Saturday, January 31, 2009

He Said, Set Your Hearts

Deuteronomy 32:46, 47

I. Set Your Heart on These Words

A. God gave His people holy wisdom to fill their minds, which had been emptied by the wisdom of sin at the fall. “And he said unto them, Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day, which ye shall command your children to observe to do, all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 32:46)

B. Godless wisdom comes from a bad source and is exceedingly expensive. “Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” (Genesis 3:1)

C. Godless wisdom parades false and deadly promises. “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5)

D. Sinful humanity struggles to find ways around the obvious message of Scripture. “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:3)

II. Command Your Children

A. The best learning comes through teaching; the best students are people we love and people love their children if they love at all. “And he said unto them, Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day, which ye shall command your children to observe to do, all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 32:46)

B. Every aspect of life must present an opportunity in which to reflect upon the revelation of God and communicate it to those in the care of believers. “And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” (Deuteronomy 6:7)

C. The knowledge of God, which comes through Scripture by the influence of the Holy Spirit, is the source for all good things in life. “My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments: For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee. Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man.” (Proverbs 3:1-4)

D. God provides His word for believers and their seed as He provided the ark to Noah and his heirs. “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;” (Hebrews 2:1-3)

III. This Is Your Life

A. Engagement with Scripture is not so much a feature of the Christian life as it is for the believer what the water in which the fish lives and moves is for the fish. “For it is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life: and through this thing ye shall prolong your days in the land, whither ye go over Jordan to possess it.” (Deuteronomy 32:47)

B. An institution which is not overwhelmed by the Word of God is not a true church and the person who does not thirst for the Word will never make progress as a Christian; Scripture is too obvious for such nonsense. For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.” (Deuteronomy 30:11-14) C. God’s people are thirsty for what the Bible brings them from the throne of grace. To the chief Musician, Maschil, for the sons of Korah. As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.” (Psalm 42:1)

D. God will bless this concentration on Him rather than any human program, asset, or person. I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.” (1 Corinthians 3:6-7)

E. All Christian teaching—sin stinks, hell is hot, judgment is certain, eternity is long, and salvation is free—leads to God in Christ and that is peace. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Yeast Problem

Exodus 17:1-7; Mark 8:11-21 / 1 Corinthians 10:1-22

I. Perform a Trick

A. The Pharisees were genuinely serious religious people who thought they knew all the answers; exposing Jesus was more important to the religious establishment than learning from Him. “And the Pharisees came forth, and began to question with him, seeking of him a sign from heaven, tempting him.”(Mark 8:11)

B. Even the religiously well educated make deadly mistakes when elevating their opinions and expectations above Biblical realities; Jesus does miracles, but He does not perform tricks.
Ye shall not tempt the LORD your God, as ye tempted him in Massah.” (Deuteronomy 6:16)

C. The resurrection is the only sign God proposes to give; no sign could be more expressive of the gospel of sovereign grace. “The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven. He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.” (Matthew 16:1-4)

D. The God of the Bible is big enough to triumph over sin and death; He does not need to beg, negotiate, or plead to accomplish His objectives. “And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation.” (Mark 8:12)

E. Salary-men and sycophants are well equipped to advance in the dying world of sin, but they do not understand Christ or the power of His resurrection. “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)

F. When God speaks, seize the moment; the silence that comes when He does the Heavenly equivalent of counting to ten can be ominous. “And he left them, and entering into the ship again departed to the other side.” (Mark 8:13) “And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.” (Genesis 6:3)

II. Why Are We Talking about Bread?

A. The disciples looked at themselves and jumped to a false conclusion. “Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, neither had they in the ship with them more than one loaf.” (Mark 8:14)

B. Jesus warned against all the ways in which worldly thinking substitutes for unreserved reliance on God. “And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.” (Mark 8:15)

C. Inability to simply take Jesus at His word kept even the disciples themselves in the dark. “And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have no bread.” (Mark 8:16)

D. The ways the world uses to get ahead kill the soul; they are subtle forms of idolatry. “And when Jesus knew it, he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened?” (Mark 8:17)

III. Think Like Christ

A. When people set the wrong goals or use ungodly methods, they demonstrate lack of attention to the mighty works and wonders of God; there is no way but grace to accomplish the tasks set by God.Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember? When I brake the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? They say unto him, Twelve.” (Mark 8:18-19)

