Revelation 10 – Part 2

“Then I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. But when I had eaten it, my stomach became bitter.” Revelation 10:10

In Revelation 10, a second interlude interrupts the sequence between the sixth and seventh trumpets. The focus shifts, temporarily, from the outpouring of God’s wrath on unbelieving earth dwellers, to the consolation and encouragement of believers. This brief interlude reinforces the fact that things in this world are not what they seem. Believers in Jesus know there is a war going on and that at any moment the intermittent attacks and brief clashes in the battle between good and evil will erupt into the worst spiritual and physical conflict the world has ever seen. Yet God emphasizes that we, like the apostle John, have a crucial role to play. 1

Following the mighty angel’s oath stating that God will not delay His full and final judgment of rebellious humanity to avenge the wrongs done to His people (10:1-7; cf. 6:10),  the apostle John writes, “Then the voice which I heard from heaven spoke to me again and said, ‘Go, take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and on the earth.’” (Revelation 10:8). The voice “from heaven” (God the Father’s or God the Son’s) told John to “take the little book” or scroll which the mighty angel with authority over the whole planet (“who stands on the sea and on the earth”) was holding.

This “little book” represents God’s message. God’s Word is never forced on any person; he or she must take it. God’s messenger must be a willing messenger, not a draftee, but one who has put out his hand and heart to the task. 2

“So I went to the angel and said to him, ‘Give me the little book.’ And he said to me, ‘Take and eat it; and it will make your stomach bitter, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth.’” (Revelation 10:9). When John asked for the “little book” containing God’s revelation that the remainder of the Book of Revelation, or at least part of it, contains, 3 the angel told him to “Take and eat it.” The angel was telling John to receive God’s revelation, but he also warned him, “It will make your stomach bitter, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth.” God’s message would “make his stomach bitter” due to the terrible judgments to take place on the earth, but it will also “be as sweet as honey” knowing God’s plans will be brought to completion.

“Then I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. But when I had eaten it, my stomach became bitter.” (Revelation 10:10). As John focused on this revelation from God (“took…and ate” the scroll) it was pleasant at first receiving God’s message (“it was as sweet as honey in my mouth”), but as he understood the terrible judgments to take place, he was distressed (“my stomach became bitter”).

To John the Word of God was indeed sweet with its revelation of the grace of God and its many precious promises that belong to believers. As such it sharply contrasted with his circumstances on Patmos Island. David stated, ‘The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.’ (Psalm 19:9-10). Though the Word is sweet to believers, it will be bitter to unbelievers when it brings divine judgment on them.” 4

Much of God’s Word is sweet to those who are His children. Those who believe in Christ for His gift of salvation have no need to fear His future judgment since Christ already bore the judgment we deserved (John 5:24). We can trust God’s never changing goodness and His faithfulness to His promises.

Some of God’s plans are bitter especially for those who have no hope in Christ. God’s judgments, trials, and tribulations are hard for some people to swallow. Many are unable to see or understand how God can bring good out of their difficulties (Romans 8:28). Instead, they are overwhelmed with hopelessness and fear.

We are also reminded that we can trust that all of God’s ways – the sweet and the sour – are right and reliable. Because God is good and nothing is ever out of His control, we can be confident that He will use all things – even the deeds of evil people – to accomplish His purposes. Job’s words resonate with this truth: “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10). 5

Next John writes, “And he said to me, ‘You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings.’” (Revelation 10:11). Even when the Word of God is not what people want to hear, then, the man of God must continue to proclaim it. 6

Notice that John is instructed to “prophesy again,” a second time regarding the seven-year Tribulation “about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings.” Concerning the word “again” (palin) Thayer says that “it denotes renewal or repetition of the action.” 7Pentecost writes, This would seem to be a divine notice that, since John has taken us through the entire period once, it is God’s intention to have him retrace his way through the period again.” 8

According to Revelation 10:11, chapters 11-19 survey the seventieth week of years (Tribulation) a second time with a view to revealing the specific characters on the stage of the drama. These characters will include the Two Witnesses (11:1-12); the Woman, representing Israel (12:1-2, 13, 17); the red Dragon, representing Satan (12:3-4, 9); the male Child, representing Jesus Christ (12:5-6); the archangel, Michael (12:7-12); the Beast out of the sea, representing the future World Ruler (13:2-10); the beast out of the earth, representing the False Prophet (13:11-18). This second survey terminates the Tribulation period by the return of Christ and the consequent judgment of His enemies (Revelation 19).

