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Our Great God is faithful – Lamentations 3.23.

Esterhazy Baptist Church, Feb 25, 2024.

Call to worship: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”  “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.  Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.  For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” Lamentations 3:22–23(NRSV); Psalm 100:1, 2, 5 (NIV)

When I last shared with you, we were thinking about the amazing truth that it is possible to become a friend of God.  This is a friendship that God initiates and makes possible.  From our childhood, we long to be with others and develop friendships.  Sometimes, while children are together, you might hear: “I won’t be your friend any more if you don’t…” 

Adults may not state their relationship “terms” as directly as children, but we also will abandon friendships, if people repeatedly let us down or break their promises.  Today, I want us to marvel at the truth that when we respond to God the Father’s invitation to become his friend, through accepting Jesus Christ as our sin forgiver and life leader, that he will never abandon you as a friend, even when you let him down or break your promises to him.  One of the ways that God described himself to Moses, is as one who is “abounding in faithfulness” (Ex. 34:6-7)

But can we trust God to remain faithful?  If significant people in our lives have been unfaithful in keeping their promises, we can struggle with trusting God’s promises.  This is because our experiences influence our expectations.  To counter this, remind yourself that God doesn’t makes promises he will not keep!  “God is no mere human! He doesn’t tell lies or change his mind. God always keeps his promises.” Numbers 23:19 (CEV).  God remains faithful, even when we are not: 2 Timothy 2:13. “If we are not faithful, he will still be faithful, because he must be true to who he is.” (NCV). 

The Bible is full of assurances of God’s faithfulness.  Deuteronomy 32:4. “The Lord is your mighty defender, perfect and just in all his ways; Your God is faithful and true; he does what is right and fair.” (GNB).  God keeps his covenant with those who love and obey him: Deuteronomy 7:9. “You know that the Lord your God is the only true God. So love him and obey his commands, and he will faithfully keep his agreement with you and your descendants for a thousand generations.” (CEV). 

God’s faithfulness is seen in:

  • The order of creation – God is faithful in sustaining this world! “As long as the earth exists, planting and harvesting, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never stop.” Genesis 8:22 (GW).
  • The keeping of his word13 For your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. You rule throughout all generations. The Lord always keeps his promises; he is gracious in all he does.” Psalm 145:13 (NLT).8 He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. 9 God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:8–9 (NLT).
  • His willingness to help us – We see this:
    • In his willingness to Forgiving our sins “If we say that we have not sinned, we are fooling ourselves, and the truth isn’t in our hearts. But if we confess our sins to God, he can always be trusted to forgive us and take our sins away.” 1 John 1:8–9 (CEV).
    • When we are tempted Hebrews 4:15-16
    • When we need protection Psalm 32:7

We see assurances of God’s faithfulness in the Bible and can hear of it from the experiences of others, but do we have proof of God’s faithfulness?  The handbook of Bible promises says: “The New Testament says that God has given one great, unshakeable piece of proof that God is faithful; a piece of proof that no one can take away—the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ!”  Acts 13:32–33a 32 We are telling you the Good News: What God promised our ancestors has happened. 33 God has fulfilled the promise for us, their descendants, by bringing Jesus back to life.” (GW).  John 3:16 tells us that God, out of love for us, sent Jesus to die in our place, for our sins. We then need to respond by acknowledging our need of forgiveness and accepting his sacrifice in our place.  Jesus’ resurrection confirms that Jesus’ sacrifice was accepted and has defeated the grip sin and death held on us – God has kept his promise to us!

What does God’s faithfulness mean for us today?

  • It means, no matter what happens, he is always with us.  Isaiah 49:15-16a

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” (NIV)

  • It means we can put our faith in him, continually growing in faith and experiencing his blessings. Proverbs 3:5–6

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” (NLT)

  • It means our faithful God expects us to live as faithful people

Hearing and reading stories of God’s faithfulness is encouraging, but it’s not enough! We really come to know about God’s faithful when we put it to the test in our lives.  When you think about Christians whose lives have been examples of faithfulness to you, I would venture to guess, if you asked them how their faith grew, they would tell you it was in moments of struggle when they clung to God, and he proved faithful.  When you believe God’s promises enough to act on them, his faithfulness becomes real to you and your faith in the Lord grows!

Faithfulness is to be practical and lived out in our daily activities, to be seen in…

    • In our behaviour towards God.
    • In our obedience in what he calls us to do.
    • In our actions and attitudes towards others.

Faithfulness is not just an attribute of God’s character; it is at the heart of who he is and how he acts.  Because he is faithful, we are assured that he will keep his promises.  We experience our God’s faithfulness daily, as we trust and depend upon him.  Involve him in your daily life, consciously take him wherever go and invite him to be a part of all your conversations.  At the end of your day, reflect on how you saw your faithful God guiding, directing and impacting your day.

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.” Proverbs 3:3–4. (NIV) 

Hymn: “Great is Thy faithfulness (beginning to end)

Benediction: May kindness and peace be yours from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness. Jesus was the first to conquer death, and he is the ruler of all earthly kings. Christ loves us, and by his blood he set us free from our sins. He lets us rule as kings and serve God his Father as priests. To him be glory and power forever and ever! Amen.” (Revelation 1:5-6 CEV).

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“Our Great God invites us into a special relationship.”  Leviticus 26:12.
January 28, 2024.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.
 

Call to worship: “Praise the Lord! I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them.” “He has paid a full ransom for his people. He has guaranteed his covenant with them forever. What a holy, awe-inspiring name he has!  Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom. Praise him forever!” Psalm 111:1-2, 9-10(NLT)

      “If we can grasp God’s promises about who he is and what he is like, it will completely change our outlook on life. We will be able to trust him and see him at work![1]”  Last week we talked about our Great God being holy, and ended the service by singing “Holy, holy, holy” (#262). This week, as I was praying, that hymn came to mind. As I sang it in my head, I thought about the phrase “merciful & mighty,” in verse 1 & repeated in verse 4.  It struck me how unusual it is to have those two words in the same phrase connected by the word ‘and,’ merciful & mighty.” When you think of someone being mighty, merciful is likely not the word you would connect with it.  Yet before you dismiss this as the work of a sentimental hymn writer, Almighty God described himself to Moses as merciful.  This is shortly after he had caused Pharaoh to let the Israelites, who had served the Egyptian as slaves, walk away from the country, with the riches of Egypt – clearly, he is a mighty God!  Exodus 33:18–23; 34:5-7a 18 Then Moses said, “I pray that you will let me see you in all of your glory.” 19 The Lord answered: All right. I am the Lord, and I show mercy and kindness to anyone I choose. I will let you see my glory and hear my holy name, 20 but I won’t let you see my face, because anyone who sees my face will die. 21 There is a rock not far from me. Stand beside it, 22 and before I pass by in all of my shining glory, I will put you in a large crack in the rock. I will cover your eyes with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take my hand away, and you will see my back. You will not see my face.” 34:5 The Lord God came down in a cloud and stood beside Moses there on the mountain. God spoke his holy name, “the Lord.” 6 Then he passed in front of Moses and called out, “I am the Lord God. I am merciful and very patient with my people. I show great love, and I can be trusted. 7 I keep my promises to my people forever, but I also punish anyone who sins.”” (CEV).  

      Moses had a special relationship with God, but he was not the only one.  Genesis 5:24 tells us that Enoch was known as a man who walked with God, as was his great-grandson Noah (Gen. 6:9).  Abraham walked with God and was called a friend of God (Gen. 17:1; 24:40; 2 Chron. 20:7; James 2:23).  The shepherd Jacob (Israel) recognized God’s leading in his life and spoke of God as: “the God who has been my shepherd all my life” (Gen. 48:15, NIV). 

      Leviticus chapters 25 & 26 record the decrees, laws and regulations that the Lord established at Mount Sinai between himself and the Israelites through Moses (Lev. 26:46).  Included in these chapters is an amazing and personal promise from God: I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.” Leviticus 26:12 (NIV).  This amazing declaration that God wants a personal relationship with us flows throughout scripture.  It’s found in God’s covenant promises to Abraham (Gen. 17:7), and repeated to Moses.  Our Bible closes in the Book of Revelation, with God’s victory over Satan and his followers, and then a vision of the holy city descending to earth from heaven with this declaration: And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.” Revelation 21:3 (NIV).  God’s plan is to bring us back into a personal relationship like he created us to have with himself in the Garden of Eden, walking among us once again (Gen. 3:8)!

      Notice, two things with this special relationship God desires with us:

1.  This is a relationship initiated and established by God.

      We did not go looking for God, God has reached down to us, in order to begin a relationship.  God revealed himself to Abram, and appeared to Moses.  Jesus followed the same principle, recruiting his disciples, some, while they were fishing or doing other work.  You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.” John 15:16a (NIV).   

2.   This is a relationship of the heart, made possible by God’s actions and then, our response to him. 

      God understands that rules and laws will not finally enable us to keep the covenants he is making with us.  As we see in the nations of Israel & Judea’s up and down relationship with God, what is needed is a change of heart.  This is what the Lord promised to his people in Jeremiah 31:33 This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.  God also moved the prophet Ezekiel to write: I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” Ezek. 36:26–27 (NIV)  

      God began working through an individual, then a family, then a people, whom he made into a nation, with the final goal of reaching all the people in the world (Jn. 3:16).  This was preached by Peter on the day of Pentecost: Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”” Acts 2:38–39 (NIV).  The Apostle Paul, whom God took from being a Pharisee who avoided Gentiles, to the Apostle to the Gentiles, writes: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” “As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”” Romans 10:9, 11–13 (NIV).  


      So, what does this mean for us today?  Here’s three things to remember:

·        It is possible to be friends with God!

      A personal, intimate relationship with God is not only possible, it is what God desires with you. Jesus assured his disciples, shortly before his arrest & crucifixion: The greatest way to show love for friends is to die for them.” “Servants don’t know what their master is doing, and so I don’t speak to you as my servants. I speak to you as my friends, and I have told you everything that my Father has told me.” John 15:13, 15 (CEV).

      Have you found this friendship with God, available through Jesus?  God the Father sent Jesus the Son to die for your sins, in your place.  He paid the penalty for your sins.  Accept him as your sin forgiver and follow him as your life leader.

·        God’s covenant with us is eternal!

This means he will NEVER let us go.  Ephesians 2:12–13 & 19-22 explains what God has done for us through Christ, and the eternal change which has happened, we belong to his family! “In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope. But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.” “So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.” (NLT) 

·        Our covenant with God brings responsibilities.

      We are called to be faithful to our God and live a life of holiness and righteousness (Rom. 12:1-2).  As people of a faithful God who keeps his promises, so we are to be people who are also true to our word!  This is to be seen in all our relationships: our friendships, our commitment to the body of Christ (1 Pet. 3:8-12), and especially in our marriage commitments (Heb. 13:4).

Hymn: #404 The solid rock

Benediction: Now may the God of peace— who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood— may he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen.” Hebrews 13:20–21 (NLT)



[1] Beaumont, M., & Manser, M. (2020). The Handbook of Bible Promises (p. 11).

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“Our Great God, is Holy.”  Isaiah 6:1-8.

January 21, 2024.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to worship: “And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”” “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;” (Isaiah 6:3; Psalm 95:6 NIV)

We gather together today to learn about our God.  This knowledge comes from what God has taught us in the Bible, and also what we learn about God as we apply his word to our lives.  For example, we are to love others and use things (not the other way around).  Last week we looked at our great God and lessons from Isaiah 40 we need to remember, such as: No problem is bigger than God.  No detail in my life is too insignificant for him.  No sin is bigger than God’s power to forgive, and no event will ever take God by surprise.

Today we are learning more about our God through the experience of the prophet Isaiah, looking at Isaiah 6:1-8. 1 In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a high and lofty throne. The bottom of his robe filled the temple. 2 Angels were standing above him. Each had six wings: With two they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. 3 They called to each other and said, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Armies!  The whole earth is filled with his glory.”  4 Their voices shook the foundations of the doorposts, and the temple filled with smoke.  5 So I said, “Oh, no!  I’m doomed.  Every word that passes through my lips is sinful.  I live among people with sinful lips.  I have seen the king, the Lord of Armies!”  6 Then one of the angels flew to me. In his hand was a burning coal that he had taken from the altar with tongs. 7 He touched my mouth with it and said, “This has touched your lips. Your guilt has been taken away, and your sin has been forgiven.”  8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom will I send? Who will go for us?”  I said, “Here I am. Send me!”” Isaiah 6:1–8 (GW).

King Uzziah/Azariah reigned over Judea as king for 52-years.  The loss of a long-loved king can be unsettling and is remembered by those who experience it.  It during this time, it seems while Isaiah was visiting the Temple in Jerusalem, that he had a vision of God which changed his life.  For Isaiah, as it was for Moses & the Israelites at Mount Sinai, when God came near, there was thick smoke and the ground around them shook.  What Isaiah experiences is humbling, and fills him with awe and fear.  He sees the Lord God sitting on throne, high and exalted, in a long flowing garment as worn by dignitaries and royalty in the ancient Near East.  Merely the bottom of his robe completely filled the Jerusalem temple, ‘his temple.’  Isaiah was reminded that King Uzziah may be gone, but Judea’s true King still reigns and is present in power and royal majesty.  His angelic attendants announce his presence with the words: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is filled with his glory.” (Isa. 6:3b, NIV).

In Isaiah’s vision, with the thrice repeated call that the Lord is holy, we learn about God.  God is holy, almighty and full of glory.

What is meant by holiness?  In Hebrew, holiness has the idea of ‘being separate,’ ‘set apart,’ and ‘special.’  God is indeed special, he is different, separate from everything else.  This is why his holiness is related to his glory.  Essential to God’s being and his holiness is that he abhors sin.  God is pictured in scripture as being pure light and sin as darkness. Darkness, cannot exist in the presence of light.

Isaiah in his vision of the holy God, not only learns about God, but he also learns about himself.  He quakes in the presence of the holy God because he sees his sin and that of his people disqualify him from being in God’s presence.  5 So I said, “Oh, no!  I’m doomed.  Every word that passes through my lips is sinful.  I live among people with sinful lips.  I have seen the king, the Lord (Almighty) of Armies!”  The clearer we see God’s holiness, the clearer we see ourselves and our sinfulness!  Isaiah’s experience, in this sense, was repeated by the fisherman Peter, when he realized his net full of fish, caught mid-day, could only be explained by the presence of God: “When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.”” Luke 5:8 (NLT).  1 John 1:8 “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.” (NLT).  Romans 3:10 “As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous— not even one.” (NLT). Romans 3:23 “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” (NLT).

Scripture, God’s Word makes it clear that we are helpless to help ourselves – we all fall short of God’s glorious standard, as Isaiah said – “Oh, no!  I’m doomed.”  Yet as Isaiah was mourning his sinful condition he learned a third lesson, God can make people holy.  6 Then one of the angels flew to me. In his hand was a burning coal that he had taken from the altar with tongs. 7 He touched my mouth with it and said, “This has touched your lips. Your guilt has been taken away, and your sin has been forgiven.”  Our best effort can never make us holy.  It is God himself who deals with people’s sin.  Holiness is vital to the Lord, and as he calls his people to be holy, he also provides the means by which we can be holy!  1 Peter 3:18a. “Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God.” (NLT)

Romans 5:6–8. “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (NLT).  God is the one who makes people holy – it is not through our efforts!

A fourth lesson to learn from Isaiah’s vision is that being “cleaned up,” being forgiven, always comes before being “sent-out.”  Trying to serve God without first experiencing his forgiveness and renewing power will lead us to frustration, not holiness.  After Isaiah received God’s cleansing from sin, then he could offer himself to God’s service.  Isaiah 6:8. “Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom will I send? Who will go for us?”  I said, “Here I am. Send me!”” (GW). David learned this lesson as well: Psalm 51:10–13. “Create a clean heart in me, O God, and renew a faithful spirit within me.  Do not force me away from your presence, and do not take your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore the joy of your salvation to me, and provide me with a spirit of willing obedience.  Then I will teach your ways to those who are rebellious, and sinners will return to you.” (GW)

We have a great God; a holy God and in light of this we need to remember:

  • I cannot hide my sin from God, so bring it to him, seeking his forgivenessHebrews 4:13. “Nothing in all the world can be hidden from God. Everything is clear and lies open before him, and to him we must explain the way we have lived.” (NCV)
  • God does not deal with our sins as we deserve – he is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love (Psalm 103:8).  Romans 6:23. “Work hard for sin your whole life and your pension is death. But God’s gift is real life, eternal life, delivered by Jesus, our Master.” (MSG)
  • God says that no sin is too bad to be forgiven.  The Apostle Paul used himself as an example of this: 1 Timothy 1:15. ““Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” This saying is true, and it can be trusted. I was the worst sinner of all!” (CEV). Paul is saying, if God can forgive me, he can forgive anyone!
  • Holiness is more than my external actions. God wants my outward actions to be a reflection of my heart, and not a cover-up for the real me, he doesn’t want actors!  This was Jesus’ concern with the Pharisees emphasis on their outward behavior, yet ignoring their inner life.  Mark 7:15. “There is nothing that goes into a person from the outside which can make him ritually unclean. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that makes him unclean.”” (GNB) Mark 7:21–23. “For from the inside, from a person’s heart, come the evil ideas which lead him to do immoral things, to rob, kill, commit adultery, be greedy, and do all sorts of evil things; deceit, indecency, jealousy, slander, pride, and folly- all these evil things come from inside a person and make him unclean.”” (GNB)
  • God comes to us, for our benefit, not our harm.  When Isaiah found himself in God’s holy presence, he felt unworthy and wanted to flee.  God’s purpose was to allow Isaiah to see his true nature and then to change him.  Romans 6:22. “Now you have been freed from sin and have become God’s slaves. This results in a holy life and, finally, in everlasting life.” (GW)
  • Personal holiness doesn’t just happen. You may have heard, going to church doesn’t make you a Christian, just as going to a garage doesn’t make you a car!  I need to choose to be holy by depending upon God’s strength, he alone is the one who can make me clean.  Joshua 24:14. ““Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.” (NIV) Joshua 24:19–24. “Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.” But the people said to Joshua, “No! We will serve the Lord.” Then Joshua said, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the Lord.” “Yes, we are witnesses,” they replied. “Now then,” said Joshua, “throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.” And the people said to Joshua, “We will serve the Lord our God and obey him.”” (NIV)

Personal holiness does not ‘just happen.’  We must choose to surrender our will to the Holy God and depend upon him to make us clean.  God the Father sent Jesus the Son to die in our place.  He paid the full penalty for our sins.  Accept his forgiveness.  Accept him as your sin forgiver and life leader.  Then, the Spirit of God will come to dwell within you – who is he?  The HOLY Spirit of God!  He will lead, guide, teach, correct and strengthen you!  Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty!

