Pastor Paul Davis

Joshua: The Fear of the Lord

The Fear of the Lord full manuscript

Joshua: The Fear of the Lord

Passage:  Joshua 2; Heb. 11:31

Sunday October 22nd, 2017

Pastor Paul L. Davis

Today, as we approach the second chapter of Joshua, God’s people are ready to enter the land. They are camped on the edge of the river separating them from the Promised Land. This is an exciting time in biblical history. Think of the anticipation. There had been 400 years of slavery and another 40 years wandering in the wilderness.

What will be our first glimpse into the Promised Land? A prostitute named Rahab. She is mentioned eight times in Scripture (Josh. 2:1, 3; 6:17, 23, 25; Matt. 1:5; Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25), and in six of these occurrences she is described as a prostitute. I think it is important to note that this would not have been a good woman; she was the kind of woman that Proverbs 7 warns young men to stay away from. But these spies went to her house and lodged there.

The reason why she hid these spies in Joshua 2 is because Rahab had a fear of and belief in the Israelites’ God, YHWH.

This series in Joshua is helping us to live above our circumstances, so let me pull several truths from today’s passage that will help us do just that:

  1. Rahab’s strong belief in God’s power brought her great courage.
    • Rahab had heard of the mighty acts of God and she was afraid—afraid of judgment, being under God’s wrath, being killed. But that fear did not paralyze her. Instead, it gave her the courage to act in faith, and that faith saved her, not just physically but also spiritually. James 2:25 And in the same way was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works, when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?
    • Don’t underestimate the power of your faith to give you strength in crisis.
  2. Rahab’s appeal to God’s loving-kindness brought her mercy.
    • God not only saved her life and the lives of her brothers, sisters, father, and mother, his mercy and loving-kindness went way further. You may not know how this story ends. For that you have to go all the way to Matthew 1:5–6 …and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of David the king… Rahab became the great grandmother of King David, putting her in the lineage of the Messiah. When she asked for hesed, YHWH gave her his Son.
    • When you are in difficult circumstances, do not be afraid to ask for God’s loving-kindness. Pray for hesed! Pray for his mercy, steadfast love, loving-kindness, grace, favor, and compassion. He is a God known for dispensing it freely.

Joshua: The Lord is With You

Joshua: The Lord is With You full manuscript

Joshua: The Lord is With You

Joshua 1:1-9

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Pastor Paul Davis

 

Our entire passage today is God speaking directly to Joshua. Let's see the context where we are: It is the 40th year of Israel wandering in the wilderness. Every single person of Joshua’s generation has died except for Joshua and Caleb who are both alive and well. All the people are situated in what was called the plain of Moab, a valley east of the Jordan River and just northeast of Mt. Nebo. Mt. Nebo is the mountain from which Moses viewed the Promised Land just before he died. The people have just spent 30 days mourning the death of Moses, and it is now time for Joshua to take the people into the land that he promised to Abraham. Let’s walk through God’s conversation with Joshua. As we do that, we are going to spot five truths about our God that are critical for us to know if we are going to rise above our circumstances.

 

Truth 1: God's mission continues even as leaders change (Joshua 1:2-4)

The plans are made, the mission is clear, leaders are interchangeable. It was true then and it is true now. The mission of the church is not contingent upon one or two people. God’s mission continues even as leaders change.

 

Truth 2: God's presence, not Joshua, will be the people's source of strength (Joshua 1:5)

Our mission is different from Joshua’s, but the promise is the same: God will be with us as we pursue his mission. Here is the important truth we need to catch: it is God’s presence, not Joshua’s, that will be the people’s source of strength. Having a great new leader like Joshua is nice, but in the end, it is the presence of God that makes the difference.

 

Truth 3: God expects His people to step out in strength and courage (Joshua 1:6-7)

God gave Joshua the law; he was to follow it. The same is true for us. We can move forward in strength and courage, but only if we are committed to learning and doing everything that is in the Bible. We must not veer to the left or to the right. The church must be committed to accurately handling and understanding the Word of God.

 

Truth 4: God calls His people to know and do His will (Joshua 1:8)

Read verse 8 again. See that promise of success at the end? The Hebrew word for “success” is also translated as “instruct, understand, thrive, prosper.” The idea is this: if you truly understand God’s Word, you will conform your life to it, which will make you thrive and prosper. There is only one place in the entire Bible where we are told how to thrive and prosper in this life, and it is here: meditating on the Word of God and being careful to do all that is written in it.

