1 John 1:1-4 What Have Your Heard?

1 John 1:1-4 What Have You Heard?

  1. That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;
  2. (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)
  3. That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
  4. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.

John was so overwhelmed with the importance of his message that he dispensed with normal salutations and introductions what would normally arrive in such a letter. During the time of the writing of this epistle the church was being influenced with by the acceptance of Gnosticism.

The Gnostics were marked with a philosophy that had a variety of views, one such basic view is that the spirit is good and matter is inherently evil, and the two constantly war against one another.  So then the one who is more knowledgeable or of a strong enough will, could overcome the weaknesses of the flesh. As a result Gnosticism held two major thoughts on Christ.

Docetic Gnosticism held that the humanity of Christ was ethereal, and that he only appeared to have a body. That is that Jesus was just a phantom force, which appeared and had no real physical substance.

Cerinthus Gnosticism held that the man Jesus, the son of Joseph and Mary was not the “Christ” until is was bestowed upon him at his baptism and then the Spirit empowered his ministry, and then it left him before the crucifixion.

Now you may ask, who cares if they believed this?  What does it matter?  Well either view of Jesus in this manner removes the incarnation of Christ, and the atonement of his sacrifice.  The word “incarnation” simply means “the act of being made flesh”.  In other words, Jesus was indeed the Son of God and became man through his divine intervention and as such remained both God and man.

The Gospel of John puts it this way.  “In the beginning was the Word (Jesus), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  The same was in the beginning with God.  All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.” (John 1:1).

If Jesus was not “Christ” from before his birth, through his death, and resurrection then he would have been just a man.  As a man, he could not have escaped the original sin of Adam. Jesus could not have brought atonement because he would have had sin.  It doesn’t matter how enlightened he may have been.  Knowledge does not relieve us of sin, knowledge exposes sin.

You see Adam (man) was created by God.  In fact man was singled out from all of God’s creation to be made in the likeness of God.  As part of this likeness of God man was created with a free will.  When man was created and set in the world he was given dominion over all the earth and man was without sin.  In fact when God finished creation He looked at it and said that it was “good”.

But man rebelled against God, of his own free will, and then sin entered into man, and a curse has since followed man.  Now that man was in sin and darkness, he was separated from God, because God is pure and righteous.  His presence would destroy man.  Romans 5:12 tells us, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered in to the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned”.

So you see a man cannot save man, because he is already tainted with sin.  Only God can save man, through a sinless sacrifice that would only be made once, one that could cover all of man’s sin, past, present and future.  There could only be one way to bridge the gap between man (creation) and God (Creator), God would have to provide the sacrifice.  This shows the necessity of God becoming man.

God had compassion on man.  God in his grace, had a plan to redeem man, from the very beginning.

The whole bible from beginning to end is a revelation of God’s plan of salvation in Jesus Christ.  In Genesis 3:15 God tells the serpent that deceived Adam and Eve into rebellion that, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

This is the first prophecy concerning the salvation that would come through Jesus.  There are over 300 prophecies that were fulfilled by Jesus in his short life here on earth, and there are still more prophecies yet to be fulfilled upon his return.

The author of this letter claims to be an eye witness to the ministry of Christ.  This makes the author and authority on who Jesus is and what he is doing. We must not ever forget the importance of having a witness.  John is telling his readers of this epistle that the things that they have been taught concerning Jesus is the truth and has been witnesses by them.  The witnesses are in what they have heard, both in the scriptures and in the words of Jesus.

  • Your testimony of what Jesus has done in your life is your witness of the truth of Jesus.
  • No one else can stand up and proclaim what you have seen and what you have heard from God.
  • No one else can explain how the love of Jesus has changed your heart.
  • No one else can explain the release of the guilt and the shame that you have suffered.

There is an old saying that people love to use.  “Who are you to judge me?” This is a true statement.  Who are you?  To many Christians get saved and in their enthusiasm to have others convert, forget that they were once lost and in rebellion.  They forget that it took someone who in genuine concern reached out and connected with them.

And you know how they did that?

  • They shared who they were, and who they are now.
  • They shared how Jesus made that difference and they shared the love that was given to them – freely.

It does not matter how much time we spend in church, Sunday school, or in memorizing bible scriptures.  It doesn’t even matter if we speak in tongues, or if we can heal others at a touch.  What matters is if we can reach out in love.  We have to love others enough to overcome the fear and insecurity of sharing our testimony.

Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one to another.” (John 13:35).  He also said that I speak that which I have heard of the father.  Jesus led by example.

