2021:Sundays after Pentecost

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Day of the Father (Job 38:2-3)

  • Introduction: On Mothers’ Day earlier this year, I started the message with the origin of how we got a day which honors all mothers.  It was Anna Jarvis of West Virginia who championed the cause of reserving a day specifically for mothers.  That was in 1909.  The first Fathers’ Day came a year after that in part as a response to the Mothers’ Day celebration.  Sonora Dodd of Spokane, WA wanted to honor her father who was a single parent yet raised six children.  The first celebration of Fathers’ Day was on June 19, 1910, so it was exactly 111yrs ago[1].  However, it wasn’t until 1972 when it became law in the US that Fathers’ Day would be the 3rd Sunday in June each year.
    • Not everyone has had a good experience with their father.  Some do not even know who their father was. As irresponsible behavior permeates our society, many men are looked upon as mere sperm donors in creation of a human life.   That makes it really tough to believe in a Heavenly Father who loves us so much, He sent His only Son to redeem us from certain residence in hell for eternity.  With that kind of love, one would think there would be at least one day set aside to celebrate our Father in Heaven!
    • We will spend time on today taking a deeper dive into the love of our Father in Heaven, by going through the OT text of Job ch#38 as read a few moments ago.  We will discover that we have a gracious and loving Father, who is slow to anger and abounds in steadfast love.
  • Let Us Pray: Lord God, Heavenly Father, we give thanks to You for Your fatherly divine goodness and mercy even though there is no merit or worthiness in us. While today is recognized as Father’s Day, this is a time to remember we have a Heavenly Father who gave all authority to His Son to rule over everything.  Send the Holy Spirit to remind us we are not in control, but Your Son Jesus is!  We should therefore bring all things to Him in faith knowing He will listen, and bless according to the mercy and grace You show toward Your people.  This will happen, because the Lord Jesus does what You do.  We bring this petition before You, Father, through Your Son Jesus who reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forevermore. Amen.
  • Background: Some of us in church on today may have experienced an earthly father who was not engaged in our life.  Or, maybe he was overbearing to the point where you couldn’t tell if there was any love in his heart.  Contrast that with our Heavenly Father who watching over us all of the time.  He’s not watching over us waiting to zap us when we do something wrong.  He’s not waiting at the door for when we come home, so he can yell at us for being late. The Psalmist wrote - Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I get up; You understand my thought from far away. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, Lord, You know it all. You have encircled me behind and in front, And placed Your hand upon me[2].  This is a description of the deep involvement our Lord has in our life.  That involvement is literally an eternally undying love for each of us.
    • When bad things happen to us, we should *not* accuse God of evil intentions as the Israelites did in the wilderness after being redeemed from the slavery of Egypt.  The Israelites had witnessed miracle after miracle, yet had this attitude of, what have you done for me lately, Lord?  They witnessed the Ten Plagues against Egypt.  They saw the most powerful army on earth at the time get drown in the Red Sea by the Gulf of Aqaba instead of them having to turn and fight them.  But listen to this from the beginning of Exodus ch#16 - 1Then they set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the sons of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departure from the land of Egypt. 2But the whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 3The sons of Israel said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread until we were full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this entire assembly with hunger![3]”  It took only 2.5mo’s for the Israelites to forget about all of the work their loving and gracious God had done for them.  Maybe when things get tough in life, it’s a good idea to remember the good that God has done in our life?
    • I don’t think there is a more dramatic riches to rags story about someone other than Job of the Old Testament.  Job deeply trusted in the same God we worship here today.  Also like us today, Job questioned the Lord on why the sudden loss of everything including his health.  Job openly wondered about just what was it he did that ticked the Lord off so that He would take everything away from Job.
      • We then read from Job 13:20-22 - 20 “Only two things I ask that You do not do to me, Then I will not hide from Your face[4]
        • The first of those two things Job asked of the Lord was - 21 Remove Your hand from me, And may the dread of You not terrify me.  This is a natural request that would come from any of us.  Basically, Job pleaded, “Lord, please stop the pain!  Please end the turmoil in my life!”
        • The second of the two requests - 22 Then call and I will answer; Or let me speak, then reply to me.  Job wanted to speak with the Lord to find out what had been done that warranted this treatment.  In our text chosen for today, we see the Lord got back to Job exactly as requested. This is why the wording of Job 38:2-3 seems rather weird without the context of Job’s original request to speak with the Lord about the sudden harsh treatment.  Sometimes it is good to be careful what you ask for in prayer. 😊 Like Job, we think we have the full story when suffering takes place in our life.  We want to accuse God of *not* being the loving, caring Father He really is.  How do you like it when people falsely accuse you of something that is just not true.  I can understand God visiting in a tempest of wind after hearing all the false doctrine of Job’s three friends, and the questioning from Job.
      • Let me assure you; it will be abundantly clear if the Lord is really ever against you.  God listed some things in Lev 26:14-20 He would do to those who would not carry out His commandments.   He would:
        • Summon a sudden terror
        • Cause health issues
        • Not receive anything of value from work
        • Enemies will defeat you and rule over you
        • Crops will fail
        • These are the sorts of things people headed to hell can look forward to throughout eternity.  It’s not a pretty sight.  But that is what eternal punishment for denying Jesus looks like.
      • However, when any of those sorts of calamities afflict us, it is our Father’s intentions to make us perfect and not remain a snowflake as we talked about on last week.  Yes, without the testing of the trials of this Age, we would melt under the slightest pressure of any problem in our life.  Again quoting from the NT Book of James - Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing[5].  God essentially has us in training our whole life so that we toughen up and develop mental and faith endurance.  He wants us to fear, love, and trust in Him above all things.  That won’t happen if we never come up against something that reminds us He is in charge and not us.
  • Creation: We worship a God so powerful, He merely spoke words and the Word created things from out of nothing.  Verses 4-11 of Job ch#38 are questions from God to Job concerning creation.   In the process of asking these questions, the Lord provided greater detail on what was created on the first few of the six, 24hr days of creation.  Scriptures interpret the scriptures and this section of Job ch#38 is God’s thoughts on what He accomplished as recorded in Gen 1:1-10. If God wants something done, it gets done (Isa 55:10-11)!  Job was stewing in all of the calamity which hit him and so he questioned God.  Job knew of the power of our Lord to make something from out of nothing.  So Job questioned, why Lord, are You these losses to happen to me?  Why will You not fix these calamities?  God’s response was rather sarcastic, wasn’t it?  For instance, in v4 we read - Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?  That question of Job was to set the table for God making the case that:
    • Yes, He saw what was going on in Job’s life;
    • No, He didn’t appreciate the questioning by Job of God’s integrity and decision making throughout the calamities; and
    • Yes, I the Lord am in charge and I can fix everything by my great mercy.
  • Irony: It is ironic in our readings on today, Jesus stopped a torrent on the Sea of Galilee.  But He came in a torrent to visit with Job and his friends.  In both the Book of Job and the Gospel according to Mark, the Greek word, λαῖλαψ, is used to describe a very strong storm.  In fact, better words to describe the intensity of the storm would be a whirlwind, squall, as is the case of a strong storm over water, or tempest. You can see the definition of this word on the back of your bulletin.
    • Squalls can suddenly develop over the Sea of Galilee without much warning.  After a long day of preaching and teaching, Jesus and His disciples got into a boat to head toward another shore to continue the ministry the next day. Jesus fell asleep in the back of the boat, and was sleeping so soundly, the squalls did not wake Him.  Finally, in terror of being drown, the disciples woke Him up.  “Teacher” they demanded, “don’t You care that we are perishing?”  Sound familiar?  The Israelites were complaining 2.5mo’s after the great miracles of the Plagues leveled against Egypt and the drowning of their army, but now they didn’t have any food. This is a legitimate reason to call upon the Lord, but it is not appropriate to question His integrity on why there is no food.  To repeat, “if only we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread until we were full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this entire assembly with hunger!” No, God took them out into the wilderness of Saudi Arabia to redeem them from slavery, not to kill them.  They were probably feeling pretty smug at the time of this accusation, and so the Lord needed to remind them of His might and their infirmity.  God sent manna to the Israelites out of His great mercy.   Jesus stifled the storm (λαῖλαψ) to show His disciples He is God, and they needed the redemption from the storm (Mark 4:39). There was no other way out of the tribulation of the storm, except through Jesus.
      • Jesus stopped the squall from the boat, but a preincarnate Jesus came in a storm (λαίλαπος) to visit with Job and his friends, as is written in Job 38:1 - Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind and said[6],
    • This is so ironic, because in the situation on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus displayed the power of the Father over the wind and the waves (Mark 4:41).  However, Jesus also showed His power in the glory of the sudden appearance before Job and his friends.  I can imagine the fear Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar must have had when Jesus appeared in the whirlwind after all of the half-truths and blasphemy they spoke in His name to Job.  I can also understand the fear the disciples had after nearly dying in a squall, but then suddenly being back on a perfectly calm sea.  Jesus told the sea to “stifle ya self”, like Archie Bunker used to say to Edith in the “All in the Family” sitcom of the 1970’s, and the squall stopped!
  • Take-away: We could learn from Job’s experience when we want to question the Lord.
    • Job was in so much anguish, he thought God was treating him like an enemy (Job 13:24).  I’m sure there have been times when each of us at one time or another have thought God was treating us like an enemy, because the pressure of various tribulations just will not let up.  The λαῖλαψ which occur in our life do not seem to be calmed by one little word spoken by Jesus.  I have stated to the Lord in prayer many times, “If Your treat those who love You like this, I’m really glad I’m not Your enemy!”
      • Even so, Job nonetheless put his trust in God.  Listen to what Job said in Job 13:15-16 - 15 Though [God] slay me, I will hope in Him. Nevertheless, I will argue my ways before Him. 16 This also will be my salvation, For a godless person cannot come before His presence[7].  Job wasn’t being self-righteous in thinking he would survive being in the Almighty, Sovereign Lord’s presence so he could then question God on what’s the deal with everything being taken away from me.  Job was trusting in God to be merciful.  Job was trusting that God had already redeemed him from his own sin so that he wouldn’t be considered godless like an unbeliever.
    • After the Lord gave Job audience, we later discover Job responded to the Lord in humility and confession of faith.  Listen to what Job said after the Lord spoke for a few chapters - Then Job answered the Lord and said, “I know that You can do all things, And that no plan is impossible for You. ‘Who is this who conceals advice without knowledge?’ Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I do not know. ‘Please listen, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me.’ I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You; Therefore I retract, And I repent, sitting on dust and ashes.[8]”  What we gather from this passage is Job confessed his faith in the presence of God. I suspect Job was actually giddy in finally having the opportunity to stand in the presence of our Lord.  I also think Job was grateful to confess his sin of questioning God’s integrity.
      • After this conversation took place, the Lord also restored the fortunes of Job.  In fact, we read at the end of the Book of Job, the Lord increased double what Job originally lost by Satan’s evil hand (Job 42:10-17).
    • God is slow to anger, and abounds in mercy (Ps 145:8).  You may want to quibble with the Lord on why He allowed Satan to torment Job.  I know that the Lord does not allow temptation to come into our life that is greater than we can handle.  He always does provide the way out (1Co 10:13).  In Job’s case, we would not have this outstanding display of faith to talk about on Fathers’ Day today, had not the tribulation come into Job’s life.  But by the same Holy Spirit working in us who worked in Job, Job was able to weather the λαῖλαψ.  He was able to confess the faith given to him by the Holy Spirit.  He was able to stand in the presence of the Lord sin-free.  Job was sin-free, because of the righteousness brought by faith.
      • We do the same here at Christus Rex in 2021.  We cannot boast about our greatness, because apart from the redemption provided by Christ, we would be those ungodly people Job said would not be able to stand in God’s presence.  As we confessed in the Psalmody earlier this morning, Our help is in the name of the Lord! (Ps 124:8).  Always remember that as you head toward heaven in these latter days of this Age. Amen!


