We are finishing up our Fighting Temptation sermon series this morning. If you’ve been here following along, this is the culmination. We’re going to take everything we’ve learned about fighting temptation and apply it to enduring in the fight against temptation.
If you haven’t been here, that’s okay. Because we’re going to be talking about how to endure your walk of faith -- in a world filled with doubt, shame, guilt, and other things that make it feel like you should just give up on faith.
In short, if you want to enjoy eternal life…this is for you.
Before we study, a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth, your Word is the truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; open our ears to hear what you want us to hear; and open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Surrounded by Witnesses
The section we’re going to look at it from the book of Hebrews 12: 1-3. Briefly – Hebrews is a letter written to believers anywhere at any time. We are believers. We are somewhere and sometimes – so…this is written to us.
This is written to you.
Look at the encouragement in chapter 12:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Right away, I get this picture of a track and field meet. The stadium seating is filled with people. They’ve got their popcorn. They’ve got their sports drinks. They’ve got their sunglasses on and a granola bar for the kids. They are cheering on your behalf – “You can do it! You’ve got this! Keep running.”
There’s even that coach running alongside the infield. He’s the one’s that’s running by you as you hit the corner – he’s screaming. He’s yelling. He’s waving his arms in big old circles – (because I think he thinks that it’ll help with the airflow so you can run faster.) He’s part of the crowd of people that are encouraging you and cheering you on.
But who is this group of people that the Bible is talking about?
Who are these witnesses?
(1) Those who have Finished the Race
It is usually in good taste, once you finish a race, to turn around and cheer for those who are still finishing up. You’re letting them know it’s possible by the fact that you already made it.
Scripture is filled with those who have finished the race.
Scripture is filled with those who have fought the fight against temptation.
Scripture is filled with those who have walked the walk of faith.
Like a guy named Abraham -- God said to him, “Get up. Move your family. Go to a different country. Even though I won’t tell you where, it’ll be good, just…trust me.”
And Abraham did.
And God gave him the land of Israel that would lead to the entire nation of Israel as we know them today.
Like a woman named Sarah – God said to her, “Even though you’re 90 years old and are barren, I will come back in a year and you will have a son – trust me.”
And Sarah did.
And God gave her a child named Isaac --- the great, great, great, great, many times over, grandfather of Jesus Christ.
Like a guy named Moses – God said to him, “I will work through you to do miraculous signs and lead my people out of slavery in Egypt – trust me.”
And Moses did.
And God sent locusts, frogs, hail, bugs, darkness and blood until the king of Egypt finally let them go.
And a young boy named David – God said to him, “Even though you are small, I will take care of you. Trust me.”
And David did.
And God protected him – guiding a tiny little stone from a sling shot into the gap of the giant goliath’s helmet – knocking him down – dead.
And a young man named Joshua – God said to him, “Even though there’s a gigantic wall surrounding the city, I will help you defeat Jericho and it will be yours…trust me.”
And Joshua did.
And God roared, Jericho trembled, God shook the city of Jericho and sent the walls of Jericho a tumbling down.
And a guy named Daniel – God said to him, “Even though the king has threatened a night in the lion’s den for not worshipping him, don’t do it. I’ll protect you…trust me.”
And Daniel did.
And God sent angels to calm those ferocious beasts – that come the next morning – the lions were snuggling up to Daniel purring like housecats.
And a young woman named Mary – God said to her, “Even though you’ve never slept with anyone – and biology says it’s impossible, trust me…You will have a Son and will call his name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
And she did.
And God did. And Jesus was born of a virgin.
And a guy named Peter…And Andrew. And James and John…and Thomas and Philip and hundreds more – to whom Jesus himself said, “They will kill me…. But…three days later…I will come back to life. Trust me.”
And they… didn’t.
But God did anyway. He came back to life.
The Bible is filled with people who have finished the race of faith.
And through the pages of Scripture – they cheer you on:
You will win.
(2) Those who are Running the Race with you
Because when you run a race – it’s good to run a race with friends. It’s nice to have people there to push you. People there to encourage you. People there to say, “You know what. Why don’t we walk for a bit.”
God has given you people to encourage you.
God has given you people to uplift you.
God has given you people to witness to God’s grace and run the race with you.
I remember Pastor John Jeske. He was a pastor of mine growing up. He preached rather long sermons. (Some of you are wondering – “How long does he think a ‘long sermon’ is…?”) He was a kind, gentle, older man – who always took the time to shake my hand and ask how my day was going.
He encouraged me.
One of the interactions that I ever had was a graduation card that I received from him. It said, “Philip, keep holding onto Jesus and keep sharing him with others.”
It wasn’t much.
A few simple words.
Yet – even today –
Years after I received that card.
Years after Pastor Jeske became a member of God’s congregation in heaven.
I hear his encouragement.
I want you to take a moment and think about some of the people God has given you to encourage you.
A grandma? A grandpa?
A church friend?
Because that’s really the point of church. It’s a group of people who gather together to encourage, uplift, run beside, pull each other along, and occasionally -- give someone a ride on their back as we run the race of faith together.
If you don’t have that group of people, God says you need it.
If you have that group of people, God says, “Don’t forget to encourage them too.”
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Because you wouldn’t do very well in a race if your shoelaces were tied together.
You wouldn’t do very well in a race if you were wrapped up in toilet paper.
You wouldn’t do very well in a race if you are the only one with a weighted backpack of about 50 pounds. (Unless you’re that one guy at my gym – who always wears the 50-pound backpack…I think he wears it when he brushes his teeth.)
But you get the point? You can’t run well when things are tangling you up and slowing you down.
And you can’t run the race of faith when things are tangling you up and slowing you down.
Again, what might entangle you? Two things:
(1) Sin that Entangles
This one seems easy.
Sin is bad.
God is good.
Sin is wrong.
God is opposed to wrong.
If you are trying to run the race of faith with God, then you’re going to be immensely slowed down.
And we’re not necessarily talking about tripping up in sin – that happens to all Christians all the time because we are all sinners.
But we’re talking about sin that entangles.
Sin that’s repeated.
Sin that’s repetitive.
Sin that’s got you all wrapped up.
Because think about it:
It’s hard set your heart after God, when your heart is after a bunch of porn on the internet.
It’s hard to run with all your strength, when most of your strength is boasting on social media.
It’s hard to run with joy, when you’re harboring bitterness in your heart.
It’s hard to share Jesus with people of all cultures, when you’d rather share your racist thoughts about other cultures.
It’s hard to trust God’s forgiveness of you, when you’re struggling with forgiving in your heart.
It’s hard to work together to share the Gospel, when you’re working on your own to share gossip about others at church.
Throw off the sin that entangles.
(2) Anything that Hinders
But it’s not just that. Scripture says to throw off anything that hinders.
Meaning things that aren’t necessarily sin.
Cause there’s all kinds of things in this world that aren’t necessarily sin. They are spiritually neutral. Things like: TV, sleep, food, money, career, sports, Rice Krispy Bars, Pokémon, and vegetables – (except for brussels sprouts – those are probably sinful – just kidding…kind of.)
Neutral things are not wrong on their own.
They become wrong, when they consume you to the point of slowing your spiritual race.
Like video games. I enjoy video games. Not the violent, intense, R rated games that have all kinds of questionable content.
But the light-hearted, goofy video games – that leave you questioning how old I am.
But here’s the thing. If those video games start to take up my time, if they start to envelop my thoughts, if I start thinking more about “How can I save princess Peach from Bowser” – rather than – “How can I share Jesus who saves eternally with that person…”
Video games have become a hindrance.
They need to be thrown off.
Think about you and your life.
What is slowing you down?
I bet it’s different than mine.
But I also bet there is one.
The devil will do everything possible to make you think that’s most important.
But it’s not.
So…whatever has become a hindrance to growing in faith, following Jesus, and sharing his message.
Identify and throw it off.
III. Eyes on the Prize
One more thing that Scripture implores us to do as we run the race of faith:
Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. (v.2)
Over at Lafayette Village, every September they hold Octoberfest. Let me say that again – Every September, they hold Octoberfest. (I think that the 4th of July is celebrated on August 10th this year, too). Part of the celebration is the Annual Wiener Dog Race. (Picture it.) It is exactly what you picture. A race with wiener dogs. The race isn’t long. It’s probably the length of a pew. And the dogs are dropped off at the starting line. They are positioned behind a starting gate and then, their owner goes down to the finish line – ready to call for the dog and cheer them to victory.
Sounds simple, right?
But…here’s what happens.
The announcer says, “On your mark. Get set. Go!”
The gates open…and…
One of them immediately runs over to the walls and starts trying to jump over them to get to the crowd.
Another sees a butterfly in the air and chases it to the other side.
A third was on his way to the end but stops when he sees the little kid eating a “hot dog.”
And a fourth – just kinda settles down for a nap.
I remember watching a race. It’s literally 30 feet in length, but it took about 5 minutes because the dogs couldn’t keep their attention on the endgame.
The same thing is true in this life.
We can’t get distracted by shiny, flashy things.
We can’t lose focus from Christ – and drift to career, money, friendship, physique…
None of those things lead to the finish line of eternal life.
None of those things lead to the finish line of heaven.
Only one thing does --
So fix your eyes on Jesus.
Why Jesus? Three reasons…
(1) He is the author of your faith
An author is someone who writes a book. They are the ones who come up with the ideas and write it on a page. People like Dr. Seuss, Maya Angelou and Nathaniel Hawthorne. All authors – all wrote their ideas and thoughts down on paper.
Jesus is the author of faith.
Its contents: He looked down upon earth. He saw that we were mired in sin, guilt and shame. He saw that we couldn’t get ourselves out of it – and eternal death was our destiny. So…he wrote “Faith.”
He came down to earthly willingly.
Lived perfectly when we couldn’t.
Died innocently in our place.
And rose triumphantly for the forgiveness of all of our sins!
He said, “Put your faith in ME, in ME, in ME, not in yourself, in ME!”
Jesus authored the contents of our faith – but – more than that – he authored your faith.
He came to you through Scripture.
He came to you through the words of someone who knew Scripture.
He came to you through the waters of baptism.
He brought you the message that we are sinners and are in need of a Savior.
He wrote on your heart the words of faith:
“I belong to Jesus.”
“He is my Savior.”
“I will follow him.”
Think about it: If he is the one who set you on this journey of faith!
Since he’s the one who started you on it, keep your eyes on him – he’ll help you through it.
(2) He is the Perfecter of Your Faith
In fact, he’ll get you to the end! The Scripture says, “He is the perfecter of your faith.” That means – you can’t do this race without him. You can’t do this race without your Savior. You can’t do this race on your own.
Be careful with that. It’s so common for Christians to say – “Thanks Jesus for starting me out on faith. I appreciate it. But…I don’t want you to get tired…Let me run it on my own.”
And a couple of paces – they’re passed out in a spiritual ditch.
Jesus said this, “I am the Vine; you are the branches. If someone remains in me and I in them, they will bear much fruit. Apart from me; they can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
If you think you can do this race without Jesus, you’ll be like one of those old branches lying in the woods. Brittle. Withered. Dead.
But…if you stay connected to Jesus, hear his promise: you will grow.
You will be nourished.
Your faith will flourish.
You will run and you will run fast.
(3) He’s Excellent at Keeping His Eye on the Prize
One more reason to keep your eyes on Jesus.
Today is Palm Sunday. It’s the day we remember how Jesus came to Jerusalem in a festive fashion.
He rode on a donkey.
People were cheering for him.
They were waving Palm branches in the air.
They were pumping their fists in the air.
They were laying their coats on the ground so the donkey didn’t have to step on mud.
The entire city of Jerusalem was watching this one-person parade of Jesus and shouting:
HOSANNA! HOSANNA TO THE SON OF DAVID!
The scene is impressive.
And you might think – I can understand why Jesus wanted to go to Jerusalem.
If that was his goal…Who wouldn’t want to have an entire city singing your adulation and giving praise and attention to you.
That’s not why Jesus went to Jerusalem.
“We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; they will flog him and kill him.” (Luke 18:31-33)
Do you see it?
Jesus reason for going to Jerusalem wasn’t Palm Sunday; it was Good Friday.
He didn’t come to earth for the adulation of the crowd; but the ridicule of the soldiers.
He didn’t come to hear “Hosanna!”; but to hear “Crucify him.”
He didn’t come to have palms waves at him, but to have nailed driven into his him.
He didn’t come to ride on a donkey, but to hang from a cross.
He didn’t come to gain glory for himself; he came to gain glory for you.
Jesus’ eyes were on the prize.
And the prize wasn’t himself.
The prize was YOU.
Hebrews says, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
That ultimate joy of God.
That ultimate joy of God that powered Jesus to go through with dying on the cross.
Was the promise of eternity with you.
What helped Jesus endured his immensely painful moments on the cross, was considering eternity with you.
What will help you endure the intense painful moments in this life, the moments that make you doubt, the moments that make you want to give up…
Is considering Jesus.
You will not grow weary and lose heart.
You will run.
All the way.
To your Savior’s waiting arms. Amen.
Last week we started our Fighting Temptation series by looking at Jesus’ one-on-one battle against the devil. We watched him effortlessly defeat Satan’s attempt at trying to make him sin. Jesus is the Undisputed, Undefeated, Unblemished Champion against Temptation.
But maybe you also noticed that the battle had some cost for Jesus.
It cost him time with his friends.
It cost him a stress-free month.
It cost him a delicious meal for about 40 days.
