Arrogance, 27 February 2022

Series—Faith Works: The Book of James
James 4:13-5:6
Series Big Idea: Jesus’ half-brother James offers us timeless instructions for living a God-honoring life.
Big Idea: The wise seek God’s will in humility rather than lusting after power and wealth.
I believe I was seven years old when I had my first public musical performance. I may have been eight or even nine, I don’t remember for sure, but I do remember a conversation that took place after I played a
piano solo at church. A woman approached me and said, “You play piano very well, young man,” to which I replied, “I know!”
Moments later, my dad taught me the meaning of arrogance, our subject today!
After a three-month break, we’re returning to the book of James, one of my favorite books, perhaps because it’s short, perhaps because it’s incredibly practical. The entire book, written by Jesus’ half-brother, can be read in a matter of minutes.
Who is the most arrogant person you know? Who is the most arrogant person in the world? It’s easy for us to see the pride in others, isn’t it? But what about ourselves? Do you need a mirror?
Some of you can surely relate to my story of arrogance, boasting about your abilities, appearance, wealth, or status…thinking more highly of yourself than you ought.
But there’s another side to the same coin of pride which is self-loathing. Have you ever met someone whose mantra is, “I’m not worthy?” While none of us deserve God’s love, salvation, forgiveness, mercy, and grace, our identity must be rooted in Him and who He says we are, not our feelings of arrogance…or self-hatred.
Author Brad Jersak notes,
“rejecting the forgiveness of God “because I’m not worthy” is totally prideful but the pride is so often obscured by our self-loathing. We think that if we condemn ourselves that it can’t possibly be pride. But what does self-loathing reveal except that the ego has become so deluded that it imagines it has usurped Christ from his throne and his judgment seat and has replaced the all-merciful Judge with itself. The ego, in this case, is a self-righteous inner Pharisee—and now it condemns you for embarrassing its perfectionism.” 
It’s important to recognize
pride may be the root of all sins. It was the sin that got Lucifer (satan) kicked out of heaven. It’s the original and most deadly of the seven deadly sins. It is ultimately seeing ourselves as God. If we’re honest, we all are tempted to be God. We want to be in control. Because it was satan’s fall, it’s no surprise it became his first temptation to humans.
You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5, NLT)
I have some news for all of you today: you’re not God!
We are not God! N.T. Wright said, “There is only one lawgiver, only one judge; and he can either rescue or destroy.”
Let’s take a look at our text for today.
Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” (James 4:13, NLT)
I like how James says, “Look here!” Some translation say, “Now listen!”
How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. (James 4:14, NLT)
That’s true, right? One of the things that surprised me about moving to Toledo was all of the fog delays for schools. We know fog! But it never lasts.
Note Greek, the original language, doesn’t have question marks. He’s speaking to business people who think the world revolves around them and their plans. Let me say it again, you are not God! The reason the Ten Commandments are so hard for me to follow is not so much the “thou shall not murder” or “thou shall not covet” so much as the first one…no other Gods (Ex. 20:3)…including acting like I’m God! He is eternal. For us, each day is a precious gift.
What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” 16 Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil. (James 4:15-16, NLT)
The Latin phrase is
Deo volente, DV, God willing.
“Don’t worry, everything will be ok. I promise!” Have you ever heard that? Have you ever
said that? There’s not much we can truly promise, at least circumstantially. It has been said the only thing you can control is your attitude.
We all make plans. You probably had a plan to be here today. You most certainly have plans for this afternoon, this week, or later this year. If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it’s that plans can change! People can get sick. Events can be canceled.
I don’t think James is literally saying we need to tack on “if the Lord wants us to” before everything we say. Maybe you’ve heard people talk that way. “Are you going to the hockey game?” “If the LORD wants me to!” But it’s important to recognize
we are not God. The concern is not planning, but arrogance, boasting about one’s plans.
In the book of Luke, Jesus tells a chilling story of a rich farmer boasting about how he had so many crops.
He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ 18 Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. 19 And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’ (Luke 12:17-19, NLT)
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’ (Luke 12:20, NLT)
Tomorrow is not guaranteed for any of us. We need to live fully dependent upon God, for He is the one who provides every breath we take. James adds,
Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it. (James 4:17, NLT)
We could camp out on this verse all day! That might be a definition of sin. We often think of sin as something evil a person does, like murder or theft, but James tells us there are sins of omission, things we fail to do. That might be a longer list for some of you than the sins of commission that you commit. We are to spend time communing with God in prayer, listening to God in Scripture, and fellowshipping with others. We are to love our neighbor as ourselves, make disciples, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.
It is a prideful act to disobey God, setting ourselves in His place. Do not worry or panic about this verse, but don’t ignore it, either. What is God saying to you? What are you going to do about it? Obedience is God’s love language.
Now James offers a sobering warning.
Look here, you rich people: Weep and groan with anguish because of all the terrible troubles ahead of you. (James 5:1, NLT)
James again says, “Look here!” “Now listen!”
Are you rich? Let me help you…yes! Even the poorest among us are rich globally.
Over 800 million people worldwide go to bed hungry each night…yet there are three free meals served every day of the year…seven blocks away!
To be clear, James did not write this letter to you and me. It is certainly relevant and
for us, but James has in mind the Jerusalem elite here, the religious leaders, chief priests and Sadducees who loved Temple power. You may recall they had Jesus killed!

