Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Who Do You Say Jesus Is?

Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, June 26, 2011

Matthew 16:13-19, “When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”
So they said, “Some
say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed
this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Welcome to the Old West, to the set of Gold Rush, VBS 2011! This week, in this place, we'll be panning for Someone who is more precious than silver, more costly than gold, more beautiful than diamonds – the most incredible Person of all – the Rock of Ages, the Lord Jesus Christ. Will you join us as we search this Book to discover what's so special about Jesus?

Who do you say that I am?” In the days of the Old West, at least as we know of it by way of Hollywood's version of it, there were the Hoss Cartwrights and the Riflemen and even the Masked Man we've know as the Lone Ranger. And though those men may have had their good points – you know, fast horses, silver bullets and so on – none of them ever did what Jesus did. None of them ever claimed to be who Jesus claimed to be.

Who do you say that I am?” That's the way Jesus posed the question of the ages to His disciples one day in a place called Caesarea Philippi. “Who do you say that I am?” In other words, Jesus was asking His disciples to wrestle with and recognize the obvious answers to the question, “What's so special about Me?”

What IS so special about Jesus?” I mean, you're a Christian, at least, that's what that Bible under your arm seems to communicate to me, that's what your decision to spend an hour or two or three in this building every week seems to show me – you're a Christian, aren't you? So says your bumper sticker or the cross hanging around your neck. So, tell me, what IS so special about Jesus? Rock of Ages, more precious, more costly, more beautiful than gold and silver and diamonds, that's what you are claiming about Jesus, am I right? So, how is it that you think you can make such statements? What is the basis for your claims?

Before we look elsewhere to several other passages, allow me to point out something that I believe is rather powerful from the passage we read a moment ago.

Peter and the other disciples of Jesus, by this time in the chronology of Jesus' ministry, they had been with Jesus for over two years. They had watched Him perform miracles, heal the sick, restore sight to the blind, feed the hungry multitudes, walk on water, calm the storm, even raise the dead. They had seen all these things and, along with all of that, they had heard Him speak. They had listened to His parables and to His famous sermons on subjects like the Bread of Life and the Light of the World. And, they had overheard Him rebuke blind scribes and Pharisees and restore and reassure the hurting and needy. They had watched all of this. They had heard all of this. But, still they were missing some things. Still they were confused and lacking complete understanding.

Then one day, in a place called Caesarea Philippi, God the Father sort of pulls back the veil and helps Peter and the rest of them to see, to know what is so special about Jesus. “Who do you say that I am?” Jesus inquired. And the answer, the bold declaration coming down from heaven itself was: “You are the Christ”, You are the Messiah, the Anointed One of God, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

What is so special about Jesus? Do YOU know how to answer a question like that? A lot of special people have walked the face of the earth across the centuries of time. In fact, I am looking at some of them right now. But listen, Jesus? Jesus? What makes HIM so special that, compared to all others, only Jesus can rightly claim to be God?

Look with me, will you? What does this Book say about Jesus? What does it show us that informs us so that we can give an answer to the 'What's so special about Jesus?' question?

1 John 3:5 – What's so special, I mean, what is unique, one-of-a-kind, about the carpenter from Nazareth? Is it that He was born in Bethlehem? Well, maybe. Others have been born there, though, haven't they? Is it that His mother's name was Mary? Well, no, not really, because, well, some of us have mothers with that name, don't we? Is it that He was raised in Nazareth? Learned the trade and skill of carpentry? Walked the dusty roads of Palestine? Are those things that make Him one-of-a-kind? What IS so special about Jesus? We really, really need to know this, don't we? Don't we?

The implications of a philosophy, a worldview that is rampant throughout our culture, the implications a mindset about life known as relativism, are simply these: all truth, and all truth claims, are equally valid, on a level playing field, so to speak. You say the grass is green. I say that the grass is red. Since, according to this philosophy called Relativism, all truth claims are equally valid. Your claim about the color of the grass is no more valid, no more right, no more worthy to be believed and accepted than mine!

