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Isaiah 9: What the New King Brings (A Christmas Sermon) December 20, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Christ, Christmas, Day of the Lord, Eschatology, Faith, Gospel, Incarnation, Isaiah, Jesus, Joy, Light, Matthew, Millenial Kingdom, Peace, Religion, Sermons, World Peace.
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This week:
Tuesday: Links concerning the Manhattan Compact
Wednesday: Thoughts concerning the Manhattan Compact
Sunday: Beginning a new series on the Holy Spirit in the Acts of the Apostles.

WHAT THE NEW KING BRINGS
Isaiah 9:1-7

INTRODUCTION: This week when we celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we will be celebrating the birthday of a king. The past three weeks we have looked at the prophecies of Isaiah about His coming to the earth as the baby in Bethlehem as well as His future coming to rule and reign on the earth. Today I want to again look at Isaiah and again look at what Jesus brought with Him at the first Christmas and what He will bring to this earth in the future.

A. The New King Brings Light to Those in Darkness (9:1-2).

1. There is hope in Jesus, the Light of the World (John 8:12; 9:5). Matthew 4:12-25 records the fulfillment of this prophecy that Christ would begin His ministry in Galilee. The King brings light to those in darkness beginning – not in Jerusalem, the center of Jewish life; nor in Rome, the political capital of the Roman Empire; neither in Alexandria, the intellectual giant of Egypt; and not even in Athens, the home of Greek philosophy. It is in Galilee, specifically the city of Capernaum and the surrounding area in which the King brings light to men in darkness. It is not a center of importance. Does He ignore the others? No, but in Galilee is where He begins and He expands His light throughout a dark world.

Jesus being the Light of the World and bringing light to humankind is a very important part of the Christmas story. In Luke 1:76-79, Zacharias sang at the birth of his son, John the Baptist. He ended his song with, “You, my son are going to be the prophet of the Highest and you are going to prepare the way for the Messiah, the one who is going to rise like the sun in the east and bring mercy to the Jewish people, the one who is going “…(t)o give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace.”

I am glad that light is not limited to the Jews. Repeatedly in Isaiah we have seen that He brings light to all humankind. Simeon, when Jesus was just eight days old in Luke 2:32, identifies Jesus as “(a) light to bring revelation to the Gentiles.” The Gentiles, because they did not know the God of Israel, lived in the land of the shadow of death. They lived there because they rejected the truth of God (Romans 1). They lived there because they have spiritually, even when going through tough times, shaken their fist in God’s face. They were in total darkness.

That was my situation and that was the situation of every person born, Jew and Gentile. There is, however, hope. The reality of eternal death, although certain, is not yet accomplished for you hearing this message this morning. Someone has already been executed for our sin. It is Jesus, the King and the Bringer of Light. It is through faith (John 1:4-8) in His death and resurrection that He proclaims light to the human race which is sitting in the shadow of death (Acts 26:22-23).

B. The New King Also Brings Joy to Those Oppressed (9:3-4). It is in these verses that we see not only the first coming of Christ as a man but also His second, future coming as the Prince of Peace. They are melded so closely to each other that one can hardly recognize where one begins and the other ends. That is so, even though there are at least 2000 years between the two comings.

1. What kind of joy does the King bring (9:3)?

The King brings multiplied and increased joy, exceeding joy. That is what Mary sang as she carried her Savior in her womb, “My spirit rejoices exceedingly in God my Savior.” Even before He was born, the King brought exceeding joy. The angels proclaimed to the shepherds tidings of great joy. The wise men saw the star and had exceedingly great joy.

This joy is multiplied and increased because it has been a long time coming. It is the joy of the harvest. The farmer plants in the spring. He works and waters the field through all kinds of weather. Heat and cold, sunshine and rain, all through the spring and summer and fall he works and waits and then the harvest comes. That is the type of rejoicing in this passage. Since Adam, humankind had been waiting for Jesus to be born. That is one reason why He was received with great joy. It has been two thousand years since Jesus returned to His Father’s throne. When He returns to earth again, it will again be a time of great joy for those who trust in Him.

This joy is also multiplied and increased because it is the joy that comes with victory. When the King comes He brings victory over His enemies and over the enemies of His oppressed people. In that there is great joy.