Closing Hymn: #262 Holy, holy, holy (vv. 1,3,4)

Benediction: “May the God of peace himself make you holy in every way. And may your whole being—spirit, soul, and body—be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23 (ISV).

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“Our Great God.”  Isaiah 40.

January 14, 2024.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to Worship:8 Lord God All-Powerful, who is like you? Lord, you are powerful and completely trustworthy.15 Happy are the people who know how to praise you. Lord, let them live in the light of your presence.” Psalm 89:8, 15 (NCV).

As Christians, it is important that we know what we believe.  It is vital that we know the truth about our God, and so, we rely on his word, the Bible.  God reveals himself to us in his word and through his word, by the power and inspiration of his Holy Spirit. 

However, Christianity, our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, must include more than book (head) knowledge, it needs to be personal and relationship driven.  Amazing as sit sounds to some, we are invited into a personal relationship with Almighty God.  We do not simply know about him, but we come to know him as we experience him working in and through our lives!  How can we do that?  One way, is to know what God has said, and then respond appropriately. 

During the advent season, we reminded ourselves that Jesus’ birth was in keeping with promises our God had made from our very beginning to send the saviour.  I would like to spend most of our remaining months together looking at what our God has promised, and its implications for us, as we take him at his word!  It’s been said: “If we can grasp God’s promises about who he is and what he is like, it will completely change our outlook on life. We will be able to trust him and see him at work!  Let’s remind ourselves what our God has promised about who he is and what he will do, and then act in response to this truth.

Isaiah chapter 40 is a powerful chapter which tells us much about our God.  It contains the passage John the Baptist used to describe his ministry and ends with God’s promise to strengthen the weary who place their hope in him.  Here are the first 11 verses of Isaiah chapter 40: 1 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. 2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. 3 A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. 5 And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” 6 A voice says, “Cry out.” And I said, “What shall I cry?” “All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field. 7 The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” 9 You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!” 10 See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. 11 He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40:1–11 (NIV).

What do we learn about our God in this passage and this chapter?  In the first two verses we see God has dealt with his people’s sin.  This promise was fulfilled through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity.

1.  God has dealt with his people’s sin vv. 1-2.

1 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. 2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for…”

Ephesians 1:7 “For by the blood of Christ we are set free, that is, our sins are forgiven. How great is the grace of God,” (GNB).

A second amazing promise in this passage is that God himself is ‘rolling up his sleeves’ and coming into our situation!

2.  God himself is coming into our situation vv. 3-5, 9-10.

3b …make straight in the desert a highway for our God…10 See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm.”  God himself is coming, this is no small thing!  Remember, the presence of God in a situation always changes things!  Sea’s part, foes flee, droughts end and the lame leap.

3.  God’s word & promises are unchanging & eternal v. 8.

8 The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.”

Isaiah 55:10–11. ““Rain and snow fall from the sky. But they don’t return without watering the earth that produces seeds to plant and grain to eat. That’s how it is with my words. They don’t return to me without doing everything I send them to do.”” (CEV)

God warned his people not to make rash vows that they might later regret. He wanted them to use their words thoughtfully & purposefully, only making promises they could and would keep.  In this they were to reflect their God.  God speaks in truth and with purpose that will be fulfilled – he is worthy of our trust!

Verse 10 speaks of the Lord’s mighty rule, yet this is balanced in verse 11, which shows him as shepherd gently caring for his sheep.  This verse reminds us:

4.  God comes with power but also with tenderness vv. 10-11.

10 See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. 11 He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.

In verses 12 and following, God is pictured as a merchant weighing and counting his inventory.  But rather than counting coins and weighing wheat, God is seen measuring the earth’s oceans in the palm of his hand and weighing its mountains on his scales!  Idols are nothing more than man made objects no matter that they are made with.  In these verses we see that:

5.  God is incomparable – there are none like him vv. 12-26.

Isaiah 40:25. “The holy God asks, “Who compares with me? Is anyone my equal?”” (CEV)

  • God is incomparable, there are none other like him.
  • God comes to us with power, but also with tenderness.
  • God’s word and promises are unchanging and eternal.
  • God himself is coming into our situation.
  • God has dealt with his people’s sin problem!

We have a GREAT GOD, as we see even in this short list from Isaiah chapter 40.  So why do we still struggle to trust him when things get crazier for us than normal?  Could it be that our image of God is wrong?  Could it be that we see God as being just a bit bigger, just a bit stronger and just a bit smarter than us?  If that is the case, your problem is, to borrow from J.B. Philips, ‘Your God is too small!

After God humbled Pharaoh & Egypt with 10 plagues, freeing the Israelites from slavery, and then buried Pharaoh’s army in the sea, Moses and the Israelites sang a song to the Lord which included this line: “Who is like you among the gods, O Lord— glorious in holiness, awesome in splendor, performing great wonders?” Exodus 15:11(NLT).  Our God is great!  Because our God is great, he is able do what he promises!  Romans 4:20–21 says: “His (Abraham’s) faith did not leave him, and he did not doubt God’s promise; his faith filled him with power, and he gave praise to God. He was absolutely sure that God would be able to do what he had promised.” (GNB).   

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR US TODAY? We need to remember:

  • No problem is bigger than God.

2 Chronicles 32:7–8 “Be brave and confident! There’s no reason to be afraid of King Sennacherib and his powerful army. We are much more powerful, because the Lord our God fights on our side. The Assyrians must rely on human power alone. These words encouraged the army of Judah.” (CEV).

  • No detail is too insignificant for God.

Luke 12:6–7. “Five sparrows are sold for just two pennies, but God doesn’t forget a one of them. Even the hairs on your head are counted. So don’t be afraid! You are worth much more than many sparrows.” (CEV)

  • No need is beyond God’s reach.

Luke 7:14–16. “Jesus went over and touched the stretcher on which the people were carrying the dead boy. They stopped, and Jesus said, “Young man, get up!” The boy sat up and began to speak. Jesus then gave him back to his mother. Everyone was frightened and praised God. They said, “A great prophet is here with us! God has come to his people.”” (CEV)

  • No opportunity is bigger than God.

Numbers 14:7–9. “We saw the land ourselves, and it’s very good. If we obey the Lord, he will surely give us that land rich with milk and honey. So don’t rebel. We have no reason to be afraid of the people who live there. The Lord is on our side, and they won’t stand a chance against us!” (CEV)

  • No sin is bigger than God’s power to deal with it.

Isaiah 1:18. “I, the Lord, invite you to come and talk it over. Your sins are scarlet red, but they will be whiter than snow or wool.” (CEV)

  • No circumstance can ever make God forget me.

Isaiah 44:21–22. “People of Israel, you are my servant, so remember all of this. Israel, I created you, and you are my servant. I won’t forget you. Turn back to me! I have rescued you and swept away your sins as though they were clouds.” (CEV)

  • No event will ever take God by surprise.

Psalm 139:16b. “Even before I was born, you had written in your book everything I would do.” (CEV). Romans 8:31. “What can we say about all this? If God is on our side, can anyone be against us?” (CEV)

Isaiah chapter 40 invites you to slow down, and reflect on the greatness of God.  Recall his promises, accept his invitation to place your trust in him as Lord, and act believing he will renew your strength, just as he promises!

Hymn: #4 “How great Thou art” (vv. 1,3,4)

Benediction: “Be strong and courageous, and act; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you nor forsake you” 1 Chronicles 28:20b (NASB 2020).

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Hebrews 12:1-2a.  “My response to our promise keeping God.”

Jan. 7, 2024.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to Worship: “All that I am, praise the Lord; everything in me, praise his holy name.  My whole being, praise the Lord and do not forget all his kindnesses.  He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.  He saves my life from the grave and loads me with love and mercy.  Everything the Lord has made should praise him in all the places he rules. My whole being, praise the Lord.  Psalm 103:1–4, 22 (NCV)

We have been looking at how our God kept his promises concerning the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The prophets foretold he would come.  The angel’s message to Zechariah, Mary, Joseph and the shepherds announced his coming.  We see that after Jesus’ birth, the confirmations that his birth was a work of God continued.  In Luke 2:25-33 we read about what happened when Mary and Joseph took the infant Jesus to the Temple to offer sacrifices for the birth of a son.  25 At this time a man named Simeon was living in Jerusalem. Simeon was a good man. He loved God and was waiting for God to save the people of Israel. God’s Spirit came to him 26 and told him that he would not die until he had seen Christ the Lord. 27 When Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple to do what the Law of Moses says should be done for a new baby, the Spirit told Simeon to go into the temple. 28 Simeon took the baby Jesus in his arms and praised God, 29 “Lord, I am your servant, and now I can die in peace, because you have kept your promise to me. 30 With my own eyes I have seen what you have done to save your people, 31 and foreign nations will also see this. 32 Your mighty power is a light for all nations, and it will bring honor to your people Israel.” 33 Jesus’ parents were surprised at what Simeon had said.” (CEV).

I believe Mary & Joseph are surprised, not at what Simeon said about Jesus, for they knew this, rather, they are in awe that God’s Spirit is revealing this truth to his people who are awaiting him.  The promises of God are being fulfilled, and those who are looking for it, see it!  28 Simeon took the baby Jesus in his arms and praised God, 29 “Lord, I am your servant, and now I can die in peace, because you have kept your promise to me. 30 With my own eyes I have seen what you have done to save your people, 31 and foreign nations will also see this. 32 Your mighty power is a light for all nations.” Luke 2:28-32a (CEV).

Isaiah 9:2f says that the promised Saviour would be a light in the darkness: 2 Those who walked in the dark have seen a bright light. And it shines upon everyone who lives in the land of darkest shadows.” Isaiah 9:2 (CEV).

The Gospel of John used the theme of light to describe Jesus, who is the second person of the Trinity.  John 1.1-14: 1 In the beginning was the one who is called the Word. The Word was with God and was truly God. 2 From the very beginning the Word was with God. 3 And with this Word, God created all things. Nothing was made without the Word. Everything that was created 4 received its life from him, and his life gave light to everyone. 5 The light keeps shining in the dark, and darkness has never put it out. 6 God sent a man named John, 7 who came to tell about the light and to lead all people to have faith. 8 John wasn’t that light. He came only to tell about the light. 9 The true light that shines on everyone was coming into the world. 10 The Word was in the world, but no one knew him, though God had made the world with his Word. 11 He came into his own world, but his own nation did not welcome him. 12 Yet some people accepted him and put their faith in him. So he gave them the right to be the children of God. 13 They were not God’s children by nature or because of any human desires. God himself was the one who made them his children. 14 The Word became a human being and lived here with us. We saw his true glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father. From him all the kindness and all the truth of God have come down to us.” John 1:1–14 (CEV).

The Gospel of John goes on to tell us about Jesus, and the response of John the Baptist, the one who God chose to prepare for Jesus’ ministry.  People were asking John – are you the one God promised? John 1:19-34 19 The leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and temple helpers to ask John who he was. He told them plainly, “I am not the Messiah.” 21 Then when they asked him if he were Elijah, he said, “No, I am not!” And when they asked if he were the Prophet, he also said “No!” 22 Finally, they said, “Who are you then? We have to give an answer to the ones who sent us. Tell us who you are!” 23 John answered in the words of the prophet Isaiah, “I am only someone shouting in the desert, ‘Get the road ready for the Lord!’” 24 Some Pharisees had also been sent to John. 25 They asked him, “Why are you baptizing people, if you are not the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet?” 26 John told them, “I use water to baptize people. But here with you is someone you don’t know. 27 Even though I came first, I am not good enough to untie his sandals.” 28 John said this as he was baptizing east of the Jordan River in Bethany.

29 The next day, John saw Jesus coming toward him and said: Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 He is the one I told you about when I said, “Someone else will come. He is greater than I am, because he was alive before I was born.” 31 I didn’t know who he was. But I came to baptize you with water, so that everyone in Israel would see him. 32 I was there and saw the Spirit come down on him like a dove from heaven. And the Spirit stayed on him. 33 Before this I didn’t know who he was. But the one who sent me to baptize with water had told me, “You will see the Spirit come down and stay on someone. Then you will know that he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.” 34 I saw this happen, and I tell you that he is the Son of God.” John 1:19–34 (CEV).

John the Baptist has an important ministry, but he makes it clear, he is not the promised one!  His job is to prepare the people for and identify the one God promised.  After Jesus has been revealed to John as the promised Messiah, he begins identifying Jesus as “the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (Jn. 1:29, 36).  God is keeping his promises, they are being fulfilled, he is sending the Saviour.

As you begin this New Year, 2024, have you taken that step of faith to believe that God can accomplish in you what He promised?  Are you praising God for what He has done in you – in salvation – Romans 10:9 (NIV) says: “if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” 

Are you rejoicing for what the Lord God is doing in you as a Christian? Sanctification – the cleansing and pruning that comes as we give up our old habits and attitudes and put on the new attitudes and actions of Christ?  The author of the letter to the Hebrews calls us to join God in this work: 1 Since we are surrounded by so many examples of faith, we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially sin that distracts us. We must run the race that lies ahead of us and never give up. 2 We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith. He saw the joy ahead of him, so he endured death on the cross and ignored the disgrace it brought him. Then he received the highest position in heaven, the one next to the throne of God. 3 Think about Jesus, who endured opposition from sinners, so that you don’t become tired and give up. Hebrews 12:1–3 (GW). 

Why has God promised to draw humanity back to Himself if they are willing to respond to His invitation?  Because he desires a relationship with you!  He is pursuing you!  He is in love with you and He longs for a relationship with you!  Wow. 

As we prepare to celebrate communion, reflect on what it means that God the Father loves you.  He knows you by name, sent His only Son Jesus to die in your place, and as you have accepted Jesus as your Savior and Lord, has given you the Holy Spirit. It is awesome, and incredible what God has done for us.  Praise the Lord!

Hymn: #163 “As with gladness men of old”

Benediction:  May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. Psalm 67:1–2 (ESV)

Email:ebc@sasktel.net

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The promise of a Saviour – The promise through the Angel.

Dec. 24, 2023.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to Worship: “The angel said, “Don’t be afraid.  I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master.  Luke 2:10-11 (The Message)

I.  Introduction:

Today is the fourth Sunday of Advent and also Christmas Eve.  As we prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth, let’s review why it is so important.  God has been at work from our beginning to make a renewed a relationship with Him possible! With the birth of Jesus, God the Father is fulfilling His promises to send one who would save His people from their sins.  Let’s review some of his promises:

1st God’s promise through Adam & Eve: A victor is coming.

Genesis chapter three tells how Adam and Eve rejected God by disobeying Him.  Judgment is a consequence of their sin, but there is also a hint of hope.  In Genesis 3:15, God promises that a descendent of Eve’s would one day defeat the devil.  Our deceiver will be defeated by a representative of those he deceived.  Here at the very beginning of our history, God makes it clear that He has a plan for us and so, we are not without hope!

2nd God’s promise through Abraham & Sarah: A blessing for the whole world is coming.

This couple was not flawless, but they took God’s promises seriously.  Eve’s promised seed would come through them, resulting in a blessing for all the people groups of the world. 

3rd God’s promise through Isaiah: A son of David, the Messiah is coming.

Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord God gave many promises about the coming Savior.  In chapter 9, we read that the darkness which covered our world would be dispersed by a great light.  That light would be a child, one who would be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” and who would rule on King David’s throne forever. 

When the time was right (Galatians 4:4) God sent this child, his son, as an baby.  An important part of the final preparations was letting the right people know “the time has come!”  To do so, God sent angels, his messengers.

II. God’s Promise Through the Angel:

1. The Angel visits Zechariah: Luke 1:11-20

The angel Gabriel was sent to Zechariah with good news (v. 19).  Although he and his wife Elizabeth were older and childless, the angel announced that she will bear a child, whom they are to name John.  John will prepare the people of Israel for the Saviour.

Initially, Zechariah is skeptical about the chances of becoming a father.  Yet, after losing his voice and regaining it at his son’s naming, he is filled with excitement at what God is doing.  Luke 1:76–79 76 You, my son, will be called a prophet of God in heaven above. You will go ahead of the Lord to get everything ready for him. 77 You will tell his people that they can be saved when their sins are forgiven. 78 God’s love and kindness will shine upon us like the sun that rises in the sky. 79 On us who live in the dark shadow of death this light will shine to guide us into a life of peace.” (CEV).  It is happening, God’s promise of a Saviour is unfolding!

