Time to Stop Think then Do

Part II

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17 Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision.”

18 And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work.

19 But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they jeered at us and despised us and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?”

20 Then I replied to them, “The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem.”- - - - Nehemiah 2:17-20

            As a matter of reviewing what we looked at last time, Nehemiah the main subject of the book has just arrived in Jerusalem after a long journey from the palace of the Persian King.

            Nehemiah arrives and we jokingly said pulled up his recliner and a cold one. Of course the bible just says he was there three days (v11) and really gives no clue as to his actions. We made some assumptions based upon what we learned of him in Chapter one.

            I used these assumptions to develop the Stop, Think then Do title in which we covered the first two portions last time. At that time we learned that whenever we are about to take any action; it is wise to always first Stop and assess the situation become familiar with your surroundings. This may seem silly but I left for basic and advance training in the Army returning some 6 months later I got pulled over. The officer asked the obligatory “do you know why I stopped you? I honestly replied I had no clue. He said I was going the wrong way down a one way street. I finally stooped long enough to look around and sure enough all the cars were going the wrong wayJ. I asked him when they had made this a one way he said about 4 months ago.  Things change take time to think about what you intend to do. Our Final and most important things to consider before taking action was this: If it is not illegal, immoral or unethical you are probably on the right path. I want to stress probably. Finally you need to confirm your walk with Reflection, Meditation and Reevaluation insuring it will accomplish the most important criteria of all, does it Glorify God?  You see you can do things in this world that are NOT illegal, NOT immoral and NOT unethical and DO NOT Glorify GOD. As a brother or Sister in Christ you should have no part in them.

            In our second look at Nehemiah’s initial arrival in Jerusalem we get to the doing part, the action part.  I want to look at three topics here. First is Personal Motivation, Next is Personnel Motivation and finally dangers of being lazy associated with Doing things for God.

            Look at verse 17 Nehemiah urges the men that had inspected the city with him to Do something, Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem. Doing something anything takes motivation. Just try getting your 8 year old to pick up after themselves and you’ll understand what I mean. For Nehemiah this motivation seems to come from a deep sense of anguish he felt for the suffering and despair of his fellow Jews in the city of Jerusalem. Nehemiah stays the course. He remains focused on the objective that God has placed upon his heart from the beginning, Again I cannot stress enough that he has gone through the process of reevaluating the objective, being confident nothing has changed. Once assured only then does he proceed to attack the objective to use military terms.

            While that might seem sufficient, for Nehemiah the Holy Spirit saw fit to have added the following text to verse 17: that we may no longer suffer derision.” That changes the reason for the Doing not for Nehemiah but for those hearing his plea.

            Nehemiah is still on a mission from God. He will not be deterred. But the people of Jerusalem have lived in despair and in ruble for some time with seemingly no effort to overcome the situation. They needed some serious motivation if they were going to get with the program. Along comes Nehemiah with a troop from the King and all is supposed to be fix right. Not! These people needed a reason and God provided one. The ESV translates the word derision, the King James, reproach the Hebrew Transliterated Word is Cherpah meaning reproach, scorn.  God gave them a reason He said you’re being made fools of.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

16-17. the rulers knew not—The following day, having assembled the elders, Nehemiah produced his commission and exhorted them to assist in the work. The sight of his credentials, and the animating strain of his address and example, so revived their drooping spirits that they resolved immediately to commence the building, which they did,…

            What is it that motivated these men so? Was it as JFB states; the King’s credentials and the animated plea of Nehemiah’s voice? In part I must agree. I can see Nehemiah giving a rousing speech along the lines of Robert Lowery’s[1]To arms! To arms! Ye soldiers song; listen to just a portion:

To arms! To arms! Ye soldiers,
The trumpet call obey!
With Jesus as our Leader,
We’re sure to win the day.

’Tis not to rest, or banquet,
Or proud parade we go;
The fight of faith is fiercer,
Than worldly warriors know
.

            No I would suggest the real reason was pride. We probably all know or have heard some version of Proverb 11:2 ESV When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom. Normally being prideful in the bible is not looked upon as a good thing. Yet we cannot forget Jeremiah 9:24 ESV but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”  The Apostle Paul even quotes this to the church on Corinth 1 Corinthians 1:31 ESV so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

            Have I lost you yet? Do you get where I am going with this? Who is Nehemiah’s audience? The remnant of Jews left behind in Jerusalem. The elders, the Rabbi’s the leaders of the city, God’s chosen people and He tells them you/we are being mocked, made fools of because of the way we live. Our enemies think our God is nothing, has no power, and cares nothing about us. Join with me and prove them wrong.  This is not personal pride but pride in their God in other words a righteous pride.

