a sinner! (Luke 18:13) Only one of those men had their prayers heard that day.

 

2. Second, it emphasizes God’s sovereign choice to be gracious. God tells Moses that he is gracious and merciful to whomever he chooses (Ex 33:19)[4] and specifically to those who ask. (Ps. 86:5 For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, bounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.) At any given moment, God can choose to step mercifully into our difficulties and struggles and bring relief, comfort, and joy. It is within the character of God to be merciful and within his sovereign power to move and act to change our situation. Don’t be afraid to pray and ask God to deliver you. It is in both his character and strength to do so! He has the power to deliver!

 

We recently finished a study in James. Remember what he said about prayer in James 4:2? You do not have, because you do not ask. Then just a few verses later James asks, Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise (James 5:13). Daniel followed the first part of that verse. He was suffering and he was about to be killed, so he prayed for God’s mercy. He also obeyed the second part. When he was happy, he praised God. Look at verse 19.

19 Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. 20 Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. 21 He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; 22 he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him. 23 To you, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for you have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me what we asked of you, for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”

 

These five verses are different than almost any other verses in the Bible. They give us a glimpse into Daniel’s relationship with God. It is so personal and rich.

  • Daniel is super wise, yet he praises God for his wisdom and power. (v.20)
  • Daniel has been taken captive by a foreign king, yet he praises God for setting up and removing kings. (v.21)
  • Daniel knows a deep and hidden dream of the king, yet he praises God for knowing all the deep and hidden things. (v. 22)
  • Daniel ends his praise with a very personal thank you. God, I asked you to reveal this dream to me, and you did it! I give thanks and praise! (v. 23)

 

Let’s pick up the story again at verse 24.

24 Therefore Daniel went in to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon. He went and said to him: “Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon; bring me in before the king, and I will show the king the interpretation.”

 25 Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste and said thus to him: “I have found among the exiles from Judah a man who will make known to the king the interpretation.” 26 The king declared to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar…

 

Daniel’s new name plays into this next conversation. Daniel’s name means “God is my judge.” The “god” in Daniel’s name is “EL” as in El Shaddai and Elohim. He is our God: the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. When Daniel was taken, he was given the name Belteshazzar, which meant “Bel, protect his life!” Bel was Aramaic for “lord” and referred to Marduk, the god of Babylon. This will make Daniel’s next conversation more confrontational than you might first think. A man named “Bel protect his life” is coming to save all the wise men’s lives. 

 “Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?” 27 Daniel answered the king and said, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days.”

 

No wise man of Bel could ever reveal mysteries, but there is a God in heaven. That sentence is one of the bravest you have ever read. Captives didn’t walk into the king’s chambers and insult the king’s god. Daniel makes it very clear that it is YHWH God who is in control, not Bel, and certainly not his magicians. This God YHWH loves even a pagan king enough to reveal himself to him. Next week we will explore the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, and you will be amazed.

 

God saved Daniel and his friends. In a miraculous act of mercy, God swooped, in revealed the king’s dream to Daniel, and saved all of the magicians. It is just like him. He is a compassionate and loving God. His mercies are new every morning. He is using Daniel to forge a relationship with a pagan king. How merciful is that?

 

God has also sent his son to forge a relationship with you. Have you been praying? You have felt far away from God, but have you asked him to come closer? What did the tax-collector say? God, be merciful to me, a sinner. Are you in trouble? Pray. Lonely? Pray. Afraid? Hurt? Addicted? Pray.

 

 

Community Group Questions

  1. Read Daniel 2:1-28 as a group. What parts of this jumped out at you?
  2. Do you think it was fair for Nebuchadnezzar to demand his magicians tell him his dream? Why? Why not?
  3. Daniel prayed for “mercies.” What specifically do you think Daniel was hoping for? (Look at v. 23)
  4. This part of the book is written in Aramaic, the language of Babylon, not Hebrew or Greek. Why do you think that is?
  5. Why do you think Daniel, who was very wise, prayed first before he thought up a solution to his problem? Do you pray first about issues or immediately try to solve them?

 

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

[1] All scripture quotations are from the ESV.

[2] Stephen R. Miller, Daniel, vol. 18, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 79.

[3] Stephen R. Miller, Daniel, vol. 18, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 83.

[4] Leonard J. Coppes, “2146 רָחַם,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 842.

Courageous Faith: Resolve

RESOLVE

Daniel 1

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

The Church @ Hamilton

Pastor Ben Marshall

 

Key Goals: (Know) Things don’t always go according to plan, but we can be faithful. (Feel) Desire to be found faithful. (Do) Pursue God where you are.

Introduction: Sometimes you find yourself in a place you didn’t plan to be. My wife, Connie, and I found ourselves in that place last year. We were on vacation, driving back from the U.P.  It had been a wonderful relaxing day. We went to a waterfall, hiked around, and just hung out. Now it was time to head back to the hotel (because we aren’t campers). As we headed back, the gas light came on. When the gas light comes on, it isn’t usually an absolute emergency. Most of the time, you’re driving in places where gas stations show up pretty often. But not so much in the U.P. The gas light came on, and there were no gas stations. We kept passing exits on the highway, thinking, “Okay, the next exit has to have a gas station sign…the NEXT one has to have a gas station.” Nope. Eventually we just decided to just take an exit, because certainly in one of these little towns there had to be a gas station! We drove. And we drove. And we drove. Miles and miles. No gas station. Gas light still on. Eventually we drove around this tiny town and stopped at a business that seemed to be open. We talked to a lady there and asked her where the nearest gas station was. Her response? “Get back on the highway…” What?! We couldn’t make it that far! We were trying not to panic, but there really was no way we were going to make it to the next town down the highway.

 

We were in a place we didn’t plan to be. We didn’t really have many solutions. Our plan A of waiting for the next exit turned to plan B for the NEXT exit turned to plan C for taking an exit and going for a town turned to plan D getting back on the highway. All the while the gas light was on! This sweet lady in the small town must have seen that we were city folk. She kindly came out with a gas can and poured some drops of gas in our tank. She was a God-send; I really don’t think we would have made it without her. The end of the story is we DID make it to the gas station before we ran out of gas. But life doesn’t always have a resolution, does it? Sometimes we find ourselves in a place we didn’t plan to be, faced with circumstances we didn’t prepare for. That’s where we find Daniel and his friends in Daniel chapter one.

 

1. God brings Daniel to Babylon (1:1-7)

Jeremiah 25:8-14 Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: Because you have not obeyed my words,9behold, I will send for all the tribes of the north, declares the Lord, and for Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants, and against all these surrounding nations. I will devote them to destruction, and make them a horror, a hissing, and an everlasting desolation. 10Moreover, I will banish from them the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the grinding of the millstones and the light of the lamp. 11This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. 12Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, declares the Lord, making the land an everlasting waste. 13I will bring upon that land all the words that I have uttered against it, everything written in this book, which Jeremiah prophesied against all the nations. 14For many nations and great kings shall make slaves even of them, and I will recompense them according to their deeds and the work of their hands.

 

Let’s read verses 1-7.

This was not an accident. This was not about the lack of military prowess or power in Israel. God didn’t make a mistake. He purposefully brought Daniel to Babylon. Daniel, a nobleman—a good-looking, competent, skillful, wise, understanding, knowledgeable young man—probably had a different plan for his life. He certainly could have been planning on having an easy life, being a good nobleman, and maybe a wise and caring leader. He probably would have planned to stay in his home country and live out the script of his life. Daniel certainly didn’t plan to go to Babylon, but God did. King Nebuchadnezzar comes into Judah, takes over, and removes Daniel from his home and everything he’s ever known. Daniel wakes up in Babylon, likely confused, wondering why…why was he here? What did he do wrong? What hope was there now?

 

As Daniel and his friends are in Babylon, the Babylonians are doing what they normally do with slaves: they are teaching them, training them, really brainwashing them so they reject all that was Israel and become fully Babylonian in thought, speech, custom, wisdom, knowledge, and worship. But, as we will see next, that is something Daniel is not willing to compromise.

 

2. God gives Daniel favor (1:8-16)

Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food. Now, we have to ask the question: “Why would eating the king’s food defile Daniel and his friends?” This is not about food. This is not about a diet. This is about worship and faithful obedience. Israel found themselves slaves to Babylon because of their infidelity and failure to obey the law. Daniel and his three friends determined in their hearts they were going to make it a point to obey the Law and be faithful to their God. The problem with the food was that it had been offered to the idols of the Babylonians. “To partake thereof would be to recognize the idols as deities.”[1] It would have to worship and celebrate the deity and power of the Babylonian gods. Daniel and his friends could not do that, so they resolved not to defile themselves, regardless of the consequence.

 

Daniel and his friends didn’t compromise. They lived out the all-important understanding that compromising now would most likely lead to further compromises down the road.[2] That’s how it works with sin. If you get away with it the first time, it makes it easier the second time. Then, somewhere down the road, it has become a habit. You no longer feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit because you have gone against it so often. And now your life is set up for compromise instead of conviction. Start now. Start saying no now. If you’ve already been saying yes, stop it. Restart as a new creation in Christ, able to say no, not because of your ability or your strength, but because of the grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

 

Daniel’s plan of resolving not to defile himself sets the tone for the rest of the story. Daniel experiences God’s blessings as he remains faithful and obedient even when things don’t make sense.[3] Daniel has this grand plan to not eat of the food from the king’s table (and very graciously and wisely handles that conversation, by the way). Now what? They don’t eat the food, and the chief eunuch tests them. At the end of ten days, they actually appear better off than everyone else who was eating from the king’s table. Why? Because God gives them favor.

 

3. God blessed Daniel and his friends with all they needed to succeed where they were (1:17-20)

In the next phase of the story, we see God again at work. Not only did He bring them to Babylon, He showed them favor for their faithfulness to not defile themselves. Now God gives them wisdom and learning and skills, and to Daniel specifically, the understanding of visions and dreams. Notice that they were still in the same situation. God didn’t give them freedom from the Babylonians. He didn’t remove them from the situation. Instead, God gave them exactly what they needed to succeed right where they were. He gave them what King Nebuchadnezzar wanted to see, and then some. The king found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in his kingdom.

 

God has given you and me gifts and skills and abilities. We need to use them and use them well for His glory. Wherever we work in the marketplace, we should strive to excel and work for the glory and purpose of God.

 

Daniel found himself in Babylon, a place he didn’t plan to be, but he quickly found God had not abandoned him. What happens when we find ourselves in Babylon? There are three points I think we can take from this passage.

 

First, when you find yourself in Babylon, realize there is purpose. Sometimes we wake up and realize we are not where we planned to be. Daniel didn’t plan for Babylon, but he woke up and found himself there. God didn’t abandon him. God didn’t betray him. Daniel, as far as we know, had done nothing wrong. He wasn’t living in sin. This wasn’t his punishment. This was God’s plan.