 


[1] Facts about Fathers’ Day noted from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Father%27s_Day_(United_States)

[2] Ps 139:1-5 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=ps+139&version=NASB

[3] Ex 16:1-3 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Exodus%2016&version=NASB

[4] Job 13:20-22 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=job+13&version=NASB

[5] Jam 1:2-4 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=jam+1&version=NASB

[6] Job 38:1 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=job+38&version=NASB

[7] Job 13:15-16 – from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Job+13&version=NASB

[8] Job 42:1-6 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Job+42&version=NASB

Blessed Is the Man (Psalm 1:3)

  • Let Us Pray: Lord God, Heavenly Father, we are blessed by You through Your Son and the Holy Spirit to lead a life of good works.  However, because of our sinfulness, we do not always reflect Your grand design for the works You want Your people to do.   Please send a greater measure of Your Spirit, so that we deny our sinfulness within us.  Instead, have us lead a “blessed” life, doing good works in the name of Your Son.  We pray this Holy Father, through Your one and only Son, and by the aid of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
  • Interpretation: I don’t usually like to preach from any of the Psalms, because they are hymns of reflections of the writers. The Psalms reflect, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, on God’s word as it relates to various situations in life. This not at all a bad thing and I do not want to be misunderstood on this point.  God’s words exist for us precisely as we prayed in the Collect of the Day a moment ago, “…that we may so hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life.” However, I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to explore the contrasts presented in Psalm 1 between the righteous and the ungodly. 😊
    • The contrast starts with the first three verses of Psalm 1 which describe the attributes of a righteous person.  In other words, God started out this Psalm with a description of a righteous person.  It’s not an exhaustive list, for that we need His entire word, but in verses 1-3, we see a righteous person in their actions is someone who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, doesn’t do things in life the way sinners do them, nor sit in the seat of pestilence.
      • This latter item of v1 was something I spent a lot of prep time going over for this message, because the way this Psalm was recited together during the readings earlier, the words here were “…sit in the seat of scoffers.”  The problem is the situation is much worse for the ungodly.  They are the ones who live in pestilence[1], which means they are literally a pest!  They are a plague on society.  Not so for the righteous.
      • In v2, we see a righteous person described by God as someone who delights in God’s word to the point of meditating on the Word day and night. The word of God is always on the lips of His people.
      • And in v3, God described a righteous person in the metaphor of a tree being planted by waterways which then bears fruit.  As we know by living in the desert, especially after the dry monsoon we experienced last summer, the leaves don’t do so well if the host plant is not watered sufficiently.  I have some bougainvillea in my back yard which are on the drip system and getting watered 2x/day for more than 20 minutes, and yet the leaves are yellow and brown.  But if these bougainvillea were planted next to a stream of water, they probably would be flourishing.  This would be so, despite the intense dryness of southern Arizona ever since Covid shut everything down in early spring 2020.  I don’t know if there is a coincidence of having no rain basically since then *and* our society locked down due to major pestilence caused by Covid.  Maybe the Lord is trying to get our attention?
    • These first three verses which take up half of Psalm 1 gave examples and metaphors for what a righteous person looks like in the Lord’s eyes.  Now in contrast, Ps 1:4-5 describe attributes of the ungodly.
      • For example, the wicked are like the shells of grains of wheat. There’s nothing to the shells and so these things blow away even in the slightest wind.  In 2021, we would describe a shallow person without the ability to stand up against anything tough as a “snowflake”.  Well, God said in v4, they are basically like a shell of grain or like the skin of a peanut. These pests get in the way of enjoying the grain or nut.  Whether snowflake or shell, an ungodly person melts or blows away when trouble comes into their life.
      • The ungodly are not going to mix with the righteous.  I believe Ps 1:5 is a summary of Jesus’ telling the message of the separation of the sheep from the goats on Judgement Day as recorded in Mat 25:31-46.  We in Christ will *not* be standing with the wicked in that great and last Judgement, nor will the ungodly be anywhere near the assembly of the righteous.
    • These verses all lead into the final verse of  Psalm 1, which like Mat 25:46,  has the contrast between the righteous and ungodly, the sheep and the goats.  Psalm 1 is summarized in v6 which I repeat here - 6For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the wicked will perish[2].
  • Background: It is worth exploring for a moment, how a person is considered righteous by God?
    • About 4,000yrs ago, God said to our father in the faith, Abraham, And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And [God] said to [Abraham], “So shall your descendants be.[3]” A childless Abraham’s response to what God said was to believe the words as they were told. God considered Abraham righteous for believing in the promise despite being somewhere between 75-85yrs old! (Gen 15:6)
    • To be clear: It is the faith Abraham displayed in believing God that made Abraham righteous.  This is a concept that the Apostle Paul spent an entire chapter explaining in Romans ch#4. Paul started out in Rom ch#4 with references to Abraham and in particular, Abraham’s belief that what God told him would come true.  God’s response to Abraham’s belief in the word was to credit that belief as righteousness.  And then Paul makes this contrast to drive home the point on the difference faith makes in determining righteousness - Now to the one who works, the wages are not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness[4].  In other words, God will pay back whatever good was done by a person.  Even the ungodly can do something good by God’s definition. For example, King Cyrus of Persia, who was not known to be godly, nonetheless protected God’s people at the time and allowed them to go back to Jerusalem after the exile.  However, believing and trusting in God’s word is credited as righteousness.  That credit is exactly what is ultimately needed to get into heaven, and *not* a pay-back.
      • We should note; Abraham didn’t come prewired with faith. The Apostle Paul wrote by inspiration - 14 But a natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned[5].  A “natural person” (ψυχικὸς) as the text stated is really referring to someone who has life and breath if we look directly into the Greek[6].  Paul stated a person with life & breath in them does not on their own receive the Spirit of God.  If a person doesn’t receive the Holy Spirit, that implies the Spirit wasn’t in the person to begin with.  The person had to somehow be made ready to receive or welcome in the Holy Spirit and as we have stated many times, we welcomed the Holy Spirit into our soul when we were baptized.  The Holy Spirit then does the job of taking the word of God we read and hear, and builds faith in us to believe.  When we believe, we are then considered righteous in the Father’s eyes.