He didn’t talk about things he didn’t know.

  • He talked about things of heaven.
  • He explained the things that pertained to the Kingdom of God.
  • He gave examples and illustrations.
  • He testified of things he knew, that he had seen, and he had heard.

How?

  • Because he is God.
  • He existed before creation.
  • He was the creator.

So what do you know? What have you seen?  What have you heard?

You know the truth

  • Jesus is the Son of God
  • Jesus is faithful
  • Jesus loves you
  • Jesus forgave you
  • Jesus provided atonement for you
  • Jesus released you from your bondage
  • From sexual immortality
  • From lies
  • From disease
  • From the bondage of sin
  • Jesus gave you a choice again
  • You are no longer a slave
  • You have eternal life

These are the things that are in your testimony.  Henry Clay Trumbull (1830-1903) is considered one of God’s pioneers in soul-winning evangelism.  In fact he wrote the first books ever devoted strictly to the principles of personal evangelism.  He was a renowned expositor of scripture, missionary, organizer and lecturer.  He was the editor of the Civil War era publication. “The Sunday School Times”.  He was the author of 38 books in total.  He lectured at Yale University and traveled relentlessly spreading and teaching the gospel.  Yet here is what he said concerning personal evangelism.

“Looking back upon my work in all these years I can see more direct results of good through my individual efforts with individuals that I can know of through all my spoken words to thousands upon thousands of persons in religious assemblies, or all my written words on the pages of periodicals or of books.  Reaching one person at a time is the BEST way of reaching all the world in time.”

When Jesus said no man lights a candle and puts it under a table, but he puts in on top of the table so that all who enter the house can see the light, he was talking about you.  You are the light of Christ!  Don’t put it under a table and hide it!  Tell somebody what Jesus has done for you. –Amen!

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Mark 12:28-31 The First Commandment

Mark 12:28-31 The First Commandment

If I were to ask 100 different Christians what they thought was the most important part of Christianity I would undoubtable get many different answers.  Some would say it is Faith, others study of the Bible, or Prayer.  Even others would say the Holy Spirit, or service in the church.  I am of the persuasion that while all of these are important, they are merely manifestations that come out of the most important aspect of your belief in Christ.

*******************Read the Passage Mark 12:28-31********************

In Mark 12:28-33 Jesus is asked this very question.  Jesus said that the first thing we should have is a directed love towards God.  We should be careful, that we don’t misunderstand this word love.  It is not a general kind of love.  It is not like when we say, “Oh I just love that dress, or I love this new car!”  It is not even like a when we say that we should “love all mankind”.

Jesus didn’t say that the most important commandment is to love God and to second, love animals.  Had he said that then we could take away that he was talking about a general kind of love, where we should express love for everything, love people, love animals, love the planet, love everything.  But “love” in itself is not the main topic Jesus is speaking of.

Even when he goes on to say that the second commandment is like it, to “love your neighbor as yourself.”  Instead he is still stressing the importance of the first command.  Jesus is saying the main point is to LOVE GOD!  The second is like it because it is still loving God, man was made in the image of God.

1 John 4:20 says that if a man says he loves God and hates his brother, then he is a liar!

James 3:9-10 says, “Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.  Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessings and cursing.  My brethren this ought not so to be.”

This love Jesus is speaking of is not a blanket that we throw over our shoulders and sing warm little campfire songs for.  It is a more specific kind of love.  It is even more specific than a love for a spouse, or a child.  Instead it is a living love directed explicitly at God above all other things, places, or persons.

You see, God is Love (1 John 4.8 ”He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”).  So then whoever lives in love, lives in God, and God in him (1 John 4:16).

How do we then love God?  Jesus tells us this also.  We love with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength.  We demonstrate this with our love for one another.  This is all simple words and easy to say, but how do we put this in action?

Our natural state as fallen creatures is not to love God, but rather to regard him with suspicion and resist his authority.  Jesus told Nicodemus that in order to enter heaven you must be born again.  You have to know that you are fallen and in danger of judgement, and in danger of eternal separation from God.  Matthew 25:41 “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:”

But also as apostle Paul told us in the Colossians 1:20-22, that even though we were enemies with God, he had mercy on us and provided a sacrifice for our sins, in Jesus’ blood, to that we could be reconciled to God the Father.  So we were once alienated from God because of our evil nature.  But God Himself made a way for us to be with him.