 

Maybe you woke up this morning somewhere you didn’t plan to be. Maybe you woke up this morning and thought, “This is not how I planned my marriage would go...” or “My kids did not turn out the way I prayed and planned for them…” or “I didn’t plan to end up in this career, be making this little, and struggling to take care of my family…” or “I didn’t plan to be single for this long…” Maybe you’re living your Plan B (or C, or D, or Z) and you can’t even remember what Plan A was. Whatever area of “Babylon” you may wake up in, realize God is at work. It may not be the result of you doing something wrong, but rather God working out His purpose. The hope in Babylon is that God took Daniel there. God was walking beside him the whole time. If you’re in Babylon, realize that God has you. God’s got this. He has a reason and a purpose. Trust Him. He’s never surprised.

 

Second, when you find yourself in Babylon, be found faithful. What did Daniel do when he found himself in Babylon? He resolved not to defile himself. He was found faithful when the test got real. As you find yourself in Babylon, resolve to be faithful. Resolve that the world around you won’t be your influence, but Christ will be. Resolve not to be defiled by sketchy (but legal) business practices, or by looking and lingering with your eyes or thoughts (committing adultery in your heart), or by working your own plan because in impatience you don’t want to wait for God’s plan to work out. Instead, be found faithful. It’s hard. I get it. Life is hard. Babylon is hard. It’s not where I want to be. It’s not where I plan to be. But, wherever you find yourself, in Babylon or not, be found faithful.

 

Why? People notice how you handle yourself in trials. They see what you do and where your attitude is. The way we live out our faith communicates to others whether or not this faith in Jesus Christ is worth pursuing. The way we say yes to Jesus and no to the world reveals how much we value our relationship with God and how much we want it to remain undefiled.

 

Third, when you find yourself in Babylon, don’t look for a way out. God didn’t take Daniel and his friends out, but gave them gifts to excel where they were. Daniel will never go back home. He will never get out of Babylon. God gave him the gifts and tools he needed to excel in the place God had brought him to. When you find yourself in Babylon, reconcile with the fact that Babylon may not end. As you are found faithful, seek out how God wants to form and mold you more into His image, likeness, and example. Don’t look for a way out. Be faithful where you are. Use what God has given. Pray for wisdom and grace. Pray that God’s strength would be revealed in your weakness.

 

Imagine a world where, no matter what happens, you are found faithful.

  • You lose your job, but you are faithful to tithe, faithful to worship and praise and glorify God, faithful to attend church and be surrounded by godly community.
  • Your kids wander from their faith, but you are faithful to pray, to pursue them, and to keep an open door of unconditional love toward them.
  • Your marriage is on the rocks, but you faithfully resolve to pray and do whatever it takes to win back your husband or wife.
  • Your health takes a turn for the worse, or has been bad for an extended period of time, but you are faithful to praise God, to give thanks, to worship well, and to bring Him glory with your speech and attitude.

 

The world will notice. Daniel and his friends had an entire kingdom be witness to their countercultural faithfulness. When we are found faithful, the world notices. Let’s be the kind of people who resolve not to be defiled by the cultural “gods” we face, but instead make a decision to remain faithful.

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Ben Marshall. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

[1] https://bible.org/seriespage/1-early-life-daniel-babylon#P207_85233.

[2] Ibid.

[3] https://lumina.bible.org/bible/Daniel+1.

By Faith

Speaker Bio: Dan and his wife Heidi founded Paradise Bound Ministries in 1997, on a budget of $200./month.  Leaving their home “not knowing where they were going…”, they now call Guatemala home and celebrate 20 years of ministry.  Over 6,000 Mission Team members have served alongside them in Guatemala, building nearly 2,000 homes, touching around 160,000 lives with outreaches.  In addition to Mission Teams, Paradise Bound currently has 28 National Missionaries accomplishing: Discipleship, Prayer Groups, House Churches, Water Filtration, Clinics, The Action Bible Project, An Aviation Ministry, Pastor Training/Seminary, Church Planting and Church Construction.

The Resurrection Experience

The Resurrection Experience

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

The Church @ Hamilton

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Pastor Paul L. Davis

 

Introduction: This week, people from all over our community have been experiencing the crucifixion—some for the very first time: the scourging, the betrayal, abuse, sour wine, the nails through his hands and feet, the spear in his side. He was the innocent God/man, punished like he was the worst of sinners. The crucifixion would be the greatest tragedy in history if it were not for two facts:

1) The crucifixion was a part of Jesus’ plan from eternity past.

2) Jesus was in complete control.

 

The death, burial, and resurrection are not a tragedy; they are an incredible revelation of the supreme power of Jesus over death. Easter Sunday morning is when we celebrate the truth that Jesus had the power to lay down his life to pay for our sins, defeat death, and bring himself back to life. It is his death, burial, and resurrection that give us the opportunity for a new life—eternal life, indestructible life, abundant life—and not just for eternity but for the right here and right now! The resurrection proves, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that life has a master. That master was and is Jesus Christ.

Have you ever wondered why there is death in the first place? I have been in the room several times when someone has died. It is hard to fully describe the thoughts and emotions that watching someone die produces. There is a profound sense of loss and loneliness knowing you will never talk to or see them again, yet there can also be a sense of relief, especially if the person has been suffering. It is difficult to watch someone’s family walk through the loss of a loved one. Yet for believers in Jesus, it can be strangely beautiful, peaceful, and even joyful. When you are in those moments, everything you believe about life and death comes flooding to your mind; it tests your faith. Death exists because sin exists. Death was not something God created, it is a result of man’s disobedience and rejection of God. As long as sin rules and reigns in us, death will have power over us. Everything about the crucifixion and the resurrection reminds us that death and the separation it brings must be dealt with.

It wasn’t always that way. We were created to enjoy God. The reason God created you and me with minds is so we could think with him. The reason he gave us mouths is so we could talk with him. He gave us souls so we could love and enjoy him. Every aspect of who and what we are was designed to make it possible for us to have an intimate relationship with God. Except for sin. Sin caused the problem that Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection were meant to solve. Sin breaks all relationship with a holy God. Isaiah 59:2 tells us that our sins have separated us from God. Sin destroys everything that it touches. It lures and entices people into ruin. Sin promises to produce pleasure and delight, but in the end, it always delivers pain and death. Sin entraps, ensnares, and entangles your heart (Prov. 5:22). If you have been playing with sin, be warned: when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death (James 1:15). You can try to ignore sin, but eventually it must be dealt with. Several years ago, I stepped on a seashell and it stuck in my foot. I could ignore it for a while, but eventually the consequences became too painful and I had to dig it out. When will you deal with your sin?

 

There is hope for us because life has a master! 2 Tim 1:10 says Jesus Christ is the One who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.

 

How do we attain a relationship with Christ that brings life?  Simply through Jesus. John 3:15 says that He who believes in Jesus will have life. Believes what about Jesus? Believes exactly what we celebrate this weekend: That Friday, Jesus Christ, God’s Son died on the cross. He did that to pay the price you owe for your sins. That Sunday morning, that same Jesus Christ rose again from the dead just like he said he would. To bring life not only to himself, but to all who would believe and put their trust in him.

So, what should you and I do this morning? I Timothy 6:12 tells us exactly what we should do: Take hold of the eternal life. That phrase ‘take hold’ means to arrest, trap, or grab a hold of something. Grab a hold this morning of real life, life with Jesus, eternal life. It is as simple as praying this prayer with me. If you want to grasp eternal life this morning, pray along with me in faith, believing.

Lord, I believe you died on the cross to pay for my sins. I also believe you rose again to bring me new life. I need a new life. I need a relationship with you. I turn from my sin to you, trusting in you and you alone, and I will follow you and you alone.

 

 

 © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

The Rebuild: Together

The Rebuild: Together sermon notes

Rebuild Together

Passage: James 5:13-18

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

The Church @ Hamilton

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Pastor Ben Marshall

 

Key Goals: (Know) Life is better when we do life together. (Feel) Feel the need to do life together with other believers. (Do) Find a small group of people to do life with.

 

Introduction: I attended Taylor University for my undergraduate degree, and while I was there we had a “buzz phrase” that floated around campus, from students and teachers to promotional materials and website slogans: intentional community. If you have ever lived on a college campus, you can understand the gist of it. It is honestly difficult to not live in community. I lived on a wing of a dorm with about 33 other guys. You couldn’t really avoid people. You had to live in community. The intentional part of the community was not just living together but doing life together. We didn’t just want to live on the same wing or attend the same college; we truly wanted to do life together. These guys, from Third West Wengatz, are guys I could call up right now and start a conversation like no time has passed. These are the kind of “doing life together” friends who would be by my side at a moment’s notice. That’s the power of together.

 

Today, as we wrap up The Rebuild series in the book of James, this is the tool James is going to leave us with. James compels us to rebuild together. Later this morning we are going to fire up this engine and (hopefully) see the beauty of an engine rebuilt, with all the parts working together to produce a running engine.

 

First, though, let’s read James 5:13-18 and dive into what the Bible says about rebuilding together.

13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.

 

Suffering should lead us to pray (v. 13). This is perhaps one of the more obvious parts of this passage. It just makes sense that when you are suffering, in a storm, experiencing hard times, that you would pray. Even the mainstream media could agree with this, with hashtags on social media that gain popularity wherever a terror attack has happened: #prayfor and then the location. Suffering naturally leads us to prayer. That makes sense.

 

When things are going well, remember where every good and perfect gift comes from: God (James 1:17). James says at the end of verse 13, if you’re cheerful or in good spirits, sing praises! This Greek word means “to strike a chord, to play and sing along with a musical instrument, to sing a hymn to celebrate the praises of God.”[1] It is sometimes when life is going well that we take things for granted. Realize that if you’re not in a storm right now, you should praise and sing praises to God for leading you to where you are!

 

Additionally, James talks about the sick in vv. 14-15. He tells the sick to call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. There is a lot here. First, we do practice anointing with oil at Calvary. There are a number of you here this morning that have followed this passage and gone to the elders of the church, the leadership council, and we have anointed you with oil and prayed over you for healing. The anointing oil is associated with the presence of the Holy Spirit. Oil was used to anoint kings in the Old Testament; Samuel anointed David with oil. When we anoint with oil we are asking for a special presence of the Spirit on someone. We are asking the Holy Spirit to heal and to work in a very special way in this person’s life. The act of elders praying over someone and anointing him or her with oil is spiritually powerful in a way that physically can’t be described.