2. What kind of oppression does the King relieve (9:4)? This fourth verse refers to Gideon in the book of Judges. The Midianites were a great host of raiders, who would come and destroy the crops and plunder the Israelites and murder and wreak havoc. That is the type of oppression the Israelites were suffering. They labored, they worked hard, and they planted. As soon as they planted the Midianites came and destroyed the crops. The people started hiding food. One of those hiding food was a young man named Gideon. God told Gideon, “I want you to take an army.” Gideon did. God told Gideon, “Reduce your army to 300 men.” Gideon did. God told Gideon to attack at night with three companies surrounding the camp, to blow their trumpets in their right hand, to break the pitchers concealing torches in their left hands, and to cry out, “The sword of the LORD and of Gideon!” The Midianites woke up to the sound, saw the lights, panicked, and began to kill each other in the confusion. It was the largest case of friendly fire in history and God is the one who caused it. He is the one who delivered Israel from the oppression of the enemy. The resulting joy is the joy that only the victorious King of Kings and Lord of Lords can bring.

C. Finally, The New King not only Brings Light and Joy but He brings Eternal Peace (9:5-7). Verse 5 describes for us how complete this peace will be. The market for army boots and uniforms will be depleted. There will be no use for them because through His victory the King brings peace.

1. This King’s Name is Wonderful Counselor — Isaiah clarifies what he means in 25:1 and 29:14. Isaiah 29:14a says, “Therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work among this people, a marvelous work and a wonder…” This King does things that no other can do. His works are past finding out. They are too great for us. When I think that the ruler of the universe came to die for me so that I might have light and joy and peace, it is too marvelous, too wonderful for me to understand. This King, Jesus Christ, is Wonderful.

2. This King’s Name is Counselor — It may be that “wonderful” and “counselor” are intended to be one name. Either way, the point is this. He has the wisdom to make and carry out a perfect plan of peace. If you return to Isaiah 29:14b, you will see why God felt that He had to intervene in His people’s affairs, “…For the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden.” Before the creation of the universe, Christ had a perfect peace plan for this earth. That’s why we can turn to Him. “…Christ is a Counsellor to us and with us, because we can consult with him, and he… counsel(s) and advise(s) us as to the right way and the path of peace.” (Spurgeon)

3. This King’s Name is not only Wonderful Counselor but also the Mighty God — He makes the plans work because He is God. Yes, He became man and was tempted as you and I but as God He also came. If you are weak, go to Him for strength to carry out what He wants you to do. He is the Mighty God.

4. This King’s Name is also the Everlasting Father (or Father of Eternity) — His plans are good because He cares like a father and because they are eternal. Only an eternal God can guarantee eternal peace. If you are scared, depend on Him. If you are worried, turn to Him. He will never leave you holding the bag. In fact, He’ll hold the bag for you and stick around to see what you might be facing.

5. Finally, this King’s Name is the Prince of Peace — His plans are focused on peace. If you are disturbed, He has you in His sights and is unconcerned because He has you and all around you in His grip.

*In the past, His coming made peace with God
*In the present, right now, those who come to Him find peace in their heart when they put their faith in Christ and the Prince of Peace comes to live within them.
*In the future, His second coming will usher in an eternal kingdom of peace.

INVITATION: “The most important part of our verse (9:6) is the first three words….…‘For to us’. The gift of Christ is a personal gift from God to us, (to you). A gift requires a response. If I put a gift under your tree, you may acknowledge it, may admire it, may even thank me for it, but it isn’t yours until you open it and take it for your own.”
“God has a Christmas gift for you……..not wrapped in bright paper and fancy ribbon, but in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger…….It is the gift of His Son. It is for you. The gift is still there. It must be personally received.”
“You can never truly enjoy Christmas until you can look in the Father’s Face and tell Him you have received his Christmas gift. Have you done that?” (Pritchard)

One thing about a gift, you can only give something once. You can only receive a gift once. So it is with the salvation of God. When you turn to Christ in faith and receive the gift of salvation, you never have to ask again. That gift is yours for all eternity. Only Christ, the Eternal Father, the Father of eternity can give an eternal gift. You may not have been enjoying the gift as you should but it is still yours. Perhaps you’ve received the gift of eternal life. That is a Christmas gift that you can never receive again but you can take it off the shelf and enjoy it not only every Christmas but every day for the rest of eternity. Christ wants you to enjoy the light and the joy and the peace that He has provided for you. If you haven’t been living for Him as you should, then tell Him as we pray that you are sorry. He is faithful and just to forgive you and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness. Turn to Him and start living for Him today.

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Sermon from Psalm 126 – Captive! June 1, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in Joy, Psalms, Religion, Sermons.
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CAPTIVE!

Psalm 126:1-6

At the close of the Civil War, both the Army of the Potomac under General Meade and the Army of the Tennessee under General Sherman were to march in parade in Washington before the review of Lincoln and a host of dignitaries and common people. “…midtown Washington…had never been so crowded as it was on [the Tuesday and Wednesday that the two armies respectively marched]… All the national flags were at full staff for the first time since [the assassination of President Lincoln nearly six weeks before].