Finally, we learn from Revelation 10:8-11, that like the apostle John, we have roles to play in God’s prophetic plan. We are not asked to take and eat prophetic books and utter inspired words. However, Jesus has given each of us an important mission to make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:19a). We do this by going and sharing the gospel of Christ’s death and resurrection with the whole world (Mark 16:15; I Corinthians 15:3-6), followed by baptizing those who believe, and then teaching them to obey all of Christ’s commands (Matthew 28:19b-20). And just like John, we must first appropriate this message, allowing it to become a part of our own lives before we pass it on to others.

Much emphasis is placed upon the love of God today, but His coming worldwide judgment of evil is often ignored or denied. John makes it clear that no one and nothing can hinder the eternal Creator God from bringing His horrific judgments to pass during the seven-year Tribulation period (10:1-11). This should cause all of us to pause and take God more seriously.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, like the apostle John, we sometimes find Your Word to be both sweet and bitter. Oh, how sweet is Your unchanging goodness and everlasting promises in Christ! Yet how bitter is Your judgment of sin and the adversity that You allow in our lives to make us more like Jesus. Like John, we also have a crucial role to play in Your prophetic plan. You have entrusted us to make disciples of all the nations by preaching Your gospel of grace to all who will listen and then training believers to grow in discipleship relationships. Please remove any resistance in our hearts to Your plan and purpose for our lives. We beg You to open doors for Your gospel to spread throughout this world and for believers in Jesus to multiply disciples until all hear His gospel message. In Jesus’ mighty name, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 207.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 121 cites William Barclay, The Revelation of John Vol. 2, The Daily Study Bible series (2nd ed. Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1964), pp. 68-69.

3. Constable, pg. 121.

4. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 164.

5. The last three paragraphs are adapted from Swindoll, pp. 207-208.

6. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2392.

7. J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come (Zondervan Academic, 2010 Kindle Edition), pg. 196 cites Joseph Henry Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1981), pg. 475.

8. Pentecost, pg. 196. 9. Ibid.

How do I defeat my worst fears? Part 1

11 But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?’ 12 So He said, ‘I will certainly be with you.’ ” Exodus 3:11-12a

In different religions, different words are important. In some faiths the important words are “strive” or “do” to earn God’s favor. In other religions the key word is “sit,” “wait,” “ponder,” or “think.”  They are more of a passive type of religion. 

In Christianity a key word is “done.” The only way you get to heaven is by what Jesus Christ has already done for you. There is nothing you can do yourself. Salvation is a free gift. Jesus did it all on the cross. He said, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). He has finished paying our sin debt to God in full. The word “believe” is another key word in Christianity. It is the word that God uses most in evangelism. It is the way we receive heaven as a free gift (John 3:15-16, 36; 11:25-26). We simply believe in Jesus for eternal life. The word “love” is also a key word in Christianity. We know God loved us by sending Jesus to die in our place (John 3:16; I John 4:9-10).

Another key word in Christianity is the word “go.” The word “go” is used well over a thousand times in the Bible. Christianity is a “going” faith. It is a going relationship. If you are a Christian, you are on a journey of growing and going. God loves to use the word “go” in the Bible. He tells Abraham, “I want you to go to a land which I will show you.”He tells Noah, “I want you to go build an ark.” He tells Joshua, “Go possess the land of Canaan.” He tells David, “I want you to go fight a giant.”He tells Nehemiah, “I want you to go and rebuild the wall of Jerusalem.” He tells Jeremiah, “Go teach My word.” Jesus, the God-Man, told His followers to “Go throughout the whole world and preach the gospel to all people.” (Mark 16:15 NLT).

All through the Bible we see God sending people out to accomplish His mission for them. The problem is most people never discover and do their life mission. Even people who are believers. Why is that? The number one reason is fear.