 

Truth 5: God commands us to walk in confidence with no fear (Joshua 1:9)

God is commanding Joshua to act a certain way based upon who God is and what he has promised. These are Joshua’s marching orders. Remember, these are God’s commands that flow from his presence. Look at the last part of verse 8 again: for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

 

Wrap-Up: God’s mission has never been leader-dependent—God used Moses and Joshua interchangeably—but the success of God’s mission in us has always been dependent on our adherence to His Word and His presence. My prayer for us as a church is that, even as we look for a new leader, we would be strong and courageous; that we would push forward and take new ground. There is no reason for us to veer to the right or to the left.

Joshua: The Man

Joshua: The Man full sermon manuscript

Joshua: The Man

Joshua 1:1

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Pastor Paul Davis

 

We are starting a new series today, beginning a journey through an incredible book of the Bible that is all too often overlooked: Joshua. We are going to stay in verse 1 today because it brings up so many questions we need to answer before we can move on. For example, where are we in the timeline of the Bible? Who is Moses? Who is Joshua? How did he become Moses' assistant? Why did Moses need an assistant? 

 

The Journey to Joshua:

  • Creation (Genesis 1-2)
  • The Fall (Genesis 3)
  • The Flood (Genesis 6) 
  • The Tower of Babel (Genesis 11)
  • Abraham & Sarah (Genesis 12-24)
  • Ishmael & Isaac (Genesis 22-27)
  • Esau & Jacob (Genesis 26-50)
  • Joseph (Genesis 26-50)
  • 400 years (slavery in Egypt, the book of Exodus, God raising up Moses)
    • It is during these events we first find Joshua

Joshua's original name was Hoshea (Numbers 13:8), which means "salvation." Moses changed his name to Joshua, which means "YHWH is salvation" (Numbers 13:16)

 

What do we know about Joshua?

  • He was born into slavery in Egypt and learned here to endure suffering
  • He served Moses from his youth and was a young man during the Exodus (Numbers 11:28)
  • Joshua was a warrior for the Lord (Exodus 17:8-15)
  • Joshua knew how to wait well and be patient (Exodus 24:13)
  • Joshua understood rejection (Numbers 14:6-10)
  • The real story of Joshua's life begins with him at about the age of 70 (Numbers 27:15-23)

 

4 Tools for Living Above Our Circumstances:

  1. We need to learn to endure suffering (2 Timothy 2:3)
  2. We need to learn how to be number 2 (Matthew 20:26-27)
  3. We need to develop a warrior spirit (Hebrews 12:3-6)
  4. We need to develop the ability to stand alone

 

The Church: A Reaching Community

A Reaching Community full manuscript

The Church: A Called-Out Reaching Community

Pastor Paul Davis

Sunday, September 24, 2017

We have been talking about the Church and misconceptions that have developed over time. We have been attempting to build a greater understanding of what the church is and what she is supposed to do.

The question goes something like this: “If Jesus is the only way to heaven, what happens to the billions of people who have never believed in Him?”

Sometimes our diversions are God’s divine plans.

Acts 26:16-18

There is a powerful glimpse of God’s grace and the purpose of the church in this passage—we must not miss it:

1. We are sent (end of verse 17) – if we are believers in Jesus Christ, we have been sent on the same mission as Jesus and Paul (Matthew 28:18-20)

2. We are sent on a mission to open eyes (Isaiah 35:5, 42:7; 1 Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9) – God does not desire that billions go to Hell. God’s desire is that all men be saved.

3. We are sent on a mission to open eyes so the nations might turn from darkness to light (2 Corinthians 4:4) – We, the Church, are God’s gracious provision to bring people trapped in darkness into His glorious Light!

4. We are sent on a mission to open eyes so the nations might turn from darkness to light and turn from the power of Satan to God (2 Timothy 2:24-26)

5. We are sent on a mission to also receive forgiveness of sins  – The Church is God’s gracious plan to share this Good News with those drowning in sin and guilt.

6. We are sent on a mission to receive forgiveness of sins and be given a place among God’s people, who are set apart by faith in Jesus.

Summary: “Does God really send everyone who does not know Jesus to Hell?” The answer is No! God is sending you and I, His church to the nations to open their eyes, so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God’s people.

