Intro: The world is in a mess and calamities are happening one after another in various places around the world. Where is God in all these? I’m sure you heard of the earthquake in New Zealand where145 persons have died and 300 missing including 14 Filipinos. Then the volcano in Sorsogon recently erupted and more earthquakes in Russia, Fiji and many other places but not big news because there are no deaths. Then there was this extreme cold and heavy snow in the northeast. So, where’s global warming? Then there is this warning of solar storm that could cause power cuts. Then there are countries in the Middle East revolting against their government like Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Jordan, Algeria and Libya. Here in the US government workers protesting against their State in Wisconsin and Ohio. People are angry. Many analysts are expecting an economic meltdown and crisis and the worse is yet to come. We are headed toward a One World government and the United States is losing its power and over taken by other countries. And the list can go on and on. So where is God in all these?
Thank God we have the Scriptures to answer this question to us who believe. Who then is responsible in causing all these calamities? God says,
“I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I the Lord, do all these things.” Isa. 45:7
When Katrina hit the US and Ondoy in the Philippines, where was God?
“The Lord sit enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever.” Ps. 29:10
This is the God of the Bible. He is Sovereign and in all these He is in full control. What about the revolutions and other events? God allowed this in order to fulfill what Jesus said will surely happen.
“When you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened, these things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.” Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines, and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.” Luke 21:9-11
Are these happening now? Yes it is. What about the revolutions? Who is behind these revolutions in the Middle East and even in the USA?
“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come.” Mark 3:24-26
Compare what Jesus does when He saves His people. He unites them. What about Satan? He divides and rules causing his peoples downfall.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” John 10:10a
In the life of Job, Satan can only do to Job what God allowed him to do. I believe Satan knows his days are numbered and he is making the most to kill and destroy. God is using his actions to fulfill His plan. In view of what’s happening we will see what God does to the people in the world.
“God of Love and God of Wrath”
First let’s define what wrath is. Webster defines it as – great anger, fury, often marked by a desire for vengeance. Webster agrees with God because he defines it as God’s punishment for sin. God is God and He has the right to be angry and for a just reason. He is angry because of wickedness and He takes vengeance. When evil is done to Christians this is how we respond.
“Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay” says the Lord.” Rom. 12:19
So who are those God is referring to as godless and wicked. Have you met people here in Reno who does not believe in God? They know there is God who created the heavens and the earth but deny His existence so that they will not be accountable to Him. Here’s how God describes and calls them,
“The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.” Ps. 14:1
“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.” Rom. 1:21-23
This is nothing new because this was the condition of man just after seven generations from Adam.
“The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” Gen 6:5
And what did God do? He wiped out all of mankind by flood and left only Noah and his family, a total of eight people.
Another group of people today are the religious. They follow a religion to suit their thinking and lifestyle. Since they think they are righteous by following certain practices and rituals they glory in themselves patting their backs for being good. They are not thankful because they have worked it out themselves thinking that they have earned favor with God. These are not ignorant, uneducated people but wise in their own eyes because they have degrees and have religious studies and training as religious leaders, priests of different religious sects who are idolaters. God also calls them fools because they worship images made of wood or stone representing the immortal, invisible God in human form. That man is Christ Jesus.
Were we not all guilty of the sin of idolatry? When Paul was in Athens this is what he saw. (If he went to the Philippines he would also have seen this.)
“Paul stood in the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.” Acts 17:22-23
Thank God, He had mercy on us because of our ignorance.
“In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.” Acts 17:30-31
Thank God that by His grace undeserving people receive eternal life by believing in His Son. But for those who know but refuses to turn away from the sin of idolatry and unbelief, here’s where they stand before God.
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains in him.” John 3:36
“Therefore, God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is forever praised. Amen.” Rom. 1:24-25
Therefore, is the consequence of what they do when God takes away any restraint but leave them to do as they wish. It is like those who were drowned in the flood. Given up without any hope of being saved. Isn’t it also possible that one can worship his or her own body? They could be so proud of their bodies to show it off in public. Degrading their bodies as stars in sexually provocative movies driven love of money, which is also idolatry. Another created thing are people who have died, like Mary and the saints who are being worshiped. As a result they are so filled with the cravings for sex to satisfy their passion disregarding any moral consideration.
“Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.” Rom. 1:26-27 (Homosexual relationship)
This is nothing new for this has already happened in Sodom and Gomorrah.
“The two angels arrived in Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city…Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom – both young and old – surrounded the house. They called Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.” Gen. 19:1, 4-5
The two angels appeared as men to rescue Lot and his family. But God gave every inhabitant of Sodom and Gomorrah over to death because they perverted what God has created man and woman to be in order to produce offspring. This was God’s will in His eternal plan for humankind.
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Gen. 1:27
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Gen. 2:24
Hell is not just the penalty for those God has given over but even here on earth some has suffered this sexually transmitted disease called AIDS.
Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” Rom. 1:18-32
The people who have already gained some knowledge about God, yet continue to reject Christ and the truth, choosing their own way, God gives them over to a depraved mind to be deceived.
“The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.” 2 Thess. 2:9-12
With a depraved mind one can justify anything he does as okay. If it feels good do it. Have you heard people say that we are in the 21st century and behaviors and moral standards are changing with time. Marriage between man and woman has evolved that same sex marriage is now approved and protected by law of the land. The other day as the Governor of Hawaii signed into law allowing same sex marriage an earthquake occurred that same day. It’s God saying I see that. It is now official the White House is withdrawing its defense of DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act.
One may not necessarily be doing everything listed as the result of a depraved mind but even just approving those who practice them is just as guilty. May I say this to you young people, disobedience to parents is a serious sin. This is the fifth commandment of God.
So if God is sending all these calamities as His judgment for sin how does one know that he has not been given over? Our response will tell.
“When judgments come upon the earth, the people of the world learn righteousness. Though grace is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness; even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil and not regard the majesty of the Lord.” Isa. 26:9b-10
When Mt. Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines, many people were saying God is punishing us resulting in the fear of the Lord. There were reports that many have been saved. It is not only through a calamity that God shows His grace, it could be through a personal problem, a dreaded disease or when one hits rock bottom and become so helpless with no one to help. When they cry out to God, He comes to the rescue of those who cannot help themselves.
For those who are already saved, forgiven and possessing eternal life, let me remind us where we came from and how we were rescued and got saved.
“All of us lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.” Eph. 2:3-5
In the past God judged the people of the world because of their sins, but He preserved His people from His wrath and gave them this instruction.
“Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by. See the Lord is coming out of his dwelling to punish the people of the earth for their sins. The earth will disclose the blood shed upon her; she will conceal her slain no longer.” Isa. 26:20-21 (Babies who die by abortion)
A day is coming when God’s wrath will be poured out on the whole earth but thank God, He will spare those who are already in Christ and snatch them up to be with Christ and meet Him in the air. This is called the rapture.
What about you? Where are you in these?
Intro: How does one become passionate for something or in someone? When I was first introduced into playing golf, I did not really enjoy it. It was frustrating at first when I would sometimes miss hitting the ball. It was difficult to discipline my eyes because in a split second that your eyes are not on the ball before hitting it you will miss it. They call that butterfly. It is a very challenging sport and you cannot learn it overnight. But once you get hooked to it you will have the passion to keep on improving yourself. Gina called herself a golf widow because I would spend more time in the golf course than spending it with her. And when betting was involved in the game it became a challenge and the passion to improve and get better grew more and more. The night before a game I would already plan out in my mind how I would play the course and imagine where I would drive the ball and learn from my previous mistakes. That was my passion and the more I played the more I became passionate. Thank God that passion was replaced.
Last Sunday we saw the passion of Christ and Paul’s passion for Christ. I believe that as he grew in knowing his Lord and grew in his love for Christ he became passionate to serve His Master out of his love and gratitude for what He has done for him. Today we will look how one’s passion can grow.