 

The phrase the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick is not referring to the salvation of an individual, but instead is referring to healing and wholeness of a sick person. The Greek word for “sick” in verse 14 is asthenei[2] and in verse 15 is kamnonta[3], which literally mean “to be weak, feeble, to be without strength, powerless” (Hebrews 12:3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted). Scripture doesn’t separate the physical from the spiritual. The one who is sick could be physically sick and weary or fainthearted spiritually and emotionally. We separate things in our culture that the Bible doesn’t separate. This save the one who is sick is a blend of the spiritual and the physical. There is a connection. For the person here this morning discouraged in his or her faith, who has recently experienced more failure than faithfulness, who may be weary of the battle of life, or the one experiencing physical or relational struggles, be encouraged. Don’t go it alone. Ask for prayer. It brings healing when done in community. James reveals the context of prayer and healing in verse 16 in such a way that it could be the definition for “intentional community.” But before we dive a little deeper into this verse, do you want to see if this engine will start? I do too. Let’s give it a shot.

 

Okay, so why the engine? What’s the significance of starting this, other than being able to say we started a car engine on stage during the service? We began this series with a broken engine. There were parts on the ground. There were pieces missing. There were broken parts. It was an engine that did not work. Over the past ten weeks, we have been slowly rebuilding this engine. It took time, just like it takes time to rebuild our lives with the Gospel. Today is the culmination of that hard work. When we heard that engine turn over, it was the result of many parts working together to produce a finished, working engine.

 

Just like that engine, the body of Christ, the church, works best when we do life together. When we see a Christian faithfully serving, faithfully following Christ, and faithfully leading in his or her home/work/school, we are seeing the result of many parts working together to produce that fruit. It is not the Christian left by him or herself that thrives, but the Christian in godly, intentional community.

 

Today is not about the engine; it is about doing life together. The engine starting is the sum of all the little parts working together for an intended purpose. We can’t rebuild alone. We must rebuild together. This verse in James, again, gives us the formula for rebuilding together: 16Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. It is in confession and prayer that Christian community is clearly experienced. Being fully known is uncomfortable. But we need people in our lives that fully know us. The healing here is literally “to make whole.”[4] Sin thrives in the dark, hidden away in our mind and heart. And let’s be honest, we can’t live in freedom and victory alone. We’ve tried it and it doesn’t work. Confession brings healing because sin is being dealt with in community.

 

Confession alone doesn’t bring healing. Prayer must be present, and the prayer of a righteous person is effective. The righteous person is not perfect, but has developed a habitual lifestyle of character and integrity, faithfully following the Word of God. This person is one who loves the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength (Luke 10:27).

 

James gives an example of the prayer of a righteous person from the life and ministry of Elijah, an Old Testament prophet.17Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. James describes Elijah as a person just like us. One translation says that Elijah was a human being like us.[5] He was familiar with the struggles of life; the hardship and toil of trying to be faithful through adversity. Elijah is our example from James of a righteous person’s prayer having great power as it is working. Elijah prayed in faith, as a faithful follower of God, and God responded. 1 Kings 17:1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”

 

Where James writes Elijah prayed fervently, the literal translation is “in prayer he prayed.”[6] He prayed with the fervent, persistent, confident prayer of a righteous person. For three and a half years there was no rain. Elijah faithfully followed wherever God directed him to go during this time, and eventually he prayed again that rain would come. Elijah had to patiently wait for the answer to this prayer, but God responded and sent rain upon the earth once more and the earth produced a harvest.

 

If we want to rebuild together, we must do three things according to the passage:

First, we must pray with and pray for one another (vv. 13-15). Through private and community prayer, we need to pray for each other. We need to pray for protection, pray for opportunities to share our faith, pray for healing, pray for God to grow and mature each another. We need to pray against the work of our Enemy in the lives of others and pray for physical, spiritual, emotional, relational healing. We must pray with and for one another. And we must do it often.

 

Second, we must confess to one another (v. 16). This closely follows praying with and for one another. How will we know what to pray if we don’t know the struggles and temptations of our close friends? Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says Two are better than one, for they have a good reward for their toil. 10For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! . . .12And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. We are stronger together than apart. Do the nitty gritty of life together. Confession is a big part of that. We will struggle and we may fall, but let us not fall alone. Fall in community with believers around you to pick you up, dust you off, and help you continue to walk down the narrow road.

 

Third, we must be faithful (and it is easier to be faithful as we follow Christ together) (vv. 17-18). Elijah, a human being just like you and me, was faithful to God even when he didn’t understand, even when the situation was abnormal. He wasn’t super human; he wasn’t a “super Christian” (same as Job from last week). Elijah was faithful. Day in and day out, in the little things and the big things, Elijah gave himself wholly to God. He determined to faithfully follow God.

 

Determine today, with a few other people, to be faithful together. Husbands and wives, determine together (and include your children if you have them) that you will pray with and for one another, confess sins, failures, and shortcomings to one another, and faithfully follow Christ together as a family. Singles, determine together with a group of friends that you will pray with and for one another, confess sins, failures, and shortcomings to one another, and faithfully follow Christ together as a close group of friends. Young adults, students, kids, find close friends and perhaps older adults and determine together that you will pray with and for them, confess sins, failures, and shortcomings to one another, and faithfully follow Christ together.

 

We are going to end things slightly differently this morning. A little over a month ago we took our high school students on a winter retreat. Saturday night at this retreat, our guys’ group did something really special. It’s one of those things I’ll look back on many years from now and still remember in detail. It was an impactful night. We gathered together in a big circle around a fireplace and lived out James 5:16. We had a very intentional time of confession and prayer that led to healing. During this time we had students confessing things they were struggling with, things they had tried to handle alone but it wasn’t working out. They needed accountability and community. They needed some guys to do life together with them. Every time one of these guys confessed, our whole group would stand up, go put a hand on him, and one or two of us would pray for freedom and healing. Afterward, we challenged everyone to continue this with an accountability partner. Today some young men are living in healing and freedom from sin because of living out James 5:16.

 

Today we’re going to end the service living out James 5:16. What does that look like? There are people here this morning with physical and spiritual ailments, struggling through sickness, cancer, chronic pain, family issues, sin issues, recent betrayals, hardships, and so on. If you are willing this morning to stand up, we want to pray for you. If you are struggling and need prayer, we are asking you to go ahead and stand up where you are. If you are seated, we want you to find someone who is standing and pray with and for them. One or two of you, or everyone around a person, can pray. If you’re standing, you don’t need to tell your whole story to everyone around you. If you’re praying for someone, you don’t need to know the whole story to pray. Pray for the need of the person as you have knowledge of it. Pray for spiritual growth and health. Pray for God to receive glory through this person’s story and struggle. Pray for strong faith.

 

 

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

[1] http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Lexicon.show/ID/G5567/psallo.htm.

[2] http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Lexicon.show/ID/G770/astheneo.htm.

[3] http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Lexicon.show/ID/G2577/kamno.htm.

[4] http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Lexicon.show/ID/G2390/iaomai.htm.

[5] The NET Bible.

[6] J. Ronald Blue, James in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament, gen. eds. John F. Walvoord & Roy B. Zuck, (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 1983), 835.

The Rebuild: Patience

The Rebuild: Patience sermon notes

Patience

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

The Church @ Hamilton

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Pastor Paul L. Davis

 

Key Goals: (Know) Understand the important of patience. (Feel) Feel compelled to fix our eyes on Jesus. (Do) Be patient.

Introduction: Over the last two weeks in our series on James, we have explored two formidable enemies of rebuilding our lives: arrogance and self-indulgence. This series has been built on the idea that anyone, regardless of where they are starting, can rebuild their life with the gospel. Jesus transforms our brokenness into purpose, and this book has been written to help us do that. This morning is critical! In our passage, James will call us to an incredibly important rebuilding tool. It is one we often joke about praying for, but its power to transform your life, your marriage, and your parenting is second to none. Please turn to James 5 James 5:7–12[1]. We will read the passage and then dive into the meat of it.

7 Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

 9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

 

One of the most important life lessons everyone has to learn is how to respond correctly when you have been wronged. It happens to everyone—at some point in our lives we will all be wounded! Often we are surprised by it; we are living life happily, delighting in how blessed we are, and then wham! A difficult trial hits us broadside: a family member betrays us, someone at work spreads malicious gossip about us, someone we look up to at church severely disappoints us, we discover a close friend’s secret sin. We are shocked, angered, and disoriented. We begin to wonder, “Is there anyone I can trust?” How do you respond? With frustration or anger? Do you grumble and complain? Get even? How do we rebuild from here? Our passage this morning is the passage you turn to when you are working through hardship and betrayal. There are two key words in this passage: patience and steadfastness. The word patience shows up four times (v.7-2x, 8,10) and steadfastness twice (v. 11-2x).

 

The first thing we need to understand about patience is that patience is something you are not something you do. Look at verse 7. Be patient, therefore, brothers. Then look at verse 8, You also, be patient… James does not tell us to do patience, he tells us to be patient. Be the type of person who is patient. Patience is the ability to endure a great deal of mistreatment from people or circumstances without losing your temper, becoming irritated or angry, and without taking vengeance. The Greek is a combination of two words: long and spirit/soul, so a patient person is a “long-souled” person. Some languages describe patience as “a heart that remains seated during provocation.”

 

Patience is often associated with wisdom (Proverbs 19:11 Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense) and it includes the ability to bear pain or trials without complaint, and to suffer long under provocation. It is a fruit of the Spirit much like self-control, the combination of which keeps us from acting impulsively or sinfully in the heat of adversity.[2] It is important as we define patience to understand that patience is not passivity (unresponsiveness) or indulgence (tolerance). Patience is the loving and merciful response to being wronged, sinned against, neglected, or abused. God is our ultimate example of patience. In Matthew 18:23-34, Jesus used a story to give us a glimpse of what God’s patience looks like.

 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.

28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.

 

This parable deserves its own sermon, but the key aspect that I want us to catch is how and from where we derive our patience. Our ability to be patient flows from how God has treated us. He has been so merciful to us. How many times have we sinned against him? 1 John 1:9 promises us that If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. How many times? 7? It is unlimited. God has forgiven all of our sins through Christ Jesus! Psalm103:12 declares that our sins have been removed from us as far as the East is from the West! God’s “long-spiritedness” or patience with us is what drives our ability to be patient.

 

Lets’ go back to James 5, because James doesn’t just tell us to “be patient,” he gives us three beautiful visions of what patience looks like in real life.

 

1. Patience looks like a farmer waiting (James 5:7-8)

The farmer pictured here is the sustenance farmer of first century Palestine. He plants his carefully saved seed and hopes for a harvest, living on short rations and suffering hunger during the last weeks. His whole livelihood, indeed his life and the life of his family, depend on a good harvest; the loss of the farm, semi-starvation, or death could result from a bad year. So the farmer patiently waits for an expected future event; no one but him knows how important this harvest really is, but he must be patient no matter how hungry he becomes.[3] He knows that if he is patient until after the “later rains,” there is a reward, so he works and waits because of the coming reward. Just like that farmer, James tells us that we believers can be patient because we have a coming reward— the coming of the Lord. The Bible tells us repeatedly to anticipate Jesus’ return.

