I have taken my notes and attempted to write them in a narrative form as it was presented on Sunday morning.
31 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”
Jesus uses the garden variety of the black mustard plant commonly grown in Palestine. It was known for its hot-flavored seeds. In Jesus’ culture, they were the smallest among plants familiar to the people of Palestine. A mustard seed was often used in describing something small.
The plant ordinarily reach about 4 feet – and many times ten - fifteen feet in height. The plant often serves as a shelter for birds of many kinds.
Jesus used contrast of smallness of the seed and the largeness of the tree that it produces in this parable concerning the kingdom.
Later Jesus used it to describe how even a small amount of faith can move mountains (Mt. 17:20) -
20 He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
.So the mustard seed illustrates in nature a plant that starts super small - but grows far beyond the expectations one might have for a seed its size.
This parable illustrates the nature of the kingdom’s growth.
By the time of Jesus’ death, most of the followers had lost faith in Jesus as the Christ of their hopes.
66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. (Jn. 6:66).
This leader who would build the ultimate kingdom is dead.
After Jesus’ death, there were twelve apostles -and a little over a hundred loyal followers in Jerusalem, -hardly the stuff of which great kingdoms are made. Imagine a great king arising among a dozen men and saying, -“You and I together are going to conquer the world!” Yet that is exactly what happened. Look at how the kingdom started.
Commentary by R. C. Trench :
"The Son of Man grew up in a despised province; he did not appear in public until his thirtieth year; then taught for two or three years in neighboring villages, and occasionally at Jerusalem; made a few converts, chiefly among the poor and unlearned; and then falling into the hands of his enemies, died the shameful death of the cross; such, and so slight, was the commencement of the universal kingdom of God."
Beginning at Jerusalem the twelve and those affiliated with them, - armed with nothing more than a message of God’s love and power, - grew into thousands -and those thousands spread throughout Judea and Samaria preaching the Word.
Those thousands became tens of thousands - churches were established over the Roman world in the first century.
And through the ages millions upon millions have heard the call of the gospel - and entered the kingdom.
The mustard seed continues to grow into the great tree - that shelters us otherwise lost souls of this world.
The parable of the mustard seed provided the encouragement the disciples needed as they face the intimidating task of establishing the kingdom of God in a world of impressive and powerful human kingdoms.
As the world becomes progressively evil, there is a tendency to capitulate:
"What’s the use? Nobody wants to hear the gospel."
We lose hope. We quit inviting. We become resigned to apparent “failure”.
Jesus’ message gives us the encouragement not to quit when our efforts seem to fail. “Great things start small.”
It is important that we not stop doing the seemingly “little things” that spread the word. It may seem like a little thing to watch your example around the unbeliever, to say a word of truth in a discussion, to speak of word of cheer and encouragement in a time of need, to pass along a recommendation of the congregation to a co-worker or neighbor,
to take the brief moment to send a card to someone who might be open to us,...
Great things start small!
We should never lose sight of the tremendous potential that the word of God has in this world.
Jesus parable not only shows us that little things are important; He shows us that little things produce great things.
Great things start small.
The power of the kingdom doesn't resides in the strength of men and their efforts -but in the power of the Word -
in the power of the kingdom and its King,
Don’t ever doubt His ability to change people!
Think about the message that turned the hearts of thousands at Pentecost, that turned the hostile heart of Saul into a teacher of the gospel, that brought moral respectability to the immoral Corinthians - the Word can do the same things today.
In the parable of the mustard seed, -the large plant produced provided shelter or protection for the birds.
Perhaps Jesus in the parable of the mustard seed wants us also to see that the kingdom of God provides great benefits for those who enter it. The kingdom of God provides what people need most in this life.
“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,
“ and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Pet. 1:11).
But for this to happen, God’s people must believe the parable of the mustard seed!
Do we have the faith to believe that great things can happen?
Do we have the vision to see how it can happen?
Do we have the commitment to put the kingdom of God first in our lives so it can happen?
Do we believe that great things start small?
Can a small group of believers in Graham, NC become a strong congregation of who knows how many?
Remember the parable of the mustard seed
The other day I saw the KLove verse of the day, which was
"I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete."
Joy – that is something I definitely want and desire –its a great thing. Joy helps defeat my cancer.
When I read this verse, the thing that caught my attention was “I tell you this..." - now I want to read the verses before
to see what "this" is.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
Jesus and disciples were traveling thru Jerusalem, headed to the Garden of Gethsemane, thru the Kidron valley.
Off in the distance they probably see the Temple, with its massive vine-engraved doors. The vine was the historic and religious symbol of Israel (Is 5,Ez 19,Ps 80). This event may have inspired this teaching - maybe one of the disciples said something about the great vines on those Temple doors.
Jesus says “I am the true vine”.He knows the disciples would soon be kicked out of temple worship- would be rejected by the religious leaders of the Jews. So He says I am true vine – not like the fake symbol.
God is the gardener – the one who takes good care of the vineyard. If branches not producing fruit – cut it out. That is a
Hang in there with me for a short look at the Greek words in this verse ad the meaning, and you'll see something that is really kool.