B. It was not the thinking and planning of either the religious or the secular world-views, but rather the power of God which accomplished the impossible—repeatedly—for the Church of God. “And when the seven among four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? And they said, Seven.” (Mark 8:20)

C. The people of God accomplish nothing until they grasp the reality that with God all things are possible and without Him every effort and resource expended will only make things worse. “And he said unto them, How is it that ye do not understand?” (Mark 8:21)

D. Jesus could have left an efficient Roman form of church structure and He could have left an evangelical converter kit, but instead He left us the testimony of a murderer turned evangelist.I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Everyone Had Enough

Micah 7:1-20; Mark 8:1-10 / Psalm 103:1-22

I. The People Were Hungry

A. Not all the challenges believers face turn on true doctrine or world-view; sometimes people have more immediate needs. “In those days the multitude being very great, and having nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples unto him, and saith unto them,” (Mark 8:1)

B. Compassion is a fundamental attribute of Jesus; though that compassion does not always take the same form in every instance, it is always part of the mix. I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat:” (Mark 8:2)

C. Jesus taught believers to look for people with problems; He did not specify which problems. “When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Mark 2:17)

D. The obvious answer anyone can see isn’t always the one on God’s mind; Christians should be cautious about jumping to obvious conclusions. “And if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint by the way: for divers of them came from far.” (Mark 8:3)

II. The Disciples Evaluated the Situation

A. Obviously the problem was too big to handle. “And his disciples answered him, From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness?” (Mark 8:4)

B. The impossible expectations of the Almighty God are part of what make Christianity so interesting; God’s sovereign grace is at the heart of both the Christian’s hope and the believer’s message. “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:23-26)

C. “No” is never the appropriate answer from a believer to God; self-centeredness has a way of coming up short because it neglects the resources at God’s command. “And he asked them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven.” (Mark 8:5)

D. Ezekiel had a better grasp of reality; God’s resources are always more important than the resources of believers. “The hand of the LORD was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry. And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest.” (Ezekiel 37:1-3)

E. God’s people act because God commands, not because they have the resources to be obedient. “Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus saith the Lord GOD unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the LORD.” (Ezekiel 37:4-6)

F. When the prophet did what he was told to do, the impossible became obvious. “So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army.” (Ezekiel 37:10)

III. Jesus Solved the Problem

A. God did what the believers could not; Bible-believers will note a recurrent theme. “And he commanded the people to sit down on the ground: and he took the seven loaves, and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to his disciples to set before them; and they did set them before the people.” (Mark 8:6)

B. Rather than continue to argue that the task was too large, the disciples acted on what they had, leaving the problem to God; God blesses what He commands. “And they had a few small fishes: and he blessed, and commanded to set them also before them.” (Mark 8:7)

C. Everybody had enough and in the end the disciples had far more than they had when they began to give all that they had. “So they did eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets.” (Mark 8:8)

D. Faithful obedience will demonstrate the unlimited capacity of God to do what needs to be done. “And they that had eaten were about four thousand: and he sent them away.” (Mark 8:9)

E. Doing the impossible is all in a day’s work for the Lord. “And straightway he entered into a ship with his disciples, and came into the parts of Dalmanutha.” (Mark 8:10)

Talking Without Seeing

Psalm 53

I. Fools Talk Too Much

A. Atheism in words and deeds demonstrates evil; bad principles produce bad lives. To the chief Musician upon Mahalath, Maschil, A Psalm of David. The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good.” (Psalm 53:1)

B. Fools cannot see God but He can see them; Spurgeon said, “Where God’s eyes see no favorable sign we may rest assured there is none.” God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God.” (Psalm 53:2)

C. Jesus picked up on the theme. “And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:16-21)

D. No one can reject God and do what is right. “Every one of them is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Psalm 53:3) “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)

II. Foolish Ignorance Is Invincible

A. The ignorance of God--which controls wicked people—astounds; God’s frequent statement of this doctrine must imply that it really matters to Him. “Have the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread: they have not called upon God.” (Psalm 53:4)

B. The anthropologist who blames Christianity for the world’s problems calls everything else in the syllabus into question and shares in the destruction of lost souls by erecting barriers to missions. The ignorance of the fool is a repeated theme of Scripture; Total Depravity was Bible doctrine long before Paul wrote Romans. To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon the LORD. There were they in great fear: for God is in the generation of the righteous. Ye have shamed the counsel of the poor, because the LORD is his refuge. Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! when the LORD bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.” (Psalm 14:1-7)

C. Ignorance will turn to terror when God is ready. There were they in great fear, where no fear was: for God hath scattered the bones of him that encampeth against thee: thou hast put them to shame, because God hath despised them.” (Psalm 53:5) The earthly mind envies those who obtain mercy but will not seek mercy itself.