“The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.” (Deuteronomy 30.6)

God himself gave us the way to love him, buy wiping out our record of sin.  By this I mean past, present, and future… This gives us the ability to love God with a pure heart and in good conscience, having a sincere faith.  Jesus has set us free, “Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.” (Tutus 1.15)

God knows that we cannot love him of ourselves.  He provided the way through Jesus Christ.  Jesus suffered so that we would not have to suffer in our sin and bondage.

Psalms  22: 14-16 records a portion of his suffering, “I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it has melted within Me.  My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and My tongue clings to My jaws; you have brought Me to the dust of death.  For dogs have surrounded Me; the congregation if the wicked has enclosed Me.  They pierced My hands and My feet;”

So knowing these things we desire to please him.  The question is not “What would Jesus do”, but “What would please Him?”  We put Him first in all things.  The psalmist said “Whom have I in heaven but you?  And earth has nothing I desire besides you.” (Psalm 73.25)

We love the Lord with our all in all; as a result of salvation through Jesus.  This is the starting point, without this relationship with Jesus, we cannot love God.  The love of Jesus must be the key feature in our lives.

We love the Lord by eliminating competing loves.  Loving God must become the key feature in our lives.  Don’t compartmentalize God into on little piece of your life. 

Each one of us have 168 hours in a week.  In that week the average Christian devotes 7 hours in Church, Sunday School, and a small group devotion or study.  During each week if you sleep 8 hours a day, every day then you spend another 56 hours in sleep.  That leaves 105 hours that are spent in eating, school, work, shopping, social events, or other leisure activities.  The question is how much of that 105 hours is spent demonstrating an active love for God?(Southern Baptist of Texas Convention, 4/25/2017)

This isn’t just a temporary fasting. Not just a time where we skip a meal or that we don’t eat red meat for few weeks.  It is not even a deprivation of sleep from an all-night prayer meeting, or a week of revival.  It is instead a way of living for God. 

In fact the Lord said in Isaiah 58:6-7 “Is this not the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? 

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and hot hide yourself from your own flesh?”

Wouldn’t it be awesome if someone were to ask your best friend, or your wife, or husband, or your children, “Tell me one thing about so-in-so…” and they could say, “That you really love God.”  Shouldn’t your life SHOW others that you truly love God!

This is a conscious choice.  We purpose ourselves for his service (Romans 12:11 says that we should be passionate in spirit, serving the Lord).  We do everything in life as if we are performing it whole heartedly for the Lord (Colossians 3:23).  In short we live “all out” for Him.  We hold nothing back from Him.  We are fully dedicated to His purposes.  We have to be wholehearted in our devotion to Him.  We are not ashamed of Him. 

Do you know that God knows that we are not perfect?  Do you know that he knows that sometimes, even on the way to church some of us have terrible arguments in the car?  Then we put on a smile and walk in the church like we just love everybody.  Then as soon as we walk out and start the car, our argument picks right back up from where it was.  Do you know that is wrong?  Sure we do.

We need to pray, and seek the Lord.  You know that as we humble ourselves and understand that we are not perfect, and hey no one else is either, and we realize again that Jesus still loves us.  He forgave us.  You know we can forgive others too.  We can love God by loving those around us.

We can even be so radical in our love for Him… that “We Love Our Neighbors, as we Love Ourselves!” (Mark 12:31) Do you know the best thing you can do for someone else is to let them see you LOVE God with all you have to love Him with?

In Matthew 25:34-40  we read “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:  For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat:  I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink:  I was a stranger, and ye took me in:  Naked, and ye clothed me:  I was sick, and ye visited me:  I was in prison, and ye came unto me.  Then shall the righteous answer him saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink?  When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?  Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?  And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have don’t it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:34-40)

If someone asked that question, if the asked about you… today… if they asked “tell me about so-in-so”; and they were pointing the finger at you… Could who they were asking say, “They really love God”?  Does your life show your love for God?  Does your language show that your love God?  Do your neighbors even know that you know who Jesus is?  If not, maybe you need to make a commitment today. 

Get things right with God today.  Come to the alter of his mercy and tell him.  Lord I have not been living like I love you.  I have not been doing the things that I should, or speaking up for you.  Lord people have no idea that you’re my God or my savior by the way I act, speak, or how I treat other people, not even other believers.  I want to make that right with you today.

Or maybe you’re here and you have never even considered the sacrifice that Jesus made for you; how he poured out his blood to make restitution for your wrong doings.  Maybe you need to come and tell him you believe in Him.  You believe that he sacrificed himself for you, so that you could learn how to truly live in love.

Hebrews 2:1-3 Take Heed!

Hebrews 2:1-3 Take Heed!

“Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.  For if the work spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him,” (Hebrews 2:1-3NKJV)

This is an earnest plea to reason.  God has spoken to us by His Son.  Jesus is the Son of God and as such has a direct line to the Father, like no other person in heaven or on earth.  He sits beside the Father and all the kingdoms of the earth and all authority has been given Him, by the Father.  The message he has given us is such an important message that we should take extra care to listen to what He said.  Here in Hebrews Paul is saying PAY ATTENTION!  God is doing something in our lives, in the lives of men.  God Himself directly intervened in the lives of everyone here!

Paul warns us, “Hey, if what the angels, and the Son of God Himself told us about EVERY thing we do or say will be held accountable then we need this salvation that is offered.  If even the very motivation of our actions, whether they be good or bad, is recorded for examination in court, then we need an attorney.  You know why, because the same ones who said these things also said that there is none good!  The cost for your salvation was so enormous, how can you not pay attention to the suffering endured.

Paul also gives credence to the fact that we should pray and study earnestly, “lest we drift away”.  There are false teachers that are in the “Church” today that try to tell us that “times have changed” and that the statutes that the Lord established in his Word are no longer relevant.  There are even some pastors who will water down the scriptures and tell you their own private interpretations so that they can justify sin in their own lives.  I know that some of you will not hear the things I am going to say.  But living in sin disrupts your fellowship with God.  Paul said being forgiven is not a license to sin.

If we become superficial in out prayer life, or in out scriptural studies we put ourselves in jeopardy of drifting away from our first love.  Even as Jesus said in the Book of Revelation, “Never the less I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love” (Revelation 2.4)  Jude also wrote that he found it necessary to encourage us to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 1.3).

Folks the saints are us, we are the saints, saved by grace and set apart for the kingdom of God.  We are to fight for our faith!  Keep it and hold it close!  Strive with all our hearts!  Now I’m not saying be rude and stiff-necked.  I am saying study and be prepared to have an answer in love, for when you are confronted concerning your faith.  Stay away from TV and radio shows that encourage immoral behavior.  Society itself is drifting away from the One true God, because too many saints are keeping salvation a secret.  We have become, in large, ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.  We have conformed to the world. Do the work you are called to do.  Be salt!  Now may peace and mercy and love be multiplied to you.  Amen

A New Year : Keep Your Focus!

Philippians 3:13-15

I remember when I was in the Basic Non-Commissioned Officer’s Coarse while stationed in the U.S. Army, at Hawaii. We had a 12 Mile forced march that we had to complete under 3 hours. Now this doesn’t seem to difficult at first mention. Especially if you consider that we were all Infantry soldiers, and this was a small distance for us. We got up early, as usual, and drew our weapons, and load bearing equipment. Now the load bearing equipment is what we wear that allows us to carry a bayonet, ammunition, and water on our person. This equipment with the Kevlar helmet on average is about 35 lbs. Then we add on our weapon and ruck sack (backpack).

The recommended weight allowance for an Infantry soldier is 60 lbs in total. However, as a leader we are expected to go farther, carry more and do it faster. So I was required to carry a 95 lbs rucksack. Now you begin to see, that even seasoned soldiers can be put to the test with such requirements, and as Sgt and a Infantry Squad Leader, I was very seasoned. The walk I will tell you is not hard, the pace is not hard. The weight, although common, is a burden.

12 miles can get to feeling very long, and 3 hours, gets to feel like forever, and yet doesn’t seem long enough time. Your mind can start to talk to you. But by keeping the end in mind, you step-by-step get through the hills and the valleys along the way to the finish line. Your heart sometimes feels like its will burst, the breeze sometimes feels like God is cheering you on. Focus is what gets you through. You walk, and you focus on the goal. You focus on your pace. You focus on your distance left to go.

Philippians tells us that Paul kept his focus. He focused on the goal. He said I forget those things which are behind, and I reach forward to the things that are before. Paul pressed toward the mark. He kept Jesus in front of his eyes the whole way! Throughout Paul’s ministry he was beaten, stoned, hungered, homeless, betrayed, thrown in prison, mocked, ridiculed, and attempts were made on his life ; all for Christ’s sake.

Paul was called by Jesus Christ, just as you are. The scriptures tell us that Paul focused on one thing, “Christ Crucified”. We must remember that in all things that Jesus was crucified for us, and for all those around us. We must keep in mind that Jesus was not only Crucified and was buried, but that He arose from the grave. The resurrection of Christ is our sign of acceptance. In Romans chapter 6 the scriptures tell us that we shall also be resurrected in the likeness of his resurrection! Brothers and sisters, death has no hold on us! We do not need to fear what man can do to us. He cannot touch our soul!