On May 23rd the Army of the Potomac marched. They were impressive. The cavalry alone formed seven unbroken miles…steel-shod hoofs clopping for a solid hour past any given point.” Sherman worried about his boys. They were by all accounts good soldiers but a motley crew. Sherman’s hope was that his veterans would not be sneered and laughed at by the crowds.

The next day as he led his six corps, from Capitol Hill to the White House, “he lacked the nerve to glance rearward…” until the parade route turned sharply toward the White House. He need not have worried. “They march like the lords of the world!“ spectators exclaimed. What set them apart from the Army of the Potomac, however, were the reminders of their battles and marches during the past year. “Some were grim…Hushes came…when ambulances rolled past in the wake of each division, blood-stained stretchers strapped to their sides.” Other reminders evoked laughter, “…however: not the kind Sherman had feared – each corps was followed by a contingent of camp followers, Negro men and women and children riding or leading mules alongside wagon filled with tents and kettles, live turkeys and smoked hams. Pet pigs trotted on leashes and gamecocks crowed from the breeches of cannon, responding to cheers. ‘the acclamation given Sherman was without precedent…The whole assemblage raised and waved and shouted as if he had been the personal friend of each and every one of them.’” Why? The captivity of war was over.

This is how this psalm opens, with a recounting of the parade march of the captives who had been set free. However, we find that the memory of what God has done for us becomes the basis for our life here in a troubled world.

The LORD (Jehovah) has done great things for us in the past (verses 1-2). There is nothing in this psalm by which we can decide its date, further than this, — that it is a song written during a captivity looking back at a time of captivity. The history of Israel is a history of deliverance from captivity. The nation that was birthed through captivity and deliverance in Egypt has suffered captivity multiple times. In fact, a major component of God’s covenant with Israel is captivity. If you disobey me, I will send you into captivity but I promise, “I will deliver you.” This tells us a couple of important facts. During the time of this captivity, Israel was suffering as a direct result of their disobedience but God by allowing them to suffer in captivity was keeping His part of the covenant. Secondly, this psalm is the result of an attitude of faith. The writer of this psalm knew that they deserved what they were getting but were confident that God would not leave them there.

The LORD’s great acts restored those in captivity to a joyful circumstance (verse 1). Now we are not under the covenant that God made with the Jews but certainly we can learn from their situation. God wants us to rejoice in what He has done for us. Joy in the LORD is produced by a recognition of what God has done for us. I came across in Spurgeon’s “Treasury of David”, a recipe for holy laughter.

Recipe for holy laughter

. —

1. Lie in prison a few weeks.

2. Hear the Lord turning the key.

3. Follow him into the high road.

4. Your sky will burst with sunshine, and your heart with song and laughter.

5. If this recipe is thought too expensive, try keeping in the high road.

W. B. H.

The question is this, “How do you stay in the high road? How do you retain the joy of the LORD in your heart?” By remembering what He has done for you. Again, this brings us back to why we are memorizing Scripture. We memorize and we meditate on God’s Word so that the Holy Spirit can produce the fruit of joy in our lives through the remembrance of what God has done for us through Jesus Christ.

The LORD’S great acts were obvious to those who saw them (verse 2). One of the most neglected truths of both Old and New Testament is the fact that God’s working in the lives of His people is noticed by the heathen. We see this in Jericho where they shut the gates of the city because of fear of the God of Israel. We see this in the New Testament where Paul gives testimony in place after place how that the Holy Spirit took their lives and what God had done in their lives and made it a testimony to the transforming power of the resurrected Christ. People need to see in our lives the transformation that Jesus Christ has performed in our lives.

We are glad and confident during our present troubles because of the great things the LORD (Jehovah) has done for us (verses 2-4).

Gladness based on the LORD’s great acts is sustainable (verses 2-4a). Gladness is not just a positive feeling about something. It is the heart attitude that produces the singing and laughter of verse 2 and the joy and rejoicing of verses 5 and 6. Those words describe the outward act based on gladness but gladness is the attitude of the heart that is produced when we realize what God has done for us. Like I mentioned earlier, we normally use the term joy. What I want you to notice is that joy and gladness are sustainable during times of trouble. The writer of this psalm is in captivity himself. The troubles that surround Him are great. His people are oppressed, perhaps even enslaved. Yet He has gladness, not because circumstances are good but because his God is both good and great.

Confidence based on the LORD’s great acts reveals itself in our prayers (verse 4). Verse 4 is the prayer around which this psalm is centered. “Do it again, LORD! Do it again, LORD!” How? As the streams in the south.