Truth is that temptation costs…
Is it worth it?
A couple of years back one of the dads at Precious Lambs taught karate. With some encouragement, I tried it out. And I enjoyed it! I liked learning the proper way to punch. I enjoyed learning a few combos. I think I looked pretty good in the ghee.
But after about a month of training, the Sensei invited me to a sparring match against another gym. I wouldn’t do any sparring, but I could watch more experienced classmates in action. He said, “In the future, this could be you.”
So, I watched.
It looked pretty fun.
I thought, “I sure would like to do that.”
Until about 30 minutes in. One gentleman began a reverse turn while lifting up his back leg (almost parallel to his head). As he completed his revolution, he brought his heel down in a striking manner towards his opponent’s head. Now – his opponent was ready and put his arm up to block the heel kick.
He did everything right.
And I thought: “I think I’ve had enough karate…”
It cost too much.
Today we’ll examine fighting temptation when it costs. Our goal this morning is to identify those costs, compare them to the costs of NOT fighting temptation and get some motivation to keep fighting even when it costs. Before we do that, a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; our ears to hear what you want us to hear and our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Costs of Fighting Temptation
The lesson for this morning comes from Philippians 3:17-21. A brief bit of background. This is from a letter written by a pastor named Paul to his former congregation in a city called Philippi. One of the key parts of the letter is to encourage the believers in Philippi to fight against temptation.
In 1:10 he says, “Be pure” and fight sexual temptation.
In 2:1-3 he says, “In humility consider others better than yourself” and fight selfish temptation.
In 2:14 he says, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing” and fight temptation to discord.
In 3:2 he says, “Watch out mutilators of the flesh” guys who taught you needed to be circumcised to be saved and fight the temptation of trusting your own works more than God.
All of this fighting temptation talk leads up to verse 17. Paul writes, “Join together in my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.”
Fight temptation like I, Paul, have fought temptation.
That sounds nice.
Paul was an apostle.
He fought temptation well.
It’d be good to fight like him.
Do you know what happened to Paul for fighting temptation?
I don’t know exactly how this letter got to the Philippians. But if it is anything like today, there’d be a return address up on in the corner of the envelope containing the letter. And…based on where Paul was when he wrote this, the return address would have said something like this:
Roman Inmate #1764
Roman Federal Prison
Rome, Italy 2761 Jailbird
And I bet the church thought:
Did we break some kind of legal code?
Is someone asking our church for money?
Did one of our youths from youth group get in a bunch of trouble?
It’s just your former pastor…
And yet Paul tells them! I’m in Chains for Christ!
“I’m in jail not because I fell to sin. But because I didn’t fall to sin.
Because I kept preaching the Word of God.
Because I kept telling others about Jesus.
Because I kept sharing the Gospel even when the temptation (and the temptation was great) even when the temptation was to stop sharing the Gospel.”
And now Paul tells the to join in his example, to fight temptation just like him.
But if I’m one of the Philippians reading this message, I’m not so sure!
Because if fighting temptation means going to prison, then…
Fighting temptation has a cost.
It costs you time with your family.
It costs you your job.
It costs you your freedom.
It costs you 6 am fresh coffee from Sola Coffee Café!
It’s like one of those commercials for a new drug. The voiceover tells you that this new, simple pill will allow you to grow back your hair in only 3 months. Everyone in the commercial looks happy. They all have a full head of hair. And you think: “Sure I’m interested. I’d love to get rid of my balding look.” Then, at the end of the commercial, there’s that part where they run through a few of the side effects in 10-point font:
Side effects include: nausea, headache, joint pain, dizziness, loss of sleep, too much sleep, loss of taste, loss of vision, loss of hearing and loss of hair.
Fighting temptation has side effects.
Fighting temptation has costs.
Here are a few common costs to fighting temptation
1) Earthly Relationships
I remember one time that I found a pretty good devotional. It was talking about a hot topic social issue. I posted this pretty good devotional on a hot topic social issue despite the temptation to maybe…move on. The result? I had a friend message me that if I ever did that again – he would block me. We wouldn’t be friends on Facebook.
Fighting temptation can cost you relationships.
“No, I won’t meet together for coffee and complaining anymore.” And they reply, “I guess you’re not our friend.”
“No, I won’t support your addiction and tell you that you don’t have a problem.” And they respond, “Okay. I’m done with you.”
“Significant other…I love you, but NO I won’t be sexually intimate with you until the promises of marriage.” And they say, “Well, then. You don’t love me. And we’re done here.”
2) Career Path
If you’re looking at Paul’s career strictly from an economic perspective, he made a big mistake by using his oratory skills to preach Jesus. Before he did that, he followed the Pharisees. He was an up and comer. Rich people liked him. He was a made man – a future leader in the city of Jerusalem. Thankfully Jesus intervened and taught Paul the truth – about what to believe and what to preach.
But then he taught about Jesus.
That landed him in jail.
Fighting Temptation can cost you your career path.
“No, I won’t fudge the numbers of my sales calls…and I’ll probably lose the promotion to the guy who does.”
“No, I won’t bad-mouth my coworkers…and I’ll probably lose the bonus to the guys who do.”
“No, I won’t hide my faith at work…and I’ll probably have to get a talking to from HR.”
3) Bodily Pleasure
Easy example. Think of the temptation to overeat. The temptation to have the third eclair is great! To say, “No!” comes with the cost of not having the pleasure of enjoying it.
Fighting temptation can cost you bodily pleasure.
“If I say NO to porn, it will cost me an excited feeling.”
“If I say NO to getting drunk, it’ll cost me a wonderful relaxation.”
“If I say NO to letting all of my rage out on that loser over there, then It’ll cost me the opportunity to get my stress out.”
4) Human Glory
For Paul, he lost all kinds of glory! He could have been something big. He could have been a guy that people walked by and said, “Now that guy’s impressive. He’s really good at following God’s laws. He’s so religious. He’s so holy.”
Instead? “That Paul guy is a loser.”
Fighting temptation can cost you human glory.
“If I say NO to racism and stop bad-mouthing people of another culture, it’ll make me feel inadequate because I won’t be able to distract people from my own flaws.”
“If I say NO to berating my wife, she might feel valuable and worthwhile to this family at the expense of me feeling like the sole provider!”
“If I say NO to pride, it’ll cost me all those people over there knowing how awesome I am!”
“If I say NO to making that funny dirty joke, all my grade school friends won’t think I’m cool anymore”
“If I say NO to drugs, all my high school friends will think I’m a loser.”
“If I say NO to supporting that sinful thing society says is “OK,” all my adult friends will think I’m a bigot.”
There is no doubt that Fighting Temptation comes with costs.
There is no doubt that Fighting Temptation will be painful.
There is no doubt that the temptation to not Fight Temptation is enticing.
II. The Cost of NOT Fighting
Before we give up on fighting temptation and give in to whatever sin is tempting us, we need to look at this from the other side.
We need to compare the cost of Fighting temptation with the cost of NOT fighting Temptation.
That’s exactly Paul’s next point. Look at what “not” fighting temptation costs:
For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. (v.18-20)
Did you catch it? Let’s break it apart to find some of the costs of not fighting temptation:
1) A Relationship with God
Specifically, Paul writes, “Many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.” (V.18) Before we said, a cost of fighting temptation is that you might lose some relationships: friends, family members, boyfriends, girlfriends, etc.
But if you stop fighting temptation and live in sin? You’ll forfeit your friendship with God.
And it isn’t that you’ll be an acquaintance or some guy on the bus that you have a neutral feeling with.
But you’ll be an enemy of God!
Why do that?
Why would you want to be an enemy of the One who gave his life for you to save you from sin and death?
Why would you want to be an enemy of the One who is all powerful? Who conquered death itself and will have no problem conquering YOU?
Understand: Giving up on Fighting Temptation means that you will be giving up on your relationship with God.
2) Eternal Path
Paul writes, “(Those people who don’t fight temptation) their destiny is destruction.” (v.19a) Contrast this with the loss of our career path.
Because “Yes,” fighting temptation may mean you lose out on the career prestige of this world, but NOT fighting temptation leads to a change in your eternal destiny.
Instead of the promise of eternal life forever in heaven?
It’s like a soda can. When you are done with a Pepsi, you might throw it on the ground and crush it. Destruction.
Do you really want your destiny to be the same as that of an aluminum 7-Up can?
That’s the cost of not fighting temptation.
3) Heavenly Pleasure
Paul writes, “Their god is their stomach.” (v.19b) Think about that. If your stomach is your ‘god,’ that means that it is the most important thing to you. Everything that you do in life is for your stomach and to serve your stomach.
But…what can your stomach give you?
A full feeling…for about 2 hours.
How about constipation?
If your stomach…better yet…if your physical body is your God, then your pleasure will be momentary.
But if Jesus is your God?
You have the pleasure of forgiveness.
You have the pleasure of a peace with God.
You have the pleasure of knowing your salvation is certain.
Not fighting temptation costs you that heavenly pleasure.
4) God’s Glory
Paul writes, “Their glory is their shame.” (v.19c) It’s an interesting verse. Because we said earlier that if you fight temptation, you might lose some of your own glory! Pride helps you feel good about yourself. Pride makes the world pay attention. Pride makes everyone in church pay attention to how awesome you are! It gives you a human version of glory.
But at the same time that it earns your momentary, human glory, it forfeits eternal heavenly glory.
And heavenly glory lasts!
Heavenly glory lasts forever.
Heavenly glory comes from the mouth of God himself as he says,
“You are forgiven.”
“You are mine.”
“Come, dwell with me…forever.”
Giving up on saying “No” to temptation forfeits that glory.
It forfeits heaven.
III. Other Reasons to Fight
Do you know the process for becoming a citizen in the United States?
You must have a valid Green Card for at least 5 years. There are costs involved in that.
You must apply and do paperwork and do some more paperwork. There are costs involved in that.
You must attend classes, take tests, and await results. There are costs involved in that.
Finally, you must be approved and take an oath of citizenships. Again – there are costs involved in that.
It costs a lot of money.
It takes a lot of work.
It involves a lot of time.
But that’s nothing compared to becoming a citizen of heaven!
God says we need to be holy.
God says that we need to be perfect.
God says that we need to love him with all our heart and all our soul and all our mind…all of the time!
We could never earn his citizenship. We fall to temptation too often.
The fact remains…
Dear believing friends…
Our citizenship is in heaven. (v.20)
Jesus paid for all of it.
Jesus did all of the paperwork.
Jesus has made you a citizen of his kingdom.
God the Father has approved you because of Jesus’ work.
You are a citizen of God’s kingdom.
And as a result, you have an incredible reason to fight temptation:
1) You are a Citizen of God’s Kingdom
A citizen of the United States may join the military and fight for our country.
Athletic citizens of the United States may join the Olympic team and win a gold medal for the U. S. flag.
Ambassador citizens of the U.S. may go to another country to watch out for and keep safe the U.S. Citizens in that foreign country.
If you are United States citizen, you do things on its behalf.
If you are a citizen of God’s kingdom? You do things on its behalf.
You fight temptation.
You are part of the one and only eternal kingdom of God Himself.
He fought for you and gave up his life to get you there.
Live like a citizen of His kingdom.
2) Fight on the Winning Side
Paul writes, “And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (v.21b)
Savior implies that he does saving.
Which implies that he is successful at saving.
Which implies that he wins every battle against anyone that tries to stop him from saving.
Which implies that he is a winner.
Which implies that whoever is on his side…is also a winner!
In Christ, you are a winner, too.
Remember – Jesus destroyed the devil in that one-on-one temptation battle last week.
Then he went on to crush Satan’s head with his work on the cross.
And as an encore, he destroyed death by emerging victoriously from the grave.
And in him – you are victorious.
In Jesus, you are a winner.
In Jesus, you will receive all of the victory spoils.
3) The Promise of a Glorious Body
Paul writes: “Jesus, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” (v.21c)
Our bodies are lowly.
I can sleep for 8 hours and I’m still tired.
I can do about 30 pushups and then I just lay on my stomach.
I can resist putting a second Dorito into my mouth – for about 5 seconds.
Our bodies are lowly.
They are tired, weak and dying.
God promises that our bodies will be transformed.
After our bodies die.
After our souls are in heaven.
On the Last Day, when God does an incredible miracle and brings our bodies back to life.
They will still be our bodies, but…
They will be glorious!
Just like what happened to Jesus.
When rose from the dead, he made his way to see his disciples on that first Easter evening.
Think about all he went through.
Surely, his body would be weak.
But when Jesus walked in…
He was different.
He had nail marks in his hands, but they weren’t bleeding, bruised, or scabbed. His body was without pain.
He had a smile on his face and no sweat on his forehead. His body was without weakness.
The sin that he had taken on his body – our sins – was gone! His body was without shame.
That same kind of body is promised to you.
In eternal life, there will be no pain.
In eternal life, there will be no weakness to temptation.
In eternal life, there will be no remembrance of sinful failures.
There will be no guilt.
There will be no shame.
Friends, the benefits to following Jesus and fighting temptation far outweigh the benefits to not fight temptation.
May Jesus empower us to keep fighting temptation even when it costs.
Have you heard of that name? She’s very famous in Santa Clara, CA. For an entire year she spent time organizing marches, leading Facebook groups, making YouTube videos to get people aware of her cause, getting petition after petition signed, meeting with the city council and protesting for the betterment of the Santa Clara community.
To bring the McRib back to Santa Clara.