The word for remove in vs 2 is the Greek word "airo". In the Greek lexicon the 4th definition is "take away - remove"
but the 1st definition is "to lift up, raise up".
The word for prune is " kathairo" – which is used in other places for cleanse - such as when Jesus cleaned feet of disciples.
So – every branch that does not bear fruit He raises up -every one that does He cleans so that it will bring more fruit.
In vineyards its not uncommon for branches to get so heavy with fruit that they sag into the dirt/mud. The ones with fruit bring along ones without fruit. The gardener has to raise them up – brace them up- and clean them -or they won't produce fruit – and the fruit will go bad.
So picture is not God lopping you off - its Him lifting you up – cleaning you gently.
What is it that God uses to clean us and our gifts- our fruit? - the Word. The more committed we are to the Word – the more fruit we produce.
Ps 119 - “how can a young man clean his way? How can he walk in a clean way?-By taking heed to what the Word says.”
Jesus is the true vine – we believers are the branches. When we get downcast, or dirty – God the gardener picks us up-
washes us off – by using His Word. That makes being in and around the Word so important - whether its the
Sunday morning service – Sunday evening Bible Study – daily morning devotions- our daily Bible reading, the upcoming RT66 studies.... Being in the place where the Word is taught -where we base our beliefs on what Jesus said-
has a cleansing effect on our lives and our gifts.
Jesus says remain in me – stay close. If we don't, there just won't be any fruit coming from our lives.
Fruit is so important as a believer.
What is the fruit?
Romans 1 and John 4 id fruit as sharing Jesus with others-and them coming to know Jesus as Lord like you
Romans 6 defines fruit as holiness – set apart for God
Romans 15 lists financial giving as a fruit
Colossians 1 lists helping practically as a fruit
Hebrews 13 says giving oral praise to God is fruit
Galatians 5 says the ultimate fruit is love
The word fruit is singular in Galatians 5. It tells what the fruit of love is made up of -
joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control...
So when you are loving, giving financially, praising Lord verbally, doing good practical things, sharing Jesus with others -
you have good fruit.
Just like a tree – if you cut off a limb, it will die – and there will be no fruit. The limb has to be part of the tree to produce fruit and live. Its the same with us - if we cut ourselves off from Lord- we will spiritually die –we will have no fruit. We
need to be in His presence daily - we need to be in the Word daily'
When a branch is connected to a tree, the sap flows and fruit is produced.
If we cut ourselves off from the Lord or from the Word, the flow from Lord stops – and the fruit dies.
We are as close to the Lord as we want to be- as we choose to be.
He is there whether we choose to stay close or not.
If we hang in there with the Lord daily – with the Word- days become weeks – weeks become months – months become years- and you'll see fruit – and more and more fruit.
John says if you are not living your life with Jesus and in the Word – then what you are doing is really for nothing.
People join service organizations for many reasons- some do because of what Jesus has done- that is great.
Many who are not Christians do for other reasons –
because of guilty conscious,
to be part of an organization,
to get business deals-
for reasons that have nothing to do with absolute goodness -
Only what you do for and because of Christ will count in ages to come.
"Remain in me" – or as the KJV says "abide in me" = “be at home in”
We talk about things being part of our heart. We change our mind a lot of times daily - or hourly - but if something is part of our heart – part of us – it doesn't change that easily. The more we are with Lord – in His Word – the more it moves from head to heart...that's being connected.
If our lives are intertwined with His, then we can ask what we want and receive it. The closer we are to God, the easier it is to know what to pray for - we don't ask the Lord for things that are out of line with His will, We wouldn't pray "God our church has some financial needs - would you supply us with some cocaine that we could sell and use that money for those needs?" No, because we know the Lord - we know what is in line with His will.
When we pray we should ask “in His name”. In the ancient world if one would ask in the name of the king – that was asking with the authority of the king. In asking in the king's name meant you had the right to ask- because what you were asking for is what king wanted to happen.
The more we are one with God – the more we understand and know Him- we know what He would want.
When we ask things, it is things we know He would want because He loves us.
God the Father loves Jesus- and that is how much Jesus loves us - wow! That's a great standard!
Jesus did what God wanted Him to do because He stayed close to the Father. God loved Him for that.
When we stay close to Jesus and follow His commands - He loves us for that.
So all that is what John is talking about when he says
vs 11 "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete."
Jesus doesn't promise happiness - He promises a constant sense of joy in our hearts – regardless!
Even when we feel disappointed, discouraged...underneath it all is still joy...and the amount of joy we have is in proportion to our abiding in the Word.
Complete joy is ours – if we remain connected to Him - His joy becomes part of us.
John gives us a simple formula for a great reward.
"After many days had gone by, there was a conspiracy among the Jews to kill him, but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall."
Saul was a really really bad dude! We know that -but do we think of him as being like Kim Jong-un, ruler of N Korea; or Hassan Rouhni, leader of Iran; or Mahmoud Abbas, leader of Palestinians; or Hitler– all want to kill the Jews- all the Jews. Saul wanted to kill all Christians. And just like the others I mentioned – it wasn't passive. Back in vs 1 of Chapter 9 it says Saul was “breathing threats and murder against followers of Jesus.”
