Intro: Last Sunday we saw how God tests citizens of His kingdom through various kinds of trials whether they are genuine or not for their benefit. The clear evidence is that genuine citizens will not give up.
When I was called that I qualified to be an aviation cadet of the PAF Flying School, I left family, home and all my plans and ambition. During the training I had classmates who gave up because of the rigorous training in discipline in physical, mental and emotional. Hazing came with the training and one thing I learned was to thank my upperclassman after he beats me up, otherwise I will get more. After I graduated, I put in my preference of assignment to be fighter pilot, however, they gave me my last choice as flight instructor. I did not like my assignment but I could not resign and give up because I signed a contact to serve for three years otherwise I will have to pay back the government for all they spent for my training. With this assignment I reported from time to time to my commander for specific instruction as to my mission and how to accomplish it. I had little patience to teach and halfway training my three students I requested to transfer to the troop carrier. As I look back to this experience in my secular life I see a similar pattern in the kingdom life. Joining the military brought me to a complete change of environment and a purpose. Today we will look at what it is like to be a kingdom citizen with a mission.
“The Mission of Kingdom Citizens”
“You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs – he wants to please his commanding officer. Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all these.” 2 Tim. 2:1-7
Just as the Lord Jesus used many parables and illustrations in the earthly life to bring out spiritual truths, Paul used the soldier, an athlete and farmer to illustrate kingdom life. In this passage Paul addressed Timothy who is already serving as a young pastor reminding him how he received the true “saving faith” and through whom God used to bring about his faith in Christ.
“I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded now lives in you also.” 2 Tim. 1:3-5
We saw last Sunday that saving faith is not produced by any of us for it came with the package of God’s grace given to us as a gift. I believe God wants us to really understand how one gets save. Here is how the Holy Spirit revealed this truth to Peter concerning his faith and ours.
“To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours.” 2 Pet. 1:1b
Faith is given by God’s grace and we simply receive it. And the Holy Spirit produces this faith in us.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.” Gal. 5:22
God’s faith and our faithfulness are of utmost importance for a soldier who goes to battle.
The first truth for us to consider is the “Faithfulness of God.”
When I was sent on a flight mission, I was on my own and was responsible. I knew my mission order and I had to work out the plan to accomplish it. How does this compare in the spiritual life? Scriptures say we all have one commander in chief and He is the Lord Jesus Christ. Daily we ought to report to Him personally for His instructions. And on the first day of the week, Sunday, we gather together to worship Him and hear with all the other kingdom citizens belonging to the same unit (the church) and to learn from our Commander in Chief about Himself, His purposes for everyone in His kingdom, and how we are going to accomplish our mission according to His ways. He also assures us that when He sends us out on His mission He promises to be with us in the person of the Holy Spirit.
When God delivered the Israelites from Egypt He went ahead of His people by a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. When God called Moses to Mt. Sinai for forty days and forty nights, the people grew impatient in waiting for him to come down, so they went ahead and made a golden calf and danced before the idol. Moses got so mad that he broke the tablets. He was so frustrated after they saw the miracle God just did in parting the sea. Then Moses was told again by God to lead them. Here’s Moses reply,
“Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and have found favor with me.’ If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.” The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” Ex. 33:12-17
If God promised this to Moses, is this still true to us today? Yes, because God’s Presence is already in the believer and God is faithful. He will do what He says He will do. Now what about us? Are we faithful to God? Every believer is faithful to Christ to some degree. But our faith in God and our faithfulness depends on how much we know the Lord, for,
“Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” Rom. 10:17
This is no longer saving faith, but faith that results in obedience to every command the Lord gives. Going back to Christians compared to soldiers, what is our “Mission in the world?” We are to be “On Mission” with our Lord Jesus Christ to share the gospel.In the military everyone obeys his commanding officer otherwise you either resign or be court-martialed. This means obedience, submission and to please the commanding officer. In God’s army, our Commander in Chief knows what He is doing. We should have no reason to doubt him because we believe and trust who He is. He does not only know what He is doing, He is also the one who fights our battles. Why? Because the “battle is the Lords.” However, there are many Christians who lose in their battle against the evil one’s temptation to sin because we trust in ourselves and in our own strength not in the Lord.