            One last idea I wish to make. Nowhere in the bible does it talk about using bribery as a source of motivation. Earlier I made reference to an 8 year old cleaning his room. Some teach today that you should “bribe” a child promise them a treat (like a doggy treat?) if they are obedient and clean pick up after themselves. Really y’all need to show me that one in the book. Just saying!

            The last topic I want to talk about is slothfulness or laziness. Look at verse 19 with me: 19 But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they jeered at us and despised us and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?”

            Why are these guys hootin and a hollerin at the Jews? Because they were lazy bums. They liked things the way they were and knew that any change was not going to be in their favor.

            Yet Nehemiah has an answer for them and it was not name calling back at them.  Me I might of called for a cavalry charge, I mean the King sent a mounted troop why not use them? No Nehemiah is level headed and calls upon God again: 20 Then I replied to them, “The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem.”

            Nehemiah calls upon God and takes Sanballat, Tobiah and their cohorts to task. If you won’t get with the program, if you will not be a part of the solution you will have to part of the rewards. 

            God’s word is very straight forward no nonsense about those who are lazy. Here are just a few of my favorite verses:

Proverbs 10:4 ESV A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.

            And who does not riches/

Proverbs 13:4 ESV The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied

            It takes diligence, that is steady determination and hard work to obtain those riches

Proverbs 14:23 ESV In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty

            One must work for their gain. Sanballat, Tobiah and their cronies had it easy and they wanted to keep it that way. They wanted nothing to do with real work. So they mocked, and teased the Jews under Nehemiah hoping to make them feel every more inadequate than before. Nehemiah just continued to remind them v.20 “The God of heaven will make us prosper.

             What about you? Who will make you prosper in the rebuilding of your life? The Sanballat’s of this world or the God of all heaven and earth.

In HIS Service

Mike


[1] New­man Hall, in Wel­come Tid­ings, by Ro­bert Low­ry et al. (New York: Biglow & Main, 1877

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And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that wine was before him: and I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence.

2 Wherefore the king said unto me, why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? This is nothing else but sorrow of heart. Then I was very sore afraid,

3 And said unto the king, Let the king live forever: why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?        

 4 Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven    

                 Nehemiah 2:1-4

 

            Last time we looked Nehemiah was crying out to God for wisdom on what to do about the devastation in Jerusalem. For many of us that is where our story would end. We have recognized that our lives our broken and that only God can fix them. We even pray and ask God for help in correcting our broken lives and then we stop.

 

            I believe the greatest deterrent to men and women moving beyond praying and doing things needed to rebuild their futures is fear. Oh I know men “we don’t fear anything”; yeah right. Sorry I am not convinced.

 

            Fear takes many forms. There is actually a website http://phobialist.com/  dedicated to listing all the things people are afraid of. Some are common like Acrophobia- Fear of heights or how about Agoraphobia- Fear of open spaces or of being in crowded, public places like markets it includes the fear of leaving a safe place. Others like Arachibutyrophobia- Fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth would seem rather rare.   This site lists hundreds maybe thousands of know fears, all of which folks can easily use to be indecisive and inactive.

 

            Before I go on let me clarify one point, I do believe that some folks have legitimate medical explanations for having these phobia. But I dare say that number is minimal compared to those who are just looking for an excuse to sit on the side lines.

 

            The Bible on the other hand only defines two forms of fear. First there is what I will call healthy fear. As you may recall in our look at Nehemiah’s prayer he called God “great and terrible”. This was in reverence to God as Nehemiah recognized and clearly acknowledges the Lord God’s exalted position.  The great as in the One who is able to accomplish mighty things and     The Terrible as in the One who is able to impose immense judgments. This first type is righteous and is to be encouraged. It is a fear that requires action. It requires faith and it requires a strong fellowship with God.  It is the fear Nehemiah had when the King asks him what was wrong.

 

            Then of course there is unhealthy fear, this is a crippling fear, filled with weakness and quivering. It leads to inaction and loss. It is what Ray Stedman describes as: Many today find themselves in almost total ruin. They have lost their way and are wide open to the attacks of any destructive or hostile force. Others have severely damaged areas in their lives. They are, perhaps, still held in bondage to wrongful attitudes or habits. It almost goes without saying that if you are praying for help, as Nehemiah prayed for help in the opening chapter of this book, then you should expect an answer: Expect God to do something. Be ready for it when it comes.

 

            I believe that the type of fear most associated with why people do not take action to change or rebuild their lives is the fear of change. This fear of change or changing things is called Metathesiophobia.  We get so used to our rebellious ways that we do not feel comfortable in any other environment or the thought of making moves to improve our lives is far too scary a thought to act upon.