“Passion for Christ Grows Out of Worship”
“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I.” Send me!” He said, “Go tell this people: “Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes,and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn and be healed.” Isa. 6:1-10
Isaiah was already a prophet of God and given the revelations of God in the first five chapters of this book. At this time God showed him in a vision at the time when Judah’s king died. God showed him the true King and Lord Almighty. He saw God in His temple. He saw the holiness of God that even the seraphs which are heavenly beings, covered their faces and feet in the presence of a holy God and declaring the holiness of God. They were saying it three times and I believe they attributed the holiness of God to the three persons in the Trinity. Isaiah saw the holiness of God, the power of God that shook the temple and the glory of God. He was worshiping God.
How did he respond to what he saw? He realized who he was in the presence of a holy God. He saw himself a sinner and pronounced judgment on himself saying woe to me. What was the sin that he was convicted of? Unclean lips. What would that sin be in God’s commandment? “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” That is the sin of lying and deceitfulness. Not being truthful. Even a careless and unkind word that is hurtful to others. Where does this unclean lips originate? It comes from the heart. According to the prophet Jeremiah this is the condition of our hearts. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.” There is only one who never sinned with his lips, Jesus Christ.
“He committed no sin and no deceit was found in his mouth.” 1 Pet. 2:22
When one sees the holiness of God only then will we see how filthy we are.
Isaiah have also seen how the people around him lived with deceitful lips, and guilty of bearing false testimony in other words, they were not truthful, gossipers and deceiving one another and even themselves.
So what hope did Isaiah have after realizing how he has also sinned with a lying tongue? The seraphs flew to him with live coals coming from the altar and touched his mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken out and your sin atoned for.” Live coal stands for fire coming from God. I believe for us today that is the Holy Spirit who convicts us of sins and so that when we confess our sins, our guilt is taken away, giving us the assurance that all our sins forgiven and are atoned for. How significant this is to us today under the New Covenant, when we come together for worship, God has this promise for us? That God will be in our midst. We already have the Holy Spirit in us so when we come together to worship and lift up the name of Jesus, the Triune God is present for as we honor the Son, God the Father is glorified. In the last book of the Old Testament, here’s what God said to the priests,
“And now this admonition is for you, O priests. If you do not listen, and if you do not set your heart to honor my name,” says the Lord Almighty, “I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not set your heart to honor me.” Mal. 2:1-2.
Do you know that we can come to worship the Lord and still be displeasing to God? This was true before we became Christians and can still be true even after becoming a Christian. Here is what God sees in our hearts,
The Lord says, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up of only of rules taught by men.” Isa. 29:13
Jesus also quoted this in the New Testament, when he called the religious Pharisees as hypocrites in Matt. 15:7-9. When our minds wander when the Word is preached and check our I-phones for messages from time to time.
Do you know that under the new covenant every believer is a priest who can come to God’s presence and intercede in behalf of others and for himself?
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Pet. 2:9
God gave us this promise when we worship Him with a pure heart.
“Worship the Lord your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you, and none will miscarry and be barren in your land. I will give you a full life span.” Ex. 23:25-26
Is God referring only to women who will miscarry and be barren? I believe this means also that when we worship the Lord, God will use us to reproduce offspring He will save through our witness and preaching of the gospel.
Isaiah hears the call of God. God opened his eyes to see God in all His glory and his ear were opened to hear and listen to the conversation of God. “Whom shall I send and who will go for us.” Notice that there are two pronouns in their conversation. I and us. We see the reference of “I” here as being the Lord Jesus Christ and “us” the Triune God, Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. This is what Jesus said after His resurrection.
Again Jesus said,“Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” John 20:21-23
Jesus left His throne in heaven to come down and become flesh in order to be the sacrificial lamb to take away the sins of the world. He alone and no one else have the authority to forgive sins. He is also the one who sends his disciples to go and preach the gospel. When he said, “if you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven” Christ is giving every believer the privilege to have the sins of their love ones, relatives and friends and anyone when they share the gospel with them. We are not the one who will forgive but only to bring to them the message how their sins can be forgiven. If we don’t, then their sins are not forgiven and remains lost and may be lost forever.
When Isaiah heard the call and because his guilt was taken away, how did he respond? “Here am I. Send me.” Was this his choice. Yes, it was. I say that because God did not say to him, “Isaiah I am sending you.” It was his response to the vision that he saw and the voice of God he heard. I believe that when one sees the glory of God and God Himself he will do anything for God and especially when he recognizes and considers the grace of God that saved an unworthy sinner from going to hell. Isaiah saw himself cursed because of his unclean lips but God sent the seraphs to remove his guilt and his sins atoned for by the promised Messiah to come.