        • God had to provide faith to Abraham in our example of the promise of descendants just like He has to provide faith for us in 2021.  God the Father, through the Holy Spirit, revealed to baptized souls His word.  Our soul hears the Word of God which is a revealing of Himself and His plans for us – plans to prosper us and not to harm us.  God reveals Himself to us so that we then may know the things He has freely given to us. The material we hear from the Spirit is not human wisdom, but things God Himself wants us to know.  (1Co 2:10-13)
      • Apart from having faith, we too like Abraham would have a problem pleasing God.  We read from Heb 11:6 - And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for the one who comes to God must believe that He exists, and that He proves to be One who rewards those who seek Him[7]
        • To drive home this point, think about the time when God called Noah to build an ark 120yrs before God would cause a world-wide deluge.  Because of original sin, everything in thought, word, and deed is evil.  We are so bad even when we were merely conceived.  God had tolerated this abject evil for 3,000yrs before it got so bad, we read from Gen 6:5 - Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of mankind was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually[8].  Abraham came along 10 generations after Noah, but that didn’t change the fact that we are conceived in sin and therefore need a Savior to pull us out of the mess we made of the perfection God created.
  • Analysis: We needed to take a little detour to explore the righteousness contrasted in Psalm 1.  With a clear understanding, we can now look at how the blessed bear fruit because they were planted as written in Ps 1:3.
    • From a sinful, self-centered world view, we might think in reading Psalm 1 that if we do this and that, we will become blessed.  That’s not a correct interpretation of Psalm 1! We don’t do things to become blessed.  It is the other way around.  We do good things *because* we are in a blessed state of being.
      • To understand this, I need to get into the Greek for a moment. Please take a look at the back of your bulletin for a moment to see the contrast between two Greek words: the adjective μακάριος (mak-ăr'-ee-ŏs) and the verb εὐλογέω (ewe-lŏg-eh'-ō).  Various forms of the adjective μακάριος appear throughout the OT and NT, but in all usages, they mean a person is in a state of being blessed.  And for review, an adjective is a part of speech with describes a noun.  Of course, a noun is any person, place, or thing. So, for something to be blessed it has to be a noun.  We “persons” are a noun.
        • But, how do we get into this blessed state?  We get there through the verb action of God blessing us.  That is the Greek verb εὐλογέω.  Εὐλογέω is an action taken by God to bless us.  So, putting this Greek lesson into the context of Psalm 1, where the text says “blessed” in v1, that is the state of being blessed (μακάριος). However, in v3, even though the Greek verb εὐλογέω does not appear directly, God describes His blessing of people with the metaphor of planting a tree near a waterway.  To give an analogy, my bougainvillea would love to be blessed by me with being planted next to a steady water source.  It would display the blessing of regular water by bearing green leaves and flowers in season.  It would be in a state of being blessed if it were planted near a steadily flowing waterway, instead of planted by the wash out back of my house that is dry all the time.
      • These definitions for the different Greek words are why Ps 1:1-2 are not a checklist of things to do in order to become blessed.  The actions are a result of already being in a state of being blessed.  As I just said, my bougainvillea are pretty scrawny-looking. They’re not showing an existence of living in a blessed state.  They can’t change that state.  They can’t uproot themselves and find a more watered place to grow.  They need something outside of themselves to do either a replanting or get more water.
        • In the context of the Psalm, there is evidence we are in a state of being blessed when we do the good works that look like yielding fruit in season. We need to be planted by God near a stream of living water in order to not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, don’t do things in life the way sinners do them, nor sit in the seat of pestilence.
  • Conclusion: The translated as “Blessed” of Ps 1:1 is the Greek word: μακάριος.  A child of God is in a state of being blessed.  Those around a blessed child of God can tell the child of God is blessed by observing the fruit they bear.
    • God blesses those who are in Him and He in them.  This is almost by definition that God will draw near to Him those who walk by faith and not by sight.
      • Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is documented beginning in Matt ch#5. The Sermon began with what are known as The Beatitudes.  Each of the verses of Mat 5:3-11 inclusive start with the Greek word, μακάριος, which is translated as “blessed”.  Those who are poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who display gentleness and mercy, those who are peacemakers, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, and yes, even those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness are all in a state of being blessed.
      • I’d be willing to bet that people can see in us through our actions whether we are blessed by God.  This is the situation, because good works naturally flow from faith.  God created us for good works so that we would walk in those good works and walk not in the ways of the ungodly (Eph 2:10).
        • From our Epistle of today, we make it our aim to please our Lord (2Co 5:7-9).  I’m sure all of us would prefer to be in God’s presence in heaven, where streams of living water flow freely.  However, wherever we are, by faith working in us, we want to be pleasing to the Lord in doing the works of God while it is day.
      • The fact that we know these things puts us in a blessed state if we do them.  Jesus gave us His 3yr ministry as an example of what to do that is pleasing in the Father’s sight.  He said in John 13:17 we are blessed if we do the examples He showed us.
    • Our take-away from this analysis of Psalm 1 is we need to turn from our sinful ways and reflect the blessed life we lead in Christ!  God told the OT prophet Ezekiel a person is righteous, and practices justice and righteousness, if they don’t have illicit sexual relations, don’t oppress anyone or commit robbery, but feeds the hungry and clothes the naked, and otherwise walks in the statues of the Lord and deals faithfully with people.  These are additional signs of a righteous person (Eze 18:5-9), besides what we already explored in Psalm 1.  These signs mentioned in Eze ch#18 are like the tree planted near a waterway, bearing these fruits mentioned in Eze 18 as well as Psalm 1.
      • God will not forget the good works you have done as one of His children.  He remembers the good works of all believers who have walked in faith all the way back to Abraham and Noah before him.  As one of His sheep on Judgement Day, He will only remember those good works done in faith. On Judgement Day, we’re only going to hear about those good works because the ungodly will not stand in the judgement nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous (Ps 1:5).  As the writer to the Hebrews wrote - 10 For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, by having served and by still serving the saints[9].  This is certainly true!


