Living as the Church: Walking in Community

Walking in Community full sermon notes

Living as the Church: Walking in Community

May 20, 2018

Pastor Ben Marshall (Holland); Pastor Dean Parham (Hamilton)

sermon notes from Holland

 

1 Thessalonians 5:12–13 -

12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.    

Paul addressed the relationship between the brothers and sisters in Christ and those in leadership over them. Now, he didn’t specify clearly whether this was just the pastors or others in leadership roles. He left it as a general, blanket statement of those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you. How can you show respect and esteem for these people who show up week after week in order to serve?

Those in leadership roles are also those meant to be admonishing each one of us (to admonish v. — to warn or counsel in terms of someone’s behavior[1]). It can be uncomfortable and counter-cultural to be thankful and hold in respect and esteem those who are calling us out in our sin, calling us to follow Jesus Christ and live in our new identity and new birth as a son or daughter of God. But, often, the very thing that makes us most uncomfortable is the very thing we need to hear and respond to.

The last sentence of verse 13, Be at peace among yourselves, helps us understand that we are all human and conflict is an inevitable part of that. Conflict and disagreement are a natural part of life. But, division and disagreement are not synonymous. The book of Proverbs continually calls us to speak in the right way to one another, and these ways promote peace. There can be disagreement that is not divisive. Proverbs such as 12:18; 15:1, 4, 28; 17:9, 27-28 show the importance of our speech and conduct toward one another.

 

1 Thessalonians 5:14-15 -

14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.

We have certain expectations and responsibilities that we are called to have toward one another to help one another follow the example of Jesus Christ.

Admonish the Idle - If we are not living as we ought, we are instructed to admonish one another—to counsel according to one’s behavior that what they are doing is not right and God has shown us a much better way of living!    

Encourage the Fainthearted - When life gets hard we need to remember the hope we have in Jesus Christ, the hope that He will return and bring an end to pain and suffering, sorrow and loss. 

Help the Weak - Not everyone is where you are. We are all on a journey in the process of sanctification. Helping the weak is seeing someone in a different phase of life, a different area of spiritual growth, and becoming a mentor to them. 

Be Patient with Everyone - When we remember how patient God has been with us throughout our life, we remember that we can show more patience to those around us. 

Don't repay evil for evil; Seek to do good to others - We can seek to do good to those around us, our brothers and sisters in Christ. But Paul also ends that sentence with and to everyone. He doesn’t limit whom we are to seek to do good to. We are actually called to seek to do good to everyone!

Living as the Church: Live with Eternity in Mind

Live with Eternity in Mind full sermon notes

Living as the Church: Live with Eternity in Mind

May 13, 2018

Pastor Ben Marshall (Holland); Pastor Dean Parham (Hamilton)

notes from Holland

It took just 0.41 seconds to get 85.5 million results when I searched for “end times.” The end of the world, post-apocalyptic genre of books and movies are ever-increasing in their popularity. The end of the world is something everyone expects, but are we really ready for it? Many expect it to happen during their lifetime. 

Scripture teaches the return of Christ is imminent. Jesus Christ could return at any moment and the end of the world will have begun. A bunker underground and a storehouse of dried foods and ammunition won’t save you from the return of Christ. Paul, as he writes to the church of the Thessalonians, speaks to them about the day of Lord, which is the time when Jesus Christ will return and judge believers and unbelievers. The outcome of that judgment will be very different for each group. Paul wrote to the believers, not to remind them of what was coming, but to call them to necessary action.

If the Day of Judgment were to begin RIGHT NOW, what would your outcome be? Your “goodness” can’t and won’t save you; your morality can’t and won’t save you; your generosity, kindness, gentleness, care and concern for others, as good as those things are, can’t and won’t save you. It is only by grace through faith in Jesus Christ that you are saved from the Day of Judgment and made right in the eyes of God. Have you placed your faith in Jesus Christ? Don’t wait. You don’t know when the Day of Judgment will begin. It will come suddenly. You must be prepared.

Paul, writing to believers, children of light, reminded them the day of the Lord would not surprise them because they knew it was coming. He reminded them of their identity: For you are all children of light, children of the day… since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.

What is your identity? What we think about our identity will determine our actions. When I talk about my identity, I am not first a pastor, husband, father, son or even a man. I am first and foremost a child of God. But, I don’t always live like it. I have to continue to remind myself of my true identity, not the one the world tries to place on me. So I ask again, what is your true identity? It is not in a gender, sexuality, political view or religious denomination; it is not in your label of married, single, divorced, widow, widower, mother, father, childless, adopted, etc. Your true identity is found in Jesus Christ. Are you in darkness or in the light (Eph. 2:1-10).

As true believers, children of light and children of the day, the Thessalonians could live with the confident knowledge they would obtain salvation through Jesus Christ, who died for them. If Jesus Christ died for us, we ought to live for Him (1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed). This salvation the Thessalonians would obtain is speaking of the future salvation to come when Jesus Christ returns, resulting in our ascension into heaven to be with God. It is this future hope which impacts every moment and day of our lives.    

Live with eternity in mind. It changes your priorities. Knowing that the return of Jesus Christ is imminent should change the way we live our lives.

Here are just a few practical ways:

Parent with eternity in mind – When you parent with eternity in mind, you don’t care just about today’s behavior, but the eternal destiny of your children. You play the long game. It can be easier and feel more satisfying to respond a certain way in the moment, but momentary actions can derail the work of the long game. What I mean is this: a word spoken in haste or anger in the moment toward your child (or your spouse for that matter), especially done with consistency, could hinder your impact on the spiritual lives of your children/family. But, a word spoken with compassion, understanding, and love (which includes discipline), provides a positive impact on the spiritual lives of your children/family.

Love with eternity in mind – Again, play the long game. You are to make a commitment to love others—God, your neighbor, spouse, children, enemies, those who persecute you. You can’t love well if you only take into consideration the immediate—especially when someone wrongs you. Taking the long view, loving with eternity in mind, means that you are able to overlook an offense and love with the long-term focus of Christlikeness.

Pray with eternity in mind – The focus of your prayer changes when you consider eternity—don’t just pray for your daily bread but also that God’s kingdom would be on earth as it is in heaven; pray for the salvation of others, not just your safe trip to and from vacation.

Gospelize (preach the Gospel to others) with eternity in mind – The immediate is often not the most important, but our lives become easily focused solely on the immediate. Instead, with eternity in mind, we must realize that the eternal destination of those around us is the most important thing. Do we ache over the spiritual condition of our friends and family members? Do we seek conversations and Gospel-opportunities with others, or just focus on ourselves and our busy life?

Living as the Church: Walk in the Hope of Christ's Return

Walk in the Hope of Christ's return full sermon notes

Walk In The Hope Of Christ’s Return                                                                     

Passage: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Pastor Trent Broussard

 

We believe that the return of the Lord Jesus Christ from heaven is imminent. I hold firmly to this confessional statement. The church has been waiting some 2,000 years for Christ’s return. It easy to dismiss the return of Christ as an event which will not happen in my lifetime. It is easy to live like it may be another 2,000 years before Christ returns.

I remember as a kid reading about and seeing the Berlin Wall. I thought it would never come down. I remember President Reagan’s speech demanding Mr. Gorbachev tear down that wall. When it fell and revolution swept across eastern Europe, I was shocked. My paradigm of the world order changed dramatically. This paradigm shift has begun again as we watched on the news last week when North Korean leader Kim Jong Un stepped over the border into South Korea calling for an end to over sixty years of hostilities. I thought it could never happen.

Fans of the Chicago Cubs waited 108 years between World Series titles. While there are certainly a lot of bandwagon believers, most Cubs’ fans didn’t think they would see a World Series title in their lifetime. In Boston, Red Sox fans endured the Curse of The Bambino for 86 years after they traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees. Again, many fans believed they could never win until it happened in 2004. Those of you who are fans of the Detroit Lions likely live with this kind of mindset (and disappointment). You believe that winning the Super Bowl will never happen.

I believe that we often approach the return of Christ with this kind of mindset. Intellectually, we know and agree with the doctrine, but practically we don’t live like it is real and only remind ourselves of it when there is tragedy and the loss of life.

Calvary, we need a paradigm shift. Christ is returning; it could be today.

1 Thessalonians 4:13–18

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (ESV)

 

Paul’s intent is to comfort believers with this word.

Paul wanted the church to encourage one another because of these words. This passage is not written to give us a detailed timeline of events. This is written so that we can comfort one another. Every one of has experienced the loss of a loved one. We each know other believers who have suffered the loss of a loved one. The hope, the encouragement we have with which to comfort one another is the resurrection. Christ is returning and He will resurrect all believers who have already died, and those believers who haven’t died will be raptured together with the dead in Christ. Here is our hope, joy and comfort.

 

Where is our hope and comfort?

Jesus died and rose again. He is returning to claim His church. Whether we are dead or alive when He returns, we will all be caught up to meet Him in the air. We will be with Him for eternity.

Everything that is wrong with the world will be undone. The curse we have lived under since Genesis 3 will finally be undone.

One of my favorite carols we sing during the Christmas season is Joy To The World. Isaac Watts wrote a beautiful and theologically rich text and I believe he intended it as a text looking toward Christ’s Second Coming. Listen to these words and let your mind think not of the first Advent, but of the second and soon coming Advent.