III. Everything Will Improve in the End

A. Eventually God will avenge His chosen people on their enemies; “He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. “Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! When God bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.” (Psalm 53:6)

B. With God, punishment ends and rejoicing follows. A Song of degrees. When the LORD turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The LORD hath done great things for them. The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad. Turn again our captivity, O LORD, as the streams in the south.” (Psalm 126:1-4)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Secrets of the Heart

From Psalm 139

I. God Knows

A. God sees everything. If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to a strange god; Shall not God search this out? for he knoweth the secrets of the heart.” (Psalm 44:20-21) “I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” (Jeremiah 17:10) See Psalm 139

B. God both sees and evaluates all things. “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:14) “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” (Matthew 12:36)

C. Jesus is the standard by which life will be evaluated; What would Jesus do? “In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.” (Romans 2:16) “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:14)

D. The ultimate evaluation will reveal the hidden motives and the ultimate consequences of all actions. “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.” (1 Corinthians 4:5) “For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.” (Romans 14:11-13)

II. Believers Can Know

A. The Bible reveals how God thinks. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12) For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 2:17)

B. God’s law will prevail; neglecting what God says is self-destructive. The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.” (Psalm 110:2) “(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)

C. People who live by the mind of God provoke behavioral change in the people around them. The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.” (Ecclesiastes 12:11)

D. God makes no empty boasts or threats. “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)

III. Trade on the Inside Information

A. The true church acts on the accurate knowledge it has received from God. “And he said unto them, Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day, which ye shall command your children to observe to do, all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 32:46) “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)

B. As He departed to begin His heavenly reign, Jesus emphasized the importance of Biblical truth and the administrative force it must have over the goals and actions of believers. 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 all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

C. When the church lives in the presence and power of God, spiritual prosperity follows. “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (Acts 2:41-42) “And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,” (Acts 2:46)

Open Up

Exodus 4:1-17; Mark 7:31-37 / Psalm 145:1-21

I. Imagine Silence

A. As Jesus returned from an alien culture, the Saviour encountered an alien condition. “And again, departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, he came unto the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis. And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech him to put his hand upon him.” (Mark 7:31-32)

B. The man was utterly isolated by silence and so are all people who are apart from the household of God and the message of grace. “That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:” (Ephesians 2:12)

C. A generation ago Simon and Garfunkel captured the willful deafness of the age in Sounds of Silence, revealing the vacuous deafness of unbelieving culture. “Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of a rebellious house, which have eyes to see, and see not; they have ears to hear, and hear not: for they are a rebellious house.” (Ezekiel 12:2)

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence

"Fools", said I, "You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you"
But my words, like silent raindrops fell
And echoed
In the wells of silence

II. The Word of God Breaks the Silence

A. Jesus came to speak the message of heaven to a deaf and dying world; God the Father orders people to hear Him. “While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. (Matthew 17:5)

B. Jesus is the message of God; apart from the Saviour there is no communication with eternity. In the beginning was the Word, 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 any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:1-4) “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” (John 1:10-11)

C. It is the passion of God’s people to end the silence of human misery and Jesus speaks across the silence to do just that. “And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness.” (Isaiah 29:18) “The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” (Matthew 11:5)

D. Jesus seized the opportunity and spoke to the man in language he could not avoid. “And he took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue; And looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened.” (Mark 7:33-34)

E. The Lord lifted the matter to heaven and that is the starting place for all gospel efforts; believers have Jesus as the pattern for dealing with problems which appear to be impossible to solve. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.” (Matthew 17:21)

III. God Opens What Is Closed

A. The same God made the speakers and the hearers of the gospel; the Lord can remove any barrier to gospel conversation. “And Moses said unto the LORD, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue. And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.” (Exodus 4:10-12)

B. God said it and it was done. “And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain.” (Mark 7:35)

C. Accomplishing the impossible is hard to contain; grace astonishes. “And he charged them that they should tell no man: but the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it; And were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.” (Mark 7:36-37)

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