After Isaiah responded to the call, what instruction did he receive from God?
“Go and tell this people.” Who are the people God was sending Isaiah to? He was sending them to the Israelites, the chosen nation though not every one He will save. He was sending them to this people with hard hearts, with deaf ears and blind eyes. This was the condition of the people that Isaiah will be preaching to. Notice now the specific message he was to tell the people.
“Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing but never perceiving.” The Israelites were the first people that God has revealed himself yet they did not believe and became more rebellious to God. Has this changed today? When God opened heaven to the Gentiles who are far more numerous than the Israelites, are they all responding to the Christ?
Statistics show that in Nevada 90-95 percent are un-churched. And the rest are all those who claim to Christians though not all are true believers. At that time when God sent Isaiah to tell the people only ten percent heard and responded to the message. It was a hard message because it was a rebuke to people who knew God thru their forefathers. Then Isaiah asked the Lord,
“For how long, O Lord?” And he answered: “Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant, until the houses are left deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged, until the Lord has sent every one away and the land is utterly forsaken. And though a tenth remains in the land, it will again be laid waste. But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.” Isa. 6:11-13
This was God’s prophecy for the Israelites that was fulfilled when they were exiled to Babylon for seventy years. But who is the holy seed referred to as the stump that remained after the oak tree was cut down?
“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” Isa. 11:1
That shoot is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ the holy seed. Jesse is the father of David in the line of Jesus. All those He saves are His fruit.
So, who did Jesus send just as Isaiah was sent by God? Who will be given the privilege to be used by God to bear fruit, fruit that will last meaning souls saved by Christ through the preaching of the gospel.
“Then the eleven disciples (minus Judas) went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said,“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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 everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matt. 28:16-20
These eleven were the ones who followed Jesus and spent three years to be with Him as His faithful disciples. Believers who were willing to be taught and received instructions from Jesus how they were to live their lives and how to serve Him. When they saw Jesus who was raised from the dead in all His glory, “they worshiped Him.” This was their first formal worship of their Lord who paid the price of their redemption. They were with him as a man in flesh and blood. They saw him die on the cross and buried to fulfill what He said in advance. Then finally saw Him as He said that he would be raised to life in a new body with all His glory. So when they saw Him they worshiped Him on the mountain where Jesus said He will meet them, they saw their God just as Isaiah did in all His glory and splendor.
What happened to them after that? They were never the same for after they received and filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter became the first evangelists proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. And after his preaching together with the others, and about 3,000 were saved on that day. He was passionate to preach his Lord Christ. He pleaded with them as though God were making his appeal through them.
“With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted the message were baptized and about three thousand were added to their number.” Acts 2:40-41.
When you come to worship with your heart set to honor the Son, you will hear from Him through the still small voice just as Paul and Barnabas heard from the Holy Spirit.
“In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Branabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen ( who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.” Acts 13:1-3
They were the first missionaries to the Gentiles. Can that be anyone of us? Yes. We are already given the appointment as Ambassadors of Christ at large. We need only to respond when we hear the call of God to us. But what is our heart attitude when we come to worship Our Lord Jesus Christ? Do we have a heart set to worship out of our love for Him and desires to honor and glorify Him? Then expect God to speak to your hearts even as you see Him only by faith. You are blessed and will bless Him.
You may be here today and God’s call to you is to come to the Lord Jesus Christ in order for Him to forgive you and receive eternal life? Then come.
God may be speaking to you to follow Him in water baptism, Come. Or you may be here and called to be added to this body. Come. God may be speaking to you for a special assignment, Come. Whatever you are hearing from the Holy Spirit respond as Isaiah said, “ Here I am.” Send and use me.
Intro: Every one of us has a passion for something. So, what are you passionate about? Here’s Webster’s definition of what passion is. It is an intense or overpowering emotion such as love, joy, hatred or anger. It can be an intense enthusiasm or interest on a particular subject or activity. Last week before the super bowl there were four men friends that were featured in the news by MSN about their passion to be at every Super Bowl, but they will miss going to this game for the first time. Passion could be for the arts, music or sports even in what you are working on. We call this workaholic.