The South Country of Judah was a dry area but there were certain times of year when the rains would come and the wadis would be filled with water. The psalmist is saying, “I know we are in trouble, we are in a barren place, it looks like God has deserted us. LORD, will you not revive us again? Will you not send the rains and the snow that brings life into this desert land?” How could he be so bold in his prayer? Because he knew the covenant of God, he knew what God had done in the past, and he knew that God would keep His promise.

Even in our present trouble we can look forward to the LORD (Jehovah) again doing great things for us (verses 5-6).

Our troubles produce genuine sorrow (verse 5a). Now I want you to notice that tears are not what is sown. This psalm is not teaching that if you cry enough, God will answer your prayers. What this psalm teaches is the reality of tears in the life of one who is trusting God. In this case, the sorrow is a result of the sin of the nation. The psalmist is expressing faith that God will deliver them even from their desperate situation. What is being sown here is the prayer for God’s deliverance. The harvest is the deliverance of God and that harvest produces joy.

God’s answers produce singing (verses 5b-6). The word for “joy” and “rejoicing” are the exact same word that we find in verse two translated “singing.” The concept here is a ringing cry. When I was living in the college dorm, someone decided that they would allow the boys to serenade the girls’ dorms at Christmas time. This supposed to happen from about 10:30 to 11 in the evening. I got off work about 10:15 and as I arrived on campus about 10:30 I could hear a noise that the like I had never heard before. It is around fifteen hundred girls crying out at the top of their lungs. I know it was the girls because you could hear the high pitch of their voices. There was over a city block between our dorm parking lot and the nearest of the three girls’ dorms. The sound of was a ringing cry. That is what we are talking about in these verses. The expression of joy is not a quiet confidence of the heart but a boisterous rousing cry of joy that can be heard all over the countryside. There is a place certainly for quiet confidence, for inner joy but when God does a mighty work in our lives, especially in response to great sorrow of heart, there will be no reason to cover our joy. We will be glad to shout or sing loud with joy in our worship of Him.

What is the basis of your prayers? Are they based on God’s past deeds? Are you confident because of what Christ did on the cross that your prayers will be answered? The reason we sometimes pray without believing is because we do not remember what God has done for us in the past. That is why we get disappointed when God does not answer the way we expect or the way that we hope. We have forgotten the ways of God.

When, however, you remember what God has done in the past in His Word, through Christ, and in your life and in mine, you will not lose your confidence. You will be able to sustain your joy. Not because you are a strong Christian but because He is a strong God.

If you are an unbeliever, you are a captive. This psalm is not talking about your captivity but according to the Word of God you are captive to sin. Paul describes this captivity in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.”

That is a terrible picture but there is hope. In another place, Colossians 1:13-14, Paul speaking of Christ writes, “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.”

How then do we release ourselves from the blindness of Satan? Paul continues in that same chapter in verses 21-23a, “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight–– if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard…”

Links to Sermons based on Nehemiah 12 November 7, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Joy, Links, Nehemiah, Religion, Sermons, Thanksgiving.
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http://www.biblebb.com/files/spurgeon/joyofhis.txt (Spurgeon)

http://www.pbc.org/library/files/html/4166.html (Stedman)

The Joy of the Lord is our Motivation. It Produces an Attitude of Willingness. September 16, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Body of Christ, Joy, Prayer, Religion, Second Corinthians, Sermons, Spiritual Disciplines, Spiritual Growth, Stewardship, Tithing.
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THE ABUNDANCE OF WILLINGNESS IN GIVING

II Corinthians 8:3-4

 

Last week we looked at the part that joy plays in motivating our giving. This week we want to look at the attitude that joy produces in our giving. Joy produces willingness.

“GRACE” AND “GIFT” SYNONYMOUS IN THIS CHAPTER

Before we look at willingness, I want to explain something about the words “grace” and “gift.” The translation in our pew Bible (NKJV) takes the same word and when it refers to God’s work translates it “grace” and when it refers to the Macedonians’ work translates it “gift.” In other words they gave (i.e., graced) just as God had given (had graced) to them (compare verses 1 and 4).

What we do and what God does should not be all that different. He freely gives. We should freely give. As we saw last week, He is motivated by joy and we are to be motivated by joy also. The primary difference between God’s giving and our giving is our ability. God’s ability to give is limitless. Our ability is not. There is no one who has limitless resources. We cannot give as God gives in that sense. How then are we to give?

It is expected that we give (or “grace”) to others according to our ability (verse 3a). Now I am using the word “expected” here instead of “commanded” because Paul was careful not to use that type of phraseology but he does go to great lengths to set down some principles here by which we can live.