  • Revelation 3:11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown
  • Philippians 4:5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.

 

The Scriptures teach that Jesus could return today. We are encouraged to live like we believe that! Think about this: if you knew that Jesus was going to return at 12:59pm today, would you have been a little more patient with your children this morning? Here is the reality: the hardships, betrayals, and frustrations we are working through with people who drive us crazy will soon be over. So be patient. Be compassionate and merciful like the Lord has been with you. He is returning soon.

 

A Quick Warning: Now before he gives us the last two visions of patience, James drops in a warning about grumbling against one another in verse 9. The thing we need to know about grumbling is that it is the antithesis of patience. Grumbling is neither merciful nor compassionate. God is once again our example in this; God does not grumble about our faults and failures, instead he continues to love despite them. But just like Jesus’ parable in Matthew 18, if we refuse to change, God will judge. Look at verse 9. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. So the return of Christ is both an encouragement to be patient and a warning not to grumble.

 

2. Patience looks like the prophets remaining steadfast (James 5:9-11)

God’s prophets endured incredible wrongs at the hands evil doers as well as from God’s people. Hebrews 11:35–37 lists some of the things done to them. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated…These prophets all suffered because of their faith, yet in their suffering they patiently endured and stood fast in their faith. The word translated steadfast carries the idea of “clinging or cleaving to God.” Courageous endurance is another possible translation.  

 

A hard reality of life is that doing God’s will often leads to suffering. The prophets bore up under suffering and maintained their spiritual integrity, waiting patiently for the Lord himself to intervene to transform their situations. Regardless of what the world throws against us, the patient person clings courageously to God. Hard stuff does not blow us off course because we are moored to Jesus. We can endure because we have an anchor, a sure foundation, a rock that will not move. Have you tied yourself to Christ like that? We know tough times are coming. Are you connected to Christ in such a way that when the winds blow you will remain steadfast? Verse 10 ends with Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. This verse is a pretty clear promise: we will be blessed if we remain steadfast in our faith and patient with others.[4]

 

3. Patience looks like Job eventually seeing God’s purpose (James 5:11)

The last, and I think best, reason for us to “be patient” is the lesson we learn from Job’s life: our present suffering is never the “end” of our story, because when Christ is revealed in glory we will be like him.[5] Our story will end like Job’s, not with suffering but with joy! I was reading this passage to Esther Harrington just this week. Revelation 21:4 He will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Job suffered miserably. Satan desired to destroy his faith but he couldn’t do it—not because Job was a “super Christian,” but because Job was tied unshakably (steadfastly) to his Lord. He patiently endured everything Satan could throw at him, and in the end the Lord proved himself merciful and compassionate.

 

Rebuilding with Patience: We have work to do. If you have a short fuse, you are not patient. If you snap at your kids over minor, childish things, you need to grow patient. Those of us easily frustrated with the driver in front of us are not patient. When we are quick to find fault with co-workers’ failures, we are not patient. That exasperated ‘sigh’ when you’re asked to do something? That is impatience.

 

What needs to change? James tells us right in the middle of this passage. Look back at verse 8. I purposely skipped over it. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. James tells us to establish our hearts. It is a command, an imperative. Now the Greek word for “establish” can also mean “strengthen,” but these two words don’t help me much. I struggle to know what it means to “strengthen or establish my heart.” So let me share with you one other way this Greek word is translated, because the word is also found in Amos 9:4. …there I will command the sword, and it shall kill them; and I will fix my eyes upon them for evil and not for good. That phrase “I will fix my eyes upon them” is the same word as “establish.” The idea is this: patience flows from fixing our eyes upon Jesus and not on the circumstances we are facing. Fix your eyes; set and establish your heart in Jesus! Look for his return, trust in his promises, refuse to let temporary circumstances drive your attitudes and feelings. It’s just wind, and you are tied to the rock!

 

  

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

 

Community Group Questions

1.          Read James 5:7-11 out loud with your group. Discuss key words or phrases that jump out of the text.

2.          What is your typical response when you are wronged? How have you grown over the years?

3.          Discuss the farmer analogy. How does farming help us understand patience?

4.          Why do you think James so closely ties patience and steadfastness? Can you have one without the other?

5.          Read Rev. 21:4; discuss how verses like this can get people through difficult times.

 

[1] All Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV.

[2] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Patience,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1619.

[3] Peter H. Davids, The Epistle of James: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1982), 183.

[4] Peter H. Davids, The Epistle of James: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1982), 186.

[5] Douglas J. Moo, The Letter of James, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos, 2000), 230.

The Rebuild: Corrosion

The Rebuild: Corrosion sermon notes

 

Corrosion

Passage: James 5:1-5

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

The Church @ Hamilton

Sunday, March 19, 2017

 

Key Goals: (Know) Understand there are enemies to our rebuild. (Feel) Feel compelled to fight against self-indulgence. (Do) Place God and his mission first in our life.

Introduction: Last week in our series on James, we looked at a formidable enemy of rebuilding our lives: arrogance. We found that arrogance shows up when we judge others and when we presume upon the future. As we move into chapter 5 this morning, James has one more enemy to introduce to us: the enemy of self-indulgence. James was such an interesting guy. Even though Jesus was his older half-brother, there is zero indication that James believed in or even followed Jesus while he was alive. Yet after the resurrection he became one of the leading apostles of the church. I sort of get that, though; I know I would need some serious convincing if my brother declared that he was the creator of the world.

Unlike the twelve apostles, James never left Jerusalem. He was appointed as overseer of Jerusalem and was also the most “Jewish” of the apostles. History tells us that he was known for how righteously he kept the Law, so much so that the other apostles feared him. Peter refused to eat with Gentiles because he was afraid James might hear about it (Gal. 2:11-12), and James asked Paul to buy the sacrifices for some men about to take a Nazirite vow and Paul obeyed (Acts 21:18-26.)[1] What an incredible guy he had to be that apostle Peter was afraid of him and the apostle Paul obeyed him. While historians disagree on exactly how it happened, we know that the pharisees martyred James in Jerusalem. They were upset at how many people were coming to Christ. What is interesting for us this morning is that it was happening amongst the religious elite and the wealthy. Jewish temple priests and rich landowners—powerful and influential people—were repenting of their sins and turning to Christ.

Listen to Acts 6:7 And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith. In our passage this morning you are going to see why James was killed, but I also think you will see why so many repented and turned to Christ. Listen to how strong this language is. James 5:1–6[2]

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. 4 Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.

If I were a wealthy first century Jewish landowner reading this passage, I imagine I would either be genuinely convicted and love James for his boldness to confront, or I would think he was a jerk, shooting his mouth off about matters he does not understand. It would be hard to read this and stay neutral. How I would like to handle the passage this morning is for us to take a few minutes and break down exactly what James was saying to his immediate audience, and what they would have heard and thought. Then let’s fast forward 2000 years and see if God has a message for you and me this morning.

 

Confronting Corrosion: James begins by calling out rich people. Look at verse 1. Come now, you rich. James is addressing a very specific class of people. He does not distinguish whether or not they are believers, just their socio-economic status. They are rich.

First Century Context: First century Israel was a peasant society in the sense that “its sole of source income was subsistence farming.” In his book ‘Peasants’, Eric R. Wolf describes peasants as rural cultivators whose surpluses were extracted by the ruling elite in order to underwrite its own standard of living.[3] Perhaps you remember the phrase “Pax Romana” or Roman peace—the idea that Romans conquered the known world and made it peaceful for centuries? The Pax Romana was real, but hidden behind that “peace” were oppressive tributes, taxes, and tolls that completely impoverished the average person. So the wealthy grew wealthier and the poor grew poorer. This problem was compounded by the fact that the wealthy elite were also the “purity elite;” the wealthy also controlled the temple, the tithes, and sacrificial offerings. The rich exploited the poor through religious purity—this is the very reason why Jesus in Matthew 21 turned over the moneychangers’ tables in the temple: they had turned God’s house into an oppressive exploitation machine.

So both individual Roman rulers and the Jewish religious elite subjugated the average person. Why is this important to know? Because of what James says next. Go back to the end of verse 1 …weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. The two Greek words for weep and howl have the idea of crying out in misery or torment. The word “howl” actually sounds like someone crying in pain (ololull). James is warning the rich to repent and prepare for a coming judgment. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. This is language not seen anywhere else in the New Testament; James almost sounds like an Old Testament prophet. The view James is trying to give us is from eternity. So much wealth has been accumulated that it can’t begin to be used, so it rots and rusts. It is the rot and rust that indicts the rich man. But as we will see in a moment, gold and silver are not the rich man’s problem; it is their heart.

 

The hidden enemy of greed.

4 Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.

The way labor worked during this time period was if you worked for a day, you were paid that evening. You then took that money and bought food for your family. You have probably heard 2 Thessalonians 3:10 If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. That thought comes from this economic model. What the rich would do was withhold wages. So instead of paying every night, they would pay them at the end of the harvest. The laborer would have to borrow money to buy food and then pay off his loan once he got paid; of course they never made enough money to cover the interest, so the laborers effectively became indentured slaves, while the landowners made vast fortunes from abusing them. It was pure greed. James warns that the cries of the abused have reached the ears of the Lord.

So the enemy James is addressing is greed, the craving for wealth that leads a person to do sinful actions in order to grow rich. Paul warned against the same thing in 1 Timothy 6:9–10. Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. Both Paul and James warn us that the love of money (greed) will draw us away from God and cause us to treat people in ways that God will judge.

 

The hidden enemy of self-indulgence.

5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.

The rich that James was rebuking lived luxurious lives. But again, it wasn’t the luxury that was the problem, it was the self-indulgence. The self-indulgent person throws off restraint and discipline and yields to the desire to gratify their own selfish appetites and cravings. Just because we can have something does not mean we should indulge in it. Throughout scripture we are warned against feeding our passions and lusts, and urged instead to develop self-control, generosity and an others-centeredness.[4] Interestingly, the wisest man who ever lived, Solomon, tried to find happiness through self-indulgence. Listen to what he found. Ecclesiastes 2:1–11.

I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But behold, this also was vanity. 2 I said of laughter, “It is mad,” and of pleasure, “What use is it?” 3 I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine...

4 I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. 5 I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. 6 I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. 7 I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. 8 I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight of the sons of man. 9 So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. 10 And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure…

11 Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.

 Solomon found that self-indulgence does not bring happiness; it is vanity. James warns that those who spend their lives seeking to indulge their desires fatten their hearts for the slaughter. This is again a reference to judgment. James wants the self-indulgent to understand that a day will soon come when they will answer for how they lived. Let’s fast forward to today. What should we walk away thinking?