Lord willing, for the next few days we will discover the five major things we fear that keep us from doing God’s will. Each of these fears is demonstrated in the reaction Moses had when God told him to go to Egypt to free the Israelites (Exodus 3-4). The first forty years of Moses’ life he grew up in the palace of the Egyptian king getting the best military and educational training a guy could want (Exodus 2:1-10; Acts 7:20-22).When he turns forty, he learns the truth about his life (Acts 7:23). He is not Egyptian royalty. He is the son of Jewish slaves whose people are being beaten to a pulp building the pyramids. He says “I have got to do something about this. I am not Egyptian. I am Jewish.” 

So, Moses goes out and on his own, he tries to set the people free in his own cocky, self-willed way. He ends up killing a slave driver and must flee for his life on account of murder (Exodus 2:11-15; Acts 7:24). So, he runs across the desert and for the next forty years Moses is a nobody (Acts 7:29-30). While he is there, he becomes a shepherd tending goats and sheep. Moses marries a woman and has two sons (Exodus 2:21-22; Acts 7:29). He has made a new life, but in his own eyes, he is a nobody for forty years.

While Moses was in the desert, things had grown worse for his people in Egypt. The king of Egypt had died, and the Israelites’ bondage became unbearable (Exodus 2:23). Their cries were heard by God because He had made a covenant with Abraham to make his descendants a mighty nation and give them a great land (Exodus 2:24-25; cf. Genesis 12:3). Even while they were crying out, God was preparing a deliverer for them.

“Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian… he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God” (Exodus 3:1), which is another name for Mount Sinai (see Exod 3:12; 19:20; Deut 1:19)—the place where God would soon enter into a covenant with the nation of Israel.” 1  By this time Moses was now eighty years old (Acts 7: 23, 30). He had likely come to accept shepherding sheep for his father-in-law as his lot in life.

To get Moses’ attention, “the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush.” (Exodus 3:2a). Moses’ ordinary day was about to take a dramatic turn in pursuit of God’s plan. Moses decides to take a closer look at this burning bush which was not consumed (Exodus 3:3). When Moses responded to what God was doing, the Lord speaks to him.

“4 So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ 5 Then He said, ‘Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.’” (Exodus 3:4-5). Moses needed to humble himself in the presence of a holy God, so his sandals had to come off. He also needed to be reminded of where he came from. Man was made ‘out of the dust from the ground’ (Gen 2:7). By removing his sandals, then, Moses meekly identified with his humble beginnings.” 2

6 Moreover He said, ‘I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God.” (Exodus 3:4-6).  When Moses realizes Who is speaking to him, he took God seriously and “hid his face.”

7 And the Lord said: ‘I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows… 10 Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.’ ” (Exodus 3:7, 10). God is saying to Moses, “I have a mission for you, Moses. I want you to go back to Egypt and set my people free.” So, this is his mission.

How do you know when you have a mission from God, and not just some bad pizza you ate last night? There are three marks of a true mission from God. They are seen in these verses:

1. A true mission from God is passionate (Exodus 3:7). When you want to know God’s mission for your life it is based on God’s love. It is not motivated by more money… fame… or pleasure. A true mission from God is motivated by God’s love for other people. He says, “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows.” If God gives you a mission it is going to involve caring about other people. It is passionate. 

2. A true mission from God is personal (Exodus 3:10a). God’s mission is specifically to you. God didn’t say “I hope somebody will go set them free.” He didn’t say “I am sending a group.” He said, “I will send you to Pharaoh …” God’s mission is personal.

3. A true mission from God is practical (Exodus 3:10b). He told Moses, “I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”   “Moses, you are going to go set them free. You are going to relieve somebody’s suffering.” A true mission from God benefits other people. That is what ourmission trips in the Philippines were all about. They were about being concerned about people not having a relationship with Jesus Christ. Hearing the needs of other people, and then saying, “Let’s do something about it.”  It is based on the love of God for others.

Perhaps some of us are reluctant to be involved in the lives of others. Maybe we are afraid. It is okay to be afraid. Moses was afraid about the mission God gave him. He said, “There are five things I am afraid of, Lord.” What are the fears that keep us from doing God’s will and going where God wants us to go? Let’s look at five fears Moses possessed.