 

Joy To The World

Joy to the world the Lord is come

Let earth receive her King

Let ev'ry heart prepare Him room

And heav'n and nature sing

Joy to the earth the Savior reigns

Let men their songs employ

While fields and floods

Rocks hills and plains

Repeat the sounding joy

No more let sins and sorrows grow

Nor thorns infest the ground

He comes to make His blessings flow

Far as the curse is found

He rules the world with truth and grace

And makes the nations prove

The glories of His righteousness

And wonders of His love

Let Christ’s imminent return be a source of hope and comfort for you today. Let us respond to this wonderful truth with a life of worship and obedience.

Living as the Church: Holy Bodies

Living as the Church: Holy Bodies

1 Thessalonians 4:3-8

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Beaux Williams

 

Over the last several weeks we have been working together through Paul’s first epistle to the Thessalonians. As you remember, Thessalonica was the capital of Macedonia and had a sizeable population. It was a wealthy and influential center of trade and culture. It was also a haven for pagan worship, cults, and immorality. Smack dab in the middle of this darkness was a small church of Christian believers. This particular church was established by the Apostle Paul, Timothy and Sylvanus as they successfully preached to the Jews in the synagogues and the Gentiles in the city. However, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is offensive to a world that turns a deaf ear. As such, Paul and company were forced to leave this fertile ground prematurely due to persecution from the Jews. Having to leave these new spiritual children was devastating to the missionaries. Chapter 3 states that when they could bear this separation no longer, they sent Timothy to see how they were doing. To Paul’s great relief, the light of this church was still shining brightly in the midst of the darkness. Paul pens the letter of 1 Thessalonians to encourage and exhort this body of believers. He also writes to challenge them to walk in such a way as to please God and to do so more and more (1 Thess 4:1). It is in this context that we approach our text for the day.

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.   (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8, ESV)

Imagine with me, if you will, a young man. Perhaps this young man was a Gentile convert in the church of Thessalonica who learned about Jesus Christ from the teachings of Paul. Growing up in a pagan culture, he has been surrounded by the corruption and immorality all around him. As such, he has been a willing participant in this immorality. But, now, for the first time in his life, he is attracted not just to the physical beauty of women but to the spiritual beauty as well. He meets a young woman in the congregation, also a follower of Jesus, who has grown up in the culture. He gets to know her and comes to love her. Yet, neither has learned how to approach relationships with the moral purity required of a disciple of Christ. As it turns out, there is still a bit of the world in them both. This immorality surfaces in their relationship bringing predictable consequences. They soon discover that as they follow Christ, things can’t stay the same. There is a connection between our sanctification and our sexuality. This is what Paul will address in these verses.

I bring up this example for a couple of reasons. First, this is probably not far removed from the testimonies of those in the congregation of the Thessalonian church. While they had come to faith in Jesus Christ, they would still need to understand what is means to walk in purity. Second, this story is very similar to my story, and, I suspect, the stories of others here today. Much like Thessalonica, we are surrounded by a culture that encourages and enables immorality. Media, movies, and internet hit us with a constant barrage of graphic sexual images and innuendo. We live in a generation that seeks to eliminate sexual boundaries, change the biblical understanding of marriage, and redefine gender. Our culture has pushed for sexual revolution and freedom from any restriction upon sex. Today, we are experiencing the consequences of this freedom. Yet, Paul’s message is not for our culture. This is a message to the Church of Jesus Christ. My friends, we need Paul’s message to the Thessalonians every bit as much today as the day it was written.

 

God’s Will for My Life - Sanctification

Many of us struggle to discern God’s will for our lives. Usually, this involves a difficult decision or choice. We wish that God would just speak to us with a voice from heaven.  “My will for you is to buy this car, not that one.” What we are seeking is God’s permissive will in our choices. As His children, God allows us to make these choices freely while we seek his guiding hand. While wrestling to make decisions based on God’s permissive will is a part of the Christian experience, there is another aspect of God’s will in which there is very little confusion and even less wiggle room. We call this God’s perfect will. Recognizing God’s perfect will is quite easy because He has clearly revealed it to us in His word. It is usually found in statements like this “This is the will of God: your sanctification.” (1 Thess 4:3, ESV).

What is God’s will for us? The answer is easy: our sanctification. If we aren’t careful, we can spend so much time pondering what God wants us to do that we miss what He has clearly told us to do. God’s will for us is our sanctification. Now, if sanctification is what God requires of us, then we need to have a very good understanding of what it means. For our purposes today, let’s define sanctification as “the ongoing process of the saved person becoming holy through the empowering work of the Holy Spirit.” Today, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, trusting in the work of salvation gifted to you through His death, burial, and resurrection, you are now in the process of sanctification. God has declared you sanctified by the blood of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is a wonderful and amazing truth! But, sanctification is still a process. It’s a process which requires action on the part of God’s people. God did not go through the trouble of sending his Son to die for us so that we could stay the same, comfortable in our sin. Instead, God saved us so that we would be made holy. This is a process that should continue for the entirety of our lives until the day we stand before our Lord.

 

Sanctification And Sexual Purity

Paul lays out for the Thessalonians three particular areas in which they were to focus their sanctification.  First, they were to abstain from sexual immorality. Second, they were learn how to control their bodies in holiness and honor. Third, they were not to transgress and wrong their brothers and sisters sexually.  Let us examine each of these areas more closely.

In verse 3, Paul exhorts the reader to “abstain from sexual immorality.” The word that the ESV translates as “sexual immorality” is the Greek word porneia. From porneia we get the word pornography. Strong’s Concordance defines porneia as “harlotry (including adultery and incest); figuratively idolatry:  fornication” (1890). This idea of sexual immorality covers a lot of ground. It encompasses anything that is outside the bounds of what God has declared sexually permissible. Genesis 2 lays the groundwork for what is permissible by showing us God’s original intended design for sexuality.

“Then the LORD God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man." Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” (Genesis 2:18-25)

Notice in these verses the context in which sexuality was given to mankind. God created man and let him experience life alone with no helper. So, God created a helper suitable for him. God brought the woman, which He had created, to the man and the two became “one flesh” within the context of marriage. One man, married to one woman. Moses helps us here by telling us that this married couple was “naked” and not ashamed. Sex was a good thing! God invented it, it was his idea. Sex was a wedding gift to the married couple. There was nothing about sexuality for which they should feel ashamed. But like any gift, sex can be abused.  For instance, water is a good gift; however, water out of control brings destruction. Trouble happens when we take that beautiful wedding gift, meant to be shared and experienced by a husband and wife on their wedding night and we open it early, shamefully doing that for which the gift was never intended. That is sexual immorality. Brothers and sisters, we need to stand for God’s intended purpose of sexuality! Why should all sexual activity happen between a husband and wife? Because that is God’s original design according to Genesis 2. Why do we maintain that all sexual activity should be confined between a man and woman? Because that is God’s original design according to Gen 2.

We must also understand that God’s standard for sexual purity does not change in the New Testament. Hebrews 13:4 states, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” What is the standard for sexuality in this verse? Marriage. It is meant to be a place where sex can be experienced in all purity. When a believer dabbles in any sexual activity outside of the marriage bed, it defiles God’s purpose for sex and the marriage bed. When God calls believers to abstain from sexual immorality, it is a call to avoid any sexual activity not held within the bounds of marriage.

Sanctification, according to verse 4, requires that “each one of you knows how to control his own body in holiness and honor not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God. ” Paul makes clear that it is not good enough for those who profess Jesus Christ as Lord to continue to live like the unsaved. To be made holy, a believer must learn how to control his body. Jesus made it clear that this begins at the heart level. In Matthew 5:27 He states that to look on a woman with lust is to commit adultery with her in your heart (Matt. 5:27). He also said (Mark 7:21-23), “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”  Thus, to gain mastery of our bodies we must control our thought life. We cannot live in sexual purity if we continue to fill our minds with the sexual immorality of the world. This means that I must consider carefully what I allow to enter my mind. Brothers and sisters, what are we watching on TV? What movies do we allow to enter our households? What kinds of music are we listening to? What types of books do we read? As we are out in the community, on what or on whom do we let our eyes linger longer than we should? If I were to ask to see your cell phone, what would I find in your search history? What do we allow our minds to dwell on and fantasize about in the privacy of our rooms? Let us not be deceived into thinking that we can continue indulge in the sensuality and somehow grow to be morally pure. We must learn to control our bodies.

In verse 6, Paul emphasizes the importance of self-control by urging the Thessalonians to make sure that “no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you”. Sexual purity is not just an individual matter. According to Paul, sexual immorality not only affects us but it damages those around us. The passionate lust of the Gentile seeks to use others for their own pleasures rather than to seek their best. This plays out every day in high schools all over the country. Imagine a group of boys hanging out in the hallway when an attractive young lady passes by. As she does, this group quietly begins a discussion in which that “rate” the various aspects of her body. Is she a 10, a 9, a 6?  Has this activity helped this young woman, created in the image of God, to draw near to Him? OR, have these young men taken advantage of her body for their own pleasures? Let’s assume that this young lady has purposefully chosen to dress in a way as to draw the attention of these boys. Has she helped these young men, created in the image of God, to protect their purity? OR has she taken advantage of their weaknesses for her own pleasures? Consider the young couple that is in a sexually immoral relationship outside of marriage. They may claim to love each other. But, is this a loving act that seeks the best for the other person and helps that person remain in right relationship with God? OR is it a selfish and lustful act in which these individuals are using each other for their own sexual immorality? Imagine a husband who has not taken the call to control his body seriously. Secretly, he has allowed the seed of sexual immorality to grow in his life. He then pressures his wife to fulfill every fantasy and urge that he has stored away. Is this a loving, selfless, and giving act that will result in marital intimacy? OR is this man using his wife for his own selfish purposes? Brothers and sisters, let us take seriously Paul’s warning that God is the avenger of such things. Surely, David would never have given Bathsheba more than a fleeting glance if he would have known the consequences of his actions for her, his family, Uriah, Bathsheba, and the nation of Israel.