Tomorrow many will show their passion for their love ones. Should this only be for this special day? If you love your wife or husband shouldn’t it be for 365 days a year? If you want to treat your wife to a special dinner, don’t do it tomorrow night. There’s going to be a long line and long wait for a table. Do it the next day. What about the passion of hatred, enough to even commit suicide in order to kill. Then there are the religious fanatics. That’s passion too. To be passionate is not necessarily wrong for there are good passions and also bad. In the NT Paul gives advise to the unmarried to stay single but if they cannot control themselves its better to marry than to burn with passion. Today we will look at the highest and noblest of all passions. I borrowed this title from the movie and added.
“But the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.” John 14:31
“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sin against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf:Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, ‘In time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ I tell you now is the day of salvation.” 2 Cor. 5:14-6:1-2.
I used to work for an ambassador of the Philippines to Japan. He represented the President on matters of mutual interest for the two countries. When he speaks to the President of Japan he was speaking for and in behalf of his President. But he was only limited to this country and didn’t have any business with the rest of the Japanese people nor to other nations. But every born again believer of Jesus is an Ambassador of Christ. His territory is not limited to one country but to the whole world. His primary mission is to tell the whole world from the most ordinary person to the highest the good news of God. And when one is to represent his Master, he must know what the message is and how to deliver it. There is a protocol. In other words there is a way and manner how to deliver this message of reconciliation in an effective way. And what will drive one to do this? his passion for Christ.
So let’s first see what was the passion of Christ? A simple truth to answer this question is Christ had the passion to do the will of His Father.
“I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees the Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” John 5:19.
But what compelled Him to have this passion? When Jesus was about to be crucified which He already knew was coming, He made an appeal with His Father if there was another way so as to avoid the cross. God said there is no other way and didn’t even have to say anything because the answer was no. Did Jesus lose his passion to do the will of His Father? NO. Three times he pleaded and three times he submits “not my will but your will be done.” Why was He willing to go through the pain and suffering of being mocked, humiliated spat on, beaten up with multiple lashes and finally be nailed on the cross to pay for the sins of the world. It was because He never doubted the love of His Father for Him.
“For the Father loves the Son and shows Him all He does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life even so the Son gives life to who he is pleased to give.” John 5:20-21.
Two things Jesus stated here about His Father. God His Father loves Him and He will also raise Him three days after He dies. This is the passion that made Him do what He did. The love of God His Father was the compelling reason Jesus did not lose His passion to do the will of God. He did what He did, out of His love for His Father. And because of what Jesus will accomplish His Father promises this to Him.
“Moreover, the Father judges no one but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” John 5:22-23.
Jesus ultimately accomplished what He came for by offering Himself as a sacrifice to die on that cruel cross in order to pay for our sins. And for that,
“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” Phil. 2:9-11
Now then, who had this passion for Christ with the passion of Christ? The apostle Paul said this, “For Christ’s love compels us.” Compelled him to do what? Everything that Jesus commanded him to do and here’s why?
“We are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” 2 Cor. 5:14b-15
Paul knew about Adam because he knew the Scriptures from the OT. That’s why he wrote this in Romans,
“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.” Rom. 5:12
Then he said, “He died for all that those who live…” Who are those he referred to as those who live? They are those who have been saved and given this new life in Christ. And what is the evidence of this new life?
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” 2 Cor. 5:17
Something miraculous happens to one who is in Christ. I cannot forget the first thing that I felt was to be forgiven of all my sins after I repented and received Christ into my heart. How did I know that? My conscience was cleared of guilt and then I felt a deep sense of God’s love. I had been reconciled with God. No longer separated but now a child of God.
Did you know that Paul had a passion before he became a Christian? He had a passion for his religion that of Judaism. Paul had a worldly point of view about people who were not of his religion and worse of all he had a wrong view of who Jesus Christ was. We can call him a fanatic for his religious belief because he had the followers of Christ put in prison and approved of Stephen’s stoning to death. Here’s his passion for his religious beliefs,
“If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eight day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. But whatever was to my profit I now consider a loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” Phil. 3:4b-9
All his wrong view of Christ was changed and put right by the Holy Spirit. His focus and passion was to preach the reason for what has become of him.
