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What Difference Does the Future Make? The Practical Application of Prophecy (Part 4)

As I am preparing for Cedar Valley Bible Church’s “Second Coming Conference” (November 16-17) in Iowa, I am working my way through three prophetic texts: I Thessalonians 4:13-18, II Peter 3:1-18, and I John 3:1-10.

We’ve looked at I Thessalonians 4:13-18 and seen how the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus ought to encourage our hearts! We are now thinking about our second text, II Peter 3:1-18. Let’s look at this passage again —

The theme of this text is:  the Certainty of Final Judgment.
We’ve noticed, first of all, that prophetic teaching should lead us to wholesome thinking (v. 1). We were then reminded of God’s climatic actions in the universe (vv. 3-7). Specifically, creation (v. 5) and the flood (v. 6) are provided as evidence that God can — and will — dramatically interrupt the normal, everyday pattern of life (contrary to the uniformitarianism of Peter’s day).

We also learned of God’s longing that people repent (v. 9). We avoid God’s judgment by repenting and believing the gospel!

The final challenge that I see in this passage concerns the practical, right-now, application of the truth of God’s final judgment (vv. 11-18). These believers are NOT told to buy ascension robes, climb to the top of the highest hill, and wait for the Second Coming. They are instructed: “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming” (vv. 11-12).

These believers are also challenged to “make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him” (v. 14). Being forewarned of this certain future, these Jesus-followers are to “be on [their] guard” so that they will not be “carried away” by error (v. 17). Lastly, they are challenged to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (v. 18).

There is no room for eschatological coasting! The certainty of FINAL JUDGMENT should motivate the believer to godliness, purity, and vigilance.  (to be continued)

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2019 in 2 Peter 3

 

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Getting to Know . . . I Samuel (6:13-21) Irreverence and Judgment!

The ark of God had been captured by the dreaded Philistines, but God has brought disaster upon them. For seven months they have endured God’s wrath of tumors and great panic (5:9). So they decide to send it back to Israel.

The people of Beth Shemesh, seeing the ark, rejoice! The cows are sacrificed as a burnt offering to the Lord and the Levites take down the ark (as well as the chest of gold objects). The five Philistine rulers watch this event.

However, not all is rejoicing. Seventy citizens of Beth Shemesh are struck dead because they looked into the ark (v. 19). This “heavy blow” that the Lord had “dealt” them caused them to ask, “Who can stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God? To whom will the ark go up from here?” (v. 20). They then invite the people of Kiriath Jearim to come take the ark to their town!

If I had been a citizen of Kiriath Jearim, I would have rejoiced that we get to go and bring the ark of the covenant back to our town! I wonder if the people of Beth Shemesh told the people of Kiriath Jearim about the Seventy?

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2018 in I Samuel 6

 

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Getting to Know . . . I Samuel (3:1-21) When the Lord Calls!

God has just pronounced a profound judgment against Eli and his entire family line! The story now turns to the fulfillment of God’s promise of raising up a faithful priest who will act in tune with God’s heart and mind! And that faithful priest would be Samuel.

In contrast to Eli’s indulgence of his sons and his own gluttonous ways, “the boy Samuel” is described as “ministering before the Lord under Eli” (v. 1). We are then told that there were few visions from the Lord at that time; “the word of the Lord was rare.” But that is about to change!

The Lord calls out to Samuel, but Samuel thinks it is Eli calling out to him. This happens three times. Eli realizes that the Lord “was calling the boy” (v. 8). We are told that “Samuel did not yet know the Lord” (v. 7). Does this refer to salvation? Perhaps not, for the sentence goes on to say “The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him” (v. 7). To “know the Lord” here seems to refer to God’s direct communication with a person. Eli gives Samuel instructions how to respond to the Lord (I wonder if he was thinking back to when he listened to the Lord himself?). Someone has said that Eli’s instructions to Samuel to say “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” have been changed to, “Listen, Lord, for your servant is speaking!”

Samuel responds to the Lord and the Lord tells Samuel His plans. What He is going to do “will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle.” (v. 11). [We’ve lost our tingling ears, haven’t we?] God tells Samuel of the judgment He will inflict upon Eli and his family — and why. His sons blasphemed God; he failed to restrain them (v. 13). And then the awesome words: “The guilt of Eli’s house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering” (v. 14).