 

            We can come up with all sorts of excuses like, what can I do I am only one person, or resignation like whatever happens, happens. Two modern quotes seem to dispel these notions:  If you think you're too small to make a difference, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room – unknown and from R.S. Sproul No choice is a choice. No choice is to accept things as they are---and they are unacceptable.  

 

            While in the Army I had a 3x5 card with the saying “The max effective range of an excuse is zero meters” on it. It was a daily reminder that inaction equaled failure and where lives matter failure was not an option.  You may have heard the old farm saying “make hay while the sun shines” or how about “never put off tomorrow what you can do today” and any sailor would recognize “Time and tide waits for no man”.  All these sayings have one thing in common they require us to take action to not procrastinate, to get about doing something.

 

            I entitled this sermon Carpe Diem or Seize the Day. While dictionaries define this as meaning:  the enjoyment of the pleasures of the moment without concern for the future. I take it as a battle cry to take every opportunity to make righteous changes in our lives. Note I said righteous changes. In a  believer’s life it is getting about God’s work for us.

 

            Let us look back at Nehemiah for a moment. In Chapter 1 verse one; we are in the month of Chisleu or Kislev which equates to our Nov-Dec. Now look at today’s text in verse one; we have fast forwarded to Nisan or Mar-April time frame.  When I say we must seize the day and make righteous changes to our lives I mean us to be like Nehemiah. He and we must be patient and wait upon the Lord.  Nehemiah did not pray and go off halfcocked without any preparation. No Nehemiah took a lesson from Habakkuk 2:3 - For the vision [is] yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. I hope you can see it.  Even though the bible is silent on the matter we can extrapolate that Nehemiah waited upon the Lord before taking action. This is not much of a leap since even if we assume Dec 31st and March 1st for the dates referenced in Chapters 1 and 2 we are taking a period of 2 months. What was Nehemiah doing for that period? We do know his countenance {or expression} was sad. One can only guess that he continued on prayer seeking God’s guidance.

           

            It is when God actually reveals to us the chosen path that we must spring into action.  The bible is very clear on this matter it takes a dim view of those who are lazy (slothful)

 

Proverbs Chapter 24:30-32  I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; 31 And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, [and] nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. 32 Then I saw, [and] considered [it] well: I looked upon [it, and] received instruction.

 

2 Thessalonians 3:10 (AMP)  For while we were yet with you, we gave you this rule and charge: If anyone will not work, neither let him eat

 

            Compare that with what the Bible says about working:

 

James 1:23-25 ESV For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

 

James 2:18 ESV But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

 

Colossians 3:23-24 ESV Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

 

            Verse three of our text is very telling:

 

(AMP) And said to the king, Let the king live forever! Why should I not be sad faced when the city, the place of my fathers’ sepulchers, lies waste, and its [fortified] gates are consumed by fire?

 

One thing that might easily be missed is back in verse 2. The King recognized something was amiss in his servant Nehemiah. I want to tell you this is a trait of a very good leader. I cannot begin to tell you the number of leaders (bosses) I have seen over the years that were clueless. I or one of my fellow employees could be bleeding all over the floor never mind just looking sad and they would never notice. But notice Artaxerxes does recognize something is wrong with Nehemiah. Then Nehemiah, in verse 3, does not hesitate in his response to the King. He clearly and intelligibly points out that he has every reason to be sad. He seizes the opportunity to plead the plight of his people before the King.  Nehemiah had waited (and prayed) for 2 to 4 months for God to give his insight on how to help the people in and the city of Jerusalem. When God provided the occasion to take action he did not waiver. He found the strength in his belief that God is able in His (God’s) time.

 

            The King responds to what Nehemiah has told him in a manner I think most bosses would; what do you want me to do about it? While some would ask this with sarcasm I do not think it the case here. The text would seem to imply genuine concern on the part of the King, Nehemiah’s boss.

 

            The final sentence of our text is the most telling to me. I for one when asked this by the King would probably launch right into suggested courses of action. You know give the King some options on what I think could be done to rectify the problem(s). Yet Nehemiah does something I need to do more of, he: prayed to the God of heaven. Here is a guy who apparently has been praying for 2-4 months and he immediately prays some more. So what’s up with that? Isn’t he prayed up enough? Can’t Nehemiah handle it on his own after all that prayer? An emphatic NO!!!!!  Nehemiah (unlike many of us) does get it. What he gets is he is nothing and God is everything. 

 

            Nehemiah chooses Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. What will you choose when your opportunity for change comes? Will you seize the day or be muddled in fear.  Will you be a Nehemiah fearless in your work for Christ? Or maybe you are unable to “seize the day” and will be more like  the rich young ruler—who was afraid of change and unwilling to give up the comfort of his wealthy lifestyle to follow Jesus (Luke 18:18-23). The choice is coming and it is yours alone to make.

 

In HIS Service.