“When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.” 1 Cor. 2:1-5
What is this power Paul was referring to in his preaching? The gospel.
“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first of the Jew, 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
This is what Paul was saying that his righteousness came from God. He was saved by the grace of God when Jesus spoke to him on the road to Damascus. He got blinded yet Jesus did not tell him the gospel. Jesus sent his disciple by the name of Ananias to tell him the good news. Jesus already did what He came to do. He preached the good news, lived it and then finished it by dying on the cross. God vindicated Him by raising Him from the dead, meaning God accepted His offering and he gives Him now the authority and power to save and give eternal life. He uses now His disciples to proclaim the gospel. Ananias was hesitant to go for fear of persecution by Saul whose name was later changed to Paul, and wanted to excuse himself.
“The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.” “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” Acts 9:11-16
What if you were in Ananias’ shoes will you go right away? Jesus had to order him twice. Notice the first time Jesus said go to the house… but after he was making excuses, Jesus gave him an emphatic command, “Go!” What if God brings to your path someone He wants you to tell about him, can you say, I have already a plan or perhaps this is a man who is devout in his religion and will be impossible to get save or I could get in trouble because he is my supervisor. Can you imagine if Ananias insisted and did not go, where will Paul be? But that is not possible because the Holy Spirit inside Ananias convicted him by the Word of Christ and gave him the faith to go.
Did Paul suffer according to what Jesus said? Yes and I believe Paul suffered just as much as the other apostles if not more. But it did not discourage him from pursuing his mission to proclaim the gospel to the Gentile nations. He was so thankful and grateful to what the Lord Jesus Christ did for him that he was willing to suffer whatever it takes to bring the good news to the nations. In all the sufferings he went through for the cause of the gospel he had this heart attitude and passion for Christ, his Lord.
“For Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Cor. 12:10
So what is your passion? Last two Sundays we saw the focus of a soldier of Christ, an athlete running the race prepares himself and the farmer works hard to plow and sow and patiently wait for the harvest. Just like Paul, the only way we can be driven with the “Passion for Christ” is to know how much Christ loves us. Here’s Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians,
“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of the fullness of God.” Eph. 3:17b-19
I believe we too can have the passion for Christ just as Paul had because this is what God desires for us to be. We can have the passion of Christ and for Christ by this truth when we believe and consider ourselves to have died.
“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
We are ambassadors of Christ given the authority to represent Him to tell the world with a message to all people that will save them from going to hell.
“As though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” 2 Cor. 5:20b
You may be here today and know you are not yet saved and the Holy Spirit is convicting you of your need to repent of your sins and to surrender your life to Christ as your Lord and Savior. Be reconciled to God.” Consider this truth and make this speak to you personally,
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us (you), so that in him we (you)might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Cor. 5:21
And this is the gospel that will save you when you believe and receive Gods provision for your sins,
“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: It is a big day in America today it’s the Super Bowl. I wonder if everyone is tested for steroids that they will all pass the test. I don’t know if this is prohibited in this game but in the Olympics it is prohibited for an athlete to take this “performance enhancing” drug. There were a number of athletes in the past who were disqualified because they broke the rules. That simply is cheating. There was one who won the gold in the Olympic track and field and after many years was guilt stricken and confessed that she took steroids and gave up her medal. We are continuing today the passage we looked into last Sunday about the mission of kingdom citizens.