All the Israelites who were delivered from Egypt died in the desert except for two, Caleb and Joshua. The rest did not enter because they did not trust what the Lord said to give them the promise land. When the twelve men, one from each tribe were sent to scout the land they were afraid of the Anakites who were giants in their eyes. When all of them had died, after forty years of wandering in the desert Moses reminded the new generation that were left, the promise of God to their forefathers,
Then I said to you, “Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the desert. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.” Deut. 1:29-31.
When David faced Goliath, this was his confession of his confidence in God.
“This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beast of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword and spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give us all of you into our hands.” 1 Sam. 17:46-47
How does this relate and apply to us in this 21st century? The parallel is like this. Egypt represents the world, kingdom of darkness and when God sent His Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ to earth He came for one purpose to seek and save the lost. And to fully accomplish His mission He had to offer Himself to be crucified in order to pay for the sins of those He will redeem. He does this individually. And those whom He redeems now belong to His body, the church. It is in the church that everyone is being built up to mature in the faith. And just like soldiers they have a mission to be sent out to the battlefield. The mission for these soldiers is to rescue the perishing and not to kill but be as peacemakers, thus continuing the mission Jesus came to do.
When Jesus found Zacchaeus the tax collector Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too is the son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” Luke 19:9-10
What was Jesus’ single mission? To seek and to save His lost ones. He came to set captives free from the penalty and bondage of sin and give them new life that is eternal. He is not yet finish with His mission and all those who now belong to Christ are to follow in continuing to seek His lost ones. And here’s how Jesus carried and was able to fulfill His mission.
“By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.”John 5:30
What compelled Jesus to please His Father who sent Him was His love relationship with Him.
“The world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.”John 14:31
We know already that everyone who is born of God and has the love of the Father will love His Son. Someone ask, how does one love God and demonstrate this love for God? In the same way Jesus loved His Father.
“If you love me, you will obey what I command.”John 14:15
Only born again Christians who are spiritually alive has this divine love for God and will obey. This is not human love but divine love produced by God.
“And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Rom. 5:5
And this is what has driven Paul to be on mission with Christ,
“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all therefore all died. And he died for all that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him to who died for them and was raised again.” 2 Cor. 5:14-15
I am excited at what the Lord is doing and is going to do with our young people. They have this opportunity to be on mission with Christ to reach the lost ones in Alaska even just to be a witness in short term mission work. This is an opportunity for them to experience what it is like to be on mission with and for Christ and perhaps God is preparing them to be called to His mission field in the future. So let’s pray that whomever God invites He also will provide the means to go.
But the mission is not just for them. Every follower of Christ is to be on mission just as He did. Jesus will send us when our character has been conformed by God our Father through the Holy Spirit into Christ’s likeness.
When we have grown in our love for Christ we will be compelled to do whatever and wherever our Lord and Commander in Chief sends us. You will hear Him speak to you by His Spirit,
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” John 20:21
Would you not consider this a great privilege to be sent by your Master to seek His lost ones. Can you imagine if no one went out on mission with Him where will we be? Who did God send to you in order to bring your birth certificate and lead you to Christ? Here’s the prayer God will surely answer.
Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore to send out workers into his harvest field.” Matt. 9:37-38
Here is a word from the Lord Jesus addressed to all of us.
“He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather scatters.” Matt. 12:30
And here’s a promise that He will go before us and fight the battle for us. The battle is against the evil one who will try to hinder His work. And this is what is only required of us in order to be used by Christ.
“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father. And I will do anything you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it.”John 14:12-14.
What is the context of what Jesus wants us to ask? To do what He came for in seeking His lost ones. A good soldier will want to please his commanding officer. Isn’t this what our primary purpose in life and the purpose God saved us that we bring glory to His Son because for every soul God gives to His Son is His trophy and glory? Remember where you came from?
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.” Eph. 5:8
What about you? You may be here today and have not been born again because you have not repented of your sins and surrendered your life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. If the Lord is calling you to Himself and the Holy Spirit is convicting you of your sins and your need to be saved, Come to Jesus. Today is the day of your salvation not tomorrow for tomorrow may not come. Let Christ pay for all your sins in order for Him to give you life.
“Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” 1 Cor. 15:3-4
Intro: How can you tell whether gold is genuine or not? If it burns its pyrite, fake. I’m sure the women know this, what happens when you dip your diamond ring in water? A fake one will lose its sparkle but the genuine will sparkle even more. So my next question is how can one know that he or she is a genuine citizen of heaven. Can it be tested?
Last Sunday, we looked at understanding kingdom citizenship. We ended up with the first evidence that when one is born again he will love Jesus and because of that love relationship, he will want to know the one he loves. The hunger for the spiritual food will come naturally. Do you have to make an effort to eat food for your physical body? You don’t even have to think about it because when you are hungry, you know it. Our love for Jesus comes after we have received the love of God and it is the Holy Spirit who produces that love for Jesus and His Father. The cover of our bulletin says “All things work together for good to them that love God.” However, this lacks the reason why we love God. The full verse says, “Who have been called according to his purpose.” Is this statement true and is this true to everyone? Let’s first understand that the letters of Paul is addressed to the citizens of the kingdom. The truth and our confidence in this passage is that we have been called by Gods purpose. The title of our message today is,
“God proves the Genuineness of His Faith”
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though for now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Pet. 1:3-9
There are three things that stand out in this one paragraph that pertains to a citizen of heaven. First there is the assurance of salvation. Then there is the testing of His faith and lastly, experiencing salvation on earth.
I. God’s Assurance of Salvation:
Take note that the apostle Peter is writing to those who have already professed Christ as their Lord and Savior. There are three truths we see regarding their ASSSURANCE OF SALVATION
“In his great mercy he has given us new birth.”
The birth did not come from us. “Born of God.” God caused the birth, we have no part in it. If God saved us, then He will keep us saved. If we had even a tiny part, then it is not all of God and we don’t have it. Why? God will not share His glory in our salvation. It is all His or nothing.
“Into a living hope.” Our hope is in Christ who is alive. Because Jesus resurrected, we too will be resurrected with Him for He said,
“Before long, the world will not see anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.” John 14:19
“Into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.”
Anything we inherit in this world will be lost one way or another. Money is spent, it can be stolen or lost in bad investment. Material things will rot. And finally all inheritance here on earth will be left after one dies. But citizens of the kingdom will inherit a place in heaven, a mansion as Jesus promised that God is keeping in heaven for them. We are already co-heirs with Christ here on earth but our final inheritance is in heaven, kept by God Almighty that no one can take away. We will receive that full inheritance when we die or are caught up to the sky to meet Jesus in the air if we are still alive at the rapture. Our bodies will be changed like His glorified body, never to die again but live forever and ever. And because of this, we “greatly rejoice.” Are you always in a rejoicing mood? What about when times are not so good or circumstances are not favorable should we still be joyful? We should as Paul wrote,
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I say again: Rejoice!” Phil 4:4 What is our primary reason for rejoicing? Jesus said this to his disciples,
“I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:19-20
This is the reason we ought to rejoice, whether in a good situation or bad.
II. “Testing the Genuineness of His Faith”
First of all we have to understand that faith is not from us. We cannot produce saving faith. It comes from Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, produced in us by the Holy Spirit through the word of Christ.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Eph. 2:8
“Though for now you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” What is this suffering Peter is talking about? It is the suffering that comes after we are saved. It is not suffering as a consequence of sin. It is suffering for righteousness sake. Last Sunday we looked at a passage that identifies the Christian as a co-heir with Christ. What does a Christian inherit with Christ? Many take that as all blessings and good health. But this is not so.
“Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Rom. 8:17
This suffering is not just a headache or a bad cold. Everybody gets that. It is suffering that brings grief. It is a deep sadness like mourning in death. There was a teenage girl from Ohio, I believe whose parents were Muslims. When she became a Christian, her father threatened to kill her if she does not give up the faith. She ran away and ended up in Florida where she was taken in by a pastor of a Christian church. But this is nothing new to Muslims who converts to Christianity. Many are either killed or put in jail. Jews who become Christians are in danger of being disowned by their parents. We can be thankful that we do not suffer in this way here in the USA, but there are many kinds of trials. When I made my faith known, my relatives were not happy with it. When my friends learned about it, they also started avoiding me, especially my drinking and gambling buddies. When I sent Christ’s testimony in my life and the gospel to my unbelieving friends by e-mail, my contact with them stopped and was even told never to e-mail them again, except a few. Even a relative did that. Paul reveals this truth.