Samuel feared telling Eli what the Lord had said to him, but, upon Eli’s insistence, tells him everything. Eli’s response is: “He is the Lord; let him do what is good in his eyes” (v. 18).

We then read “The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up” (v. 19). To have the Lord “with” him means that God promises that “none of Samuel’s words [would] fall to the ground” (v. 19). This involved all of Israel recognizing that Samuel “was attested as a prophet from the Lord” (v. 20). We then read, “The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word.” (v. 21).

 
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Posted by on November 8, 2018 in I Samuel 3

 

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Getting to Know . . . I Samuel (2:27-36) Family Sins!

As we continue to work our way though the book of I Samuel, we look this morning at 2:27-36. There we read:

A Bit of History: An anonymous “man of God” comes to Eli and reminds him of God’s grace in choosing his tribe to be God’s priests. A charge: He then asks, “Why do you scorn my sacrifice and offering and honor your sons more than me by fattening yourselves on the choice parts of every offering?”

A judgment: (1) God changes His promise regarding Eli’s family ministering before the Lord forever (“Those who honor me I will honor; those who despise me will be disdained”) (v. 30). (2) He will cut short the lives of all in Eli’s family (“no one in your family will ever reach old age”) (vv. 31-32). “Every one of you that I do not cut off from serving at my altar I will spare only to destroy your sight and sap your strength, and all your descendants will die in the prime of life” (v. 33). (3) Hophni and Phinehas, Eli’s two sons, will die on the same day as a sign to Eli (v. 34).

A promise: God will raise up for Himself a faithful priest “who will do according to what is in my heart and mind” (v. 35). God will firmly establish his priestly house to “minister before my anointed one always.” God says that everyone left in Eli’s family line will come and beg Eli for food, ironically saying, “Appoint me to some priestly office so I can have food to eat.” (v. 36).

Wow! God’s judgment comes full circle. Eli is condemned (along with his sons) for fattening himself on the choice parts of the offerings. Then he is told that Eli’s family will have to beg this faithful priest, whom God will raise up, for “some priestly office” so that will have something to eat! (sarcasm?)

How we deal with sin — especially in our own families — reveals our attitude toward the things of God. Eli’s failure to discipline his sons displayed a scorning of the sacrifices made to God and a personal addiction to food for Eli!

God is capable of rescinding His promises, for He responds to human conduct sometimes with stark judgment. For Eli, the priestly task will be given to another, all his descendants will die prematurely, and his two sons will perish on the same day.

But God’s plans are not irrevocably derailed. He promises to raise up a faithful priest who will act in tune with God’s heart and mind!

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2018 in I Samuel 2

 

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Insight from a Blind Man — A Free Sermon Outline! (Part 3)

Okay.  Okay.  I’m not an expert preacher.  But I recognize common mistakes when I see them — or commit them.  If you preach, you just might find some help from my booklet, Ten Specific Steps You Can Take to Make Your Sermons and Preaching Better!  (available from Amazon).

In this series of posts I am giving away some of my favorite sermon outlines.  One of the most engaging miracles in the Bible is the story of the man born blind in John 9.  I’ve shared the first two sermon points with you in our previous posts:

I. Tragedy Has Its Reasons! (vv. 1-5)

and

II. Obedience Has Its Reward! (vv. 6-12).

Let’s notice thirdly in this text that —

III. Boldness Has Its Price! (vv. 13-34)

What happens in this section is incredible.  The man obeys Jesus, washes the mud off his eyes, and comes home seeing.  But what does he see?  Skeptics!  People who knew him as a beggar doubting whether he was the same man (vv. 8-10).  [I would have been tempted to say, “Beg?  I’ve never begged in my life!  You have me confused with some other poor soul!”]

Then the real interrogations begin.  He gets dragged to the Pharisees for confirmation of the miracle.  It may also be that they feared not reporting him to the religious leaders because, as we find out later, Jesus performed the miracle on the Sabbath (v. 14)!  And making mud with His spittle constituted working on the Sabbath in the minds of these blind religionists!