“Victory is in Jesus”
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
After the apostle Paul compared serving for the kingdom like a soldier with one focus to please his commanding officer, he moves to use an athlete as another example in the service of the King. He had in mind competing in track and field to win the price. But this is more of the marathon. Before one enters to compete in this sport one has to be physically fit and has spent days and years of hard training. Unlike the 100 meter dash, the marathon is a test of endurance in fact everyone who competes is a winner if he completes the 26 mile course. Of course in any competition there is a rule to keep. I will now shift to using the Christian life instead of Kingdom life that mean the same. In Paul’s letter to the Corinthian Christians he wrote, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets a price? Run in such a way as to get the price. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly. I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” 1 Cor. 9:24-27 So we see what is necessary is preparation through hard training and knowing the rules to observe in running the race. Is this race a competition? I believe what Paul is driving at is we are competing with ourselves. In the Christian life our battle is within ourselves. We have the flesh and we have our spirit who is now alive. Before we got saved we were controlled by our sinful nature referred to as the flesh. But now we have two natures, the sinful nature and the divine nature because of the presence in us of the Holy Spirit. This is where the competition is. The flesh wants to do what is contrary to the Spirit. Here is how Paul explained this to the Christians in Galatia, “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Gal. 5:16-18
Isn’t this true? When you read in the Bible a command and the Holy Spirit gives you the understanding, immediately the sinful nature will resist the change and the battle begins. Your spirit wants to do what Christ wants you to do but the sinful nature will resist and also wants you to do what is contrary to the Spirit. So now what do we do? Go back to 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.” Run to the cross and crucify your sinful nature and believe this truth.
“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
When you consider that your sinful nature has died then who lives? Christ. Then the Holy Spirit gives power to our spirit to obey whatever command the Lord gave us. The passage where Paul said he beats his body to make it a slave, he was referring to making his body a slave to righteousness and no longer a slave to sin. Remember what Jesus said to the Pharisees, they teach and make people obey the law yet they themselves do not do what they preach. Likewise whatever I preach to you and I do not live what I preached I disqualify myself for the prize. That is not losing my salvation but I will lose my reward for the service I did. The prize is not salvation. The prize is the crown for winning the race that I will receive from Christ. That’s why pastors and teacher will be more accountable to God because they preach and teach and when they fail to do what they preach they will lose their reward. They stand to be called hypocrites. But did this discourage Paul? Not at all, that’s why he said I beat my body. Just like what Jesus said, if your eye causes you to sin pluck it out, or if your hand causes you to sin cut it off. It is better to enter heaven with one eye and one hand than be thrown into hell. What Jesus is saying is you don’t fool around with sin. That’s how serious sin is that’s why people go to hell because of sin. So then, is being a teacher or a preacher something to be avoided and refused? Paul said,
“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service.” 1 Tim. 1:12
When God call teachers of the law and preachers is a great privilege God gives those who have prepared themselves and trained like an athlete. This could be any of you when you have grown in your spiritual life and are ready for the assignment, God will call. You have a race to run.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Heb. 12:1
Sin is a hindrance and if it is not dealt with we will miss the prize. It is like a trap that if we allow ourselves to fool around with sin we will be caught and the picture is we get entangled and hard to get out. The cloud of witnesses are people watching us both Christians and unbelievers. Satan can only tempt us to sin and shame the name of Christ and destroy our testimony, that’s why we have to be very careful and be alert that we do not fall into sin. The only way to fight this battle is our response to the gospel and avail of its power always recognizing that self has to die.
“Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him.” 2 Tim. 2:11-12
Now we go to the hardworking farmer. I have never been a farmer but I do not need to be one to know what they do. Farming is hard work. It is even harder when you start with a field that has not yet been prepared. The ground is hard, filled with rocks and bushes to clear. Then when the land is cleared then it is plowed to break the soil before planting the seed. Then we wait for the right time to plant so that the harvest will also be at the right season. Especially here it is very important that the harvest will not be during winter. This is the picture of work in advancing God’s kingdom. When the Paul was called and given an assignment, he was going to farm in a virgin land with unprepared soil. He went to the Gentiles where they haven’t heard about Christ, to a pagan world where hearts were hard. It needed a lot of watering first to soften the ground before seed can be planted. Water in the Bible represents the Word among other things. Paul was a church planter and he had to go to an un-churched area. But here was his confidence and what he was relying on. First he realizes how he got saved and what he has became,
“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” 1 Cor. 15:10
This was the compelling reason that drove him to work hard for his Master. We have just learned from our study yesterday in “Experiencing God” that what God initiates he completes.