This isn’t a joke. This actually happened.
And her protest was contagious. Check out some pictures of her supporters. The signs say, “Make McRib not McWar.” “Down with Breakfast, up with the McRib” and “Eat McRib”
Good news! After the protesting, Santa Clara’s McDonald’s chain – brought the McRib back.
There are a lot of protests in America today. Most have much more serious tone. There are protests for racial equality, for gun laws, and babies in the womb.
But…what about Christians?
Should we protest? If so, what? Where? How?
Today we are continuing our disciple series and taking a look at a time that Jesus protested. We’re discuss what that means for Christians today, but before we do that, a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear and open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
2. Jesus’ Protest
Before we get going, I think it’s important that we have a working definition of the word “protest,” because the word means different things to different people. Some think of marches. Some think of picket signs. Some think of peaceful sit ins; others of violence.
But those are different types of protests.
They deal with the “how” of protesting now the “what.”
The simple dictionary definition for protesting is this: “an expression of disapproval for something.”
Take a moment and write that down, because it’s important so that we are all on the same page for the rest of this. Then, I want to take us to a very Biblical protest – one that’s led by Jesus himself. Look at John 2:
When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves and others sitting at tables exchanging money. (v.13-14)
A couple of points:
Jerusalem was the center of Jewish culture. It was the largest city in Judea and it was home to the Temple – a beautiful, ornate building dedicated to worshipping God. It was lined with gold, studded with stones and decorated by gorgeous etchings in wood and stone.
And it was around the Passover. The Passover was a celebration of when God brought the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. Since the Passover was a religious festival, many wanted to go to the epicenter of Jewish religion for the festival – hence Jerusalem being very crowded. (It might be similar to many people making their way to New Orleans for Mardi Gras or an Irish bar to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day).
And when you’re in Jerusalem and you go the temple, you are going to want to bring a sacrifice. That’s because Old Testament Jewish religion demanded animals sacrifices for sin. Not that the animals blood actually took away sins, but (1) it taught how serious sin really is and (2) it foreshadowed the death of Jesus, the Lamb of God, as a sacrifice to actually take away the sins of the world.
Practically speaking – if you want to bring a sacrifice to Jerusalem from a couple hundred miles away, it’s not very easy. It’s like taking a dog on a road trip only without a minivan and aq less domesticated version of a pet.
This was a challenge.
So…a new kind of industry developed. Situated in the temple courtyard – right before you made your way into the sanctuary portion of the temple – were a bunch of vendors. Each vendor offered animals for sacrifice – oxen, sheep and doves – whatever you needed. The idea was that this was a service – so that you didn’t have to take the animals on the long trek, you could just buy when you got there.
Can you picture the advertising?
Like a Good Neighbor Sheep farm is there.
Open range, organic, cage free doves. Because God doesn’t like additives.
Or my personal favorite: Got Oxen?
But that’s not the only kind of temple vendor. There were moneychangers there too. This is because Jews would come to Jerusalem from various countries. Each of these countries had various coinage with various worth in the world market. Money changers at the temple did the same thing that money changers do at international airports – they exchange your foreign dollar for a domestic one.
This is what was happening at the first table in the temple courtyard – it would get the money you need to buy the animals you need at a small percentage of the price.
And you know what? People liked it! It was convenient, nice and easy.
That’s why when the disciples made their way into the temple, they probably paid little attention to the sellers.
This was common. This was ordinary. This was the way things were.
But…for Jesus…something was off.
Maybe it was the:
The bleating of sheep as opposed to singing.
Or the coins going into the merchant’s pockets as opposed to the offering boxes.
Or the smell of the animals masking the incense of prayers.
Whatever it was – Jesus had had enough.
He walked over to a nearby vendor, grabbed a few cords used for animal transport and tied them together. Then, he moved to the nearest oxen stall. He threw open the gate. And…
Immediately he started corralling the oxen out of the pen. The oxen grunting and snorting as their hooves hit the ground.
People started looking. The vendor started shouting.
But Jesus didn’t stop.
He went to the next gate. He did the same.
He made it to the sheep gate – same treatment – new noises: BAAAING and BLEEETING and SHOUTING!
He ran over to the dove table and he thew open their cage doors.
People started screaming as birds fluttered overhead.
Some sought shelter under the archways.
Jesus made his way to the money table…
And scattered the coins on the floor – the talents, the kophers, the Roman coins with Caesar’s image on them…Clinking everywhere!
He flipped the table over and shouted in anger:
“Stop turning my father’s house into a market!”
And…after many of the animals had been removed.
As the bleeting of sheep grew faint.
And the feathers of the birds slowly settled to the ground.
A man – an angry man – an angry, angry man approached:
What gives you the authority to do all of this?
Jesus looked him straight in the eye.
He didn’t stutter:
“Destroy this temple and I will raise it in 3 days.”
2. Christian Protest
And there it is. Protest. “An expression of disapproval of something.” Jesus did it. He publicly expressed his disapproval for something. But…what does his protest mean for 21st century disciples? Let’s take it one question at a time:
(1) Should We Protest?
This isn’t as easy as a commandment that says, “Thou shalt not protest,” or “thou shalt protest often.” But if you head back to that initial definition of protest: “to express disapproval of something,” there’s a few Bible passages that essentially say the same thing:
Speak what is right. (Isaiah 33:15)
If someone sins, rebuke them. (Mt. 18)
Do not do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. (2 Cor. 13:8)
That’s what Jesus was doing!
The truth was that the temple was for communing with God – not making money.
The truth was that their current practices were at best distracting, at worst soul condemning.
The truth was that what was going on was wrong – and Jesus spoke.
But this isn’t the only example of protest in the Bible:
A guy named Daniel refused to pray to the King and he protested by continuing to pray to God. (Daniel 6)
Three friends refused to bow down and worship a golden statue and instead continued to worship God. (Daniel 3)
Peter and James would be told to stop teaching about Jesus or risk death – they protested by walking back outside and teaching about Jesus anyway. (Acts 4)
Yes. Protesting – expressing disapproval of something – is something that Christians should do. In fact, it’s something that Christians are commanded to do.
(2) Protest Where?
Should we head to downtown Raleigh?
A march all the way to the White House?
I think it’s interesting to consider where Jesus protested. He protested in the temple. The temple was the epicenter of Jewish religious thought. The temple is where people would have gone to learn about the Messiah!
He did not go to the Roman governor’s mansion.
He did not go to the Pilate’s palace.
He did not organize a march to Caesar’s palace.
In fact, when people asked him to –he refused.
Jesus was focused on the spiritual not the physical.
Jesus was focused on the spiritual not the political.
There’s a lesson there for us:
Before we protest out there, we’ve got to protest in here. We’ve got to protest in our temple.
And where is our temple? Is it this church? Well – we do commune with God here. That’s true. It is a spiritual place that’s true too. But before you go tearing down the greeting cards free will offering stand in the hallway – consider this passage:
“Your bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you…who you received from God.” (1 Cor. 16: 19)
In other words – before we protest out there, we NEED to protest in here.
This is a similar concept to the plank in the eye story. You’ve probably heard that one before. Jesus said, “Before you tell someone to take the speck out of their eye, take the plank out of your own eye.”
Have you ever thought about how foolish it would look to see this passage played out? To see some guy with a giant, 2’x4” coming at you, trying to avoid hitting you with the plank and leaning in to say with a very concerned voice, “There’s some sawdust in your eye.”
And it’s just as foolish to go protesting all of the ‘sins that go on out there’ when there’s plenty of sins that go on in here.
It’d be like the guy protesting the XXX club going in next door, when he’s up late watching porn every night.
Or the woman protesting racial inequality, when she won’t converse with her neighbor because, “She’s different than me.”
Or the guy that protests on Facebook the way that America has lost sight of religion and doesn’t have any relationship with God --- even though he hasn’t been to worship in about 6 ½ months.
Friends – start your protest right here.
Protest the very things that threaten to ruin your temple!
Because Jesus did.
In fact, he protested your sins so much that he took a stand against them.
A stand that ended as sometimes protests do with violent pushback from opposition.
It was a stand that ended with both feet on a little block of wood and a nail was driven through the bones of his metatarsals.
Jesus stood against your sin.
And he won!
Your sins are no more because Jesus stood against them.
Your sins are no more because Jesus transformed your temple.
Your sins are no more and Jesus calls you to protest against their return.
Protest starts here (in our hearts) before it goes out there (in the world).
(3) Protest What?
And when we do take our protest to the world – what do we protest? Here’s a simple thought:
Protest what God protests.
Express disapproval of what God expresses disapproval of.
Otherwise, you’re protesting against God.
And that’s seems unwise.
Pre protesting should be less about “what do I want” and more about “what does God want.”
If you follow that rule, you’ll take your stand accordingly.
But not all issues are so clear:
Like Gun Control. It’s been on people’s minds and rightfully so. It was horrific and awful what happened to those kids in Parkland, FL.
But over the past week, I’ve seen Christians friends say things that are going a bit farther than the Bible says:
“It’s in the Bible God said we should have AR17s. Don’t you take that right from me.”
“It’s in the Bible – God said, “if you own a gun, you’re going straight to hell.”
Neither of those are Bible passages. (It’s easy to find that out too…just Google it!)
Gun control like many issues in the social realm is a grey area issue. (The Bible doesn’t speak specifically about it).
The Bible does say that God gave us life.
The Bible does say that God wants us to protect life.
How we do that is open for debate.
But when Christians are dealing with grey area issues, the Bible has two things for us to keep in mind:
3. Think of others more than yourself.
Because a lot of times people protest against things that they don’t like.
“I am protesting this tax because I don’t like that I have to pay more.”
“I am protesting this person in government because I don’t like that party.”
“I am protesting the price of Doritos because I wish they were cheaper!”
But the Bible says this: “Be humble…Become the servant of all.”
In other words, think of others first.
Fight the sinful, selfish urge to say, “Here’s what’s best for me,” and say, “I’m going to listen and learn what’s best for others.”
It’s what Jesus did. Because having nails hammered into his hands was probably NOT what felt best to him.
But it was what was best for us.
Think the same way.
4. Think of spiritual more than physical.
God is always more concerned with the spiritual than the physical.
Yes, Jesus healed the sick, but only so he could tell them about salvation.
Yes, Jesus spoke about this life – but only as a means to get to the next life.
Yes, Jesus told his disciples to help other’s physical needs, but only after he gave the mission statement of going and making disciples of all nations by baptizing them and teaching them God’s Word. --- a very, spiritual task.
Even in the temple the reason Jesus protested was against the physical: making money, saving the hassle, making the temple trip an easy thing….
And it was for the spiritual: an atmosphere focused on God’s Word – a temple dedicated to connecting with God spiritually that they might hear the message of the Savior – and be saved.
(4) Protest How?
Because once we have taken our stand against our own sins, God does call us to stand against sin out there.
But how do we do that?
Do we go downtown and start destroying things?
Do we knock on our neighbor’s door and punch him tin the face? (I am offended by your lawn gnomes!)
No. The Bible says this, “Be Kind.”
It means (wait for it), “Be kind.”
Even in protest.
We don’t vandalize.
We aren’t violent.
We speak the truth in love.
We speak the truth peacefully.
But Pastor… Jesus wasn’t so kind! He knocked things over. He caused chaos. He was a bit of a vandal.
But friend…Jesus is God! Simply put: He does what he wants. If God wants to violently oppose sin, He can – that fits within the job description of God.
As for us, we are humans.
We let God to be the judge.
We remain peaceful.
But...also we remain confident.
We mentioned it earlier – at the end of his protest, the Pharisees approached and asked him, “What was his authority to do all this? What was his authority to free the animals? What was his authority to knock over the table? What was his authority to do all of this?”
And Jesus’ answer was: “Destroy this temple and 3 days later I will raise it.”
Only he wasn’t talking about the building temple.
He was talking about his body temple.
In other words – Jesus’ authority was based on his resurrection.
And your authority is based on his resurrection.
When you stand up for truth,
When you stand up for God’s Word,
When you stand up for what God has declared right,
You stand with great authority.
The authority of the resurrected Lord himself.
May his power give us strength to protest the evil in our lives. Amen.
Over the past couple of weeks, we have heard some amazing stories. About the Jordan River splitting in half, the walls of Jericho tumbling down, God’s grace in keeping the prostitute Rahab safe, his wrath against the greedy Achan and his incredible power that extended the daylight for 24 extra hours!
Today’s sermon is a bit different. Because we are getting to the part of Joshua that isn’t so jammed packed with action. The literature switches from narrative to a legal listing; from storytelling to atlas. It’s one of those parts of the Bible that might not seem like it’s got a lot to do with you.
You’d be wrong.
Today we’re going to take our first of two looks at the non-narrative parts of Joshua. This is from Joshua 13-21. Our goal is to discover a couple of different ways these listings are a blessing for 21st century Raleighians.
Before we do that, let’s pray: Strengthen us this morning by the truth, O God. Your word is truth. Open our eyes to see what YOU want us to see. Open our ears to hear what YOU want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what YOU would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Temptation to Grow Tired
Chapter 13 starts right after Israel has finished conquering a vast majority of the land. Joshua 13:1. When Joshua had grown old and was well along in years, the LORD said to him, “You are now very old…”
Notice that there seems to be a repetitive theme. The Bible calls Joshua “old” and then, it rephrases it so that we don’t get confused, “well along in years.” Finally, the LORD himself approaches Joshua and the very first thing he says to him is, “You are…very old!”