Breathing threats – his driving desire. And who gives him permission to go hunt down Christians? - the High Priest – the one who was supposed to be an expert on God.
But you know good part of the story - God had enough of this and had other plans for Saul.
Jesus approaches Saul and there is a blinding bright light – and Saul was blinded for 3 days. He repents, was baptized – and definitely was a changed man.
But would you have trusted him? “He was coming to kill us – now he loves us and wants to be one of us?” But he was preaching Jesus and seemed to be real, He went against his fellow Jews and told them Jesus is the promised Messiah. In turn, they took over his old role – and decide to kill him.
There were disciples of Jesus who believed in Saul and what he was doing for Lord, even though there were probably not a lot of those disciples. A lot of the Christians were like people right before the elections- undecided- need to hear some more.
This handful of disciples help him by getting him out of town. Its not an easy task - he is now a hunted, wanted man. The Jews have closed all entrances/exits to the town and guards are probably watching everyone of them. So they lower Saul down in basket thru a hole in the wall.
Usually the focus of this passage is Saul/Paul. We tend to overlook and forget the people who held the ropes to lower him. We look over their acts of service/ministry.
They were holding ropes and lowering an important person out of the city, away from certain death at the hands of the Jews. But they had no idea of who they are helping. They knew he was a preacher who had lost his position and fame when he became a follower of Jesus. But they probably had no clue of the impact this man would have on the world. This is a man who shook the Roman world – and wrote 1/3 of the New Testament.
You just never know who you have in your basket. You might help someone in their ministry and they may have a significant impact on the world.
Rick Warren tells a story from his seminary days. He was a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and a friend went to hear Dr. W.A. Criswell speak, pastor of First Baptist Church Dallas. At one time it was one of the largest churches in America. The day that Rick and the friend went to hear Dr. Criswell, something interesting happened. At the end of the service they stood in line to greet Dr. Criswell. Dr. Criswell laid his hand on Rick Warren’s shoulder and prayed a somewhat prophetic prayer. He prayed that Rick Warren would someday pastor a church that would be twice the size of First Baptist Dallas. You never know!
Paul needed these other followers of Jesus – escape was impossible without them. He needed them to be like the “one another” passages that would be recorded in the Bible.
In the New Testament there are lots of “one another” passages:
love one another
encourage one another
pray for one another
Criswell's prayer was an encouragement to Rick Warren. That simple act may have been a big part of Rick's future.
We need to help each other with ministries.
What these disciples did would be called menial tasks, which refers to “work that requires little skill or training, is not interesting, and confers low social status on somebody doing it.” Another definition states that it is “suitable for, done by, or relating to a servant or servants.”
Jesus honors efforts that may seem menial or insignificant.
I read this illustration in Chicken Soup for the Soul:
While walking home from school, Mark noticed the boy ahead of him had stumbled to the ground and dropped everything he was carrying. Mark hurried to the boy’s side and helped him collect his belongings. Surprisingly, the boy was carrying an especially hefty load. There was a baseball glove and bat, a couple of sweaters, a small tape recorder, and an armful of books. Mark helped him carry the things home and his new friend, Bill, was most appreciative of his compassion. During the walk home, Mark discovered Bill was struggling in school and had just broken up with his girlfriend. When they arrived at Bill’s house, he invited Mark in for a Coke and they spent the rest of the afternoon talking, laughing, and watching TV. Although the two boys never became real close friends, they kept up with each other throughout the rest of junior high and high school. Several weeks before graduation, Bill approached Mark and asked him if he remembered that day they met when Mark helped him with all of his stuff. Mark nodded as he remembered. Bill then asked, “Did you ever wonder why I was carrying so many things that day?” Without pausing for an answer, Bill explained he had cleaned out his locker and was going home to take his life. He had been storing away sleeping pills and was headed home to end it all when Mark happened along to help him out. Bill told Mark how that simple act of compassion inspired him to go on living. He said, “Mark, when you picked up my books that day, you saved my life!” Imagine how many times our small, seemingly insignificant gestures of concern may reignite the flame of life and inspire someone to continue on. Thankfully, compassion has a way of doing that.
These disciples could have faced death for helping Saul. There was a potential cost to their service- a real cost in time, effort, cost of basket and rope.
Martin Luther said “A religion that does nothing, that saves nothing, that gives nothing, that cost nothing, that suffers nothing, is worth nothing.”