 

 Trials or Tribulations?

 

            Today is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. I thought it a good opportunity to reflect again upon what many Christians refer to as trials and tribulations.

 

            I have heard and read from many with illness, financial woes, the incarcerated and those with a variety of other problems that they must endure the tribulations that they are going through. That they can with God’s help deal with these great present tribulations, While the sentiments are nice they are somewhat lacking in biblical standing.

 

            As much as I can understand their feelings, I must first caution them that Biblical tribulations are always something one endures for the sake of Christ. Tribulation always equals suffering via persecution.  Even Nehemiah’s situation was not one of tribulation. A trial certainly, but true persecution for God; I think not.

 

            As we learned last week Nehemiah was living as an outcast in the land of his captors. Yet as the King’s cup bearer and trusted servant of the court his life could hardly be described as one of suffering. Although he has a lofty position in the court of King Artaxerxes, he is as a prisoner. He could only do what the King ordered and allowed. He may have been trusted but as we have seen in Ester the Persians probably did not approve of his high post. Finally he is a Jew in a pagan nation much like we all are as Christians in the World today.  Nehemiah must have been in daily conflict. To live as a Jew was greatly different than that of a Persian.

 

            The lesson from last week is this; most Christians today, like Nehemiah, go through trails in their lives. Some are brought upon themselves by illegal, immoral or unethical actions. While others through no direct action of their own (illness, injury, work cut backs, etc.) have equally challenging trials.

 

            I want to take a minute or two to expand on this for a moment. Verse one says:

 

1 The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace,

 

            Do you remember why Nehemiah was in Shushan and not say Bethlehem? He was there as a direct result of the actions of his forefathers. They had broken God’s law and there was a price to pay for such actions. Listen even though Nehemiah was not one of those who had broken God’s law that led to the Babylonians conquering and enslaving the nation of Judah in 586 B.C. he must endure the consequences.

 

              Illegal actions that lead to our imprisonment have consequences not only for us but for our families and friends. While prison is not a fun time for anyone and can certainly be a trial in that it tests us in many ways it cannot be considered a time of tribulation. After all (in most every case) you put yourself there.

 

 

            Marital problems due to infidelity while trying are not a time of tribulation. Nor is the aftermath that while trying and seemingly under persecution (high alimony) again it is a problem of your own making.  Laziness that leads to financial woes cannot be blamed on the economy or anyone else. A man that will not work (at any legal job) to feed his family is not a real man in my book. Immoral acts such as gambling and drinking that lead to family, financial and health issues cannot be described as times of tribulation. Trying yes, but that is everyday life in a fallen and depraved world.

 

            There are many in the world today who face real tribulation. Who daily are persecuted for their faith in Christ Jesus.  We in America are blessed that true persecution has not reached our shores. But be forewarned that day is coming. The actions of a misguided mayor in Houston and the passing of Hate Crime legislation making it seemingly illegal to speak out biblically against abortion, sexual orientation, same sex marriage etc. are bringing the day ever closer.

 

            For real Tribulations in the life of Christians today Voice of the Martyrs is one of the best sites for information. I gleaned the following from a long list:  

 

Egypt - Akhom, was shot during an attack on his Christian neighborhood. VOMedical will help him get the treatment he needs.

 

India - House Destroyed an Orissa victim sits amid what used to be her home. “We are waiting for the next riot. We do not know where it will happen. We know this was a warning, not an end.”

 

India - Imprisoned Indian pastors are imprisoned for their evangelical activity.

 

India - Four young Dalit pastors in India - Shivashankar, Ramiah, Yesuraj and Jeevan - were beaten by Hindu radicals and police and imprisoned. We assisted in their release from the Karnataka jail. They have returned to Bible study and ministry!

 

Indonesia - Before Christmas bulldozers were sent by the Muslim government of Tangerang County to destroy five church buildings.

 

Indonesia - Police tried to protect Christians of the Batak church, but two of the church’s pastors, including Pastor Purba (in the red tie), were beaten by the mob in August 2010. One banner carried by radicals during the protest read, “The Muslim community rejects the building of a church in Mustika Jaya.”

 

Iraq - In 2011, militant Muslims burst into Afanan’s home in Iraq. They locked Afanan and her two children in a room while they tortured her husband. The family was forced to listen to his cries until they ended with a fatal gunshot. VOM is supporting this widow and her children.

 

Laos - Somchi, a young Khmu woman, handed us an unusual package — a burned Bible in a plastic bag. The Bible was still wet from the rain, but we separated and dried the pages. Somchi has underlined many scriptures in her Bible. The most underlined section was around I Cor 9:19. She put a blue asterisk by this verse.

 

Nigeria - Seyi was hit with a machete several times and almost burned to death during Muslim rioting in Nigeria.