Sheesh, God. Thanks a lot.
I doubt Joshua needed the reminder. The white hairs, the creaky knees and the wrinkles probably told him enough. In fact, if you jump forward in the book – Caleb, Joshua’s contemporary, is identified as 85 years old. Joshua, probably a bit older, might be around 90.
That means – things were not as easy as they used to be.
Each morning he would stand and straighten his back very slowly.
He would grab his pair of glasses and squint in order to read the 14-point font of Moses’ OT Writings.
Soldiers would pretend not to notice his inability to remember any of their names. Marty? Abimelech?
Joshua was no spring chicken.
So, what does God want?
Is this the talk where he tells him to slow things down?
Is this the talk where he told Joshua he probably shouldn’t drive anymore?
Is this the talk where he told Joshua about the new retirement village they had set up in the confines of Ai?
Joshua…there are still large areas of land to be taken over. (v.1b)
I still have plans for you.
I still have work for you.
You are not too old to serve me.
That’s a key truth I want to focus on for a moment. You are never too old to serve God.
I was sitting down next to a friend for coffee the other day. And in the midst of our conversation, the man began to tell me about his children. How he had fallen away from church and wasn’t a believer anymore.
And then…he sighed: But...what am I going to do? I’m old.
Is that really how it works?
Is Jesus just for young kids?
Is Jesus not for adults?
Do you get to a point where you’re so old that even God can’t use you?
Look at these Scriptures:
Matthew 28 says, “Go and make disciples of all nations.”
Galatians 5 says, “Serve one another in love.”
Matthew 5, “Let your light shine.”
Notice Scripture does not say, “Go and make disciples – unless you have arthritis.”
It doesn’t say, “Serve one another in love…unless you are over 73. Then, serve in grouchiness.”
It doesn’t say, “Let your light shine…unless you live in a retirement community.”
There are no qualifiers.
These commands are all inclusive.
These commands are for you – no matter how old you are.
Because you are never too old to serve God!
Joshua was 90 years old and God still called on him to lead the Israelite army throughout the rest of Canaan!
But Joshua wasn’t alone.
Moses was 80 years old when God used him to get Israel out of Egypt.
Daniel was 87 when he was thrown into the lion’s den for confessing faith in Jesus.
Sarah was 99 when she gave birth to Isaac – forefather of Jesus.
Noah was 600 when God used him to build an ark and save humanity!
How old are you?
How will God use?
Don’t listen to the devil:
You are never too old to serve God.
II. The Temptation to Give Up
That’s what God wanted Joshua to do. Listen to his command: There are still very large areas of land to be taken over…be sure to allocate this land to Israel for an inheritance, as I have instructed you. (v.1b, 6) Because up to this point Israel hasn’t conquered everything. They only possess about 2/3 of the Promised Land. They had won many battles and driven out many armies, but they still needed to win victories up in the North kingdom and they still needed to drive out armies in the southwest.
The temptation might be to call it good.
The temptation might be to say close enough.
The temptation might be to grab a PBR and relax.
God doesn’t want them to quit.
God wants them to finish it.
And with good reason.
My initial favorite sports teams were based in Minnesota. Did you know this? I was 2 when I moved there from Baton Rouge, LA and I was 4 when I watched my first baseball and football games. The Twins and the Vikings. Then, in first grade I moved to Wisconsin. And in week one of the NFL season I was one of the only kids wearing Viking purple – while everyone else wore green and gold.
And there was polite joking.
And there was polite ribbing.
And…there was the time in fourth grade when Brett Favre led the Packers deep into the playoffs – and the Vikings were not so deep in the playoffs – that I finally switched allegiances.
People influence you. In sports teams, favorite restaurants, binge worthy TV shows and religion.
This is one of the main reasons for God driving out the Canaanites. He doesn’t want the Canaanites’ idol worship to influence the Israelites God worship. He doesn’t want the Canaanite unbelievers to lead Israelite believers to unbelief…
And Joshua gets it. He sends out each tribe into its particular region of the Promised Land in order to drive out all the nations. That’s exactly what chapters 11-19 entail. Numbers, places and results of their victories. But…hidden in the midst of these victories – in the midst of this long historical commentary on how they followed through on God’s commands – are a few verses which show that…they didn’t.
13:13 The Israelites did not drive out the people of Geshur and Maacah so they continue to live among Israel to this day.
15:53 Judah could not dislodge the Jebusites.
16:10 They did not dislodge the Canaanites in Gezer.
17:11-12 They were not able to occupy Beth Shan, Ibleam, Dor, Endor, Taanach and Megiddo...for the Canaanites lived in their region.
19:47 But the Danites had difficulty taking possession of their territory…so they moved up to Leshem.
Perhaps this seems like no big deal. Perhaps this seems like “at least they tried hard.”
Perhaps you can understand them being tired and saying – “Good enough. We don’t bother you and you don’t bother us.”
And everything seems fine.
Jump forward with me:
After Joshua died…another generation grew up who neither knew the LORD nor what he had done for Israel. Then, the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD…they followed and worshiped various gods of the people around them. So…the hand of the LORD was against them…and he sold them into the hand of their enemies all around them. (Judges 2:8-13)
Do you see the problem?
They didn’t listen to God.
They didn’t drive out the Canaanites.
And the Canaanites led them to worshipping false gods.
Just. Like. God. Said.
God has not asked us to conquer any kind of land or people in any kind of way. But God does tell us to fight against sin and drive it out of our lives – completely!
However – I wonder if sometimes we don’t do the same thing Israel does. Go about 90% of the way and call it good. I don’t commit adultery. Especially when it comes to something I like to call Peripheral Sins.
What’s a Peripheral Sin? Peripheral vision describes the vision to the right and the left of what you are focusing on. For example, if you look straight at the cross right now and I stand over here --- peripheral vision is me. Maybe you can tell that I’m there, but I’m not clear. I’m fuzzy. (Try and guess how many fingers I am holding up. Not easy)
Peripheral sins are the sins that we don’t focus on. Sins that we refuse to focus on. Sins that we can maybe kind of see in our life – but they aren’t big and clear like murder OR cheating on your wife so…we just kind of let those be.
For example – three common Peripheral Sins:
Granted, if you’ve struggled with lust, there may have been a moment when this wasn’t in the peripheral. And you fought pornography. And you stopped seeing that person who was threatening your marriage.
But at some point, the devil loves to get us to stop the fight.
I’m not looking at porn anymore; so, I’ll just look around at the gym. That should be ok.
I’m not planning on sleeping with that guy at work; I’m just flirting. My husband would be cool with it.
This right here? It’s just the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. I only read it for the articles…on sports.
Lust is not a small thing. It’s always a big thing. Drive it out.
(2) Sinful Anger.
Because for whatever the reason, anger is one of those sins that people say, “Well everyone gets angry.” (Which is true) and “Anger isn’t necessarily a sin.” (also, true) and “Anyways…it’s probably not a big deal the way I showed my anger there.” (Which is a bald-faced lie.)
Humans aren’t God.
Humans are sinful.
Human anger – even ‘righteous sounding anger’ will be tainted by sin.
And oftentimes is acted out sinfully.
Anger cannot be ignored.
It kills relationships at home.
It kills relationships at work.
It kills relationships at church.
It kills your relationship with God.
Anger is not a small thing. It’s a big thing. Drive it out.
After recent events in Virginia, this deserves to be revisited. Because I think the common sentiment is: I’m not a member of the KKK. I’m not a Neo-Nazi. I’m good. Stop telling me I’m racist.
But Jesus calls us to look deeper.
Jesus tells us sin affect us.
Jesus tells us that sinful selfishness easily affects the way that we think and act.
And when we see the problems – even small problems – drive them out.
If I befriend that guy who looks like me, but don’t even try to befriend that guy because…he doesn’t. There’s a problem. Drive the racism out.
If I make a joke here and a comment there, and say…but “it’s just a funny stereotype that’s all.” There’s a problem. Drive the racism out.
If I dismiss the struggles of my friend (who looks different) because I never had to deal with those kinds of struggles (since I look different) and it would make me uncomfortable to consider that people who do look like me might be part of the reason this friend who doesn’t look like you is struggling. There’s a problem. Drive the racism out.
In fact, drive all of these peripheral sins out. Because the reality is that they are sin. And sin destroys.
Lust destroys marriage.
Anger destroys churches.
Racism destroys society.
Drive it out before the destruction takes place!
III. God Finishes What He Started
Here’s the good news for Israel. In spite of their failure to completely drive out their enemies, God still blessed Israel. He gave them the Promised Land. He kept that in their possession. He made sure that Israelites were in that land when he finally sent the Savior from there.
God finished what he started.
In Bethlehem, Jesus was born.
In Nazareth, Jesus grew up.
In Cana, he turned water into wine.
At the Jordan, he revealed himself as Lord.
In Jericho, he healed a blind man.
Just outside Jerusalem he died…and just outside Jerusalem he rose from the dead.
God finished what he started.
And he was complete about it! Scripture says, “The blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin.”
Please note the all. It doesn’t say “some.” It doesn’t say “a few.” It doesn’t say, “Just the obvious big ones.”
His blood purifies you from peripheral lust.
His blood purifies you from seeping anger.
His blood purifies you from that hidden racism.
Jesus died and his blood completely purifies you from all sin.
It’s like a water purification system. If you put that on your faucet, the water goes through the first filter and the big sediment it blocked. Then, it goes through the secondary system and the little sediment it blocked. Finally, it goes through a laser purification process and even the hidden particles are destroyed.
Jesus purifies us from all sin.
And that empowers us to drive out all sin.
That’s exactly what God tells Joshua. Right after he tells Joshua about all of the nations that he still needs to drive out – God says this in verse 6: I myself will drive out the nations. He was still fighting with them. Even if they didn’t see gigantic miracles like the river splitting in half or the walls tumbling down or the sun sitting in the sky for an extra 24 hours – God was still with them and would not withdraw his support.
And God is still with you.
He’s not like some big athletic sponsorship that withdraws their sponsorship because the athlete tweets something they don’t agree with or posts a picture of something that they shouldn’t.
In spite of our sins – for the sake of Jesus – God will not withdraw his support. He is in your corner.
When you are old.
When you are young.
Whether you’re fighting lust, holding back anger or working against subtle racism, God is in your corner.
God has your back.
For our sermon, we are continuing the story of the Promised Land conquest and we will be looking at Joshua 10. Joshua 10 is interesting – because it’s kind of like the climax. A group of nations join forces to fight off the Israelites. That’s one of their toughest challenges to date.
Will they win the battle?
Can God win the battle?
Can God beat 5 nations at the same time?
We are going to look at the answer this morning and I know it’s going to be a very encouraging story for you. But before we begin, let us pray: Strengthen us this morning by the truth, O God. Your word is truth. Open our eyes to see what YOU want us to see. Open our ears to hear what YOU want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what YOU would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Coalition
Adoni Zedek king of Jerusalem heard that Joshua had taken Ai and totally destroyed it, doing to Ai and its king as he had done to Jericho and its king, and that the people of Gibeon had made a treaty of peace with Israel and had become their allies. He and his people were very much alarmed at this, because Gibeon was an important city, like one of the royal cities; it was larger than Ai, and all its men were good fighters. So Adoni-Zedek king of Jerusalem appealed to Hoham king of Hebron, Piram king of Jarmuth, and Japhia king of Lachish and Debir king of Eglon, “Come up and help me attack Gibeon, because it has made peace with Joshua and the Israelites.” (10:1-4)
Now I don’t know exactly how this look. For some reason, I picture them all around the table (kinda like a 1920s mobster movie). A few are smoking cigarettes and others are twirling their knives on the table – just to show that they have some skills.
Then Adoni-Zedek speaks, “Listen. I don’t like you guys. You don’t get along with me; I don’t get along with you; and you don’t get along with each other. But I ain’t asking us to be best friends. I’m asking us to get each other’s backs. There’s a bigger threat out there. Those Israelites – need to be defeated. They crossed the raging Jordan River. They knocked down the walls of Jericho. They routed Ai. Soon – they’re coming for us.
I say…We don’t let ‘em.
I say…We get ‘em.
I say…We fight this “LORD” and shut him up once and for all.
And they glare at each other.
And they nod at each other.
And they spit in their hands and shake on it.
It’s an alliance.
An alliance against God.
To be fair there are getting some pretty, nasty characters.
Adoni-Zedek. He’s the mastermind of the plans and the king of Jerusalem. Jerusalem was always a very rich city which would have allowed him to fund the upcoming battle.
Hoham of Hebron was the king of giants. That was the area that the Israelite spies had visited 40 years earlier and after seeing the men of Hebron decided, “These guys are like giants. We are like grasshoppers. We are gonna get destroyed.” Those same intimidating gigantic men were now a part of this coalition.
Piram and Debir were the kings of Jarmuth and Eglon. These cities were both located a hill. That allowed them a tactical vantage point. Like two fighter jets nose diving onto the playing field – their armies could bull doze down on their enemies and strike. Not to mention – that being on the top of the mountain – they likely had many skilled archers in their ranks.
Finally, there was Japhia, king of Lachish. Lachish at that time was under the control of the Egyptian empire. They would have had access to Egyptian technology and weaponry. Chariots. Horses. Javelins. And fine military training.
Together they were similar to any group of super villains.
The Injustice League.
The Legion of Doom.