“For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are a smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.” 2 Cor. 2:15-16
Suffering can also be a financial reversal, or being persecuted for doing what is right, but not for doing what is wrong. Why? Because Jesus said so,
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. This is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.” John 15:18-21
How were the early Christians persecuted? These are Hebrew Christians.
“Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated – the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and in holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that together with us would be made perfect.” Heb. 11:35b-40
Our suffering today compared to the early believers are just like a bad cold. They were tormented and tortured for their faith in Jesus Christ.
v. 7, “These have come so that your faith –… may be proved genuine and may result in praise glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” What have come? TRIALS. I have heard testimonies of some who claim to be Christians that after they believed in Christ, life became a series of blessings and prosperity. They even reject sickness as coming from the devil and rebuking the devil as the one responsible for the sickness.
But are trials expected to come to Christians? Yes. It comes as a package deal with our salvation. So how does a genuine believer respond? Will he give up his faith and stop following Christ? Will he persevere? There were those who found Jesus as the answer to their physical needs so they followed Him. But after hearing his teachings found it hard and gave up. Christians may grow weak and discourage but their faith will not fail nor will he give up and deny Christ. Jesus will keep their faith. He gave it.
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31
Where does our strength come from? For Christ was tempted and persecuted worse than any man can experience but He never sinned nor give up but came out victorious. Jesus was not exempt from temptation but God made Him suffer for a purpose.
“In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering…Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” Heb. 2:10, 18
A genuine believer when going through trials and suffering will cry out for help to the Lord and the Holy Spirit gives him the strength to persevere. Those who do not have the Holy Spirit will give up. So when one overcomes the trial, it will prove to him that he is genuine because he trusted and Christ proved His faithfulness. We go through trials for this very reason and after the victory, who gets the glory? It results in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed by the victory. Trial then is for our benefit for our good, to assure us that we belong to God and our faith in Christ is genuine.
III. Experiencing salvation on earth.
“Though you have not seen him, you love him…and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.” After one experiences victory over trials, you experience the love of God that results in our response to loving Him even more. When you love the Lord, joy follows. It is an inexpressible and glorious joy that is beyond description. The goal of our faith is victory over sin and having the right response to trials. You will be amazed at how you overcame that trial, yet it was not really you who made it possible. It was God who worked it out in you for your good. Faith believes the unseen. For who among us here have seen Jesus? Formerly we were deceived into believing in a Jesus made of wood or metal and still hanging on the cross. That’s a lie. The Bible calls that idolatry and those who believe and practice that hates God. That’s a Jesus made by the hands of men and is dead. Jesus is alive and is seated at the right hand of God the Father. There are just a few who have seen the resurrected Christ. His disciples after His resurrection, the apostle Paul but saw only light that blinded him and John who was transported to heaven to write the book of Revelation. There also was a man who saw Jesus while still alive but only for a short time. His name was Stephen. He was the first to be martyred for his faith in Christ.
“When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” At this they covered their ears, and yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he said this, he fell asleep.” Acts 7:54-60
Who does this remind us of? At the cross,
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” Matt. 23:34.
Stephen have responded to this horrible persecution but responded as Jesus did? Why? He had genuine faith. Is your faith genuine? Has all these truths been real to you? Have you been born again into the kingdom of God? If not and the Holy Spirit is convicting you of your sin and your need for a Savior, come to Jesus. He is the only one who can save and forgive you of all your sins. Today could be your spiritual birthday by receiving this new life in Christ by believing this gospel and making this personally apply to you.
“Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” 1 Cor. 15:3-4
Repent and believe in your heart this good news and come to Jesus and receive Him as your Lord, confessing Him publicly with your mouth.