2. The Angel visits Mary:

Next, the Angel appeared to Mary with the news that she had found favor with God and would bear a son, even though she was still a virgin.  She was to name this boy, Jesus.  Luke 1:26b-38 26 God sent the angel Gabriel to the town of Nazareth in Galilee 27 with a message for a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to Joseph from the family of King David. 28 The angel greeted Mary and said, “You are truly blessed! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was confused by the angel’s words and wondered what they meant. 30 Then the angel told Mary, “Don’t be afraid! God is pleased with you, 31 and you will have a son. His name will be Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of God Most High. The Lord God will make him king, as his ancestor David was. 33 He will rule the people of Israel forever, and his kingdom will never end.” 34 Mary asked the angel, “How can this happen? I am not married!” 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come down to you, and God’s power will come over you. So your child will be called the holy Son of God. 36 Your relative Elizabeth is also going to have a son, even though she is old. No one thought she could ever have a baby, but in three months she will have a son. 37 Nothing is impossible for God!” 38 Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant! Let it happen as you have said.” And the angel left her.” (CEV).

God’s message, delivered through his angel, sent Mary to her relative Elizabeth, and both women rejoice that God is fulfilling his promise of a Saviour.  Mary’s song concludes with these words: 54 God helps his servant Israel and is always merciful to his people. 55 The Lord made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his family forever!” Luke 1:54–55 (CEV), [cf. Genesis 17:1-7).

3. The Angel visits Joseph:

Joseph, Mary’s fiancé, also had a visit from the angel and who confirmed her pregnancy was by the power of God.  Matthew 1:18–25 18 This is how Jesus Christ was born. A young woman named Mary was engaged to Joseph from King David’s family. But before they were married, she learned that she was going to have a baby by God’s Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph was a good man and did not want to embarrass Mary in front of everyone. So he decided to quietly call off the wedding. 20 While Joseph was thinking about this, an angel from the Lord came to him in a dream. The angel said, “Joseph, the baby that Mary will have is from the Holy Spirit. Go ahead and marry her. 21 Then after her baby is born, name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 So the Lord’s promise came true, just as the prophet had said, 23 “A virgin will have a baby boy, and he will be called Immanuel,” which means “God is with us.” 24 After Joseph woke up, he and Mary were soon married, just as the Lord’s angel had told him to do. 25 But they did not sleep together before her baby was born. Then Joseph named him Jesus.” (CEV).

The name ‘Jesus’ is the Greek form of the Hebrew name ‘Joshua” which means, the Lord saves.  The Angel brings God’s Word, that Mary’s child is conceived by the Holy Spirit and is to be called “The Lord Saves” because He WILL save His people from their sins! Joseph’s response to God’s message is to take Mary as his wife, to protect and provide for her and Jesus.

4. The Angel Visits the Shepherds:

The day Jesus was born God’s messenger, an angel was sent with his message to Shepherds outside of Bethlehem, saying: 10b “Don’t be afraid! I have good news for you, which will make everyone happy. 11 This very day in King David’s hometown a Savior was born for you. He is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10b-11 (CEV). Upon hearing this is great news, the shepherds when to Bethlehem to see God’s Saviour for themselves and then joyfully told others all about it!

God’s plan is unfolding as he promised.  The one to defeat the deceiver and be a blessing to all the nations, a light in the deep darkness of sin, has come as our Savior. He will save us from our sins.  God the Father knew from the very beginning that we would need a Savior, and so he sent Jesus.  The second person of the Trinity came and lived among us.  John 3:16 says, “God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die.” (CEV). God’s love for us motivated His actions seen throughout human history!

Matthew 1: 22-23 reminds us that Jesus’ virgin birth fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy:  22 So the Lord’s promise came true, just as the prophet had said, 23 “A virgin will have a baby boy, and he will be called Immanuel,” which means “God is with us.” (CEV). God with us, amazing words!  God has not only acted to save us; he is with us and he became one of us in order to save us.  This is the awesome message of Christmas. 

The message of Christmas is that God, in Jesus Christ is here with us.  We need not face life alone.  Your worries, your struggles, your pain, your frustrations, and your loneness – you need not face these alone, for God is here.  In Jesus Christ he wants to be with you.  He is the greatest gift you could ever accept and receive.

The greatest gift you could give this Christmas is to give God your heart, your life, your all – and in doing so you will receive the greatest gift – a renewed relationship with God as your sins are forgiven through his Son as your Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Christmas means we don’t have to walk this life alone.  A Savior has come, he is Christ the Lord.  Do you know Him?  Is he walking with you today?  he surely wants to.  Ask him to join you, ask him into your life.

You can pray this prayer silently, as I pray it:  Dear Jesus, thank you for making me and loving me, even when I’ve ignored you and gone my own way.  I realize I need you in my life and I’m sorry for my sins.  I ask you to forgive me.  Thank you for dying on the cross for me.  Please help me to understand it more.  As much as I know how, I want to follow you from now on.  Please come into my life and make me a new person inside.  I accept your gift of salvation.  Please help me grow now as a Christian.  Amen.  And remember: Romans 10:13 says “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” 

Closing hymn #170 Joy to the World (vv. 1,3,4)

Benediction:  The one who is God, who was born as a Babe that long-ago night reflects the light of his Father’s love to you now.  Receive the love – and pass it on!  And may God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, bless you all with a very Merry Christmas.  Amen.

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The Promise of a Saviour – The Promises Through Isaiah.

Dec. 17, 2023.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to Worship:1 Arise! Shine! Your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has dawned.  2 Darkness now covers the earth, and thick darkness covers the nations.  But the Lord dawns, and his glory appears over you.  3 Nations will come to your light, and kings will come to the brightness of your dawn.” Isaiah 60:1–3 (GW).

The Advent season, beginning four Sundays before Christmas, is a time to prepare and reflect on the birth of God’s Son, Jesus the Christ.  This year we are reminding ourselves that Jesus’ birth was a fulfillment of prophecies of old, to bring men and women back into a personal relationship with God again.  Beginning with Genesis chapter 3 we have seen that God has been seeking us out!  After Adam & Eve sinned, they hid from God, yet he went looking for them, with a plan to defeat the deceiver through a descendent of Eve.

God came to Abram with a promise, if he would trust Him fully.  Along with the promise to bless Abram (Abraham) and his descendants, was the promise that all the nations of the world would be blessed through a descendent of Abraham.  That promise was affirmed with Abraham’s son Isaac and grandson Jacob.  About 1000 years later God promised King David that the promised descendent would come through his blood line, and he would rule as king forever.

After King David, things did not go well.  Following the death of David’s son King Solomon, the 10 northern tribes refused to acknowledge his successor as their king and choose a man outside of David’s family as their king.  This kingdom became known as Israel and quickly substituted the worship of the Lord God with gods of their own making as well as foreign gods.  Judea, the southern kingdom continued to worship God at the temple in Jerusalem. However, many people worshiped other gods in the high places as well.

All through this time the Lord God sent his prophets to correct and his warn people.  The prophet Isaiah was called by the Lord in the year that King Uzziah of Judea died (704 BC).  Despite the great wealth people were experiencing, spiritually these were dark days.  Most people had turned away from the Lord their God.  In 722 BC the Northern Kingdom was invaded by Assyria and disappeared into exile.  The southern kingdom would be crushed and exiled by the Babylonian empire 140 years later.

The prophet Isaiah brought warning of approaching judgment and exile, but also a message of future hope.  God wanted his people to know that he would still keep his promises!  Isaiah chapter 8 ends with a picture of the dark emptiness of a heart without God: Isaiah 8:19–22 19 Someone may say to you, “Let’s ask the mediums and those who consult the spirits of the dead. With their whisperings and mutterings, they will tell us what to do.” But shouldn’t people ask God for guidance? Should the living seek guidance from the dead?  20 Look to God’s instructions and teachings! People who contradict his word are completely in the dark. 21 They will go from one place to another, weary and hungry. And because they are hungry, they will rage and curse their king and their God. They will look up to heaven 22 and down at the earth, but wherever they look, there will be trouble and anguish and dark despair. They will be thrown out into the darkness. (NLT)

The darkness of chapter 8 gives way in chapter 9 to God’s promise of coming hope: Isaiah 9:1–7 1 Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever. The land of Zebulun and Naphtali will be humbled, but there will be a time in the future when Galilee of the Gentiles, which lies along the road that runs between the Jordan and the sea, will be filled with glory. 2 The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine. 3 You will enlarge the nation of Israel, and its people will rejoice. They will rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest and like warriors dividing the plunder. 4 For you will break the yoke of their slavery and lift the heavy burden from their shoulders. You will break the oppressor’s rod, just as you did when you destroyed the army of Midian. 5 The boots of the warrior and the uniforms bloodstained by war will all be burned. They will be fuel for the fire. 6 For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen! (NLT)

Isaiah is prophesying that God will keep his promises!  The darkness and despair will end, the oppressor’s rod will be broken.  For a child will be born who will rule David’s throne with fairness and justice forever!  He is the promised seed.  Take note of this: Jesus spent much of his childhood and most of his ministry in the area described in Isaiah 9:1, Galilee!  The people who walk in darkness will see a great light – how is it possible that this could happen?  Look at how verse 7 ends “The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!”  It will happen because this will be a work of God!

Isaiah continues with words of prophetic hope in chapter eleven, even as the Davidic kings of Isaiah’s time were failing to trust God’s promises.  Isaiah 11:1–3a 1 Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot— yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root. 2 And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. 3 He will delight in obeying the Lord. (NLT)

When Isaiah spoke these words there was doubt that David’s line would survive, but God has a plan and keeps His promises! The one promised by the Lord, beginning with Adam & Eve will begin to restore what was lost: his people and his creation.

For 700 years these passages and others from God’s Word were still remembered by those who followed the Lord God, because he keeps his promises.  After an Angel of God brings news to Mary that she will bear the promised child and of her relative Elizabeth’s miraculous pregnancy, Mary sings a song of praise to God.  Mary’s song is full scripture as she praises God for keeping His promises!  Luke 1:46–55 46 Mary responded, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. 47 How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! 48 For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. 49 For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me. 50 He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him. 51 His mighty arm has done tremendous things! He has scattered the proud and haughty ones. 52 He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands. 54 He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful. 55 For he made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever.” (NLT)

People may wonder why we celebrate the birth of one who lived 2000 years ago?  Why do we recall promises made hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth?  The Apostle Paul has an answer for this question in Romans 15:4–13. 4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. 5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. 8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed 9 and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written: “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing the praises of your name.” 10 Again, it says, “Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people.” 11 And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles; let all the peoples extol him.” 12 And again, Isaiah says, “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in him the Gentiles will hope.” 13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (NIV)

The scriptures were written to teach and encourage us by giving us hope.  “And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.” Romans 15:4b (NLT).

What is the value of the scriptures to you? Verse 13 say: The God of hope wants to fill you with His JOY and PEACE as you trust in HIM. This results in an overflow of HOPE as the Holy Spirit works in you. 

JOY – PEACE – HOPE.  Aren’t those familiar themes for this season?  Joy, peace & hope are what Jesus’ birth brings us as we know him; not as a baby, but as our master and the one who died for all our sins. 

What must you do to know him as Lord?  Accept his sacrifice on your behalf for your sins.  Believe he is the eternal Son of God, and commit your life to following him, depending on his help.  You must live your life by trusting God, who alone has the answers you need.  “May God, the source of hope, fill you with joy and peace through your faith in him. Then you will overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13. (GW)

Benediction: “May God, the source of hope, fill you with joy and peace through your faith in him. Then you will overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13. (GW)

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Gen. 12:1-3.  “The Promise of a Saviour: The Promise to Abraham.”

Dec. 10, 2023.  Esterhazy Baptist.

Call to Worship: “Who is like you, Lord God Almighty? You, Lord, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you.“Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord.” Psalm 89:8, 15 (NIV).

Christmas is a time of giving, & retailers are trying to entice you to buy your gifts from them in order to make this Christmas “extra special”!  However, you will never exceed the Greatest giver of all, God, who gave his son Jesus!  Last week we saw that even as Adam & Eve heard the results of their rebellion against God, the Lord had a plan to bring men & women back into relationship with himself.  This is what 2 Timothy 1:9-10 says: “It is God who saved us and chose us to live a holy life. He did this not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan long before the world began—to show his love and kindness to us through Christ Jesus. And now he has made all of this plain to us by the coming of Christ Jesus, our Savior, who broke the power of death and showed us the way to everlasting life through the Good News.” (NLT).  The birth of Jesus through the seed of a woman, is God keeping his promise to defeat the power of the devil and to save his people from their sins.

After the fall in chapter 3, the book of Genesis shows humanity as it develops.  Although a few people walk with God, the vast majority choose not to, and sinful behaviour grows to frightening proportions.  Eventually only Noah’s family is willing to take God’s direction seriously, and prepare for a rainy judgment.  It is clear we are unwilling and unable fix ourselves regardless of how many hundreds of years of life experience we are given to try.

The next big step in God’s plan for humanity involved finding someone who would trust him and follow his plan.  At the end of Genesis chapter 11 we are introduced to 75-year-old Abram. His name means exalted father, yet he and his wife have no children.  Years later, when Abram was 99, God changed his name to Abraham – father of many, even though his wife Sarah had still not had a child (Gen. 17:1-6, 15-16)!  Why did God do this? Because he was preparing to keep his promise!  A year later Sarah gave birth to a son, whom they named Isaac, which means “he laughs” because of all who laughed at the idea God could do such a thing through such an elderly couple.

In Genesis 12:1-3, God comes to Abram with a request and four promises, if Abram obeys him.  Then the Lord told Abram, “Leave your country, your relatives, and your father’s house, and go to the land that I will show you. I will cause you to become the father of a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and I will make you a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:1-3 (NLT).

At first glance, verses 2 & 3 seems to say that God is only interested in blessing Abram (you obey me & I’ll bless you).  Yet, as we come to the last of the four promises, we see God’s goal in choosing and blessing Abram.  The result of his obedience will be: “All the families of the earth will be blessed through you.”  This was not understood by most of the descendants of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob in Jesus’ day.  The assumption was that non-Jews were beyond hope because they are not descendants of Abraham, but God had other plans!  We can see this in the lives of those mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew 1. Genealogies generally only listed the males, and this one begins with Abraham, goes through King David, and includes at least three gentile women.  Here we see again God’s heart for everyone; this was his plan from the very beginning, to give all of humanity the opportunity to return to him. 

The Apostle Paul wrote the letter to the Galatians, to persuade Gentile Christians not to accept the argument that they needed to add keeping the Jewish laws & traditions to complete their faith.  Legalism as an attempt to prove to others and God, that we are worthy of salvation is: hopeless, worthless and unnecessary.  Paul, to counter the Jewish argument of the need to keep the law turns to Abraham, the “founder of their people” as an example of someone who pleased God through his faith in God, rather than keeping the law.  Abraham was accepted by God before he was circumcised and long before the Law was given to Moses.  Abraham is described as one who became the father of those who follow God by faith.  Look at Galatians 3:1-14.  1 Oh, foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you? For the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death was made as clear to you as if you had seen a picture of his death on the cross. 2 Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. 3 How foolish can you be? After starting your new lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? 4 Have you experienced so much for nothing? Surely it was not in vain, was it? 5 I ask you again, does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the law? Of course not!  It is because you believe the message you heard about Christ. 6 In the same way, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” 7 The real children of Abraham, then, are those who put their faith in God. 8 What’s more, the Scriptures looked forward to this time when God would make the Gentiles right in his sight because of their faith. God proclaimed this good news to Abraham long ago when he said, “All nations will be blessed through you.” 9 So all who put their faith in Christ share the same blessing Abraham received because of his faith. 10 But those who depend on the law to make them right with God are under his curse, for the Scriptures say, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the commands that are written in God’s Book of the Law.” 11 So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” 12 This way of faith is very different from the way of law, which says, “It is through obeying the law that a person has life.” 13 But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” 14 Through Christ Jesus, God has blessed the Gentiles with the same blessing he promised to Abraham, so that we who are believers might receive the promised Holy Spirit through faith.” Galatians 3:1–14 (NLT).

God has kept his promise to Adam, Eve & Abraham in a mind-blowing way!  The Lord himself provided the sacrificial offering we needed. He took upon himself the penalty for sin we deserved, to rescue, ALL of humanity.  Jesus, the seed of a woman, endured the bite on his heal, the cross, to crush the head of the devil, keeping his promise to us.

God, the greatest giver, in sending Jesus, has given us the greatest gift!  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 (NIV)

Today, with the second candle of Advent we remembered the faith of Mary & Joseph in believing God’s promise about the baby Mary was carrying – Jesus.

Have you received Jesus, the most precious gift of Christmas?  Have you asked Jesus to forgive you of your sins and to come and rule your life?  You do this not through self-effort, rather it is through putting your faith in Jesus to save you!

If you have accepted this precious gift, you are most blessed!  Now remember, like Abraham, you have been blessed in order to be a blessing!  God’s heart is for all to hear of his salvation and return.  Will you join Him in that work this Christmas? Samuel M. Shoemaker said: “Most people are brought to faith in Christ not by argument for it but by exposure to it!”  This Christmas, live out your faith and celebrate the fulfillment of God’s promise to send a descendent of Abraham, through whom the whole world would be blessed – the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Hymn: #123 “O Come O Come Emmanuel” (vv. 1, 4).

Benediction: I pray that God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ will give peace, love, and faith to every follower! May God be kind to everyone who keeps on loving our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 6:23-24 CEV)

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 “The Promise Of A Saviour: The Promise in the Garden.” Genesis 3:15.
 
Dec. 3, 2023.  Esterhazy Baptist.

Call to worship: Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done.  Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. 1 Chronicles 16:8, 10 (NIV)

      Today is the beginning of Advent. It covers the four Sundays before Christmas. Advent prepares us for Jesus’ coming – his birth and his return – as King.  This Advent season we will be looking the promise of a Saviour we find throughout God’s Word, the Bible. 