 

Nigeria - Monica was attacked by Islamic radicals in July and has already had four surgeries. She is due for another one.

 

Nigeria - Godwin lost his arm in an attack by local Muslims. VOM provided him with a prosthetic arm.

 

Pakistan - When Muslims attacked a Christian neighborhood in Gojra, Pakistan, in 2009, Christians used a cart as a strecher to transport the injured.

 

Vietnam - Pastor Cong’s home was destroyed by local authorities.

 

Vietnam - Who can forget the stunning photo we printed of Vietnamese secret police officers swinging a club at a member of Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang’s Mennonite Church in August 2006? About 50 police officers swarmed the grounds of the house church, beating congregants with nightsticks, nunchucks and electric cattle prods. Pastor Quang was arrested. Today, Pastor Quang, released from prison, is operating a Bible school. Currently, 47 young Vietnamese and tribal youth are studying in the three-year program. The course teaches them a thorough understanding of the Bible, how to use a computer, how to establish a church and qualifies them to serve in full-time ministry. Oh, and secret police are still coming by his church and home.

 

India - VOM helped a woman after Hindu radicals beat her husband and burned her Bible. Christians are attacked in India more frequently than in any other country.

 

            For a look at real persecution and tribulation in the lives of Christians today I recommend you watch the following video. Afterwards ask yourself are you ready to answer the call of God? Are you truly a Christian?

http://www.persecution.com/idop       Leana’s Prayer

In HIS Service

Perseverance

 

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

- - Phil 1:6

 

            What words come to mind when you here the term persevere? Initially I think of determination, steadfast, resolve, grit, diligence and I could go on but you get the idea. Here are a couple of quotes to help us understand the concept of perseverance ever better:

 

By perseverance the snail reached the ark. - C.H. Spurgeon

 

Through hard work, perseverance and a faith in God, you can live your dreams. – Dr. Benjamin Carson

 

When we are foiled, let us believe we shall overcome; when we have fallen, let us believe we shall rise again. Jacob, after he received a blow which made him lame, yet would not give over wrestling (Gen. 32:25) till he had obtained the blessing. So let us never give up, but, in our thoughts knit the beginning, progress and end together, and then we shall see ourselves in heaven out of the reach of all enemies.  —Richard Sibbes

 

            Let us pause for a moment, think of that snail if Noah took 120 years to build the ark, when did the snail set out for it? Dr Carson’s quote is a slap in the face to today’s world of live for yourself. He tells us to reach our dreams our aspirations we must have faith in God. Finally Richard Sibbes reminds us that even with God on our side there will be battles to fight along life’s path. but we are never to quit.

 

            As we come to the 7th step in the Order of Salvation let us take a quick moment to review what we have learned:

 

Step 1            Election:                    We are Chosen by God

Step 2            Calling:                      We are Called by God

Step 3            Regeneration          We are Regenerated made anew by God

Step 4            Conversion              We are Born Again by God

Step 5            Justification              We are Justified by God

Step 6            Adoption                  We are made Heirs by God
Step 7            Sanctified                 We are made Holy by God

 

            Note the ongoing thread throughout each step. It is by God; not by anything we can do for or by ourselves that this process of salvation happens.  That same theme is present in today’s lesson on perseverance.

 

            How many of you have ever started a project of any kind and failed to see it through to the end? I know I am guilty of that.  The bible speaks of a different kind of project one that will always be completed fully. Look back at our base text for a moment:

 

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

 

            There are three aspects of perseverance brought out in this verse. We can have confidence because it is of God, we can be assured God will not quit in mid project and it is a lifelong process.

 

            When it comes to better understanding Perseverance of the Saints I have broken it down into three categories: Command, Change and Compensation.

 

COMMAND:

 

            We are commanded to persevere:

 

Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. 3 Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.  - - 2 Tim 2:1-3

 

Once again my mind says is it really that simple. Get and order, obey and order all is well in the world. Oh if were only so. Let us look deeper.

 

            First we are to be strong in Grace. Not our own grace but that of Christ Jesus. Again the theme from the beginning of this series on salvation is repeated; it is of God, by God and for God.

 

            How are we to be Strong on Grace? By learning and being convicted of the Word of God. We are to listen only to faithful men of God; we are to be a Berean in all things checking the genuine, uncorrupted word of God against all we hear and read.

 

            I have heard it said from to many that they need only the Bible and the Holy Spirit to fully understand the Word of God. While this may be technically correct (the Holy Spirit is God and fully capable of doing anything) it is not biblically correct. The Holy Spirit is our guide and as such is there to assist us in our studies of the Word. I want to emphasize the word STUDIES. If one is to truly unlock all the truths of God’s word we must examine and reexamine God Word as it was originally written. I understand that for many this is not practical or possible for a variety of reasons. That is why Paul wrote (under inspiration of the Holy Spirit) the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others.

