Thursday, August 29, 2013

Willing to Serve

Sometimes people wonder if preachers have any fun! Well, I can say that studying Isaiah 6:1-8 has been a thrill for me. The vision of God and Isaiah's response is truly stirring.

While no one on earth can look God in the face HE has chosen to appear at times as recorded in Scripture giving us limited sightings of His great self. Isaiah sees His throne and robe which fills the temple. Whether Isaiah is viewing the temple in Jerusalem or Heaven is not for certain, but his vision of God certainly impacted him. That's where we will start this Sunday...taking a glimpse of God as Isaiah saw Him. Interestingly, the Apostle John indicates that Isaiah was actually seeing the glory of Jesus! (John 12:41).

We also will meet the Seraphim who with 6 wings surround the throne of God with praise for His holiness. We sing what they sang/cried when we sing the hymn "Holy, Holy, Holy". Uniquely, we meet these celestial creatures only here in the whole of the Bible.

Isaiah's encounter with the Lord brought 3 results. First, he confessed that he was ruined and unclean. Most Bible teachers understand Isaiah to be acknowledging his unworthiness and sinfulness before a Holy God. The attribute of God's holiness brings about a combination of celebration and confession. It is interesting to note the experiences of Abraham, Job, Daniel and John when they see the Lord...each of them are completely humbled before Him. Second, there is cleansing for Isaiah. This is displayed as a live (burning) coal taken off of the altar in the temple and touched to his lips. We know that the altar was for sacrifice and the burning coal speaks of fire which purifies. We can certainly see the symbolism of the cross where the sacrifice of our Saviour provides cleansing and purification for our sins. Finally, God asks who will go to carry His message to the nation of Judah and beyond. Isaiah responds without hesitation "Here am I, send me".

Isaiah's willingness to go and serve is at the heart of this Sunday's sermon. In the coming weeks we at Hebron will be challenged to go BEYOND and serve our Lord and others. It is my hope that as we look at our Lord and realize how worthy He is; how unworthy we are; and yet He loves us, cleanses us and invites us to serve Him so that we will heartily, enthusiastically and unhesitatingly volunteer for His service!

1. How do you reconcile that no one can see God with Isaiah seeing Him? 1 Timothy6:15,16; Isaiah 6:1

2. Is God sitting on a throne unusual? Daniel 7:9; Revelation 4:2

3. Compare the heavenly praise of God in the Old Testament with the heavenly praise in the New Testament. Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8

4. What is an interesting difference between the Seraphim and Cherubim? Isaiah 6:2; Ezekiel 10:20:21

5. Why do you think Isaiah describes himself as a man of unclean lips? Matthew 12:34

6. Consider Isaiah's confession (6:5) and cleansing (6:6,7) in light of 1 John 1:9.

7. Does the Seraph's praise of 3 Holies along with God saying "Who will go for us" make you think of a particular Christian doctrine or doxology?

8. When responding to God's question about someone to send does Isaiah offer any excuses or stipulations? Isaiah 6:8.  Is there a lesson for us here?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

How Do You Look?

“I know you're walkin' down a lonely street
I know you can't get out of the heat
Baby, it's alright,
Don't have a wasted life

“I know you have to feel a little used up
And no one can give you enough
Baby, hold on tight

“Don't have a wasted life
I love you too much
Don't have a wasted life
I love you too much

“They give it to you from the time you're born
You keep tryin' to make one more score
Baby, it’s alright,
You gotta stand and fight

“So when you're lonely and you feel let down
You can call me, I'll come around
And treat you nice
Don't have a wasted life”

Now I don’t know how much this girl believes her life to be wasted, but I doubt that Tom Petty coming around and treating her nice will help her avoid it.

Last week we were in Jonah 2 talking about Jonah’s gigantic discovery in the belly of the fish.  While the whole prayer is worthy of reading and rereading, it’s verse 8 that’s the most arresting.  “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the hesed, the loving kindness, the steadfast love of the Lord God Almighty.”  Indeed, that’s exactly what Jonah had done as he ran away from God’s clear direction in his life.