 


[1] Strong’s Definition of the Greek: λοιμῶν found in LXX:Ps 1:1 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/psa/1/1/t_conc_479001

[2] Ps 1:6 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=ps+1&version=NASB

[3] Gen 15:5 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=gen+15&version=NASB

[4] Rom 4:4-5 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=rom+4&version=NASB

[5] 1Co 2:14 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1co+2&version=NASB

[6] Strong’s Definition of Greek: ψυχικός as found in 1Co 2:14 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g5591/nasb20/tr/0-1/

[7] Heb 11:6 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=heb+11&version=NASB

[8] Gen 6:5 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=gen+6&version=NASB

[9] Heb 6:10 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=heb+6&version=NASB

Don't Lose Heart (2Co 4:16)

  • Let Us Pray: Lord Jesus, the world seems to be imploding before our very eyes. There is so much pressure on people to conform to the sinful ways of our society or be “canceled”.  You shed Your innocent blood in our place.  You died on the cross and received the punishment for sin we should have received.  For this we are eternally grateful.  Please send the Holy Spirit to have us grow in the true faith, so that despite the decay we see in ourselves and the world, we do not grow faint and lose out on the gift of eternal life that You worked with the Father and the Spirit to win for us. We pray this in your Name, Lord Jesus. Amen.
  • Introduction: What do Tom Brady (43), Phil Michelson (50), and Helio Castroneves (46) have in common?  Hint: In your bulletin, I included their ages in parentheses after their name.
    • All these men are supposed to be well past their prime in younger men’s sports, yet each has won a major event in their respective sport in 2021.  It seems to me to be forever ago that Tom Brady won Super Bowl LV.  He did this at 43 with the Buccaneers after being with the Patriots for 20yrs.  Phil Michelson became the oldest major championship winner in the history of golf, when he won the 2021 PGA Championship in South Carolina just 2wks ago[1].  And, just last weekend, Helio Castroneves became the 4th oldest Indy 500 winner after he was considered too old to win the race[2].
    • Apparently, they defy a portion of our text for today in 2Co 4:16 about “…[the] outer person is decaying…” And yet, these men stayed focused on the prize (1Co 9:24-25).  They focused on winning it all, well before they even set foot onto the field or track. They each have an approach to their sport which is very business-like.  Everything they do is geared toward that victory.  I don’t know if any of these men are believers in Christ, but they sure conduct themselves as if taking coaching from the Apostle Paul - 24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 25 Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. So they do it to obtain a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable[3].
  • Analysis: What could us Christians learn from these very recent secular examples?  After all, Paul called it when he said these sports stars were all competing for a trophy that can be melted down and used for some other purpose.  Everything in this Age is coming to an end and will perish when Jesus returns for the second and final time in earth’s history.
    • As you know, I turned 60 last week.  I considered it an accomplishment, especially when I’ve heard of people younger than me already put into a grave.  Even so, maybe you can identify with the following evidence of decay.
      • I cannot run, lift, or throw as I used to.  It doesn’t help that I’m 30lbs heavier than I was when I ran track in high school. ☹  I don’t think if I slim down to Helio Castroneves’ weight of 146lbs, I will suddenly be a contender for the next Indy 500, even though he & I are the same height.
      • After working in the yard of my home, I still gain muscle. But, that muscle mass doesn’t stick around very long.  Atrophy set in rather quickly after I was down for the count over the 2mo’s it took for me to recover from Covid earlier this year.
    • In our text, the Apostle Paul used a Greek word, διαφθείρεται, which means in this context to change for the worse.  Since this verb is written in the passive voice, it means our bodies are being decayed as we live. The longer we live, the more decay we witness.  However, the decay of our bodies was not God’s original plan for us.
      • Decay and death is the curse we brought onto ourselves through our first parents (Gen 3:19).  To recall, our OT reading for today was taken from Gen ch#3.   We were reminded of the sin of rebellion our first parents, Adam & Eve, had committed.  They had perfect bodies at the time they decided to be like God, and do their own thing instead of following the simple command of do not eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil.  No, they were the smart ones in the Garden of Eden – until God came looking for them in the cool of the day, and they hid their perfect bodies from Him.  Later in Gen ch#3 were the consequences of that sin of rebellion as said by God in v19 - 19 By the sweat of your face You shall eat bread, Until you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.[4]”  The prognosis for all of us is a life of decay to the point when we return to the dust.
      • That one sin didn’t just get passed on to everyone who ever lived. All of creation suffers from decay (Rom 8:19-22).  Creation itself is subjected to futility.  Unlike our first parents who knowingly and willingly rebelled, creation was an unwilling participant.  Plants, animals, and even basic elements and molecules suffer because of sin.  This is why evolution is such a denial of reality. This Age as we experience it is coming to an end.  It is devolving, not evolving.  Heaven and earth *will* pass away, said our Lord (Mark 13:31).
    • The process of decay of heaven, earth, and humans will come to an end (Heb 13:14).  This is hinted at in Heb 13:14, when the writer to the Hebrews stated - 14 For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come[5].  This was written in the context of Jesus sanctifying believers in Him through the shedding of His own blood – the sacrifice to end all of the OT commanded sacrifices. Because of what Jesus did, the writer was making the case that we look forward to the new Jerusalem, the city that is to come sometime in our eternal life.  This is why we sang the opening hymn, “Jerusalem, My Happy Home”, to get us thinking about what is to come in our eternal life.
      • Jesus Himself told of the world as we know it coming to an end in the Parable of the Weeds and Wheat (Mat 13:36-43).  [Quick note: I messed up on the back of your bulletin and wrote “Parable of the Sower”.]  Jesus was asked by His disciples what the parable meant when good seed was cast that was pure of any contaminants, but weeds began to pop up along with the wheat. Jesus was the person who cast good seed, but the devil scattered seeds of weeds which would interfere with God’s good plan.  There will be a harvest of everything at the end of this Age.  There will then be a separation of the wheat from the weeds. The wheat represented the righteous people who by faith trust in Jesus.  They will spend eternity at the end of the Age with Jesus.  However, the weeds are the people who denied Jesus at the end of their life and so were bound up together and cast into the furnace of hell, to live for eternity.  Implicit in this parable Jesus told is that there will be an end to this Age.
      • After the harvest of the earth, everything will be made anew (Rev 21:1). This is something explicitly said by Jesus to the Apostle John in Rev 21:1-2 - Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband[6].   Creation will no longer be groaning under the weight of sin and futility that resulted from sin.  Believers in Christ will no longer suffer the effects of decay when we enter into the New Jerusalem!
      • Some people dread getting older.  Not me!  I think that’s a reason why I considered it an accomplishment in making it to 60.  I am happy to announce my count-down to 60 ended successfully!  Each day you & I live is a day closer to perfection (Rom 13:11).  Each day is one day less we have to suffer the decay of this present Age.
  • Conclusion: I hope you haven’t tuned me out by this point in the message. Yes, you & I are decaying, but we are also growing faithfulness (1Pe 3:4).  Non-believers can get wiser as they get older, but especially believers achieve this.  The Apostle Peter wrote about proper conduct for husbands and wives in 1Pe ch#3.  He started the chapter by referencing how women should be more concerned about exerting “…pure and respectful behavior” (1Pe 3:02), than what they adorn their decaying bodies with gold jewelry and fancy clothes. Peter exhorted women to instead work on the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable qualities of a gentle and quiet spirit.  Us guys are not off the hook, because Peter later wrote about the qualities of meekness and humility.  God considers these qualities as precious in His sight.
    • Like the three sports stars I mentioned earlier who ignored setbacks and decay of their body and mind, they fixed their eyes on the prize (2Co 4:18).  Let me quote from a portion of our Epistle for today - 17 For our momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal[7].  The things we cannot see with our eyes are really the things we need to focus on in life. Hmm, that can be tough when we cannot physically see the New Jerusalem with our eyes.  We can’t see that trophy like the sports stars can see at the end of a competition.  There are many stars who have come & gone throughout the history of sports, and some were plenty nasty.  They didn’t exhibit the qualities the Apostle Peter wrote about by inspiration, either in fair competition on the field, or away from the field.  That’s what makes it tough to remain faithful to the Lord – the inability to clearly see the prize.  And, what we do see, is only there to distract us away from the prize.
      • Nonetheless, through our baptism ordained by God, we carry Jesus’ death in our body, so that His life is also revealed through us (2Co 4:10).  We can’t see a physical property of humility for example.  But, we can perceive when a person is humble, and when they aren’t.  We can see meekness in a father, when his little son of maybe 40lbs comes crashing into his 200lbs dad, sending that dad sprawling onto the floor.  The little squirt wouldn’t make a dent into his dad in a wrestling match, but the dad displayed meekness in not using his strength against his own flesh & blood to smack the kid back.  He instead played along with his son.
      • A baptized child of God is clothed in Christ (Gal 3:27) and has the Holy Spirit working in them to keep the focus on the hidden Christ and not on what is seen.  All we can see of a baptized child of God is their actions.
    • Don’t lose heart over all this talk about decay.  We need to remember something spoken from this pulpit during the Easter season: greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world (1Jn 4:4).  Jesus is in a baptized child of God by the work of the Holy Spirit.  Sometimes it’s a good idea to remember who is in you, especially when things aren’t going so well in life.  There are forces of evil determined to trip up each and every child of God.  They want to choke off the wheat which Jesus spread throughout the world.  Even in our country, which pledges to be one nation, under God, there are strong forces working against anything God asked us to do. Again; don’t lose heart.  The harvest of the Age is coming!
      • Focus on the fact that our current troubles inside and outside our body are only in this Age (2Co 4:17).   The day is coming when none the crap of 2021 we experience will be anywhere near us.  Everything I have seen on the news recently all portends of tougher times ahead.  I’m sure you have as well.  Resolve right here & now that the things you & I see are not going to be the weeds of life that choke us off from getting that seat at the Lamb’s High Feast we’ve been referring to several times this spring.  Resolve that the next birthday card you receive is one less you will receive until you enter into New Jerusalem.  I get it, and I hope you get it, that we can talk about resolving ourselves to do good works in the sight of the Lord.  But without the Holy Spirit, we might as well spit into the wind.  The good news is you & I as baptized children of God *do* have the Holy Spirit, empowering us to lead a life of good works. We should be the happiest people anyone could run across.  We know how all of the junk of this Age turns out for those in Christ.  By faith, we can have confidence in Him, to bring us to New Jerusalem.  He already went on ahead of us to prepare that place for us.
      • One final reminder: we died with Christ when we were baptized.  Because He rose from the dead, He will make all in Him rise with Him.  When we finally breath our last in this Age, that death is what is referred to as the 1st death.  The 2nd death comes on Judgement Day, when a Jesus-denier is sentenced to eternal death in hell.  Not so for those in Christ!  Death has no power over those in Christ. 
        • We will commune in a minute or so, and receive Jesus real presence into us and we in Him.  We will have forgiveness of sins.  And with Jesus in us and we in Him, He who raised Jesus from the dead will raise us as well (2Co 4:14).  After that, there will be no more death, mourning, crying, or pain, for the current Age will have passed away (Rev 21:4).  Amen!

[1] Facts presented per https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phil_Mickelson

[2] Facts presented per https://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/breaking/ct-indianapolis-500-winner-20210530-tnzhzdgrfzdyzj5r6ss2vbfriu-story.html

[3] 1Co 9:24-25 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+co+9&version=NASB

[4] Gen 3:19 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=gen+3&version=NASB

[5] Heb 13:14 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=heb+13&version=NASB

[6] Rev 21:1-2 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=rev+21&version=NASB

[7] 2Co 4:17-18 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2co+4&version=NASB

Trinity in the Bible (Act 2:33)

  • Introduction: The celebration of Trinity Sunday really didn’t get into the Christian traditions until the 14th century.  However, its origins date back to the 4th century.  That was when there was a major attack on the attributes of our Lord Jesus by a man named Arius.
    • Usually, heretics don’t have a problem with recognizing God the Father. What separates a true religion from false is a religion’s doctrine about Jesus.  The study of Jesus the Christ throughout the Old and New Testaments is known as Christology.  If they cannot say Jesus is God, and not just any god, but the one true God, then they clearly identify themselves as a false religion.
    • Another issue for heretics is they will claim the word Trinity does not appear in the Bible.  This is technically true, but I remind you Satan split hairs and mixed up words in order to deceive our first parents into rebelling against God.  The doctrine of the Triune God is a fundamental truth of the Bible. We will explore just a few passages (of many) which clearly indicate there is one God of three persons; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
    • We will also spend time on this Trinity Sunday going through some points of the Arian Heresy and refute them with Biblical references. Unfortunately, though these heresies date back to the early 4th century, they will sound familiar with false religions which are around even today.
  • Let Us Pray:  O Lord God, Heavenly Father, send to us your Spirit so that we can gain a better understanding of how you, with Jesus and the Spirit, are three distinct persons yet all one.  With this understanding, grant us a greater measure of faith in you.  We bring this to You O Father, who lives and reigns with the Son and the Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.
  • Background: As I mentioned, the Arian heresy started with a priest named Arius of Alexandria, Egypt.  Arius had a few problems with his Christology, but I want to cover just three main points in our message for today[1].  I will also sprinkle in what at least one religion of 2021 is still saying.
    • Arius denied Jesus is of one essence, nature, or substance with the Father.
    • Arius denied Jesus was like the Father, nor was an equal member of the Triune Godhead.  Some religions in 2021 are still saying something like this, going so far as to state Jesus is a lesser god to God the Father, if they even agree Jesus was God or a god.
    • And thirdly, Arius denied Jesus always lived throughout eternity. Arius claimed the Father created Jesus. Unfortunately, there is a religion in 2021 which has in a publication dated 1989 which has this sentence: “The Bible is consistent in revealing Almighty God, Jehovah, as alone Supreme, Jesus as his created Son, and the holy spirit as God’s active force.[2]
  • Analysis: It is especially appropriate on Trinity Sunday to dive into the scriptures to defend the centuries old understanding of the one, true God as being the three persons of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Let’s look at some scriptures which refute these Arian heretical points.
    • The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Colossians provided a warning to all believers in Christ - See to it that there is no one who takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception in accordance with human tradition, in accordance with the elementary principles of the world, rather than in accordance with Christ[3].  Paul was really concerned the churches he started on his missionary journeys would soon become prey for deceivers.  He wanted the new Christians to know that they were who they were only through Christ. Then, to make it clear why everything originated through Christ, he started with this in v9 - For in [Jesus] all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form[4].  This is one of the passages of the NT from which we developed the doctrine of Jesus being God in man.  Paul is stating here that Jesus, being conceived by the Holy Spirit in Mary, has everything about God the Father in Him.  100% of the fullness of God the Father is in Jesus, but so also is Jesus 100% man.
    • Our second example from Paul, from the book of Philippians, takes that attribute of Jesus having 100% of the Father in Him, and kind of turns it on its ear.  Jesus in His humility did not consider equality with the Father something to be seized (Ph 2:6).  Think about this for a moment: if we were suddenly graced with the power to do anything we wanted, how long would it take for us to become corrupted with the absolute power of Almighty God?  That idiot in the car ahead of us doing 15 miles under the limit would be condemned eternally if we just said the words that would damn them to hell.  The sun shining in our eyes at the wrong time would suddenly go dark if we commanded the sun to do so.  Jesus didn’t do anything self-centered like these examples. The closest He came to doing something like that was cursing a fig tree that didn’t have fruit on it when He was hungry (Mark 11:12-14).  He had the power of God when He walked the face of the earth 2000yrs ago, but was very careful to not use it for His own purposes, because He, though tempted in the same ways we are, did not sin.
      • Because Jesus was so humble and obedient to the mission at hand which was to seek and save the lost, God the Father exalted Jesus with the title of God which is above every name ever given to a mere mortal being (Ph 2:9). God the Father made it clear at Jesus’ baptism, which was the start of Jesus’ 3yr ministry, that He was the Father’s beloved Son.  Yes, anyone who followed Arius in the 4th century, and anyone who is caught in a cult of the 21st century, needs to deal with the passages in Mat ch#3 and Luke ch#3 where God the Father reveals Jesus to be His beloved Son.  The Jesus-deniers will quickly retort with stating they believe Jesus was a prophet and a good man, but to really believe in Jesus, is to believe in and worship Him as God and a member of the Trinity. 
      • Continuing in Phil 2:10-11 on that theme of worshipping Jesus as God, the Apostle Paul wrote by inspiration – 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father[5].  The day is coming when everyone will appear before Jesus.  Jesus didn’t come in the flesh to be a judge during His earthly ministry.  He came to seek and save the lost.  However, there is a day which will be the last day in this Age and the first day of eternity for everyone.  On that day, Jesus will be judge.  *Everyone* will appear in the presence of the Almighty God.  At that time, every knee will bow to Jesus (Ph 2:10) and every tongue confess Jesus is Lord (Ph 2:11).  You, me, everyone, will be in His presence in the courtroom of eternity which will determine whether a person will go to heaven or go to hell – it will be only one of two possibilities.  For those who acknowledged Jesus in faith in this Age, the verdict will be simple: innocent of any and all sins committed in this Age.  What, you say? You & me, believers in Christ, sinless?!  Yes; through the innocent shedding of the blood of the Lamb who knew no sin. 
      • But, for those who did not believe in this Age that Jesus is a full member of the Trinity, they will have every sin they ever committed repeated in the presence of all in that courtroom.  They didn’t seek out the power of God in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, though the Holy Spirit will have called them to repentance repeatedly throughout their time in this Age.  They will have denied the testimony of the Holy Spirit that Jesus is Lord. Remember, the only unpardonable sin is the sin against the Holy Spirit – the 3rd member of the Trinity. That sin is to deny the testimony of the Holy Spirit that Jesus is Lord, our Redeemer.  Anyone denying Jesus the full membership of the Trinity will exit the courtroom of eternity through the doorway headed straight to hell.  They will get to deny Jesus eternally all the while they suffer for their foolishness in this Age.
      • We confessed the words of the Nicene Creed throughout the Easter season in our worship services.  Part of that confession of faith is that “…Jesus is of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made…”.  The Greek word translated into English as “one substance” is ομοούσιους.  The church fathers of the 4th century dealt with the Arian Heresy over the course of two what were called ecumenical councils, one in 325AD and the other in 381AD.  These ecumenical councils were basically a gathering of all of the church leaders throughout Christendom at the time.  These people were noted scholars and faithful servants of the word throughout the world at the time.  They rejected Arius’ contention that Jesus was a created being by God the Father. Jesus, being the Word of God, is an integral part of God, being of one substance with God the Father, by whom all things were made from out of nothing. 
    • Let’s face it: if we come up with an empty philosophy that Jesus was created by God, simply because we try to rationalize the Trinity with our own finite minds, we can then believe Jesus had a beginning.  And, if Jesus had a beginning, He must have either been created or somehow had a divine mother.  The fact is, Jesus has always existed, does still exist, and will exist forever (Rev 1:8).    The first three verses of the Gospel of John make that clear (John 1:1-3).  In one of the more incorrectly translated passages of the Bible, John ch#1 starts with - 1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  The problem I and other theologians have with this translation is there is no definite article ahead of the word “beginning”.  It would be better to state, “The Word was in a beginning, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  There wasn’t a time prior to “a beginning”, because everything begins and ends with Jesus.  We in this three-dimensional world of length, mass, and time perceive a beginning and an end. We don’t know any better. However, God does not live in a three-dimensional world that includes time.  The Triune God is ageless and timeless.  This concept is especially clear throughout the Old Testament.  Jesus is ageless and timeless just like God the Father, and shares all of the attributes of the Father (John 14:9-11; Heb 1:3).  The expression applies, like Father, like Son.  Jesus goes about the business of the Father to this day.
    • If Arius and his modern day followers in their empty philosophy can deny Jesus’ full membership in the Triune Godhead, they can then reduce the Holy Spirit to being just God’s Spirit and not a separate and distinct member of the Trinity.  The Holy Spirit, as we celebrated on Pentecost last Sunday, is a distinct person of the Triune Godhead.  He has a function and purpose.  He is the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father that the Apostle John quoted Jesus as saying (John 15:26).  Let me read from John 16:13-14 and you judge for yourself whether the Holy Spirit is the Father’s mere spirit or if Jesus is speaking about another member of the Triune Godhead - 13 But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take from Mine and will disclose it to you[6].  I hope you agree that Jesus ought to know who He was talking about on the night He was delivered into the hands of the mob when He referred to the Holy Spirit. This same Holy Spirit is one with Jesus as with the Father, yet a separate individual of the Trinity who has a specific purpose in the salvation of mankind.  The Holy Spirit’s mission in these latter days is to disclose to us what is to come.  He will glorify Jesus.  This is why it is such an eternally deadly sin to deny what the Spirit testifies in our soul.  If one ignores the Holy Spirit’s witness, they in turn deny Jesus.  And if they deny Jesus, they deny the Father who sent both of them to save us so that we can spend eternity with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 
  • Conclusion: Many cults steadfastly deny the equality of Jesus with the Father[7]
    • Jesus deniers will also state the word Trinity is not in the Bible. You know something: they are correct. The actual word “Trinity” does not appear anywhere in the Bible.  However, people who say this are faithless idiots to not understand the long-standing doctrine of the Christian church regarding God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.  These distinct persons of the Triune Godhead each have a purpose in their life.  I invite you to draw your own conclusions (by faith) from the following passages I will cite:
      • Listen to how the apostle Peter’s greets readers of his first letter in 1Pe 1:1b-2 - …[those] who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you[8].  God knew we would screw up the perfection created in the garden of Eden, so the members of the Trinity each have a role in our redemption from the permanent banishment we experienced as a result of our rebellion.  Each member of the Trinity wants us back with Him, hence the activity of each Person of the Trinity to provide the path of redemption.
      • Additional evidence in the scriptures of the Trinity exists with the Gospel accounts by Matthew and Luke of Jesus’ baptism.  His baptism started off His ministry (Luke 3:22).  Do you remember what happened after Jesus came out of the water?  The Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus like a dove, and God the Father said, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well pleased.”  All three persons of the Trinity were present and perceivable at that moment.
      • Jesus’ baptism was the start of His ministry and at the end of His ministry, He commissioned future generations of pastors to baptize in the names of the persons of the Triune Godhead (Mat 28:19).  I have heard that one synod of Lutheranism has abandoned baptizing in the name of the Father, and the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  They want to avoid using the male references in this woke culture we now find ourselves in, and so they baptize in the name of the Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier.  These are functions of the persons of the Trinity and not the actual names of the male persons of the Trinity.  Jesus said to baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, not their functions.
      • In our Gospel reading for today, when Jesus said to Nicodemus one must be born from above in order to inherit the kingdom of God, He meant one must be reborn through water and Spirit (John 3:5).  We received the Holy Spirit when we were baptized with the water and the Word.  Our sins were washed away, and we were raised up with Christ to a new life.
        • Later Jesus gave Nicodemus the purpose of His coming into the world.  The familiar “Gospel in a nutshell” is worth being repeated here: 16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but so that the world might be saved through Him[9].  Having revealed this, how could God the Father show any greater value in redeeming us from certain eternal destruction, than to send His most precision Son to save us from damnation?  That’s how precious we are in God’s sight!
      • It is only by the Holy Spirit, received at baptism, that anyone can say, “Jesus is Lord” (1Co 12:3).  We wouldn’t believe such a wonderful story about creation, redemption, and sanctification, and that there are persons of a Triune Godhead who work these functions to make sure we one day are in heaven with Him.  It is hard; no, impossible, to imagine someone would love us so much, He would give His own Son as a ransom for us.  And, knowing this would be impossible to believe, would then give the gift of the Holy Spirit to work in us constantly to guide us to the home Jesus went on ahead of us to prepare for us.
    • May you go forward in faith this Trinity Sunday, prepared to answer any cultist with the proofs from the scriptures provided on today.  Furthermore, let our last proof of the doctrine of the Trinity found in this benediction from 2Co 13:14 remain with you always - 14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all[10]. Amen!


 


[1] Source for these three points is attributed to https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01707c.htm

[2] https://www.scribd.com/document/299915150/Watchtower-Should-You-Believe-in-the-Trinity-1989, p.29

[3] Col 2:8 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=col+2&version=NASB

[4] Col 2:9 from NASB20, IBID

[5] Phil 2:10-11 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=phil+2&version=NASB

[6] John 16:13-14 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%2016&version=NASB

[7] Martin, Walter. The Kingdom of the Cults (p. 115). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[8] 1Pe 1:1b-2 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1pe+1&version=NASB

[9] John 3:16-17 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+3&version=NASB

[10] 2Co 13:14 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2co+13&version=NASB

Spirit or Breath? (Eze 37:14)

  • Let Us Pray:  O Lord, we pray as the hymnist wrote: O Holy Spirit, enter in.  And in our hearts Your work begin.  Your dwelling place now make us.  Sun of the soul, O Light Divine, around and in us brightly shine.  To joy and gladness wake us, that we may be truly living.  We bring these petitions before You, Lord God, Holy Spirit, You who reigns with the Son and the Father, now and forevermore.  Amen.
  • Introduction: Today is the celebration of Pentecost, the birthday of the church! 
    • If you recall in reading throughout the Gospels, Jesus was forever contending with the lack of understanding His disciples had with the words He was saying and doing.  In fact, at one point, Jesus was so frustrated, 16 And he said, “Are you also still without understanding[1]?” This kept happening because the disciples did not yet have the Holy Spirit to testify the truth into their soul.  Without the Holy Spirit doing this work of continuous testimony in our soul, we would soon be lost because we wouldn’t have the truth in us. We would fall for each of Satan’s lies. We would do whatever we feel like doing, most likely what is contrary to God’s word.  But, because of the Holy Spirit working in us since our baptism, we are part of the Holy Christian Church; the Communion of Saints as we confessed a moment ago in the Apostles Creed.
    • The coming of the Holy Spirit on that first Pentecost was a fulfillment of prophesy for these latter days.  We heard a few moments ago the reading from the NT Book of Acts which described an event which occurred in Jerusalem during the feast of weeks (Lev 23:15-16).  People from all over came to Jerusalem to celebrate this feast God initiated for the Israelites to keep annually.  This feast was seven (7) weeks after the feast of first fruits (Lev 23:11).  While these people were in Jerusalem, all of the sudden, there was this loud sound like rushing wind.  Then, the appearance of tongues of fire rested on everyone’s head.  Those with the tongues of fire were filled with the Holy Spirit and suddenly able to speak in other tongues or languages. Regardless of where someone was from, they heard the word of God in their own tongue. (Act 2:1-13)
    • This same event was also fulfillment of Jesus’ words after eating the Passover with His disciples for one last time.  Jesus said on the night He was betrayed, 26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.[2]” 
  • Background: That brings us to our text for today from the OT reading - 14 And I will give my Spirit into you, and you shall live. Also, you will be put in your own land. And, you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it, says the Lord.[3]”  I translated the Greek word, πνεῦμά, as “Spirit”, but did God mean Spirit or breath in Eze 37:14?
    • If you check the back cover of your bulletin, the definition of the Greek: πνεῦμά is listed: 
      • πνεῦμά can mean a current of air, such as a breath or a breeze.  It can be used by analogy or figuratively.  For example, a spirit, the rational soul, or by implication), a vital principle or mental disposition. 
      • Either πνεῦμά means one of these concepts or πνεῦμά can mean angel, demon, or God.  Classic Christian doctrine would state that πνεῦμά is a particular person of the Triune Godhead, that being the Holy Spirit.
    • Perhaps you can appreciate the struggles bible translators have sometimes when a word in the original language of the Spirit-inspired author must be translated into a different language.  We could go to the Hebrew in this example from the Book of Ezekiel, but the Hebrew word there translated into the Greek:πνεῦμά has the same multiple meanings.  Since we have this dilemma on which definition to use, let’s first look at reasons to interpret πνεῦμά as Spirit in v14.
      • The scriptures interpret the scriptures.  Additionally, we need to interpret each verse of the bible in the context in which it was written.  Ch#37 of Ezekiel started with the Lord moving Ezekiel into the middle of a valley. This valley was littered with bones. The prophet Ezekiel wrote in v1 – “…[God] brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord…”.  This is the first occurrence of the usage of the word πνεῦμά in ch#37.  I think you would agree this portion of v1 wouldn’t sound correctly if it read, “God brought me out in the breath of the Lord.”  I supposed God could have blown poor Ezekiel into the valley, but that probably would not have ended well. ☹
      • Another place in Eze ch#37 where πνεῦμά appears is in v6.  God will give His Spirit into us after He first constructed us in a physical sense.  Jesus-deniers want to say humans evolved from some lower life form.  Do you really think over the period of millions of years our ancestors decided, hey, wouldn’t it be great to have opposable thumbs so we can grab things?  Maybe if we can get everyone living at the time to concentrate on growing a thumb, we can in a few generations grow a thumb!  If that were true, wouldn’t we have human skeletons with hands that didn’t have thumbs?  We might find one without thumbs, but virtually 100% of the human skeletons ever found intact had thumbs.  God repeated the creation story of Genesis here in v6 when He described adding sinews, flesh, and skin to our skeleton He designed and built.   But a skeleton with all these additions isn’t really living until it is given a spirit.  The word πνεῦμά in v6 is interpreted as “breath” by the ESV, but we can keep the body of a dead person going by forcing it to breath.  However, does that mean the body is alive?
    • Now let’s look at reasons to interpret πνεῦμά as breath in v14.
      • Going back to v4, God tells Ezekiel to prophesy over the dead bones which littered the valley he was in.  In v5, Ezekiel does just that - Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live[4]. At this point we could play paper, rock, scissors to determine whether his usage of πνεῦμά should be interpreted as spirit or breath, but I think v5 was setting up for v6 that we just explored.
        • Let’s take a step back for a moment and recall how God created Adam.  We read from Gen 2:7 - then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature[5].  The Greek word interpreted by the ESV as “breathed” is ἐνεφύσησεν.  {‘Sorry to not have included this word from the Greek in the outline.}  A more appropriate translation for ἐνεφύσησεν is “blew”.  God blew the breath of life into Adam, and he had a living soul. I do agree with the ESV where it rendered “breath”, which is our now familiar Greek word, πνεῦμά.  In other words, God blew His own breath into Adam, and Adam came alive!  God doubles down on the creation account of Gen ch#2 in our text for today in Ezekiel ch#37 with the breathing life into dead bones.  Do you see why it is so important to make sure you understand and believe the creation account found in the early chapters of Genesis?  If one cannot accept God’s word that the heavens and the earth were created in six, 24hr days and then rested on the 7th, 24hr day, one will not believe what was written in Ezekiel.  Jesus used the exact same word, ἐνεφύσησεν, when He blew on His disciples after the resurrection and said in John 20:22 , “Receive the Holy Spirit.” How will anyone believe that if they didn’t believe God’s creation account in Gen ch#2 and recreation in Eze ch#37?
      • A second reason for interpreting πνεῦμά as breath is found in the second half of v9 - Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.”.  Ezekiel was told by God to prophesy to the four winds of the earth and blow breath into slain.  V9 has a bonus in it in that it contains the both the Greek word προφήτευσον, which a variant that means to blow toward versus blow into, and also the Greek word, πνεῦμά. 
      • Once Ezekiel prophesied in the name of the Lord, breath blew into the congregation, they came to life, and then stood up, all in v10.  Again, as with v9, we have both Greek words, which can only mean that the Spirit of the Lord blew into the mouths of the people, and as a result, they had the breath of life in them.  This verse here is probably why the 3yr Lectionary series included Eze 37:1-14 into the celebration of Pentecost, given how the Holy Spirit literally blew into the disciples’ room.  Incidentally, the Greek rendered as “wind” in Acts 2:2 is a form of the word, πνεῦμά.
  • Analysis: Let me reread Eze 37:14 from my interpretation of the Greek - 14 And I will give my Spirit into you, and you shall live. Also, you will be put in your own land. And, you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it, says the Lord.”  Whichever interpretation of πνεῦμά you think is best here, it is important to look at the compassion God is showing on us.
    • Apart from life being given to us, we are spiritually dead.  Ezekiel was brought by the Lord to some valley, the location of which I have no clue.  In v2 he observed - And [God] led me around among [the bones], and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry.  This verse is probably from where we get the expression “bone dry”.  When a body dies, it returns to the dust from which it came. The bones become dry.
      • But, being spiritually dead is not having dry bones.  In the memorial for Lynette Johnson held last Sunday, we talked about being dead in trespasses and sin.  A portion of Ephesians was read which I repeat here - 1And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air (ἀέρος), the spirit (πνεύματος) that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind[6].  The Apostle Paul made it clear at the start of Eph ch#2 that, apart from Christ, we are all dead in trespasses and sins.  We are like the dry bones which littered the valley Ezekiel was brought to by the Lord.  Dried out, dead bones.  And like those bones, there was no way we were going to come to life on our own.  A person has to first be living and conscious before they can make a decision on whether to come to life.  They would then need the ability to come back to life. We have neither of these working for us apart from Christ.
    • It is God who must put life in us.  He, by His Spirit, blows the breath of life into our soul.  He puts the skeleton into position, adds the flesh, gets everything in order, but then adds life to us.
      • Apostle Peter pointed this out in his sermon on Pentecost.  Peter quoted from the OT book of Joel 2:28-29 - 17‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18 even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
        • In Joel ch#2, there is a variation of the Greek:πνεῦμά. But, we know we can interpret πνεῦμά to be “Spirit”, because of the Greek words in context.  For example, the Greek rendered as “pour out” indicated God the Father will pour out His Spirit upon all flesh.  Just as it was the situation in Ezekiel ch#37, all flesh is dead without the Holy Spirit. When Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to His disciples, He later made clear for them to “…not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.[7]” In Joel ch#2, it is clear, the variation of πνεῦμά means God will pour out His Spirit, and that pouring out is part of baptism.
        • I alluded back to last Sunday’s memorial for Lynette and the text for the message was from Eph ch#2.  The portion I read a moment ago noted what being spiritually dead looked like.  However, that’s death and not life.  God is all about giving life.  He doesn’t want us to be dead like dry bones.  Listen to the next few verses of Eph ch#2 - But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ…and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus[8].  God in an instant; in the twinkling of an eye, took Lynette and breathed His Spirit into her so that she lives even as we sit here in church this morning.  God poured out His Spirit on the first Pentecost, and ever since then, we have been in the latter days of this Age.  The sinfulness of this Age seems to be getting worse, but that doesn’t change God’s love for us, nor the plans He has for us now and throughout eternity.
  • Response: With all this great news about God’s love for us and the pouring out of His Spirit upon us, what should we do with this understanding?
    • Since we have life in Christ through the Holy Spirit, we should stop living like dead bones.  The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans - 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness[9].
      • Jesus went to the cross to save all of us from eternal death.  In fact, He went there to save all of mankind – anyone who ever lived, was living, and who was yet to live.  Unfortunately, not everyone will come into heaven and sit down at the Lamb’s High Feast.  There will be dead bones littering the floor of hell, because those people did not receive the breath of life and then turn from their sinful ways.  The only sin not pardoned from the cross is the sin of denial that Jesus is Lord.  It is the Holy Spirit who speaks to our soul concerning sin, righteousness, and judgement.  We can keep doing what sinful things we were doing, or seek the power of the Lord to turn from our sinful ways and live. He will provide the breath of life.
      • Those who believe in Jesus and what He has done for them had their dead bones buried with Christ through baptism.  Again, quoting Paul - Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life[10].  Yes, we died with Christ when we were baptized and we are also raised with Him from the dead. No more dry bones for those in Christ!
      • Paul continues - Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus[11].  Lynette is gone from our presence.  However, she is alive to God in Christ Jesus.  The experience she has had will be the same experience we in Christ will have. Jesus died, but then rose from the dead. That means He cannot die!  Death has no power over Him.  And because He lives, we too live, and will live with Him eternally.
    • We have the Spirit of life breathed into us.  Let’s carry the Spirit of Life wherever we go, equipped with everything good, and forsaking the bad which lurks within us! 20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen[12]


 


[1] Mat 15:16 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mat+15&version=ESV

[2] John 15:26-27 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+15&version=ESV

[3] Original translation from the LXX at https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/eze/37/1/t_conc_839014

[4] Eze 37:5 from ESV at https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/eze/37/1/t_conc_839005

[5] Gen 2:7 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=gen+2&version=ESV

[6] Eph 2:1-3 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=eph+2&version=ESV

[7] Act 1:4b-5 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts%201&version=ESV

[8] Eph 2:4-7 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=eph+2&version=ESV

[9] Rom 6:12-13 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=rom+6&version=ESV

[10] Rom 6:3-4 from ESV, IBID

[11] Rom 6:8-11 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=rom+6&version=ESV

[12] Heb 13:20-21 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=heb+13&version=ESV

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