1. The fear of inadequacy. This is a big one. Inadequacy expresses itself in various ways: “I don’t think I can measure up to what God wants me to do. I’m insecure. I don’t have what it takes. I don’t know enough. I don’t have the right background. How could God use me?” This is Moses first fear: “But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?’ ” (Exodus 3:11). What is interesting is that forty years earlier Moses was full of confidence and tried on his own to set his people free from slavery and failed (Exodus 2:11-15; Acts 7:24). Sometimes after a big failure you lose your confidence. 

Figure this out. Moses is forty years old when he discovers he is not Egyptian. It is now forty years later, so he is eighty years old (Acts 7: 23, 30). Would you like to start on the adventure of your life at eighty? Moses is thinking, “I have got social security. I have got my wife, my kids, and grandkids. I have got my flocks. I sit in my lazy boy chair. That is all I want. I am comfortable. I am happy. No thanks, God. You have a mission for me? Thanks, but no thanks.” Moses is saying, “I am feeling very inadequate.”

Do you ever feel that way? Often when God says I have something for you to do, it seems much ­­bigger than you. You don’t feel adequate. Listen closely! It doesn’t matter whether you feel inadequate or not. What matters is God has chosen you. If God has chosen you, it is going to work whether you think you are qualified or not. Our life message is not about us. It is about what God chooses to do in our lives. 

What is God’s response to our fear of inadequacy? “So He said, ‘I will certainly be with you.’ ” (Exodus 3:12a). “God did not tell Moses, ‘Cheer up and believe in yourself.’ Instead, he promised him his divine presence. Moses’s greatest need (and ours too) was not self-confidence; he needed God-confidence.” 3

God’s presence is the answer to our inadequacy because one plus God equals a majority. If God is near, we will lose our fear. You and God can do anything He calls you to do! But the fear of inadequacy should not keep you from doing your life mission because God says, “I will certainly be with you.” God’s adequacy is the answer to our inadequacy and God’s presence is the answer to our panic. 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, all of us have fears. The question we need to ask is not, “Who am I?” Rather, the question to ask ourselves is, “Who is with me?” Your presence in my life eclipses my sense of inadequacy. Thank You for never leaving me nor forsaking me. People may abandon me or reject me, but You will never give up on me. This is what gives me hope every day of my life. Your grace is truly amazing. In Jesus’ powerful name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 195.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid., pg. 196.

Lessons from the risen Lord Jesus – Part 6

“Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.’ ” John 21:10

After Jesus miraculously enabled the disciples to catch a net full of fish, John recognized it was the Lord on the shore, so Peter dove into the sea to swim over to Jesus and the other disciples rode on their little boat to shore (John 21:6-8). When they arrived on shore, they saw Jesus cooking fish and bread over a fire of coals (John 21:9). John then informs us, “Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.’ ” (John 21:10). Even though there was already one “fish” 1 on the fire (John 21:9), Jesus instructed the disciples to “bring some of the fish” 2  that they had “caught” (John 21:10). Why doesn’t the Lord miraculously multiply the one fish to feed these disciples? Why does He invite them to bring some of their own fish?

There are several attempts to explain this invitation. Some suggest Jesus did this because He wanted His disciples “to feel they had contributed in some way to the meal. Most dinner guests like to contribute a dish to the meal, and Jesus may have simply been sensitive to this need.” 3  Others say “this was all symbolic of how Jesus would carry out His mission through His disciples in the future, compared with how He had done it during His pre-cross ministry.” 4 Another says, “I believe our Lord’s object was to show the disciples that the secret of success was to work at His command, and to act with implicit obedience to His word.” 5  The explanation I like the best is that Jesus simply wanted them to enjoy His company so He invites them to bring some of their fish and have a meal with Him. 6  

Some people think the resurrected Lord Jesus is a phantom or a figment of their imagination. But John is telling us in this last chapter of his gospel that the resurrected Lord Jesus is real. He has built a fire for His disciples who are tired and hungry. He is cooking some fish and bread and invites them to join Him. He is sitting around the fire with His close friends to enjoy a delicious meal while they fellowship with one another. I can just imagine them talking with Jesus about their all-night fishing expedition with nothing to show for it and then suddenly, after they cast their net on the other side of their boat, they catch so many fish they cannot even haul it into their boat. This is a real relationship with the resurrected Christ. And this is what Jesus invites us to enjoy. So our sixth lesson is this: ACCEPT JESUS’ INVITATION TO ENJOY HIS COMPANY (JOHN 21:10).