Max Lucado tells the story of John Egglen. John had never preached a sermon in his life until one Sunday morning when it snowed and the pastor wasn’t able to make it to church. In fact, he was the only deacon to show up. He was not a preacher, but he was faithful and that meant on that particular Sunday morning he preached. God rewarded his faithfulness, and at the end of his hesitant sermon, one young man invited God into his heart. No one there could appreciate the significance of what had taken place that morning. The young man who accepted Christ that snowy Sunday morning was non other than Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the man who has often been called, the "prince of preachers." God blessed his preaching and when he was still less than 30 years old he became the pastor of London’s Metropolitan Tabernacle. His sermons were so powerful that although the building could hold 5000 people, the crowds who came to hear him were so thick that they would line up outside trying to hear his sermons. That amazing life of faith all started on a cold Sunday morning with the faithfulness of a deacon who had never preached a sermon. Giving the sermon to a handful of people on a Sunday morning when almost no one shows up doesn’t seem all that significant, but it demanded faithfulness & God blessed John Egglin’s faithfulness.
We are all ministers – its called the “priesthood of believers”. You probably never thought of yourself as a priest...that is something for special Catholics! But that's not true...as a Christian, you are a priest – a minister. And there are ministries for each of us.
I've always thought that the ideal congregation would be one where each person has a ministry, and everyone helps each other with their ministries.
I'd love to help you with your ministry-
I'd love to be a rope holder for your ministry- to do what I could to contribute to your ministry- to help you with your ministry.
I'd love to have you be rope holders for my ministries.
I'm a dreamer – in more ways than one – I constantly dream at night...but I also dream of what could be - of ministries that need to be done which God has given me the abilities and gifts to do with His help and leading.
We need to encourage each other – help each other -be rope holders for each other.
There is big world out there that needs our ministry, and we are not too old to do things that may have significant effects on people's spiritual lives – and their ultimate lives after death here.
Use your talents for God. Don't accept impossible – let God prove what He can do.
Be rope holders, helpers, for others' ministries.
Are you interested in some other ministry? – then support them – it could be financially, it could be with letters of encouragement – or it may be with something you can do to help their ministry. We support MidAtlantic Christian University financially, and we also went to do a service project for them where we painted one of the married student apartments. We were rope holders – we helped them out with their ministry.
Be ministers with what God has given you – regardless if its your ministry or you being a help – a rope holder – for another ministry.
A British police exam read: You are on patrol in outer London when an explosion occurs in a gas main in a nearby street. On investigation you find that a large hole has been blown in the footpath and there is an overturned van lying nearby. Inside the van there is a strong smell of alcohol. Both occupants—a man and a woman—are injured. You recognise the woman as the wife of your Divisional Inspector, who is at present away in the USA. A passing motorist stops to offer you assistance and you realise that he is a man who is wanted for armed robbery. Suddenly a man runs out of a nearby house, shouting that his wife is expecting a baby and that the shock of the explosion has made the birth imminent. Another man is crying for help, having been blown into an adjacent canal by the explosion, and he cannot swim. Bearing in mind the provisions of the Mental Health Act, describe in a few words what actions you would take. The officer thought for a moment, picked up his pen, and wrote: ’I would take off my uniform and mingle with the crowd.’
Many times we are faced with impossible decisions, impossible dreams. Impossible, according to dictionary.com=
1. not possible; unable to be, exist, happen, etc.
2. unable to be done, performed, effected, etc.:an impossible assignment.
3. incapable of being true, as a rumor.
4. not to be done, endured, etc., with any degree of reason or propriety: an impossible situation.
5. utterly impracticable: an impossible plan.
6. hopelessly unsuitable, difficult
If I were asked to be a writer for the Webster Dictionary and assigned this word, my definition of impossible would be - “something that is not possible humanly, but which allows God to work and shine and show His power”.
Impossible added with faith allows us to be partners with God, and the results are unearthly.
Hebrews 11 lists people who had an impossibility and added their faith in God -and grand things happened.
Faith – believing in what you can't see. If you can see it, it is not faith – Romans 8:24
“ For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? “
Don't let anyone box you in or set limitations on what God can do and wants to do in and thru your life,no matter what the situation looks like or how impossible something seems.
Today's text in Joshua is the story of the children of Israel entering the promised land, and conquering the town of Jericho – an impossible situation -humanly.
The first thing they did was they, at the beginning, considered it done already. That's active faith
Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in. 2 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.
Jericho was a well fortified city and it had closed its walls and gates to the people of Israel. Jericho must have looked to Joshua like an “impossible” enemy with its big walls.
Deut 9:1 - “Hear, Israel: You are now about to cross the Jordan to go in and dispossess nations greater and stronger than you, with large cities that have walls up to the sky. “
Archaeologists say the wall was 46' tall in some areas. If you walk by a wall that tall and look up, will seem that it reaches to Heaven. Walk by the old bank bldg in downtown Burlington that is now LabCorp and look up – that gives you an idea of what the Israelites were seeing. The wall was 6' thick and there were 2 walls with an area between the two where some people possibly lived.
God promised, however, “I have delivered Jericho into your hand, along with its king, and its fighting men”. And this is before they started on the seven days of walking around – the battle was already won.
It took Joshua seeing with faith – not sight. They were to walk around wall – shout – and its going to fall – Impossible!
God trusted Joshua with the ministry – He trusted him with a vision of what would be -and Joshua saw it – believed it – and went around the city seeing in his mind those walls already down.
When faced with an overwhelming task - such as overcoming a cities walls without firing a single offensive weapon; it is important that we trust the one directing us for his knowledge of the victory already won.