 

            Finally perseverance is no easy task; for the Holy Spirit calls us to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ. This is a cry to war not a family BBQ. There will be battles to fight and we must be prepared.

 

Change:

 

            How do we prepare for the battles to come? How do we endure the trials to come? By controlling our actions! We can only do this by changing how we go about our daily lives.  Let’s face facts, although some who claim to be “Christians” live a life that resembles anything but. We however understand that we must change to persevere.

 

“For we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” - - Eph 2:10     

 

            As we read in our base text God has begun a good work in us. Here we see not only has he begun a good work in us He created us for good works. Now I do not know about y’all but before and apart from Christ there was and is nothing good about neither me nor my deeds. It is only by God’s work in changing me that I have any hope of persevering.

 

            We all know that once we are “born again” we are a new creation (2 Cor 5:17). But apart from the obvious need to separate us from sin, why else are we changed as it relates to perseverance?

 

            I thought of three that we can all easily relate to:

 

1) For Fruitfulness: John 15:4-8 says a person who perseveres will bear much fruit. I believe this is what Paul was referring to in Eph 2:1.  We become change so we can do good works for the Kingdom of God.  Just as the withered branch those apart from God not willing to persevere are cast into the fire but those who do persevere are able to do great things for God.

 

2) For Spiritual Growth: Ephesians 4:12-15 says those who persevere will not be as little children easily deceived and misled. They/we through perseverance mature in our faith.

 

3) For a Testimony to others: 2 Tim 2:10 reminds us that like Job many good saints must endure (persevere) through many illnesses and trials not for our sake but for God’s glory. Out testimony in testing times may be will help reach others for the Kingdom of God.

 

 

COMPENSATION:

 

            Remember our base text until the day of Jesus Christ? So what happens then? Not that we need any incentive to persevere, as we learned God commanded it so we should be obedient but hey it’s nice to know what the benefits of it are.

 

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap,

 if we faint not. - - Gal 6:9

 

            I love this verse it tells me that my time and effort are not wasted for God. That in the end there will be a payoff a return on my investment if you will. Here are a few thoughts on our compensation for persevering.

 

             I will start with one you may not have thought of Eph 6:11-18. Yes Armor, one of the benefits of perseverance is the Armor God gives us to fight the good fight. It gets less and less restrictive as we get accustomed to utilizing it in all conditions. Just like the modern soldier must train and train to utilize all his tools on the battlefield so to must God’s children train to meet the spiritual war raging around us. God provides all the Armor we need it is by persevering through trials that we reap its full benefits.

 

            How about strengthening our faith? 2 Tim 3:11 reminds us that Paul endured more than any of us probably ever will. Yet he complained not. No instead he praised the Lord for delivering him out of them all. His faith was strengthened by God’s demands of him.

 

            James writes of what maybe the greatest reason for persevering when in James 1:2 he says Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. Let that sink in a moment. In one short verse we are promised a reward but no ordinary reward for it is the crown of life!  This pinnacle of our existence is promised only to those who persevere to the end.

 

 

            In closing I would like to quote another Puritan writer William Ames who summarized Perseverance of the saints this way:

 

“This truth is perceived [perseverance of the saints] and made certain in us in these ways:

 

             First, by a certain spiritual sense in which the grace of God now present becomes known and evident to the believer.

 

             Second, by the gift of discernment through which believers distinguish true grace from its shadow.

 

            Third, by the whisper and witness of conscience in which grace and salvation are made fast for believers, just as sin and death for unbelievers.

 

            Fourth, the Spirit of God so confirms to believers these ways of perceiving that they have the same certainty as faith itself…This certainty follows upon the perceiving of faith and repentance, where the free covenant of God is rightly understood.”           

 

            Perseverance is commanded to all saints. Whether you are in the valleys or on the mountain tops we must endure all. The path up the hill or down may be very difficult and we must be properly equipped for the fight to come. I urge you to study God word daily, seek out learned men who are properly trained to teach God’s word. Guard yourself against the lies and smooth talk of world and above all else seek Him daily.

 

In HIS Service

SANCTIFICATION

 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, [and] prepared unto every good work.

                        2 Timothy 2:21

           

            Tonight we explore the 7th component of Salvation called Sanctification. It is the next rung in the nine step process. There are three major views on Sanctification (and many competing within), they are:

 

Wesleyan Christian Perfection or Entire Sanctification: in this view, the state of holiness begins at regeneration and is completed by an instantaneous work of the Holy Spirit (the Baptism of the Holy Spirit) subsequent to regeneration, in which the old Adamic sin nature is actually abolished ‘Christian perfection… is nothing more or nothing less than a heart emptied of all sin and filled with a pure love to God and man.