Now you stop and think about where such a belief system ultimately leads: if all truth claims are equally valid, if no one's claim about the color of the grass, or anything else for that matter, are to be accepted as right over and above anyone else's truth claims, then what? Then truth goes down the drain. Then something as basic as two plus two equals four goes down the drain, because, well because, that's just your truth claim about that math equation.

Who do you say that I am?” That's what Jesus asked the disciples to consider that day in Caesarea Philippi, and it is the question He confronts us with today. What is so special about Jesus? Do you know?

His uniqueness, Jesus' uniqueness, isn't so much connected to His place of birth, His mother's name or the skill He learned growing up. Rather, according to 1 John 3:5, Jesus is one-of-a-kind because He is sinless. Because He is without sin. “And you know that He, Jesus Christ, was manifested (that is, He came to this earth, came in human form) to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin.” To begin with, Jesus Christ is unique on at least two levels. Number one, 1 John 3:5, He is without sin. 1 John 2:29, He is righteous. Not clothed, as we are, in Him, with someone else's righteousness. But righteouss, Jesus, the sinless One, is righteous, by His very nature! Jesus Christ is unique in that He, alone, is without sin. He alone is righteous. And, 1 John 3:3, He alone is pure, by His very nature!

Now, go with me to the gospel of Mark. Mark 2:1-12 – Speaking of sin and sinners, like you and me, take a look at this amazing account, and at the claim that Jesus makes about Himself.

Mark 2:1-12, “And again He entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house. Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And He preached the word to them. Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying.
When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.”
And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, “Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

What is so special about Jesus? Is He unique? Before we look at the core issues presented here that pertain to Jesus' uniqueness, notice what the text indicates about this One who restored the body of the paralytic. Verses 5-8, Jesus observes what perhaps no one else in that house observed that day. Number one, He sees faith, He takes notice, not of the tear in the roof – imagine you're the owner of that home – He notices, not the roofing materials falling on His or someone else's head, I would have noticed that, wouldn't you? No. Verse 5 indicates that what Jesus saw, as those four, faithful friends made a way for their friend to get to Jesus, was their faith! Their faith! Their faith in Someone that they believed could do what no one else could do: heal their paralyzed friends' body.

What's so special about Jesus? He can detect what a lot of others can't detect. He can detect faith. Is that what He sees in you? In me?

But, then, notice also, verses 6-8, not only can Jesus discern faith, what else can He discern? He can perceive what people like us try so hard to hide. He can detect unbelief! Don't try to hide from Him! He already knows! What's so special about Jesus? Those two things, His ability to discern faith and, His ability to detect carefully hidden skepticism and unbelief. Those two abilities set Him apart. Yes.

But, listen. There may be others whose minds are very keen and whose spirits are equally perceptive. But listen - “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Have you thought about the way Jesus went about dealing with this paralyzed man? Notice the order of things, and the connections between them.

I don't know about you, but if I had the power to restore a paralyzed body, that would have been the first thing I would have done! But not Jesus! He attends to the deeper, more eternally-significant issue: the issue of man's sins.

We don't know one way or another but it may have been that this man's paralysis had to do with sin in His life and God's judgment and discipline pertaining to that sin. We don't know for sure on that, but what we do know is that this paralytic was a sinner, just like the rest of us. And, that the Sinless One, the One who was manifested to take away our sins, did just that! He forgave him.

But, here's where this account gets even more interesting and exciting. How do we know, how did all the by-standers in that house know, that Jesus had forgiven the man's sins? That Jesus had the power, the authority on earth to forgive?

Well, we know it because He said it, right? Listen, my friends, anybody, ANY-BODY can say, “your sins are forgiven.” But how many people do you know can actually DO it? How many people do you know can actually PROVE they can forgive sins by healing paralysis? That's what Jesus did!

Who do you say that I am?” Some say that you are John the Baptist. Some say that you are Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the other prophets. Some say that you are a superb teacher, an excellent example, a miracle worker, or maybe a liar or a lunatic!