 

Sanctification And The Holy Spirit

Given the powerful nature of our sexual drive, how can we possibly begin to walk in purity? The good news is that unlike the Gentiles who do not know God, the Holy Spirit has been given to Christians. We have the very power of God which enables us to live in purity. Thus, we must learn to walk in the Spirit if we are to have victory over the flesh. I must consistently reorganize my affections, forsaking the temporary pleasures of the body in order to have the lasting joy that can only be had by a right relationship with God. In Galatians 5:16, Paul writes, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” He goes on to enumerate some of those sinful desires, which include immorality, impurity, and sensuality. He adds that one fruit of the Holy Spirit is self-control. So a daily step-by-step walk of dependence on the indwelling Holy Spirit is the key to resisting sexual temptation and developing sexual purity.”[1]

Walking in step with the Holy Spirit also requires that we take certain other actions. First, we must begin with confession. The truth is that some of us have been trying to profess Christianity while we simultaneously live a secret life of sexual immorality. My friend, if this describes you, it's time to confess your sins. With the confession of sin comes the promise of forgiveness. John tells us that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 9). God is faithful! There is no sin that He is not aware of and completely willing to forgive. If we do not confess our sins to God then we cannot be cleansed. We will remain in sexual immorality.

Yet, there is another aspect of confession to consider. We must confess our sins to one another. James calls us in James 5:16 to “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” It is by the confession of sin to God that we receive forgiveness. It is by the confession of our sin to each other that we receive healing. This definitely requires a step of faith. Could it be that God is calling you to take a scary step of confession? Husbands, are there secret sins that you need to finally confess to your wife? Students, are there secret sins that you need to confess to your parents? Wives are there secret sins that you need to finally confess to your husband? Singles, are there struggles in your purity that you need to confess to one another?

When dealing with sexual immorality, as much as probably any sin issue requires us to seek accountability. Thankfully, God did not leave us to deal with this alone. Not only is He with us through the Holy Spirit, He also gave us the body of Christ. We were not meant to do this alone. Who do you trust, that you can be completely honest and transparent with, that will help you hold to the standard of sexual purity?

 

Conclusion

I would like to conclude with this: God’s will is your sanctification. As believers we are called not to grieve the Spirit, but to walk in step with the Spirit as we relate to others in sexual purity. We are called to glorify God with our bodies.

 

 

Strong, J. (1890). Strong's exhaustive concordance of the Bible. Abingdon Press.

[1] Cole, S.J. (Oct, 9, 2016). Sexual Purity (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8). Retrieved fromhttps://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-11-sexual-purity-1-thessalonians-43-8

Living as the Church: Walk the Talk

Walk the Talk full sermon notes

Living as the Church: Walk the Talk

1 Thessalonians 4:1-2

Calvary Baptist Church

Pastor Ben Marshall

 

This past week, Pastor Trent, Karl, and I had the privilege of going to a conference. While we were there, one of the pastors, Mark Dever, was preaching and said this: “It is easier to look holy than it is to be holy.” How true it is, but it is not a good excuse. We are called to be holy as God is holy (Leviticus 11:45; 1 Peter 1:16). 

It is easier to look like you have it all together than it is to be vulnerable, honest, and passionately pursuing Christ in and through struggle. It is easier to work hard, pray at meals, go to church on Sunday, and just make it through the week than it is to meditate on the Word, pray with expectation and power, and actually thrive as a follower of Christ. But may we not be people who do only what is comfortable and easy.

1 Thessalonians 4:1-2 (ESV) Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.

James 1:22 challenges every person who claims to be a Christian and says But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. Going to church doesn’t save you. Church attendance will not give you what you are looking for. Obedience is God's love language (John 14:15-16)

The pursuit of a disciple of Jesus Christ is not to be a good person and try to sometimes do good things. The pursuit of a disciple is that of 1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

We are saved by grace for good works. The outworking of our faith is supposed to produce good works and the fruit of our faith ought to be clearly seen. We have to walk the talk. Scripture calls walking the talk being fruitful. Galatians 5:22-25 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. That means we are to be constantly growing in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

 

Here are 5 action steps to walk the talk:

One, it pleases God when you live sacrificially.

Our default is selfishness. What would happen, instead, if you realized that your life is not about you? The sum total of your life does not consist of the things you’ve accumulated, money you've made, or success you’ve attained. Have you brought glory to God through who you are and what you do?

 

Two, it pleases God when you love sacrificially.

You don’t always feel like loving those around you, especially those closest to you, do you? Loving sacrificially is being selfless and loving even when you don’t feel like it. It is recognizing that love is not just an emotion; it is an action. You may not be in a place where you feel like you love your spouse, child, friend, parent, neighbor, or pastor! But, choose to forgive and pursue sacrificial love. Your relationships are meant to bring glory to God. Who is one person in your life to whom you can start to show a little more love this week, even though you may not want to?

 

Three, it pleases God when you pray sacrificially.

Prayer is the most productive and effective thing you could do in your life. But, it is one of the things followers of Christ don’t do often enough. Prayer unites you with God and binds your heart to Him. Prayer should be the foundation and the fuel for the decisions and actions of your life. This week, spend time alone in prayer at least five minutes every day.

 

Four, it pleases God when you serve sacrificially.

There are many places where you could serve here at Calvary. It would be a sacrifice, and we fully acknowledge that. But, remember, your life is not about you. So, if you are going to walk as you ought, in a way that pleases God, you must be obedient to serve Him and His people. You could get plugged into the nursery, the youth ministry, the children’s ministry, the greeters and ushers, the café team, the VBS team, and many others. This week, talk to one of our pastors or ministry leaders or call the church office and volunteer to serve sacrificially somewhere.

 

Five, it pleases God when you give sacrificially.

Operation Replenish is starting this morning, and it will stretch you. But when we are obedient to the Lord, we trust Him with our finances and we remember they came from Him in the first place. Tithing is the beginning. When we trust God with our finances, we live in a way that our money doesn’t own us. The amount we have may determine what we are able to do or how much we are able to give, but the story of the widow in Luke 21:1-4 reminds us that it’s not about how much we give, but our heart in giving.

Living as the Church: Living Worthy of God

Living Worthy of God full sermon notes

Living Worthy of God

1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:13

April 8, 2018

Brian Allen (Holland); Tom Wright (Hamilton)

Sermon notes from Holland

 

We have been in 1 Thessalonians for several weeks now, and we’ve learned a few things about the church of Thessalonica. 

If we were to contrast the reputation of the church in Thessalonica to that of us, at Calvary Baptist Church, how would we stack up? We are likely the only representation that many people have of Calvary. In fact, churches don’t have reputations, people do. If we want to change the way people think about Calvary, each of us will need to change our individual reputations (consider Galatians 5:16-25).

The reality is, Calvary, that we are in a constant battle of removing those things that are holding us back and putting on those things that Paul refers to as the fruit of the Spirit. But, this reality doesn’t mean we should be satisfied or comfortable with our current status.

Remember back to 1 Thessalonians 1:3 when Paul mentions before God their “work of faith?” Believing that God will supply all the things in life we need falls into this category. It requires a great deal of faith to let God take care of our earthly needs as we spend time and resources on others.  It is a statement of faith when we put money in the Compassionate Care Fund, or in the Global Outreach fund, or the Haggai Project, or give to the overall church ministry via our general fund. So, where is your focus?

When there is community life energized by the passion of pursuing God, resulting in the passionate pursuit of others for Christ, one of the “side effects” is a deep bond of love for others with the same passions. The Thessalonian church’s passion was evident:

For you received the word in much affliction with the joy of the Holy Spirit so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.  For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere so that we need not say anything. - 1 Thessalonians 1:6-8

Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. - Matthew 6:21

When we invest in the kingdom, our heart will naturally be drawn toward those that have a similar passion. With whom do you spend time? Are you living with a focus that reflects a passion for God’s word?

Here are some indicators we can use to gauge the leaning of our hearts:

  1. What are you drawn to in your free time?
  2. What does it take to get you to miss church?
  3. Are you active in Equipping U?
  4. Compare your church giving to what you spend on your hobbies.
  5. Are your close friends ministry minded?

Besides that natural tendency to invest our time and resources into the things we love, there is a supernatural component to loving the people of God.

So, Calvary, are we like the Thessalonians, just needing to increase our love for one another? Are we like the church in Laodicea, lukewarm, not hot and not cold? Are we self-assured and needing nothing? Are we like the Corinthians who were acting like infants in Christ with obvious jealousy and strife within the ministry.

In a congregation of this size, it’s likely we are a mixture of all of these. Those of us who are leading ministries should set the tone. Let’s strive to be like Paul’s team as outlined in chapter 2; let’s be bold to declare the gospel of God regardless of circumstances. 

The point is this, if we are leaders in the body of Christ, we should be in love with Jesus and pointing everyone in our circles to love Him, too. Note that last sentence said “if we are leaders.” Everyone is leading somebody.

If you are 8, there are 6 year olds looking up to you. If you are 16, you have 12 year olds wishing they were you. If God has called you into His kingdom, then He has gifted you for ministry; therefore, you should endeavor to walk worthy of Him who has called you.

If we are serious about passionately pursuing Christ, then something dramatic will happen. We will love the study of God’s word, right? I am calling you out. This is called an exhortation.