 

Reformed: Ongoing or Progressive Sanctification: In this view, the state of holiness begins with regeneration and conversion, and is to grow throughout the believer’s life through the ministry of the Word and Spirit and through personal faith and obedience. In this understanding, the old sin nature is progressively subdued but never entirely abolished in this life. Westminster Larger Catechism, q 77

 

Pentecostal: Sanctification via The Baptism in the Holy Spirit: “This wonderful experience is distinct from and subsequent to the experience of the new birth… the baptism of believers in the Holy Ghost is witnessed by the initial physical signs of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit of God gives them utterance.” Articles Seven and Eight, “Statement of Fundamental Truths,” 35th General Council of the Assemblies of God, August 16-21, 1973

 

            Here are two definitions that may help us better understand Sanctification:

 

“The generic meaning of sanctification is "the state of proper functioning." To sanctify someone or something is to set that person or thing apart for the use intended by its designer. A pen is "sanctified" when used to write. Eyeglasses are "sanctified" when used to improve sight. In the theological sense, things are sanctified when they are used for the purpose God intends. A human being is sanctified, therefore, when he or she lives according to God's design and purpose.” (Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary)

 

            Note the part where it says things are sanctified when they are used for God’s intended purpose. Think about that God intended man to live a life that honored and glorified Him. A sanctified man or women will do just that.

 

“Sanctification is the work of God's Spirit (2 Thess. 2:13), whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God (Eph. 4:24), and are enabled more and more to die to sin, and live to righteousness (Rom. 6:11)” (Puritan Catechism #34)

 

            Less one should think this is a one and done operation we need to remember that just as we get older we mature (grow mentally) so too does the believer grow. We are not infused with all things that pertain unto life and godliness. No these things says Peter are made available to us and over time (God willing) we learn their uses.

 

            I want to spend the majority of our time looking at three areas. They are the 1) Differences between Justification and Sanctification, 2) the processes of Sanctification and finally 3) the results of Sanctification.

 

1) Differences between Justification and Sanctification

            I know it took me a while to distinguish Sanctification from Justification. The following chart may help.

Justification

Sanctification

Attributes Christ’s righteousness

Here it is Christ’s righteousness that is covering the sinner in order to make him acceptable

Instills grace to exercise own righteousness

Here it God’s grace manifested in us so we can demonstrate our own righteousness in Christ

Sin is pardoned

Here God pardons our sin because he sees only Christ’s righteousness

Sin is subdued

Here the power of the Holy Spirit works in us to subdue (conquer) our sins

Total, equal in all, complete                            

Justification is equally handed out to all God’s children. Nothing done by man can change this.                                                   

Partial, different in all, growing

God here hands out only the amount of Grace that each man can handle. Never to little or too much.

We can see from this illustration that the righteousness by which we are justified is imputed or attributed to us via Christ’s work at Calvary. The righteousness by which we are sanctified is instilled or infused into us via the Holy Spriit. Another way of saying could be the first is given the second learned. One requires nothing on our part the other much work is needed to succeed.

 

Perhaps an illustration will aid in grasping the distinction: Here is a wooden post. It is painted on the outside to cover up all the stains and spots, thus to beautify and perfect its appearance; but the paint does not change the inside of its structure. How different with a vine. The sap flows from the vine into the branches, and imparts new life within. It does not simply cover up the outside, but changes the inside. The paint changes only the exterior, while the sap changes the interior.

 

            The paint was “imputed” to the post and covered up its blemishes. Likewise the righteousness of Christ is imputed to cover our blemishes (sins). But the like the sap, Sanctification does not cover the blemishes but imparts or works from the inside of man to change his entire presence.  One of my favorite quotes comes from Theology for the People or Biblical Doctrine Plainly Stated by William S. Plumer: Justification is sin pardoned. Sanctification is sin subdued.            

 

2) The processes of Sanctification

 

                        God tells us in 1 Peter 1:15-16 to be Holy in all our parts of life, why because He is Holy. As we learned last week as Adopted Children of God, we are to obey our Father.

 

            So one morning we wake up having been regenerated and indwelled by the Holy Spirit (First Step in Sanctification) and wham all our sins are subdued. Easy cheesy it is a done deal. No worries mate as they say down under.  

 

            Oh that it could be so easy. How do we get to the point where we are a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the master's use as our base text says.

 

            The Second step in the process of Sanctification is growing in knowledge.

 

Romans 12:2 - And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what [is] that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God

 

            How do we grow? By renewing our mind and how do we accomplish that? See the next verse.

 

John 17:17 - Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

           

            We grow via God’s Word. There is NO OTHER WAY.