Intro: Before I became a Christian I was given this idea that life is short and death is everlasting, so let’s eat, drink and be merry and make the most of life. I did this because I was of the world and a citizen of the world. One can have this goal and seek happiness all their lives but in the end will amount to nothing and miss heaven forever. We have already looked at the two kingdoms last Sunday. So let me differentiate these two. All of us are born in the flesh live in an earthly kingdom. This kingdom is ruled by the ruler of the kingdom of the air (the evil one) according to the apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesians. The other kingdom is the heavenly kingdom and the King came down from heaven to rule over those He calls into His kingdom. There are two references of this kingdom, the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven. Kingdom of God because it belongs to God and kingdom of heaven because heaven is the final destination of all it’s citizen. And even if we are still on earth one can already be in the kingdom of God. So what is our goal as kingdom citizens? I believe when we fully understand and appreciate how we became kingdom citizens we will be compelled by the grace and love of God to set our goals and priorities right.
“Understanding Kingdom Citizenship”
“Yet to all who received him to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” John 1:12-13
To be a child of God means that we now have a relationship with God as Father, the same relationship that Jesus had with His Father when he was on earth. We enter into a personal love relationship between God and man, Father and son. Being a kingdom citizen is a status of belonging to and a member of a corporate community where the ruler who owns and governs the kingdom we call King. Everyone becomes a subject to the King. And He too is Lord meaning He is Master and we His slaves and servants who serve.
So how does one become a kingdom citizen? Before Jesus came down and took a body in human flesh, an angel of the Lord revealed this to Joseph who would become the foster father of Jesus
“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matt. 1:21
Who then is the angel referring to as “his people”? Are these all the people or those who already belong to God’s kingdom but not yet saved? If God knows who they are, then Jesus must know who are His people He will save.
God being all knowing who knows the end from the beginning, should also have the foreknowledge of who will be in His kingdom. He will populate His heaven by His foreknowledge according to His pleasure and will.
When you and I were born physically, even before we came out of the womb, who knew about it? The mother is the first one to know. She also knows who the father is. Then when we were born, did we have any part in the birth? None at all. We didn’t even know when we were born until we grew up and learned it from our parents. This is our physical birth. But after we sinned, our spirit died. Unless we get born again in the spirit our end will be in hell because we have sinned against God and that’s all of humankind.
Jesus came down to earth to seek and to save His people. But before He can save anyone, He had to offer Himself as the payment for their sins by taking their place at the cross. That’s the reason God the Son came in human flesh in order to die to do the will of God that was decided before hand even before the creation of the world and revealed to us in the Scripture.
“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as sliver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.” 1 Pet. 1:18-21
Let’s now see what Jesus had to do after He was born, He grew just like a normal human being but made this his purpose and priority,
“And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” Luke 2:52
When Jesus was 12, He went with his parents to worship at the temple. While there Jesus attended a Bible study with the teachers of the law. After that, from age 12 until He appeared to John the Baptist to be baptized nothing was written about Him. What was He doing during this time? He grew in wisdom by spending time with God and in His Word. We call this quiet time with God. How do we know this? This was already revealed in Scriptures about Him.
“The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught. The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears, and I have not been rebellious; I have not drawn back.” Isa. 50:4-5
If we read the context, this prophecy was referring to Christ Himself. In His humanity Jesus had to learn from God His Father how He can minister to the weary and the words to say from the mouth of God. Then at the appointed time, he went to John to be baptized to start His ministry. After he got baptized the Holy Spirit came upon Him to minister to Him. I believe that the instructions and the words that He was to speak was communicated from the Father to Him by the Holy Spirit, for this is what Jesus said,
“As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” John 12:47-50
It is now very clear that there are people who do not hear, listen and obey the commands of Jesus. Some may claim to believe in Christ as taught by different religions but does not accept all that is written in the Scriptures and obeys them. This is what Jesus said about them earlier in the gospel of John,
“He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” John 8:47
Are you hearing the Word of God? Are you listening and want to learn and be instructed? Do you keep His words? This is one of the sure signs and evidence that you belong to God.
After Jesus was baptized and then led to the desert to be tempted, He went back to Galilee to seek His people. He was now seeking after those who were baptized by John with the baptism of repentance. His first message was
After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said, “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.” Mark 1:14-15
The first ones He called were Peter and Andrew.