 

You don’t have to be rich to be greedy or self-indulgent. Lying on your taxes, stealing from your employer, padding your timecard, sneaking money from your mother’s purse, over eating, bingeing on Netflix, refusing to give—these are all symptoms of greed and self-indulgence.  James really focuses in on one aspect of greed and warns us that God “hears the cries” of those who are being hurt by our greed. Before we think we don’t have any greed to repent of, let’s think a moment about how greedy people hurt those around them:

1. Greedy people must be first in line, so beware if you are in front of them.

2. Greedy people are always looking for loopholes or ways to game the system—watch out.

3. Greedy people abuse service workers who depend on tips.

4. Greedy people live for now and expect others to pay later.

5. Greedy people do as little work as possible and expect others to fill the gaps.

6. Greedy people blame innocent people as they bluff and lie their way out of trouble.

7. Greedy people covet; they covet your stuff, your spouse, your prestige, and they will take it given half a chance.

God will judge greed because of how it abuses other people. Believers are to be recognized by our love, not our greed. In fact, humility mixed with love is the antidote to greed and self-indulgence. Listen to Philippians 2:3–4 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. He goes on to say in Philippians 2:5–8 (NIV) In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

 

Community Group Questions

 

1.          Read James 5:1-6 out loud with your group. Discuss key words or phrases that jump out of the text.

2.          When you hear the word “self-indulgent,” what comes to your mind?

3.          Look at the “seven ways greed hurts others” found at the end of the sermon. Discuss a time you have seen one of these in action.

4.          James tells us that God “hears the cries” of the abused laborers. Can you think of another passage where God says he heard the cries of abused laborers and acted on their behalf? How is this similar or different?

5.          Discuss how humility and love might “cure” greed and self-indulgence.

 

[1] Adapted from “The Death of James the Just, Brother of Jesus Christ” http://www.christian-history.org/death-of-james.html

[2] All Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

 

[3] https://heldercarlosdotcom.wordpress.com/2013/07/13/the-socio-political-and-economic-situation-in-the-first-century-c-e-palestine-the-earthly-ministry-of-jesus-and-the-programme-of-renewal-for-the-people-of-israel/

[4] Martin H. Manser, Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies (London: Martin Manser, 2009).

The Rebuild: Judging and Boasting

The Rebuild: Judging and Boasting sermon notes

Judging and Boasting

Passages: James 4:11-17

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Pastor Paul L. Davis

 

Key Goals: (Know) Understand that there are enemies to our rebuild. (Feel) Feel compelled to fight for our relationship with God. (Do) Obey the commands of James 4.

 

Introduction: Have you ever heard of akrasia? It is a philosophical word that describes something that we often do. Take Sue, for example. In January she started a diet in order to lose a few pounds. At work she is confronted with a double chocolate birthday cake brought in by a co-worker. She immediately finds herself drawn to the rich, dark, velvety cake and although she tries to resist, knowing that it will destroy all of her hard work, she eats not one slice but two. Ever been there? Philosophers since before Christ have been fascinated by this behavior. Sue chose to eat two pieces of cake knowing full well that she ought not to eat even one. Ancient Greek philosophers called this akrasia, which literally means a lack of control over one’s self.[1] In order for an action to be akratic, the person has to know what they ought to do and then purposefully choose to do otherwise.

 

This morning James is going to help us rebuild our lives by pointing out how we can be dangerously akratic. Let’s read the passage together and get our bearings, then we will look at what I mean.

 

James 4:11–17[2]

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

 13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

 

In our passage this morning, James grapples with arrogance, specifically in us—even though we know we are not God, we act like we are. We do this is two ways. The first, in verses 11-12, is speaking evil of and judging people; the second, in verses 13-17, is presuming upon the future. At first blush, these two issues may not seem like a big deal. But if we look a little closer, we will find that both spring from a deep-rooted arrogance that is antithetical to the gospel.

 

Everyone knows arrogance is dangerous. We have all heard Proverbs 16:18. Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Yet even though we know arrogance and pride lead to falls, often we still purposely choose to act in arrogant ways. Classic akrasia. The problem with this is how destructive pride can be. We talk about a “fall” like it is no big deal, when in fact the falls of arrogance are usually devastating. Why? Because arrogance always seems to have a “plus one.”

Arrogance plus: another woman

Arrogance plus: alcohol

Arrogance plus: laziness

Arrogance plus: prescription pain medication

Arrogance plus: zero accountability

 

Let’s look at the “plus ones” James warns us of.

 

Arrogance plus:  Slander and judgment (v11-12)

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

 

One of the most important biblical truths about God is that he will judge. He is the creator, the law giver, the determiner of right and wrong, and he will judge every single person after death. Hebrews 9:27…it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment. In 2 Tim 4:1 we are told specifically that it will be Jesus who judges, as the Father has given him all authority (John 5:26-27). This is critical for us to understand. There is no person you have ever met who will not be judged. Every one of us will humbly stand before the Lord and give an account.

 

Enter arrogance. When a person begins judging another person—and the idea here is separating or evaluating (this person is a believer/good/holy and this person is not)—they first must sit down on God’s throne. In their mind, a judgmental person has determined that they omnisciently know a person’s heart, motives, and actions. An arrogant person knows that they are not God, yet they willfully choose to sit on his throne and judge the world.

 

Instead, James warns us to refuse to “katalaleo.” Do not speak evil against one another. The Greek word for “speak evil” is katalaleo; it is hostile and malicious speech directed at or against one’s neighbor,[3] with its goal being to bring someone down. Arrogant people are known for this. From their lofty perch they look for the faults and flaws in others so that they can bring them down. This is the opposite posture that Jesus wants us to have. In John 8, a woman who was caught in an adulterous act was brought before Jesus. The Pharisees said, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” Jesus could have judged her right there, and his judgment would have been perfect. But instead he said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” Every one of the Pharisees walked away, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned[4] you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

 

Arrogant people are so worried about other people’s sin that they never humbly deal with their own sin. Jesus never condemned that woman, but he did deal with her sin, didn’t he? Humility is looking deeply at the areas in our own life that we need to repent of and not worrying about the faults and failures of others.

 

Arrogance plus: presumption (v13-17)

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

 

As I read this you might be thinking, “What is the big deal here? It’s wrong to make plans for the future?” No, let’s go back to our theology. God is not only the creator of the universe, he is its sustainer and sovereign. In other words, nothing happens in God’s universe outside of his control. Scripture is abundantly clear on this:

·      The LORD has established His throne in the heavens; And His sovereignty rules over all. (Psalm 103:19)

·      But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases. (Psalm 115:3)

·      For I know that the LORD is great, And that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps. (Psalm 135:5-6)

 

If God is sovereign, then we are not. The problem James is addressing is not this man’s plans for the future, but his arrogant assumption that he will make it happen. An arrogant person knows they are not God yet they live as if they have his sovereign authority. They don’t seek the Lord’s will or even acknowledge his presence. They delude themselves into thinking they control their own destiny.

 

Jesus shared a parable that touched on this in Luke 12:16–21. Jesus said, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” ’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” This man had big plans; he just wasn’t in control.

 

King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was one of the most powerful monarchs in history. While walking on the roof of his royal palace one evening, he said to himself, “Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?” Daniel 4:31-32 goes on. While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, 32 and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.”

 

One of the most basic lessons to learn in life is: God is God; I am not God! He is sovereign; we are not sovereign. He controls the future; we do not in any way control the future. Humility will naturally flow from a heart that understand this.

 

How should we be different? If arrogance is the problem, what is the solution?

1. Instead of speaking evil: Let us encourage others with our words. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

 

2. Instead of judging: Let us support the growth of those around us. Galatians 6:1–3 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

 

3. Instead of presuming: Let us affirm the Lord’s sovereignty as often as we can. Deuteronomy 4:39 Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the LORD, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other.

 

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

 

Community Group Questions

 1. Read James 4:11-17 out loud with your group. Discuss key words or phrases that jump out of the text.

2. Have someone in the group search on the internet “Bible verses judging.” Discuss the different Bible verses/passages listed. Do they add to James’ conversation?

3. List some ways you have seen people “speak evil” of others.

4. Discuss a time when someone judged you.

5. How should believers point out sin that needs to be repented of without being “judgy”?

6. Discuss “presumption;” is that a sin that has been on your radar? Why/why not.

 

[1] Greek, from a- ‘without’ + kratos ‘power, strength.’ The term is used especially with reference to Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics.

[2] All Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV

[3] Gerhard Kittel, “Λαλέω,” ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 4.

[4] Same root word as the word “judge” in James 4.

The Rebuild: Three Enemies

The Rebuild: Three Enemies sermon notes

Three Enemies of My Rebuild

Passages: James 4:1-10

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

The Church @ Hamilton

Sunday, March 5, 2017

 

Key Goals: (Know) Understand that there are enemies to our rebuild. (Feel) Feel compelled to fight for our relationship with God. (Do) Obey the commands of James 4.

Introduction: Antisthenes, (Greek: Ἀντισθένης; c. 445 – c. 365 BCE), a Greek philosopher and a pupil of Socrates, said this about enemies: “Pay attention to your enemies, for they are the first to discover your mistakes.” The book of James has been helping us rebuild our lives. James has taught us to be doers of the word and not just hearers, to put our faith into action with works, and to control our tongue. This morning, though, James is going to warn us of some enemies—three enemies in a death match against you rebuilding your life.

 

Have you ever found out the hard way that you have an enemy? This happened to the U.S. on Dec. 7th 1941 when Japan sneak-attacked Pearl Harbor. We were not at war with Japan; we were fighting the Nazis until 7:48 a.m. Hawaiian Time. The base was attacked by 353 Imperial Japanese fighter planes, bombers, and torpedo planes launched from six aircraft carriers. By the end of the battle, all eight U.S. Navy battleships were damaged and four were sunk. The Japanese also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship, and one minelayer. 188 U.S. aircraft were destroyed, 2,403 Americans were killed and 1,178 others were wounded. “Pay attention to your enemies, for they are the first to discover your mistakes.” Let’s focus in on the three enemies lurking to sabotage your rebuild.

 

1. The Enemy Called Hedonism (verses 1-3)

James 4:1–10[1] What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

 

One Greek word appears twice in this passage, in verses 1 and 3, and it is the word “hedone.” It can be translated as passions or pleasures. Hedone describes that internal part of us that covets and craves feeling good. Our word hedonism comes from this Greek word. Hedonism is the uncontrolled personal desire to fulfill every passion, craving, or lust one experiences regardless of the cost or consequences. Pure hedonists are completely self-centered. Paul described them best in 2 Timothy 3:2–4 as lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful…heartless, unappeasable…without self-control…reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. That is pure hedonism, but most of us are not pure hedonists, right? That would be socially unacceptable. I worry instead about the hedonism that lurks in our hearts, well hidden from public view. Look at the question James asks, What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?  Is it not your passions? The word is hedone—isn’t it your hedonism? Isn’t it because you want more, to be right, to feel good, to be first, what someone else has?