The Church: A Giving Community

A Giving Community full sermon manuscript

We have looked at six very different passages. Let me wrap up with some conclusions from them.

 

1. If you are not faithfully, consistently and sacrificially giving to the Lord’s work, your heart is somewhere else.

Let’s quit fooling around; this is eternity we are talking about. If you find it difficult if not impossible to at least tithe, according to the passages we looked at this morning, your heart is somewhere but it is not fully devoted to the Lord. God’s Word says it is impossible to serve two masters. Take a moment to search your heart. If you have been devoting your life to lust for or the attainment of money, repent this morning.

 

2. Giving reveals in whom or what we are trusting and loving. I had an ethics professor in seminary that was brutally honest on this point. He would say, “Let me look at your checkbook, and in five minutes I’ll know whether you are a disciple of Jesus Christ.“ The righteous are givers. Where our hearts are, our dollars flow.

 

3. There are great and eternal rewards for secretly giving. Please do not miss a key truth tucked in each of these passages. The reason why covetousness and hoarding earthly treasures are so maligned is because they are horrible investments! They rot and rust and burn up. Humbly and secretly giving of your time, talent and resources builds an eternal portfolio of heavenly riches that never burn, rust or rot. Listen to how Paul told his disciple Timothy to teach these issues to the wealthy in his congregation. 1 Timothy 6:17–19 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. Why should we share and be generous? Because it builds the foundation for our eternal future, treasures and rewards that are the true and abundant life that Jesus promised.

 

Final Challenge: So, Calvary, let us set our hearts against covetousness and seeking earthly pleasures and instead seek those things which are above, where Christ is seated on the throne of glory. Let us give and serve and love in ways that store up treasures that will never rot nor rust. As a church, let us be known for our compassion, generosity and willingness to sacrifice for those in need.

The Church: A Sending Community

A Sending Community sermon notes

A Sending Community

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Pastor Paul Davis

 

As I explore the Scriptures, I think God has something more in mind for his church and his children than ‘coming and getting’ good stuff.

 

Turn with me to Acts Chapter 2 for a moment. This is the very first time we see the actual church in Scripture. The Holy Spirit has just been given at Pentecost and Peter has just preached his sermon where over 3000 received Christ. The church is born!

 

Acts 2

Immediately at its birth the church gave herself over (the idea of ‘devoted’) to teaching, fellowship and prayer. Teaching was specifically about Jesus –Since the Bible did not exist the only records of Jesus’ words and teaching were from the apostles. Fellowship is sharing a meal together, sharing the load of a project, bearing burdens, meeting needs. The Prayers were short prayers that petitioned God for salvation, redemption, knowledge, forgiveness, righteousness and praised God for his holiness, might and blessings.

 

Acts 6:7 (ESV) 7 And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

 

Why was the church growing? The Church was growing because of clear teaching, daily fellowship, unrelenting prayer, generous giving, and faithful serving.

 

When a church is teaching, fellowshipping, praying, giving and serving the Holy Spirit will call some people to extra-ordinary missions.

 

Not everyone is sent on extra-ordinary missions. Some believes are sent on extra ordinary missions, God calls the rest of the church to send people on extra-ordinary missions.

 

What does this mean for us today?

1. We need to grow in unrelenting prayer. Almost every passage we walked through this morning had prayer as part of it. I am not going to lay the guilt trip of prayer on you this morning, but I will remind us that Scripture clearly teaches us that prayer is the activator of God’s holy will. If we want to see lives changed, we must pray about it.

 

2. We need to earnestly identify those that God is sending on extra-ordinary missions. Who are the people in our church that hear the Holy Spirit sending them? Where does God want us to send them? If there will be missionaries and pastors for the generation beyond us, they will only come from Calvary if we intentionally listen to the Holy Spirit and train and support those God is calling to extra-ordinary missions.

 

3. We need to work on biblical giving and receiving. The church flourishes when she gives. I’m not talking about tithes and offerings and figuring out what 10% of our incomes are. I’m talking about selling stuff and making sure our missionaries are supported, knowing the names and the needs of our missionaries. They are the ones we are sending on extra-ordinary missions. Is our youth pastor being properly taken care of? Do we have young men we need to send to seminary?

 

Giving and receiving is a central piece of being the church. There are huge blessings on both sides of the equation.

The Church: A Serving Community

A Serving Community sermon notes

The Church: A Called-Out Serving Community

Passage: Various

Sunday August 13, 2017

Pastor Paul L. Davis

Key Goals: (Know) Understand the power of servanthood. (Feel) Develop a desire to serve God. (Do) Serve.

Introduction: There are only a few times in my life when I have been utterly amazed, but this was one of them. When I was a youth pastor, I decided that a fun way to begin group one night would be to do a limbo stick. Now I chose the game on purpose because generally the smallest youngest girl wins. We had several young jr. high girls, so I thought it would be a morale booster for them to win a game—they usually lost at dodgeball. As the game progressed, all the guys got out except one senior named Danny. It was just he and 5 girls. When we finally got to the lowest point, only Danny made it, and he could have gone lower! Let me come back to this story in a minute.

Over the last several weeks we have been studying the church. What you may not be aware of is that I have been taking you on a journey. We have been doing what Bible scholars call a “biblical theology.” The idea of a biblical theology is to come to an understanding about a subject by looking at the whole Bible. I cannot think of a subject with more misconceptions today than the church.

Common misconceptions of the church:

  • We think of church as a building, not a body of people.
  • We think of church as an event that happens once a week.
  • We think of church as a “TED talk” to better our lives.
  • We think of church as optional.
  • We think of church as a networking tool—a place to further our interests.
  • We think of church as entertainment, meant to please our senses.

This morning we are going to jump into a passage that you are probably familiar with, but it has huge implications on understanding what church is. Turn to Matthew 20:20–28. Jesus and his disciples have traveled to Judea just outside of Jerusalem where Jesus is teaching larger and larger crowds of people.

20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something.

Context: Let me give you some background. The apostles James and John were the sons of Zebedee. Zebedee was a wealthy fisherman who came from a well-connected family and was married to Salome. Salome shows up several times in the Gospels. She was the sister of Jesus’ mother, Mary, which means she was Jesus' aunt (Jn. 19:25). She was one of the women who watched the crucifixion with Mary (Mark 15:40). She was also one of the three women who found Jesus’ tomb empty on resurrection morning (Matt 27:56). She was very close to Jesus. James and John, Salome and Zebedee’s sons, were, along with Peter, the disciples closest to Jesus. They followed him faithfully and were two of the very first men called to be disciples. Being sons of Salome, they were Jesus’ first cousins and they would have known Jesus from the time they were small children. As we read this, what we are seeing is Jesus’ aunt and his two closest disciples—all very intimate relatives—coming to Jesus with a request.

 21 And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” 22 Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.”

“Cup” was a common Old Testament metaphor for suffering, especially suffering caused by God’s wrath (Ps 75:8; Isa 51:17). Jesus is asking if John and James are prepared to experience rejection and persecution for their faith.[1] In essence, he is asking, “Are you willing to die for me?” And without hesitation they say, “Yes.” To their credit, there is no lack of faith here. They are willing to follow Jesus to the end, and they will. James will be the very first disciple killed for following Jesus (by Herod Agrippa, Acts 12:2). John lives a long life but spends several years exiled to the island of Patmos (Rev. 1:9). These men have a strong faith, but it is faith mixed with a little self-promotion.

 23 He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” 24 And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers.

The Greek word translated as indignant is ἀγανακτέω. It means to be angry, resentful, annoyed, or offended regarding unfair treatment. I guarantee you that every one of those ten disciples thought to themselves, "John and James are using their family connections to get ahead." What Jesus does in verse 25 is beautiful, because relationally things have broken down amongst the 12 disciples. But Jesus called them to him. Once again, just like we saw last week, Jesus calls his disciples close and he tells them a little something about being his disciple.

25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  

Do we want to be first? We must be last. Do we want to be the leader? Serve others. Do we want to be great? Be a servant. Do we want to be number one? Become a slave. If you have been in church for any time at all, you have probably heard these verses, but have you ever considered how truly radical Jesus’ words are? Jesus’ interaction here radically reassigned for his disciples what was important and what wasn’t. He revealed that what his church would value would be very different from what the world values.

Think of how this passage contradicts our American culture of self. We love our rights, we love options from which to choose, we hate to wait in lines or be stuck in traffic, we hate being told what to do, and we resent people who have what we don’t. This passage, on the other hand, gives us three key truths about ourselves and the church that we cannot miss!

 

1. Personal privilege, status and power are antithetical to Christ’s church.

The Roman world of Jesus’ time was very binary, much more so than our world today. Then you were either a slave or a free man, either a ruler or being ruled. It was a very “top down” society. Kingdoms like Rome and Greece ruled the people through power and dominance. “To lord it over” is a strong term that means to “rule down on someone.” Since the world functioned this way, James and John thought that this was an appropriate way for the church to operate.

Jesus is very clear that power and dominance will not be the leadership model of the church. Peter picked up on this. In the section of his book where he is speaking to pastors and church leaders, Peter tells them to shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock (1 Peter 5:2–3). Domination has no place in the church. Instead leaders lead through serving, helping, giving, and being examples. 

James picked up on this when he talked about quarrels within the church in James 4:1–2. What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. When we are in a fight or a quarrel with someone within the church, that should be a warning sign that we may be overlooking a key aspect of being the church.

 

2. Greatness in the church is derived from service.

Look at verse 26. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant. The word servant here is the Greek word from which we get our word deacon. The word represents humble tasks done quietly and faithfully, for example a waitress carefully and quietly serving tables. It is the opposite of the flashy “Hey, look what I can do!” kind of service. There is a strong “me second” mindset that Jesus is teaching here.

Men—as husbands, fathers, employees or employers, we must remember that our ‘greatness’ must not be derived from our maleness, strength, skills, organizational abilities, or position. Our greatness is derived from how we serve our family, church, and community.

Ladies—as wives, mothers, community leaders or employees, greatness should not be derived from physical beauty, managerial skills, intelligence or social status. Being active, engaged and willing servants is how we build Christ’s church and attain greatness. And, by the way, it’s also how you will win the hearts of your husband and children. Proverbs 31 describes a truly great woman:

She is energetic and strong, a hard worker. She makes sure her dealings are profitable; her lamp burns late into the night. Her hands are busy spinning thread, her fingers twisting fiber.  She extends a helping hand to the poor and opens her arms to the needy. She has no fear of winter for her household, for everyone has warm clothes. She makes belted linen garments and sashes to sell to the merchants. She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. 27 She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness. Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises he and says: There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!

Jesus turns our sense of importance on its head and says greatness in the church flows from sacrificing—first and most. Greatness means serving longer than those around us, working harder than expected. Jesus used examples like “going the extra mile” and “turning the other cheek” for us to see that the church is an inverted pyramid: instead of us all trying to fight to get to the top, it is a race to the bottom. The third point is particularly important and particularly convicting.

 

3. The very greatest in the church will be the slaves.

Look at verse 27…and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. The word slave here is very different than the word “servant” that we were just talking about. While a servant is someone who does humble tasks quietly and faithfully, he is still his own person; he can go and do what he wants. A slave's life is not his own; he is the personal property of his master. A slave’s life is his master’s. Jesus uses himself as the example of perfect slavery (although the disciples would not have picked up on it at the time). Jesus could have come to earth and accumulated power to himself but instead he gave his life.

With this sentence in verse 27, Jesus singlehandedly changed the way the world viewed slavery. Up until that point in history, the humility of slavery was viewed as bad, even sinful. If someone was a slave, clearly they deserved it. We have heard the words of this verse far too many times for them to stun us like they would have the disciples. Slaves were chattel—property to be beaten, used, and discarded. Their food was the trash that fell under their masters' tables; their foreheads were branded with the marks of their owners; their backs were filled with scars from beatings and whippings. Some Roman slave owners' wives would have their male slaves beaten daily just so they would fear them.[2] When Jesus says he wants his church to be salt and light to the community, this is what he means. The church at its very greatest seeks the lowest of the low.

The goal of that limbo game that Danny won is the same goal our church is to have every time we gather: we are to constantly seek to find how low we can go.

 

11 practical ways to “get low” and start serving today:

  • Volunteer to rock babies in the nursery. They are the perfect group to serve—helpless and never say thank you. It takes pure servant-heartedness.
  • Pick a missionary and pray for them, write them, encourage them and if you can, send them a check or support them.
  • Adopt a grandma or grandpa here at church or at a nursing home. Love on them regularly. If you are a grandparent, adopt a kid!
  • Teach children’s Sunday School and give it your all. This was the first real ministry given to me. I grew like crazy teaching sixth graders!
  • Arrive early to church. There is much to do every Sunday; offer to help with anything.
  • Be an Equipping U “Shepherd.” The job is simple, really: build community within an Equipping U class. Simple but takes servant-heartedness.
  • Sit close to the front. This creates a greater sense of community and ministers to those who come in late.
  • Be an “unofficial greeter.” There are official ones who “have” to greet. Be an unofficial one. Look around, meet and encourage people you do not know.
  • Send a care package to a college student. We have kids all over the country.
  • Come to the pre-service prayer meeting at 8:30am on Sundays. Pray for people. Sounds simple, but if you do it seriously, it is powerful
  • Take pictures at church events and post them online.

Danny won limbo that night because he got lower than anyone else could. As we seek to serve our Lord, we all win the lower we go.

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

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

 

[1] Craig Blomberg, Matthew, vol. 22, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 307.

[2] Hubbard, Moyer Christianity in the Greco-Roman World, Baker Academic 2010. Pgs. 190-195.

The Church: A Reconciling Community

A Reconciling Community sermon notes

The Church: Called Out as a Reconciling Community

Passage:  Various, 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

Sunday July 30th, 2017

Pastor Paul L. Davis

 

Key Goals: (Know) To understand the importance of reconciliation. (Feel) To appreciate reconciliation. (Do) become a force for reconciliation.

Introduction:  This morning we are continuing our series on the church. We began with the very core of the church, Jesus Christ. He is what “church” is all about. He is The Pearl of Great Price that we sell everything to attain. He is the treasure hidden in the field; our love for Him surpasses our love for anything or anyone else in this world! It’s so surpassing, that our love for family looks like hate. The church is a Christ-centered community. Last week we looked at the church being a “new creation” community. We are a people of newness, new life, new hearts, new minds. And because “in Christ” all things have become new, we are no longer enslaved to sin or this world. We have been set free in Christ!

I would like to read our passage together this morning, and every time we read any form of the word “reconciled” I want you to put a finger up. We are going to count the number of times this word shows up in these five verses.

2 Corinthians 5:17–21 (ESV)

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

καταλλαγῆναι (kata-ang–GAY-nai ) is the Greek word for “reconcile” used in this passage.  It communicates the idea of a “restoration of a proper interpersonal relationship after it had been disrupted or broken.”[1] Enemies turned to friends, hurt feelings turned to forgiveness, hate turned to love.

It worked like this in Biblical times: Two parties in a bargain settled their differences, or were ‘reconciled,’ by one paying the exchange or balance to the other. Or two parties at enmity settle their differences, or were ‘reconciled,’ by one making a satisfaction to the other. In each instance the transaction was called in Greek καταλλαγή.[2] Jesus paid our “exchange” or “satisfaction” price on the cross thus “reconciling” us to God.

Interestingly, this Greek word is only ever used of man – never of God. God reconciles us, or the world, to Himself through Jesus. God Himself is never in need of being reconciled. Nowhere in Scripture do we ever see God reconciling Himself to the world. Whenever reconciliation comes up, we are always the ones being reconciled. (R. 5:10, 2 C. 5:20).

We were the enemies of God who needed to be changed. The apostle Paul said that before reconciliation we were “powerless, ungodly, sinners, and enemies; we were under God's wrath” (Rom 5:9). But because of Christ and the reconciliation He brings, we become new creatures, once enemies but now friends.[3]

 

This 2 Corinthians passage can be boiled down to two key messages for the church.

1.  Foundationally, church is a community of people reconciled to God through Christ.

All of the newness that we talked about last week comes through our reconciled relationship with God. This is the “good news” part of the gospel. We are no longer strangers and aliens from God. Through our Lord’s death, the justice of God is satisfied; the foundation of the church is this new relationship. Everything else the church is to be and do is built on the foundation of our new and glorious right relationship with God. [4]

 

2. Functionally, the stated ministry of the church is reconciliation.

Verse 18 is so clear: “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation…” 

What is the “ministry of reconciliation?” It is a “service” or a ministry that happens on multiple levels. First, the ministry of reconciliation is sharing the gospel (Mark 16:15).  God does not want to us to be separated from Him, but rather to experience a renewed relationship through Christ. We, the church, are to be God’s ambassadors to get the message of the Gospel to the world. Look at verse 20... “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.”

 Secondly, the ministry of reconciliation is a pursuit of reconciliation with each other. Last week we saw that one cannot biblically separate being a “new creation” from being actively engaged in the church. Here is something else we cannot separate. You cannot separate being reconciled with God from pursuing reconciliation with men.  Matthew 5:23–24 (ESV) 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

 

My favorite passages in the Bible tend to be the passages that I first learned in Sunday school. Turn with me to Luke Chapter 19. Let’s look at one of the best reconciliation stories in the Bible. Luke 19:1–10 (ESV) 1 [Jesus] entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich.

If we were Jewish we would all chuckle every time we read these first two verses. A tax collector with the name Zacchaeus would have been a hilarious joke. You probably know that tax collectors in Israel were viewed as traitorous crooks who worked for Rome. What you may not know is that Zacchaeus means “purity,” as in moral purity. Can you hear the sarcastic comments in the town square? “Well, I need to go see “Mr. Purity” about my taxes. Verses 3 & 4:  And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way.

He wants to see Jesus, but you get the sense that he is more than just curious because Jesus had a reputation of being Rabbi that “ate with tax collectors and sinners” (Mark 2:13-17). In fact, Matthew, one of Jesus’ disciples was a former tax collector. Is there hope for Mr. Purity?  5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully.

If there was ever a man who needed to be reconciled to God, it would have been Zacchaeus. Instead of waiting for Zacchaeus to make the first move, Jesus takes the initiative. He calls him by name and invited himself into his house.  7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” It is almost impossible for me to communicate the social capital Jesus burned with this one move, and Zacchaeus would have known it. Jesus’ bold first move causes Zacchaeus to put his faith in Jesus. But look closely how Luke lets us know this. Verses 8-10:  8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Did you catch what happened? Zacchaeus’ faith produced an immediate reconciliation with God. Jesus tells us explicitly that “salvation has come to this house.” Zacchaeus was a new person, the sarcasm is gone. He has been made right with God through Jesus. But there is more! Without being told, Zacchaeus gives to the poor and makes restitution to those he has swindled. The ministry of reconciliation is believers taking the initiative to build bridges of forgiveness, compassion and unity with God and with each other.

 

I would like to wrap this morning up with two very specific challenges for this week.

1. I challenge you to take the initiative to reconcile with a fellow believer. Be like Zacchaeus and don’t wait. If you know you have caused a rift, make it right today, this week. Don’t wait. God has given you the ministry of reconciliation! Swallow your pride, seek forgiveness, pay your debt, say I’m sorry, shake a hand. Pay the price it will take to restore the relationship.

2. I challenge you to initiate three gospel conversations this week. Jesus took the initiative and reached out to Zacchaeus and his response was almost immediate. I guarantee you that there are people you know who are feeling far away from God, who long to know him as intimately as you do. Initiate three conversations! Let me help by giving you . . .

 

3 Non-Awkward Ways to Begin a Gospel Conversation:

  1.  “How was your weekend?” –  Mine was great. At church my mind was blown when we started talking about reconciliation…
  2. I’ve been thinking about praying for people. “When was the last time someone really prayed for you?” –as you each share a story you can share when you prayed to receive Christ.
  3. “Do you trust religious people?” This question always starts a good conversation! The answers can lead right into a discussion about trusting Jesus verses trusting “religion.”

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

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

 

[1] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 501.

[2] Walvoord, John F. Reconciliation. https://bible.org/seriespage/12-reconciliation

[3] Friedrich Büchsel, “Ἀλλάσσω, Ἀντάλλαγμα, Ἀπ-, Δι-, Καταλλάσσω, Καταλλαγή, Ἀποκατ-, Μεταλλάσσω,” ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 255.

[4] The difficulty of helping people reconcile with God is so few of us feel like the need it. So many think, “I may not completely live for God, but, I am certainly not his enemy.” Except, when you do things that you know displeases God, and you do it without any guilt, and you do the same thing again and again, secretly savoring your sin. What does that prove? Doesn’t it prove that in your heart you are secretly rebel against God? Doesn’t prove that you are at best disloyal? “By their fruits you shall know them,” is our Lord’s own test (Matt 7:16-20). Look, at the fruits of your life, what do they tell you? Are you a converted, committed, reconciled Christ follower or no?

Would I be mistaken if I said, you think the Bible is boring? Isn’t it true you would rather do almost anything than spend Sunday mornings in church? Put this to your conscience… Don’t you really think that being a committed Christ follower is boring? When you think of “pleasure” aren’t you really thinking of sin? Come on, wouldn’t you really be happier if there were no God at all? No commandments, no rules, no judgment, no Jesus… Don’t you really want to make your own rules?

If that is you, I’m sorry, but you don’t really love God! The truth of it is that you would destroy God, if you could, so that you would be free to do whatever you wanted to do.

Let’s be serious. If this is you, you need to be reconciled to God.

Courageous Faith: An Excellent Spirit

An Excellent Spirit sermon notes download

An Excellent Spirit

Passage: Daniel 6

Father’s Day - Sunday, June 18, 2017

Pastor Paul L. Davis

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Look at verse 10.

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Grow your inner life—because it flows out.

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

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

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

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

 

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

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

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

Courageous Faith: Arrogant Blindness

Arrogant Blindness sermon notes

Arrogant Blindness

Passage: Daniel 5

Sunday, June 11, 2017

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Courageous Faith: Redemptive Distress

Redemptive Distress sermon notes

Redemptive Distress

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

The Church @ Hamilton

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Pastor Paul L. Davis

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Daniel 4[1]

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

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

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

 

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

 

The Dream:

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

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

 

[1] Scripture quotations are from the ESV Bible.

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

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

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

[5] Jer 29:4

Courageous Faith: Faithful in the Face of Death

Faithful in the Face of Death sermon notes

Faithful in the Face of Death

Passage: Daniel 3

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Pastor Paul L. Davis

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

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

 

[1] Scripture quotations are from the ESV Bible.

Courageous Faith: The Rock

The Rock sermon notes

The Rock

Passage: Daniel 2:29-47

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Pastor Paul L. Davis

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

Later we will find that:

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

The Dream (video)

Daniel 2:31–35

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

Audience #1: Nebuchadnezzar

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

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

 

Audience #2: You and Me

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

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

 

[1] Scripture quotations are from the ESV Bible.

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

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

Courageous Faith: The Dreamer

The Dreamer sermon notes

The Dreamer

Passage: Daniel 2:1-28

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

The Church @ Hamilton

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Pastor Paul L. Davis

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Community Group Questions

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

 

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

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

 

[1] All scripture quotations are from the ESV.

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

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

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

The Resurrection Experience

The Resurrection Experience

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

The Church @ Hamilton

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Pastor Paul L. Davis

 

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

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

2) Jesus was in complete control.

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

 © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

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

The Rebuild: Corrosion

The Rebuild: Corrosion sermon notes

 

Corrosion

Passage: James 5:1-5

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

The Church @ Hamilton

Sunday, March 19, 2017

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

The hidden enemy of greed.

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

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

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

 

The hidden enemy of self-indulgence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

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

 

 

Community Group Questions

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

The Rebuild: Judging and Boasting

The Rebuild: Judging and Boasting sermon notes

Judging and Boasting

Passages: James 4:11-17

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Pastor Paul L. Davis

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

James 4:11–17[2]

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

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

 

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

 

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

Arrogance plus: another woman

Arrogance plus: alcohol

Arrogance plus: laziness

Arrogance plus: prescription pain medication

Arrogance plus: zero accountability

 

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

 

Arrogance plus:  Slander and judgment (v11-12)

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Arrogance plus: presumption (v13-17)

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

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

 

 

Community Group Questions

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

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

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

4. Discuss a time when someone judged you.

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

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

 

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

[2] All Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV

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

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

The Rebuild: Three Enemies

The Rebuild: Three Enemies sermon notes

Three Enemies of My Rebuild

Passages: James 4:1-10

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

The Church @ Hamilton

Sunday, March 5, 2017

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

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

 

 

Community Group Questions

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

The Rebuild: Dangerous Tools

Dangerous Tools sermon notes

Dangerous Tools

Passages: James 3:1-12

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

The Church @ Hamilton

Sunday, February 26, 2017

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

Tool #1: The Tool of Blessing

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Tool #2: The Tool of a Changed Heart

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Community Group Discussion

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

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

 

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

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