WHY TITHE? 

The greatest argument there is for tithing is proportional giving. You give according to what you have. People argue about whether you give according to your net or gross. They ask do you tithe on social security and retirement if you have already tithed on that money when you first earned it. It is interesting that the principle here is not complicated but simple. If you have, then give according to what you have. If I have a dollar and you have ten cents, naturally I should be giving more than you give because I have much more. Certainly, other factors play into the matter and we will speak of those but the principle is clear, give according to what you have. When I get more, I should give more. I don’t need to pray about it. I don’t need to think about it. I give, motivated by the joy of the Lord, out of what I have.

THE ATTITUDE MUST BE CORRECT. 

This is only acceptable if you have a willing mind (verse 12). Now what does Paul mean? Look back a couple of chapters to 2 Corinthians 6:2. Paul is talking in this verse about the day of salvation. “Behold, now is the accepted time.” Is salvation a good thing? Absolutely! It is a very good thing. If you want your giving to be a very good thing, it must come from a willing mind. Not from a mind that is seeking God’s blessing and grace but from a mind that is willing because it is motivated by the joy that comes from God’s grace. Paul has nothing against fairness. He talks about that in the next few verses but what makes tithing acceptable and well pleasing to God is not the percentage point but the willing mind. That is, of course, why many people do not tithe. Their mind is not willing. If you want me to do something that I am not willing to do, I can usually find some excuse not to do it. If I am willing then it is not a problem. I must have an attitude of willingness. Where do I get this attitude of willingness? It is motivated by joy in the grace/gift of God.

I’ll never forget one night as a kid with my dad in Shelbyville, Tennessee. We were listening to a big name preacher on the subject of the judgment seat of Christ. The preacher made the statement, “If God gets your pocketbook, He’ll have you.” On the way home, my dad made a statement that I will never forget. Now my dad believed and believes in tithing. In fact, I remember him preaching from the Old Testament that you skipped giving the tithe, you should give another twenty percent. He believed in giving but he said to me on the way home, “Robert, that preacher got it backwards. It is not, “If God gets your pocketbook, He’ll have you.’ If God has you, He will have your pocketbook.” As I grow in the Lord, I understand better and better what my dad was saying. What I give is only acceptable if I have a willing mind, a mind motivated by the joy of the Lord.

psst!!! I WON’T USE THE WORD “SACRIFICE” BUT THAT IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT BELOW 🙂 

Willingness gives (graces) above its ability (verse 3b). This is what I mean by an abundance of willingness, an overflow of willingness. These were “gung-ho” givers. Just as God’s grace overflowed to them and the joy that comes from experiencing God’s grace overflowed to them so also did their willingness to give overflow. Obviously, you cannot actually give beyond your ability, above what is in your power. You cannot give what you do not have but these people were sitting on ready and the minute God gave to them they were ready to give it out. These were people who had nothing but their main concern was not what they had but God’s grace and joy in Christ and how they could show that grace through giving.

Paul then speaks to the Corinthians about their willingness in verses 10-11. He says a year ago you were ready, you were willing to give. Now it is time to put your money where your mouth was. It is after all to your advantage. If you give willingly, if you sit on ready to give, your giving will be well-accepted by God.

NOT JUST ABOUT MONEY 

Again, I want to make the point that this applies to more than just giving. In verses 16-17 of this chapter we find that Titus was of his own free will ready to assist the Corinthians, not because it was an important mission but because of his care and his concern for the Corinthians. He was zealous, he was eager, he was “gung ho” in his readiness to take the offering because he cared for the church in Corinth. An abundance of willingness will not only make you willing to give financially but will make you willing to pour your life into the lives of other people. Often, we are not ready to pour our lives into others, we do not have this attitude of willingness.

MAINTAINING WILLINGNESS 

We find this attitude of willingness difficult to maintain but maintain it we must. This is not a new problem. Remember when Jesus went to the garden of Gethsemane to pray and he took some of his disciples with him. He went a little way from his disciples and when he returned he found them asleep and he said to the “Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation, for the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” This tips us off to why we are sometimes not willing to give and to help. We are not watching and praying. We are not evaluating and examining the situation and we are not bringing to God our concerns about the situation. You want to be more willing to serve God? Let yourself be motivated by joy (as we talked about last week) and let yourselves be strengthened by watchfulness and prayer. You must purposefully pay attention to your life in watchfulness and you must be going to God in prayer for yourself and for others. I understand that prayer meeting has at least in my lifetime been the least popular of worship meetings that we have. I understand that there is not a lot of motivation for people to get together and pray but if you want a motivation, this is it. God will strengthen you and make you more willing to give and to serve and to sing and to resist sin if you pray.