 

Hedonism destroys personal relationships (v1-2) Fighting, quarreling, even murder: these are the words that James uses to describe the interpersonal relationships of those who pursue hedone—their own lusts or passions. Students, if you constantly fight or quarrel with your parents, look hard at this passage; James is telling you it is because of your pleasure-loving heart. You would rather have your way than your parents’ wisdom. A godly monogamous marriage is a prison cell to a person pursuing hidden lusts. They are not content to have their own spouse; they want someone else’s too. So they flirt, scheme, and secretly text or Snapchat to feed their lust for more. Then they wonder why they fight with their spouse. Forget giving, serving, or caring for family or those in need. The hedonist doesn’t have nearly enough money to cover even half of what they covet. The selfish pleasure-seeker slowly demolishes every relationship in their lives, one selfish fight at a time.

 

Hedonism also destroys our prayer life (v2-3) Look where James goes next. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. A person who is bent on feeding their lusts doesn’t pray because they know what they want is either sinful or in excess. If they do pray, their prayers are not heard because they are asking God to feed their insatiable lust for more. The psalmist had the answer for what will truly satisfy our hearts. Psalm 37:4 says Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Delight here has the idea of deep satisfaction mixed with a happy contentment. Be satisfied in the Lord and all your other desires will fall into their proper place, and you will have all that you could ever desire. Here is a nugget to chew on: rebuilding the relationships in our lives may be as simple as replacing our lust for created things with a deep satisfaction in the one who created them.

 

2. The Enemy Called Spiritual Adultery (verses 4-6)

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  

 

I am not a scholar, but I need to tell you that I deeply struggle with how these three verses are translated in the ESV. Verse 4 begins with a reference to adultery. James turns on his audience. He is no longer just warning about the destructiveness of our lusts, he calls his readers adulterers—spiritual adulterers—being in a covenant relationship with one person and loving someone else. My struggle is with the word “friend.” Friends don’t commit adultery against one another. The word is love, philo as in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. James, in a very strong tone, is telling us that being in love with an adulteress (in this case the world) places us in a hostile state with God.

 

The question James would want us to ask ourselves is this, “Am I married to God or the world?” Imagine a couple that gets married, and a week later the husband says, “I’m going out tonight with my old girlfriend. I love you, but I want to keep in touch with her, too!” Would that work? No! When we get married, we vow to “forsake all others” and be exclusively devoted to our spouse. In the same way, when we put our faith in Jesus Christ, it is an exclusive relationship. Old love relationships need to be put off. We are either in a love relationship with the world and an enemy of God, or in a love relationship with God and an enemy of the world. Jesus said the same thing when he was talking about money. Luke 16:13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. When Jesus was talking with the rich young ruler (Matt 19:16-22) and the young man asked Jesus what he needed to do to be saved, Jesus shocked everyone when he told him to sell all that he had. Because everyone knows that selling stuff doesn’t get you into heaven. His issue was not stuff, it was spiritual adultery—he loved his stuff more than God.

If we are going to rebuild, we will have to address the adulteresses in our lives. Do you have a lover—a mistress to your relationship with God? Is it your job? Sports? Your children? A habit? A drug or substance? All of these things can become loves that get in the way of our relationship with Jesus. Rebuilding our lives will take making Jesus the lover of our soul. Jesus does not want to be one of the “great loves of your life.” He was pretty pointed about this. Matthew 10:37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Deuteronomy 6:5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. James says your love of the world is making you an enemy of God.

 

3. The Enemy Called the Devil (verses 7-10)

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

 

The universe God has created has both a physical and a spiritual realm. We often assume that what we see of this world is all there is, but the Bible clearly communicates that there is much more going on than meets the eye. In 2 Kings 6 there is an interesting moment in Elisha’s life. Syria had been trying to attack Israel and Elisha had been warning Israel before every attack, thwarting the king of Syria’s plans. So the king decided to send his army to kill Elisha. Elisha’s servant opened the door one morning to find the entire Syrian army surrounding the house. In terror he called to Elisha, “What will we do?” Calmly Elisha said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 2 Kings 6:17 There is an entire spiritual realm that we rarely think about, and in that realm are rulers and powers that are dark and evil who seek to destroy our relationship with God. Satan’s singular mission is to prevent or disrupt your bond with God. We know three specific ways he tries to do this: by tempting us to sin, by accusing us before God, and by trying to thwart the divine plan of salvation.[2] He is a real enemy and we are in a real battle, so like a good commander, James gives us a series of commands.

 

a. Submit yourself/humble yourself before God. (v6-7) God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. The word “submit” was a military term which meant “to arrange oneself under command.” The idea is for us to arrange ourselves under God’s direction rather than live according to our own desires or direction. You want to rebuild? Humble yourself and begin arranging your life according to God’s direction, not your own.

 

b. Resist the devil (v7) Resist the devil and he will flee from you. The idea of “resist” is to refuse to bow. Refuse to give an inch. If you give the devil an inch, he will take a mile. Refuse to bow.

 

c. Draw near to God (v8) Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. This verse is at the heart of the idea of “rebuilding” and is James’ call for us to come back to God. It summarized the “prodigal son” story—God the Father is always waiting with open arms for us to return to him. Rebuild by drawing near.

 

d. Cleanse and purify yourself (v8) Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. These two commands are directly related to the spiritual adultery James referenced earlier. We can’t rebuild if we are double minded or have two lovers. Rebuilding will take repentance and purifying ourselves from the sin that splits our heart from God.

 

e. Be wretched (v9) Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. One of the dangers of American Christianity is that we always want to feel good. Most Americans think that the measure of a “good day” at church is to walk out feeling good about ourselves. That is fine some days, but not if we just realized we have an adulterous love relationship with something that is not God. Then we have to do something about it. Feeling guilty, grieving, and morning over our sin is not a bad thing; it is a good thing. It is actually one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit. 2 Corinthians 7:10 tells us that there is a godly grief that produces repentance that leads to salvation without regret. In other words, there are times when we need to just sit for a moment and grieve and let that grief lead us to repentance. I think this is why David wrote Psalm 51. David wrote it just after he committed adultery with Bathsheba. He was not feeling good about his relationship with God. Listen to Psalm 51:1–10 (NIV84).

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;

according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.

4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight,

 so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.

5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

9 Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

 

Calvary, if we are going to rebuild our lives, we need to realize that it will be a war against our internal passions, our external spiritual adulteresses, and a supernatural devil. So draw near to God, purify yourself, and even allow yourself to grieve; let that sorrow bring you to repentance.

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

 

Community Group Questions

1.          Read James 4:1-10 and discuss the parts of this passage that speak to your soul.

2.          Discuss hedonism. Is this a word you are familiar with? Has hedone caused you to be in a quarrel or fight?

3.          How does a person know if they are a “spiritual adulterer?”

4.          Discuss the devil. Do you think about the spiritual realm? Why/Why not?

5.          Discuss the command to “be wretched.” How do we balance sorrow for our sin with the need to rejoice in the Lord always?

 

[1] All Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

[2] Werner Foerster, “Διαβάλλω, Διάβολος,” ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 76.

The Rebuild: Dangerous Tools

Dangerous Tools sermon notes

Dangerous Tools

Passages: James 3:1-12

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

The Church @ Hamilton

Sunday, February 26, 2017

 

Key Goals: (Know) Understand the power of our tongue. (Feel) Feel compelled to change the way we talk. (Do) Seek the power of the Holy Spirit to change our heart and tongue.

The Rebuild: When you entitle a sermon series “The Rebuild,” it assumes some things. It assumes that we humans have an uncanny ability to break down, to get ourselves into some very broken places. Sometimes it’s not our fault—we just live in a damaged world. Other times we are the very epicenter of our brokenness—we caused it. Our sinful bent turbocharged our downward spiral of addiction, lust, anger, hatred, and jealousy. God’s grace and forgiveness is beautiful and free, but changing…rebuilding…that is where the work is. This entire series is built on the premise that the book of James will help us rebuild our lives and that this book is filled with practical tools for us to restore, recreate, and restructure our brokenness. James tackles issue after issue that every believer who is serious about transforming his or her life must work through. James does something with this morning’s issue that he does not do with any other in the entire book: he empathizes. Turn with me to James 3.

 

1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.

 

Verse 2 is what I want you to catch. For we all stumble in many ways. James includes himself in this discussion. This is the only time he will do this, and it is a telling admission. James knows what it is like to stumble sinfully in what you say, and we actually have documentation. In Mark 3:21, when the crowds of people began following Jesus, Jesus’ family became upset with how he was interacting with the crowds and someone in the family said (James maybe), ”He is out of his mind.” “Jesus, you are out of your mind!” We all do that sometimes, right? Make a harsh comment. You’re crazy! What are you, nuts? Are you out of your mind?

 

As we studied the first two chapters of James, he made it very clear to us that genuine faith works. If God has changed our hearts through the new birth, the saving faith that he’s given us will unavoidably show itself in a life of good deeds. This morning James moves from the generality of good works to a very specific area of works—how we use our tongue. With these two verses (3:1-2), James sets up a discussion about how we talk to one another, and right from the beginning he wants us to know a) that he struggles with this area too and b) if we succeed in this area—if we control our tongue—we can control our entire body.

 

But this may be a bigger job than we realize. When I took a trip to Zambia with a group of CSH students, one of our jobs was to expand a garden plot that the community was using to grow vegetables. In the middle of this garden was a huge tree stump that everyone had to work around. It was a nuisance, so I asked why they hadn’t taken it out. I was told it was because the job was too big. Well, I thought this would be a perfect job for four teenage guys and me. How hard could it be? So we went after it in 96-degree heat. It was a brutal job, much bigger than I had realized. Look at verses 3-5. James wants us to clearly understand that controlling our tongue is a bigger job than we may realize. Why?

 

1. Controlling our tongue is tough because, while it is little, it has incredible power.

3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. James uses two word pictures to illustrate: a bit and a rudder. Bits are small compared to horses and rudders are small parts of ships, but both a horse and a ship will end up wherever these small parts take them. Your mouth has the power to take you places both for good and evil. The right words can result in a promotion while wrong words can get you fired. The book of Proverbs teaches us this in Proverbs 12:18 There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.  Words can both cut and heal.

 

From the Old Testament all the way through the New, we are warned about the sins of our tongue and their ability to hurt. Two of the Ten Commandments refer to sins of the tongue: the third, You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain (Exodus 20:7) and the ninth, You shall not bear false witness (Exodus 20:16). Three of the seven things God hates mentioned in Proverbs have to do with the tongue. Proverbs 6:6-19 mentions a lying tongue, a false witness that bears lies, and he who sows discord among brethren.