But, who do you say that Jesus is? This week, at Gold Rush VBS, the teachers, the craft directors, the song leaders, the kitchen crew, the greeters, the helpers, all of you, have one great assignment, one huge task: to lead children and their families in the direction of the One who IS more precious than silver, more costly than gold, more beautiful than diamonds. Would you mind joining me in asking Him to help us, as we do so today? Let's pray.

Father we thank you for the opportunity to be here this morning. We're grateful for the responsibility and the calling to bear witness to our dear Savior Jesus Christ. We pray that this day, this week, and every week and day and month and year of our lives, that we will be equipped with answers ready to those who would ask, “who is Jesus and what is it that is so special about Him?” Strengthen and bless us to that end, I pray. In Jesus' name. Amen.”

Godly Manhood: Desperately Needed Today

Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, June 19, 2011

Ephesians 6:4, “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.

Colossians 3:21, “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”

Today is a special day, a unique day for me, because this time, for the first time in my 50 years of life, I don't have my father with me on Father's Day. 50 Father's Days ago - June 18, 1961 was the date – my Dad used to like to tell me, was an extra special Father's Day for my Dad, for it was on that Father's Day that God gave him and my mother a son. I was that son.

Father's Day. As I look at Scripture in order to find nourishment and guidance for my role as a father, and in order to uncover truths about fatherhood with you, there is probably no more familiar, and no more important texts on the subject of fatherhood than these two texts. The outline, the structure of these two brief instructions to fathers is simply, and clear. But, believe me, the meaning and message, when diligently applied in a father's life, is profound. Would you look at these passages with me, please?

In Ephesians 6, verse 4, the apostle Paul writes, “And you fathers do not provoke your children to wrath,” part one of the structure: fathers, here is something you must avoid doing. Fathers, if you are doing this, if you are in the habit of provoking your children to wrath, then stop it! Stop it! “And you fathers, do not provoke,” literally, “don't keep on provoking,” “don't make it a habit to provoke your children to wrath.” That's what fathers must not do. “But bring them up” - Father's here's what you are to do, “bring up your children in the training and admonition of the Lord.” And, then, from Colossians 3:21, Paul writes, “Fathers, do no provoke” stop provoking, “your children” - again, Paul sets forth the prohibition as to what fathers are NOT to do. “Don't make it a habit to provoke your children.” And, then, second half of the verse, and the third component to the structure of these two verses. “Do not provoke your children...” Why? “Lest they become discouraged.” “So that they do not lose heart...”

As I said, the structure, the outline, if you will, of these two texts, is rather clear and simple: don't do this, instead, do this, and here's why.

The structure is simple and clear, but the meaning and message is profound, maybe even painful. Would you look at with me, Men, and listen, as the Spirit of God speaks to you through these verses.

Men, we live in a day and time when real men, not the fake variety, who think they are men because they've got a beer in hand, or a beautiful girl flirting with them, or a flashy car or oversized, mud-caked truck to drive or a wad of dough to blow at the casino – but real men, men, who by God's grace are seeking to pattern their lives after the things found in this Book, real men are few and far between. And it shows! It shows in the work-place. How many bosses and employers do we know are frustrated, not because they have TOO MANY good hands available to them, but TOO FEW? The lack of real men, it shows in the work force, and it shows in the workmanship. Both are too often inferior in quality.

Secondly, it shows, the lack of real men shows, in the church, and even in the government. Scandals brought about by the ungodly actions of some of those 'fake men' I mentioned, any more they are way too common. Common to the point that folks like us often respond with words like, “What's new?” and “So what?” Worse yet, is the scandalous weakness and ineffectiveness of church and government because of this lack of real men leading and serving in those places. And, then there's the home and the family. Illegitimate births, divorce, child abuse and neglect, runaway children and even suicides and violent attacks against family members, the definition and nature of family and marriage being over-hauled and re-worked, none of these is on the decline, is it? None of these is showing signs of letting up, is it? Neither is any of the pain, heartache and despair that goes with it, why? Because the men, at best they are fake, and at worst they are absent!