 The abundance of willingness not only applies to giving and to caring for other believers and to resisting sin but it also applies to giving out the gospel. Paul was a ready Christian. He wrote in Romans 1:15, I am now ready to preach the gospel in Rome. He had often been hindered from going there but he was ready the moment God gave him the opportunity to rush in and give the gospel. There are a lot of hindrances to giving the gospel in the workplace and in the family and in the community but what God wants to see is a readiness to give out the gospel when the opportunity is there. That is where the abundance of willingness helps, in that we see the opportunities God gives us and we pounce on them and use them to give out the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The abundance of willingness also applies to how we receive and react to the gospel. Even at the time of salvation, we see that some of these people were blessed with an abundance of willingness. In Acts 17, the people of Berea were presented by Paul and Silas and Timothy with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Verse 11 says that they received the word with a readiness of mind. When you read the Word of God, do you have a readiness to search the Scriptures and respond to them? Do you come to church planning to respond to the message? During the congregational singing, do you come planning to respond to the musical message or are you a spectator?

WILLING CHURCHES 

Willingness demands, implores, begs for the opportunity to give to (to grace) and to commune (to fellowship) with others by serving (deaconing) them (verse 4).

We call ourselves “Fellowship” Bible Church. That word is found twenty times in the New Testament and five of those times it talks about an offering and four of those times it refers to the churches in Macedonia. These people had determined that they were partners with the church in Jerusalem and they were going to help them, they were going to commune with them through a financial gift. We use the term fellowship to mean sharing a good time with each other but how many times do we think of the offering as a show of our fellowship with other believers in Christ. These people not only thought of the offering as a vital method of fellowship but begged to be able to participate with the other churches in it. Yes, fellowship has an emotional aspect and it has a spiritual aspect but it also has a very practical aspect. If we give as He gave to us we will fellowship with other believers through sharing with them what we have.

We were discussing on Wednesday night the meaning of fellowship and how to explain it to teenagers. The youth workers came up with the term friendship. I like that. There is another word that describes fellowship. It is “partnership”. Do you know why we have church membership? Because we are partners together. This partnership we have in Christ, in this local church is a willing partnership and should be motivated by the joy of the Lord.

WILLINGNESS PRODUCES SERVANTS. 

This willingness not only produces fellowship in sharing with other believers but it also produces servants. The word here is where we get our concept of deacons. How would you all like to be deacons? Serve through giving. I want you to notice two quick things about service. In this verse (8:4) we find we do not serve alone but in fellowship with and for other believers. Service in the body of Christ is not a single person serving but the whole body serving. You may be serving in just one particular way but like a body, every move you make is in conjunction with God working in the hearts and lives of others. Secondly, in 9:12-13 we see that service through sharing not only meets needs but results in true thanksgiving. Do you want to be thankful? Learn to share! Learn to give! Learn to serve! Learn to deacon as a church not individually but as the body of Christ.

 

CONCLUSION: Did you come to church this morning with a willing mind? Are you willing to respond to God’s message? Perhaps God spoke to you about one of these matters. You need to respond. Today. Not to me but to God. Will you purpose in your heart to respond in that area with which He is dealing. Perhaps you need to start giving financially more or out of a different motivation. Maybe you need to pour your lives into others in a more consistent or in a more sacrificial way. Do you need a willingness to witness of the gospel of Christ? Are you holding back fellowshiping with God’s people? Some of you need to find a church to which you are willing to commit yourself in partnership, a church that you are willing to join as a servant of your Head, Jesus Christ. There are other areas. These are the ones most obviously spoken to by the Bible but there are many areas. Are you willing to do what God wants you to do? Remember, willingness comes from the joy that God’s grace gives us and is maintained by watchfulness and prayer. If you have been watching during this sermon, evaluating yourself, then what you need to do now is fall before God in prayer.

The Bereans were willing to respond to the gospel of God and because of that response they are in the presence of God right now. That is the only hope of salvation, responding in faith to the message of Jesus Christ. Are you willing to respond to the truth? If you have a willing mind, you will find that God will accept you through faith in Jesus Christ. He will save you today, if you are ready to respond. Respond to Christ Jesus in faith today!