Your wealth is rotting away, and your fine clothes are moth-eaten rags. (James 5:2, NLT)
That happens, right? That great outfit you loved wears out…or goes out of style…or no longer fits!
Your gold and silver are corroded. The very wealth you were counting on will eat away your flesh like fire. This corroded treasure you have hoarded will testify against you on the day of judgment. (James 5:3, NLT)
You can’t take it with you! I’ve never seen a U-Haul behind a hearse!
For listen! Hear the cries of the field workers whom you have cheated of their pay. The cries of those who harvest your fields have reached the ears of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. (James 5:4, NLT)
William Shiell said these early Christians need to “begin to see Christ as owner and their role as steward of the company” who are now “entrusted with workers who are equally valued as ‘coworkers.’”
James and his family were poor. They received generosity and they were surely exploited, too. Tragically, the human heart has not changed in two thousand years! We live in a world filled with greed, injustice, and evil.
We need generous, godly men and women in business, creating jobs, caring for their employees, and supporting ministries. Money is not the root of all kinds of evil, but the love of money.
There are many in our culture who say wealth is bad. Ironically, many of them are wealthy politicians! There’s nothing inherently wrong with wealth, but rather the motivation for and the use of wealth.
I don’t have access to the giving records to know who gives what here, but thank you to those of you who are generous. This is a generous church. I recently heard 70% of church goers give less than $1 a week to their church. A dollar a week!
I once heard someone say Christians should make as much money as possible and keep as little as necessary. In other words, be wildly generous! Some of you are wildly generous, and your giving is not only transforming lives today, it will be rewarded for eternity. Your investments at First Alliance Church, the Alliance Great Commission Fund, and our ministry partners will pay dividends for generations.
Can I tell you a
secret? Your wealth…it’s not yours to keep. It’s a gift to be stewarded. Your health…it’s also a gift to be stewarded. Both can be lost quickly! We’ve been blessed to be a blessing. We will all stand before God someday and give an account for what we did with our wealth, our health, our gifts, our freedoms, our time, our treasures. It all belongs to God! Tithe means ten percent, but all we have—one hundred percent—belongs to God.
I love hearing stories of people who give 90% and live off of a tithe. Giving ten percent is a good place to start in generosity. I’m not saying this to be a fundraiser, but to let you know generosity is one of our core values as a church, and it’s a joy to give! I love giving to First Alliance! And
every time I give, I kick the money monster in the teeth! You know, that voice that says just a little bit more will make you happy. Giving is a declaration that in God I trust, not the money. It’s a statement of faith, putting money where your mouth is. It’s a reminder that God owns it all…and I’m not God. In contrast to generosity, James continues,
You have spent your years on earth in luxury, satisfying your every desire. You have fattened yourselves for the day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and killed innocent people, who do not resist you. (James 5:5-6, NLT)
“Innocent people” likely refers to those suffering for following Jesus, for righteous living, possibly the unpaid or poorly-paid workers of the merchants,
These are strong words! Judgment Day is coming…for all of us. Are you ready?
So What?
I find it easy to act like God, to feel entitled, to boast about my accomplishments, or even go to the other extreme and feel worthless at times.
I’m prone to make plans, believing I’m in control of my calendar…which we all know can be altered by a virus…or even the weather.
I’m tempted to think about
my money and how I’ve earned it without recognizing the gifts and opportunities which have allowed me to get an education, to acquire jobs, and the health to sustain working.
So how do we rid ourselves of arrogance and pride? How do we relinquish control? How do we avoid the lure of greed and the love of money? I have one word for you:
The wise seek God’s will in humility rather than lusting after power and wealth.
James spoke of humility back in chapter four.
And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)
He is referring to Proverbs 3:34, a text Peter also quotes in his first book (1 Peter 5:5).
The LORD mocks the mockers but is gracious to the humble. (Proverbs 3:34)        
In case you didn’t get the message, James says in the next verse…
So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)
Three verses later…
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor. (James 4:10, NLT)
Humility is a greatly misunderstood word. It doesn’t mean to think less of yourself, but rather to think of yourself less. It’s to think rightly, seeing what God sees, a broken masterpiece in need of restoration. It’s recognizing you’re not in control, you’re not God, and we’re called to follow Jesus, not command God to obey us.
Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. (Luke 9:23, NLT)
That’s the path to greatness! It’s radical. It’s unpopular. But it’s the only way to experience pure joy and satisfaction.
Daily. Let God be God. Submit. Obey. It’s ok, He can be trusted. His love has your best interest at heart, even when the journey includes storms. He’s with you there, too.
The only reason I was able to play that song as a child—and the only reason I can play today—is God gave me gifts to develop…for His glory. Without Him, I can do nothing. But…
For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13, NLT)
He is God. He is LORD. He deserves our worship, our attention, our praise. Jesus said it so well.
Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. (Matthew 6:33, NLT)
You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Rest In God, 7 February 2016

Rest in God
Series: What in the World is Going On? A Study of 1 Peter
1 Peter 5:1-7

Series Overview:
God’s grace is present in the midst of suffering.

Big Idea: Despite our chaotic world, we can rest in a God who cares for us.


This morning we continue our series on 1 Peter, “What In The World Is Going On?” This short letter to the early, suffering church is a powerful message not only to an ancient people but is increasing relevant to modern Christians as we face persecution. We may never face the horrors of ISIS victims, but nevertheless we can—and perhaps should—feel in the minority as followers of Jesus in a world consumed with money, sex and power. The theme of this book may well be called hope and grace in the midst of suffering.

After four chapters of writing to the churches at large, Peter shifts to specific groups, addressing a variety of subjects…including two that I find especially challenging.

Peter begins with a message to the elders…

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. (1 Peter 5:1-3)

Peter speaks to elders, in the plural. Peter calls himself a fellow elder. He doesn’t claim to be superior to the others though he knew Jesus, a witness of His life, death and resurrection. He says so much in these three verses to senior saints. I want to highlight three commands here:

  1. 1. Be shepherds. Care for the flock. Watch over the flock.

  1. 2. Be eager to serve. Too many seek leadership for power. They want to be served. Elders must be willing to humbly serve others as Jesus demonstrated as the ultimate shepherd, the ultimate servant. The right motive is crucial.

  1. 3. Be examples. There’s an old expression, “Speed of the leader, speed of the team.” They are to lead, not dominate. Like Jesus, they never ask people to do something they don’t do and model themselves.

This word “example” in the Greek is “typos.” It means “an impress; a print, mark, a moral pattern or model.” Elders in the faith, you are not a perfect example but you’re a living example.

Notice how Peter contrasts how the elders should and should not behave. I’m sure he encountered plenty of careless, arrogant, power-hungry church leaders. Some things never change! One of the easiest targets for our enemy is church leaders. We are susceptible to pride, the very thing that God lucifer kicked out of heaven. We are tempted to seize power. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Paul’s words regarding elders may be the most famous in the Bible, but these instructions for Peter are a treasure. They apply to all Christian leaders, all Christians who influence others, with or without a formal title or position.

While many of you shepherd the flock by leading a small group, Sunday School class, or Bible study I can hardly continue without acknowledging the elders of First Alliance Church, nine men who faithfully serve God and our congregation. I am honored to serve with them in seeking the direction of our Senior Pastor, Jesus Christ, and shepherding, serving, and setting an example of what it means to follow the LORD.

In just a few short months I’ve grown to love and respect these men. I am not the king. I am not “the man.” I am one of ten elders seeking to know and obey Jesus’ vision and mission for us.

I want to highlight one other group of elders, those senior saints who pray, give, serve, and love. They are the unsung heroes of our church, usually ministering out of sight on their knees or with their hands.

Peter says elders will receive a reward.

And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. (1 Peter 5:4)

Elders will share in God’s glory. There are more than a dozen biblical words translated “glory.” All I can say is it will be wonderful!

Psalm 22 says the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep.

Psalm 23 says the great shepherd watches over the sheep.

Here it says someday the chief shepherd will appear and reward.

So what about younger people?

In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,

“God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5)

Our world seems fixated on youth, especially in our western culture. The younger are submit to their elders, though. They have more wisdom! Young people, old fashioned isn’t always a bad thing. Older doesn’t always mean wiser, but you can learn a lot from your elders.

Do you want God’s favor or opposition? God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.

The older I get, the more I forget the events of my childhood. I still have vivid memories of several moments, including one particular incident.

I was seven or eight years old. I began piano lessons at age seven and within the first year or so played a piano solo at our small church. After the service a lady came up to me and said, “Young man, you play very well,” to which I humbly replied, “I know!” My dad was beside me and recognized this as a teaching opportunity. Let’s just say I was quickly introduced to the subjects of pride and humility!

From that moment on I recognized the temptation of pride—and frequently submitted to it. Every compliment became an invitation for me to sin.

Some have suggested pride is the core of all sin. As I said, it’s what got lucifer kicked out of heaven. It alienates us from others. It alienates us from God, the One from whom all blessings flow.

Many struggle with the tension between pride and humility. After all, if I work hard to prepare for an exam or performance or project is it wrong to acknowledge the work? Should I just say, “It was all God” when, in fact, your hands painted the picture or your workouts led to the football team’s victory? Should we pretend we had nothing to do with it?

Someone once said humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less. I like that. When we clothe ourselves with humility our focus is on God. We can politely say, “Thank you” in receiving a compliment, furthering the relationship rather than building walls with self-praise or false humility.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. (1 Peter 5:6)

I love this promise. He doesn’t just say be humble. He says humble yourselves under God’s mighty hand. Let Him lift you up, not your own ego or accomplishments.

If you’re like me, you’ve had moments when your hard work
hasn’t been acknowledged. Do we work for the applause of men and women or the applause of heaven?

We could spend hours talking about pride, but let’s move on to another struggle for me, an acceptable sin to many Christians, but a sin nonetheless.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)

Anxiety. Worry. Fear.

This is quickly becoming a convicting sermon for me!

Take a moment and meditate on this verse, a command with a promise.

What does it mean to really rest? Peter’s not writing to tourists heading off on a Caribbean cruise. These people are suffering for their faith. Some may be fleeing for their very lives.

You think you’ve got stress and anxiety? I’m not making light of the challenges we all face, but Peter’s readers have every reason to be afraid, to worry, yet they’re told to cast or throw upon God all of their concerns and worries. Why? Because God cares.

This is our God. He commands rest. He demonstrated rest during creation. He cares for you. He is responsible for taking care of you! He is faithful, loyal and steadfast.

But how do you rest in the mist of suffering? How do you rest when all you can do is ask, “What in the world is going on?”

We need to know our place. There’s a connection between humility and rest. When it’s all about me, I can’t rest. Do you trust God? Is it all about Him or you? We don’t have time to unpack the Sabbath, but do you trust God can do more with six days than you can with seven?

We need to rest in knowing God is in control…and you’re not! He cares for you. He has your best interest at heart. He rules over all things. He is loving. He is love. Daddy knows best. How has He been faithful in the past? One benefit to a prayer journal is looking back at answers to prayer. Often our current challenges are no greater than our past victories. God is good. All the time!

Elizabeth Elliot said,

Today is mine. Tomorrow is none of my business. If I peer anxiously into the fog of the future, I will strain my spiritual eyes so that I will not see clearly what is required of me today.”

Finally, we must realize we were created to live dependent upon God. Jesus showed us what it means to be truly human. He was fully dependent upon the Father. That’s why He studied the scriptures, devoted Himself to prayer, and obeyed even when told to give up His very life.

It’s tempting to think Jesus was God so He can’t relate to our struggles, but nothing could be further from the truth. He willingly surrendered His deity to live, breathe, suffer, and die like us. He showed us how to live, resting in the Father in the midst of suffering.

When nails were pounded into His hands and feet, He was able to experience joy—not happiness, but joy—resting in God, knowing that following the Father would be worth it in the end.

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. (Hebrews 12:2)

Cast your anxiety on Him. How? Surrender. Pray.

Jesus said,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Communion Intro

Today we celebrate Jesus. We remember His sacrifice for us. We thank Him for the gift of life—abundant life now and eternal life, too—He offers every man, woman and child.

I believe His Word for many of us is, “Let it go.”

Surrender your pride…and He will lift you up.
Surrender your anxiety…and He will bring you peace.
Surrender your fear of scarcity…and He will give you daily bread.
Surrender your bitterness…and He will provide forgiveness.
Surrender your addictions…and He will offer freedom.

It begins with crawling off of the throne of our lives and acknowledging Jesus as King.


Some ideas from

Be Hopeful (1 Peter): How to Make the Best of Times Out of Your Worst of Times (The BE Series Commentary) by Warren

Thru The Bible audio messages by J. Vernon McGee

Paul Tripp Sermon Podcast

1 Peter (The NIV Application Commentary) by Scot McKnight

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

Obadiah, 26 October 2014

Big Idea: God is sovereign (in control) and He is the ultimate judge. He hates sin, especially pride.

This series is designed to encourage reading the less-read books of the Bible (according to

Overview: The nation of Edom in Mt. Seir sided against Judah, and they should have known better. The prophet Obadiah foresees Edom’s despise and Mt. Zion’s restoration.


Today we examine our tenth book in our series The Most Unread Books of the Bible, based upon the least-read books on Obadiah is the final book mentioned in the report, though we will do a bonus book next week, Habakkuk.

Like many of these small books in the Old Testament, Obadiah is a minor prophet. He is not inferior to the others, but rather his book is short. He could also be called minor in that we know nothing about him, not even the name of his father, a common detail in most biblical accounts. Obadiah was a common Old Testament name but it is unlikely that this prophet is mentioned anywhere else in the Bible. The name means “servant or worshiper of the Lord.”

We know little about the date of this book, some believing an early date of 850 BC and others as late as 587 BC.

The prime audience is the Edomites, descendants of Esau (Genesis 36). Abram’s name was changed to Abraham. He had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. Isaac had twin sons, Jacob and Esau. We know quite a bit about Jacob and his sons, including Joseph. Esau, the oldest, gave up his birthright to Jacob and had a much less prominent place in history. Esau’s descendants were called Edomites. They treated the Judeans—Jews—cruelly. In the book of Obadiah—the shortest Old Testament book—God makes some bold declarations about the nation of Edom that reveal His heart and character.

This is the vision that the Sovereign LORD revealed to Obadiah concerning the land of Edom. (Obadiah 1a, New Living Translation)

Edom’s Judgment Announced

We have heard a message from the LORD that an ambassador was sent to the nations to say, “Get ready, everyone! Let’s assemble our armies and attack Edom!” The LORD says to Edom, “I will cut you down to size among the nations; you will be greatly despised. You have been deceived by your own pride because you live in a rock fortress and make your home high in the mountains. ‘Who can ever reach us way up here?’ you ask boastfully. But even if you soar as high as eagles and build your nest among the stars, I will bring you crashing down,” says the LORD. (Obadiah 2-4,

Edom is an arrogant people. They have power, have mistreated their neighbor, Judah, and feel smug. The bad guys are winning, but the story is not over.

There is a cycle to power. God will get the final say at Judgment Day. History is filled with accounts of the good guys winning, but today the same battle between good and evil is raging, the enemy still wins sometimes, but the ultimate victor will be King Jesus!

Listen to God’s description of Edom’s upcoming humiliation:

“If thieves came at night and robbed you (what a disaster awaits you!), they would not take everything. Those who harvest grapes always leave a few for the poor. But your enemies will wipe you out completely! Every nook and cranny of Edom will be searched and looted. Every treasure will be found and taken. “All your allies will turn against you. They will help to chase you from your land. They will promise you peace while plotting to deceive and destroy you. Your trusted friends will set traps for you, and you won’t even know about it. At that time not a single wise person will be left in the whole land of Edom,” says the LORD. “For on the mountains of Edom I will destroy everyone who has understanding.The mightiest warriors of Teman will be terrified, and everyone on the mountains of Edom will be cut down in the slaughter. (Obadiah 5-9, NLT)

Why would a loving God treat people this way? We are so quick to judge God. Isn’t it His prerogative to do what He wants? Didn’t He create the universe? Who does He think He is, God?! Yes!!!

As God, He is the perfect judge. His assessments are perfect. He can tolerate sin for only so long. Throughout history He has stepped in, causing confusion at Babel, parting the sea for the Israelites and closing them upon the Egyptians, prompting walls to fall at the sound of trumpets, providing a way for a small boy to kill a giant, …

Perhaps you think God created the world and then abandoned it. This was the belief of many of our nation’s founding fathers. They were deists, believing in a creator but having no faith in miracles. What a boring faith!

I must confess I long to see more of God’s activity in the world. Part of the problem, I’m sure, is my inability to see what God
is doing. Another problem is my poor memory, forgetting the countless times God has been faithful, answering prayer and, sometimes, literally performing miracles. Arguably the greatest challenge to seeing God’s work is our impatience.

Sometimes when we pray God says yes. Sometimes He says no because He knows best. Many times, however, it’s just a matter of timing. Of waiting. People waited hundreds of years for the Messiah, Jesus. We have been waiting about two thousand years for His return. It will occur. He is alive. Just you wait!

Back to Edom. God is angry and wants them punished. Before you get too upset at God, wouldn’t you want Hitler punished if you were around in World War II? What do you think about ISIS? Pedophiles? The atrocities in North Korea or the fact that there are more slaves today in our world than at any point in human history? Sometimes the only way to keep the good guys alive is to destroy the bad guys. I’m not advocating for personal violence, but simply reminding us what God said:

I will take vengeance in anger and wrath upon the nations that have not obeyed me.” (Micah 5:15; “in that day”)

One commentator wrote

Vengeance in the Bible is a legal term signifying that a ruler secures his kingdom by protecting his subjects and punishing their persecutors. The disrespect of the unbelieving nations for his holy kingdom incurs his anger and wrath. Throughout history God has protected his rule against the nations that have not obeyed him, but he will finally execute his protective power at Christ’s second coming (Lk. 18:7-8; 21:22; 2 Thes. 1:8; Rev. 6:10). (IVP-NB Commentary)

Here’s the crime committed by Edom:

Reasons for Edom’s Punishment

“Because of the violence you did to your close relatives in Israel, you will be filled with shame and destroyed forever. When they were invaded, you stood aloof, refusing to help them. Foreign invaders carried off their wealth and cast lots to divide up Jerusalem, but you acted like one of Israel’s enemies. “You should not have gloated when they exiled your relatives to distant lands.You should not have rejoiced when the people of Judah suffered such misfortune. You should not have spoken arrogantly in that terrible time of trouble. You should not have plundered the land of Israel when they were suffering such calamity. You should not have gloated over their destruction when they were suffering such calamity. You should not have seized their wealth when they were suffering such calamity. You should not have stood at the crossroads, killing those who tried to escape. You should not have captured the survivors and handed them over in their terrible time of trouble. (Obadiah 10-14, NLT)

Edom’s capital, Sela, was on a high rock overlooking the territory below, making it easy to defend. Thieves steal what they need, but God would take everything!

God’s not done speaking.

Edom Destroyed, Israel Restored

“The day is near when I, the LORD, will judge all godless nations!
As you have done to Israel, so it will be done to you. All your evil deeds will fall back on your own heads. Just as you swallowed up my people on my holy mountain, so you and the surrounding nations will swallow the punishment I pour out on you. Yes, all you nations will drink and stagger and disappear from history. “But Jerusalem will become a refuge for those who escape; it will be a holy place. And the people of Israel
will come back to reclaim their inheritance. The people of Israel will be a raging fire, and Edom a field of dry stubble. The descendants of Joseph will be a flame roaring across the field, devouring everything. There will be no survivors in Edom. I, the LORD, have spoken! (Obadiah 15-18, NLT)

God concludes…

“Then my people living in the Negev will occupy the mountains of Edom.
Those living in the foothills of Judah will possess the Philistine plains
and take over the fields of Ephraim and Samaria. And the people of Benjamin
will occupy the land of Gilead. The exiles of Israel will return to their land
and occupy the Phoenician coast as far north as Zarephath. The captives from Jerusalem exiled in the north
will return home and resettle the towns of the Negev. Those who have been rescued will go up to Mount Zion in Jerusalem
to rule over the mountains of Edom. And the LORD himself will be king!” (Obadiah 19-21,

Here we see again this phrase “the day of the Lord.” Judgment Day. The sheep and the goats, the righteous and the wicked, the good guys and the bad guys, Michigan and Ohio St…oops! Seriously, though, Judgment Day will usher in the rule and reign of King Jesus. His friends that have received the Father’s invitation will rule in His Kingdom forever while those that rejected God will be punished.

Judgment Day

What if it’s today? What if God chose today to judge the living and the dead? Are you ready? What about your friends and family? This is where things get uncomfortable in a hurry.

Peter, the first pope, said

He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. (Acts 10:42)

He also said of unbelievers,

But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. (1 Peter 4:5)

This is why we’re still here! We’re on a mission from God to let the whole world know the Father loves them and invites them into a covenantal relationship with Himself. He will be king and we can begin kingdom life today by submitting to His authority rather than making ourselves the center of our own universe.

Every day I choose to rule my life or get off the throne, pick up my cross, and follow Jesus. Honestly, I don’t always make the right choice. Pride gets in the way. Selfishness is more attractive than servanthood. I’m self-righteous and judge others. I envy. I worry. Oh how I worry, allowing myself to be overcome by fear rather than trusting God completely.

I want to be faithful to God because He has been so faithful to me. He can be trusted.

Judgment Day is coming for all of us. None of us know when, but it is coming. Are you ready?

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Saints & Sinners, John 8:1-11, 2 September 2012

Big Idea: Are you a saint or a sinner?

This text is one of the most famous stories of Jesus. It has been the subject of countless studies and sermons, both for its context and content. By context I mean it is not included in all of the early Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. The Bible was not given to us by God leather-bound with gold page edges! The process is a fascinating one and the subject for another time. However, we have very reliable copies of the original documents, but virtually all of the originals are long gone.

You might wonder why these verses are included in our Bible. The overwhelming consensus among Bible scholars is that the account is authentic, though it may not have been written immediately after the seventh chapter of John.

While we’re on the subject of John’s writing, he wrote three letters in addition to this Gospel. The first of his letters offers a fascinating declaration that Pastor Judah Smith of The City Church in Seattle pointed out. John begins

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. (1 John 2:1a)

Here’s his purpose. We all sin (Romans 3:23). We all know sin is not good for us or our world. John is going to tell us how to avoid sin. Surprisingly, he doesn’t judge, condemn, yell, or shame. He doesn’t go postal on a megaphone. Instead, he takes a completely different approach. He points to Jesus...

But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1b-2)

John 8:1-11

At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. (John 8:2)

Jesus is teaching early in the morning, seated as was the custom. We know He had become incredibly popular—and controversial.

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” (John 8:3-5)

The teachers and Pharisees were two different groups of people. The teachers or scribes were experts in interpreting the Old Testament. The Pharisees were a party, a movement of conservative religious practice. Pharisee actually means “separated one.”

These verses raise all sorts of questions that are never answered.

Who caught her? What were they doing? Where was the man? We can come up with a variety of theories, but they are actually incidental to the text because they really weren’t trying to stone her. They were trying to stone Jesus!

They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. (John 8:6a)

If Jesus said to stone her, He would be in trouble with the Romans who had the authority to execute, not the religious leaders (which is why Caiaphas the high priest sent Jesus to Pilate).

If Jesus said to let her go, He would be accused of denying the law of Moses.

As is typical for Jesus, His response is unconventional and surprising.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. (John 8:6b)

This is the only biblical account of Jesus writing. He bends down and writes in the dirt.

What did He write? Nobody knows for sure, but many commentators relate this action to Jeremiah 17:13

O LORD, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the LORD, the spring of living water. (Jeremiah 17:13)

He doesn’t say a word. He doesn’t look at them. He doesn’t look at the woman. He just writes in the dust.

It is thought by many that He started writing down their sins.

Rabbi Joe, greed.
Rabbi Sam, gossip.
Rabbi Frank, envy.

He knew their hearts and secret sins. He knew their stories.

When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. (John 8:7-8)

Jesus says very little in this story, but every word is choice!

Did this woman sin? Yes. Jesus makes it very clear in a moment.
Did these leaders sin? Yes. Jesus knew their wicked hearts.

The next verse fascinates me.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. (John 8:9)

This is why many believe He was writing out their sins. The elders left first, either because they were wiser or Jesus began with their sins!

Now Jesus and this desperate housewife are the only ones left. He finally looks at her. How did she feel? Scared? Relieved? Grateful? Preparing for Him to personally read her the riot act? Was He going to grab a stone?

Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” (John 8:10)

Sometimes we like it when others sin because it makes us feel better about ourselves. We like to accuse, to criticize, to condemn, whether it be toward a movie star or neighbor or another Christian. The problem is we have all sinned. We are all broken. We are all messed up and desperately in need of the grace of Jesus, the Cross.

Jesus has a sense of humor!

The accusers are gone. In Revelation 12:10 satan is called the accuser. He lays on the guilt and shame.

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:11)

Honestly, I don’t think He needed to tell her to leave her life of sin. First, it probably made her miserable. We don’t know the circumstances, but it’s hard to sleep at night when you are living a life of sin.

Second, she didn’t need a lecture. She probably knew the law, or at least knew that what she was doing was unacceptable, both to God and society.

Third, condemnation is not a good motivator. How many of you like to be judged?

As we noted earlier, John himself said the way to avoid sin is to look to Jesus.

The more we recognize how much He loves us, the more we want to honor and bless and obey Him. This is one reason we gather—to be reminded of how high and deep and wide is the love of Jesus Christ.

Jesus was not an accuser but an advocate, an intercessor, a consoler, a defender.

This woman did some terrible things. She was a sinner. So are we!

Jesus did not embrace her sin. He called a sin a sin! He embraced her, though.

I pray that we are an advocate for everyone in our communities.

We’re so blinded by our own sin. We accuse others but we condemn ourselves in the process with legalism. How did they find her?!

An advocate is slow to speak. Jesus is. God, make us slow to speak...and quick to pray.

Jesus is the great leveler. He sits, then He gets down in the dirt while the leaders stand with rocks. We need churches filled with people in the dirt with the broken, not standing in judgment. All of us have sin and fall short of God’s glory.

Is our Gospel big enough to welcome sinners?

I want to pastor the church in the dirt!

We need compassion and grace and love.

Grace sets people from sin, not traditions or laws or judgment.

Where are your accusers, Ann Arbor? Not in this church!

There’s a common expression I’ve heard many Christians say, love the sinner and hate the sin.

Brothers and sisters, we are all sinners. We are saints because of what Jesus has done for us, but we are sinners.

Love the sinner, hate your own sin!!!

You can listen to the podcast

Pride, 4 September 2011

  • Big Idea: We can pridefully boast about ourselves or be humble and let God lift us up.

  • Have you ever been in a fight? I don’t mean a little argument, but a physical fight. There’s an old saying that someone went to a fight and a hockey game broke out! People love the excitement of a fight. For years boxing was hugely popular and then wresting. Now Ultimate Fight Club and MMA are all of the rage—literally!
  • I was in a fight—once. I believe it was seventh grade. Recess. I’m not sure how it happened, but I found myself hitting this classmate on the playground—my best friend in the class! It didn’t take long for a crowd to grow around us, most of them cheering for me because of the two of us unpopular kids, I was slightly more popular, I guess. It was a bizarre experience to discover my fists hitting the body of my friend.

  • We are continuing our series on the book of James, a letter written by Jesus' half brother to people around the world who were among the first followers of Jesus. We have spent many weeks looking at the first three chapters which brings us to chapter four.

  • What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. (1-2a)

  • Often fights break out because someone wants something that the other person has, be it a car, a loved one, money, or even freedom. We quarrel over the dumbest things sometimes, don’t we?

  • One of the fundamental problems we have is trusting God. We have a desire and then we take matters into our own hands to get that desire met.

  • We love to be in much so that we accuse people being control...freaks. As Frank Sinatra famously sang, he wanted to do things “my way.”

  • If you think that fighting and quarreling and selfishness and greed are mere products of our USAmerican culture, think again. They have been going on for thousands of years.

  • James continues

  • You do not have because you do not ask God. (2b)

  • Think about that for a moment. You do not have because you do not ask God. Have you ever done this?

  • Sometimes I get so frustrated because after trying to fix my headache with Advil I realize I never even gave God a chance to heal me through prayer.

  • Instead of waiting for direction about a decision, I love to charge ahead and then ask God to bail me out when I realize the stupidity of my choice.

  • What’s the point here? It says pretty clearly that we do not have because we do not ask God.

  • What do you want? Pray about it right now.

  • Before you print and frame James 4:2 and hang it on your wall and post it on Facebook, let’s continue to read…

  • When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (3)

  • Does this need an explanation? The question is not merely what do you want, but why? Is it to bless others? Is it to glorify God? Or is it merely for your own pleasure.

  • You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (4)

  • Ouch! God has been challenging me and many of us that we are to live radical lives, holy lives, set apart lives, lives different than our world. James states it pretty clearly here. You can be a friend of God or a friend of the world. You can serve God or yourself. It’s all about God…or all about you. The amazing thing is that we get to choose!

  • Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: "God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble." (5-6)

  • Where does it say that?

  • The LORD’s curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the home of the righteous. He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble. (Proverbs 3:33-34)

  • Why does God oppose the proud?

  • It all goes back to the meaning of life? The Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it this way:

  • Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

  • The meaning of life is to glorify God. It’s to honor God. That’s what the Bible is all about—God! Some people will say it’s all about God loving us, but that’s not it. God does love us, but He loves us so that we will love and glorify Him.

  • Have you heard about Cat & Dog Theology? It goes something like this:

  • Cats see their owner feeding them and caring for them and conclude that they must be god.

  • Dogs see their owner feeding them and caring for them and conclude that their owner must be god.

  • It’s no accident that the first of the Ten Commandments was no other gods. I used to think it strange that the second one was similar—no idols—yet God wanted to be abundantly clear: He is God and we are not. If that weren’t enough, what’s the third commandment? Do not misuse God’s Name. Who does He think He is?

  • God opposes the proud because they have violated the first two or three commandments. It’s all about you, or it’s all about God. It’s all about the world, or it’s all about God.

  • James then gives ten instructions, his own ten commandments:

  • Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (7-10)

  • Did you catch all ten?

  • Submit yourselves to God.
  • Resist the devil.
  • Come near to God.
  • Wash your hands.
  • Purify your hearts.
  • Grieve.
  • Mourn.
  • Wail.
  • Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.
  • Humble yourselves.

  • This is not exactly the pathway to the American Dream, is it? Several of those commands have probably made you uncomfortable. They make me uncomfortable! It’s not that we are to be depressed, but we are to treat our sin seriously as God does. God wants us to worship and follow and glorify Him and to pursue our own agendas is satanic! Yes! The only way to resist the devil is to draw near to God. You can’t have it both ways.

  • What I love about this passage is the ending. James doesn’t leave us filled with sorrow. He says

  • Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (10)

  • This doesn’t mean we’ll all be rock stars, but it does mean that as we glorify God, He will bless us. We can either exalt ourselves or let God exalt us.

  • Do you remember verse six:

  • But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: "God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble." (6)

  • It’s counter-intuitive. It’s counter-cultural. Pride is deadly. It declares that I am god rather than allowing God to be God.

  • Earlier we sang about “our God.” Our God is awesome, our God is greater, our God is stronger..than who? Than me. Than you!

  • The prophet Jeremiah wrote:

  • This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

  • King David, perhaps the greatest and most powerful man on the planet, wrote

  • My soul will boast in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. (Psalm 34:2)

  • …words echoed twice by the Apostle Paul, the most prolific writer of the New Testament…

  • Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:31)

  • But, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 10:17)

  • It’s all about you…or God. Your choice.

  • You can listen to the podcast here.
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