There are people who think their relationship with the resurrected Christ is so spiritual, it is not real. It does not fit into their everyday life. They can experience the resurrected Lord Jesus at church when they are singing with other believers, but it is extremely difficult for them to experience Him on Monday morning. But these verses in John 21 are telling us how we can have breakfast with Jesus on a beach in the real daily experiences of our lives. We can experience a personal relationship with the resurrected Lord Jesus.  

These seven disciples returned to fishing while they waited for Jesus to meet them in Galilee. But Jesus was there on the shore. He knew they had been fishing all night without catching anything. He knew where the fish were so He instructed them to cast their net on the other side of their boat and they caught so many fish they could not haul them all into their boat. When they arrived on the shore, He invites them to bring some of their fish to enjoy with Him.

What I believe God is saying to us is that through His Holy Spirit, Jesus is present with us no matter where we go or what we do (cf. John 14:16-18). And He wants to be part of our daily lives. He wants us to experience His presence whether we are up in the mountains or out on a lake. He wants us to experience His presence in the city or out on a farm. When we realize that Jesus’ presence is everywhere we don’t have to fit Him into certain places at certain times. He can be part of every moment of our lives.

Christ wants to hang out with His disciples. He wants to spend time with His best friends. He wanted to eat a meal with them and He had some things to share with them. And He wants to do the same with you and me.

When is the last time you hung out with the risen Lord Jesus just to hang out? Unfortunately for many of us, we are so focused on our growth and ministry for Christ and making an eternal difference for Him in the world, that we don’t just hang out with Him. Every time we relate to Him we talk about some big problem or some issue that is so huge that it tires us out spiritually.

But when is the last time we simply hung out with the risen Lord Jesus and said, “Lord, I am so glad You are here!” If you are like me, you don’t do that often enough. It feels so calming just to enjoy the company of the risen Lord Jesus. He delights in us. He celebrates us. We do not have to perform or try to be someone or something we are not.

Some of us may think that sounds really strange. After all, Jesus is up in heaven and we are down here on earth. What exactly are you talking about? But that is not completely true. Remember, since Jesus is God (John 1:1, 14; 20:28; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8; I John 5:20), His presence is everywhere through God the Holy Spirit. Through His Holy Spirit, the risen Lord Jesus lives in each of us who believe in Him (cf. John 7:37-39; Acts 10:43-47; Romans 8:11; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 1:13-14). Jesus is here. He wants to say something to our hearts and minds. Have we learned to relax in the presence of our risen Lord Jesus Christ? If not, it is one of the key lessons of the Christian life – to relax in His presence. Have you learned to let Him “cook breakfast” for you? To provide for your needs?

All of us get invitations in our email inbox. With some of those invitations, when we open them up, we say, “No way am I going to that event! That is the last place in the world I want to be!” A second kind of email invitation is when we open it up, we think, “If nothing else is going on, maybe I will go to that. If I’m not too tired from work that day, I may go to that event.” Then there is a category three kind of email. When you open it up and look at it, you say, “There is no way I am going to miss that! I am going to be at that event for sure! I am really looking forward to this!”

Every invitation from the risen Lord Jesus needs to be in category three. “There is no way I am going to miss that! I am pumped to hang out with Jesus!”

We are not talking about an email invitation from Jesus or a Facebook invite. Jesus invited His disciples when He said, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.” How do we hear invitations from the risen Lord Jesus now? And if we have heard them, how will we recognize them as being from Him? How do we know if Christ is inviting us? He is not going to show up physically on a seashore and speak audibly to us so it must be an invitation that takes place in our hearts and minds. How do we know if the risen Lord Jesus Christ is saying something to our hearts and minds?