We can rest in the knowledge of what the Lord has brought us through this past year, and let it be an encouragement that He will see us through this year also. Yes there are some things that will happen that we may not understand or that we wont want to go through. Right about now, you’re going to expect me to say that the Lord will not give you more than you can handle, but I’m not going to say that. I will say that He said he will always be with you, even until the end of the age. I will remind you that He told Joshua to “be strong and of good courage”, more than once. I will remind you that the scriptures tell us that we should encourage one another, and that we should pray for one another, and that we should love one another. I will remind you that Jesus’ intercedes on your behalf!

I do know that He who has begun a good work in you, will complete it. I have the utmost expectations for this New Year, that it will be better than the last. Not because of who is president, but because my God is the God who appoints the kings of the earth. I know that even though there is going to be persecution, that the Lord’s message will be spread as a result. I do know that the Lord has stirred up the Spirit in Christians all over the world, and that He is soon to return. So I encourage you, when your rucksack gets too heavy, or when your feet are sore and want to stop, or when your weapon is to hard to raise, to keep your eyes on the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. If you share anything this year about your faith, share Christ Crucified. Share the hope that is within you. Let someone know what you know… the Truth. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all, and have a great new year!

Survey of Jonah

Survey of Jonah

The Book of Jonah is one of the few books of the Bible that is actually written about a prophet, with the prophet being the center of the story.  In the story, Jonah received a commandment from God to go to Nineveh and preach what the Lord would tell him to preach.  Jonah, however; did not immediately do what the Lord had required him to do.  Instead Jonah went the opposite direction.  Jonah rebelled from God out of prejudice and selfishness.  Jonah knew that if the people of Nineveh were to hear the message of the Lord that they might repent.  Jonah also knew the Lord, and that He is merciful.  Jonah knew that God would have mercy on the people of Nineveh if they repented.  In his rebellion, Jonah has to be chastised severely.  Jonah then repents and cries out to the Lord for deliverance. The Lord, in His mercy, gives Jonah a second chance to go to Nineveh and deliver the message the Lord tells him.  The story of Johan is referred to by Jesus himself as a sign that the story of Jonah is a revelation from God concerning the death, burial, and resurrection of the Messiah.

Authorship

Jonah is accepted to have been written by the prophet himself, although there is no direct evidence of this.  The story itself is anonymous, as the story does not identify the writer or when it was written.  It is believed that the story took place around 760 B.C. In 2nd Kings 14:27 Jonah is connected with the reign of Jeroboam II of Israel (793-753 B.C.). There was a plague in 765, an eclipse in 763, and then a second plague in 759 that may have made the Ninevites prepared to receive the preaching of Jonah.  The theory for this is that the signs of the plagues and the eclipse would have been seen as judgements of God and would have prepared the hearts of the Ninevites.  The king calls for fasting and repentance and the Lord hears their cries and shows mercy, even though, none was promised in the preaching of Jonah.

Historical Settings

Nineveh is probably the most famous of the capitals of Assyria.  Nineveh became the capital of Assyria during the reign of King Sennacherib (705-681 B.C.).  During his rule the empire expanded and became prosperous.  Nineveh was strategically located east of the Tigris River and 250 miles north of Babylon, in a very fertile region.  Nineveh was the center of worship of Ishtar, the fertility goddess.  The size of Nineveh as revealed in the bible (Jonah 3.3 and 4.11) was over 120,000 people and took approximately 3 days to walk across.  Scholars believe the circumference to have been from 55-60 miles.  Some of the inventions we use today that come from Nineveh during this time period are, locks for doors, a time system that kept track of time in a 360 degree circle, paved roads, the first postal system, and flush toilets and aqueducts.  Military leaders were known for being exceptionally brutal, and used terror to keep areas under control.

There are a number of miracles in the story of Jonah that are also reflective in the gospels. That include the calming of the sea, Jonah’s being in the belly of the whale for three days, and the grace shown by God to his servant Jonah. These also include the following by chapter and verse:

  • Calming of the sea (1.15)
  • Preparing of the great fish (1.17)
  • Throwing up of Jonah on dry land 3 days latter (2.10)
  • Preparing of the gourd (4.6)
  • Preparing of the worm (4.7)
  • Preparing of the wind (4.8)
  • Salvation of the people of Nineveh

Doctrine

There are twelve doctrinal issues that can be drawn from the story of Jonah.  James in the epistle of James 1:15 tells that sin in its ultimate form brings death. “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (James 1.15) Sin comes from our own selfish desires.  This is then the root that sin has in our lives, that we only seek what is in our own interest.  This is the problem that Jonah had.  Even though he wanted to rid the world of the wickedness of Nineveh and therefore remove a threat to Israel, God had other plans.  Quite possible, God chose the Nineveh, because He knew they were among the most evil people on the earth at that time.  In showing them mercy to the people of Nineveh, He lets us know that it is not by our own works that we deserve mercy, but by his grace. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;  which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3.5-7) Even as this is a direct show of the mercies of God towards us, no matter what the condition of our life, the portion of Johan being in the belly of the whale was given to us as a testimony of the resurrection of Jesus.