The man-born-blind (he remains anonymous throughout the story) is given the 3rd degree several times, and even his parents are grilled by the Pharisees.  No way could Jesus be of God, they were convinced, so there had to be some other explanation of this “miracle.”

After several rounds of trying to find contradictions in his story, the blind man reaches his limit.  He lectures them on who is from God and who isn’t and they reply (with great pastoral compassion): “You were steeped in sin at birth;how dare you lecture us!”  And they threw him out of the synagogue (v. 34).

But . . . weren’t we all “steeped in sin at birth”?  Being kicked out of the synagogue in Jewish culture was to be ostracized from the heart of their social and religious environment.  News would travel fast.  Perhaps there would be some who would say to this man-born-blind, “You’re under God’s judgment now!  You’ve been thrown out of the people of God!”

But what if God Himself were to seek this man out — and lead him to saving faith? (to be continued)

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2018 in john 9

 

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My Workshop “Five Certainties in the Light of Tragic Events” (for “Iron Sharpens Iron” conference) Part 5

Emmaus Bible College’s leadership conference “Iron Sharpens Iron” gives me the opportunity to present several workshops.  We’ve been thinking about my first workshop entitled —

“Five Certainties in the Light of Tragic Events”

We’ve noticed the first certainty which is: Man is fallen and capable of great evil. The second certainty is that  God is holy and will judge rightly. Third, we must teach that this life is brief– one must be ready to meet God!  And the fourth certainty that we must keep in mind is that man is still made in the image of God and is capable of incredible acts of kindness and heroism.

There are many other certainties that we could discuss, but the fifth that occurs to us this morning is this: Heaven and hell are real! Hell is not God’s over-reaction to sin, but rather the application of His righteousness to human depravity. We agree with C.S. Lewis who said, “In reality, along with the power to forgive, we have lost the power to condemn.”

The Bible is quite clear that we are not to seek vengeance ourselves, but to leave room for the wrath of God (Rom. 12:19). I’ve studied the wrath of God — and it is a fascinating study. Those in Christ should rejoice that they have been “rescued from God’s wrath” (“And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.” I Thes. 1:10).

Jonathan Edwards’ sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” caused the people in that Connecticut church where he was a guest preacher to cling to their wooden pews, lest they fall into hell then and there.  Our society, raised on Stephen King horror films, seems not to be frightened by anything.  But — “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!”, says Hebrews 10:31 (KJV).

God allows some human evil to occur.  As the late Paul Little once said, “If he were to stop all evil at midnight tonight, which of us would be left at 12:01?”  We grieve with those who have lost loved ones in terrible, man-made tragedies.  But we rejoice that God is holy and will wrap up history righteously!  And these certainties we must preach!

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2018 in heaven and hell

 

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We’re All a Bunch of Law-Breakers!

There he was. Draped over his steering wheel. Hands covering his face. Ashamed. Embarrassed. Frustrated. His co-worker sat next to him.

Behind him was the police car. Lights flashing. A police officer was obviously writing a ticket for the crime the young man had committed.

My heart went out to him. Company truck. Probably on his way to a job to support his family. And he broke the law. Mean old policeman.

Wait a minute! I don’t know what the young man did, but the cop was doing his job! Maybe the fellow ran a stop sign. Maybe he cut someone off. With six grandkids and another on the way, I’ve become much more sensitive to potential car accidents in the making.

How easy it is for us to sympathize with another law-breaker. For we are ALL law-breakers. And we need God’s grace and mercy through Christ. We sometimes need the authorities who have the power to write us a ticket to mercifully simply give us a “warning.” But it’s not something required. We don’t deserve a warning. We deserve punishment when we’ve broken the law.

Not only are we law-breakers, but we are hypocritical. Last time I saw those flashing blue lights in my rearview mirror, I thought, “Oh, no! What have I done? How much will the ticket be? How will I ever explain this to my wife?” Then my prayer life kicks in. “Lord, please let the officer just give me a warning. Please, Lord.”

Then the policeman zips past me after some other criminal and I cry out, “Get ‘em, Copper!” Mercy for me. Justice for the other guy. How about you?

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2018 in law-breakers

 

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