First of all, when Jesus speaks to us it is always consistent with His Word. God the Holy Spirit is referred to as “the Spirit of truth” (John 14:17). Jesus identified Himself as “the truth” in John 14:6. Hence, the Holy Spirit communicates “truth” about Jesus. Jesus identifies the truth as the Father’s “word” in John 17:17. The Holy Spirit guides us into all truth about Jesus through God’s Word (John 15:26; 16:13). It is through the Word that the Holy Spirit tells us what to do. He does not speak audibly to us, He speaks through the truth of the Bible. He will always “testify of” Jesus (John 15:26) and teach us what He “hears” Jesus say (John 16:13-15). The Holy Spirit is not going to teach something contrary to what Jesus has already taught. He will give us the ability to do what the Word says as we depend upon Him. We need the Holy Spirit to empower us to keep Jesus’ commands (John 14:15).

Here are some ideas about how this works. Any time you have a desire to worship God, that is probably an invitation from the risen Lord Jesus. It is consistent with His Word (Psalm 22:27; 29:2; 95:1, 6, 9; John 4:23-24; Ephesians 5:18-20; Philippians 3:3; Revelation 4:2-5:14; 7:11; 14:7; 15:4; 22:9), so accept it.

Whenever you have a desire to pray about something, that is probably an invitation from the risen Lord Jesus (Matthew 5:44; 6:5-7, 9; 9:38; 26:41; Luke 11:1-2; 18:1; Colossians 4:2-3; I Thessalonians 5:17; 2 Thessalonians 3:1). Accept it.

When a thought pops in your mind and you want to do something good for another person, that may be an invitation from Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:16, 44; Galatians 6:9-10; Ephesians 2:10; 6:5-9; Philippians 2:12-13; Colossians 3:22-24). Accept it.

Or when your heart is burdened to share the gospel with someone, it is probably from the risen Lord Jesus (Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8; 8:26-39; 2 Timothy 4:2). Accept it.

Maybe some of you are naturally good and you always think of prayer, worship, doing good things for others or sharing the gospel with them because you are such a “good” person. But I am not that way. The truth is, without the risen Lord Jesus Christ in my life, I would not do those things. It is only when Jesus says, “Why don’t you worship or pray, and why don’t you do something good or share the gospel with that person?” that I have learned to do those things. Those types of thoughts are not from my “good” human nature. I have learned when those thoughts come into my mind they are from the risen Lord Jesus Christ. Whenever we have these thoughts, accept them. Accept invitations from Jesus Christ any time they come. That will be the greatest thing you have ever done. It will be the greatest party that you have ever attended. Have a real relationship with the risen Lord Jesus Christ. Don’t settle for anything less.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for showing us that You are not some phantom or figment of the imagination. You are a real historical Person Who is alive today and wants to have a real personal relationship with each of us. Thank You for speaking to our hearts and minds through the Bible and Your Holy Spirit. Help us to recognize Your voice of truth and rely upon Your Spirit to accept Your invitations whenever they come to us. Saying, “Yes,” to You, Lord Jesus, is the greatest decision we could ever make! Thank You for this adventure with You called the Christian life. I look forward to hanging out with You today. Being in Your presence is so much better than life itself. I love You, my Lord and my God. In Your matchless name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. The Greek word for “fish” is opsarion which is singular.

2. The Greek word for “fish” is opsariōn which is plural.

3. J. Carl Laney Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pp. 376-377.

4. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 391.

5. Ibid., pg. 392 cites Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John Vol. 3 (Swengel, Pa.: I. C. Herendeen, 1945; 3 vols. in 1 reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1973), pg. 313.

6. The next several paragraphs are adapted from Tom Holladay’s September 4, 1996 message entitled, “Resurrected Purpose: John 21:1-24.”

Lesson 1 Part 4 – Three principles to guide discipleship training (Video)

This is the fourth video of our Lesson 1 discipleship training. It addresses important truths for growing in the Christians life. It also looks at three essential principles that will guide the remainder of this discipleship training.

Transforming a nation and world

“Therefore hear the parable of the sower.” Matthew 13:18

Jesus explains His parable of the sower (Matthew 13:2-9) to His disciples to prepare them for the different types of responses to the preaching of God’s Word (Matthew 13:18-23). Each soil in this parable represents a different response to God’s message. Some to whom we share the gospel are like “the wayside” soil (Matthew 13:4, 19) who will not receive or believe in Jesus (Matthew 13:19; Luke 8:12).