The Lord Almighty has sworn, “Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will stand.” Isa. 14:24
Paul also confessed, that though he worked harder than all of the other apostles, God was the one who accomplished His purposes through him. If Paul claimed the glory for himself he would have lost his reward and disqualified from the prize. He acknowledged that it was the grace of God that enabled him to do what he did. How? Because Paul died to self and it is Christ living in him by the Holy Spirit who was doing the work. He even went through hardship, persecution and physical sufferings yet he endured and persevered to finish the race that was marked out for him. God has a plan and assignment marked out for every child of His. Every citizen of the kingdom has a purpose and work to do which God has already planned.
“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for work of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of God.” Eph. 4:11-13
This is God’s plan for His kingdom He reduced to many local body of Christ called the church. God continues to work through the body His purpose in growing all of us to maturity for He has an assignment for everyone to the level of their maturity. God saved each one of us for His purpose and the work that He will assign to each one.
“For we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Eph. 2:10
As we grow in our love for Christ demonstrated by our obedience to His every command, God will work in us, and for us to work out.
“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed – not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence – continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” Phil. 2:12-13
To summarize the passage Paul wrote to Timothy describing the Christian life as likened to a soldier, an athlete and as a farmer let us never forget why God saved us. We are saved for the glory of God. This is why we should do what we ought to do.
But now, this is what the Lord says – he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you: I have summoned you by name; you are mine. I will say to the north, ‘give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth – everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Isa. 43:1, 6b-7
As a soldier of Christ we are not to be involved in civilian affairs. Meaning that we have one single purpose and focus, to please our commanding officer, the Lord Jesus Christ. WE are to do what He commands. We are in the world but not of the world. We no longer live as the world does. There ought to be a distinction as to who we are from the citizens of the world. We are strangers, aliens and pilgrims on a tourist visa because our citizenship is now in heaven. We no longer live the way we use to live.
As an athlete, we need to grow strong spiritually through practice by living out what we know how this new life in Christ ought to be, conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ. This needs a healthy diet of spiritual food, by reading and studying the Word of God. Then exercising by putting in practice what we have learned and as Paul said beating his body to be a slave to do what is right. To be very careful that we observe the rule by obeying exactly what the Lord has commanded us. Picture now a marathon race that there is a lead car that is followed by the runners. The closer you are to the car the possibility that you get lost along the way is zero. Those lagging behind and lose sight of the lead car can lose their way and go the wrong way. I see the picture of our good Shepherd who leads the way and have feet like the deer. The hind feet steps to where the front feet leave off. That is the safest place to be as close to the Shepherd.
And lastly we are to do the work as a farmer. A hardworking farmer will reap what he planted. He takes care of his crop and wait patiently for its growth until harvest time. Then gets the first to share the fruit of his labor.
I believe what Paul was emphasizing here is sharing the joy of those whom the Lord saves as a result of his labor. He wasn’t expecting his reward here on earth but to hear from his Master well done good and faithful servant. And it was enough for Paul to receive this share of the crop here on earth,
“For what is our hope and joy, or crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed you are our glory and our joy.” 1 Thess. 2:19-20
Paul was not giving glory to himself but in Christ for the privilege of sharing in the harvest of the crop. Everyone Jesus saved through the preaching of Paul, Christ was glorified. Paul was not proud when he wrote as inspired by the Holy Spirit that because he shared in the sufferings of Christ, he will also share in his glory. He experienced the glory of God in his life by the joy of seeing the harvest of souls that resulted from his labor. As the angels in heaven rejoiced over one sinner who repents, there is also this joy when God uses you to lead those He draws to Christ.
Jesus came to seek and to save His people who are lost. Now that He is in heaven, we are called to continue what He came for to seek, and He saves His people. So then, who will He use to seek them and are willing to be sent. I thank the Lord for those who will be attending an evangelism training tomorrow. I don’t know how far this will equip us but even just to whet our appetite and be challenged to be willing as farmers who will work hard to sow and harvest in the Lord’s harvest field. Will you come forward to the altar and consecrate yourselves to be used by the Lord for His glory.
The Lord may be calling you to be a part of His body by becoming a member, come and respond to His call.
You may be here and are not yet saved and born again and the Holy Spirit is convicting you of your sins and showing you your need to be saved and receive God’s forgiveness come. Come to Jesus.