 

Jesus warned us even about “careless words.”  Matthew 12:36–37 I tell you, on the Day of Judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.  The Apostle Paul warned us in Eph 5:4 that Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes--these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. Even Peter, who often had trouble saying the right things, at the end of his life warned us in 1 Peter 3:19 that whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit. Why? Because even though the tongue is small, it has incredible power. Look at verse 5. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!

 

2. Controlling our tongue is tough because it is a wildfire.

6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. A key reason many of us need to rebuild our lives is because we have experienced this. In my counseling office I have watched in horror as couples burn down their marriages with harsh words, slander, purposely hurtful insults, cruel and unfair criticisms, blaming, nit-picking. Often much of what is said is true, but it is communicated so sinfully that the truth cannot be heard over the hurt. If we are going to do any life rebuilding at all, we must constantly deal with our words and speech. James warns us that it will set our entire course of life on fire.

 

Before we move on, I want us to take a peek at one phrase right in the middle of verse 6. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body. The word translated “stain” here is interesting because in Jude 12 this word is translated as “hidden reef”—the idea being an unseen danger.’ It may refer to a rock which is mostly or completely covered by the sea.[1] What James is really saying in the verse is that our tongue is an unrecognized danger. We may think it is a small fire, but it has the potential of a wildfire waiting to burn us down. Listen to the wisdom of Proverbs 17:27. Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.

 

 

 3. Controlling our tongue is tough because it is virtually untamable.

 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. Did you catch verse 8? No human being can tame the tongue. That is a strong statement. This is one of those with God all things are possible passages. It will take the power of the Holy Spirit in your life to tame your tongue. Because, James says, our tongues are a restless evil. Listen to Proverbs again, this time Proverbs 26:18–19. Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death 19 is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, “I am only joking!

 

Usually when we think of “evil,” we think of sins like molesting children or murder. Yet James wants us to see that gossip, slander, deceit, half-truths, sarcastic put-downs, and even joking are a big deal, a deadly poison set on fire by hell (v.6). They defile the one committing them. They destroy relationships with others. As a believer in Christ, we must confront these sins in ourselves and even be bold enough to confront them in others. James wraps up this passage by giving us two tongue-oriented tools to rebuild our lives.

 

Tool #1: The Tool of Blessing

We need to start blessing people instead of cursing them. Look at verse 9. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. It ought not to be so because our mouths should be full of blessings and not cursing. There is a phrase we used to use in high school to describe one of the most common curses I see. We used to call it “flipping the bird.” I don’t know why it is called that, but I am amazed at how many people around Holland “flip the bird.” That is a curse.

 

Parents, there is nothing more important in your parenting than for your children to hear words of blessing. Proverbs 15:4 Gentle words are a tree of life; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. Husbands, there is nothing more important to the intimacy of your marriage than how you communicate with your wife. Prov. 12:18 “the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Wives, It is important for you to know that your words have incredible power to bless the hearts of your husband and children. Proverbs 31:26 tells us that a godly woman’s mouth is “full of wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” Friends, it is critical that we understand how destructive or helpful our words are in the hearts of those we call friends. Proverbs 11:9 With his mouth the godless man would destroy his (friend) neighbor. Bless those around you—our words can destroy!

 

Bethany Thompson: When Bethany Thompson was only three years old, she battled and beat a brain tumor. Her family was overjoyed when the only residual side effect was that, because of nerve damage, she had a crooked smile. She beat it! But there was something she couldn’t beat—a group of girls relentlessly teasing her about her smile. Her mom said that she believed “no one could help her,” and on October 19th, when she was 11 years old, Bethany took her own life. [2]

 

One of the key concepts throughout the Bible is that we have been blessed in order to be a blessing. Let us fill our mouths with blessings and watch our relationships rebuild themselves.

 

Tool #2: The Tool of a Changed Heart

11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. The implied answer to these questions is no. Fresh water and salt water do not come out of the same pond; grapevines do not produce figs. In the same way, harsh, sinful language does not come out of a believing heart. In Matthew 15:18–20, Jesus talked about a mouth and heart connection. What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person. Proverbs 15:28 says The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.

 

The key to changing our tongues is changing our hearts. Have you asked Christ to change your heart? Is your tongue a raging wildfire? Put it out by changing your heart. Start rebuilding this morning. Are you done with all of your cursing, lying, complaining, anger, and fighting? Ask the Lord change your heart. Lord, would you make my heart new? Would you forgive my sin, come into my life, and transform my heart?

 

Power Tool: As we close this morning, there is an incredible sentence that I want us to memorize. This sentence is the most powerful rebuilding tool I could give you: I know that I hurt you with what I said; I am sorry. Will you please forgive me?

 

 

Community Group Discussion

1. Read James 3:1-12 as a group and talk about the aspects of the passage that stood out to you.

2. James describes the tongue as a “wildfire.” Does this word picture resonate with you? Why/Why not?

3. Look up and read Matthew 12:36–37. Discuss what you think Jesus is telling us in this passage. What is a “careless” word?

4. Why do you think James takes almost one whole chapter out of a five chapter book to discuss the tongue?

5. Discuss Proverbs 15:28. What do righteous people do well?

6. Discuss the Bethany Thompson story. Do you know someone who was picked on or teased? How do we teach children the importance of blessing people with our speech and not cursing?

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

[1] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 699.

[2] http://www.foxnews.com/health/2016/11/01/parents-blame-bullying-after-11-year-old-cancer-survivor-commits-suicide.html

The Rebuild: Using Your Tools

Using Your Tools sermon notes

Using Your Tools

Passages: James 2:14-26

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

The Church @ Hamilton

Key Goals: (Know) Understand that it takes both deep faith and hard work to rebuild a life. (Feel) Feel compelled to work out your faith. (Do) Actively demonstrate your faith through works.

Sham: something that is not what it purports to be; a spurious imitation; fraud or hoax.[1]

There are few things in this world more frustrating than thinking something is real and finding out later that it was actually a sham. Occasionally it is funny, like when someone posts a sensational news story that turns out to be fiction. But often, finding out something is a sham is painful, like when you discover a piece of jewelry you thought was valuable is actually a fake, or when you realize a friendship was not real. Some have painfully discovered after years that their “good” marriage was a lie. Jesus was concerned about shams. He warned us in Matthew 7:21–23 that, if we are not careful, even our faith in him can turn out to be a sham. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”[2]

 

How do you know if your faith is genuine? These people thought they were going to heaven, but instead they had a sham faith. James is going to walk us through an essential element of authentic faith, because no one ever rebuilt their life based on a mirage. Our entire passage this morning is a warning from James that if our faith in Jesus Christ is not transforming every part of who we are, it just may be a sham. Let’s go to the text. James 2:14–26 

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?

 

The implied answer to this question is no. James is confronting the mindset of someone who claims to be a believer yet his or her lifestyle, actions, and attitudes are not Christlike. For James, works are not an “added extra” to faith, but are an essential expression of it.[3] Remember back in James 1:22 when James warned us that true Christ followers are not only “hearers” of the word but “doers” as well? Now he is taking the next logical step, and revealing to us that Christ followers not only have faith, they also have works. He paints a picture of what he means in verse 15.

15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?

 

 Again the implied answer is, “It’s no good.”

 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

 

“It’s no good.” It is not true faith. It may be correct theology, but if it is not transforming the way we act, it is not true faith—it is empty faith that is unable to save; it is dead faith. When the person who says they have faith but the faith is not accompanied by works stands before God at the judgment, they should expect to hear, “Depart from me I never knew you.”

 

James’ example of works—helping to feed and clothe someone in need—echoes a parable of Jesus in Matthew 25:31-46. Listen as I read it for you.

 

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’

 

37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

 

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’

 

44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

 

James is echoing his brother’s teaching. Jesus had the expectation that faith would be demonstrated by and followed up with practical good works. Look, neither James nor Jesus in these examples was talking about us selling everything we have and moving to Africa. Their examples were simply about doing good and proper things for people in need. Clothing naked people (Jm 2:16), giving drink to the thirsty, caring for the sick or visiting those in prison (Matt 25:39). These are not unrealistic actions. Faith is not just a mental exercise; it is an act of the will far beyond simply acknowledging the facts of who Jesus is. Look at verse 19.

 

19You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!

 

Faith has to be more than a mental assent to the facts, because demons do that! In fact there are several places in the gospels where demons made amazing confessions of faith: In Mark 1:24, a demon said to Jesus, "I know who You are; the Holy One of God!" In Mark 5:7, another demon said to him, "What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?"  These demons knew exactly who Jesus was, but no demon was ever going to heaven. They have knowledge but no saving faith. James wants us to see that an intellectual knowledge alone is not faith. At this point, James hopes everyone reading this is on the edge of their seats thinking, “Okay, if that isn’t saving faith, what is?” He gives us two examples of people who had genuine saving faith, and these two people could not have been more different.

 

Example One: Abraham

 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.

 

There are two words we need to key in on in this passage: active and completed. These words are critical for our understanding of what is being said and what isn’t being said. Let me be clear, no one has ever been saved by “good works.” Ephesians 2:8–10 tells us this specifically. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” So, good works do not save; faith in Jesus Christ saves. But works has an active and completing aspect with faith. Faith is as incomplete without works as works is without faith. Listen to Ephesians 2:10, right after we are told that salvation is not a result of works. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Abraham’s submission and willingness to obey God made his faith knowable and visible.[4] We know he had faith because he acted on it—we could actually see his faith in action.

 

Example Two: Rahab

 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

 

This story comes from Joshua 2. Rahab was a gentile prostitute—the last person you would expect to be an example of faith and works. God was going to destroy her city, and she believed YHWH could and would do it, even to the point of putting her life at risk. She hid the spies, trusting that if she obeyed God, he would save her. He not only saved her but he gave her a husband, and she became the great grandmother of King David! The key here is that it was her faith expressed in action. If she had believed and not acted or acted and not believed, none of us would have ever heard of Rahab.

 

Verse 26 sums up the entire section: For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. Genuine saving faith is believing in the person and work of Jesus Christ in such a way that it transforms what we think, who we love, and how we act. This faith is inseparable from good works because good works answer the question: what is salvation for? We are saved for good works (Eph 2:10).

 

The Rebuild: This entire series is built on the premise that the book of James will help us rebuild our lives and that it is filled with practical tools for us to restore, recreate, and restructure our brokenness. This passage helps us do that in a very specific way by giving us clear examples of what “work” that accompanies faith looks like. Let’s take a close look.

 

1. Giving what is needed. The first example James gives of a “work” is in verse 15 when a faith-filled person would have “given what was needed” to the hungry and naked person. The Scriptures are clear: faith in Jesus Christ transforms the desire of a person to give. You can be a giver and not have faith in Christ, but you cannot have faith in Christ and not be a giver. New Testament believers’ faith was tangible and visible in the way they gave, shared, cared for the sick, fed the poor, directed gifts to other churches, and sent out missionaries (see Acts 4:32-35). They gave generously even out of their poverty. It wasn’t a burden; it was a visible, tangible expression of their faith!