When you come to the New Testament, you find a number of others running from God and forfeiting His hesed.  The Christians at Corinth are a perfect example.  As some of you know, Paul writes them a letter about their indolence and license that has been lost.  We have no copy of this letter, but he refers to it in I Corinthians 5.  It’s a letter that appears to have caused them some pain and guilt.  Indeed, his second letter (I Corinthians) contains a good amount of material that would have the same effect.  But something happens between the receipt of Paul’s second letter and his third letter (II Corinthians).  When news of the condition of the church reaches the ears of Paul, through Titus, Paul is overcome with joy.  He’s thrilled that they’ve had a kind of “belly of the fish” experience.  They’ve let go of their worthless idols and are no longer forsaking God’s steadfast love, but are walking in it.

And Paul writes them another letter.  Now, chapter one of II Corinthians is one of my favorite chapters, but we’re not there this week, instead we’re in Chapters 2,3, & 4.  Here in several brief paragraphs Paul describes what the unwanted life begins to look like.

This week we are going to examine Paul’s description of the hesed-filled Christian life by zeroing in on four of the five similes he uses to convey deep spiritual truth.  Indeed, each simile is an excellent tool to measure how fully you’ve released your idols.

In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following questions:

      1.      What can you discover is behind Paul’s words in II Corinthians 2:1-11?

2.      Can you find the first simile in II Corinthians 2:14,15?

3.      What does he mean in verse 16?

4.      Can you find the second one in II Corinthians 3:2?

5.      In what way does this simile imply a ministry to others?

6.      The third simile is in verse 18 of Chapter 3.  Note the textual variant in this verse where the words “beholding” and “reflecting” are used to describe the unfettered Christian life.

7.      How does Paul’s use of this simile fully describe the purpose of the Christian life?

8.      In II Corinthians 4:7 Paul uses a fourth simile.  How are we to understand this one?

9.      How did Jesus perfectly live out this simile?

10.  How are all these descriptors connected to the cross?

See you at His table this Sunday!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Prayer of Jonah

Yogi Berra is widely regarded as one of the greatest catchers in baseball history.  But it’s not his catching that most people focus on when they think of Yogi, it’s his clever quips.  “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over” is one.  “I really didn’t say anything I said,” is another.  But perhaps his most timely and most repeated quip was first uttered in the 1960s when he witnessed Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris repeatedly hitting back-to-back home runs for the New York Yankees.  Upon seeing one home run after another, Yogi exclaimed in all seriousness, “It’s déjà vu all over again!”

I have discovered the same is true whenever the Gospel is truly preached and heard.  Martin Luther declared that justification by faith alone is the article upon which the church stands or falls. This cardinal doctrine of the Protestant Reformation was the battleground for nothing less than the Gospel itself.  Simply put, “justification” is the act by which unjust sinners are made right (righteous) in the sight of a just and holy God.  How is this done?  The Gospel states that it is done by God who applies the righteousness of His perfect Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to the sinner’s life.  Paul puts it this way in Romans 3:20, “By the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight.” 
It is all God’s doing in two ways:  Christ’s finished work of righteousness and the Father’s declaration that Christ’s righteousness is now credited to our account.  The certainty and finality of this declaration was called a “forensic” act by the Reformers.  That is, we are declared, counted, or reckoned once and forever to be righteous when God imputes the righteousness of Christ to our account.  Indeed it is this forensic act that is the necessary condition for anyone to be saved.  And it is faith in Christ alone, and His work alone, that is the necessary condition for justification.

Now, while all of that may seem rather technical and esoteric to many, it has real world relevance to us here at Hebron today.  As in times past, in the face of the preached Gospel people are asking “How can this be?”  “If God is sovereign and He’s the One who does all the saving, all the keeping, all the insuring of one’s standing before God, what is there for me to do?  Why not just live like hell?  If all threats of eternal judgment are removed, if our new life in Christ can never be lost, then what kind responsibility do I bear?”

These aren’t new questions.  These aren’t new reactions.  Indeed, in his expansive commentary on Romans 6, Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones famously issued a warning to all those who preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  He writes:
The preaching of the true gospel of salvation by grace alone always leads to the possibility of the charge of antinomianism (lawlessness).  Indeed, there is no better test as to whether a man is really preaching the New Testament gospel of salvation than this, that some people might misunderstand and misinterpret it to mean that because you are saved by grace alone it doesn’t matter what you do; you can go on sinning as much as you like because it will redound all the more to the glory of grace.  If your preaching and presentation of the Gospel doesn’t expose it to that misunderstanding, then it’s not of the Gospel that you are preaching or presenting.  Let me show you what I mean.