“As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.” Matt. 4:18-22
Notice that they did not think it over or prayed about it whether they will go or not but their response was immediate. Was this their first time to hear about Jesus? No. Earlier, Andrew and another disciple of John were at the Jordan to be baptized. After Jesus was revealed to John that he was the Messiah, he now pointed Andrew to Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, and Andrew followed Jesus. Then he told his brother Peter. Another disciple that was in the Jordan was Philip. They were all from Bethsaida, a town in Galilee. After they went home from the Jordan they went back to what they were doing. So at the appointed time Jesus went to seek and called them to follow Him. God already prepared their hearts so that when Jesus called they were ready to follow Him.
Once they left their nets and followed Jesus, where did they go? They went where He went. They spent time with Jesus and learned from Him. They were now His disciples. Jesus now invested all His time and energy with them for more than three years. He taught them what He learned from His Father and lived what He taught. He taught by example. At the end of Christ ministry when He returned to heaven, He left them this command,
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matt. 28:19-20
Did they obey what Jesus commanded them? Yes, they did, otherwise the gospel would have stopped with them. The gospel has reached us because those who got saved passed on what they have been taught and followed what Jesus did, to seek and to save the lost. Only Jesus saves but His disciples are now to seek His people. Do I know who they are? No. Did Jesus know who they were? Yes. Because He was one with His Father and the Holy Spirit led Him to those who were drawn to Him by His Father. Is this still true today? Very much the same.
So how does one enter the kingdom of God. When Nicodemus came to Jesus at night for fear his friends will know, Jesus revealed to him this truth.
“I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” John 3:3
Seeing here refers to being enlightened of the truth. The seeing comes after one is born again. So how does one get born again? By ourselves we cannot make it happen. It is the work of God, it is not inherited from parents or the husbands will but born of God. This is spiritual birth since our spirits have died after just one sin. The word of God must first be preached which is the gospel. The spirit who is dead cannot respond to Christ until he is first made alive. What will give him the life? He must first hear the gospel preached,
“For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living word and enduring word of God.” 1 Pet. 1:23
And what is the gospel?
“Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” 1 Cor. 15:3-4
In other words the gospel must first be preached. That is the seed implanted in the heart. God makes the seed grow and at the appointed time, the Holy Spirit takes the word and gives birth to our spirit and we enter the kingdom.
“The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him ” John 6:63-65.
So who are the ones who will believe in the Lord Jesus Christ?
For this is what the Lord has commanded us: “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth. When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.” Acts 13:47-48
So when we obey the Lord and share the gospel to lost love ones, relatives, friends and acquaintances, are they all going to believe? I don’t know but God the Father, the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit knows. We are simply messengers. Let me put it this way. We are carrying birth certificates from heaven through the gospel. We present it and simply ask is this for you? Will you receive Christ as your Lord and Savior? The one who responds and are made alive spiritually will confess that Jesus is now their Lord. So who sought them? Christ did through us. Does an unbeliever and spiritually dead seek God? According to the Scripture, No.
As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.” Rom. 3:10-11
So who sought you and brought you the gospel. Jesus was the one who sought you through His disciple, but the Triune God worked to save you.
God the Father chooses and draws those who will receive his grace
God the Son applies the blood for the forgiveness of sins.
God the Holy Spirit gives life to the dead spirit to responds.
Once a person enters into the kingdom and become a citizen of heaven, what is now his business?
“But seek first his kingdom and His righteousness…” Matt. 6:33
This is now what we seek. We are in, now we seek to know the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Lord Jesus Christ. For this is eternal life,
“Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” John 17:3
And the ones who have been saved will hunger for spiritual food.
“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” 1 Pet. 2:2-3
Is it possible for one who says he believes and not be hungry for spiritual food? No. If the spirit has been made alive that spirit will hunger for spiritual food which is the Word of God. And what is the first evidence of this new birth? Because he has tasted that the Lord is good, have received forgiveness of sins and has become a child of God and God has now become his Father.
Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here.” John 8:42
We will look at more evidences next week and what we are to seek for.