Every one of you should be here at 9:00 am next Sunday for one of these opportunities:

  1. Discovering the God of Second Chances – taught by Shannon Overbeek
  2. Fatal Distractions: Overcoming Destructive Temptations – taught next week by Jon Whitmer
  3. Toward Redeeming Adverse Childhood Experiences: TRACE for men – taught by Joyce DeRidder
  4. FREEDOM: A Study in Galatians – taught by Jim Visser
  5. II Corinthians (JOY class) – taught next week by Brad Arnold

Be here to exhort and encourage others grow in their walk with Jesus. Let us be known for passionately pursuing Christ by falling in love with His Word!

From Death to Life

From Death to Life full sermon notes

From Death to Life

Easter Sunday, April 1, 2018

Pastor Trent Broussard

When death comes, the story is over. Death is the end and everyone knows it. Story after story, tale after tale down through the ages tell us again and again of the finality of death. We see as early as Genesis 4, with the first human death as Cain murdered Abel, that death is the end. Abel wasn’t coming back. Eventually, the first man and first woman, Adam and Eve, died as did in their own time every one of the descendants of Adam and Eve. Death was undefeated. Death eventually came for every person, and it still does today.

The writers of stories and the tellers of tales have often woven another narrative into their stories. This narrative tells us that death is powerful and death is the end, but there is a power greater than death. C.S. Lewis calls it a deeper, older magic in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. J.K. Rowling calls it love in Harry Potter. You see this clearly in Disney’s Beauty And The Beast as Belle weeps over the Beast whom she has come to love. As her tears of grief fall on the Beast, he magically returns to life and all of the things that are wrong in the world become right. All of these stories have their origin in one story. All of these stories find their origin in the true story of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Mankind is longing to believe there could be a power stronger than the grave. 

 

This morning we want to establish two facts:

1. Jesus was dead (John 19:33-34, Luke 23:44-46, Mark 15:33–39, Matthew 27:45–54)

2. Jesus is alive (John 20:1-31)

We know Jesus is alive because of the testimony of others. Mary saw Jesus risen from the dead (John 20:11-16, 18a). The disciples saw Jesus risen from the dead (John 20:19-21). Thomas saw and believed (John 20:24-29). The whole purpose of the book of John is so we may believe (John 20:30-31).

John didn’t write every account of every witness to Jesus’ resurrection. He didn’t detail every sign or miracle that the risen Jesus performed before his disciples. He told us enough that we could believe that Jesus is the Son of God. He told us enough that we might have life in Christ.

The simple gospel message is that God created everything that has ever been created, and as our creator he has an absolute right to demand our worship and obedience. The problem comes when we sin. It started with Adam in the Garden and every one of us is born with the sin nature of Adam. Sin separates us from our Holy God and places us in danger of judgment and eternal separation. But God in his great mercy, love and perfect justice sent Christ to die in our place, to pay for our sin, to bear the wrath that is owed to you and me. Christ died and then Christ defeated the grave. He rose and he lives. He reigns. Receiving forgiveness is as simple as having faith in Christ.

Romans 10:9–13 If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved…For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

But faith in Christ is not easy; following Jesus is often a messy journey.

Christ was dead and now he is alive. No matter how far away from the Lord you find yourself today, Jesus stands ready to forgive you and offer you eternal fellowship with him. You do not have to put your life back together or fix all of your mistakes so that Jesus will accept you. He accepts you just as you are. He loves you enough to not allow you to stay that way. Whatever you have done, wherever you are today, Jesus offers you forgiveness if you only believe. Today, if you are dead in your sin, Christ offers life and hope.

Living as the Church: Our Only Hope

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Our Only Hope

1 Thessalonians 2:13-16

March 25, 2018

Pastor Ben Marshall (Holland); Karl Shumate (Hamilton)

Early in the history of the church, when Roman persecution was bad and worsening, the bishop of the church in Smyrna, Polycarp, was arrested. He lived in the second century and was instrumental in proclaiming the authority of the Scriptures. He quoted them in his writings and testified to the Truth of the Word that God inspired through writers like Paul and the Apostles who came just shortly before Polycarp.

Many Christians had been persecuted and were being fed to wild animals in the stadiums of Rome. It is in this context that Polycarp is taken captive. He knew the soldiers would come and did not run away. In fact, when he saw the soldiers approaching, he met them outside and talked with them.

As he talked with them, they were amazed by his age, his faithfulness to God, and they wondered amongst themselves why they were sent so quickly to arrest this old man. Polycarp had a table set out and food prepared for the soldiers who were there to arrest him. While they ate, he requested that he be allowed to pray without interruption for an hour. They allowed him to, and while they ate, Polycarp prayed for two hours within earshot of the soldiers.

Polycarp ended up being burned at the stake, but that is not how he died. When he was tied to the stake and the fire lit, the fire did not burn him. The governor of the province was so angry that he ordered the executioner to go up and stab Polycarp to death with a dagger. That is the martyrdom of Polycarp.

Why? Jesus Christ changes everything. Jesus Christ is our only hope.

The Thessalonians experienced dissenting voices in their hometown and society as well. It wasn’t popular, it was acceptable, to be a Christian and to follow the Word of God. But when they heard the Word of God, they understand that there was something more to this than debatable human wisdom. There was something about the Word of God that, when it came, it was somehow different. Paul writes in 1:5 the Word of God, the Gospel, came to them not just in word, but in also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.

They heard the word of God, the Good News about Jesus Christ, and they accepted it not as the word of men but as it really is, the word of God.

The message of the Gospel is offensive. But it is the only hope for all humankind, and that is why we proclaim it. When we proclaim the, capital “T,” Truth, it is all too likely that persecution and suffering will come.

If we are going to live as the church, there are a few things we must do:

1. Put a high value on the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16)

2. Understand persecution is an expectation (2 Timothy 3:12)

3. Live like our only hope is in Jesus Christ & share it with others (John 3:16; Matthew 28:19; Acts 1:8; 1 Timothy 1:15; 1 Peter 1:3; Romans 3:21-25)

 

 

Living as the Church: Paul's Method of Ministry

Living as the Church: Paul's Method of Ministry sermon manuscript

Paul's Method of Ministry

1 Thessalonians 2:1-12

March 18, 2018

Pastor Trent Broussard

Paul describes a lot about his ministry with the Thessalonians, but it comes back to the example that he set with the conduct of his life.

Paul compares himself to a mother when he speaks of how he loves the Thessalonians. But, when he speaks of how he instructs the Thessalonians, it is like a father. He challenges them, ultimately, to walk in a manner worthy of God .

On this idea of walking worthy, John Piper writes, “A clue is found in Col 1:10 which says, "Walk worthy of the Lord, to please him." But Hebrews 11:6 says, "Without faith it is impossible to please him." So the call to walk "worthy of the Lord" is at least a call to walk by faith.

But faith looks away from itself to the worth and ability and grace and strength of another. So walking "worthy of the Lord" would mean acting in a way that shows how worthy and able and gracious and strong the Lord is.”

When we lead and minister to others, we should remember these four things:

One, we lead and minister to others with the expectation that not everyone will love and respect us.

Two, we lead and minister to others with love, care, and compassion.

Three, we lead and minister to others with a desire to be holy and blameless.

Four, we lead and minister to others with an eye toward eternity.

 

Here are four practical steps you can take after this sermon today:

One, find a place to serve and learn how to lead

Two, give grace to one another and whenever possible, overlook the offense committed against you

Three, pursue holiness and discipleship (join an Equipping U class, get in a Bible study, find a person mature in their faith in Christ and ask them to disciple you)

Four, don't lose heart; Christ will return

Living as the Church: Grace and Peace

Living as the Church: Grace and Peace

1 Thessalonians 1:1

Pastor Trent Broussard

The Church at Thessalonica was established by Paul on his second missionary journey, which is chronicled in Acts 16-18:22. Paul’s pattern was to go into a new area and preach Christ in the synagogue to the local Jews. In this city, there were converts of both Jews and Greeks, and Luke particularly mentions a number of influential women. As is also the pattern, the Jews, especially the synagogue leaders, were jealous of Paul’s success and sought to have him stopped. Paul was sent out of town branded a trouble-maker, but the seed of the church had been planted.

The recipient is the church of the Thessalonians. In other letters, the church isn’t always addressed directly.

Paul’s address here is to the church in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Unlike his letters to the Corinthians, Paul refers to the church at Thessalonica as being in God and not of God. He not only calls them the church in God, but in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. This is uncommon for Paul as he uses the phrases “in God” or “in Christ” very specifically i.e. rejoicing in God (Rom. 5:11) or hidden in God (Eph 3:9). “In Christ,” when used by Paul, generally has an incorporative force, pointing to believers’ participation in Christ’s life or their membership in His body. This is a weighty reference that some scholars believe is intended to communicate that the church is brought into being by God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. It bears witness to the exalted place of Christ and communicates that the Father and the Son are active in the work of salvation and sanctification.

Peace was the normal Jewish greeting, while rejoice was the normal Greek greeting. Paul uses grace and peace as a standard greeting and these words point to both the power and activity of the gospel. Grace and peace only come through Christ. It is the power of the gospel that reconciles wicked man to God. Earlier we sang:

Grace and peace, oh how can this be

For lawbreakers and thieves, for the worthless, the least

You have said that our judgment is death

For all eternity, without hope, without rest

Oh, what an amazing mystery, what an amazing mystery

That your grace has come to me.

 What’s so amazing about grace is that we do not deserve it. We deserve death, hell, and eternal separation from Christ. Instead we have been given life, peace, and eternity with Christ. How did we get grace and peace? Christ suffered and died in our place. He was condemned for us. He took our sins and our sorrows, as the hymn-writer tells us, and made them his very own. He bore the burden to Calvary and suffered and died alone.