      Genesis, the first book in the Bible, sets the framework for God’s interaction with humanity.  As Genesis begins, we see that:

      God created the universe He spoke it into existence – the stars, planets, sky, sea, plants & animals and it was good. Finally created humanity.  Genesis 1:26–27; 2:7, 15-18, 22. “Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”   “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”  “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”” “Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.” (NIV)

      God altered his pattern of creation with humanity, in that he literally got his hands dirty creating us!  He formed us from the earth and then breathed his Spirit into us.  Humanity was not only “handmade” by God, we were made in his image, put in charge of this world and designed to have a special relationship with God.

      It is important we remember that this is our starting point with God!  We are created by God for a loving relationship with him with purpose & responsibility!  God gave us a framework in which to live – things to do (rule over the animals & tend to the Garden of Eden) and not do (Gen. 2:17 – eat from the tree of the knowledge of good & evil).  Then came a choice, believe God or not:  Genesis 3:1–8. “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ” “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” (NIV)

      One might think that the Bible would be a really short book since by the third chapter of Genesis, humanity has rejected God as their source of truth.  Sin, judgment, and death come to Adam & Eve and the created world is altered – that sounds like the end of the story!

      Yet at this, the lowest point in human history, our fall from God’s grace, all is not lost, there is hope spoken by God Himself. As judgment is passed on the serpent, Eve and Adam, and the consequences of their sin is revealed (Gen. 3:8-21), God in verses 14-15 tells of a future event. 

Genesis 3:14; 15 “So the Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, you will be punished. You are singled out from all the domestic and wild animals of the whole earth to be cursed. You will grovel in the dust as long as you live, crawling along on your belly. From now on, you and the woman will be enemies, and your offspring and her offspring will be enemies. He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.’” (NLT)

      Adam & Eve had just rebelled against God.  They had done the only thing they were told not to do, & they had been warned of the results!  At the very moment the consequences of their disobedience is being given, God also makes a promise, indicating that He already has a plan.

      Satan, the deceiver of humanity will one day be defeated by one of Eve’s offspring (He will crush your head)!  The Bible then begins to record God’s work of drawing humanity back into relationship and preparing for the coming of the promised one.

      This act of grace from our God speaks hope to us right now!  Is anyone struggling with the question of whether God could love you as you are?  Genesis tells us he created you for relationship, he loves you!  But you respond by thinking: “With all I’ve done could he ever accept or forgive me?”  Yet remember this, our God has been at work from the moment we sinned, and He is still at work all around us, to draw each of us back to Himself.

      From the very beginning of our rebellion against God, which caused our need of redemption, we see that God is there with a plan.  Even before humanity realizes the depth to which it has fallen God is there with a promise. 

      In God’s promise we are given:

1)  The news of the incarnation.  Jesus was born of a virgin, the seed of a woman.

2)  The news of His sufferings & death.  Bruising His heel.

3)  The news of His victory over Satan. He will crush your head.

      As the writer of Hebrews says: Hebrews 2:14; 15 “Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.” (NLT)

      Because God the Father sent His Son Jesus, we can be forgiven our sins and made alive in Christ.  Today, we celebrate: 

–      His coming as one of us – flesh & blood.

–      His victory in life.

–      His victory over sin and death which frees us from the power of the devil.

Hymn: #124 “Come thou long expected Jesus”

Benediction:  To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.” (Revelation 1:5b-6 NIV).

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Life’s Deadly Follies: Wrath, part 2 – Proverbs 20:22; 25:21-22.
 
November 26, 2023. Esterhazy Baptist Church.

 

Call to worship: He is near to those who call to him, who call to him with sincerity. He supplies the needs of those who honour him; he hears their cries and saves them.” “I will always praise the Lord; let all his creatures praise his holy name for ever.” Psalm 145:18–19, 21 (GNB)

      We’ve been looking at the book of Proverbs and most recently seeing what Proverbs says about the deadly follies, sins.  These are sins of the mind and attitude which if unconfessed will damage our relationships with each other and with God.

      Last week we looked at the problem of wrath and anger.  Today we will be looking at the solution to wrath.  Holding onto anger and stewing in it leads to the sins of bitterness, resentment and rage (Ephesians 4:31).  However, you may say, what was done was wrong and I cannot act as if it never happened – the anger and frustration is eating me up and I want them to suffer as well!

      How can I get out of the swamp of anger and wrath or better yet, avoid it all together?  Proverbs and other passages of scripture gives us the answer:

1.  FORGIVE THEM

      Rather than seek some sort of revenge, forgive the offense, insult or even crime against you.  Do not let it fester in your heart and infect you, making you one who want to hurt!

Proverbs 17:9. “Whoever forgives someone’s sin makes a friend, but gossiping about the sin breaks up friendships.” (NCV)

In Luke 17:3-4 Jesus says: Be alert. If you see your friend going wrong, correct him. If he responds, forgive him. Even if it’s personal against you and repeated seven times through the day, and seven times he says, ‘I’m sorry, I won’t do it again,’ forgive him.” Luke 17:3–4 (MSG).

Ephesians 4:32. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (NIV)

Proverbs 20:22 reminds us not to give into the temptation of taking matters into our own hands.  Instead, trust God to take care of matters: Don’t say, “I will get even for this wrong.” Wait for the Lord to handle the matter.” Pr. 20:22 (NLT).

2.  HELP THEM

Proverbs 25:21. “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.” (NIV).  Not only are we not to seek personal revenge on our enemies, we are to respond to their basic needs with compassion, regardless of how they would treat you if the situation was reversed.  We are not to withhold help that any person deserves, for we are all created in God’s image.

      After the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, no person in all of East Germany was more despised than the former Communist dictator Erich Honecher. He had been stripped of all his offices. Even the Communist Party rejected him. Kicked out of his villa, the new government refused him and his wife new housing. The Honechers were homeless and destitute.

      Enter pastor Uwe Holmer, director of a Christian help center north of Berlin. Made aware of the Honechers’ straits, Pastor Holmer felt it would be wrong to give them a room meant for even needier people. So the pastor and his family decided to take the former dictator into their own home!

      Erich Honecher’s wife, Margot, had ruled the East German educational system for twenty-six years. Eight of Pastor Holmer’s ten children had been turned down for higher education due to Mrs. Honecher’s policies, which discriminated against Christians. Now the Holmers were caring for their personal enemy—the most hated man in Germany. This was so unnatural, so unconventional, so Christlike.

      By the grace of God, the Holmers loved their enemies, did them good, blessed them, and prayed for them. They turned the other cheek. They gave their enemies their coat (their own home).

      They did to the Honechers what they would have wished the Honechers would do to them. (Reported by George Cowan to Campus Crusade at the U.S. Division Meeting Devotions, Thursday, March 22, 1990.)

      Proverbs 25:22 finishes the statement to show kindness to your enemy in verse 21 with: “In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.” Proverbs 25:22 (NIV).

This may be expressing the hope your kindness will lead to their repentance or if instead they continue to harden the hearts, God’s judgment for rejecting a demonstration of his grace.  However they chose to respond, the Lord is pleased when you reflect his mercy.

      Jesus went even further; he didn’t stop at helping your enemy.  Matthew 5:43–48. “You have heard people say, “Love your neighbors and hate your enemies.” But I tell you to love your enemies and pray for anyone who mistreats you. Then you will be acting like your Father in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both good and bad people. And he sends rain for the ones who do right and for the ones who do wrong. If you love only those people who love you, will God reward you for that? Even tax collectors love their friends. If you greet only your friends, what’s so great about that? Don’t even unbelievers do that? But you must always act like your Father in heaven.” (CEV).   

      It seems we really should go back to point two and replace “Help them” with “Love them.”  Jesus wants us to forgive our enemies and show them love! 

      By now, if you have been listening, your mind should be full of questions.  Forgive and love those who have hurt me?  Do I really have to do this to get out of the swamp of anger and bitterness?  Does Jesus ask this of all his disciples or just leaders?    

      What did Jesus teach us to pray in the Lord’s prayer?  And forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.” Matthew 6:12 (NLT).  It seems the forgiveness of our sins is contingent on our forgiving those who have sinned against us!  Is that what Jesus is saying?  Is sure is, as you look at Matthew 6:14–15If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (NLT).  Colossians 3:13 says, Bear with each other, and forgive each other. If someone does wrong to you, forgive that person because the Lord forgave you.” (NCV).  

      Christian, Jesus’ parable of the unforgiving servant (Matt. 18:23-35) is for us!  How could one who has been forgiven a debt they could never repay, be so callused and heartless to not forgive a small debt owed them?  That is what we are doing when we refuse to forgive and show love to those who hurt us – do we not understand the Gospel? 

      Luke 7:36-50 tells of a time Jesus was invited to dinner at the home Simon the Pharisee.  While Jesus ate, a woman with a sinful reputation came weeping.  With her tears she washed Jesus’ feet, wiped them with her hair and anointed his feet with perfume.  Simon couldn’t believe what was happening.  He thought to himself, if Jesus really was a prophet from God, he would know that this woman touching him was a sinner and would send her away.  Jesus knew what Simon was thinking and asked him a question about being grateful for being forgiven.  Jesus concluded his conversation with Simon by saying: Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”” Luke 7:47 (NIV).  Christian, an unforgiving heart says you do not appreciate your own forgiveness.

      But you say: “This is so hard!”  No it’s not hard, it’s impossible! It’s impossible for us forgive & love this way.  Jesus’ answer to his disciple’s question in Matt. 19:25-26, about if the rich struggle to enter heaven, then who can be saved, fit here as well: Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”” Matthew 19:26 (NLT).

      Christian, humanly speaking, responding to evil with forgiveness and love is impossible.  That is why you cannot do it in your own strength.  Bring your struggles, your resentments, your bitterness, your questions to the Lord – but it’s so ugly, I don’t want him to see it.  He already knows – trust him with it, turn it over to him, read his word, listen to his Spirit’s prompting and leave it with him to take care of it.  Daily, ask the Lord, through the power of his Holy Spirit to love your enemies through you.  Philippians 4:13. “I can do all things through Christ, because he gives me strength.” (NCV)

      Let’s listen to our closing hymn, it is called “Forgive our sins as we forgive.”  https://youtu.be/OqG_iQwqEOE?si=t9HalhBuUld1WiWa 

 

 

Forgive our sins as we forgive, You taught us Lord to pray. But You alone can grant us grace to live the words we say.

How can Your pardon reach and bless the unforgiving heart, that broods on wrongs and will not let old bitterness depart?

In blazing light Your cross reveals the truth we dimly knew, how small the debts men owe to us, how great our debt to You.

Lord cleanse the depths within our souls and bid resentment cease.  Then reconciled to God and man, our lives will spread Your peace.

Rosamond Eleanor Herklots. CCLI Song #3162143 © 1969 Oxford University Press. For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. www.ccli.com  CCLI Licence No.1348394

       Rosamond E. Herklots (b. Masuri, India, 1905; d. Bromley, Kent, England, 1987) wrote these words in 1966 after digging out weeds in her garden and thinking how bitterness, hatred, and resentment are like poisonous weeds growing in the Christian garden of life. “Forgive Our Sins” is a hymn about being ready to forgive others again and again-as Jesus said, seventy-times-seven times! We have many hymns about God’s forgiveness of our sins, but this one adds a most helpful guide in forgiving others’ sins.

Benediction: You have been given every good gift for proclaiming God’s presence and God’s love. The world is thirsting for this good news. People struggle for words of hope and peace. As you have been blessed, now go to be a blessing in God’s Name. AMEN.

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Life’s Deadly Follies: Wrath, part 1 – Proverbs 15:1; 20:22.
 
November 19, 2023. Esterhazy Baptist Church.

 

Call to Worship: “Praise the Lord, my soul. Lord my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty.” “I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the Lord. But may sinners vanish from the earth and the wicked be no more. Praise the Lord, my soul. Praise the Lord.” Psalm 104:1, 33-34, 35b (NIV).

      Sin. We don’t like to think about it or talk about it—unless, of course, it’s someone else’s sin. Our own sin often goes unrecognized and unconfessed, which means we see little change in our spiritual lives.

      Evagrius, a fourth-century monk, created a list of eight common sins to help people be aware of them and guard against them. Pope Gregory 1st reduced the list to seven in the sixth century… sloth, anger, envy, pride, lust, gluttony, and greed (Michael Mangis, Signature Sins).

      Today we are looking at the sin of wrath, using the Book of Proverbs and other passages from the Bible.  This is a vast topic, so we will not try to deal with in in one sermon, this will be a two-part sermon.  Today we will seek to understand the sin of wrath and next week we will look at God’s answer to our wrath.

      Wrath is not a word we use in our daily conversations, so let’s start by understanding what we mean.  What do you think of when you hear the word wrath? The grapes of wrath. The wrath of God. Fire & brimstone. Judgment. Revenge or vengeance. Wrath and anger are used interchangeably in some Bible verses, Proverbs 15:1: A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (NIV).  

       The Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary defines wrath as: 1: strong vengeful anger or indignation.  2:  retributory punishment for an offense or a crime: divine chastisement.  Synonym see anger[1]. 

      Proverbs sees anger as the response of a fool: Proverbs 14:17. “Short-tempered people do foolish things, and schemers are hated.” (NLT).  Proverbs 30:32–33. “If you have been a fool by being proud or plotting evil, cover your mouth in shame. As the beating of cream yields butter and striking the nose causes bleeding, so stirring up anger causes quarrels.” (NLT). Our wrath stirs up a lot of trouble. For example:

      Here’s a quote from Dr. John Hunter, which has some sobering truth for all of us: “My life is in the hands of any fool who makes me lose my tempter.”  It may feel good to honk at and tailgate the person who cut you off – that is until they follow you home or pull out a baseball bat or gun at the next traffic light! Also, the idea that someone else makes you lose your temper is misleading.  Anger is an emotion, but how you respond to the emotion of “Anger is a choice, as well as a habit. It is a learned reaction to frustration.” Wayne W. Dyer. [2] 

      Susan Marcotte uses a word picture which challenges our use of anger to deal with difficulties: “Anger helps straighten out a problem like a fan helps straighten out a pile of papers.” 

      Robert G. Ingersoll said “Anger blows out the lamp of the mind. In the examination of a great and important question, everyone should be serene, slow-pulsed and calm.”  That quote needs to be projected on the screen during some church’s business meetings! Anger blows out the lamp of the mind – this explains why often after an angry outburst you hear: “I wasn’t thinking clearly” – giving into the impulse of our anger will do that! As the saying goes: “Anger manages everything badly.”  Parents this is why it is recommended that you do not discipline your children in anger. Besides, you’ll probably come up with a more effective method of correction as you take time to think & pray through the matter.

      A November 11, 2023 article in the Calgary Herald on anger states: Anger can kill you. On the website everydayhealth.com, Dr. Chris Aiken of Wake Forest University School of Medicine says, “In the two hours after an angry outburst, the chance of having a heart attack doubles.” Other experts note that the risk of stroke triples in those two hours after an angry outburst, and the risk of a brain blood vessel aneurysm goes up six times. So, pay attention! Doctors are telling us anger is not only harmful to its recipients, but also to the host!

      Proverbs say the wise response to an offense, insult or argument is patience. Proverbs 12:16 “A fool is quick-tempered, but a wise person stays calm when insulted.” (NLT).  Proverbs 14:29 “People with understanding control their anger; a hot temper shows great foolishness.” (NLT).  Proverbs 16:32 “Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city.” (NIV84). In other words, if you want to be a real hero, learn to control your anger!

Understanding the sin of wrath/anger.

      Ephesians 4:26–27 says, “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (NIV).  From this passage it is clear that anger is not always a sin.  James Boice in his commentary on Ephesians says of the anger discussed here: We are probably to understand it as being a controlled or righteous anger as opposed to an uncontrolled, selfish, or sinful anger. This is because anger itself is not sin. Scores of Old Testament passages speak of the just anger of God against the wicked and even against his own people when they persist in disobedience. Jesus was angry on several occasions (cf. Matt. 21:12–13; Mark 3:5). Indeed, even we can experience righteous anger. That is why Paul introduces this subject by a quotation from Psalm 4:4 (“In your anger do not sin”), which makes a distinction between sinful and sinless wrath.[3] 

      Anger is an appropriate response to injustice or sin, but it must be controlled and corralled – that is kept within boundaries.  Our response is not to be sinful nor allowed to simmer beyond the setting of the sun.  From personal bad experience in handling anger, simmering anger includes: reviewing the offense in your mind, imaging other things I should have said, responding to future imaginary encounters with the individual, or retelling the incident to other people – each time my emotions are stirred again and my story gets ‘better.’

      Do not do this!  Don’t simmer in your anger!  We are clearly warned that the danger of handling anger inappropriately is we give the devil a foothold in our life!  If you wonder what is meant by “a foothold” The New Century Bible says: When you are angry, do not sin, and be sure to stop being angry before the end of the day. Do not give the devil a way to defeat you.” Eph. 4:26–27 (NCV).  

      Our spoiling, rotting anger gives the devil a way to defeat us.  Uncontrolled, selfish, or sinful anger grieves the Holy Spirit of God who dwells within believers, that is why anger is listed in verse 31 as something we are to rid ourselves of, along with bitterness, rage, brawling, and slander.

      However, God’s wrath, his displeasure with human beings and their sinful actions, is tempered with his patience, love and forgiveness, and we see this ultimately in Jesus Christ.  Our wrath when responding to a personal offense rarely has this balance! 

      As human beings, we are created in the image of God, so it is not surprising that we have a natural sense of justice, and feel anger when people get away with doing wrong.  Yet, remember that God has put rulers and laws in place for societies to enforce justice, rather than letting individuals take justice into their own hands (Rom. 13:1; Tit. 3:1; 1 Pet. 2:13-14).

      So why does God warn us against wrath and bitterness?  Not only is our anger prone to lead to sin, but in our anger, we are trying to execute justice.  In doing so we are trying to do a job that belongs to God alone, he will execute judgment. James 1:19–20 says: Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.” (NLT).  