Intro: Last Wednesday I forwarded a devotional concerning a burning message of encouragement to all believers in my address book. I also added by asking this question, what’s your new year’s resolution? What will you do this year that you did not do or have not done enough in 2010? I know it’s the secular approach of having new years resolution. I used to do that before I became a Christian and in a very short time I failed to keep it. May I restate that with what is your goal for your life this year of 2011? I see a difference here because if we don’t have a goal we will have nothing to hit and accomplish. It’s like shooting an arrow without a target. Here’s a goal that our Lord Jesus Christ has set.
“Seek What Matters”
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matt. 6:33
This passage addresses two groups of people. Jesus said that one must be born again before he can enter the kingdom of God. And for those who are already saved they are to seek God’s business in the kingdom. These are assignments God invites His people to do, while seeking His righteousness is to know and then keep all the law, decrees and ordinances God has commanded all believers to do just as Jesus did. Now that’s a tall order. A very high goal but this is what God has predestined everyone He saved that we are to be conformed in the likeness of His Son. Can we really become in the likeness of Jesus? Yes. Anything that is God’s will for us is possible because God has given us the power to do as we obey by the Holy Spirit. This power is available through the gospel. And what is the gospel?
“Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” 1 Cor. 15:3-4
Jesus is the only one who lived a perfect life in righteousness and we cannot. The life of Christ is not our life. Unless He is the one living in us we cannot live that life. This is the condition of the gospel and how we got saved. We died to our sinful life by repentance and surrendered to the Lordship of Christ by faith. Was this only once? Salvation is a one time event to enter the kingdom of God, but living the life of Christ is a daily commitment and decision. Here’s how Paul lived his life day after day.
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” Gal. 2:20
Through the gospel we got saved and the power to live, as Paul preached.
“I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jews, then for the Gentiles. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” Rom. 1:16-17
Did Paul who wrote this as inspired by the Holy Spirit, live it? This was his goal throughout his life. Living by faith from first to last.
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” Phil. 3:12-16
What is Paul saying here and referring to that he has not yet attained? It is that of becoming like Christ. Paul did not get save by keeping the law. He was saved by the righteousness of God through faith in Christ. All his accomplishments in the past before he was saved he considered a loss and even calls them rubbish. What matters now to Paul is the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus his Lord. But what does this mean to us now since we have become Christians, some for a long time and some very recently. Here is Paul’s continuing goal in life,
“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so somehow, to attain the resurrection from the dead.” Phil. 3:10-11.
This was his lifetime goal that he was confident to say, follow me as I follow Christ. Our purpose and goal for every member in our church is for everyone to “know Christ and to become like Him and to make Him known.” But how many of us had failed and even have fallen in sin this past year? How many of us suffered the consequences of having sinned against God? How many of us are missing the good things we have in Christ out of ignorance and our lack of trust? Seeking Christ’s righteousness in knowing how He lived his life in perfect obedience to His Father while living as a human on earth. Remember when He was about to be baptized by John, and John deterred him saying that Jesus should baptize him?
Jesus replied,“Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.”Then John consented. Matt. 3:15
Jesus kept every law that was given by God. He did the will of God in everything and then to die on the cross for sin He did not commit. For this is what Jesus claimed to do and have done,
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” Matt. 5:17-18
If Jesus did everything that was written in the law, what were the things he did before He started his ministry? One of the most important issues in life is related to money. All of us have a deep concern about our security before and even after becoming Christians. If we listen to the news today, the world is in a financial crisis. Nevada is one of the highest among the States in job loss. Everyone is worried about what will happen to our future and even our children’s future when the government keeps on spending and our debt is growing which our poor children will pay in taxes. Thank God there was a hold to raise taxes and extended paying for unemployment. This is what’s happening in the kingdom of the world. But as Christian and citizen of God’s kingdom, is this something we should spend endless nights worrying and then running after money that the pagans do. Unemployment is high but the casinos are still enjoying good business. Why? Because that is where the people now are putting their hope that if they win the jackpot this will solve their financial problems. Some are just depending on their Social Security and yet it is now a fact that SS will run out of money in the near future and those who are young and contributing to the fund will have nothing to receive when it is due them.