God told Joshua that He had already delivered the city to him and the children of Israel – and Joshua believed. I bet he could see the walls down before the first day of marching - he considered it already done. To accomplish the impossible, see it already done.
Second, Follow God's leading – even if it goes against the norm vs 3-11
3 March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. 4 Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. 5 When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.”
6 So Joshua son of Nun called the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant of the Lord and have seven priests carry trumpets in front of it.” 7 And he ordered the army, “Advance! March around the city, with an armed guard going ahead of the ark of the Lord.”
8 When Joshua had spoken to the people, the seven priests carrying the seven trumpets before the Lord went forward, blowing their trumpets, and the ark of the Lord’s covenant followed them. 9 The armed guard marched ahead of the priests who blew the trumpets, and the rear guard followed the ark. All this time the trumpets were sounding. 10 But Joshua had commanded the army, “Do not give a war cry, do not raise your voices, do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout. Then shout!” 11 So he had the ark of the Lord carried around the city, circling it once. Then the army returned to camp and spent the night there.
Very strange orders - six days around city blowing horns but no war crys – that is militarily crazy. But if it were a normal traditional military plan, God wouldn't be getting the glory. Joshua never questioned - he was a military general and knew how to win battles – but this was not one of the ways. He could have argued with God – like Moses – but he didn't. He caught the vision of the impossible - he followed God's leading.
If God told you to do something you wanted to do, but told you the plan and it went against what your knowledge & expertise was, would you do it anyway? Could you catch the vision of the victory that you want, and follow God's leading?
Third, Follow thru BY FAITH (VS 12-20)
12 Joshua got up early the next morning and the priests took up the ark of the Lord. 13 The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets went forward, marching before the ark of the Lord and blowing the trumpets. The armed men went ahead of them and the rear guard followed the ark of the Lord, while the trumpets kept sounding. 14 So on the second day they marched around the city once and returned to the camp. They did this for six days.
15 On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times. 16 The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the army, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city! 17 The city and all that is in it are to be devoted[a] to the Lord. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent. 18 But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it.19 All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the Lord and must go into his treasury.”
20 When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city.
Faith is following through with God,
• Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
In order to do the impossible, we have to believe God can do it and will do it thru us- and that we can do it thru Him.
Joshua never questioned God’s directive- he simply passed the information to those affected and followed through with the plan. As someone said, “Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man’s power ends.”
Faith is the belief in God’s ability to accomplish the impossible.
There is a ministry called Christ in Youth, and their motto is PTHWSITI – Praise To Him Who Specializes In The Impossible. I've always loved that – it is so true.
Facing something that seems impossible might be a good thing – it gives God a chance to show that He is God. We should pray -and catch the vision of what the victory will be - then follow God's leading.
When I started Campus Christian Fellowship at the University of North Carolina there were many who “wisely” told me why I couldn't do it. But I could picture the ministry on campus a year before it was a reality- and I followed God and the vision He gave me. I can picture Trinity Fellowship having 60 people every Sunday – impossible? – I can picture it! PTHWSITI I'm sure Joshua would have liked that slogan- he knew the reality of it.
Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
We can overcome, as the children of Israel did, because we claim what God has already given us as our own through faith. Don't be like the policeman!
What impossible thing is God wanting you to do for Him?
What impossible thing is God wanting to do thru you for the church?
Don't doubt – get a vision of victory and let God be God!
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
3 Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his[a];
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Song "I'm Happy" by Rick Strickland - (play start - 0:40, 3:09-3:24, 3:42 - end)
All week I've had this song as an earworm – but its a good earworm to have. I've been humming it, whistling it, singing the chorus. Happy – that's how we should be as believers.
Ever had a day where you were so happy that you just couldn't hold it all in? You were
so cheerful that it drove your friends crazy...everything just felt right...it couldn't possibly get any better- and it did! That's the kind of days we should have....where you just want to shout “Thank You Jesus for my awesome, fantastic, extraordinary, incredible, absolutely perfect life!”
So, what's stopping you? Tell God how much you appreciate all He's done for you- then tell everyone else.
When I thought about being happy daily because of all the Lord has done for me, I thought of Psalm 100.
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Make a joyful noise
This is talking about a really really glad shout-such as one a loyal subject gives when their king appears among them. In the Hebrew it literally means “shout to the Lord so loud that you hurt the ears of those around you.”
If you asked people how they picture God, you'd probably get a multitude of answers. How do you picture God?
I am convinced that God is a happy God, and He should be worshiped by a happy people. A cheerful spirit is part of God's nature ...His acts reveal a happy God...a God who delights in giving. It makes God happy to give to us!
We should be joyful for His mercies. When you know you are saved, there really shouldn't be any other response than praise...it can't make you anyway but happy. Don't think you've heard anyone say in a dry, unsmiling way - “I'm sad – I've been redeemed...I'm going to Heaven to live forever with Jesus” Nah – no way! You'll hear “I am happy...I am saved...”People get ready, there's a train a -comin”...and I've got my ticket to get on board!”
The praise that David is talking about in this psalm is not some heady sophisticated polite praise. Its not a monotone “thank you Jesus – I am so glad you love me every day” - Nah...its a happy, real, shout to the Lord.
v2 Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
Gladness = happy.
He is our Lord – therefore we should praise Him happily.
He is so gracious to us – we should serve Him happily.
Worship the Lord with gladness...not like adoration at a funeral, where everything is quiet and an emotionless speaker says “our beloved brother was a good man...” Nah...it should be a cheery, happy exhortation like at a wedding feast – or like at a 45th anniversary party.
We should worship the fact that we are in His presence - He is not far away – He is here with us. We can come to Him with confidence that we are His.
So don't come with weeping – come with psalms and hymns- singing joyfully – being happy -with anticipation of worship in Heaven. I just don't picture worship in Heaven as gloomy.
We worship God by being happy- by walking with Him thru difficult times with joy. Worshiping God doesn't depend on circumstances.
Being happy as a believer doesn't depend on circumstances.
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.
He says “Know” - Our worship should be intelligent. We should know who we worship and why. We have the resources readily available to us...we can read the Bible – even on our tablets or watches...we can study the Bible – there are free commentaries and books to help online. There is Christian music, faith based films, books ...and probably the greatest way - We can talk to God anytime.
God is the only god - when we know that, it brings trust, obedience, submission, zeal, love...
When we practically recognize this we will offer praise.
Some live as if they made themselves - a “self made man”- and they adore their supposed creator. Christians recognize the origin of our being and well being – and give honor and praise to God for who we are.
Man has developed theories about how we came to be – evolution – floating atoms after a big bang that joined together to form man. It is far easier to believe God made us rather than we developed from a long chain of events, thru natural selections...or that floating atoms formed into man.
It was God who made us- we are His people...and it is an honor to be His people, It is a privilege to be guided by His wisdom, to be tended to by His care, to be fed by all He made for us.
We are His sheep. Sheep gather around the shepherd – they look up to him. In the same manner, we gather around the great shepherd. We remember His blessings – His goodness to us- and the result= we offer praise.
We are His sheep in His pasture – that fact should bring praise and songs.
vs 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
We should always gather in thanksgiving. As long as we are receivers of mercy, we should be givers of thanks.
Mercy allows us to enter His gates-praise God for that mercy – its not deserved- it is a gift from a loving God.
In the Old Testament times one could only enter certain courts of the Temple area. Even if you were a priest there were only certain courts of the temple you could enter. In fact, even if you were the High priest there were limitations.
We enter the “holy of holies” – the presence of God – with no veil separating us...what a privilege – we should give praise and thanks. That should make us happy people.
Praise His name – which represents Him...tell others about our great God -
We do that about other things- if you read a great book, you tell other people about it... or a movie or a song- you tell people...tell others about our great God.
Praise our God to others.
vs 5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
The Lord is good – that sums up His character and the reason for our praise.
He is good, gracious, kind, bountiful, loving – God is love. And His love endues forever. That should make us happy. We know as humans – there is not lot of love that lasts forever. A lot of love is short-lived...it is very conditional...God's love is unconditional and forever.
God is not some stern, cold, seeking justice entity- He is compassionate, merciful, and so faithful. The promises He has given to us in the Bible, He has faithfully kept them. He is not fickled or changing...He doesn't promise and forget. Can you imagine a changeable, ever changing God- there would be nothing to hold on to. So glad that He is not!
We've all seen the signs that people are putting in their yards that simply says – “Thank You Jesus” - it makes you feel happy when you see them.
God deserves our praise- He deserves for us to be happy people because of who He is and what He has done and is doing for us.
Be happy and praise God-it will make God happy!
13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
17 Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years.18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.
19 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truthand someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
Be prayerful – be full of prayer. In the last few verses of his book James mentioned prayer 7 times...must be important!
Anyone got troubles? The word means suffering in difficult situations-trouble, disappointment, persecution, etc. As we go thru life we encounter difficulties not of our making. We need to pray when we find ourselves in a mess – pray for wisdom, strength, removal of suffering.
Suffering of any kind is an expectation for believers-
1 Peter 4:12
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.
Life just ain't easy – but its good – if you pray. One can get into self pity w/o it-become resentful, discouraged... When pressure of life becomes unbearable – pray. Actually pray before it gets to that point- but if it does, pray more.
If youknow of others going thru troubles- pray for them. We list them every Sunday – don't just pray then- pray for them all week. Pray that the trouble be removed, so that the person will grow in Christ.
Pray for endurance as they go thru it – so that they will grow in Christ.
1 Cor 12:25-26 (from the Message paraphrase)-
The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.
Don't waste troubles- either yours or others. Its an opportunity to pray more; an opportunity to see God work; an opportunity to give God glory.
Then says the other side of coin is if you're happy, sing songs of praise. I always think of Paul and Silas who just got thru some troubles- like getting beaten – put in jail- and they sing songs of praise.
We all have good days that are relatively free of trouble-remember God on those days – sing & pray.
Give credit where credit is due.
Anyone sick? - pray
If its something serious- call the elders of the church to pray & anoint with oil.
Oil was the most common medicine in Biblical times. Remember the good samaritan – Luke 10:34-
He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine.
Olive oil was used for many ailments. What we call essential oils were used to cure many ailments and diseases.
The word used here is“aleipsentes” - anoint – not the word for ritual - “chrio”. The key is “in name of the Lord”. The name of the Lord is powerful. One of reasons not to misuse His name is the fact that it has power. God is so powerful that just His name has power. When Paul was going to persecute Christians, he brought letters from King, whose name had power. The Lord's name has far greater power.
James says go to the elders- the spiritual leaders of the congregation. They should be the prayer warriors; people who offer effective prayers. As James says, the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Another reason we need to grow as a congregation is to have elders.The elders are guys who pray in faith, and it is so effective that the sick are made well-not by their power – or ours- James says the Lord will raise them up.
Praying in faith – that's praying with confidence. We are not fooling God-He knows if we are really confident or not in what He can do and will do. Praying in faith is believing that 1-God can heal 2-God will heal
When we pray in faith we never hesitate- we never think someone else will pray so that we don't need to, or think we are not sure of what God's will is or what to pray. Praying in faith means we pray with intensity – fervor – not haphazard. And we pray submissibly – realize God's understanding of a situation is much greater than ours.
I think God honors prayers even if we are praying for something different than what his will may actually be. We pray for cure of a disease, but His will might not be cure but use of the infirmity. God honors that we seek Him – that we see Him as the answer. You can never go wrong with sincere prayer in faith.
James alludes to fact that some sickness is result is result of sin. For example,
Someone might get aids because of a blood transfussion – no fault of their own.
Someone might get aids because of a homosexual act or other sexual act- a sin.
Someone might get sick because of a dependency on illegal drugs – a sin.
In Corinthians some became sick because they took Lord's supper in unworthy manner- they
got drunk at the love feast and took communion as any other food.
Sin can cause physical sickness, depression, anxiety,.. The elders coming, anointing and praying may cause the person to repent of their sin -which means a turn around – not going back to it, and their sin will be forgiven.
James says to confess sins to each other – pray for each other so that you can be healed.
There is power in confession. There are some things that you may feel comfortable sharing in group- then we can pray for each other. But it might be something more major –there is a need to share but it may be best to share with someone you totally trust-someone you have total confidence in – who is a prayer warrior. It may be something God has forgiven you for- but it lingers with you -and it can become a cause of depression.
David committed some sins we (as humans) would put in the “major sin category”. God had forgiven him – he was a man after God's own heart. But he realized that some of his physical problems were the result of that. In Psalms 32-
Blessed is the one
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
2 Blessed is the one
whose sin the Lord does not count against them
and in whose spirit is no deceit.
3 When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night
your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer.[b]
5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
my transgressions to the Lord.”
And you forgave
the guilt of my sin.
He needed to confess these sins to someone for healing.
We sometimes don't realize just how bad sin is because satan has taught us it is good – or at least ok.
Its not – it has a high price tag that is not worth it.
Confess your sins to God – and to others- the congregation or a trusted Christian brother or sister -it is powerful.
The key to what James is saying is that prayer is so powerful. As humans it is the most powerful tool we have. You have more power than any super hero. He gives the example of Elijah – a human. He wasn't a god, a super hero, above any other human...he was a man of God – someone who was after God's heart. He was a prayer warrior and he prayed with faith. He prayed earnestly, with confidence, with conviction, that it wouldn't rain. And it didn't for 3 ½ yrs. He prayed earnestly again for rain and the skies opened up – it rained – crops grew. You have same power as Elijah.
God listens to your prayers just as closely as He did Elijah's.
James says pray for those who are straying away from life as a Believer-from the truth.
During the Apollo missions to the moon they got off course 90% of the time.Thru communication with mission control they were able to get back on track and make corrections necceary to get back on course. If theyhadn't they would have died – crash and burn.
Remember – James is not talking to or about someone in world – a non-believer...He is talking about a believer – a Christian – a member of the flock, the Way, who is not living as a saint but who is living as a sinner. They need to be turned back to right path. If they don't, they will crash and burn. It might be a physical death as result – but also a spiritual death. That is as serious as you can get.
When people we know die it is sad – physical death is a sad thing to friends and family. But to die a spiritual death is worse – especially people who know better- who have been taught the Word – who began following Jesus but who have turned to something else. That's who James is talking about. That person – whether they realize it or not- needs your prayers. Your prayers might save them from spiritual death – it might cover a multitude of their sins.
Another passage, Jude 1:12, talks about “snatching them from the fire of hell”.
James is a practical book written to Christians, and he ends up with how powerful and effective prayer is...and practical it is- something we can do anytime, anywhere.
Respect the power of prayer and use it.
"Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned."
“above all” -with all the practical aspects of living a Christian life that he has presented in the preceding chapters, why would James begin his final exhortations with this one verse being that important?
We shouldn't be surprised – it is related to speech, and James has dealt with speech in every chapter of the book.
In 1:26:"Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless."
There are people who claim to be believers-but if they can't control their language and speech then it gives evidence of an unchanged heart
In 2:12: "Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom,"
The way you show evidence of your spiritual change is thru ways you speak and act.
This large section on speech talks about how the tongue is a small part of body-yet it can be so full of evil. James says it is full of deadly poison; can set major fires; can set your whole life on fire. It can bring shame to whole body-and to your life.
vs 9-10:"With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be."
People go to church – they sing praises to God, talk about Jesus-then out of their same mouths during the week they curse. James is basically saying- “shame on them-that should never happen”,
In 4:11: "Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another."
Its someone saying “I heard that so and so did blank with so and so...”
again speech – and something we should control.
And then 5:12.
So its not surprising he says “above all things”. How we speak is a way of reflecting what is in our heart, what is in our lives. If God has changed us, our speech should reflect that.
We sin with our tongues more than any other way.You can't do everything- but you can say anything. Jesus says out of the mouth the heart speaks. The Bible says the heart is a storehouse- and the mouth tells what you have stored there.
James does say my brothers & sisters- he isn't condescending to them. He is human and can relate - he knows how difficult it is.
From the standpoint of social contact, the mouth is greatest offender.
If James were writing today, he would include social media-Facebook, Twitter...its the place where we speak w/o being vocal- while being vocal. Its an extension of our tongues.
When you read “stop swearing” , certain language comes to mind...things Ephesians 4:29 talks about-
"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."
Unwholesome talk – profanity – what we in the south call cussin';foul language, dirty talk – filthy talk – 4 letter words – uncouth talk. Paul says don't use any of that language. There are words that Christians should never say.
Our speech is an indicator of what's going on inside us -it might show how much God has control of our lives-
or it may be an indicator of how much of a foothold satan has- how much he is controlling us.
It may be 2017 but profanity is still not socially acceptable.
You might think “so what” – but if you want to share Jesus, it is very important.
One area of swearing that you might not as quickly think about is oaths. There is a lot of it in speech today...people taking the Lord's name in vain...
God this...or God that...Christ this... Jesus this... Jesus Christ this...these things are oaths. They are misuse of the name of God, profaning the name of God, blaspheming the name of God, dragging down the name of God,
invoking the name of God illegitimately...all of that is, in a sense, related to the kind of swearing that James has in mind.
It was something taking place in the Jewish and Greek culture-
Have you ever heard anybody say, "By Jove,"... Jove was a Greek god. When the Greeks wanted to swear they swore by Zeus or by Jove.
The word "oath" in the Hebrew is “shebuah”; it means "to swear."
Greeks used the word “horkos” which means to bind or strengthen.
In other words, you strengthen your word by swearing by some higher authority.
And an oath or swearing had three parts-
It was a testing to the truth,
calling for God to witness and,
thirdly, invoking God's punishment if you violated your word.
To say "I swear to God" meant I want you to know I'm telling the truth,
I want God to witness I'm telling the truth,
and I want God to punish me if I'm not telling the truth.
Very serious thing to do! You're invoking the curse of God on you if you lie -in an effort to try to convince somebody that you're really telling the truth.
And in those days there weren't contracts as we have - there weren't the binding kinds of authoritative documents -
they did not have court rooms to enforce them like there are today. It was very important that people be trusted.
If a person said, "Look, I promise you I will hold your money." And the guy said, "Boy, I hope you do it; I want you to swear to do it." "I swear by God, may God strike me dead if I don't."
That was a way in which you bound your conscience to do what you were supposed to do.
It was a solemn thing to call God to witness and invoke the judgment of God on you -if you defaulted...
In the Old Testament many people bound themselves by oaths before God. As long as it was sincere at solemn occasion, it was ok. But you better keep it if you did, because if you didn't, you broke the 3rd commandment.
You don't throw God's name around flipperantly. If you invoke God's name to bind yourself to truthfulness-to convince someone you are telling truth- you had better make sure you don't violate that vow.
James is not speaking against official oaths, such as court, and marriage. He is talking about swearing oaths to prove that you are telling truth -when you know you're not. The Jews knew that, so they began to make vows using other things- w/o using name of God- to get themselves off the hook when they swore oaths and were lying. They would use substitutes- they would swear on things of heaven or earth – things God made. James says a substitute is just as bad as what it represents. James says don't do it -don't come up with a substitute.
How many substitutes do we hear today -
gees...f-ing...freaking...GD...crap... People are still thinking the original word.
Just let your yes be yes and no be no. Simple speech - no need for swear words – no need to swear an oath.
When you think about what they are saying when they cuss or use an oath, it really doesn't make sense. Its not intellectual in the least. In fact, it shows a lack.
How strong does God feel about this? He says don't do it so that you won't fall under judgment. Remember he is speaking to Christians – to believers, not to non-believers. And James says stop swearing or you will reap the judgment of God.
How does God feel about swearing? - it is a big deal to Him.
“Its just words” – that's not how God looks at it. Our words are so important. We can communicate life by using words...or we can let satan use this valuable resource...the choice is ours.