 

First in a four week Stewardship series (Point: Our Motivation is Joy in Christ) September 9, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Joy, Religion, Second Corinthians, Sermons, Spiritual Disciplines, Spiritual Emotions, Stewardship.
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THE ABUNDANCE OF JOY IN GIVING

II Corinthians 8:1-2 and 9:7

FIRST, SOME BACKGROUND MATERIAL

The church of Jerusalem was a problem church. From the very beginning they found it difficult to meet their own needs. They were burdened financially with local Jews who were kicked out of their families because they believed in Jesus and with Jews from throughout the Roman Empire who were in Jerusalem to learn from the disciples the truth of Christ. Before long, people began to sell property to care for the poor in the church. Then the out of town Jews began to complain that their widows were being ignored in the financial program of the church. Then came persecution and as often is the case, those with the most money were best able to escape to other areas. Then famine came. The church of Jerusalem could not care for itself and so Paul spent much time among the new believers in areas where he ministered raising funds for the Jerusalem church. At the end of 1 Corinthians he asked for money to be gathered and now he writes and encourages them to give as they had apparently promised.

Interestingly, Paul does not in this letter (2 Corinthians) appeal to the poverty of the Jerusalem church to motivate them to give but rather to the believer’s abundance of joy in Jesus Christ as the key motivating factor to give.

JOY COMES FROM THE GRACE OF GOD. 

It takes the grace of God to make a cheerful giver (8:1 and 9:7). Although the word cheerful and joyful are not the same, they are near synonyms the way Paul is using them in this chapter.

It is fun to watch people give with joy. At Christmas time we see people giving with joy. During our VBS we watched the children give with joy. The joy of competition – boys against the girls. The joy of participation – I get to do something with the others. In fact, these kids had so much joy that last week we got a letter from our Awana missionaries, Jeff and Melanie Davis, received $390 much needed dollars through the joy of those children and adults who participated in the Vacation Bible School offering.

Now the joy those kids experienced was real joy. They were cheerful givers. Their joy though was childish. It was the joy of competition and participation. I do not mean that as a criticism. They are children. They are supposed to be childish. Competition and participation are not sinful but can be very positive motivations. The joy though that these people had was the joy that comes by the grace of God.

If Paul had been sending out a mailing, he would not have sent out pictures of starving Jerusalem believers to motivate the Corinthians. He would have sent out pictures of Jesus on the cross, the very act of God’s  grace to mankind. Under that picture he would have written, “Rejoice that your name is written in heaven. Show your joy by giving to your brother. The overflow of your joy is the love that you show to them.”

HE USES THE MACEDONIAN CHURCHES AS AN EXAMPLE. 

The Macedonian churches (Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea) had reason to give grudgingly with sorrow or annoyance (8:2 with 9:7). They were broke. They had not always been poor. Lydia had been a business woman in Philippi. They had been homeowners like Jason in Thessalonica. They had been prominent people in the synagogues of Thessalonica and Berea but now they were financial nobodies. Business? Gone. Property? Gone. Connections at the synagogue? Gone. They were now impoverished. Yet they gave not out of duty, not out of sorrow, and not grudgingly but with joy. Joy in the grace of God.

Because of Paul’s authority, they could have felt pressured to give (Compare 9:7 with 11:5-9) but in actuality they did not (Philippians 4:10-17). In fact, it may be that Paul tried to spare them from the responsibility of giving but they would not let him (see verse 4).

In fact, they purposed in their heart. They made giving a permanent purpose (9:7), a priority in their lives. If they had a budget, they planned giving in that budget. If they did not have enough to even budget with, they planned to give in some way at any opportunity that God might bring into their lives. They begged for an opportunity to give. They gave not out of annoyance or out of pressure from man or even God but because they had joy in their lives and the reason they had joy in their lives was because of the grace of God (8:1). God made the Macedonian churches rich but not in material possessions but rather rich in joy!

THIS IS NOT JUST ABOUT MONEY.

Paul is applying this principle to a benevolence offering but this principle of joyful service applies to all manner of service.

John Piper: “Consider 1 Peter 5 when Peter tells the elders how to go about their ministry of shepherding the flock of God. Peter applies the same principle to the pastoral ministry that Paul applied to financial stewardship in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9. Verse 2:

Tend the flock of God that is in your charge, not under constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly.

Which may be summed up: God loves a cheerful pastor…”

(From “Love: The Labor of Christian Hedonism” by John Piper).

Now what I am about to say is tough but it seems to be consistent with what we see in both of these passages and specific ministries. God is pleased with a cheerful giver and he is not pleased with a grudging and coerced giver. God is pleased with a cheerful pastor and not with a coerced or covetous pastor. God is pleased when you rejoice to be with God’s people and he is not pleased when you feel like you have to. God is pleased when you rejoice in taking the Lord’s Table and not pleased when you feel like you have to. God is pleased when you rejoice to pray with God’s people and He is not pleased when you feel like you have to do it. God is pleased when you rejoice to keep nursery or clean the church or stack chairs for Awana and is not pleased when you feel like you have to. Not rejoicing does not excuse you from service. Service (or giving) rather is our excuse to show our joy which God has given to us in abundance by His grace!

HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT YOU HAVE THE JOY FROM THE LORD?

Often, it takes a great test of affliction to reveal a cheerful giver (8:2, 9).

Three components of their test (8:1-2):

  1. Their test was deep or extreme poverty. This testing is of the type that metals are put through to prove their genuineness and purity. The oven is heated to the highest degree possible. They were on the bottom of the economic totem pole.

  2. God’s grace and their joy were tested. God’s grace had given them an abundant joy. This joy was of highest and purest quality. It’s motivation came from God.

  3. The proof of their joy was their liberality. Liberality is not indicated solely by the amount on the check but by the eagerness of the giver to give.

THE JOY OF CHRIST WAS TESTED.

Christ is the ultimate example of poverty revealing a cheerful giver (8:9). He was rich but became poor, became a beggar. The suffering of Christ included more than just the cross, it included His whole life. His poverty was necessary for our salvation and necessary for the resulting joy, the resulting liberality, and the resulting show of God’s love from our hearts.

Hebrews 12:2 tells us why Jesus endured this suffering. It says, “Looking unto Jesus, the author and the finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross.” He found it a joy to be crucified because He knew that a day was coming when He would be on the right hand of His Heavenly Father with those who He redeemed sitting with Him as joint heirs of God’s kingdom.

WE CAN MEASURE OUR GENUINENSS… 

…not by being afflicted by poverty but by comparing our motives with that of the Macedonians and of Christ (8:8). We may not be in the same situation but we can evaluate ourselves by their lives. Ask yourself, “Why do I give? Why do I give the amount I give? Why do I give where I give? Does God give me my motivation or do I have to come up with it on my own?”

This goes much deeper than whether tithing is an Old or New Testament command. This cuts right to the heart. An honest giver is a joyful giver and because his joy is so full, he is also a loving giver. God may or may not test your motives with deep poverty and great affliction but you can prove your joy and your love and God’s grace in your life by giving with the attitude that the Macedonians had and that Christ Himself had.

We can also measure our genuineness not by being afflicted by poverty but by giving cheerfully when the opportunity comes. “A collection is a test of one’s love for Christ, not the only test, but a real one.” (Robertson’s Word Pictures) I would also say that a collection is a test of one’s joy in Christ.

GIVING AND SERVING WITHOUT JOY IS UNPROFITABLE. 

Conclusion: You might ask, what if I give but it is not based on joy in Christ? What if I pastor and it is by constraint? What if I do what I do because of guilt, because I feel like I have to? According to Hebrews 13:17b, “Let them [in this situation pastors] do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” That word means “hurtful, harmful”. Our attitudes and our motivations do matter. Again, the answer is not to quit giving, to quit pastoring, to quit serving but to learn to rejoice in Jesus Christ.

Some of you today did not realize what Christ did for you when He became man. He became poor so that you might be rich. He rejoiced in the cross because He saw an opportunity to give you joy in God that is utterly impossible for man apart from God to have. You can have that joy and you can have it abundantly right now through Jesus Christ.

 

Links to the Joy of Giving in 2 Corinthians 8:2 September 7, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Joy, Links, Religion, Second Corinthians, Sermons, Spiritual Disciplines, Spiritual Emotions, Stewardship.
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Beginning this weekend a four part sermon series on giving from 2 Corinthians 8. 

Look in this sermon from John Piper for the promise of God to the giver. You might be surprised what it is.

Not just joy but other characteristics of giving in verses 1 and 2 in this sermon from John MacArthur.

Practical sermon from Ray Stedman that covers the subject of joyful giving very well.

Thoughts while preparing tomorrow’s study on Psalm 5 September 5, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in David, Joy, Martin Luther, Psalms, Religion, Spurgeon.
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 From Spurgeon’s “Treasury of David” Ver. 12. As with a shield. Luther, when making his way into the presence of Cardinal Cajetan, who had summoned him to answer for his heretical opinions at Augsburg, was asked by one of the Cardinal’s minions, where he should find a shelter, if his patron, the Elector of Saxony, should desert him? “Under the shield of heaven!” was the reply. The silenced minion turned round, and went his way.

In verse 11 there are three different words translated with a form of the word joy. They mean “gladness”, “a joyful shout”, and a “victorious exulting joy”. This was David’s reality. I’m afraid we know little of the type of joy he experienced.