Why? Why? Underneath the 'symptoms' of fake manhood and absent fathers, is a wholesale abandonment of this Book, and what it says about the God Who has made Himself known in this Book as wholehearted acceptance, a full-throttle, pursuit of a pack of lies from the pit of hell.

You see, men, this Book, and its revelation of the God made known in this Book, declares from cover to cover that this Word is true, that this Word is right and righteous and all together pure, and that it is for all people, at all times and in all places. Yes, this Book, the God who gave us this Book, instructs us with this foundational fact; this is meant to impact every aspect of who and what we are as men. This foundational fact: “I am God, your Maker, your Owner, and I have the sovereign right, as your Maker and Owner, to rule in your life, to have authority over you!”

Men, that's the foundational fact to REAL manhood! But, when was the last time you heard or read it or saw that fact in action? It's been a long time - maybe never - right? That's because in too many, way too many men's lives, in their minds, and in their hearts and souls, this pack of lies guides them: there is no God. This Book is nothing more than man-made stories, fairy-tales and legends. I'm the center of the universe, so life is all about me!

Is it any wonder, when men live according to those lies that their children, if they even know who they are and where they are, are provoked to wrath by men who live according to those lies? Let me step down off my soap box for a minute and bring you back to these verses.

Where do they begin, both of them? Did you notice? They don't begin with the prohibit, “do not provoke your children to wrath...” They don't begin with the command, “bring them up” or with the reason “lest they be discouraged...” Rather, both passages - both – begin with the word, “Fathers!” “Fathers!”

You see where I'm going with this, don't you, Men! The task, the eternally-significant task bound up in the words of that single command, “bring up your children in the training and admonition of the Lord...” The task, not of raising children – ask the farmers, the gardeners in our midst, “what are you raising in your garden?” They'll tell you: “I'm raising tomato plants, I'm raising cucumber plants, I'm raising zucchini PLANTS..” No! That's not what they will tell you, because every bit their intention and goal is “I'm raising tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini.” Men, the eternity-altering task of fatherhood is NOT to raise children, “yep, my son's 45 and he still spends all his time in front of the play station. Man-sized body, but still a child in every other way!” Men, our task is not to raise perpetual children, but look, do you see the goal, “bring them up”, the goal of fatherhood is the rearing of future adults.

And, listen – that's just the beginning, because the rest of the verse, what does it say? It says, fathers bring up your children in the training and admonition of the Lord!

Ephesians 6:4, Colossians 3:21, notice men, please notice with me, where BOTH of these passages begin, whose task, whose responsibility is it to raise future adults? Whose job is it to instruct your children, to train and admonish them, in the ways of the Lord?

Lots of answers floating around to those questions, aren't there? The government, the daycare, the boys and girls clubs, the preacher, the elders, the Sunday School teachers, the woman who bore these children. Lots of answers out there being advertised, offered and accepted. But, listen, men, the buck stops with you! IN God's amazing design for families, for marriage, for children, and yes, for manhood, REAL manhood, He intends to use you! And, because that is what God's 'blueprint' calls for - nothing - hear me now, nothing else will do! Nothing! You're the man!

But how? I know, like me, you're wondering HOW can I? Man, you don't realize what kind of man I am or have been! How can I? And, how? I mean, “How do you do it? I don't know how!” This part of this message, listen, my brothers, this part is the most important part! The 'how' question, two parts to the how question: number one – 'how?' Does the word impossible seem appropriate about now? Here's the answer to the first part, the first aspect to the 'how' question: Ephesians 5:18, and Colossians 3:16, two verses expressing basically the same thought, the same answer to the IM-possible 'how' question.

Ephesians 5:18, “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with
the Spirit.

Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and
admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace
in your hearts to the Lord.

How are you going to be THE MAN, fulfilling your role and responsibility to bring up your children in the training and admonition of the Lord? Listen, brothers, with you on your own, it is impossible! But, with God, all things are possible! “Let His Spirit fill you! Let His Word indwell you richly” and you will be able to do what you thought was impossible.