Calculator: Over the years I have had many discussions with guys about giving. It is clear from Scripture that the most basic expression of faith in giving is a tithe, which is biblically 1/10 of a person’s increase or 1/10 of your income. Almost everyone tracks with me until I pull out a calculator and say, “Here you go. Take how much you make, divide by ten, and that is what you should minimally be giving.” It’s all just theory until you see that number. If we do not have enough faith in God to give a tithe, what does that say about our faith?

 

2. Offering a life to God. The second example of a “work” was Abraham offering Isaac. That was a very special circumstance that God was using to reveal how he was going to send his son to die in our place. But the “work” here is an important example of a man who placed obedience to God above everything he loved. In real life, good works often look like right priorities:

·      Putting integrity over getting ahead

·      Putting personal godliness over entertainment

·      Putting proper discipline of our children over our child’s temporary happiness

·      Putting our spouse’s needs ahead of our own

 

3. Receiving messengers. The last example is when Rahab chose to hide the messengers. In that moment, she chose God over everything else in her life. With this act, she betrayed her people, her former gods, and everything she knew. Joshua 2:11 tells us why she did it: “for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.” She had faith, and because of her faith she was willing to leave her old world behind. The good works to which God is calling you may look less like becoming a missionary and more like leaving your old world behind. Stop clinging to old sins, habits, and ungodly relationships. Have the faith to step away and step deeply into a new relationship with Christ.

 

Giving without fear expresses faith. Positioning God first in our heart expresses faith. Leaving our old life behind expresses faith. These are all tangible expressions of a person who has put their faith in Christ.

 

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

[1] Dictionary.com

[2] All Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV.

[3] Peter H. Davids, The Epistle of James: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1982), 121.

[4] Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 876.

The Rebuild: Level the Chassis

Level the Chassis sermon notes

Level The Chassis

Passages: James 2:1-13

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

The Church @ Hamilton

 

Key Goals: (Know) Understand that favoritism, racism, and a lack of love destroy rebuilds. (Feel) Feel love toward all regardless of their status. (Do) Treat every person like God does.

 

Introduction: [We Are the Body: Casting Crowns] This song hits me every time I hear it. I think anyone who has ever felt the sting of rejection feels the power of this song. The phrase “the weight of their judgmental glances” is a powerful line. I’ve felt that weight. I remember her walking into our youth ministry for the first time. She was very attractive, well dressed and smiled easily. She did not get two feet in the door before three young men decided to be the “welcoming committee.” I chuckled to myself thinking, “Well, she is going to get ‘special treatment’.” As I was preparing to speak, I saw something develop that I was not expecting. The girls in our group began huddling up and whispering, very clearly communicating to this young lady, “You are unwelcome.” I was shocked, and turned to Martha to ask what was going on. She looked at me and said, “The competition.”

 

This fallen world has a strange way of wrecking our lives. One of the most powerful wrecking balls is what the Bible calls “partiality.” When the church began just after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, it was radically counter-cultural. It consisted of Jews and Greeks, slaves and slave-owners, wealthy and poor—all of them worshiping together. This was unheard of at the time. Both the Roman and Jewish cultures were extremely status oriented. You were born, raised, and died within your station. Very little in society allowed for socio-economic mixing. If you were a slave, you associated only with slaves; if a nobleman, only with nobles. A Pharisee would not even walk into the home of a Sadducee, though they were both Jewish. Status, hierarchy, standing, and position in society determined every aspect of your life—from your friends, opportunities, spouse, job, and housing to where you worshipped and bought your food.

 

Imagine growing up in this culture as a slave. You have never even spoken with a rich person, in fact all you have ever done in the presence of the rich is “γιγνώσκειν πρόσωπον” (Gin-oskien pros-opon)—the respectful and expected greeting in which one humbly turns one’s face to the ground or sinks to the earth.[1] This was the only culturally acceptable interaction between rich and poor or slave and free. Then you begin gathering with a group of Christ followers who read James 2:1–4[2] as part of their worship:

 

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

 

As a slave, your first question would have been: what does “partiality” mean? Because in all of Greek literature, the word does not exist outside of the Bible. The only people in the history of the Greek language to write using this Greek word translated as partiality (προσωπολημψία) were the apostles Peter, Paul, and James. Peter used the word in Acts 10:34–35 after the first Roman soldier put his faith in Jesus. So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. Peter revealed to us that the gospel does not discriminate based on race. Anyone from any nationality may come to God. The Apostle Paul used the word in Romans 2:6–11. Paul was talking about the “Judgment of God” that awaits every person after death.

 

He [God] will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.

 

Same word. Paul is describing a key character trait of God in his judgment. He does not grade on a curve. It is not that he doesn’t judge—he will judge everyone—but his judgment is based in the character of their life and their relationship to Christ, not their position, influence, wealth, or nationality. Paul also uses the word in Ephesians 6:5–9.

 

Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, 6 not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, 8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. 9 Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.

 

Again God’s character is described as having “no partiality.” God will never pervert justice by showing favoritism to a slave owner over a slave. Slaves are to comfort themselves through hardship by knowing their masters will face “the ultimate Master”—God himself. The final time the word shows up in Scripture is Colossians 3:23–25. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality. There is no partiality in what? This is describing God’s judgment. God will never show inappropriate favoritism, preference, or special privilege to anyone. This is both comforting and scary. No one will receive special treatment. Everyone will stand before God as either redeemed through the blood of Christ or unredeemed. No “do-overs,” no “buying your way out,” no “sweet talking.” Our outward appearance and status have zero bearing on the gospel, our salvation, or judgment. In Galatians 3:28 we read There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. These verses are often misunderstood. Paul isn't saying that roles, ethnicity, or status don’t exist; he is saying “in Christ” we are equal despite our roles. When it comes to the gospel, there is no superiority, color, race, or even gender. Of the four New Testament passages we just looked at, the word “partiality” is always referring to God’s character. These passages go well with the dozens from the Old Testament that tell us the same thing: that God does not look at our exterior, he does not take bribes, and he does not show favoritism (See Lev. 19). He knows us and deals with us only as we truly are.

 

Turning the corner: James’ purpose in using this word is a little different; he wants us to turn the corner from how God interacts with us to how we should interact with others. James 2:13 My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. James is saying that partiality is inconsistent and incompatible with someone who claims to have faith in Christ. He illustrates this with a story of wealth in verses 2-4. Partiality in this case, we are told, “made distinctions” between people. The idea is judging and separating.[3] This is evil because God does not separate or judge people differently because of money (nor race, gender, status). A good Jewish man in this era would have followed up James’ statement with a question: “If God can make any poor person wealthy, isn’t God showing favoritism by making one of these men rich and the other poor?” Good question. Look at verse 5.  Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. James’ answer is that poor people have been chosen too. The poor have been chosen for blessings that rich people do not have nor understand. Their “riches” do not come in dollars but faith. So why would a church think better of a man rich in dollars over a man rich in faith? Doing that would be pure evil!

 

Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called? 8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. This is as direct a statement as you will ever find in Scripture. Favoring certain people because of their status, education, money, fame, prestige, clothes, car, looks, or whatever is a sin. There's no place for favoritism in the heart of God and there's no place for favoritism in the heart of his people. If we do it, we are “convicted by the law as transgressors.” 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. James’ point at the end here is essentially what Jesus said in Matthew 7:2 (NLT). “For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.”

 

Confronting Reality: Before we go any further, let’s get real honest about this issue. The church has struggled with partiality all through her existence. We have ostracized people for the version of the Bible they read, the color of their skin, music styles, citizenship, cleanliness or social acceptability. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that 11 a.m. on a Sunday morning is “the most segregated hour in this nation.” So how do we rebuild? How do we overcome partiality in our lives and in our church?

 

1. Pay attention (James 2:3)

In verse 3 when James tells us about the “gold fingered” man walking in, he says they “paid attention” (to notice/special attention) to him. That isn’t the issue. That is a good thing. We should pay attention to every person who walks through the door of our church and even those that don’t. The problem was not paying attention to the rich man, it was not paying attention to the poor man. Listen to how Paul wrapped up his letter to the Romans (Rom.15:5–7). May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. The way we overcome partiality is to pay notice or pay attention to young, old, rich, poor, black, white. Sunday morning can not just be about us—we must pay attention to others around us.

 

 

2. Live to fulfill the “royal law” (James 2:8)

The royal law James mentioned was: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Overcoming partiality is as simple as the church loving other people like we want to be loved. All through James we will find that he pushes believers: Don’t wait to be loved—love. Don’t wait to be noticed—notice others. Make the first move. The church turned the world upside down because of the radical way she loved the unlovely (and she can do it again). In the year 168 a man named Justin was beheaded by Rome for following Christ and refusing to worship idols. Listen to how he described Christians: “We who used to value the acquisition of wealth and possessions more than anything else now bring what we have into a common fund and share it with anyone who needs it. We used to hate and destroy one another and refused to associate with people of another race or country. Now, because of Christ, we live together with such people and pray for our enemies.”[4]

 

Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world,

Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight

Jesus loves the little children of the world. [5]

 

If Jesus loves “all the little children of the world,” we must too.

 

3. See others through the lens of mercy (James 2:13)

James ends this entire section by basically saying if you show mercy in judging people, God will too. Mercy is one of the most beautiful aspects of God and in turn what make Christianity so unique. Mercy is showing compassion to someone in need, aiding the helpless in distress, or assisting someone in debt who has no reason to deserve it.[6] Mercy-showing people have a keen sense of how generous God has been with them, so they show up when they see others with a need. They reach out, not because someone deserves it, but because God reached out to them. They pay the bill, assume the debt, bear the burden, go the extra mile, turn the other cheek—they show no partiality.

 

 

Community Group Discussion

1.          As a group, read through James 2:1-13. What are the concepts and phrases that jump out or are easy to remember?

2.      Where is the boundary between godly discernment (which we all need) and showing partiality (which is sin)?

3.          Often the rich get rich because they are wise and disciplined. The poor are often poor because they are foolish and undisciplined. How does this fit with James’ theology?

4.          The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that 11 a.m. on a Sunday morning is “the most segregated hour in this nation.” Do you agree or disagree? Discuss how we move forward.

5.          Discuss mercy. What do you understand “mercy” to mean?

 

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

[1] Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 779.

[2] All Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

[3] Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 946.

[4] Edwards, Dwight Game Changing Christianity: How the Early Christians so radically influenced their world and what we can learn from them. Thomas Nelson Publishing 2016.

[5] Written by C. Herbert Woolston in the early 1900’s

[6] J. W. L. Hoad, “Mercy, Merciful,” ed. D. R. W. Wood et al., New Bible Dictionary (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 751.