      In Exalting Jesus in Proverbs, Jonathin Akin says: When you refuse to lay down a grudge, you reveal that you do not trust that God is able to deal with an injustice to your satisfaction.  We see this truth throughout the book of Proverbs. People are wrathful because they do not trust the wrath of God to make things right.[4]  Proverbs 20:22 says, “Don’t say, ‘I will get even for this wrong.’ Wait for the Lord to handle the matter.” Proverbs 20:22 (NLT).

      Perhaps you’re thinking: I’ve never acted on my anger, I’ve never physically hurt anyone, so I have it under control, right?  Well, what does Jesus say about it?  Matthew 5:21–22. ““You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.” (NLT).  Jesus then goes on to tell us to settle matters quickly with those who have something against us – do not let the sun go down while you are still angry!

      The truth is we can be angry without yelling, hitting or breaking things.  Sometimes in anger, we hurt others with words – lies & rumors, or maybe we stop engaging & caring – a physical or emotional strike.  Suppressing our anger or renaming it frustration or irritation doesn’t make it any less of an anger problem that you need to deal with!  The problem is, in my anger, whether I’ve been loud or quiet, I’ve hurt people I care about and have behaved in ways that don’t reflect the grace and kindness God has shown to me, and so I have sinned.

      However, you say: What about when someone has done something really wrong – don’t I have a right to be angry with them and want to see them face judgement – can’t I make them pay?  Pastor Chuck Swindoll in his collection of stories says: “I like the attitude of the preacher who refused to take revenge.  He said, ‘I’m not going to get even.  I’m going to tell God on you!” [5] 

      Proverbs 20:22 assures us that God is aware of the offense and will deal with it, so leave it in his good care! “Don’t say, ‘I will get even for this wrong.’ Wait for the Lord to handle the matter.” (NLT).

      We have looked at our anger and wrath as sin, but what can we do about the unforgiveness it generates within us?  Next week we are going to look at God’s antidote to our wrath.

Closing Song: “In Christ alone”

Benediction: “15a Let the peace that Christ gives control your thinking, 16a Let the teaching of Christ live in you richly. 17 Everything you do or say should be done to obey Jesus your Lord. And in all you do, give thanks to God the Father through Jesus.” Colossians 3:15a, 16a, 17 (NCV).



[1] Merriam-Webster, I. (2003). In Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary. (Eleventh ed.). Merriam-Webster, Inc.

[2] Swindoll, C.R.  The tale of the tardy oxcart, p. 33.  © Word Pub., 1998.

[3] Boice, J. M. (1988). Ephesians: an expositional commentary (p. 168). Ministry Resources Library.

[4] Akin, J. (2017). Exalting jesus in proverbs

(D. Platt, D. L. Akin, & T. Merida, Eds.; p. 278). Holman Reference.

[5] Swindoll, C.R., The tale of the tardy oxcart, p. 495.  ©1998 Word Publishing.

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November 12, 2023. Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to Worship: Nehemiah 9:5b “Arise, bless the Lord your God forever and ever! May Your glorious name be blessed and exalted above all blessing and praise!” (NASB 2020)

      We are continuing our look at the book of Proverbs, to learn how to live above life’s deadly follies or deadly sins.  These are sins of the mind and attitude that spawn other sins.  Some, like today’s topic, we may try to dismiss as a character trait, yet they are sins. They direct our choices, effect our relationships and unless abandoned, will sever our walk with God. 

      Today we are looking at slothfulness or laziness.  How do you define laziness?  The Concise Oxford English dictionary defines: Sloth as: reluctance to work or make an effort; laziness.[1]  A Sluggard isa lazy, sluggish person.[2]  Lazy is defined as: unwilling to work or use energy.  2   showing a lack of effort or care.[3]  So from the definitions we see that laziness is an unwillingness to exert any energy, but also lack of urgency or interest to complete a task, usually because it doesn’t interest them.  A Norwegian Proverb says: “The lazier a man is, the more he plans to do tomorrow.” [4]  

      Laziness is obviously not a good trait for success in life. Most of us were encouraged by our parents to contribute to the family and complete the responsibilities we agreed to, inside and outside the family.  It is not surprising then that the father in Proverbs urges his children to avoid laziness:  Proverbs 10:4–5. “Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth. He who gathers crops in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son.” (NIV).  Proverbs 10:26. “Lazy people irritate their employers, like vinegar to the teeth or smoke in the eyes.” (NLT)

      The laziness we are talking about is not due to medical reasons. It is not that the sloth won’t do anything at all, the problem is the sluggard doesn’t want to do anything they don’t feel like doing.  This sounds like the adolescent behavior which most of us eventually abandon when life starts making its demands on us and our parents stop paying our bills.  Today’s passage from Proverbs 24:30-34 describes what happens when you don’t abandon a lazy life style: I once walked by the field and the vineyard of a lazy fool. Thorns and weeds were everywhere, and the stone wall had fallen down. When I saw this, it taught me a lesson: Sleep a little. Doze a little. Fold your hands and twiddle your thumbs. Suddenly poverty hits you and everything is gone!” Proverbs 24:30–34 (CEV).  The field over run with thorns and weeds is a result of the curse on the land because of Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden, Genesis 3:17b–19 “Because of what you have done, the ground will be under a curse. You will have to work hard all your life to make it produce enough food for you. It will produce weeds and thorns, and you will have to eat wild plants. You will have to work hard and sweat to make the soil produce anything, until you go back to the soil from which you were formed. You were made from soil, and you will become soil again.”” (GNB).  This isn’t an excuse not to work, but an explanation as to why so much effort is required in order to get results.

      For the sluggard, work seems a curse, but God created us to be fulfilled working and caring for this earth (Gen. 2:15).  It is our choice to sin and rebel against God which has made our efforts to support our families more challenging, but certainly not impossible nor unfulfilling.  We’ve all likely seen the statistics and heard about those who no longer have to work, still needing to find purpose in their life. Helping others and contributing to society is important, yet what is it about laziness that would cause it to be considered a sin?

      The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia explains: “In the OT a sluggard is one who avoids the action that wisdom requires.” [5] In Proverbs, slothfulness is seen as foolish, and is contrasted with diligence, which is seen as wise. A sluggard’s appetite is never filled, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.” Proverbs 13:4 (NIV).  Proverbs calls us to walk in wisdom, beginning with understanding that the Lord God is our source of wisdom, therefore we are to have a reverent and holy fear toward our creator: Proverbs 1:7. “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” (NLT). “A sluggard avoids the action that wisdom requires” – that means avoiding the action God requires of us!   

      The Apostle Paul dealt with laziness among some in the early church: 2 Thessalonians 3:6–12 “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat.” (NIV).

      The early church helped widows who had no one to provide for them. It also taught the families of widows not to expect others to care for their relatives, but to do it themselves. 1 Timothy 5:3–4, 7-8 Take care of widows who are destitute. If a widow has family members to take care of her, let them learn that religion begins at their own doorstep and that they should pay back with gratitude some of what they have received. This pleases God immensely.”  “Tell these things to the people so that they will do the right thing in their extended family. Anyone who neglects to care for family members in need repudiates the faith. That’s worse than refusing to believe in the first place.” (MSG)

      Jesus warned against laziness in his parable of the talents, where he described a servant who didn’t care about what his master wanted.  This sluggard, rather than exert the effort required to invest what his master had entrusted him, he convinced himself that the safest (easiest) thing to do was bury the money! (Matt. 25:14-30).  That servant is called wicked and lazy, and is thrown out of his master’s presence to a place of darkness and pain (vv. 26-30).

      The Apostle Paul, although he was insulted, assaulted and imprisoned, continued to plant Churches among the Gentiles. In his greetings to the Churches in Rome and his co-worker Titus, he refers to himself as the servant or slave of God and Jesus Christ.  Even with his freedom and life threatened, Paul lived under the command of his Lord and in service him, no matter the cost.  A sloth’s master is themselves; they live for their own comfort and pleasure.  The crucial question for me is: Whom do I serve?

      Slothfulness, letting others do your work, is not only a physical problem, it reflects a spiritual problem.  A rather lazy student noticed that a fellow student always recited her lessons well, so he said to her “How is it that you always say your lesson so perfectly?”  She replied, “I always pray that I may say my lessons well.”  “Do you?” said the boy somewhat surprised. “Well, then I will pray, too.”  However, the next morning he could not even repeat a word of his assigned lesson.  Perplexed, he ran to his friend and reproached her as deceitful. “I prayed,” said he, “But I could not say a single word of my lesson.”  “Perhaps”,” rejoined the other, “you didn’t study hard enough!” “I didn’t study at all,” answered the boy, “I thought I didn’t have to study after praying about it.” [6]  
    Is that how you treat prayer?  Sometimes our prayers sound like we think God is working for us! We put the order in, and he delivers: give me patience, give me a better job, send someone to meet that need…  Certainly, our efforts don’t earn us our salvation; yet, after coming under Jesus’ Lordship, doesn’t my life now belong to him?  I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20 (NIV).  

      The word translated as “lazy” in the parable of the talents, is also used in Romans 12:11 “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” (NIV) which the NLT translates as: Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.” Romans 12:11 (NLT).  Sloth is a state of spiritual apathy and indifference.  It is a sin that rejects God’s gift of time and the opportunities He provides us to grow in virtue, serve others, and ultimately, love Him. It’s a sin that stifles our spiritual growth and hinders our relationship with God.

      Christian, if I am being lazy with my life, who am I really stealing from?  My owner is the Lord!  Ephesians 2:10 says For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (NIV).  This passage is telling you that God believes in you, and created you anew in Christ Jesus, so you could do good things for his honour.  Stop listening to Satan’s whispers, telling you don’t bother, relax because you can’t do it that well anyway…  The broken walls and thorn infested fields of Proverbs 24:30-34 didn’t happen over night.  It’s a series of little decisions not to do anything today, which then becomes a life style.

      The Bible encourages us to be diligent in our work, because we are working for the Lord. Colossians 3:23 says: In all the work you are doing, work the best you can. Work as if you were doing it for the Lord, not for people.” (NCV).  So, use your time wisely, and to be fervent in your love for God.  Do not lose sight that this world and its pleasures is not your end goal!  Remember, the Lord Jesus left you here as a Christian with the goal to lead others to him and provides the resources you need to you to make it happen – you need to trust him and go!  Matthew 28:18–20. “Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”” (NLT)

Hymn: #451 “O Master, let me walk with Thee”

Benediction: “For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” 1 Corinthians 15:56–58 (NLT).

 


[1] Soanes, C., & Stevenson, A., eds. (2004). In Concise Oxford English dictionary (11th ed.). Oxford University Press.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Sweeting, George.  Great quotes & illustrations, p 161.  ©1985 Word Inc.

[5] Van Leeuwen, R. C. (1979–1988). Sluggard. In G. W. Bromiley (Ed.), The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Vol. 4, p. 550). Wm. B. Eerdmans.

[6] Zodhiates, Spiros.  Illustrations of Bible truths, #487, p 162. ©1995 AMG International, Inc.

 
 
 
 

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Life’s Deadly Follies: Pride – Proverbs 16:18-20.
 
October 22, 2023. Esterhazy Baptist Church.
 

Call to Worship: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28–30 NIV)

      We are looking at the book of Proverbs, to learn how to live above life’s deadly follies or deadly sins.  These are sins of the mind and attitude.  Though we may try to hide them, they influence our choices, impact our relationships and unless abandoned, will sever our walk with God.  Today we are looking at pride.  How do you define pride? …  There is a positive element to pride as well as the negative.  The Lexham Theological Wordbook says: While pride can have a positive connotation of self-worth or boasting, it is often used in Scripture to refer to an unhealthy elevated view of one’s self, abilities, or possessions.[1] 

      Pride can be positive, we want to have a healthy self-image, and teach this to our children.  Accomplishing something new and difficult is worth celebrating and encourages us to keep trying and learning – “You can do it!”  However, there is a dark side of pride, where our sinful nature takes over control and evil is the result. Proverbs 21:4 says: “Evil people are proud and arrogant, but sin is the only crop they produce.” (CEV).  This is the sinful pride which God opposes.  Proverbs 16:5. “The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.” (NIV). The reason for this is the impact of arrogant pride on others and consequence of sinful pride on the proud.  Proverbs 16:18 says: “Pride leads to destruction, and arrogance to downfall.” Proverbs 16:18 (GNB).  

      The Lexham Theological Wordbook says: In the NT, as in the OT, the concept of pride is often easier to recognize through context than by searching for any one word. During his ministry, Jesus often confronted the pride of the religious leaders of the day (e.g., Luke 14:7–11; 18:9–14), not because they were religious, but because they took solace in their religiosity rather than in God.[2]  Luke 14:7–11 – is where Jesus noticed guests picking the places of honour at a feast.  To those who were confident in their own righteousness, Jesus told the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector – Luke 18:9–14.

      Pride is something we may not easily identify within ourselves, especially in a society which celebrates the individual’s right to make their own choices.  Where does pride show up?

1.  In our arrogance.

        We can tell ourselves we are positive thinkers and people who can make things happen, but under the veneer is pride.  “I know what I’m doing,” “I know what’s best for me,” “They failed because they are fools, it won’t happen to me…” “If you don’t like it tough,” “You change, I don’t need to!”

Proverbs 27:1–2. “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring. Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips.” (NIV)

Proverbs 26:12. “Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them.” (NIV)

Proverbs 30:11–12. “Some people curse their father and do not thank their mother. They are pure in their own eyes, but they are filthy and unwashed.” (NLT)

 Pride also shows up:

2.  In our stubbornness.

      Stubbornness to admit you need help, to ask for help or listen to wise advice, is pride – “I want to do it or fix it myself – stop trying to help!”

Proverbs 13:10. “Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.” (NIV)

Proverbs 12:15. “The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.” (NIV)

Proverbs 13:1. “Children with good sense accept correction from their parents, but stubborn children ignore it completely.” (CEV)

Proverbs 28:26. “Only fools would trust what they alone think, but if you live by wisdom, you will do all right.” (CEV)

      Our refusal to admit our struggles and ask others for prayer, or counsel, or help, hinders us as individual Christians and the Body of Christ.  It isn’t weakness to ask for help, rather, it is foolish to trust in yourself and not to seek wise advice.  Proverbs 29:23Pride ends in humiliation, while humility brings honor.” (NLT).  The ultimate source of wisdom is found in the Lord God and His Word.  Proverbs 1:7 reminds us: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (NIV).  

 What is the remedy to our pride?

      The Lord loves us too much to leave us struggling on our own with pride.  He sometimes needs to deal with our arrogant, stubborn pride using the painful reality of our limitations.  Here are portions of Pastor Charles Swindoll’s article, “Pride is a thorny issue.”

      In my experience, the number one obstacle to finishing well in Christian life and ministry is not sexual immorality or unbridled greed…. Those head-turning and heartbreaking stories may make headlines, but the real enemy to finishing well often goes undivulged and unreported: pride. That insidious sin of the heart is the root of the more obvious fruits—envy, boasting, unteachability, arrogance, selfish ambition, lust, and greed.

      I’ve observed that pride is a particularly acute malady for three categories of people who have a disposition toward it: the highly intelligent, the greatly gifted, and the deeply religious. Genius, talent, and spirituality attract attention, laud, and applause. Pride is quick to take a bow. Yet this disease of pride can quickly turn into a condition that disfigures our character…

      In this mortal life, burdened by our sin nature and surrounded by temptations, no instant remedy completely cures the disease of pride. It won’t be cured until these sinful bodies are replaced by glorious bodies free from corruption. Yet God hasn’t left us to suffer from the affliction of pride without treatment in this life…

      Each May, at the end of the academic year at Dallas Seminary, the handful of top preachers of the senior class get a turn in the pulpit of Chafer Chapel. One year a talented young man preached on the passage in John 13 in which Jesus washed His disciples’ feet. Talk about humility! It’s hard to beat Jesus’ example.

      After a compelling exposition of that simple text, the young senior-class preacher leaned low into the microphone, looked across the faces in that auditorium, and asked his fellow students, “Do you want to have a great ministry—or do you just want to be great?”

      The packed chapel went silent. Nobody blinked.  Though the question was directed toward the students, it hit everybody hard—from junior faculty to seminary president. I’ll never forget that question. I doubt that anyone who heard it will.

      With that single challenge, he captured the crucial issue: greatness. Let us seek greatness, not as the world defines it, but according to the example of Christ. A greatness achieved not by flexing worldly power, but by breaking earthly pride.

      For the highly intelligent, greatly gifted, and deeply religious, pride is often the major roadblock in the path to maturity. But the Lord uses painful events and chronic suffering to mold us and fashion us into the image of His Son.

At times, God will make you aware of attitudes and behaviors in your own life that need to be changed. It may seem like He’s crushing you, but in reality, He’s curing you. It may feel like He’s harming you, but He’s healing you. Let’s be brutally honest: it may look like He hates you, but He loves you.

      You may be there right now. And for the first time in your life, you may realize that there is a holy purpose in it all. He’s calling you to attention and turning you away from yourself and toward His Son.

      If your pain has brought you to your knees, I commend you to our loving Father. That’s the best place to begin the rest of your life. I invite you to call out to Him. Tell Him that your fight is over, that you willingly surrender.

      In utter and complete weakness, tell Him you’ve come to the end of your own resources. The crushing in this crucible has made you aware of your desperate need for hope, a hope that is found only in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Tell him this—say it aloud: “Your grace is enough for me.” [3]

      Pride is so addictive because initially it feels good and feeds our egos, but it is so destructive, and opposed to all that is truly good.  Proverbs 11:2 says: Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” (NLT).  In humility submit your way to the Lord, trusting Him to do in and through you what will bring him glory and honour, rather than seeking it for yourself.

HymnIn Christ alone

Benediction: God did not say that it would be easy to bring the good news to all people, but God did say that God would be with you. So go now in peace, walking humbly with God. Bring the good news of hope to all the people. AMEN.

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Life’s Deadly Follies: Greed – Proverbs 11:24-28.

October 15, 2023. Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to Worship: Matthew 7:9–11, 7. “Would any of you give your hungry child a stone, if the child asked for some bread? Would you give your child a snake if the child asked for a fish? As bad as you are, you still know how to give good gifts to your children. But your heavenly Father is even more ready to give good things to people who ask.” “Ask, and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened for you.” (CEV)

We are continuing our look at the book of Proverbs, with a study of life’s deadly follies, otherwise known as the seven deadly sins.  These are sins of the mind and attitude.  Though we may try to hide them, they influence our actions, infect our relationships and unless abandoned, will sever our walk with God.  Today we are looking at greed.  How do you define greed? …  The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines greed as: “intense and selfish desire for wealth, power, or food.”

Greed is easy for us to identify…in other people – they are wealthythey are stingy – they don’t help anyone!  Yet as tempting as it may be to correct other people, that is not our job nor is it what we will be held accountable for, rather, God will ask each of us what we did with what he gave us!  Now I suppose we could get this message over with quickly if we all would agree that since none of us here are among the mega-rich, we couldn’t possibly have a problem with greed.  However, we first should get a Biblical understanding of what greed is. Is it only about money and problem just for the wealthy or something we all need to be wary of?  Greed can infect us in subtle ways, like the farmer who said: “I’m not greedy, all I want is the land next to mine.” Seems simple, but there’s always the next field and the next…

King Solomon, who wrote much of the Book of Proverbs also wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes where he addresses the futility of craving money: 10 Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness! 11 The more you have, the more people come to help you spend it. So what good is wealth—except perhaps to watch it slip through your fingers! 12 People who work hard sleep well, whether they eat little or much. But the rich seldom get a good night’s sleep.” Ecclesiastes 5:10–12 (NLT). We can clearly see the folly of giving our lives to get something which can so easily slip through our fingers. What is greed and why does God hate it so much?  Wait a minute, does God really HATE greed?  Listen to Colossians 3:5. “You must put to death, then, the earthly desires at work in you, such as sexual immorality, indecency, lust, evil passions, and greed (for greed is a form of idolatry).” (GNB)

The Apostle Paul describes greed (another word the Bible uses for it is “covet”) as idolatry.  Giving your devotion to something other than the Lord God. This is why Pastor John Piper defines greed as: “desiring something so much you lose your contentment in God” (“Future Grace, Part 5”).  So, greed is not just about having a lot of money or stuff, but believing that having these things will make you happy, will fill the longing in your heart.  I need God, plus my stuff…and that stuff over there would be great too… Yet Ephesians 5:5 warns: “You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.” (NLT). Why is Greed so foolish and dangerous that it disqualifies someone from the kingdom of heaven?

1. Greed is foolish because: money doesn’t last.

4 Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness. 5 Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.” Proverbs 23:4–5 (NIV).

In Jesus’ parable of the lost son, we can imagine that the youngest son dreamt of all the things he could do with his inheritance if his father would give it to him.  Yet when it was gone, he was worse off than he had been before he had received the money (Luke 15:11-32).

Wanting and collecting things that you hope will fulfill you, is not only exhausting, in time, it will all end up being meaningless anyway!  Someone asked this question: “Why do we spend so much energy acquiring the stuff of future garage sales?”  A dad took his children on a tour of Elvis Pressley’s Graceland estate. Elvis was a music star who had accumulated many outstanding things in his day – he had a mobile phone and even a tv in his car.  Yet the kids remarked they could do more on their phones and watch DVDs in the TV in their car – the shine of Elvis’ treasures was gone!  Greed is foolish because: money doesn’t last.  That is why Jesus said to put your energy into saving up heavenly treasure which won’t rust or get stolen (Matthew 6:19-21).

2. Greed is foolish because: it hurts you and those around you.

Proverbs 15:27 “Greedy people bring trouble to their families, but the person who can’t be paid to do wrong will live.” (NCV).

Achan’s greed for the treasures of Jericho destroyed himself, his family and cost the lives of 36 soldiers (Joshua 7:1-26).  Greed leads people to care more about acquiring status and wealth, than the effects their choices will have on their families.  Even if nothing illegal is being done, chasing the almighty dollar takes away from building lasting relationships with your family.  The children may have all the stuff they want, but in the end, what they need are their parents.

Proverbs 11:24–26 “One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. People curse the one who hoards grain, but they pray God’s blessing on the one who is willing to sell.” (NIV).

God blesses our generosity, but greed hardens us to the needs of others.  We fear that we will have less if we give some of our stuff away, yet God has given us everything we have.  He is pleased when we help those in need because, in addition to helping them, we are showing that we trust God to look after our own needs as well.  Listen to the investment promise in Proverbs 19:17: “Mercy to the needy is a loan to God, and God pays back those loans in full.” (MSG).  In Deuteronomy 24:19 the Lord told his people not to be stingy and he would bless their work: “When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.” (NIV)

Greed is foolish because the things we are dedicating our lives to won’t last, and at the same time, we are hurting ourselves and those around us by being consumed by our greed.  A third reason to reject greed is that:

3. Greed is dangerous because: it demonstrates unbelief.

Daniel Akin in his commentary says: Greed is trusting in and finding happiness in money rather than in God. The problem is not wealth but rather our attitude toward it.  Proverbs 11:28 says: “Those who depend on their wealth will fall like the leaves of autumn, but the righteous will prosper like the leaves of summer.” (GNB).  We need to check ourselves and ask: “What is my attitude towards wealth?  Am I placing my trust and happiness in it, rather than God?”  Akin says “If your joy is determined by your money and possessions, you are falsely worshiping something other than God. If you are constantly anxious about provision, it reveals that you believe you need something other than God to be happy. When money and stuff are seen as the path to a happy life, you are in idolatry. Jesus says that you cannot serve both God and money (Matt 6:24”  

Those who are greedy do not trust God, they trust in something other than Jesus.  That is why Jesus said it was hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of God (Matt. 19:23).  Why is that? They do not see their need for God, because they can provide for their own needs, but how long will that last?  Even if you have enough for your lifetime, money will not get you into God’s kingdom!  Proverbs 11:4 says: “Riches won’t help on the day of judgment, but right living can save you from death.” (NLT). 

4. The solution to greed is believing the Gospel.

The problem is not money, it is trusting in money, loving money, devoting our lives to money, rather than submitting ourselves to the plans of the Lord God.  The Apostle Paul warns in 1 Timothy 6:9–10: “But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.” (NLT). 

Satan tempted Jesus with the things of this world.  While tempting him in the wilderness, he offered him the kingdoms of this world, if Jesus would worship him.  Akin writes: “Jesus refused the fleeting pleasures of this life so that he could enjoy eternal ones. He knew what we do not seem to understand—our cravings will never be satisfied in this life. Man does not live by bread or flat screen TV alone; he lives by God alone (Matt 4:4).”  After Jesus’ death and resurrection, he stood before his disciples and could say: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Matthew 28:18b (NIV).  God the Father had blessed his faithful obedience.  “A life devoted to things is a dead life, a stump; a God-shaped life is a flourishing tree.” Proverbs 11:28 (MSG).

The antidote to greed is to put your trust in God and believe that he loves you and will never abandon you – just look at what he did for you on the cross!  The writer of Hebrews says: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”” Hebrews 13:5–6 (NIV). Jesus left his throne in heaven to save you from your sins (2 Cor. 8:9).  Follow the example of your Lord Jesus and live generous lives.  You do not need to be rich to be generous, just thankful people, who trust in a generous God!  “Don’t be obsessed with getting more material things. Be relaxed with what you have. Since God assured us, “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,” we can boldly quote, God is there, ready to help; I’m fearless no matter what. Who or what can get to me?” Hebrews 13:5–6 (MSG).

Closing song: “Knowing you”

Benediction: “Now I am putting you in the care of God and the message about his grace. It is able to give you strength, and it will give you the blessings God has for all his holy people. Acts 20:32 (NCV)

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Proverbs 16:1-9.  Where is contentment found?
 
Oct. 8, 2023.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.
 

Call to Worship: “Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” (Psalm 100:2–4 NIV)

      Happy Thanksgiving everyone.  We are continuing to glean wisdom from the Book of Proverbs.  Since this is the Thanksgiving Day weekend, I want you to think about this question: What brings you to the place of thankfulness where you can be thankful?  In other words, what does it take for you to be thankful?  Some possible answers might be:

–      No worries – (is that possible on this earth?).
–      No debts.
–      No wants.

      Have you ever thought about the goal of advertising?  In part it is to inform and instruct us about new things or businesses.  However much of today’s advertisement aims to offer you something while taking it away at the same time?  Any guesses what that is?  Contentment. Some ads are specifically designed to arose feelings of need and desire, with their product being just the answer to fulfill your desires and end your discontentment.  

      There is an assault on our contentment from all directions, and it is having an impact.  I read an article which said: One hundred years ago, it when asked, the average American had 70 wants. A similar survey taken recently showed the average person had nearly 500 on their list. —Beveridge Paper Co.

      David Owen in a Reader’s Digest article called “Rich as a King” addresses our growing list of necessities with some humor: William I, who conquered England some 930 years ago, had wealth, power, and a ruthless army. Yet although William was stupefyingly rich by the standard of his time, he had nothing remotely resembling a flush toilet. No paper towels, no riding lawn mower. How did he get by?

      History books are filled with wealthy people who were practically destitute compared to me. I have triple-tracked storm windows; Croesus did not. Entire nations trembled before Alexander the Great, but he couldn’t buy cat food in bulk. Czar Nicholas II lacked a compound-miter saw.

      Given how much better off I am than so many famous dead people, you’d think I’d be content. The trouble is that, like most people, I compare my prosperity with that of living persons: neighbors, high-school classmates, TV personalities. The covetousness I feel toward my friend Howard’s new kitchen is not mitigated by the fact that no French monarch ever had a refrigerator with glass doors.

      There is really no rising or falling standard of living. Over the centuries people simply find different stuff to feel grumpy about. You’d think that merely not having bubonic plague would put us in a good mood. But no, we want a hot tub too.

      Of course, one way to achieve happiness would be to realize that even by contemporary standards the things I own are pretty nice. My house is smaller than the houses of many investment bankers, but even so it has a lot more rooms than my wife and I can keep clean.

      Besides, to people looking back at our era from a century or two in the future, those bankers’ fancy countertops and my own worn Formica will seem equally shabby. I can’t keep up with my neighbor right now. But just wait. Condensed from Home, David Owen, in Reader’s Digest, July, 1996, p. 193[1]

What brings contentment?

      Contentment is more than just having things.  It goes much deeper into ourselves, though we often believe the advertising that says having more or better material things is what will bring us contentment. Wealth isn’t bad, but if you sacrifice your character to get it, you have lost your greatest possession, to gain what is only temporary! Proverbs 16:19: “It is better to live humbly with the poor than to share plunder with the proud.” (NLT) Proverbs 28:6. “Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity, than a person who is crooked, though he is rich.” (NASB 2020)

      The writers of Proverbs understood that contentment is not dependent on things but on the company you keep and the life you live: “A bowl of soup with someone you love is better than a steak with someone you hate.”  15:17 (NLT).  G.K. Chesterton wrote: True contentment is a real, even an active virtue – not only affirmative but creative. It is the power of getting out of any situation all there is in it.  Some mothers are especially good at this with their children, helping them to appreciate what they have, instead of focusing on what they don’t have.  “Yes, we don’t have sprinkles for the cupcakes, but look how blue the sky is, and listen to the concert the birds are putting on for us – how can we stay sad on a beautiful day like today, we are so blessed!”

What brings contentment?

      The choices we make and the goals we set are what create either contentment or discontentment.  The Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 6, encourages Timothy to find his contentment in trusting in God: 1 Timothy 6:6–8, 17 “Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So, if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.” “Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment.” (NLT)

      It is God supplies who our needs, this is very clearly taught in Proverbs:

–      The LORD does not let the righteous go hungry but he thwarts the craving of the wicked. Proverbs 10:3 (NIV)

–      When a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him. Proverbs 16:7 (NIV)

–      Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21 (NIV)

      What do these passages tell us?  GOD IS IN CHARGE!  What brings contentment?  Understanding that God is in control.  So, our question should be: Who brings contentment?  Contentment comes through having a living relationship with the living God.  The Apostle Paul, criticized by some preachers for being in a Roman prison for preaching about Jesus, could still write to his friends in Philippi: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12–13 (NIV). Who is it that gave Paul the strength to be content in any and every situation?  The Lord Jesus Christ! 

      Bill Gothard wrote: “Contentment is realizing that God has already provided everything we need for our present happiness.”    There is much in the life that promises the inner contentment we long for, but there is only one who can give us what we need in unending supply – Jesus – draw from him today and every day after.

Benediction: You have been given every good gift for proclaiming God’s presence and God’s love. The world is thirsting for this good news. People struggle for words of hope and peace. As you have been blessed, now go to be a blessing in God’s Name. AMEN.

 

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Life’s Deadly Follies: Envy – Proverbs 14:30.

October 1, 2023. Esterhazy Baptist Church.

 

Call to Worship: “Who is like you, Lord God Almighty? You, Lord, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you.” “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord.” Psalm 89:8, 15 (NIV).

      We are continuing our look at the book of Proverbs, with a study of life’s deadly follies, otherwise known as the seven deadly sins.  Last week we looked at gluttony, today we are addressing envy. 

      Envy and jealousy are often used interchangeably in English, even in Bible translations, are they the same?  While them may appear similar in the responses they evoke, they have different sources.  To envy (or covet) according to the dictionary is: painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage.”[1] Envy is a resentful awareness of an advantage or possession someone else has that you want!  This is what the serpent stirred up in Adam & Eve, telling them that they could become like God.  Cain envied his brother Abel because God accepted Abel’s sacrifice, but not his. So out of envy he killed his own brother.  Matthew 27:18 says that the Jewish leadership arrested and brought Jesus before Pilate to be killed because of envy!

      While envy is wanting what someone else has, jealousy is a fear that someone else will take what we have.  We may become jealous if our best friend is spending time with others, or if someone at school or work is challenging our title for “the best, the quickest, the friendliest…”  King Saul envied the praise David received for his military successes, and he became jealous of David because he feared the people would take the throne away from him and give it to David, so he tried to kill David, even though David was loyal to him.  1 Samuel 18:8–9 says Saul did not like this, and he became very angry. He said, “For David they claim tens of thousands, but only thousands for me. They will be making him king next!” And so, he was jealous and suspicious of David from that day on.” (GNB).

      Is there ever a situation when envy is appropriate? No, the tenth commandment forbid coveting anything which is your neighbour’s including his wife.  Is there ever a situation when jealousy is appropriate?  There must be, because the Bible tells us our God is a jealous God.  In the midst of the second commandment which forbids the making of idols we read: 5 You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods.” Exodus 20:5a (NLT).  

      Jonathan Akin in Exalting Jesus in Proverbs says: Jealousy is not wrong when it involves an exclusive relationship being threatened. For example, God is jealous for his people and their exclusive devotion to him (Zech 8:2; Jas 4:5). God is also jealous for his glory (Num 25:11). There should be a positive jealousy and passion for exclusive devotion to God.

      The same can be said for our mate in marriage! Some guys are real idiots when it comes to their wife’s jealousy for their relationship. Oftentimes when a wife questions her husband about a relationship with another woman out of love for her husband and concern for her marriage, the husband will get angry and defensive and try to make his wife feel like a moron—like she does not know what she’s talking about. That is ridiculous and foolish. Your wife’s concern for your marriage and her willingness to ask you about it is a gift from God.[2]

      Let’s now answer the question:

Why is envy so deadly?

1.  Envy hurts you.
Proverbs 14:30. “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” (NIV)
Pr. 14:30. A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body; jealousy is like cancer in the bones.” (NLT)

 

      Envy hurts you because it eats away at your inner peace, breeds discontentment and starts to suck the joy out of your life.  Valerie Fentress gives an example of how envy stole her peace: When my husband and I were first married, money was tight, and I was unemployed. This was at the dawn of the home and garden cable TV shows. I found myself hooked to these homes and their magnificent transformations. Not all cable TV is inherently sinful, but I found it fed my discontent. I had a roof over my head, but it didn’t have shiplap or exposed beams. I had a kitchen to cook in, but laminate on the countertops…I had been making an idol of my home’s appearance instead of being thankful for what God had provided.[3] 

 
2.  Envy hurts others.
Proverbs 27:4. “Anger is cruel, and wrath is like a flood, but jealousy is even more dangerous.” (NLT)
      King Saul’s envy and jealousy toward David, caused David to lose his relationship with his wife, his parents, his position, as he had to run for his life from Saul.  Envy of the praise Jesus was given and his independence from them, lead the Jewish leadership to seek Jesus’ death.
 
3.  Envy leads to other sins.
Proverbs 24:1–2. “Do not envy the wicked, do not desire their company; for their hearts plot violence, and their lips talk about making trouble.” (NIV)
      Envy leads to other sins because at its root is the belief that God has withheld his best from YOU.  You may lash out at those who have what you feel you deserve or use sinful means to attain what you think will complete you and return your peace.  You may question why you obey God, when the wicked have the life you want, and they seem happy.
 
4.  Envy will be judged by God.
Proverbs 3:31–32 “Don’t envy violent people or copy their ways. Such wicked people are detestable to the Lord, but he offers his friendship to the godly.” (NLT)

Proverbs 24:19–20. “Don’t fret because of evildoers; don’t envy the wicked. For evil people have no future; the light of the wicked will be snuffed out.” (NLT)

      It is tempting to envy those who prosper despite their sinful behaviour, and question why you should continue living a God honouring life.  The reason not to abandon the one who gave himself for you, is that the “blessings” sin provides is short lived.  As Jesus said: What will you gain, if you own the whole world but destroy yourself? What would you give to get back your soul?” Matthew 16:26 (CEV).  Romans 6:23 says: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (NIV). Envy is a sin and will be judged by God! Therefore:

How can I combat envy?

·       Envy is caused by wishing I had things or abilities that others have. 

·       Envy’s source is discontentment with how God made me & what he’s given me.  At its root is the lie of Satan: “God is holding out on you, but you can be like god, eat from the tree he told you not to.”

      I can combat envy by trusting God, that he knows me, understands my needs, personality and how best I can become more like Jesus; therefore, I will trust him to take care of me.  I will also battle envy by practicing contentment, believing God knows what he’s doing.  Philippians 4:12–13 (GNB) 12 I know what it is to be in need and what it is to have more than enough. I have learnt this secret, so that anywhere, at any time, I am content, whether I am full or hungry, whether I have too much or too little. 13 I have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives me. Implicate in Paul’s statement is trust that the Lord knows his needs and will supply what he needs to deal with any situation he is in, so he remains content. 

      We can trust God completely, even if he has something different for us then for those around us.  Do not envy, trust him!  What is it to you if he has a different plan for different people?  Doesn’t that confirm that God is tailoring something specific to how he made and gifted you.  Be content and trust his plan for you is to be for his honour and glory.

      Valerie Fentress quit watching HG TV, found other activities and focused on having a grateful heart for the blessings that God was providing.  Combat envy by rejecting “The Happiness Lie” – that if you only had what others had you would be truly happy.  Satan uses this lie to keep us chasing an allusion, rather than seeking real peace in a relationship with God.  Combat and protect yourself from envy with contentment in the Lord, reminding yourself that he held nothing back to save you, both for now and eternity!  Proverbs 23:17–18 17 Don’t let your heart envy sinners; instead, always fear the Lord. 18 For then you will have a future, and your hope will not be dashed. (CSB).  Thank you, Lord!

Closing Hymn: #116 “Take the name of Jesus with you” (vv. 1,2)

Benediction13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 (NIV).



[1] Merriam-Webster, I. (2003). In Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary. (Eleventh ed.). Merriam-Webster, Inc.

[2] Akin, J. (2017). Exalting jesus in proverbs (D. Platt, D. L. Akin, & T. Merida, Eds.; p. 229). Holman Reference.

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Life’s Deadly Follies: Gluttony, Proverbs 23.19-21.

Esterhazy Baptist Church.  September 24, 2023.

 

Call to Worship: Thank God because he’s good, because his love never quits. This is the very day God acted— let’s celebrate and be festive! Thank God—he’s so good. His love never quits!” Psalm 118:1, 24, 29 (The Message)

      The book of Proverbs is not just a collection of snappy sayings to repeat to your children, it offers us God’s wisdom for navigating life.  Because of this, it deals with subjects which may make us uncomfortable, yet they are things we will have to make decisions about.  That is the purpose of Proverbs, careful self-evaluation. So, let’s examine our own hearts for any sinful tendencies, which we must then choose to reject. 

      In Proverbs 23:19-21, the wise father warns his children away from joining with people whose behaviour will lead to poverty: Listen, my son, and be wise, and set your heart on the right path: Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.” Proverbs 23:19–21 (NIV).  The father warns his son away from those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat: drunkards and gluttons.  While the church has been vocal about the danger of allowing alcohol to control you, gluttony tends not to be something to be concerned about.  Yet, the Bible is clear, allowing anything, to take priority in your life over God is wrong, even if it is just food.

      As men, many of us have or have had the belief that a missed or delayed meal could be fatal!  As a result, we can get very particular about food; its quality, quantity and variety.  Also, most of us have eaten when we weren’t really hungry, for various “therapeutic” reasons – boredom, companionship, loneliness, happiness or sorrow.  Food can be a great friend or a controlling taskmaster.

      While the abundance of the good, safe food we have in Canada is a blessing, the super-sizing of current generations suggests something more than alleviating our hunger is at work in our love of food.  small girl who was showing a bathroom scale to a playmate was heard to say: “All I know is you stand on it and it makes you angry.…”[1] Let’s be clear, while obesity is a major health concern in North America, gluttony does not equal obesity.  There are many medical reasons for obesity.  Pastor John Piper defines gluttony as “a craving for food or drink that masters you.”  That’s the key, who’s your master?  You can tell by where you turn for consolation or by what occupies your thoughts, passions and time, “have you heard about that new restaurant? They say the food is to die for! I can’t wait to try it.”  Philippians 3:19 warns of those whose god is their stomach.  These people are living to eat, rather than eating to live. Here’s an extreme example from history of being mastered by food:

      Thomas Costain’s history, THE THREE EDWARDS, described the life of Raynald the third, a fourteenth-century duke in what is now Belgium who was grossly overweight. After a violent quarrel, Raynald’s younger brother Edward led a successful revolt against him. Edward captured Raynald but did not kill him. Instead, he built a room around Raynald in the Nieuwkerk castle and promised him he could regain his title and property as soon as he was able to leave the room.

      This would not have been difficult for most people since the room had several windows and a door of near-normal size, and none was locked or barred. The problem was Raynald’s size. To regain his freedom, he needed to lose weight. But Edward knew his older brother, and each day he sent a variety of delicious foods. Instead of dieting his way out of prison, Raynald grew fatter.

      When Duke Edward was accused of cruelty, his answer was: “My brother is not a prisoner. He may leave when he so wills.” Raynald stayed in that room for ten years and wasn’t released until after Edward died in battle. By then his health was so ruined he died within a year. . . a prisoner of his own appetite.[2]  Imagine not being willing to control your appetite for your own good.  The Bible has examples of this as well.

      In Genesis 25:29-34 Esau felt that filling his empty stomach was more important than keeping his birthright, so he sold it to his twin brother Jacob for a pot of stew.  Esau is an example of living for the moment and not thinking about the future consequences of your current choice: Hebrews 12:16 says: “Make sure that no one… is as concerned about earthly things as Esau was. He sold his rights as the firstborn son for a single meal.” (GW).  

      In Numbers 11:4-6, God’s miraculous provision of heavenly manna to sustain the Israelites wasn’t sufficient.  They began regretting they left Egypt (Num. 11:20), as they longingly remembered the fish and vegetables they had to eat there.  Need I remind you they weren’t holidaying in this Egypt they longed to return to – they were slaves there!  Talk about allowing one’s stomach to become one’s god!

      In Proverbs 23:1-3 the father tells his children practice moderation and self-restrain, using memorable language to help them remember: When you sit to dine with a ruler, note well what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony. Do not crave his delicacies, for that food is deceptive.” Proverbs 23:1–3 (NIV).  It may be that this is a test of your character.  Proverbs 25:28 likens a lack of self-discipline to a city with no protective walls: “Like a city that is broken into and without walls So is a person who has no self-control over his spirit.” (NASB 2020).  When you have the use of the company expense account, can you show restrain or do you feel entitled to indulge yourself with it? This is the test in Pr. 23:1-3.

      Gluttony, at its root, is the sin of selfishness and self-worship – pleasing myself is all that matters, so I don’t care about the needs of others.  In Amos 6:1, 4-7 the prophet spoke God’s judgement on those with this sinful self-entitled attitude: 1 What sorrow awaits you who lounge in luxury in Jerusalem, and you who feel secure in Samaria! You are famous and popular in Israel, and people go to you for help.” “4 How terrible for you who sprawl on ivory beds and lounge on your couches, eating the meat of tender lambs from the flock and of choice calves fattened in the stall. 5 You sing trivial songs to the sound of the harp and fancy yourselves to be great musicians like David. 6 You drink wine by the bowlful and perfume yourselves with fragrant lotions. You care nothing about the ruin of your nation. 7 Therefore, you will be the first to be led away as captives. Suddenly, all your parties will end.” (NLT)

      Gluttony breeds the allusion of self-sufficiency and independence from God: Luke 12:16–21 16 Then he (Jesus) told them a story: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. 17 He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ 18 Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. 19 And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’ 20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’ 21 “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.”” (NLT)

      Jesus continues in Luke 12:22-34 to tell his followers to make their priority seeking God’s Kingdom, because God is worthy of their trust, and knowing their needs will provide: Luke 12:29–31 “29 And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. 30 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. 31 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.” (NLT).  Food is not bad, God provides it for our life and wellbeing, yet we need enjoy it with healthy moderation and not let our cravings dictate our behaviour.

      How can I conquer my gluttonous tendencies to serve my wants and desires rather than seeking after Jesus and his kingdom?

1) Confess it as a sin: 5 I made my sins known to you, and I did not cover up my guilt.  I decided to confess them to you, O Lord.  Then you forgave all my sins.” Psalm 32:5 (GW). 2) Go to Jesus to satisfy your longings, he is the living water and the bread from heaven. 

3) Submit to the directing of the Holy Spirit of God rather than your own spirit.  Galatians 5:22–23 tell us: 22 …the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control…” (NLT). Self-control will result as you submit to the Holy Spirit’s guidance. 

      Battle the tendency towards gluttony and self absorption by responding to the Holy Spirit’s prompting to share with others.  “The generous man enriches himself by giving, the miser hoards himself poor.” As God’s stewards, we are managers of his estate.  Be at peace, he is providing for us.  Acknowledge him as your provider and Lord, and allow him to bless others through your giving, looking for opportunities to be a blessing with your time, resources and presence.

Hymn: #371 “Have thine own way Lord” (vv. 1,3,4)

BenedictionMay the Hero of all history talk personally to you. May you find in Jesus the answer to the deepest needs of your life. May you remember your highest privilege: you are known by God and cherished by heaven. – Max Lucado



[1] Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (p. 332). Bible Communications, Inc.

[2] Galaxie Software. (2002). 10,000 Sermon Illustrations. Biblical Studies Press.

 
 

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Proverbs 10.6-14, 18-21, 31-32.  Wisdom with words.

Sept. 17, 2023.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

 

Call to worship: “I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations. I will declare that your love stands firm forever, that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself.” Psalm 89:1–2 (NIV)

     The book of Proverbs covers many subjects: listening to and following wisdom’s direction, work, riches, and sexual promiscuity.  It may surprise you to learn that the book of Proverbs has more to say about our words than anything else it addresses in our lives” [1] The book of Proverbs recognizes the importance of our words by addressing this subject approximately 150 times in 915 verses (one-sixth of the book).[2] 

      Proverbs 10:6–14, 18-21, 31-32 (NLT). “6 The godly are showered with blessings; the words of the wicked conceal violent intentions. 7 We have happy memories of the godly, but the name of a wicked person rots away. 8 The wise are glad to be instructed, but babbling fools fall flat on their faces. 9 People with integrity walk safely, but those who follow crooked paths will be exposed. 10 People who wink at wrong cause trouble, but a bold reproof promotes peace. 11 The words of the godly are a life-giving fountain; the words of the wicked conceal violent intentions. 12 Hatred stirs up quarrels, but love makes up for all offenses. 13 Wise words come from the lips of people with understanding, but those lacking sense will be beaten with a rod. 14 Wise people treasure knowledge, but the babbling of a fool invites disaster.” 18 Hiding hatred makes you a liar; slandering others makes you a fool. 19 Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut. 20 The words of the godly are like sterling silver; the heart of a fool is worthless. 21 The words of the godly encourage many, but fools are destroyed by their lack of common sense.” 31 The mouth of the godly person gives wise advice, but the tongue that deceives will be cut off. 32 The lips of the godly speak helpful words, but the mouth of the wicked speaks perverse words.

     1 Corinthians calls us to glorify God with your body, the wisdom of Proverbs tells us that begins by controlling your tongue!  Proverbs 18:21 in The Message Translation says: “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.”  Aldous Huxley said: “Thanks to words, we have been able to rise above the brutes, and thanks to words we have often sunk to the level of the demons.”[3]  As we look applying wisdom to our words, it is not surprising that sometimes Proverbs tells us to:

1.  Shut Up

     It is said that a young man came to the great philosopher Socrates in order to be instructed in oratory.  The moment the young man was introduced he began to talk, and there was an incessant stream for some time.  When Socrates finally got a chance to speak, he told the young man, “I have decided to charge you a double fee.”  “A double fee, why is that?”  The old sage replied, “I will have to teach you two lessons.  First, how to hold your tongue, and then how to use it.” [4] 

     Proverbs 10:19 in the NIV says: “Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.” The NLT says: “Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.”  Knowing when to speak and when instead to keep silent is a gift of wisdom, for both the speaker than those around them! My father used to tell me, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”  Proverbs 11:12 “Whoever derides their neighbor has no sense, but the one who has understanding holds their tongue.” (NIV)

Proverbs 17:27 “The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered.” (NIV)

Proverbs 19:11 “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” (NIV) 

     Proverbs warnings about words include dwelling on others failures (17.9), spreading lies (10.18) and gossiping (26.20-22).  Think before you speak, because, as they say: “a word and a stone cannot be called back.”[5] Yes, words can be hurtful, however, words can also be helpful.  Proverbs tells us to use our words to:

2.  Build Up

Proverbs 10:11. “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.” (NIV).  Proverbs 13:14. “The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death.” (NIV)  

Hebrews 10:25 tells us to encourage one another. William Barclay in his commentary on Hebrews says about encouragement: One of the highest of human duties is that of encouragement… It is easy to laugh at men’s ideals, to pour cold water on their enthusiasm, to discourage them. The world is full of discouragers; we have a Christian duty to encourage one another. Many a time a word of praise or thanks or appreciation or cheer has kept a man on his feet. Blessed is the man who speaks such a word.[6] 

     Generally speaking, how do you use your words?  Are you an encourager or discourager to those around you?  Which category would King Solomon put you in based on your words – among the wise or the fools?  Do you need to make some changes on how you approach life and use your words?  Only the Lord God can truly help you with that.  Ephesians 4:21-24 & 29 says: 21 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.” 29 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” Ephesians 4:29 (NLT). Who around you are in need of encouragement?  Everyone will benefit from someone appreciating a positive quality within them, especially those facing life’s challenges.

     There’s a time to shut up, hold your tongue and not let that word of sarcasm or criticism out of your mouth.  There is also a time to use your words to build up, to come along side and encourage someone who feels discouraged.  Finally, there is a time when, if you see something which needs to be addressed, you must:

3.  Speak Up

Proverbs 31:8–9. “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (NIV)

     T.R. Glover said: Four words destroyed slavery, “For whom Christ died.[7] The Lord God has always wanted his people to speak up for the oppressed and forgotten.  In Deuteronomy 10:17-19 he reminded them: God, your God, is the God of all gods, he’s the Master of all masters, a God immense and powerful and awesome. He doesn’t play favorites, takes no bribes, makes sure orphans and widows are treated fairly, takes loving care of foreigners by seeing that they get food and clothing. You must treat foreigners with the same loving care— remember, you were once foreigners in Egypt.” (The Message).

     We are to speak up and share our faith when we are prompted by the Lord.  Dr. Theodore Ferris tells of a young Presbyterian minister who was in charge of a large city church. The most active and generous member was a woman whose wealthy husband never attended. With the passing of the years, the young cleric felt impelled to do something about it. He finally made an appointment with the industrialist. The businessman seemed even more austere as he sat quietly behind his great desk. Awkwardly, the young man came to the point of his visit. In very simple language he set forth the Christian proposition and then added, “I think you ought to do something about this one way or another.” The man did not answer. Carefully the minister reiterated his conversation. Again there was silence. A third time the preacher rephrased the claims of Christ. Finally, the well-to-do man reached for his memo pad and scribbled this note: “I am so deeply moved that I cannot speak.” The minister was the first person in years to challenge this giant to confess Christ. He became a member of his church and was an effective Christian.[8]

     An old saint wisely observed of himself and his peers: “Many of us are like a pair of old shoes—all worn out but the tongue!” —B. G. Bosh.[9]  Talking is something we can do so easily, sometimes without thinking and without care! There is a verse in a children’s song which we all need to remember: “O be careful little lips what you say.”  We all need God’s wisdom to guide our words, regardless of our age.  Proverbs 15:3 says: “God doesn’t miss a thing; he’s alert to good and evil alike.” (The Message).  Jesus said that the true condition of our hearts is seen by what comes out of our mouths: Matthew 15:11 & 18-19 says: “It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.” “…the words you speak come from the heart; that’s what defiles you. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander.” (NLT).  

     Wisdom with words begins by paying attention to what’s coming out of your mouth & the impact those words are having. I’m careful of the words I say to keep them soft and sweet. I never know from day to day which ones I’ll have to eat.[10] Proverbs 26:20 says “Fire goes out without wood, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops.” (NLT).  

     We are each responsible for our words, don’t blame others for upsetting you or “starting it.”  Having wisdom with our words comes as we submit to Jesus as Lord, ask the Holy Spirit of God to guard and guide out lips, and obey when he corrects us: “O be careful little lips what you say.”  Proverbs 10:31a & 32a The mouth of the godly person gives wise advice…The lips of the godly speak helpful words…” (NLT). Eph. 4:29 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” (NLT).

Hymn: “Let it be said of us.”

Benediction: “May the words from my mouth and the thoughts from my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my defender.” Psalm 19:14 (GW).

 



[1] Ortlund, R. C., Jr. (2012). Preaching the Word: Proverbs—Wisdom that Works (R. K. Hughes, Ed.; p. 132). Crossway.

[2] Newheiser, J. (2008). Opening up Proverbs (p. 136). Day One Publications.

[3] Huxley, Aldous, Adonis & the Alphabet as quoted in An encyclopedia of compelling quotations by R. Damiel Watkins, p. 783, © 2001 Hendrickson Publishers Inc.

[4] Zodhiates, Spiros, Illustrations of Bible truths, pp. 264-265.  AMG Publishers ©1995.