They wanted to ban together for the sake of their common enemy:
II. God Fights Back
So, the Fearsome Five make their plan. They decide to attack Gibeon. It’s smaller than Israel and it doesn’t have a history of God helping them out like Israel does. So, it makes good sense. They come down. They attack. They put the city under siege.
But not before Gibeon gets a messenger sent out.
He takes the back roads.
He heads through the forests.
He makes his way into the camp of Israel and deliver a message to Joshua.
I suppose it sounded something like this:
Hi. Remember us? We are the guys who totally deceived and tricked you a couple of weeks ago. You were kinda angry. Sorry about that. Anyways…will you…and God…um…honor that treaty? Help us!!!
And Joshua crumbles up the message. He summons his army, but gets a bit nervous. This was bigger than anything they’d faced. 5 nations – all at once?
Could they handle that?
Could they defeat the Fearsome Five?
Would they be victorious?
And perhaps – right about then – Joshua remembered something that someone had said to him at the start of all this. “Do not be afraid; Do not be discouraged. I the LORD you God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1)
Only…he wasn’t remembering it.
God was repeating it:
Do not be afraid…I have given them into your hand. Not one of them will be able to withstand you. (10:8)
So, Joshua nods.
God approves of the rescue.
There may be five nations against them; but they had God on their side.
And God is full of surprises.
(1) All Night March
Joshua summons his army and he takes the best fighting men marching through the night. It’s a 20-mile journey from Gilgal – where Israel was camped – to the battle scene at Gibeon. Think about that – the armies of the Fearsome Five sleep in their tents with complete confidence, but wake up to see the army of Israel approaching in the distance. It’s not a pleasant sight while you’re drinking your morning coffee.
But that’s God’s swift hand! When we need rescue, God acts swiftly to save us.
And I do mean God. Because the second surprise is found in verse 10. The LORD threw the Canaanite armies into confusion before Israel. Now I’m not exactly sure what confusion means – but I’ve noticed that just about every iteration of confusion that I can think of doesn’t serve an army very well.
Whether it’s dizziness so they can’t see where they are going.
Or color blindness so they can’t tell which army is on which side.
Or that kind of weird haze that you get after a nap where you aren’t really sure if you’re awake or not – and whether the dog is licking your hand or not….
Whatever the confusion was – it is not something that an army wants to deal with while fighting.
And look who causes the confusion. Notice the subject.
It’s not the well water.
It’s not the bourbon from last night.
It’s not something that a group of soldiers were smoking close by.
God is the one causing the confusion.
God is the one fighting the war.
Which leads to the next surprise:
(3) Victory for the Underdog
Verse 10 continues, “Joshua and the Israelites defeated the Canaanites completely at Gibeon.” Even though they are only one army – they easily dispatch the 5 armies they are fighting against.
Because they’ve got one God on their side.
One God is stronger than 5 armies.
He’s stronger than 10 armies.
He’s stronger than all the armies of the world armed with swords, daggers, spears, machine guns, F-150s, tanks and an ocean liner of nuclear bombs.
God is undefeated.
But God isn’t done.
Because look at what happens next – as the armies of the Kings flee and retreat. The Israelites pursue. They try to overtake them. But the armies have a head start and Israel is having a hard time cutting them off.
Verse 11: As they fled before Israel, the Lord hurled large hailstones down on them.
Have you ever seen hail before? To be fair – you don’t want to be trapped in a hailstorm. It smarts to have a marble sized piece of hail hit you in the right spot. And golf ball sized hail is the kind of hail that will dent your car --- even ruin your roof – where hopefully your hailstorm insurance will take care of the damage.
How big are these stones?
More of the Canaanites died from the hail than were killed by the swords of the Israelites. (v.11b)
Wow. That’s miraculous.
(5) The Day Lengthens
But still. There were a lot of soldiers. There were a lot of nations. And as Joshua is watching this battle take place he’s smiling. He’s happy. But as he watches from a hill to the south, he looks at the horizon. In the distance, he can see the sun about to set in the west and the moon is already making its appearance to the east.
It’s about to be dark.
It’s about to be impossible to battle.
It’s about to be time for this incredible day to end.
Too bad. God was on a roll too.
It’s too bad it had to end.
Joshua said to the LORD in the presence of Israel: Sun, stand still over Gibeon, and you moon, over the Valley of Aijalon. (v.12)
What happens next is another incredibly puzzling and yet amazing event. One that contradicts everything that we can observe in day to day science. One that we take incredible cosmic powers to accomplish: the ability to manipulate gravity and the fortitude to hold giant rotating rocks in their exact place in the universe.
The sun stopped…and delayed going down about a full day. (v.13)
Think about that.
The sun doesn’t move.
Or rather – the earth stops rotating to allow day to continue.
III. What Now?
The author of Joshua – who wrote well after these events were finished wrote this in verse 14, “There has never been a day like that day before or since, a day when the LORD listened to a human being.” He literally did that incredible, amazing thing that Joshua asked of him.
And it was an awesome day. But how does that awesome day affect today for you?
(1) Be Confident in Your Savior
Because that’s the God that is on your side.
He sends his enemies into confusion.
He protects his people with hailstones.
He literally controls the solar system in order to save his people from their enemies.
And this wasn’t the only time.
Because…Do you know what happened 1500 some odd years later? God controlled the solar system again. It was midday and God blocked out the sun. There was pitch black darkness all over the land from Noon to 3 pm.
Around the time that Jesus was hanging on a cross.
Then, three days later – early in the morning – God put his hands around the sides of the earth. He lifted it up. He shook it. He shook it hard. He shook it hard until the stone that was sealing off Jesus’ tomb was rolled back.
And as the dust clears, he sends the devil into confusion.
He sends hailstones of his righteousness to crush our sins.
He raises his SON to STAND firm that day…and always.
Be confident in your Savior.
Be confident in his Victory.
(2) Be Bold
Because Joshua prayed a pretty bold prayer, wouldn’t you say?
He prayed for God to break the regular rules of time and space in order to keep the fight going.
But God listened.
Be bold in your prayers, too.
Pray for healing from your sickness.
Pray for help finding a job.
Pray for your marriage to be repaired.
Pray for full forgiveness from your Lord.
Prayer for peace with your heavenly Father.
Prayer God to take you home to heaven.
No matter the prayer – how big OR how small – prayer it to your incredible God!
Because God answers prayer.
God doesn’t answer halfheartedly.
God doesn’t answer a bit.
God doesn’t answer but act sometime next week.
God comes to fight.
In fact, that’s how this section of God’s Word ends: The LORD was fighting for Israel. (v.14b)
Here’s the truth -- The LORD not only fought for Israel.
The LORD is fighting for you.
Ever notice how children’s books always paint Jesus with a smile?
He holds the kids. He smiles at the kids. He feeds them Gogurts. He’s always happy.
Jesus certainly is kind like that. There are plenty of occasions that is true. But is Jesus always like that? Is he just an ancient Mr. Rogers?
I don't know. You tell me:
No? Not even if Trolley the Train called him a bad name?
These are things that Jesus did. He isn't always so warm and fuzzy. He isn't a pushover.
Jesus is COMBATIVE.
I. Whose Side Does He Fight On?
Take our text for this morning from Mark 1 to see Jesus show his combative side:
Jesus went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, "What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are-- the Holy One of God!"
Notice what it says in our text. Jesus was in the temple preaching. Things were going well. People were impressed by the authority with which he preached. When along comes a man who was possessed by an evil spirit!
What do we know about evil spirits? To put it simply: Evil spirits are evil. This isn’t just because they have the word “evil” in their name either. A few Scripture sections describe to us how evil spirits came to be:
Now look at the words of the evil spirit when he sees Jesus. He doesn’t give Jesus a high five. He doesn’t say, “Long time no see bud.” He doesn’t offer to buy Jesus a drink.
He’s terrified. He knows what it means to see Jesus – and Jesus is not one of his buds. Look at verse 24. “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?” The evil spirit sees Jesus and assumes – a fight is coming. They are not on the same side.
So what does all of this mean when it comes to determining whose side Jesus is on? Think about it: If evil spirits are evil and Jesus is against evil spirit, then Jesus is good.
That’s exactly what the evil spirit calls him, “the Holy One of God!”
Now don’t misinterpret that phrase. I fear that the definition has been lost and changed in Modern Society. Kinda like how the Word “organic.” It used to mean “absolutely zero chemicals or pesticides of any kind in use.” Now it means “we paid a fee to tell people that we don’t’ use a lot of pesticides.” Holy, in God’s Word” means “zero bad.” It doesn’t mean “relatively good in comparison to others.” It doesn’t mean “a smidgens of evil.” It doesn’t mean “99.9% good.”
Holy means completely, utterly, 100%, certified, grade A good! That’s Jesus. Completely, utterly, 100%, certified, grade A good!
II. Which Side is More Powerful?
Jesus and this demon are on opposite sides then. It sounds kind of scary too. There’s bound to be a fight. Because this demon was powerful. Look at what it says about the man, “the man was possessed by an evil spirit.” Possession means that the spirit had taken over. He took over his body. He took over his intellect. This evil spirit was in complete control of this man.
Think of how scary that is. The man had no control over what he said. The man couldn’t feed himself when he wanted. In extreme Biblical cases, the demon would cause the man to harm himself without any provocation or convincing. If you’ve ever seen a demon possession movie, know this: the real thing is REAL and twice as scary. If you haven’t seen those movies, don’t go watching them. There’s no reason for you to be influenced by such powerfully evil stuff.
Demons are obviously more powerful than humans. Even in today’s society – when possession is thankfully less common – demons work to tempt us into sin after sin.
Jesus is more powerful than your average human. But as this demon possessed man approaches, one might expect a UFC like showdown. Punches. Swords. Divine headlocks!
Not so much.
“Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” (v.25)
The demon? He doesn’t have a snappy comeback. The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. (v.26)
Did you see how amazing that was? Jesus didn’t pull out a sword. He didn’t shoot fireballs at the demon. He didn’t evil call on any of his disciples for help. He simply spoke and the demon was defeated. The crowd is impressed too. The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.” (v.27)
This whole approach of mere words winning a fight probably won’t work later today at the Super Bowl. As impressive as Tom Brady can be, if all he did was step out on the field and say, “Leave you Seahawks,” I’m thinking it doesn’t’ have the same effect. Same thing in boxing. Imagine the great Muhammad Ali, who had a lot to say, stepping into a boxing ring, taking off his gloves, not throwing a punch, and simply saying, “KNOCKOUT!” It probably wouldn’t be long before he was on the floor.
This is the awesome power of Jesus. Jesus is all powerful. He is more powerful than any evil spirit. He defeats them with mere words.
What Does this Mean for you?
You might be thinking. This is nice. It sounds kinda like my son’s Spiderman comic book. Good beats evil. Great. But what does this have to do with my everyday life.
More than you think.
Here are three take home points to remember from this lesson:
1. What Jesus says is GOOD.
It is so very common in our American society to call Jesus out and label him evil because some of Jesus’ ideas don’t fit into today’s society. I was reading an article on the Huffington Post the other day. It was all about how to spot subliminal hate speech. The claim was that saying “homosexuality is sinful” is downright evil. But even using phrases such as “traditional marriage” is hateful. It implies that homosexual marriage isn’t real marriage. The article was purporting that such kind of speech not be tolerated and stopped because it was so evil.
Hmmm. Churches didn’t get this from themselves. Jesus himself was a proponent of marriage. He said, “For this reason a man leaves his father and mothers and is united to his wife, and the two become one flesh.” (Mt. 19:5-6)
IS that hate speech? IS that evil?
This isn’t the only accusation against Jesus. The world will claim:
Do you see why this lesson is important? There’s no doubt that Jesus and modern society clash. That’s not in question. The big question is who is right? Who is on the side of good and who is on the side of evil?
Let’s talk elementary for a moment:
What sound does a cow make? A cow moos. It makes cow sounds. How about a dog? A dog barks. Simple enough. Dogs say dog things and cows say cow things. A cat cannot not cluck and a chicken cannot meow. That’s not who they are.
Jesus is Good. Holy. 100% all the time good. What he says is good. 100% all the time good.
Therefore, when it comes to the case of Jesus versus modern society who’s right? Who’s good and who’s evil? Scripture says this in 2 Corinthians 11:14 “Satan masquerades as an angel of light,” which means that sometimes things that look good, nice, and not very harmful – are terrible wrong and harmful.
Who do you trust? The ones who follow demons or the one who drives them out?
This leads to an important question. Why is there such a disconnect? Why do Jesus and society not mesh? Why are there passages in the Bible that you read and disagree with? Whose fault is it?
Remember: It can’t be Jesus. He is always good. Therefore, if you disagree…if you think differently…if you do differently,…if you say differently than Jesus, who’s wrong? (CLUE: It’s not Jesus.)
BOTTOM LINE: If You are Doing, Saying or Thinking Something that’s against what Jesus says – You’re Wrong! It can’t be Jesus. It must be you!
Do you realize the plight of our situation? Do you realize the sad state that our sin filled souls are in? Join me in pleading with the apostle Paul: “Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ Our Lord.”
Hear Jesus’ call in these words: “Repent. Turn from evil. Turn back to God.”
3. Jesus is Your Help against Evil.
Evil is the very reason Jesus came to earth in the first place. He came down to earth to eradicate the world of the evil that the devil had brought into it back at the garden of Eden. There wasn’t a day of Jesus’ life that there wasn’t a battle. Demons, temptations, and the devil were surrounding him. But Jesus never fell. He never lost. He was undefeated in every temptation battle he entered. He’s the undisputed champion of eternity.
Even when it looked like he lost as he hung on the cross, things weren’t as they seemed. On that cross, Jesus won the final victory. He defeated the devil. He crushed evil. Three days later, he demolished death.
Then, with the same powerful voice that he used to run the demon out of the temple, Jesus speaks: “You are forgiven. You are my brother. You are a soldier in the army of the LORD! Come and fight with me.”
So…fight! Fight evil. Fight temptation. Fight your demons.
Thankfully demons aren’t manifesting like they did back at Jesus’ time, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t demons you have to face. Alcohol. Drug addiction. Pornography. Sexual temptation with your girlfriend. Going too far with your boyfriend. Hatred and anger all over social media. The temptation to be cool and abandon God.
There’s so many temptation demons around it’s scary!
But you aren’t alone. Jesus – the One who hates evil and who is vehemently stronger than it – is with you. Call on him. Pray for his blessing. Use his Word to banish temptation. Call on a Christian friend for support. Head to church to strengthen your spiritual fighting muscles.
And look forward to The Day—the day when all this fighting is over, the day when weary spiritual soldiers rest their feet, the day where you stop fighting, the day when God takes you home to be with Him and celebrate his Gospel victory party. Amen.
Easter is 8 days away. There are a lot of different ways to celebrate. Some people I have talked to will be visiting the beach in order to relax. That’s nice. Others will spend money on nice new Easter clothes and 2 for 1 chocolate bunnies at the Dollar Tree. That’s nice too. Still others will pack up and go visit family. That’s usually nice.
But Christians…They’re planning on spending the week doing final cleaning at church. Some are making sure music is practiced and ready to go for worship. Others have volunteered time to go and invite the community to the service. Still more will attempt to reconnect with friends and family by inviting them one last time to Easter Sunday Worship.
Why not relax? Kick back? And Catch “It’s the Easter Bunny Charlie Brown,” on TV and call it an Easter celebration? Why get up and follow Jesus?
Over the past weeks, we have discussed how life is a Battleground. We fight temptations. We are in conflict with doubts. We alter our perspective. We fight alongside others who may be very different than us. We even stare death in the face with confidence.
It isn’t easy. So…why do it? Why follow Jesus?
Our Words from Zechariah will work to answer that question for us. Listen as he describes who Jesus is and what he brings. Then, see if there is any good reason not to follow him?
I. Consider Who He Is
Zechariah wrote, “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey!” These words describe Palm Sunday 400 some years before it happened! And what it says about the one riding in on a donkey is astounding!
First, he’s righteous! Totally upright and completely just! How many politicians do you know like that? Yet, it sounds good when a political leader calls for some kind of moral improvement – even if they aren’t so moral themselves.
There are a few politicians who are taking flack for wanting to defend “Marriage.” They call homosexuality a sin (which it is) all while asking others to excuse the fact that they are on their third marriage.
Righteous? Not so much.
Here’s how righteous Jesus is:
Then, to top it all off, Jesus never sinned even once! It’s why the Pharisees had such a hard time condemning him. They couldn’t pin a single immoral word or action on him!
This ties into the second thing about Jesus. He is called victorious!
It’s good to follow a perpetually victorious leader. It’s why Duke fans always rest securely between basketball seasons. They’ve got Coach K. It’s proven to be victorious. They’ll be in the Title hunt next year – no worries!
Jesus marched into Jerusalem having won battle after battle.
Anybody else you know defeat death?
You might be thinking, “Jesus rode into Jerusalem righteous and victorious! But I’m lowly. I’m sinful. He wouldn’t want anything to do with me. I don’t know if he even wants me to follow him.”
Listen to the third thing about his ride into Jerusalem. See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey!
I could probably think of about a thousands scenarios in which a hero of Jesus’ fames ride into Jerusalem that seem more appropriate. A white stallion. A chariot. An elephant. He could have come as the Messiah year’s later and chosen a tank. Air Force One. A Hummer. A Limousine! Even a moped wouldn’t have been so smelly.
Yet there he was…on a stinky, stubborn, braying donkey. Bumping up and down as he tried to balance on the stubborn mammal’s back.
Why would Jesus choose such a ride?
Philippians 2 offers us a clue. It says, "Jesus, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness, and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!”
Jesus’ entire life had been one incredible paradox! With his miracles and works, he proved himself divine. He was God worthy of all worship. Yet he humbled himself by coming down from heaven and becoming a man! Understand how that’s humbling:
o He has all authority, yet he lived by the rules of his mom and dad.
o He is all knowing. Yet he grew and learned just like the other children.
o Jesus is God. Almighty! Yet, he became a man and needed rest.
o He is eternal – yet he would – later on this Holy Week – die.
o And not even a noble death! He was crucified with the worst of sinners.
This paradox is clear on Palm Sunday! Jesus is totally righteous and absolutely victorious and completely worthy of the palm branches and songs of praise. Yet he rides on a donkey. Humble.
This is only a microcosm for how he comes to you! Sin separated you from him. He had to go through this sin to get to you. So he did! Even if the only way to do this was to suffer and die a terrible death on the cross for your sins. Jesus was willing to humiliate himself in this way in order to get to you.
And the gifts he offers you? Those are incredible too!
II. Consider What He Brings.
A) Peace for the nations
Listen to what Zechariah describes: 10 I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the warhorses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations.
And what a marvelous thing peace is! At times of political unrest among other nations (even within our nation) how beautiful peace is.
But, you might be thinking, “Jesus came and went…and there’s still war. There’s still violence. There’s not peace.”
Not among humans…not now, no. But the peace Jesus proclaims is greater than that. It’s the divine kind of peace. Peace with God!
Because on your own, there is no peace between you and God. You’re a sinner. You’ve offended God – who hates anything not associated with perfect love – with your thoughts, words, and actions.
But with Jesus, that sin is forgiven. There is reconciliation. There is a peace that says, “God, the Almighty sin hating, fire in his eyes, righteous Lord of heaven and earth, whom I’ve countlessly offended…
…is my friend.”
B) A Global Rule
Look at the next part of verse 10: His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth. King Jesus brings a global rule!
Just think about it. We’re reading about Jesus’ Palm Sunday ride today. That happened in the Middle East long before iPhones, Twitterfeeds, and TV. There weren’t even printing presses!
Yet, here we are today. Jesus’ news of peace with has crossed the Atlantic ocean. It’s in Raleigh. Think of how incredible this is!
I know that not all parents are excited about the school district that their kid might go to here in the Triangle. Where you live determines the district. Many think that therefore, some schools are better and the same opportunities aren’t available in all schools so you might even have to move in order to get your kid into a good school.
There’s no need to change districts to fall under God’s love. Jesus lived perfectly, died innocently, and rose triumphantly for every school district in America! “Whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life!” (John 3:16)
C) Freedom from the Pit!
These gifts really lead to the third one. Listen to how verse 11 describes it: As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit.
A waterless pit doesn’t sound like a good place to spend spring break. Dark. Treacherous. No nourishment. No hope of survival. Just a slow, sad, lonely, pointless death.
Whether your pit is real or spiritual, Jesus sets you free. When you are haunted by your sins, when you are longing for love, when you are frightened by the darkness of your guilt and screaming for help.
Jesus reaches out. Not just with one arm, but with both. (on the cross) And he lifts you out of the pit. He frees you.
But Jesus doesn’t free you and let you go get entangled in some other messy, abysmal pit. He has a place for you to be.
D) A Fortress of Hope.
Listen to verse 12: “Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you!”
Do you know where the President goes in a time of crisis? To a fortress. Hidden underground this fortress is able to withstand nuclear holocaust! Bombs, bullets, and explosions will have no effect and all that are inside will be safe.
Jesus is an even stronger fortress. A mighty fortress of hope. With our eyes on him and his promises of forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life in heaven – nothing that the devil attacks us with can make us hopeless! God’s Word surrounds us with hope that refuses to give up. That knows God’s love is unfailing and unending.
And when you’ve spent plenty of time in that fortress of hope, then you will undoubtedly be given the final blessing of Jesus.
E) A Wake Up Call.
Verse 13 has God’s promise, “I will bend Judah as I bend my bow and fill it with Ephraim.” In other words, and this is a cool picture, God’s going to use his people of Judah and his followers in Ephraim, as a weapon. To accomplish his purpose.
And with archer like precision that’s better than Robin Hood or William Tell, God chooses his arrows and shoots! He awakens his people in order to share his message with the world!
Who is God shooting you at?
It’s one week till Easter! The highlight of the church year. We’ve been inviting people for three weeks now.
Who is God aiming you at? A friend. A relative. A neighbor.
If God has aimed you than, don’t backfire! God wants to use you to share that message of love! Could one more invitation do the trick? Could one more email reminder be helpful? Could a quiet conversation where you open your heart and explain why Easter is so important be the conversation that person needs?
“But I don’t feel up for the task!”
Don’t worry. It’s not about you. Listen to the last part of verse 13. I will rouse your sons, Zion, against your sons, Greece, and make you like a warrior’s sword.
Did you see that? "I rouse you. I will make you.” In other words, God is the one in charge. He has equipped you with his love and a knowledge of his Word to share this wonderful message this Easter. Don’t be frightened. Aim and shoot! Follow in your King's footsteps and share the message of his love!
There's a lot of leads to follow this Easter. Peter Cottontail. Hershey's chocolate. The call of the beach. Whatever you feel like doing.
Why not follow Jesus? He's our righteous, victorious, and humble king. A king who brings peace around the world. A king who has rescued you from the pit and placed you in a fortress of hope. A king who needs you!
Follow his lead this Holy Week and always! Amen.
Have you ever seen Let's Make a Deal? On the show, a contestant is called to the stage. Wayne Brady offers a nice and shiny package. He says, “It could be a nice new watch or some diamond jewelry. Pick this box. Trust me.”
But not so fast. The musical leader holds up a crisp, new envelope. He tells her, “It could hold a gift card, plane tickets, a check for a thousand dollars. Pick mine. Trust me.”
She turns them both down.
Because the voice over announcer has offered her what's behind curtain number three. He promised her that when she uses the prize she’ll have "a party on wheels." Could it be the new convertible? “Trust me.” The announcer says.
She does. The curtain opens and it’s…it’s…a donkey wearing a sombrero on roller skates.
Life is kind of like that isn’t it? We are constantly having to evaluate whom we should trust. It’s not an easy question. Banks send emails telling you to trust them with your mortgage. Diet plans advertise that you trust their plan to make your body slim. If you’ve dated lots, perhaps you’ve heard someone sell themselves. “I’m a really good person. I’m great fun. I’d be the perfect mate. Trust me.”
In John 4 Jesus met a woman with trust issues. Listen to how he helps her figure out where to put her trust. Then, consider how putting your trust in the same place is of great benefit!
I. The Problem with Trusting Worldly Things.
Jesus was on a long journey from Judea to Galilee. This is before cars so it’s fair to assume he and his disciples had walked quite a distance. Therefore, it’s no surprise that he got tired. Unfortunately, there weren't any Waffle Houses along the way for him to rest at. So he sat at the edge of a well while his disciples went into town for some food.
While he was a waiting, a woman approached the well. She began lowering her buckets to draw some water. As she working, Jesus asked her, 7 "Will you give me a drink?"
The woman herself was astonished, 9 "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How is it that you ask me for a drink?" (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
In other words, she was annoyed by what she perceivedw as an arrogant Jew! "You Israelites are so hoity toity. You always act like you are so much more religious than us. Now you are claiming to have a better grasp on water than us too? Do you have some kind of special filter? Did you give it some kind of ‘holy blessing?’ You do realize that the water you are badmouthing comes from one of your own -- the patriarch Jacob himself! Think twice before speaking again, sir.”
Jesus replied to the hostility with an explanation. 13 “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
In doing so Jesus exposes the first problem with trusting earthly things. They don't satisfy the body!
Take the substance in question. Water. Science tells us that water quenches our thirst, but only for so long. Even if you buy the water for $10 at Whole Foods and the label claims to have bottled this water from the top of a hidden spring on Mt. Everest… you will be thirsty again.
It’s not just thirst. A delicious BBQ (Western or Eastern depending on your taste) satisfies hunger, until you’re hungry again. A Starbucks Blonde Roast makes you feel more awake, but eventually it’ll wear off and you’ll need it again. If you have a pain in your elbow, the Tylenol works until it’s effects wear off.
Earthly things only can be trusted as temporary, quick fixes to our bodily needs. They don’t last.
The woman at the well knew this. That's why she replied, almost sarcastically, "Sir, give me some of this water, so that I don't have to keep coming back to get water to drink."
But Jesus didn't keep this conversation at surface level. "Go and call you husband and come back." He told her.
You can almost see her begin to fidget. "I don't have a husband," she said.
Jesus replied, "You are right in saying that you don't have a husband. The fact is that you have had five husbands. What you have just said is quite true.”
Jesus isn’t saying this to make her feel bad. He simply wants her to realize that her trust was again in the wrong place. Because earthly things –and people-- don't satisfy the heart.
There's a longing in humans to be loved, treasured, and accepted. To be whole. Obviously this woman wanted that. Five times she thought she had it! Five times she trusted men to bring it to her. Five times – they didn’t give it. Whether it was unfaithfulness, physical abuse, verbal abuse, or just plain being too busy with work to be together…each time she trusted a man to love her and that trust was broken.