If Jesus lived today what would he have done? It was no different then than it is with us today. Jesus grew up as a carpenter and helped in his father’s business. What righteous thing did He do in doing the will of God? He went to the synagogue on the Sabbath and on feast days went to Jerusalem to worship. What did he bring when he worshiped as offering to God according to the Law? No doubt He tithe his income. The first one to tithe in the Bible was Abram named later as Abraham.
“After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s valley). Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High who delivered your enemies into your hand.” Then Abram gave him a tenth.” Gen. 14:17-20
Was there a Law already at that time? No. I believe God gave Abram this revelation what to do with the spoil he got from those who took Lot captive. Then Abram’s grandson Jacob learned about tithing from his grandfather.
“Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me in this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s house, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.” Gen. 28:20-22
So tithing was already observed before the Law was given to Moses. Then tithing was made clear in detail as instructed by Moses.
“A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belong to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord. If a man redeems any of his tithe, he must add a fifth of the value to it. The entire tithe of the herd and flock – every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod – will be holy to the Lord.” Lev. 27:30-32
Before the second generation Israelites were about to enter the promise land, Moses gave them again this command as he gave their forefathers.
“But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; there bring your offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you.” Deut. 12:5-7
After many years, in the last book written in the Old Testament through the prophet Malachi the Lord rebuked His people,
“I the Lord do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty. “But you ask, ‘How are we to return?” “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask. ‘How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse – the whole nation of you – because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessings that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the Lord Almighty.” Mal. 3:6-11
Was tithing then practiced in the New Testament during the time of Jesus?
“Woe to you teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices – mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter without neglecting the former.” Matt. 23:23
Jesus rebuked them but he approved their tithing which they were not to neglect. So if he approved their tithing He too must have tithe. Tithing is done in obedience to God’s command and not so that God will bless us. It is clear that the tithe belongs to the Lord. However, God gives us the choice whether to obey or not. And our obedience expresses our love for God,
“If you love me, you will obey what I command.” John 14:15
Tithing is not commanded for all people. It is for those who have entered into a love relationship with Christ. If a person is not yet saved, giving a tithe will not in anyway save him. But, when one is already saved, shouldn’t he or she obey? I know this will be a struggle especially to new believers for this is a big step of faith to do. I have heard many excuses that they will not be able to pay all their bills. The truth of the matter is, any step of obedience requires a major adjustment. What if the government raise your taxes, will you give an excuse that you can no longer pay your bills? Do we charge the government that our taxation is too much? Maybe so, but with God we give back what belongs to God equally in percentage from our income. No matter how big or small you make we all give ten percent. This is what God expects of us. Our heart attitude in giving should be out of our love for Christ and that is really what matters. Let’s consider this truth. God owns everything. He can bless, He can withhold and He can take away. God said,
You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me. But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.” Deut. 8:17-18.
We have a source that is inexhaustible. Can God not supply all our needs when He created the universe from nothing and He is our Sovereign Lord and Almighty God? Jesus promised “all these things will be given to you as well.” He will when we obey and trust Him by faith. Paul experienced God’s faithfulness as he obeyed and trusted in his God,
“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:19
Tithing is one of the subjects that pastors shy away from preaching to their congregation if possible. But believers will miss out on the truth and promise of God to meet and secure our financial needs if kept ignorant. While the world will go into financial crisis, our hope and dependence is not in the world but in God who owns everything and is able to supply our every need. Unbelievers will criticize tithing that the church and the pastor only need their money. This is true because they do not yet believe and obey the gospel. God does not need our money but it is for the glory of God when we obey that He will show His faithfulness and rich provision for His people.
“To the faithful you show yourself faithful.” Ps. 18:25 As we begin this New Year, it is good that we start with knowing how we please God by our obedience in being stewards of what He has bless us with and entrusted us with money to meet our needs. For those who are already obedient in tithing, continue in your obedience and be faithful. Those who have not yet taken this step of obedience, take a step of faith to obey and test the faithfulness of God as He promised, only then can you know by experience that He is faithful and true.
If it cost Jesus His life to fulfill all righteousness, what is giving back to God the tithe that belongs to Him. It is not ours. There are other goals God will reveal to us in 2011 and we will continue to seek them out.