Christ suffered the penalty for our sin so we don’t have to pay it. It doesn’t matter how vile a sinner you are, it doesn’t matter how wicked you have been, it doesn’t matter how long you have walked in your sin, Jesus’ death on the cross in your place is sufficient to pay for your sin. This is grace; this is the gospel. And what is peace? Peace is a return to the relationship between God and man in the Garden before the fall. The Garden was a kind of temple where God walked with man in beautiful fellowship. True peace is having beautiful fellowship with God.

Conclusion:

Over the next few months, we are going to study this letter to the Thessalonians and observe what real Christianity looks like in a church. The Thessalonians were a model church. They got it right. Paul’s letter is full of commendation and not condemnation. We will see what they got right and how Paul encourages them to deepen their walk with Christ and grow in their fellowship. As we walk through a season of transition and search for a new pastor, it is my prayer that we will grow deeply in our walk with Christ and our love for both Christ and one another. 

Challenge:

During this season of transition, we need to be praying for our church, for our new lead pastor, and for our team who has been tasked with discerning the Lord’s will for Calvary. I want to invite you to join me and any of our staff who are available, to gather every Thursday from 12:15-12:45 p.m. to pray. It will not be a long prayer meeting, but I believe the Lord would have us sacrifice time to pray and seek His will. If you cannot join us here, pray where you are.

Invitation:

Have you experienced the grace and peace of God? Have you heard His calling on your life? If the Lord is drawing you to Him, do not wait to respond. Come to Him in your brokenness, with your flaws and every imperfection, and allow Him to transform your life. If He is calling you, put your trust in Him today.

 

Our Mission: Being and Making

Our Mission: Being and Making

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Calvary Baptist Church

Pastor Ben Marshall

 

Change causes us to give up comfort for the sake of some goal other than comfort. One pastor has said, “Churches that love their method more than their mission will die.”[1] This morning we are going to talk about mission. Methods will come and go; methods will change. Mission is the one thing that we must be tied to. It sets the course, or the direction, moving forward.

Our mission, passionately pursuing Christ, lovingly pursuing others for Christ, summed up in one word for each part, is “be” and “make.” We are called to be disciples (faithful, passionate followers of Christ); we are also called to make disciples.

We are to be passionately pursuing Christ and all that He is. The Bible is replete with examples of men and women passionately pursuing Jesus Christ and holding nothing back. What does it mean to passionately pursue Jesus Christ? Let’s narrow down what we are saying here.

 

First, pursue God with your whole heart

Jeremiah 29:13 ESV You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

Pursue God with your whole heart and it will fill the longing in your heart and soul.    

 

Second, desperately long after God with all of your desire

Psalm 42:1-2 1 As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?    

Do I know what it looks like to crave after God?

 

Third, pursue God as a student of the Bible

Psalm 119:9-11 9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. 10 With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! 11 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.    

It is by following the Word of God that one is able to live in the fullness of the promises of God. 

Here are three application points to passionately pursue Christ:

First, develop a consistent habit of time spent with God. Take some time this afternoon, and maybe every Sunday afternoon, to schedule your God-time out in advance. Develop a consistent, daily habit of time spent with God. It might be a different time every day, but make it a habit.    

Second, find a consistent place to meet with God. Having a consistent place will help get you into the right frame of mind to meet with God. You know when you go here you put away distractions, turn off notifications, maybe don’t even bring your phone.

Third, bring a journal or something to document your time with God. Write your prayers, write your struggles, write what you’re learning in the Word. It will help you look back and remember. Remembering the goodness and faithfulness of God is important in our faith.  

 

We must cultivate a lifestyle of pursuing Christ and lovingly pursuing others for Christ.

Who are those we lovingly pursue?

We lovingly pursue fellow disciples, the backslidden, and the lost. As we pursue them, we must lead with grace and follow up with truth (John 1:17).

Grace without truth gives permission for sin and truth without grace gives condemnation. Neither is right.

 

How, then, do we lovingly pursue others for Christ? Here are two application points:

First, begin with prayer for others. Fill your prayer list and prayer journal with the names of others.    

Second, intentionally engage others in relationship. Go out of your way this week to bring a conversation to a deeper level.    

Louie Giglio said, “The unfinished work of the church is to tell the whole planet about the finished work of Jesus Christ.” That is our work, Calvary. That is the work of The Church at Hamilton. That is the work of every church body. The church is not a building; it is a group of disciples following the mission and call of God to be disciples and to make disciples who make disciples. 

 

[1] Carey Nieuwhof, The Death of News, Re-Tribalization and the Future Church, December 12, 2017, https://careynieuwhof.com/the-death-of-news-re-tribalization-and-the-church/

Joshua: It's Time to Make a Decision

It's Time to Make a Decision sermon manuscript

Joshua: It's Time to Make a Decision

Passage: Joshua 24:1-33

February 11, 2018

Pastor Ben Marshall

 

In the beginning of this chapter, Joshua gathered the whole nation together to remember what God had done. Remembrance was something they took very seriously. This entire section depicts God’s gracious provision for his people. He was always with them and always worked on their behalf. God’s grace was at work in the life of Abraham before he was even born. 

As they examined the faithful work of God on their behalf, Joshua charged the people of Israel to be faithful in serving God. He reminded them of the gods their ancestors had served and called them to serve the LORD exclusively. Joshua led by example. He determined he and his household would follow God no matter what anyone else did. He pre-decided he was going to follow God no matter what.

God is holy and God is jealous. He is holy, set apart, in His character and nature. We see God’s holiness revealed in many places throughout Scripture. God as a jealous God is sometimes hard to wrap our heads around. God’s jealousy is in the reality that he would not accept any competition for his people’s loyalties. He didn’t want someone half in and half out, undecided. He wanted sold out, wholly devoted followers. That’s what we seek to be here at Calvary. Our mission, which we’ll talk more about next week, is not to half-heartedly pursue God, but to passionately, that is, fully and wholly, pursue God.

We must, just as the Israelites, count the cost of following God (Luke 14:25-33). If you aren’t willing to go all in then don’t go in at all. We can’t experience the newness of life, joy, peace, the fullness of life, forgiveness of sins and all God has to offer if we straddle the line and, sort of, halfway, follow God and His Word.

The people were adamant in their desire to follow God. It is refreshing to see! They had a decision to make and they, based on experience and encounter with God, chose to follow God.

Joshua called them to make a covenant, to be certain of their decision, to count the cost. This was not a simple declaration of service, but a transformation in their lifestyle, worldview, and primary pursuit in life. Following God alone changes everything.

What about you? Joshua gave that call to the people – choose this day whom you will serve. I want to make that same call and ask the question: Whom will you serve this day? Yourself? Or God?

You get to decide. That’s the reality of the love of God and the freedom He offers. He won’t make you. He wants all of you to be all in for Him, but He won’t force you. In love there is a choice to be made. 

Which decision will you make today?

Joshua: If God is For Us

If God is For Us sermon manuscript

Joshua: If God is For Us

Passage: Joshua 10

January 28, 2018

Pastor Ben Marshall

 

This past weekend, Connie and I were able to go to the Grand Canyon. If you’ve never been there, you need to visit. It is incredible. We were there, and honestly, at first it felt like we were still in Michigan. We woke up in the morning to a snowstorm but went to the Grand Canyon anyway. We couldn’t see very much. It was hard to see through the snowstorm and clouds. We were excited to go the Grand Canyon, but we were also excited to have some time to relax and read books. We took advantage of the snowstorm and clouds to sit in the car with the heat on and read for a while. It was actually very relaxing. But all of a sudden, as I was in the middle of a sentence, a bird crowed. I looked up and out the window toward the canyon. The strong winds that had been rocking our car had pushed away the snowstorm and the clouds, and the clouds had released the sun to shine down over the Grand Canyon. Visibility had gone from a couple hundred feet to a few miles. It was the most incredible experience. Standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon makes you feel small and insignificant. It brings to mind the greatness of God. You’re left with this jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring worship of God and the understanding that “Only God could do this…”

 

It is that same understanding that fills the Israelites in their conquest of the Promised Land: “Only God could do this…” When the people didn’t follow the Word of God and when they didn’t ask counsel from God, they lost the battle at Ai and the people from Gibeon deceived them. But, when they followed His Word and His plan, they couldn’t lose. “Only God could do this.” God is far beyond us and our ability to comprehend the whys and the hows of what goes on in this world. When we’re going through hard times, we often don’t understand how we’re going to get through. We don’t see things like God sees them, but, through His Word, we get a glimpse at the way God sees things. Everything is for His glory and His Name. God sees your singleness differently than you do. God sees your marital struggle differently than you do. God sees your doubt differently than you do. God sees your temptation differently than you do. He is not intimidated, surprised, or overwhelmed. He has a plan and He is at work. If God is for us, who could be against us (Romans 8:31)?

 

There is a lot going on in Joshua 10. What are some things we can learn from this text?

First, God is at work in every situation of our lives.

Today, God is at work in your life. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it because we can’t see it; but know this: God is always at work. God is at work in every circumstance and situation of your life. You are never alone and you are never forgotten. God’s plans and ways are higher than our ability to understand. Just because we can’t see it, or it doesn’t feel like it, doesn’t mean God is inactive. Connie and I were sitting in that car, oblivious to the way God was using the wind to push away the clouds. Only when we looked up did we see what God had been doing behind the scenes. God is always at work, even when we don’t see it. Maybe the work God is doing in your life right now is having you be here this morning. God is trying to speak to you, trying to draw you to Himself, but you have been resisting. God wants to be in a relationship with each one of us. Every single one of us needs Jesus Christ¾even more those who have believed or received Him as Lord and Savior.

 

Second, pray with simple confidence in the sovereign plan and power of God.

Joshua’s prayer in verses 12-13 is an incredible depiction of simple confidence that God is in the heavens and does as He pleases. Joshua was following the Word of God and prayed that God would help him and all Israel defeat the enemy as God had spoken to them to do. This wasn’t Joshua praying for what he wanted, but for the purpose and glory of God. Why don’t we pray with this kind of conviction and confidence? The Bible tells us many different times how we can pray with conviction and confidence.

Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. The delight in the LORD comes first, and then the desires of your heart (because your desires will be the desires of God when you are delighting yourself in Him!).

  • Matthew 21:22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith. Joshua definitely showed this faith.
  • John 15:7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. Joshua was abiding in the words of God and following His plan. God responded and did what Joshua requested.
  • James 4:2-3 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. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
  • 1 John 5:14-15 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

God hears and responds to the simple prayers of faith from the righteous person following after Him. God doesn’t answer every prayer just as we would or as we want Him to, but we can take confidence in knowing that He hears and responds to His sons and daughters as they abide in Him.

 

Joshua: Seeking Counsel from the God of Grace

Passage: Joshua 9

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Beaux Williams

 

Key Goals: (Know) Learn the importance of seeking God’s counsel. (Feel) Be energized by the fullness of God’s grace. (Do) Prayerfully act upon the counsel of the Lord in all circumstances.

It is a pleasure and a privilege to open God’s word with you this morning. Today, we are going to continue walking with the Israelites as they march into the promised land and experience the faithfulness of God. Until this point, we have looked at how God, as a faithful warrior, has delivered the land of Canaan into the hands of his people. Ultimately, the story of the book of Joshua, like all of the Bible, is God’s story.

But, before we begin to journey further, I have a confession to make. As I read the book of Joshua, I am always a little shaken by the extreme measures God has called the people to take. Why would God instruct the nation of Israel to storm the land and slaughter its inhabitants? For the modern reader this, rightly, creates a lot of tension. To answer this question, we need to travel back in time some 500 years prior to the book of Joshua. It begins with a man named Abraham. In Genesis 15:13 & 16 God tells Abraham, “Your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years… Then in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”[i] This verse helps us to understand this question. You see, the time of captivity in Israel coincides with God’s plan for judgment upon the inhabitants of Canaan. For 400 years, while the descendants of Abraham cried out to God for mercy, God was demonstrating mercy and longsuffering towards the Canaanites. Yet, God would only tolerate their sin for so long. When the time for God’s grace had passed, he had raised up a people to act as the instruments of his judgment, much as he would do against the Israelites in the years to come. God, concerned that the practices of the inhabitants of the land would corrupt his people, orchestrates their destruction. God does not mess around when it comes to sin!

The book of Joshua begins with God’s instruction to his chosen leader, Joshua, to lead the people into the land. Joshua 1:6 states, Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit a land that I swore to their fathers to give them. It is with this promise that the people of God, following a rather strange battle plan, march against the city of Jericho. God, true to his word, delivers the city into their hands. Eventually, after dealing with the sin of the Israelites, God would also deliver the city of Ai.

Last week, we finished chapter 8 at Mt. Ebal, in which the entire law was read before the nation of the Hebrews. Surely, in the midst of rereading the law, Joshua would have read the words of Deut 7:1-2 When the LORD your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and mightier than you, and when the LORD your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them. “You shall make no covenant with them.” How these words would later haunt the people.

Today, we are going to pick up in chapter 9. Sadly, we are going to see yet another failure on the part of the Israelites. My hope for today is that we will be encouraged by the example of God’s people to prayerfully pursue the counsel of the Lord. 

 

Scripture Reading

Joshua 9:1-2 As soon as all the kings who were beyond the Jordan in the hill country and in the lowland all along the coast of the Great Sea toward Lebanon, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, heard of this, they gathered together as one to fight against Joshua and Israel.

Clearly, word had spread to the inhabitants of Canaan about what Yahweh, the God of the Israelites, had done to Egypt, the kings beyond the Jordan, Jericho, and Ai. The people were frightened… they were right to be, they were next in line. Thus the kings of the peoples came up with a plan. If Jericho, with its impenetrable walls, and Ai could not individually withstand attack, then the best strategy would be to combine forces into one large army. Surely, this would be the only way to survive. Yet, the people of Gibeon were not convinced that brute force would be the wisest response. They decide upon another course of action: cunning and deception. Now, we need to understand that Gibeon is a city-state about 6 miles NW of Jerusalem. Chapter 10 tells us that Gibeon was a great city, like one of the royal cities and greater than Ai, and all of its men were warriors. The important thing for us to remember is that Gibeon lay just down the road a bit.

Wisdom: They did not have because they did not ask

Joshua 9:3-15 But when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai, they on their part acted with cunning and went and made ready provisions and took worn-out sacks for their donkeys, and wineskins, worn-out and torn and mended, with worn-out, patched sandals on their feet, and worn-out clothes. And all their provisions were dry and crumbly. And they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and to the men of Israel, "We have come from a distant country, so now make a covenant with us." But the men of Israel said to the Hivites, "Perhaps you live among us; then how can we make a covenant with you?" They said to Joshua, "We are your servants." And Joshua said to them, "Who are you? And where do you come from?" They said to him, "From a very distant country your servants have come, because of the name of the LORD your God. For we have heard a report of him, and all that he did in Egypt, and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon the king of Heshbon, and to Og king of Bashan, who lived in Ashtaroth. So our elders and all the inhabitants of our country said to us, 'Take provisions in your hand for the journey and go to meet them and say to them, "We are your servants. Come now, make a covenant with us."' Here is our bread. It was still warm when we took it from our houses as our food for the journey on the day we set out to come to you, but now, behold, it is dry and crumbly. These wineskins were new when we filled them, and behold, they have burst. And these garments and sandals of ours are worn out from the very long journey." So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the LORD. And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live, and the leaders of the congregation swore to them.

Consider the brilliance of the Gibeonites’ plan to deceive the Israelites. They pretend to be from a far distant land seeking to make a covenant with the Hebrews. They have worn-out sacks, worn-out wineskins, worn-out clothes, and moldy old bread. They mention all the things God had done to the kings on the other side of the Jordan River. This is old news. Yet, they neglect to mention anything about Jericho or Ai as that news would be too recent. Do you see what they are doing here? It seems that the Gibeonites are aware of God’s command not to make a covenant with the people of the land. They also seem to be aware that God granted permission for the people to make covenants with nations in far off places. Notice how the Gibeonites appeal to the Israelites by calling themselves servants and lifting up the name of the LORD God.

It is at this point that Joshua and the elders of the people make a crucial mistake: they fail to seek the wisdom of God. Instead they rely upon their own understanding. Their problem was not lack of common sense. Clearly, there were moments in the explanation of the Gibeonites that raised red flags for the elders. Some things didn’t seem to add up. They even suspect that the Gibeonites might actually be from close by rather than from a distance. Joshua even steps in to evaluate the “evidence” that the representatives offered. Yet, Israel’s leaders failed to do a crucial thing: they failed to ask counsel from the Lord; they didn’t pray.

I would like to take a step outside the story for a moment to camp on this. I fear this shortcoming of the Israelites might be the very same trap that many believers fall into—we don’t pray; we don’t seek the counsel of the Lord. There are many reasons that a person might fail to seek guidance from the Lord. Perhaps they don’t feel that prayer is effective, there doesn’t seem to be enough time, they aren’t sure what to pray about, or they just forget. But, there is sometimes an even more sinister reason. Sometimes we don’t pray simply because we are arrogant. We think that we don’t really need God’s help. Joshua had evaluated the evidence, interviewed the messengers, and made a decision. On the surface, it looked great. What nation wouldn’t want to have a potentially powerful foreign ally? Yet, to arrogantly make a decision like this without seeking God’s counsel was clearly a mistake.

How about you? Have you ever made a mistake? Have you ever made a big mistake? Was it because you did not seek the counsel of the Lord? Seeking the counsel of the Lord through prayer is clearly emphasized in the Bible. God wants us to come to him as we make decisions. This is particularly true as we too have an enemy, prowling about, looking to deceive us so that he may devour us. We must be a people on our knees seeking the heart of our God. There are a number of passages in God’s word that instruct us to this end. Here are just a few:

  • Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
  • Continue steadfastly in prayer… (Colossians 4:2)
  • Pray without ceasing… (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
  • If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:5)

Integrity: Keeping an oath even when it hurts

Joshua 9:16-20 At the end of three days after they had made a covenant with them, they heard that they were their neighbors and that they lived among them. And the people of Israel set out and reached their cities on the third day. Now their cities were Gibeon, Chephirah, Beeroth, and Kiriath-jearim. But the people of Israel did not attack them, because the leaders of the congregation had sworn to them by the LORD, the God of Israel. Then all the congregation murmured against the leaders. But all the leaders said to all the congregation, "We have sworn to them by the LORD, the God of Israel, and now we may not touch them. This we will do to them: let them live, lest wrath be upon us, because of the oath that we swore to them.”

Thus, the leaders of Israel blew it. They made a covenant with a people with whom they were clearly not allowed to make a covenant. Because of this, all of the people murmured against the leaders. It’s easy to murmur against leadership when they make mistakes. There is no question that the leaders made a mistake. Yet the people begin to grumble and complain against them and put pressure upon the leadership because of their blunder. Can you imagine how the leaders probably felt having to explain to the people that they had blown it again? How easy it would have been to try to call a “mulligan.” It would have been easier to just disregard the oath that had been made. Besides, it was a mistake born out of deception. Yet, even though Israel had entered into a bad alliance, they remained true to their oath. In their minds, two wrongs did not make a right. It turns out that this was the correct course of action. Some 400 years later, King Saul would fail to keep this covenant. In his zeal for the sons of Israel, he sought to put the Gibeonites to death. Because of this, God brought a famine upon Israel until David sought to make it right with the Gibeonites. We serve a God who is faithful to his covenants and, as such, expects his people to keep their word.

We need to learn from this. God does not change; he keeps his covenants. “Thank God that He is a covenant keeper. Throughout Israel's history, His chosen people stiffened their necks and disobeyed the One who saved them from slavery in Egypt. How easy it would have been for God to wash His hands of this rebellious people. But God kept His covenant. He kept it by bringing adversity on His people when they sinned (such as the famine which came on Israel in David's time), but He also provided a Savior, who perfectly kept the Mosaic Covenant and fulfilled the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants. He inaugurated the New Covenant, by which sinful men are saved through faith in Jesus Christ and His blood, which was shed to make an atonement for the sins of men.”[ii] God in turn expects us to keep our covenants. It is too often tempting to pull out of an obligation because we “made a mistake,” even though we gave our word. Men, how is your covenant relationship with your wife? Ladies, how are you treating the covenant you made with your husbands? Are you longing for a way out of the relationship because you made a mistake or because you entered into it foolishly? Let us remember that the Lord will hold us to our word.

Grace: Better is one day in his courts than a thousand elsewhere

Joshua 9:21-27 And the leaders said to them, "Let them live." So they became cutters of wood and drawers of water for all the congregation, just as the leaders had said of them. Joshua summoned them, and he said to them, "Why did you deceive us, saying, 'We are very far from you,' when you dwell among us? Now therefore you are cursed, and some of you shall never be anything but servants, cutters of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God." They answered Joshua, "Because it was told to your servants for a certainty that the LORD your God had commanded his servant Moses to give you all the land and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land from before you—so we feared greatly for our lives because of you and did this thing. And now, behold, we are in your hand. Whatever seems good and right in your sight to do to us, do it." So he did this to them and delivered them out of the hand of the people of Israel, and they did not kill them. But Joshua made them that day cutters of wood and drawers of water for the congregation and for the altar of the LORD, to this day, in the place that he should choose.

So finally, we come to the “big reveal.” This is the moment in which Joshua finally confronts the Gibeonites for their deception. He begins his interrogation by asking a simple question, “Why did you deceive us?” The answer of the Gibeonites is telling. “Because it was told to your servants for a certainty that the LORD your God had commanded his servant Moses to give you all the land and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land from before you—so we feared greatly for our lives because of you and did this thing.” The Gibeonites feared the Lord. Was this fear indicative of their salvation? Probably not. Yet it is this fear of the Lord that moved them to action. In many ways this mirrors the story of a prostitute in Jericho named Rahab. Like Rahab, the Gibeonites were moved to action because they came to the realization that Yahweh, the God of Joshua, was truly worthy of fear. Yet, ultimately through this encounter they were introduced to the God of grace. Both Rahab and the Gibeonites are accepted by Israel, even if it was under dubious circumstances. “Rahab and the Gibeonites did not deserve to receive this acceptance. Neither, however, did Israel deserve to receive the promised land (Deut. 9:4-6). Neither do we deserve to receive forgiveness and acceptance as part of God’s people. In all these cases, it is not due to us, but due to God, his mercy, his grace, and his love.”[iii]

My friend, have you come to terms with the God of Israel? If not, what are you waiting for? There are some who will hear the message of the Gospel and choose to walk away from it, assuming that it does not relate to them. If this is you, let me point you again to the example of the Gibeonites. The Gibeonites’ response of fear before God was appropriate. Truly the writer of Hebrews was right when he said It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. The truth is that the Gibeonites were not worthy of the grace of God, neither was Rahab. Likewise, the Israelites were not worthy to be called the people of God or to inherit the land. Neither do we deserve forgiveness and grace. Yet God’s unconditional love through the shed blood of Jesus Christ makes it possible for a prostitute, a deceiver, and Gentiles like us to come into relationship with him.

Perhaps you are one who has been convinced that you have blown it too much. That there is no hope for you because you have just pushed God too far. That somehow God could not love you. If those voices are in your head, can I just suggest to you that you have been listening to the Deceiver. He would like nothing more than to drive a wedge between you and the Lord. But again, look at the Gibeonites. We aren’t given a list of redeemable traits that convinced God to bring them into his people. And that is the beauty of it. God is not looking for us to somehow get it all together before we come to him. He calls us just as we are.

As for the Gibeonites, they were cursed by Joshua to serve the house of the Lord as woodcutters and drawers of water. Yet, as you look at their response, they seem to be completely fine with it. It was better to be a servant to the house of God than to be destroyed outside of it. In fact, hundreds of years later, when Israel returns to Jerusalem from captivity, the Gibeonites were among those who rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem with Nehemiah. I wonder if their hearts reflected the Psalmist when he said For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness (Psa 84:10). Oh, how good it is to be in relationship with God, regardless of what our lot in his kingdom may be.

 

Wrap up

So, what can we learn from Joshua 9?

1.     God is the giver of wisdom. God desires his children to seek him out in prayer. It is often because of the negligence of believers to pray that we make dire mistakes. How about you? Do you place all of your trust in the Lord or do you still rely upon your own understanding?

2.     God is a keeper of covenants. The Bible tells us that God cannot lie. He has made covenants with his people and he is faithful to complete them. This is great news for us! It is because of the covenant with his people that we have access to the throne through Jesus Christ. As such, he requires his people to keep their covenants as well. How about you? As a representative of Christ, are you willing to keep your covenants, even to your hurt?

3.     God is a fountain of grace. Remember that God does not wait for us to get our act together before we can enter into his kingdom. The good news is that we don’t have to. Jesus has already paid for our sins through his atoning work on the cross. Just like Rahab, the Gibeonites, and the Israelites, we can be the recipients of God’s grace. Let us remember and celebrate God’s grace in our lives.

 

[i] All Scripture quotations are from ESV: Study Bible (2007): English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles.

[ii] Deffinbaugh, R.L., (June 1, 2004). Promise Breakers and Promise Keepers. [article]. Retrieved from https://bible.org/seriespage/19-promise-breakers-and-promise-keepers-2-samuel-21

[iii] Ford, W., (March 22, 2016). The Merciful God of the Conquest? [article]. Retrieved from https://www.belfastbiblecollege.com/the-merciful-god-of-the-conquest

Joshua: All In

All In full sermon manuscript

Joshua: All In

Joshua 8:1-35

January 14, 2018

 

As we read Joshua 8 today, we are going to see all of the Israelites were all in. They believed God, trusted His command, and followed Him fully. Let that be true of us as well.

All through the description of the battle plan is the repeated focus on God’s plan and God’s Word. Verse 7 tells the ambushing force that the LORD your God will give it into your hand and when they had taken the city they were to do according to the word of the LORD. Again, it’s not about the battle but about the LORD who gave the victory. The Israelites focused on who was fighting for them not what they were doing to fight.

After the battle, their second in the land of Canaan, it appears the Israelites traveled some distance away to worship and refocus their hearts. Joshua made an altar, wrote a copy of the Law, and read it to the entire nation.

Last week we saw that God takes sin seriously, and so should we. This week we see that God wants His people to be all in. He doesn’t want pieces of us. He doesn’t want some of us. He doesn’t want us to follow just a part of the Word of God. He wants all of us to follow all of His Word. Here is where the hard work really begins. Where would you say your heart is? Psalm 139:23-24 is a great passage to help examine that. We are good at justifying our sin and letting ourselves off the hook. Psalm 139:23-24 puts the focus on God examining us and then us needing to do the hard work of accepting what God points out and repenting from it. 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. (NLT)

Where are you holding back? What parts of your life are offensive to God? What do you need to repent and turn from? Allow God to examine your heart and test your thoughts. Then do something about it. Give over to Him what you’re holding back. Confess, repent, and seek accountability and forgiveness from others if necessary. Are you willing to go all in for God? It is a process, not a one-time decision. You have to make this decision new every day, and usually multiple times throughout the day. When faced with temptation, we have to answer the question: Am I going to go all in for God and say no to temptation or am I going to be all in for myself and say yes to temptation?

 

Joshua: God Takes Sin Seriously, So Should We

God Takes Sin Seriously full manuscript

God Takes Sin Seriously, So Should We

Passage: Joshua 7

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Pastor Trent Broussard

 

Last week, we watched as Joshua led Israel to a most improbable victory. The walls of Jericho were built to withstand any army and would have most assuredly survived an assault from Israel had not the Lord been on their side. The story is well known. Israel did exactly as the Lord instructed and the walls came down. The instruction once the walls came down was simple: save Rahab and those in her household and save all the gold, silver, bronze and iron for the treasury of the Lord. Everything else was to be utterly destroyed. No prisoners were to be given quarter and no bounty was to be taken by any soldier. By and large, this happened exactly as the Lord commanded. Almost everyone obeyed the Lord.

 

Achan’s Sin Affects Others

Joshua 7:1 But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the LORD burned against the people of Israel.[1]

It is interesting that the Lord holds all of the people of Israel accountable for the sin of one man. Remember the command from Joshua 6:18: But you, keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction, lest when you have devoted them you take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel a thing for destruction and bring trouble upon it. One man stole the things devoted for destruction, not the nation. But God holds all Israel responsible. Romans 5:12 says Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned. Just like in the Garden of Eden, when the sin of one man brought a curse upon all men, one man’s sin in Jericho brought the anger of the Lord upon the people of Israel. Achan’s sin brought the anger of the Lord upon all of Israel. Sin not only affects the sinner but everyone around them. Sin destroys community.