Now? Now she was with a man who hadn’t made any marriage promises of commitment and sticking through the tough times to her. Instead, he basically had given her the watered down promise of, “I like sleeping with you. I promise to stick around as long as that it entertaining. Trust me.”
The saddest part? She was so empty and broken that the reigned intimacy of uncommitted sex helped her forget about the void in her heart.
Are we so different? We desire to love and be loved by spouses, children, and friends. We trust people! We give our hearts to them. Then kids tell us that they hate us. Spouses shout at us to sleep on the couch. Friends betray us!
It’s why earthly things—even people—don’t really satisfy the heart!
Ashamed of the sudden change in the conversation, the woman changes the subject. “Our father's worshipped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that he place where we must worship is in Jerusalem."
Jesus kindly responds to her question. "A time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem…God is spirit and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."
Jesus was pointing out that it didn’t matter where they worshipped. The earthly action wasn’t that important at all. What mattered was a true spiritual relationship with God.
And in bringing this up, Jesus exposes one last problem with trusting earthly things. They don't satisfy the soul.
Ever feel really Christianity? You go to the Christian book store. You buy a few nondescript Christian items: a cross necklace, a Jesus candle holder, a few devotionals with cool looking covers. You pay for them and walk out with your head held high! Your soul feels close to God as you rock out to Chris Tomlin on the drive home.
Then, you enter your house. The kids have left a mess. You lose it. And after letting out a few choice words, you’re back to feeling unsatisfied in your soul. Apart from God.
These failures in human things to satisfy and keep promises leave us with a dark void in our hearts. Then, just like the woman who kept trying man after man after man, we get caught in vicious cycles of trusting untrustworthy things to satisfy.
Perhaps you could list a few examples. Perhaps you are living a few examples:
*Beer after beer after beer till the stress is gone. But then it comes back. And this time with a headache. We drink another beer to cure it.
*Pornographic photo after pornographic photo. A high. Then this shameful feeling that can only be erased by another pornographic high!
*Money, money and more money. You finally get enough and buy a nice HD TV! You start watching shows about people’s relationships. It reminds you that your relationships are lacking. The problem? You probably just need more pixels. Better get more money.
*Success. You work hard for it. You crave recognition. You work all the time and have no time for God. No time for family. But an employee of the month pin! Until...People don’t appreciate me as much as they used to. I want that “appreciated feeling again.” Time to put in 90s hours this week again.
*Gossip and more gossip. It makes you feel better. Whenever you start to feel bad about something you have done, you go find your friends and repeat this process until you feel better again.
Here's the bottom line: Earthly things do not satisfy. There is not a single earthly thing worthy of garnering our complete trust to give us eternal, unending, complete, total and real satisfaction.
II. Jesus' alternative.
Ever been on a diet plan? Some diet plans you drink shakes. These are the healthy alternative to a normal unhealthy meal. Less calories all the vitamins. Unfortunately, none of them taste like Doritos, so…I haven’t tried them.
Jesus has an alternative that offers completely, total, eternal, unending, real satisfaction. He mentioned it throughout our lesson. Listen to what he said about it:
#1 -- It is eternal. Jesus said, "whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst." This means that Jesus' alternative doesn't run out when you get to the bottom of the can. There isn't a monthly fee to keep it going. It doesn't become diluted over time. It doesn’t lose its effectiveness.
#2 -- It is personal. Jesus said, "It will become in him a spring of eternal water." This isn't something that works for some people and not for others. It isn't some uncaring inanimate object that is only after your money. It isn't some uncaring animate person who is only after his own selfish desires. It is for you.
#3 -- It is truth. Jesus said, "true worshippers worship in spirit and truth." Jesus' alternative isn't some half-truth combined with a lie to make it sound more enticing. It isn't some phony idea concocted to play on your desire to be whole in order to make money. It isn't just true for some and not true for others.
#4 -- It is satisfying. It doesn’t do half the job. It doesn’t require you to finish the job. It satisfies. Completely. Always. Every time.
What is Jesus' alternative?
The woman had an idea. In verse 25 she told Jesus the truth that she did know, "The Messiah is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to me." Jesus didn't correct her. He just revealed something to her that he had kept hidden from many.
"I who am speaking to you am he."
This means that Jesus’ alternative was none other than himself! There is only one worthy of full, complete and real trust is Jesus! Because he is the only one who fully, completely and really satisfies all our needs!
Jesus is eternal. His love burns as strongly for you as when he died on the cross to take away all of your sins, will never fail. It will always be true no matter what time of day it is or how often you have turned to it. It is a bubbling spring...always overflowing for you.
Jesus is personal. He knows who you are. He cares specifically for you. He knows when you have been abused. He knows when you have struggles at work. He knows when you struggle with dark, dark thoughts. He knows you and still he promises to you that "Surely, I will be with you always to the very end of the age." (Mt. 28) "Whoever believes in me will have eternal life." (John 3:16) Even…”Your sins are forgiven." (Lk. 7)
Jesus is truth. Miracle after miracle after miracle. Seen by thousands of people. Proving his authority to make the claims that he did. He told the blind to see, they saw. He told the lame to walk, they did. He told the dead to rise, they did.
He said that he would die. That he would stay dead three days. That he would then rise from the dead, completely well, all on his own. He didn't lie then and he doesn't lie now.
Jesus satisfies. It doesn't matter what kind of emptiness you are feeling, Jesus’ love satisfies. If you struggle with finances, his heavenly riches fill your pocket. If you struggle with emptiness, his relentless pursuit of you fills you with love. If you have been hurt by a relationship, Jesus’ love reminds you that there is one who will never hurt you. In fact, who was hurt by you and for you! And you are satisfied.
Brothers and sisters, do you know what the woman did after Jesus talked with her? Scripture tells us that she left her bucket behind and ran to tell her friends!
That’s pretty neat. Suddenly, finding Jesus her Savior, her earthly needs were no longer important. All she needed was this love of Jesus. She ran to her friends to spread this message!
Do the same. This Easter – spread the message of Jesus. Tell your friends about the one who completely, fully, and absolutely fulfills all their needs. There’s no one better to place your trust!
It’s 4:45pm. The workday is almost over. You turn to your computer to close down what you have been working on.
You close out of the instant message dialogue box that had contained a plethora of nasty jokes about your boss. It had been tempting to add one of your own, but you had resisted. Then, you check your email last time. One message is a Facebook update. One of your friends has liked Miley Cyrus wearing more clothes than usual (but still less than appropriate). It’s tempting to look out. The other update is a link to a “Science” article attempting to prove that God doesn’t exist. The arguments are tempting you to doubt your faith.
You head out the door only to pass by a coworker that you don’t like very much. It’s tempting to frown at him. Then, your boss reminds you that you have reports to finish at home this weekend. It’s tempting to give him a piece of your mind.
You get into the car and turn on talk radio. The conversation is anger. It’s tempting you to get angry. Then, a car pulls out in front of you. You’re tempted to let that anger out. Fortunately, a giant billboard for Victoria’s Secret catches your eye and eases your angry (by tempting you to lust).
Finally, you get home. You’re exhausted. Temptations were everywhere today. It’s nice to be where you are safe.
Then, your phone buzzes. It’s a text message from your friend. A Groupon for ½ drinks at a local bar. It’s accompanied by the simple text: “Don’t B a Loser!”
Temptation is everywhere. In today’s society, that has never been more true. Thanks to technology, shady activities that formerly involved heading to the seedy part of downtown at night, are now accessible from the comforts of your own living room. And it’s always getting newer and more dangerous. New technology needs to new temptations. The iPhone 5 should really called the iTemptation 5!
With temptations everywhere, how is a Christian to survive?
Today we’re going to focus in on part of Jesus’ life when temptation surrounded him. Even though these temptations had nothing to do with technology, I think you’ll see that they are very similar to temptations that you and I face today. But unlike, how you and I deal with them, Jesus deals with temptation in a entirely different fashion that has worlds of meaning for us.
1) Temptation comes in real circumstances.
Scripture tells us that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.” Immediately, you may notice that Jesus was not in the best condition to face temptation.
He was hungry. He hadn’t eaten for 40 days and 40 nights. Tell me if you’re the same as me, if I haven’t eaten for a few hours, I start to get cranky! 40 days and nights? I can’t even go a few days without a bag of potato chips.
And when humans are hungry, how do they do with temptation? This is so carnal and yet so true. Think about yourself.
*Are you more likely to kindly share the last stack of Pringles, if you are really hungry?
*Does not having enough food help you focus and be productive instead of being lazy?
*Are you more likely to say a happy “good morning” if you haven’t had your coffee yet?
Of course not. Hungry is a real circumstance that puts us in real danger of temptation.
Jesus was tired. Not getting the nutrients that his body needed had to leave him tired. Plus he was in the desert. Last I checked there aren’t a lot of Serta mattresses growing wild in the wilderness. How does being tired play into the temptation battlefield?
*Are you more irritable when you get a good night’s rest or when you toss and turn all night?
*Are you more likely to spend time with your kids when you’re exhausted from the demands of work or when you’ve been enjoying a leisure Saturday?
*Is it easier to get up and go to church, when you’ve been out all night partying or when you turn in early?
Tired is a real circumstance that puts us in real danger of temptation.
Jesus was alone. There wasn’t anyone else around. Just Jesus. Some trees. Sand. Maybe, a scorpion or two. How does being alone affect the human battle against temptation?
*Does your smart Phone tempt you to look up porn at lunch with your pastor or when you by yourself at home?
*Do you commonly say swears while driving the kids to swim practice or commuting in the car by yourself?
*Do you slip a box of pencils from the supply cabinet while office manager is watching you or when everyone else is busy?
Alone is a real circumstance that puts us in real danger of temptation.
Consider this then: Jesus, was suffering a severe circumstance of all three of these. 40 days hungry. 40 days tired. In the desert, alone! It was the perfect time for the devil to strike. Listen to the three different ways that the devil tempts Jesus. See if they sound familiar.
2) Temptations are real tricky.
Scripture says that The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread. Immediately, he plays on Jesus’ situation. “You haven’t eaten in days! Your Father is going to let you die. Why don’t you do a quick miracle and feed yourself? And…maybe…at first glance, that sounds just fine to us. Jesus turned water into wine. Why not stones into bread?
It wasn’t the act itself that would be coated with sin. It was the attitude behind it. Because Jesus was the Messiah! He knew that it was God’s plan to have him suffer and die on the cross not to starve in the desert. He also knew that God would sustain him until then.
Jesus also knew that miracles were for people to see. They were to be see by people everywhere and bring them to faith in Jesus as Messiah. If he did this miracle, it would be selfish and against God’s plan.
Bottom line: The devil was trying to get Jesus to doubt God’s promises.
Has he ever done that to you?
"God won't provide for you. He’s abandoned you. Go ahead and cheat on your taxes.”
“God doesn’t love you. He won’t forgive you. Just drown your guilt in alcohol.”
"God won’t strengthen your faith when you study his Word. That’s foolish. Make church your last priority.”
When the devil has tempted you to doubt God, how have you done?
Jesus listened to God’s promises over the devil’s lies: 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Jesus = 1. Satan = 0.
The devil didn’t give up so easily. Verse 5 tells us that the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”
Notice how tricky the devil is. This time he uses God’s Word. He quotes Psalm 91. He makes it seem like the good option is for Jesus to show his faith and jump off!
But the devil was twisting God’s Word. God tells us not to be foolish too. Satan conveniently left that out.
Has the devil ever done that to you? He focuses you on one part of God’s Word – which isn’t the whole picture – and gets you to ignore another part?
* God says, “he will spread his word to the nations,” so there’s no reason for me to share it with my friends.
* God says, ‘Treat others as you would have them treat you,’ so I guess I should condone my friend’s homosexual lifestyle.”
* God says, “You are forgiven! So you can do whatever you want.”
When the devil has tempted you to twist God’s Word, how have you done?
Jesus did great. He held to God’s Word – both his promises and his commands – in every aspect. Jesus calls him out: “It is also written: (In Deut. 6:16) ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”
Jesus = 2. Satan = 0.
Finally, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
Notice the outright lie. The devil claims to have power to have earthly authority. He ignores God’s authority. He then promises to give it to Jesus.
This temptation runs deeper than that. For when Jesus had completed the work of his salvation, “God gave Jesus the name above every names, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow.” (Philippians 2) In other words, Jesus would have this authority after completing the Father’s plan.
Listen to the devil’s words again: “Sure, you could have that rule and authority after suffering a viciously cruel death on the cross. Why would you want to do that? I have an easier way. A less painful way. A better way. Bow down. Worship me. It’s yours.”
The devil was trying to Get Jesus to dishonor God’s Authority.
Has the devil ever done that to you? He gets you to doubt that God is in control OR that he’s even the best one to be in control?
*God’s too old fashioned to let run your life. The Bible? That’s hogwash. Modern society says so.
*You don’t need God. You’re smarter than him. He doesn’t have time for you. Why don’t you be in charge of you? Do what you want. Ignore him. Ignore his Word. Ignore his authority.
* You’re sick. Denounce God! Tell him and your family how God doesn’t know what he’s doing. Obviously he isn’t in control OR he just doesn’t care.
When the devil has tempted you to dishonor God’s Authority, how have you done?
Marvel at Jesus. When he was faced with dishonoring God, he refused! Even if it mean that he would suffer and die!In verse 10, Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’
Jesus = complete victory. The devil = defeated.
3) Jesus gave real obedience.