Second, how? I don't know how? One quick nugget I discovered in tracing out the idea of provoking our children to wrath! Time and time again, over in the Old Testament we read of the Israelites, God's covenant children, provoking Him to wrath, because they loved and worshiped and pursued idols, false gods. In other words, Israel provoked God's wrath, when they valued their idols and put Him in the trash.

Now, turn that around with me, men, and apply to us, the fathers and to our children: you want to know HOW to bring up your children in the ways of the Lord? You want to know how to avoid provoking your sons and daughters to wrath? Value them! Treasure them! Let not your thought, your attitude be one that says, “look how much these kids are costing me!”, but rather, let your mindset be on that says, “Look at how RICH I am because God has given these children to me...”

Here the Word of the Lord one more time with me, will you?

Ephesians 6:4, “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up
in the training and admonition of the Lord.

Colossians 3:21, “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

Ephesians 5:18, “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with
the Spirit.

Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly . . .”

Let's pray.

Heavenly Father, we praise You and thank You that in Christ You are our Father and we are Your children. We thank You, also, that You have been gracious to touch our lives through earthly fathers and other godly men who have been Your servants in bringing us up in the training and admonition of the Lord. Where would we be if You had not used them in our lives? And, those of us who are fathers, this day we ask again for Your mighty power and tender grace to help us and to enable us to be the godly men – the faithful husbands, the patient fathers, the humble and joyful servants of Your people that You have called us to be. We look forward to how You will use us to raise up another generation of godly seed to work in Your kingdom until Jesus comes again. Please strengthen us and give us wisdom for the task. In Jesus' precious name, Amen.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit

Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, June 12, 2011

Ephesians 3:14-21, “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

This morning, as we open our Bibles to study the Word of God together, I want to thank my daughter, Phoebe, for playing the piano for our worship service this morning. Thank you, Phoebe, you did very well. But, I also want to thank her for the songs she selected for the praise medley portion of our service. I don't know if you noticed it or not, but all three of the songs she picked for the praise medley were songs that related to the person and work of the Holy Spirit in our lives as Christians. “Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me...”, “Spirit of God, descend upon my heart...”, and “Come, Holy Spirit, I need you...” Three songs, really, like this passage here in Ephesians chapter three, three prayers that God intends for Christians to pray, in order that they might be strengthened and supported and yes, even shaped in and through the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit.

This morning, having paved the way through the use of these songs, these prayerful hymns, I'd like to take God up on His offer. I'd like to take God at His Word and allow Him to teach us in the way in which we should go, and to guide us with His eye. Psalm 32:8 – What does the Word of God teach us regarding the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit?

There are many important truths to be learned about the Holy Spirit, many ways for God to teach us and guide us in knowing more about His Spirit, but listen, allow me to say this right up front, God's plan, His desire and will for you and me, if we are indeed His children, is not so much that we know ABOUT the Holy Spirit, but that through the Spirit's good and gracious work in us, we come to know HIM, we come to know God, the Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ!

Look again at this incredible prayer penned by Paul the apostle. He says, “for this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ [and on my knees in prayer, I'm asking that] according to the riches of His glory, He would strengthen you with might by His Spirit in your inner being...” But why? What outcome does Paul look forward to as he watches and waits for God's answer?

He prays, he pleads, he beseeches God to answer His prayer for “Christ to dwell in our hearts by faith” and for God's people to be “rooted and grounded in love...” Why? Verses 18 & 19, “[So that we] may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height [and] to know – to KNOW – the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that we might be filled with all the fullness of God...” Let's meditate on all of that for a while, shall we? Wow! What a prayer! And, what an amazing BLESSING the Lord gives us when He answers a prayer like that! Come back to our original question with me for a moment, will you please? What does this Book, God's Holy Word, have to teach us regarding the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit?