Others are like “the stony places” (Matthew 13:5-6, 20-21) who “believe [the gospel] for a while” (Luke 8:13) but never really make a commitment to follow Christ as His disciple and “fall away” because of adversity (Matthew 13:20-21; Luke 8:13). They are “hearers only” of the Word like James talks about (James 1:22). They deceive themselves into thinking they can grow spiritually simply by hearing God’s Word without doing what it says. They are not willing to follow Jesus regardless of the costs.

A third type of person we will discover is like the seed that “fell among thorns” (Matthew 13:7, 22). These are those who believe in Jesus and start to follow Him, but they never bear much fruit because they are so distracted by worldliness and wealth (Matthew 13:22; Luke 8:14).

So far this has been disappointing. If this is the kind of response we can expect to get from many people, why go on? Jesus tells us why! He tells us not to become discouraged because eventually we will come across the fourth kind of person, a person who bears much fruit after believing the gospel (Matthew 13:8, 23; Luke 8:15). Unless we are willing to endure those who reject His message, those who fall away, and those who are too distracted, we will never discover the pure joy of finding those who are fruitful!

And notice that Jesus tells us that some of these fruitful ones will bear fruit “a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:23). One of the blessings we will experience if we continue to faithfully sow the seed of God’s Word, is that we will begin discovering these amazingly productive believers. These fruitful believers are “super spreaders” because they are super at spreading the seed of God’s Word. These are the “doers of the word” (James 1:22). They will far exceed us in witnessing and planting new churches.

The way to discover these “good soil” believers, is to train everyone in discipleship who believes the gospel! The “good soil” believers will quickly emerge. They will immediately become doers of the Word of God. As these super spreaders emerge among us, we will begin to see a more significant movement take place in our country and world as well. But the whole process begins with those who are faithful to sow the seed – to preach the gospel and train in discipleship those who believe in Jesus (Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:19-20).

This is the key to a transformed life and nation, not the political process. I believe more than ever, that Jesus is calling His church to return to the discipleship process in order to see our nation and world change for His glory! Christ implores us, “Hear the parable of the sower.” (Matthew 13:18). Will we hear and obey our Lord and Master! Perhaps today is when some of us begin  to sow the seed of His Word!!! Please know that His Word will not return to Him void, but it shall accomplish what He pleases, and it shall prosper in the thing for which He sent it (Isaiah 55:11)!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, all authority has been given to You in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). Your one and only plan to reach the world for Your glory is the discipleship process whereby we preach Your gospel message to everyone in the world, and then call those who believe Your gospel to commit to follow You as a disciple through water baptism. Then we are to teach them to obey all Your commands (Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:19-20). Please enable us to be faithful to spread the seed of Your gospel message to this world which is perishing without You, Lord Jesus! Thank You for explaining the different types of responses we can expect from our audiences as we proclaim Your Word. By Your grace, enable us to endure those who reject Your message, those who fall away, and those who are too distracted, so we may discover the pure joy of finding those who are super at spreading the seed of Your Word to others!!! Your discipleship process is what transforms individuals, nations, and the world, not a political process. Please forgive us for looking in the wrong places for transformation. I beg You to bring us back to the basics of the Bible and the discipleship process, my Lord and my God. May Your Holy Spirit give us the boldness and vision to pursue You and Your discipleship process until all hear Your gospel message!!! Thank You for the assurance that You are always with us as we make disciples for Your glory (Matthew 28:20b). In Your matchless name I pray Lord Jesus. Amen.

What is God’s response to the proud?

“Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; though they join forces, none will go unpunished.” Proverbs 16:5

This verse really hit home with me today. God detests or loathes (“abomination”) those who are “proud in heart.” Pride is what led Lucifer or Satan, the most beautiful and intelligent of all God’s angels, to rebel against God and establish a rival kingdom (cf. Isaiah 14:12-14; Ezekiel 28:11-19). If that is not enough reason to avoid pride, then know that no proud person will “go unpunished” even “though they join forces.” This last phrase literally means “though they are hand to hand.”