If a man preaches justification by works, no one would ever raise this question.  If a man’s preaching is “If you want to be a Christian, or stay a Christian, and if you want to go to heaven, you must stop committing sins, you must take up good works, and if you do so regularly and constantly, and do not fail to keep on at it, you will make yourself one, no misunderstanding would arise.

Why?  Because that‘s the message the church of Rome proclaimed in Luther’s day.  That’s the same message that is widely proclaimed today – even in the preponderance of Protestant churches today.

But, praise God, it is not so at Hebron.  Today, as in times past, the question has been raised, “If God is sovereign, if justification by faith alone is true, why do I have to do anything?  Why can’t I, then, live like hell?”  There’s a clear answer.  Paul knew it.  Luther knew it.  Calvin knew it.  Whitefield knew it.  Edwards knew it.  Spurgeon knew it.  Every student of Scripture ought to know it.  And this week we’ll give it.  Sunday’s message is intentionally “piggy-backed” on Ken Wagoner’s message from two weeks ago, “The One That Got Away.”  If you haven’t listened to it, you should.  There’s a verse in Jonah 2 that will be the pivot point in this Sunday’s message.  It’s Jonah 2:8, near the end of Jonah’s incredible prayer.  It’s the centerpiece of God’s answer to the question, “If God is sovereign, what does it matter what I do?”

In preparation for Sunday’s message, “The Prayer of Jonah,” from Jonah 2:1-9, you may wish to consider the following questions:
1.      What is Paul’s answer to the charge of antinomianism in Romans 6?

2.      How does Jonah’s prayer differ from the prayer of Jabez in I Chronicles 4?

3.      What does Jonah’s father’s name mean?

4.      Who is the one responsible for Jonah being thrown into the sea?  The sailors?  Jonah?  God?

5.      Who does Jonah believe to be the responsible party?

6.      How did God “bring up his life from the pit”?  See verse 6(b).

7.      What does Jonah mean in verse 7?

8.      How do you think verse 8 is best translated?  Check several and then if you are able, examine the Hebrew text.

9.      What idols was Jonah clinging to?

10.  What does it mean to forsake godly mercy by clinging to idols?

See you Sunday as we consider the fruit of justification!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


"Why do today what you can put off till tomorrow?" someone has jokingly said.  Many of us know the struggle with procrastination.  Some folk are stuck in the past while others always intend to get things done in the future.  We should remember the past, plan for the future but LIVE in the present.  I like the little saying "Today is a gift; that's why they call it the Present."  God's Word has much to say about valuing and taking advantage of TODAY!

Consider with me 3 Bible verses related to our theme.  First, 2 Corinthians 6:2c "now is the day of salvation."  In a greater sense this is referring to the Gospel era since Jesus' death and resurrection but it also is a reminder to turn to the Lord in repentance and faith while the opportunity is available.  The Bible gives no indication of a second chance for salvation after death so today is the day and now is the time to trust Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Second, Matthew 6:11 "Give us today our daily bread".  We should be aware and thankful of God's provision today.  Even if our fridge and cupboards are stocked full we should give thanks for what we have today.  Even the breath we breathe today is due to His will - Job 12:10.

Finally, Psalm 118:24.  "This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it".  This verse interestingly refers primarily to God's gift of deliverance to an individual or the whole of ancient Israel.  We also see in the surrounding verses the Father's exaltation of the one men rejected, Jesus Christ.  Some commentators though the years have seen this verse as honoring the Sabbath Day.  In a general sense, every day including today is a gift from God.  While it's true that "Rome wasn't built in a day"  let's be thankful for TODAY and use it in some way  to accomplish something positive and spiritually beneficial!

See you Sunday (Lord willing)!

1.  According to Hebrews 3: 7 when should we respond to the Lord's "voice"?

2.  What is something we should do today and every day?  Psalm 145:2

3.  What does God give fresh and new today and every day?  Lamentations 3:22,23

4  Sometimes, Christians use the phrase "Lord willing" when speaking of future plans.  Consider the basis for this in James 4:13-17.

5. What should be a part of Christian behavior today and every day?  Hebrews 3:13 (sounds like Growing Stronger to me )

6.  Read Ecclesiastes 9:7-10 - practical passage on taking advantage of TODAY.

7.  Is there something God is moving in your heart about today?  Is there something you have been putting off that you could do today?  Is there someone whom you could thank, honor, or encourage today?  Jerry Z shared a great challenge to all of us a while back about taking advantage of today = "Send me flowers now"!