Matthew 12:38-45 tells us that Jesus confirmed the importance of this story.  Jesus told the scribes that the sign of his being the Christ was the sign of Jonah being in the belly of the whale.  Jesus used this story as a fact that Jonah’s plight in the big fish was accurate and true, and as it was, so would his death, burial, and resurrection.  Even more so, if you look at this, Jonah then went and preached and the people were saved.  Well the apostles, after Jesus’ ascension, went and preached, and people were saved.  “How then shall they call on him in which they have not believed?  And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10.14 KJV).

12 Lessons from Jonah

  • Sin always has consequences (Jonah 1:4)
  • Sin always affects others eventually (Jonah 1:5,8)
  • It is a sin to serve God in the wrong place (Jonah 1:3)
  • God’s chastening can be unusually strong (Jonah 2)
  • Pay your vows (Jonah 2:9)
  • Our God is the God of a 2nd chance (Jonah 3:1)
  • God is more merciful than some of us expect him to be (Jonah 3:9-10)
  • God blesses the city whose king orders them to turn to God (Jonah 3:5-10)
  • It is possible for an entire city to get right with the Lord (Jonah 3:5-10)
  • Suicide is nearly always a selfish act (Jonah 4:3)
  • We should be merciful to others as God has been merciful towards us (Jonah 4:10-11)
  • If you don’t believe the story of Jonah then you don’t believe the Gospel (Matthew 12:38-45)

God’s mercies with Assyria did not end with this story.  Even though, later in time he still had to judge Nineveh, when they were finally conquered their people were not wiped off the face of the earth.  Instead they were ruled by other nations, like Babylon.  Assyrians were among the first converts listed by the early church.  Assyria became a thriving Christian community that still exists today.

Short Outline

  1. Jonah Fleeing, 1.1-17
  2. Johan Praying, 2.1-10
  • Jonah Preaching, 3.1-10
  1. Jonah’s Lesson, 4.1-11

References

King James Easy-reading Study Bible. Goodyear, AZ, 2002. Print.

Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. The Ryrie Study Bible: King James Version. Chicago: Moody, 2008. Print.

Longman, Tremper. “The Book of Jonah.” Introducing the Old Testament: A Short Guide to Its History and Message. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012. N. pag. Print.

“Ancient Nineveh – Background Bible Study (Bible History Online).” Ancient Nineveh – Background Bible Study (Bible History Online). N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Dec. 2016.

Come and Hear

Psalm 66:16-17

Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will declare what He has done for my soul.  I cried to Him with my mouth, and He was extolled with my tongue. (ESV)

The psalmist said we should share, with the saints, all that the Lord has done for our soul, and how He has answered our heartfelt prayers. We should share what God has done in our hearts, in our way of life, in how we see life, and how we live life.  He is not talking about our material possessions.  We cannot take material things with us into the next world.  No, he means what has God done for you inside? Not as a measure of godliness on our own part, but rather to show the faithfulness of God.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.”  Sharing what the Lord has done for us has great positive reinforcements in our spiritual walk. Sharing what the Lord has done, brings remembrance of what we have been through.  We have been delivered from death, and bondage.  Do you remember what life was like before you came to life in Jesus?  Do you remember the uncertainty in life?  Were you inhibited by fear, depression, or feelings of quilt and fear? What sins beset you?  How were you tied up with the superficial?  How selfish were you?

Now the security of the sure foundation in Jesus Christ brings peace and joy that no matter what happens in life, God (Jesus) is in control.  Knowing that the Lord chose from the foundation of the world to provide a way for you to be with Him.  Knowing that you don’t need to be good enough to earn you way to please Him.  Your salvation was bought by the blood of the Lamb of God.  These are the things we should share.  No one really cares if you got a new car.  No what did God really DO for you?  How did Jesus change YOUR life?