           

2 Timothy 3:16-17 - All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

 

            Anything we hope to master in life comes only from knowledge. We must apply ourselves daily to God’s word that we might grow in knowledge therein.

 

            The third step is growing in understanding.

           

Prov 18:2   A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself.

 

            It is one thing to read God’s Word it is quite another to understand it.  Foolish men have knowledge yet little understanding of how to use it.

 

Proverbs 2:2-5  So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; 3 Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; 4 If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures;

5 Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.

 

            Notice the words in bold print. They are all actions words. Growing in understanding of God’s Word requires effort on our part. This is not one of those let go and let God moments.

 

1 John 4:6 (AMP) We are [children] of God. Whoever is learning to know God [progressively to perceive, recognize, and understand God by observation and experience, and to get an ever-clearer knowledge of Him] listens to us; and he who is not of God does not listen or pay attention to us. By this we know (recognize) the Spirit of Truth and the spirit of error

 

            Although understanding can be a synonym for knowledge biblically speaking they are quite different. Many have knowledge of God without any comprehension or understanding of who God really is.

 

            It is the sluggard (lazy man) who depends only on his own interpretation of Scripture. One who does not take the time to research and  study the original languages with all their distinctions CAN NOT have a right understanding of God’s Holy Word.

 

            God uses many ways to bring us to this understanding. Sometimes it is the indwelling Holy Spirit speaking to us that illuminates a passage of scripture. Sometimes it is through Chastisement Heb 12:10 (AMP)   For [our earthly fathers] disciplined us for only a short period of time and chastised us as seemed proper and good to them; but He disciplines us for our certain good, that we may become sharers in His own holiness. Prayer, meditation, fellowship and encouragement from likeminded believers are all part of this process of growing in understanding. 

 

            The final step is growing in conviction.

 

Matthew 6:24 - No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon

 

            As we grown in knowledge and understanding so to should we be growing in faith.

 

1 Corinthians 15:58  Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

 

            I love the use of unmovable here. Synonyms for it include: unwavering, unswerving, resolute, determined, firm, unshakable, adamant, unfailing, dogged, tenacious, inflexible, unyielding, unbending, uncompromising, dogmatic, iron-willed; rock-steady, diehard.

 

            Let me back up a moment and put the verse in context. Paul has just finished his discourse on Victory in Jesus. He says listen up because we have a guarantee victory go about your labors for God with confidence and a determined spirit. Because we know the outcome is preordained there is no reason to waiver.     

 

Titus 1:9 - Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers

 

            As our faith gets stronger our conviction or steadfast belief in sound doctrine should be growing so that we might exhort and to convince the gainsayers

 

John Bunyan spent twelve years in jail, but it wasn’t the stone and the steel that held him there. He could have gone free if he simply agreed to stop preaching. Instead, he wrote,

 

"If nothing will do, unless I make of my conscience a continual butchery and slaughter-shop, unless putting out my own eyes I commit me to the blind to lead me, I have determined, the Almighty God being my help and shield, yet to suffer, if frail life might continue so long, even till the moss shall grow on mine eye-brows rather than thus to violate my faith and principles."1

 

            As we noted in the beginning of this section no short cut to the process. Both the Apostles Peter (2 Pt 1:5-11) and John (1 Jn2:3-6) noted that it requires steadfast effort and obedience to His commandments to succeed. That conviction of belief is the rock solid foundation of our faith.  It allows us to weather the storms of life coming out stronger than we entered.

 

3) The results of Sanctification.

 

Our Benefit:

 

            1 Peter 1:2-4 tells us: Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, 3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: 4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

 

            Our growth results in increased Grace, peace, power, and great promises.

 

            Romans 6:13-23:   22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.

 

            Obtaining the fruits of holiness and assurance of everlasting life are a definite benefit.

 

For God’s Glory:

 

            John 15:8: Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

 

            James says faith without works is dead. It is real simple God saved you and sanctifies you so you can serve Him. What are you waiting for?

 

            Eph 5:25-27: 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish

 

            The church is described as the “bride of Christ”. By the giving up or sacrifice of Himself, Christ sets the Church apart for God. The sacrifice of Christ sets apart the Church and the world, just as the blood of the Passover Lamb set apart the Children of Israel and the Egyptians.

 

 

            In closing the Greek word translated "sanctification" (hagiasmos) means "holiness." To sanctify, therefore, means "to make holy."Sanctification is the separation of the believer from evil things and ways. This sanctification is God's will for the believer. It is a process that includes knowledge, understanding and conviction requiring effort and obedience on our part. The results will always glorify God and edify your fellow saints.

In HIS Service

The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards (1722-1723) Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God's help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ's sake.

1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriad’s of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great soever.

Read the remaining 69 resolutions @ The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards.