"Water runs downhill, and the highest hills are the great cities. If we can stir them we shall stir the whole country."
Discoveries in Faith
Short, uplifting Bible lessons designed to build faith and inspire obedience.
Genesis 45 describes the dramatic reconciliation between Joseph and his brothers. After being sold into slavery, Joseph has risen to the number two position in Egypt. He can destroy or forgive his brothers. His response shows us both how God forgives us and how we should forgive others (Ephesians 4:32).
Here are three lessons about forgiveness.
1. We must forgive confidentially, see verses 1-2. He dismissed the Egyptians. They didn't need to know about the family feud. Aren't you glad God doesn't blab our business all over the universe?
2. We must forgive mercifully, see verse 5-8. DON'T GIVE THEM WHAT THEY DO DESERVE. Don't keep score, don't demand justice and punishment. God forgives and forgets, we should too.
3. We must forgive graciously, see verses 9-11. DO GIVE THEM WHAT THEY DON'T DESERVE. Be affectionate, generous,
Preaching is not only explaining the text but also using it to engage the heart.
"If you give your time to the Redeemer, He will redeem your time."
Solomon secured his kingdom by executing his rivals (see 1 Kings 2). The three enemies he had put to death were old enemies of his father King David.
In a related way, Jesus also established His kingdom by bloodshed. But it wasn't someone else's blood that He shed, it was His own blood that He offered.
Also, note the three enemies Solomon had put to death are in many ways symbolic of the flesh, the world, and the devil. Jesus gives us victory over these old enemies through the power of the cross.
Following Jesus means
- We forgive like Jesus, Ephesians 4:32
- We love like Jesus, John 15:12
- We go like Jesus, John 20:21
The Old Testament contains pictures of the coming Christ. These types and shadows prefigure the Lord Jesus. Consider the example of Queen Esther.
- Both Jesus and Esther were beautiful
- Both Jesus and Esther were compasionate
- Both Jesus and Esther were intercessors
- Both Jesus and Esther saved their people
- Both Jesus and Esther defeated evil
- Both Jesus and Esther were willing to sacrifice themselves (but only Jesus actually laid His life down)
This world is hurting. Every sector of American life is coming unhinged. Consider the following:
- Health care is broken.
- Education is broken
- Government is broken
- Professional sports is broken
- Media is broken
- Relationships are broken
- The entertainment industry is broken
- Religion is broken
- Families are broken
- And eventually the economy will break.
The only One we can count on is the Lord Jesus. He is the only reliable One we can always trust. "All other ground is sinking sand."
Jesus Christ is the greatest king of history. By comparing Jesus to other kings His superiority quickly becomes apparent. Notice these comparisons between Saul the first king and Jesus the final King.
See 1 Samuel 31
- Both Jesus and Saul had enemies, however Saul fled from his enemies, while Jesus faced His (verse 1).
- Both Jesus and Saul welcomed death, however Saul wanted to save himself from suffering, while Jesus wanted to save us from suffering (verse 4).
- Both Jesus and Saul died, however Saul's death brought defeat to his followers, while Jesus's death brings victory to His followers (verse 7).
- Both Jesus and Saul were buried, however Saul remains in the grave, while Jesus was resurrected from the grave (verse 13).
When is a new idea good? And when is a new idea bad?
A new idea is good when it is God’s idea, see 2 Sam 5:23-25 (Have you sought the Lord through prayer? Has God led in this new direction?)
A new idea is bad when it violates God’s values, see 2 Sam 6:1-7 (He touched the ark. The ark had poles for carrying it.)
"We must turn the church inside out, so we can turn the world upside down."
"Your church will never be a house of prayer until you become a man of prayer."
"The church is like an army. It lives by conquest. When conquest ceases, mutiny begins."
"The people need someone to remind them who they are." I first heard this line in an old western movie. The hero of the film, an aged indian chief, worked to keep the indigenous people tied to their ancient culture. And it proved a difficult task as waves of settlers moved into their countryside.
"The people need someone to remind them who they are," is applicable not only to Native Americans but also to Christians. Like the Native Americans who were losing touch with their culture, Christians need to stay rooted to their true spiritual identity as outlined in scripture.
Consider the following truths all Christians must remember:
- I am no longer a slave, I am a son
- I once was far away, but now I am brought near to God
- Old things have passed away, behold all things have become new
- I was enslaved, but now I am free
- I was defeated, but now I am an overcomer
- I was in darkness, but now I am in the Light
- I was a lawbreaker, but now I am justified
- I am not going to hell, I am going to heaven
- I was an alien, but now I am adopted
- I was poor, but now I am rich, a co-heir with Christ
- I was guilty, but now I am declared righteous in Christ
- I was dead, now I am born again
Live up to your true identity. Remember who you are in Christ.
When I wrote my book "Discipleship Matters" God led me to aim it at young men. And indeed it has worked well with that demographic. Since publication I have led numerous young men through the book and it has been a rewarding experience. Dr. Robby Gallaty says it is probable that the Twelve Apostles were teenagers. His seven reasons are as follows:
- Jesus used Greek words that suggest the disciples were young. See Matthew 10:42 "little ones" (mikros) and John 13:33 "little children" (teknion).
- According to the Mishna, Jewish boys were schooled on a particular schedule. During their teen years of education it would have been more likely for them to go follow a Rabbi.
- Marital status. The only disciple we know who was married was Peter. Jesus healed his mother-in-law. The others were probably not married because they were under the age of eighteen.
- The Temple Tax is mentioned in Matthew 17:24. Exodus 30 says every Jewish man twenty years of age and older had to pay the Temple Tax. The only disciple who had to pay the tax was Peter.
- Traveling. It would have been highly unlikedly for married men to leave their families and follow Jesus. It would have been easier for teenagers.
- Longevity. Based on the dating of the book of Revelation, we know John lived until the late first century, therefore he must have been young when Jesus called him.
- Immaturity. The disciples being young and immature were unable to understand theological concepts, unaware that a devil was among them, willing to call down fire from heaven on their enemies, argued about greatness, and put their mother up to ask the Master for preferred seating.
Mark Clifton has written "Reclaiming Glory: Revitalizing Dying Churches." Mark is widely seen as an expert in the field of church revitalization. In his book he mentions six imperatives for congregational renewal, one of which is focus on reaching young men. He properly notes that a dying church never says, "We have too many young men around here. We need to attract some older adults." But obviously all of us in church work have seen the opposite.
How fascinating. Jesus reached young men and Clifton says young men are the key to church revitalization. I know where I want to keep spending my time and energy. How about you?
Mary consistently worshiped Jesus. She is seen at the feet of Jesus near the beginning and the end of His earthly ministry. What a remarkable woman to learn from. She worshiped Jesus despite the distractions that tried to pull her away from the Lord. Today we battle the same distractions.
THERE IS THE DISTRACTION OF THINGS
Luke 10 describes meal preparation led by Mary's sister, Martha. Can you hear the clanking of the pots and pans? Can you smell the bread coming out of the oven and the roasted meat on the fire? Martha is nearly hysterical as she pleads with Jesus, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me alone to serve?" The Lord gently chides her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosed the good portion, which will not be taken away from her" (Luke 10:40-42).
THERE IS THE DISTRACTION OF PEOPLE
John 12 describes another meal. This was a banquet celebrating the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead. Martha knows better than to bother Mary who is again at the feet of Jesus this time pouring out costly perfume upon His feet. The devil-inspired disciple Judas now is the one who challenges Mary's worship, "Why was this ointment not sold and the money given to the poor?" Here again Jesus defends Mary's worship, "Leave her alone . . . the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have Me (John 12:5-8).
Worship is not easy. Both private and corporate worship must overcome these twin distractions. There are always good things to do and there are always needy people to help. May God give us grace to ignore every distraction and worship the Lord.
How do we respond when we suffer unjustly? We should learn from Jesus. He was a Man of Sorrows. No one has suffered more than Him. His close friend Peter denied Him.
Based on the example of Jesus we should take these seven actions.
- When someone hurts us we should include them (Mark 16:7)
- When someone hurts us we should speak well of them. Jesus still referred to him by his positive nickname, Peter the rock (Mark 16:7, Matt. 16:17-18).
- When someone hurts us we should pursue them. We cannot wait for them to come to us, we must go to them (Luke 24:34, Matt. 5:23-24, 18:15).
- When someone hurts us we should honor them (Luke 24:34, 1 Cor. 15:5).
- When someone hurts us we should serve them (In John 21 Jesus helped Peter with fishing and served him breakfast).
- When someone hurts us we should restore them (John 21).
- When someone hurts us we should forgive them. To fail to forgive is to minimize the blood of Jesus and maximize the work of Satan. The devil is an accuser (Rev. 12:10). When we refuse to forgive others we participate in Satan's darkness and open ourselves up to his evil (Eph. 4:26-27, Matt. 18:34).
After the children of Israel passed through the Red Sea they became thirsty in the wilderness. They found water at Marah but it was too bitter to drink. The people complained to Moses who prayed to God. The Lord showed Moses a tree and when Moses threw it into the water the water became sweet (Exodus 15:22-25). The tree is a type of the cross. God here is foreshadowing the power of the cross to remove bitterness.
It is certainly true that the cross removes bitterness from eternity. Jesus described the rich man in Luke 16 tormented in the flame longing for just a drop of water from the tip of Lazarus's finger. What a dramatic contrast to those who through the power of the cross enter the New Jerusalem where the water of life in a pure river, clear as crystal, proceeds from the throne of God and of the Lamb (Rev. 22:1).
Not only does the cross remove bitterness from eternity, the cross also removes bitterness from this life. And since this event is after the Red Sea experince, a type of salvation, perhaps this is the best way to understand this passage. Life can get polluted with opinions, convictions, expectations, traditions, likes and dislikes. These impurities can rob us of joy when things don't go the way we want. The unpleasant result is bitterness. The solution is the cross where we die to our values, persuasions, comfort, and sense of right and wrong.
Are you cross-eyed?
Place the cross between you and every frustration. Don't focus on the problem, focus on your cross. As you become "cross-eyed" life's bitterness passes and life becomes sweet again.
The cross of Jesus Christ is two-sided. One side is for Jesus and the other is for His followers. Jesus died to take away our bitterness and give us a sweet eternity. We also must die on the cross in order to overcome life's bitterness and enjoy a sweet life now.
Following Jesus is not for everyone. All are welcome, but few are willing to make the necessary sacrifice. Jesus carried a cross and all genuine Christ-followers must do the same.
Jesus said to them all, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me" (Luke 9:23). What exactly is the cross?
- THE CROSS IS VOLUNTARY: The cross is not when something bad happens to you (sickness, unemployment, etc). The cross is when you choose of your own free will to die to something. There is nothing passive about the cross, it is an active choice.
- THE CROSS IS PERSONAL: Each disciple must take up "his cross." What God is asking of you and me is different. We each have our own struggles and temptations to moritify.
- THE CROSS IS DAILY: How much easier Christianity would be if we only had to die to self once; but, following Jesus is a daily, moment by moment reality. Jesus said we have to voluntarily take up our personal cross everyday and choose to follow Him. This is the way of the Christian.
The Apostle Paul taught these same truths in Romans 12:1. Our sacrifice to God is to be
PERSONAL: "I beseech you therefore brethren by the mercies of God"
VOLUNTARY: "that you present your bodies"
DAILY: "a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God."