The changes brought in our life encourages fellow believers.  Looking at the changes God has made in my life are important to me keeping my motivation to take up my cross. You know sometimes it feels like I haven’t made progress.  Sometimes I feel defeated when I see others who don’t believe in Christ doing so well.  However, listening to others who have already been where I am, or have been, and seeing where God has blessed them for being faithful and serving Him in their daily life and I receive encouragement.  Hearing where they once were and now seeing their spiritual maturity in the Lord reinforces my desire to seek the Lord daily.  Hearing how God has been faithful to another believer, reminds me that He is still in charge of my life also.

I have been through periods of rejection, and humiliation because I stood up for Jesus.  I have been abandoned by friends, I have been rejected by loved ones.  During those times, the Lord sent me another saint, someone who had been through the feelings of isolation.  They encouraged me and lifted me in prayer.  They gave me living examples of the Lords provisions I their life.  Why do you think that Paul says we are not to forsake the gathering of one another?

To extol is to praise something or someone very much.  Another way to understand this is to say that He (God) was greatly praised by me. Allot of times when someone gives a good reference to someone about someone who helped them they say, “I just couldn’t say enough good things about him.”  This is the same meaning.  As sharing the great things the Lord has done for us, we should vividly express our gratitude.  Genuine heartfelt gratitude is hard to hide.  The simple honesty in a gracious awareness of the sacrifice and love that God has shown towards your is what God wants from you.  He wants you to love and appreciate Him, as He loves and appreciates you.

Expressing that to someone else, another believer, should be as easy as bragging about your mom or your dad.  I remember when I was in grade school all the kids would boast about how their dads could beat up all the other dads.  Boy we were proud of our dads.  They made us feel secure.  We know nothing could hurt us along as dad was nearby.  Well now you have a Father that can literally move mountains, part the seas, command the stars, and appoint kings over nations!  Amen!  Get out there and tell somebody what God has done for YOU!

Exposition: Joshua 1:1-9 The First Step

Exposition: Joshua 1:1-9 The First Step 

Moses is dead- then what? Was God’s plan ruined?

No man is indispensable. God’s work does not go unfinished just because there is a change in servants. The same as the carpenter who changes tools while building a house. First he uses a shovel, then a ruler, then a saw, and then a hammer. The tribes were not lost with the death of Moses. Instead the change in leaders rang in a new phase of God’s plan. “Therefore arise and go over this Jordan.” Is what God commanded.

Now this does not mean that Moses was forgotten or that he was not honored and missed. The scripture refers to Moses as “the servant of the Lord”; clearly this is an honored title. Let’s take a second to look at this man’s life. He was at one time an oppressor of his own people, then a murderer. By his own admission he was not a cleaver or charismatic speaker. Yet the Lord used him, because he was obedient. Now in his death he is remembered by the scriptures as the Lord’s Servant.

His life was redeemed by the Lord. Moses heard the voice of God and was obedient, and the Lord changed his life. I look back on things I have done and wonder how God could ever love me, but in this simple scripture I gain hope. Because I hold faith in Jesus, he had redeemed me from my previous life. Because Jesus died and shed His blood for an atonement for my rebellious and self-serving immoral life, I have been made a new creature in Christ. I can think of no greater honor then to be found, by God, to be faithful. To be referred to as the Servant of the Lord, is something I don’t deserve, but bless God He enables me to be. – Amen!

Joshua had some big shoes to fill. I certainly don’t envy him on this. He received the same great promise the Lord gave to Moses, he had to obey the same Law the Lord gave to Moses, he was assured of the same presence from God that Moses had. There was a change in leaders, but nothing else changed in the circumstances. God was still God and God was still in charge.

In verse 2 Joshua receives his first test. “Go over this Jordan”. This seems like a simple charge. However; this was an immediate test of Joshua’s faith in God. God had already found out that Joshua was a good servant to Moses. In verse one it says “the Lord spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ minister”. Joshua has served Moses faithfully for over 40 years. He was a great soldier, and dedicated to the Law of Moses. But sometimes when there is a change in management, subordinates do not react well.

Sometimes when a subordinate is promoted, they lose perspective, and their egos inflate beyond what is helpful. So the Lord had to check Joshua to see if he would remain a good servant. So he gave him a small test. In addition this tests his leadership skills. Some soldiers, even officers are great at taking orders, but do not know how to actually lead. Leadership is a skill that is developed over time.

In the corporate world, business owners and CEOs give tests to new managers in order to develop their skills and confidence. Successful accomplishment of smaller tasks leads to an increase in responsibilities and instills faithfulness and confidence. The process of being lead through difficult tasks and challenging circumstances builds a unique bond between mentor and student.

In Joshua 3.15 we read that the Jordan was overflowing its banks. The Lord didn’t tell Joshua, “build an ark”, like He did Noah. The Lord didn’t tell Joshua to “stretch forth his staff over the waters” like he did to Moses. No the Lord at first didn’t give Joshua any indications on how this feat should be approached. Let us consider also the enemy situation. This situation was not like when God parted the Red Sea for Moses so that the tribes could get away from Pharaoh’s army. They weren’t escaping an enemy. The tribes were crossing over into enemy territory, probably being observed doing so. Later we can read that the crossing was in broad daylight. This was not some secret thing that God was doing.

When I was in the Army, we did not cross a river in daylight if it could be helped. We would wait until nightfall and cross under the cover of darkness. In addition, we would send scouts to ensure that the enemy was not able to observe us crossing. We called these linear danger areas, and many lives could be lost if the enemy attacked you while crossing a linear danger area, especially one that took as much time to cross as a flowing river. This was an extremely dangerous and time consuming maneuver to undertake.

So maybe now you can understand what a test of faith this was. Joshua was to cross the entire nation over the river Jordan, and had not received any indication of how this was possible. Joshua had seen what God had done for Moses. Joshua had been trained by Moses to trust in the Lord. Joshua had seen with his own eyes the penalty of unbelief in God. Joshua know the penalty for murmuring against God, and how much it displeased God. Joshua did not display any of these things. In turn Joshua commanded the people. He did not question God.

What Joshua had was a command and a promise from God. We also have some tasks that God has commanded us to do. We sometimes cannot see how God would expect us to complete. We cannot see how to carry through, but if we do, it we obey, it we take that first step in faith, God responds to our faith. God is faithful and we begin to see a path through the waters. We find a trail in the wilderness, a step up the mountain. It might be narrow, and dangerous, but it is enough to let you through – Amen! That’s what God means when He says, “My grace is sufficient.”

The Lord told Joshua in verse 3, “Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses.” The lord has given us the victory. His word is a lamp unto our feet. We are to have our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. Jesus said in Matthew 28 “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Ghost; Teaching them to observe whatsoever I have commanded you; and, lo I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”

Joshua 1:5 says, “There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee, I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee:” Does this sound familiar?

This is the same command and promise we have today. “Go” and “I am with thee” are what Jesus reaffirms to us who believe. The promise in verse four is almost verbatim of the promise given to Moses in Deuteronomy 2.24. Now these boundaries as outlined in the text were not actually achieved until late in history, but they were achieved. Does this mean that God failed Joshua? No, the promises were conditional. In verses, 6-9 the Lord laid out the conditions to Joshua. The Lord told him to be strong and of good courage, and also to not let the Law depart from out of his mouth, but to meditate on them daily. The Israeli’s failure to keep the directives of God had a direct consequence on their receiving the promises of God.

God always has more good in store for us than we can ever realize. The problem is that we turn away from God. Following the Law does not give us salvation. Faith in the atonement provided through the blood of Jesus does. However, adherence to the principles of the Law will have positive effects on our lives. For instance if you commit adultery you stand to lose out on a lifelong relationship with a spouse that would have otherwise been committed to you the rest of your life. Someone who would have enriched your life and grew with you daily in love and given you peace in your heart and mind. In addition, adultery opens you and your spouse up to sexually transmitted diseases, and health related issues. In addition, even if you don’t lose your spouse, you lose the sacred bond of trust with your spouse, friends and family members.

Your testimony becomes worthless, and you become useless to God for your intended purposes. The spiritual ramifications to everyone involved are immeasurable. Unbelief and sin turn a great evangelical Christian into an eyesore and a point of shame. That is why God gave Joshua encouragement. That is why God gives us encouragement. That is why Paul tells us over and over in his epistles to encourage one another.

Jesus told his disciples while they were in a boat, in a storm in the middle of the night, “It is I, be not afraid”. He told Joshua, “be strong and of good courage.” So we know that Jesus said, “I am with you always.” We know that God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. God’s nature does not change. Knowing this we know that Jesus is with us, we too can be strong and of good courage. We are not in the storm, in the middle of the darkness, all alone. When the waters of stress and fear are rising up and trying to choke the light out of us, He says, “be not afraid.” – Amen.

Be strong! Be courageous! Our strength is the fruit of our faith. That is why Ephesians 6.10 says “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” Christ has given us Himself and thus supplied everything we need. His Word will prove to be definitive, and practical enough if we honestly try to apply it to our lives. – Amen