An example of this unified effort of proud people is seen in the making of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11. When the people of the world tried to preserve their unity and make a name for themselves by building a magnificent tower whose “top is in the heavens” lest they “be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:1-4), the Lord came down and “scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth” by confusing their “language” which held them together (Genesis 11:9). God had instructed the people to “fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28; 9:1), but they rebelled against God’s will and placed their security in a large city and tower. God confused their language to force them to do what they were unwilling to do – “fill the earth.”

This spirit of Babel can be seen in the early church in Jerusalem. When the early church in Jerusalem refused to obey Jesus’ command to spread the gospel beyond Jerusalem (Acts 1:8; 2:1-6:7), the Lord allowed persecution to scatter them “throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria” (Acts 6:8-8:4).

The Lord Jesus has commanded all Christians to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to everyone” (Mark 16:15) and to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…” (Matthew 28:19). When believers place their security in large gatherings of Christians instead of in the Lord Jesus Christ and refuse to go to the lost, He may bring difficulties into their lives to persuade them to obey His command to go to the lost people of a different culture or nation.

It is much better to obey the Lord than to act independently of Him. God is not against large churches. But He is against the proud who refuse to obey His commands. “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). When pride fills our hearts, we are declaring war against God.But please understand this: No one has ever won a fight against God and no one ever will.

Just ask the kings of Egypt (Exodus 1-14) and Babylon (Daniel 4-5). They were proud men who thought they had built their kingdoms on earth and no one could destroy them. They viewed the God of the Bible as a powerless deity or as a figment of one’s imagination. Each of them learned the truth of Proverbs 16:5 the hard way. “Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; though they join forces, none will go unpunished.”  

Those of us who are believers in Jesus Christ can also be filled with pride. When James wrote his letter to Jewish believers, he also warned them of the pitfalls of pride. James’ readers were engaged in fighting with one another because they proudly gave in to their selfish desires much like the world (James 4:1-3).  James warned them and said that their friendship with the world was “enmity with God. Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4). If we commit adultery with the world, God is not going to sit back and do nothing. His “Spirit Who dwells in us us yearns jealously” for God’s bride (James 4:5). He does not want to share His bride with anyone, especially this world.

So what does a jealous God do with His children when they proudly commit adultery with the world? He “resists the proud” (James 4:6a). God opposes His children who proudly attach themselves to this world. Why? Because such pride imitates the king of pride – the Devil who exalted himself above God (Isaiah 14:12-14). The only solution is for believers to “humble” themselves before the Lord to experience an outpouring of His “grace” (James 4:6b).

How do we humble ourselves? First, we must “submit to God” (James 4:7a). We do this by recognizing our own weaknesses and stop fighting with God. We then yield to God as our ultimate and final authority. Second, we “resist the devil” (James 4:7b) by speaking Scripture to him just as Jesus did in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-10), and then the devil “will flee from you” (James 4:7c) as he fled from Jesus (Matthew 4:11). Third, we “draw near to God and He  will draw near to” us (James 4:8a). We do this through repentance – “Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:8b). We live in a world that calls wrong right and right wrong. Those are expressions of pride.

James says to “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (James 4:10). When we sin against God we are to agree with Him that it is sin. The world downplays sin and rejects personal responsibility. But Christians are to do the opposite. We must take sin seriously as God does and stop blaming others for our sinful choices. I like what one author writes, “God’s elevator to the top always starts with a trip down.” Humility leads to exaltation. Pride leads to humiliation.

If you are like me, however, the daily news reports make it seem like the proud and the wicked are growing in numbers and unity, with little or no punishment for their behaviors. It seems that right is wrong and wrong is right. Truth is no longer important. But listen: God is not done yet. He remains faithful to His Word.And He says that those who are proud in heart are an “abomination to the Lord; though they join forces, none will go unpunished” (Proverbs 16:5).

This verse does not say when the punishment of the proud will take place. But the Bible tells us it could occur in this life (Nehemiah 9:9-11; Ezekiel 18:4-32; Acts 5:1-11; Romans 1:18-32; 13:1-7; James 1:14-15) or in the life to come (Malachi 4:1; Romans 2:1-11). One thing is for sure, the proud will not go unpunished. Those who proudly refuse to believe or trust in Christ alone for their salvation will experience eternal punishment in the lake of fire (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10; Revelation 20:15; 21:8). God will see to that. Our responsibility is to keep our eyes on “Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 1:24-25).