Now, this whole section about temptation, probably makes you feel very glum. In a sense, it serves as a reminder of our failures against temptations. (It does for me.) But if that’s where your thoughts remain, Satan is tricking you yet again.
Because this section isn’t about you! It’s about Jesus. Jesus’ and his real obedience.
Notice that he never sinned during the Desert Battle. In fact, when it is over, Scripture says that 11 Then the devil left him,” He didn’t start celebrating. He hadn’t won. He left with his tail between his legs like a dog losing a fight. Then, Scripture says, “angels came and attended him.” Angels who work for God. God who judges how we do with temptation. God who had judged Jesus’ work in the desert as victorious.
But this wasn’t the only time that Jesus defeated temptation. Jesus never sinned during the rest of his life.
* Hebrews 4:15 says, “Our high priest (Jesus)...has been tempted in every way, just as we are, yet was without sin.”
* 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made him (Jesus) who had no sin, to be sin for us.”
* Hebrews 7:26 says, “ (Jesus) meets our need – one who is holy, blameless, pure, and set apart from sinners.
* 1 Peter 1:19 calls Jesus, “A lamb—without blemish or defect.”
This remains true, even during his death. Because that’s probably the only time where Jesus was in worse circumstances than the desert. He was hungry. He was tired. He had been physically beaten. And he was alone – literally attacked on every side by his enemies. Yet, even at that time, Jesus did not sin. He did not fall to temptation.
How do we know? The proof is in the empty tomb.
If Jesus had fallen to temptation – whether in the desert, in the streets, in a house, in the temple, even on the cross, then Jesus would not have risen. He would be suffering the punishment that God prescribes for all sin – hell!
But Jesus came back to life. Meaning that he had no sin AND meaning that his innocent death was not suffering for his own failures. But for ours!
Now we’re going to bring it full circle. Because now we can focus on how:
4) Jesus is our real help.
First, he offers forgiveness for our failures.
He forgives you for the times you have doubted God’s promises. He forgives you for the times you have twisted his Word. He forgives you for the times you have dishonored God’s authority. He forgives you for all the times that you have fallen to temptation.
Trust Jesus. Remember he doesn't sin. Lying is a sin. Therefore, it's the devil who's lying when he says, "You've fallen to temptation too much! You can't be forgiven."
Jesus crushed Satan's head on the cross. He is a whiny loser who can't get over the fact that he lost. Your champion Jesus is the one to trust. A champion who says that “whoever believes in him will be saved!” (Mark 16:15)
Second, Jesus is a champion to turn to.
As we saw today, he dealt with real temptations in the midst of circumstances that put him in real danger of falling. Whatever temptation it is that you just keep falling to, know that Jesus knows what it is like to face that temptation.
But, here’s the difference, Jesus has faced those temptations, but unlike you or me or anyone else in the world, Jesus completely defeated them!
So pray to him! Ask him for help. Ask him for strength. Ask him for guidance. Don’t ignore the opportunity to have help from the One who has mastered all temptation!
Finally, Jesus gives us words to wield.
Notice that every time he was tempted in our text, his reply to Satan was, “It is written.” “It is written.” “It is written.”
Jesus knew that God’s Word is powerful! He used it to thwart Satan’s plans.
You can do that too! It’s why we read Scripture. It's why we hear it. It's why we learn it and memorize it. We take it to heart so that when we are tempted by Satan, we can throw God’s all powerful Word in the devil’s face.
Try it! If you need help locating passages that expose your temptation as the sin it is, contact me. I’ll help you. Then, put those words to memory. And think them. No. Speak them. Shout them at the devil. “I will serve the Lord!”
Friends, it’s a battle out there. On our own, we don’t stand a chance against Satan. But Satan doesn’t stand a chance against Jesus. And Jesus, is on your side. Praise be to God for the one who gives us victory over temptation – now and always! Amen.
I joined Twitter this past week. A pastoral leadership magazine told me to. I joined, but I wasn’t quite sure how a pastor might use it, so I followed a few famous pastors to see how they were using it.
One pastor with over 10,000 followers tweets Bible passages. On Tuesday he tweeted, John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him…will have eternal life.”
That’s sounds nice, right?
Then, I read the responses:
“Only he didn’t stay dead. He came back to life. So he only played dead. Foolish much?”
“Humans live to their low 100s at best. Eternal life? That’s a bit of a stretch." #Atheist #Atheism
“Stop feeding your people junk.” (Only he didn’t use the word junk.)
It’s a battle out there. It’s a battle on the internet. A battle in the media. A battle in our own personal lives. A battle during life on this earth.
Unbelievers taunt. The world tempts. The devil causes doubts. The past haunts. Death creates fears.
Maybe it's starting to wear on you. You're only human. It's tiring to defend your faith. It's exhausting to fight temptation. It's energy zapping to live your faith in God in a godless world.
Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll examine the Battleground that 21st Century Christians live in and look to Scripture for guidance.
But before we go through our strategy, it is absolutely important to become familiar with who our leader is.
If we don’t trust him, we can’t trust his plan. We might start to think: “What’s the point!?! Why not join the world? Why not give up on religion? Why not give up on Sunday worship, turn off the SNOOZE and sleep in!?!”
This is why NFL teams don't hire little league soccer coaches and expect that they'll be experts.
It's why Fortune 500 companies don't hire assistant managers at Burger King.
It's why military Generals need a better resume than simply, "I won a game of Risk once."
We're talking about our spiritual leader. In a world, where the physical is heralded and the spiritual is despised, we need a good one.
A Christian has chosen to follow Jesus. But...what are his qualifications? How is he a better leader than Ghandi, Buddha, or Mohammed? Why should we put all of our faith in him and devoted our lives to following him?
I imagine that the disciples were asking the same questions.
Right before our text from Matthew 17 takes place, the local religious leaders had increased their pressure on this tiny group. They were constantly being challenged and carefully watched in hopes that a political case might be built against them. The end goal being that Jesus’ and his followers be stopped.
But it wasn’t just these human leaders that opposed them. There were dark spiritual forces that were engaged in this battle. Not that long ago, they had horrifically watched as demons possessed a man and vigorously opposed Jesus. It was downright frightening.
Through it all, there had been a calming force. Their leader, Jesus, was with them. He was powerful. He spoke with authority. He was protecting them. But that was about to change. Jesus had just explained to them, for the very first time, that he would go to Jerusalem, suffer, and die.
Do you suppose the disciples began to question themselves?
“Why are we following him again? This is getting less and less fun.”
“People have gone from being annoyed with me to hating me. I don’t like it. I know it would change, if I followed someone else.”
“Life isn’t as peaceful as it was back when I would simply spend the morning fishing.”
“He’s going to die. Will that put me in danger? I’m out!”
They came to a mountain. Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him up a hill. Perhaps they thought that on top of the hill they could have a heart to heart and get some answers. They needed to be reminded why they had followed Jesus in the first place. They needed to be told who he was.
Immediately, Jesus began to clue them in.
1.) Scripture tells us that his face began to shine. Literally, it says that it looked just like the sun.
Remember this is before the days of the flashlight and glow in the dark face paint. There isn’t any kind of trick going on here. In fact, verse 1 tells us that Jesus led Peter, James, and John…up the mountain by themselves.”
This means there weren’t any tricks going on. Jesus’ face was literally shining so brightly that the disciples would have needed to squint and shade their eyes. If they had a pair of Oakleys, they might have slipped them on.
This wasn’t normal. It was divine.
2.) Scripture also tells us Jesus clothing became as white as the light.
Again Jesus is not appearing in some hidden camera commercial for Jerusalem dry cleaning. This isn’t the point in history when Clorox bleach was invented. In fact, I don’t know that Oxyclean could do as good of a job making clothes that clean.
Sometimes there are those little brown stains that appear on socks or under shirts or even around the collar of a nice church shirt, that just don’t go away without some good scrubbing.
Jesus had been walking in the desert! Think he got some dirt on him? And yet now, without doing any wash at all, his clothes were as white as the light. Almost blinding with cleanliness.
This wasn’t normal. It was divine.
3.) Finally, Scripture describes in verse 3 that then there appeared before the disciples Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
Now this isn’t like heading to Lake Lynn and coming across your buddy from art class who is jogging around the lake with his bulldog.
Moses had been dead for around 1500 years. Elijah went up to heaven 900 years ago.
And this isn’t anybody dressed up as Moss or Elijah waiting to play a trick on the disciples. Remember: They went up to the mountain by themselves. Jesus was talking with the heavenly world.
This wasn’t normal. It was divine.
Which leads us to put the clues together just as if we were reading an Encyclopedia Brown book:
Who could cause human skin to break out in radiant light?
Who could cause fabric to glow a majestically clean color?
Who holds the heavenly realm and interacts with its residents on a daily basis?
WHO ELSE BUT GOD HIMSELF?
So let’s be clear. The disciples as they followed Jesus were not just following some guy with some nice ideas about how to change the world. They weren’t just entrusting their livelihood to a good politician. They weren’t just being spiritually cared for by a Seminarian . They weren’t just putting their lives in danger for a good friend.
They were following God himself!
Take a moment to consider what that means for you.
Either way consider: How do those who oppose Jesus compare? Scientists are just people. Bloggers are only humans. Atheistic politicians. They are just people too!
The Jesus you follow? He is the divine, world creating, spirit world controlling, all cleansing, totally pure and all powerful God of heaven and earth himself!
Looking at Jesus’ divinity, Peter was impressed. All the fears, worries, and anxieties of following Jesus simply faded into the background as he gazed at his Savior. In verse 4, “Peter said to Jesus, “Lord it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
Ever feel that way about church? It’s a sanctuary. A place away from all the negativity that comes with being Christian. An oasis where traditional values are still preached. A place where the pastor doesn’t try to present ‘scientific’ documentation that God doesn’t exist. A place where you aren’t persecuted for your belief in God. A place where Pastor's goal isn't to get you to renounce your Christian upbringing. A place where your sins aren’t used to judge you, ridicule you, call you a hypocrite, and get you into trouble.
A place where you are encouraged. Inspired. Forgiven.
A place where you gaze at God’s glory in peace.
Who wouldn’t we want to be in a place like that?! Certainly, church is an awesome thing. And Peter was right, It is good for us to be here! But as the story continues, God teaches us a valuable lesson.
Listen to what happens while Peter is still speaking those words, “A bright cloud enveloped them and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
Again. This is no joke! There isn’t anyone dumping dry ice into the air and moving it across the top of the mountain with a portable fan. This isn’t the set for a rap music video. This is the glory of the LORD! A cloud of brightness very similar to the pillar of cloud that guided the Israelites during the day for 40 years in the desert appears and envelopes them!
In that cloud, God the Father speaks, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Then, God gives instructions. "Listen to him!”
Think of what that meant for the disciples. “Listen to what he has told you. Know that he will die for the people. Listen to the truth that he will rise again." Then, listen to his directive to “Go and He must go to Jerusalem and die. There will be hardships. Then, you will continue to spread this message.”
Think about what that means to us. Jesus words to us are very similar: “Go and make disciples of all nations” (i.e. “Tell your neighbor about Jesus.” “Explain to your husband the reason you go to church.” “Invite your co workers to visit church with you.”)
In other words, God is telling us that we can’t stay on our spiritual mountain.
WE MUST GO INTO THE WORLD!
That can be scary. No one likes to be called a bigot, a fool, or a moron. No one likes to be threatened. No one likes to be hated.
It certainly scared the disciples. Instead of saluting the voice of God himself, the disciples do what humans do when they are faced with the divine Word of the Lord. “They fell facedown to the ground, terrified.”
Faced with two options – obeying God and suffering at the hands of men or agreeing with men and disobeying the Almighty God. They were frightened.
I’m guessing you’ve felt that same fear.
That’s why what Jesus does next is so important. He doesn't berate them for their fear. Look at verse 7. “Jesus came and touched them."
Note that this isn’t a divine slap of God’s wrath like the disciples deserved. It was gentle. It was loving.
That is how God works! When we are terrified from our sins, from persecution, from temptation, from fear, he reaches out to us. He really reaches. With both arms stretched out as far as he can. He touches us with his love. On the cross, the actions say, “I love you. You are forgiven. Trust in me – God himself crucified for you!”
If you have lived your life against him up to this point, know this: He gave his life for you. Through these words, I pray, God touches you. "Believe: I love you. You are forgiven. I, God himself, have been crucified for you!"
Then Jesus gives gentle encouragement to his disciples, “Get up!” This is the same gentle encouragement he gives to us. Get up. I have work for you to do. But I will be with you. I will hold you.
Again, we know this to be true, there are people all over North Raleigh that need to hear about God crucified for them. They are right in our neighborhood.
I know, we’ve grown as a congregation in the past months, but we cannot be satisfied to simply let our church work be nothing more than “gather on Sunday, make each other feel good, and then go hide in our homes until next Sunday.”
God has a directive for us! Get up. Let that directive speak to you. Get up! Gethsemane! Get up! Get off of the mountain. You have work to do!
If that work is daunting to you, listen to the divine directive of comfort from Jesus. “Don’t be afraid.”
Yes, I know it is scary outside these walls. There are people who disagree with us. People who ridicule us. People who openly mock and scorn us.
But none of these people are God. God is on your side. God is the one enlisting you. God is the one that will lead you into battle! You have no reason to fear.
Brothers and sisters, as we leave here today and go out into the world. As we enter the battleground. Remember who your leader is. Remember he is God himself! Then, listen to your marching orders:
Get up. Get off your mountain. Share Jesus.