[5] Fuller, Thomas, Gnomolagia as quoted in An encyclopedia of compelling quotations by R. Damiel Watkins, p. 783, © 2001 Hendrickson Publishers Inc.

[6] Barclay, W., ed. (1975). The letter to the Hebrews (pp. 122–123). The Westminster John Knox Press.

[7] Jones, G. C. (1986). 1000 illustrations for preaching and teaching (p. 89). Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[8] Jones, G. C. (1986). 1000 illustrations for preaching and teaching (p. 87). Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[9] Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (p. 1424). Bible Communications, Inc.

[10] Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (p. 1425). Bible Communications, Inc.

 
 

Email:ebc@sasktel.net

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Proverbs 5.  Warning against adultery.

Sept. 10, 2023.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to Worship: Psalm 111:1–2, 9-10. “Praise the Lord! I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them.” “He has paid a full ransom for his people. He has guaranteed his covenant with them forever. What a holy, awe-inspiring name he has! Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom. Praise him forever!” (NLT)

      One of the benefits of preaching through a book of the Bible, is you know what text you will be preaching on next week, as you take things in sequence.  An addition benefit is that the Bible deals with topics we might tend to avoid.  Since last Sunday was the Labour Day long week, it made sense to skip ahead to chapter 6 and talk about the hard-working ant.  However, since all of chapter 5 & 7 and half of chapter 6 talk about sex and warns against adultery, wisdom is clearly showing us not to avoid this topic, rather we are to stop, listen and learn.

      Today, as we look at Proverbs chapter 5, I’m going to use an outline from Raymond Ortlund’s Preaching the Word Commentary, Proverbs, wisdom that works.  As we’ve seen, much of Proverbs uses the format of a father sharing his wisdom with his children.  The problem for us as sinful, fallen humanity, is that we have rejected God’s guidance and authority over us.  We want to “do it my way” and have cast off the fatherhood of God[1] and his right to speak into our lives.  Today, hear your loving heavenly Father drawing near for a heart-to-heart conversation with you.
 
I.        5:1-6 – It’s time we had a talk.
My son, pay attention to my wisdom, turn your ear to my words of insight, that you may maintain discretion and your lips may preserve knowledge. For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths wander aimlessly, but she does not know it.” Proverbs 5:1–6 (NIV).

      In this introductory section, the father calls for our attention as he begins to deal with the reality that we WILL face sexual temptation, it is all around us.  Pastor Russell Moore in his book Tempted and tried: Temptation and the triumph of Christ, shared this experience:

       So there I was, standing in a hotel lobby with a strange woman, a throbbing heartbeat, and a guilty conscience. In most ways it wasn’t nearly as bad as it looks typed out on this page. But in lots of ways, it was even worse. I didn’t really do anything wrong—and certainly didn’t set out to do anything wrong. But that was just the problem. Before I knew it, I was scared at how mindless I was about the whole scenario.
       I’d gotten here kind of accidentally. My family and I were driving—through the state of Tennessee, when one of those sudden rainstorms had emerged… Even though we hadn’t gotten nearly as far as I’d hoped, the rain just wasn’t letting up. I pulled the minivan off the highway and left my family in the vehicle while I ran in to check for a vacancy in a chain hotel whose sign we’d seen through the storm.
       I waited in line at the front desk. I was exhausted and irritated, mostly because of the rain and the almost Hindu-like mantra coming from the backseat—“Dad, he’s hitting me”—repeated over and over and over again. My thoughts were clicking around as I waited to check us in, moving from sermon ideas to budget numbers to parenting strategies.
       The clerk, a young woman, gave an artificial pout and then a wink and a half smile, indicating she could tell it’d been a trying day. “Well, hey there,” she said, and as soon as she said it, I noticed she reminded me of a friend I’d known back in college. She had dimples in her cheeks, and she tossed her hair back, holding it there in her hand for a minute as she checked on whether two adjoining rooms, one for my wife and me and one for the kids, would be available that night. When she called me by my first name, I felt a little jump in my stomach… I started to ask, “How do you know my name?” before I realized she was reading my credit card.
       As this woman waited for the credit card machine to rattle out my receipt and punch out my automated key, we talked about the rain outside and about how traffic was bad because of the ball game at the high school stadium down the road. She laughed at my little quips. She teased me about my soaking wet hair from running through the stormy weather. I felt like I was in college again, or maybe even in high school. I didn’t have to judge between disputes over who had whose toys or explain how predestination and free will work together in the Bible. I didn’t have to pay a mortgage or tell a faculty member he couldn’t have a raise. And I liked it.
       Just then I heard a word I never thought would terrify me, but it did, just that once. I heard “Daddy.” And then I heard it again. “Daddy!” my three-year-old son Samuel cried out as he rode through the lobby in the luggage cart being pushed by his two older brothers. “Look at me!”  I did look at him and wiped a bead of sweat from my forehead as I realized I had completely forgotten that my family was waiting outside for me in the van. As I signed the credit card form, I noticed that my voice and body language toward the clerk had suddenly become a good bit more businesslike.
       I felt as if I’d been caught doing something wrong, and it rattled me. As I pushed the luggage cart onto the elevator (“Benjamin, don’t swing from that”; “No, Timothy, you can’t have that 40-ounce Full Throttle energy drink from the vending machine”), I mentally reassured myself that everything was okay. I hadn’t done anything; not even close. But for some reason I had paid attention to that woman, and worse, I hadn’t noticed myself paying attention to her until my kids interrupted me.
       Now on the one hand nothing happened. I hadn’t, to use the biblical language for it, “lusted in my heart” for her. I’d just engaged in a minute of conversation. I’m afraid you’ll think of me as some kind of leering, pervert like preacher when, although I don’t know all my own weaknesses, I don’t think I’m particularly vulnerable at this point… Moreover, this woman’s interest in me was nil. If she read about this, she would, I’m quite sure, not remember it. And if she did remember it, she would probably say, “You mean that little guy who looks like a cricket? Well, bless his heart.”
       But it scared me. I was scared not by what actually happened but by a glimpse into what could have happened. What if I hadn’t been on a road trip with my family, but on a business trip alone, as I often am? What if she’d been interested in me? For a moment, just a moment, I’d forgotten who I was, who I am. Husband. Pastor. Son. Christian. Daddy. I was struck by the thought, It starts like this, doesn’t it? It starts as a series of innocent departures, gradually leading to something more… It scared me to think of how something like this could so seemingly naturally happen.[2]

      Sexual temptation may come in a face-to-face meeting, or on the internet or in a text message; filled with flattery and sweet talk, promising to quench the empty sexual longing within you – but don’t fall for it!  The promised pleasure will be short lived, the honey covered bliss (v. 3) will end up hurting and poisoning your life (v. 4).  Remember, the wise father has seen others destroyed by this temptation, so he warns us not to succumb to it! Ray Ortlund says: “Honey is sweet. So, whatever leaves a bitter aftertaste in your mouth cannot be honey. Don’t be fooled. Don’t judge by the appearances of the moment. The lasting impact tomorrow and thereafter reveals the truth about the present moment.”[3]  Our heavenly Father wants us to wake up to the fact that we are vulnerable to sexual temptations all around us, so he offers us wisdom on how to face it.  In part two of this chapter the father says:

II.       5:7-20 – Listen: Here’s what you need to know.

A – 5:7-14.  Husbands: Keep your hands off every other woman. Wives: Keep your hands off every other man.
 
1)   5:7-11.  Face Reality: The results of adultery.
Now then, my sons, listen to me; do not turn aside from what I say. Keep to a path far from her, do not go near the door of her house, lest you lose your honor to others and your dignity to one who is cruel, lest strangers feast on your wealth and your toil enrich the house of another. At the end of your life you will groan, when your flesh and body are spent.” Proverbs 5:7–11 (NIV).
      What are we to know?  Verse 8 – keep your hands off, stay away, don’t go near!  The father warns us not to dapple, not to think we can handle a little “harmless flirting,” or sharing a bit of our heart with someone of the opposite sex other than our spouse – keep away from that!  Verses 9 & 10 describe the “bitter gall” (v. 4), that the honey of momentary passion, covered. Sin always has awful consequences, for you and others.  In today’s terms, strangers who feast on your wealth to enrich themselves, would include black mailers and divorce lawyers – don’t go there!
 
2)   5:12-14.  There is a way to healing: humility.
You will say, “How I hated discipline! How my heart spurned correction!  I would not obey my teachers or turn my ear to my instructors. And I was soon in serious trouble in the assembly of God’s people.”” Proverbs 5:12–14 (NIV).
      Like the prodigal son (Lk. 15:11-24), look at your life, see how far you’ve fallen, and remember you still have a father, and a home, so why stay where you are?  In humility, return home to your heavenly father, he is waiting for you, watching for you and will not humiliate you, but receive you and rejoice over you.  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 (NIV).
 
B – 5:15-20.  Keep you hands on your wife/husband.
Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers.  May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer— may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love. Why, my son, be intoxicated with another man’s wife? Why embrace the bosom of a wayward woman?” Pr. 5:15–20 (NIV).
      Water satisfies thirst, and in these verses, water is a metaphor for sexual desire. The father is telling his son to enjoy a deep sexual relationship exclusively with his wife, enjoying it together, looking nowhere else.  The answer to dealing with sexual temptation is not suppression of the urges, or adultery.  God made us male and female and wants us to enjoy sex to the full, safely in the context of a monogamous marriage relationship between a man and a woman, and he blesses it (see vv. 18-19).  Ortlund summarizes this chapter by saying: Sex is like fire. In the fireplace it keeps us warm. Outside the fireplace it burns the house down. Proverbs 5 is saying, “Keep the fire in the marital fireplace, and stoke that fire as hot as you can.”[4] “…God’s remedy for your thirst for sex is sex, overflowing sexual joy with your wife.”[5]  Husbands and wives, we are to be there for each other, to meet each other’s need for physical, emotional and spiritual intimacy, leaving no desire to look elsewhere to have these needs met!  How are you doing in protecting your marriage?  You are God’s plan to meet your spouse’s sexual needs in a healthy and beautiful way – talk about it and stay engaged!
III.  5:21-23 – Now you must decide!
      The father has had a heart-to-heart with his children about the dangers of adultery and the way to avoid its temptation.  Now we have a choice to make, what we are going to do.  As we consider the choice before us, we are reminded of the consequences of rejecting our father’s wisdom, and that nothing we do is ever done in secret from him!  “For your ways are in full view of the Lord, and he examines all your paths. The evil deeds of the wicked ensnare them; the cords of their sins hold them fast. For lack of discipline they will die, led astray by their own great folly.” Pr. 5:21–23 (NIV).
      What can you do?  Decide to obey your heavenly Father, he loves you immensely.  In humility return to him and submit to his leading in your life and receive his forgiveness: 1 John 1:8–9 says: If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” (NLT)

Hymn: #504 “He touched me” (vv. 1-2)

Responsive Closing Prayer:

L: Eternal God, today is a day of new beginnings.

C: On the first day of the week, you began your work of creating life out of nothing.

L: On the first day of the week, you raised Jesus, and began the work of creating new life from death.

C: On the first day of the week, you sent your Holy Spirit, and began your work of creating new life in your church.

All: Help us to live today as people who have begun again – to live every day with the new life which comes to us through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.


[3] Ortlund, R. C., Jr. (2012). Preaching the Word: Proverbs—Wisdom that Works (R. K. Hughes, Ed.; p. 90). Crossway.

[4] Ortlund, R. C., Jr. (2012). Preaching the Word: Proverbs—Wisdom that Works (R. K. Hughes, Ed.; p. 90). Crossway.

[5] Ortlund, R. C., Jr. (2012). Preaching the Word: Proverbs—Wisdom that Works (R. K. Hughes, Ed.; p. 93). Crossway.

 
 
 
 

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Wisdom at Work.  Proverbs 6:6-11.
September 3, 2023.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.
 
Responsive Call to WorshipPsalm 57:7–10 (CSB)
My heart is confident, God, my heart is confident. I will sing; I will sing praises.
 
Wake up, my soul! Wake up, harp and lyre! I will wake up the dawn.
I will praise you, Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations.
 
For your faithful love is as high as the heavens; your faithfulness reaches the clouds.

      Wisdom is not about how much knowledge you have stuffed in your head.  Some of the wisest people I’ve known never finished Junior High.  That wasn’t because they didn’t have the ability – some lacked the opportunity, others felt there was more important matters to attend to, like helping support their families or fleeing dangerous situations.

      Wisdom involves applying Godly knowledge, what you’ve learned and seen working, in ways that honour God and promote those things that God has commanded us to be doing.  Wisdom starts on the inside, yet becomes visible in our day-to-day decisions.

      Today being Labour Day Sunday, we are going to consider Proverb’s wisdom regarding work. “30I walked by the field of a lazy person, the vineyard of one with no common sense. 31I saw that it was overgrown with nettles. It was covered with weeds, and its walls were broken down. 32Then, as I looked and thought about it, I learned this lesson: 33A little extra sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest— 34then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit; scarcity will attack you like an armed robber.” Proverbs 24:30–34 (NLT).  The slide from a functioning vineyard to weed covered rubble, occurred one delayed moment, day, and month after another.  Eventually it became too much trouble to bother with.  One of the traits of a wise person is that they pay attention and learn from life, especially noting the consequences of actions.  In other words, the wise learn from the experiences of others, rather than the fool who says, “yes, but that won’t happen to me!” 

      The father figure in Proverbs wants his children to learn that consistency and effort in work will bring benefits throughout their life. Yet he doesn’t expect them to just take his word for it, he calls them to observe how life works.  In Proverbs 6:6-11, he uses the little ant as an example of the value of discipline and hard work, finishing with the same ode to procrastination that we saw in Pr. 24:33-34.  “6Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise! 7Though they have no prince or governor or ruler to make them work, 8they labor hard all summer, gathering food for the winter. 9But you, lazybones, how long will you sleep? When will you wake up? 10A little extra sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest— 11then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit; scarcity will attack you like an armed robber.” Proverbs 6:6–11 (NLT).

      We are being called to learn common sense from the ant. Without the need of prodding from manager or boss, it understands the value of hard work by preparing for the coming winter!  The lazy person, on the other hand, lacks initiative, prioritizes comfort, procrastinates and ends up with nothing, at the very time hard work produces the greatest rewards!  It is not that the person who enjoys leisure doesn’t want a better life, they just don’t want to follow the ant’s example: “Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper.” Pr. 13:4 (NLT).  “Despite their desires, the lazy will come to ruin, for their hands refuse to work.” Pr. 21:25 (NLT).

      Jim Newheiser in his commentary “Opening up Proverbs” says: “God disciplines sluggards by allowing them to experience the consequences of their folly with the desire that they will learn wisdom through their poverty: ‘A worker’s appetite works for him, for his hunger urges him on’ (16:26). You subvert God’s purpose and ultimately hurt the sluggard by enabling his sin. The same issue is raised in the New Testament when Paul says, ‘If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either’ (2 Thes. 3:10b). Sluggards who live off the labour of others are thieves (20:4; Eph. 4:28). Old Covenant charity was given to the deserving poor who generally had to work for what they received, as in the case of Ruth, who gleaned (Ruth 2).”[1]

      The wise father of Proverbs wants his children to realize that hard work is not bad.  As you work to provide for your family you also earn respect for your efforts. Proverbs 22:29 says:Observe people who are good at their work—skilled workers are always in demand and admired;they don’t take a backseat to anyone.” (The Message). The Good News Bible translates this passage as: “Show me someone who does a good job, and I will show you someone who is better than most and worthy of the company of kings.” Proverbs 22:29 (GNB).

       A young fellow was overheard making a phone call: “Sir, could you use a hardworking, honest young man to work for you?” After a pause he said, “Oh… you’ve already got a hardworking, honest young man? Well, thanks anyway!”  The onlooker was so taken aback by the young man’s smile after he hung up, that they had to ask: “How can you be so cheery? I thought he told you they already had someone and didn’t want to hire you?”  The young fellow answered, “Well, you see, I am the hardworking young man. I was just checking up on my job!”  If you called your boss, disguised your voice, and asked about your job, what do you think would be your boss’s answer? [2]

      As important as a healthy attitude towards work is, it must not become your sole focus, you must maintain balance.  Your work must be placed under God’s lordship, “Wisdom begins with respect for the Lord,and understanding begins with knowing the Holy One.” Proverbs 9:10 (NCV). “Depend on the Lord in whatever you do,and your plans will succeed.” Proverbs 16:3 (NCV).  As you place your work under the lordship of Almighty God, see him as your true boss.  If the Apostle Paul could expect Christian slaves to adopt this mindset, then we. who are paid or volunteers must choose this attitude as well: “22Slaves, you must always obey your earthly masters. Try to please them at all times, and not just when you think they are watching. Honor the Lord and serve your masters with your whole heart. 23Do your work willingly, as though you were serving the Lord himself, and not just your earthly master. 24In fact, the Lord Christ is the one you are really serving, and you know that he will reward you.” Colossians 3:22–24 (CEV).

      Our lives, including our work, is an opportunity to glorify God through what we say and do (Mt. 5:16; 1 Pet. 2:12).  Today we gather to remember the extraordinary, underserved gift which our Lord Jesus gave us, in coming, not for what he could get out of life, but to give, give his life for ours!  “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”” Matthew 20:28 (NIV).

Hymn: #333 “His way with thee” (vv. 1-3)

Benediction: “Death’s power to hurt is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But we thank God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.So my dear brothers and sisters, stand strong. Do not let anything move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your work in the Lord is never wasted.” 1 Corinthians 15:56–58 (NCV).

 


[1] Newheiser, J. (2008). Opening up Proverbs (p. 111). Day One Publications.

[2] Swindoll, Charles R. Active Spirituality. A non-devotional guide, pp. 108-109.Word Publishing ©1994.