 

Sin Destroys Hope

Joshua 7:2-5

Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth-aven, east of Bethel, and said to them, “Go up and spy out the land.” And the men went up and spied out Ai. 3 And they returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not have all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not make the whole people toil up there, for they are few.” 4 So about three thousand men went up there from the people. And they fled before the men of Ai, 5 and the men of Ai killed about thirty-six of their men and chased them before the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them at the descent. And the hearts of the people melted and became as water.

Joshua doesn’t know about Achan’s sin. Joshua doesn’t know the Lord is angry; he is simply making a strategic decision based on good intelligence from his men. Israel should have easily defeated Ai, just as Jericho should have easily defeated Israel. But instead, 36 men are killed as the 3,000 Israelites turn and run from the army of Ai. And look what the Scripture says in Joshua 7:5: And the hearts of the people melted and became as water. Just a couple of chapters earlier it was the Canaanites whose hearts were melting as Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground: Joshua 5:1 …Canaanites who were by the sea, heard that the LORD had dried up the waters of the Jordan for the people of Israel until they had crossed over, their hearts melted…

The sin of one man destroyed the spirit of an entire people. The people who crossed the Jordan River on dry ground, the people who marched around Jericho, played trumpets, gave a shout and watched the walls fall down, were now without hope and fearful. Jim Hamilton writes: This episode demonstrates that Yahweh’s righteousness is not limited by his commitment to Israel. His commitment to them does not cause him to show an unjust favoritism toward his chosen people. When they sin he punishes them, showing the glory of his justice.[2] Sin destroyed hope for Israel. Even though they were God’s chosen people, the effects of sin brought them to despair.

 

Sin Causes Grief

Joshua 7:6-9

Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the LORD until the evening, he and the elders of Israel. And they put dust on their heads. [7] And Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord GOD, why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all, to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would that we had been content to dwell beyond the Jordan! [8] O Lord, what can I say, when Israel has turned their backs before their enemies! [9] For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it and will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will you do for your great name?” 

Remember that only Achan sinned, but the whole nation is suffering and grieving. A defeated Israel mourns the loss of 36 men. They grieve, and Joshua understands that the Lord has done this. Joshua’s appeal is not based on Israel’s goodness or deserved standing. Israel has no goodness. They do not deserve any standing with the Lord. Joshua appeals to the reputation of the Lord; he appeals to God’s name and his character.

 

Without Faith, Man Cannot Please God

Joshua 7:10-15

The LORD said to Joshua, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? 11 Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings. 12 Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. They turn their backs before their enemies, because they have become devoted for destruction. I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you. 13 Get up! Consecrate the people and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow; for thus says the LORD, God of Israel, “There are devoted things in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things from among you.” 14 In the morning therefore you shall be brought near by your tribes. And the tribe that the LORD takes by lot shall come near by clans. And the clan that the LORD takes shall come near by households. And the household that the LORD takes shall come near man by man. 15 And he who is taken with the devoted things shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of the LORD, and because he has done an outrageous thing in Israel.’”

God does not allow Joshua to continue his mourning and questioning of God. Instead God gets right to the point: Israel has sinned. Note God does not say Achan has sinned, but Israel has sinned. For the sin of one man, the entire community was held accountable.

What was Achan’s sin? Yes, Achan took what God had forbidden, but the heart of Achan’s sin was unbelief. He did not believe that God would hold him accountable. He did not believe that God would even know that he had taken the items. He did not believe. This was the root of his sin. Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Achan did not have faith, he did not believe, so the Scripture says it was impossible for Achan to please God.

 

God Is Not Mocked

Joshua 7:16-22

So Joshua rose early in the morning and brought Israel near tribe by tribe, and the tribe of Judah was taken. 17 And he brought near the clans of Judah, and the clan of the Zerahites was taken. And he brought near the clan of the Zerahites man by man, and Zabdi was taken. 18 And he brought near his household man by man, and Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken. 19 Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the LORD God of Israel and give praise to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.” 20 And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and this is what I did: 21 when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”

Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. God did see Achan sin. God did know what Achan had done. God does what he says he will do.

God created perfection in the Garden of Eden, Adam sinned, and death was the penalty. Adam and Eve deserved immediate death, but God was merciful and promised redemption through their seed. God destroyed all the population of the earth save Noah and his family due to the wickedness of the people. When Noah left the ark, it was like a new opportunity in Eden, yet Noah sinned and man's downward spiral continued. Here in Canaan, God has brought his people victory and given them the land. This is a new opportunity, a fresh start for the people of God. The faithless generation was gone, yet the pattern of sin continues, this time through Achan. The truth is, man has failed at every opportunity he has been given to follow God, and the truth is that all are deserving of destruction.

Notice the progression of sin in 7:21: I saw…I coveted…I took…I hid. We see the same progression with David and his sin with Bathsheba in 2 Sam 11: He saw her that she was beautiful, he inquired about her (coveted), he took, and then he murdered her husband to conceal his sin. In case you may be thinking this is an Old Testament issue and does not matter today, consider James 1:14–15: But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

 

Sin Is Costly And Cannot Be Ignored

Joshua 7:23-26

So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent; and behold, it was hidden in his tent with the silver underneath. 23 And they took them out of the tent and brought them to Joshua and to all the people of Israel. And they laid them down before the LORD. 24 And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver and the cloak and the bar of gold, and his sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep and his tent and all that he had. And they brought them up to the Valley of Achor. 25 And Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The LORD brings trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones. 26 And they raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the LORD turned from his burning anger. Therefore, to this day the name of that place is called the Valley of Achor.

 

Jim Hamilton writes:

We must not too easily pass over this. A man received the death penalty, and his family died with him, because he plundered a cloak from Shinar along with some silver and gold (Josh. 7:21). It is only the majesty of Yahweh that makes this just. For this to be just, the greatness of Yahweh must be such that trusting in what one can see, rather than what Yahweh has said, is a crime that warrants the forfeiture of life. The ancient Israelites were not a barbaric, bloodthirsty people, but Yahweh is a God whose holiness is a consuming fire. Achan himself gives “glory to God” and “praise to him” and confesses his sin against Yahweh (7:19–20). Israel is saved from Yahweh’s wrath through the judgment that falls on Achan. Yahweh is shown to be just and merciful, and the awful demands of holiness thunder transcendent greatness.[3]

 

Consider the story of Uzzah the priest who was helping transport the Ark of the Covenant in an ox cart for David. The ark slipped and was falling. Uzzah reflexively put his hand onto the Ark to steady it and was immediately struck dead by the Lord for his disobedience. God had strict rules for the holy things of the Tabernacle. Not only was Uzzah forbidden to touch the Ark, he was forbidden to even look at it. RC Sproul writes:

He touched it anyway. He stretched out his hand and placed it on the ark, steadying it in place lest it fall to the ground. An act of holy heroism? No! It was an act of arrogance, a sin of presumption. Uzzah assumed that his hand was less polluted than the earth. But it wasn’t the ground or the mud that woiuld desecrate the ark; it was the touch of man. The earth is an obedient creature. It does what God tells it to do. It brings forth its yield in its season. It obeys the laws of nature that God established. When the temperature falls to a certain point, the ground freezes. When water is added to the dust, it becomes mud, just as God designed it. The ground doesn’t commit treason. There is nothing polluted about the ground.[4]

 

God gave specific rules about the ark, and as a priest, Uzzah knew the rules but ignored them anyway, arrogantly assuming the ground was more defiling than he would be. God gave specific rules for the destruction of Jericho. Achan knew the rules, but ignored them, believing that either God was not serious, or that he could actually hide his sin from God. Either way, his sin ultimately was a sin of disbelief. He did not believe that God would do what God said he would do. This is not simply the way God worked in the Old Testament. Consider Acts 5:1–11, the story of Ananias and Sapphira:

But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2 and with his wife's knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles' feet. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” 5 When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. 6 The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.

7 After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” 9 But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.

 

Sin is big deal. It was big deal for Achan and the nation of Israel and it is a big deal for you and me.

 

Truths for the passage:

1. Sin always destroys communion

  • Between God and man
  • Between peopl 

2. God sees it all

  • There is no secret sin.
  • God is aware of everything that you have ever done.

3. Death is necessary to pay for sin

  • Achan’s life and the lives of his immediate family members was the required payment for sin.
  • Christ has died for our sins.

 

Applications:

1. Since God is serious about sin, we should be too.

Just because we are forgiven in Christ does not mean we now have a license for sin. Romans 6:1-4

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  

If we are walking in sin, we are not walking in newness of life. Why do you think Paul wrote this to the church at Corinth? 2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! Sin is serious. We cannot take it lightly or simply make excuses. God expects us to change. He has given us everything we need for life and for godliness. We need to take inventory of our lives and confess our sin and repent. Christ died for our sin. It is that serious. If it wasn’t serious, Christ didn’t need to die.

 

2. Forgiveness restores relationships.

We will see in the passage next week that after Israel dealt with the sin of Achan, God’s blessing returned. We confess our sin and repent, and our relationship with God is restored. Likewise, when we confess our sins to one another and repent, our relationships with one another can be restored. This is why we are given this command in Ephesians 4:32: Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

 

[1]Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is from the English Standard Version (Crossway, 2008).

[2]Hamilton Jr., James M. God's Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology. (Crossway, 2010).

[3]Hamilton.

[4]Sproul, RC. The Holiness of God. (Tyndale, 1985).