Well, without being simplistic or redundant, let me say, first off, that He is a Person. False groups and false teachers would have us to believe that He is not a Person, the third Person of the Triune God, but an 'it, a 'force', the IMpersonal 'power' of God. But, if I may, allow me to remind you quickly, that FORCES, IMpersonal 'its' cannot be grieved, as Ephesians 4:30 says the Holy Spirit can. And, IMpersonal 'forces', 'its' cannot be vexed, as Isaiah 63:10 says He can. Furthermore, IMpersonal 'its', sheer 'forces' that have no personal qualities and characteristics, cannot be tempted as Acts 5:9 says the Holy Spirit can. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, He is a Peron. He is not an 'it.”

Secondly, allow me to remind you or inform you that the Holy Spirit, God's Spirit, has a 'job', in fact, He has many 'jobs', and unlike some folks we may know, He is busily at work carrying out the tasks and responsibilities of those 'jobs'. What does the Bible have to say about the PERSON and WORK of the Holy Spirit?

First of all, allow me to tell you that when we're dealing with the PERSON of the Infinite and Eternal Spirit of God, we're entering into a study that could very well take us the rest of our lives, and even then, not be fully thorough and complete. Don't let that discourage you or dissuade you from such a study, but just know that going in, okay?

Secondly, please remember that what we know for sure, for certain, about the Holy Spirit, is what we have - right here – in this Book, given to us through the Agency of God's Holy Spirit. Remember the passage? 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is inspired of God”, literally, God, through His breath, His Spirit, breathes out His Word to make Himself know to us. So, whatever men, like this man, tell you or try to teach you about the Spirit of God, always, ALWAYS, check it out here, in the Book!

Earlier, I gave you some indication of how we know that the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Jesus is a Person. He can be grieved. When we, the people of God, persist in patterns, sinful behavior, things like lying, stealing, evil speaking, unrighteous anger, and sexual impurity, we grieve Him. We make He sad. We break the heart of the One God gave us to seal us unto the day of redemption. And, Isaiah 63:10 tells us that when God's people – that's you and me – rebel against God's Spirit, He is vexed, He is angered and frustrated, because we are resisting His will, rather than submitting to it. Furthermore, as Acts 5:9 shows us, like Ananias and Sapphira, we can try to lie to the Spirit of God, but listen! Don't do it! Because to do so is to tempt Him, to test Him in ways, as Ananias and Sapphira found out, you don't want to be testing Him! What does the Bible have to say about the PERSON and WORK of the Holy Spirit?

If I were to try to summarize for you what the Bible has to say about the WORK of the Holy Spirit, I think I would have to boil it down to three main aspects for you to know and understand. Here goes:

What is the Holy Spirit's work, His 'job' so-to-speak? Number one, His job is to EDIFY, to build up the saved. The Holy Spirit, right no, is at work endeavoring to EDIFY the saved! Are you saved? Then know that the Holy Spirit is at work in you to “strengthen you with might, with power, in the inner being.” Secondly, in the way of a quick summary, I urge you to know that as this message draws to a close in a few minutes, and you perhaps begin to sense a strong tug at your heart, convincing you of what God's Word has said, and convicting you of your sin and your need for a Savior, know this, that the second major job of God's Holy Spirit is to EVANGELIZE the lost! That strong, almost irresistible tug, that deep felt, gnawing feeling in your heart, is not there because you ate spicy food before you came, but because God's Spirit is at work in you, to lead you the the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ!

Then, thirdly, and I believe most importantly, please know that the Holy Spirit's job, His persistent and patient work in the church and in the world is that of EXALTING, lifting up the Savior! Jesus said it this way, in John 16:12-15. Read it with me, will you?

John 16:12-15, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.

I'm looking at the clock, and realizing that we won't be able to explore all three of these aspects of the Work of God's Holy Spirit, but before we close, allow me to take a few moments to focus on at least one of them, the Spirit's Work in edifying the saved. How does the Holy Spirit edify? How does He build up the people of God, the saved? Romans 5:5, please find that passage with me, will you? In a section of Scripture where the apostle Paul depicts of the numerous benefits of being justified through faith in Jesus Christ, blessings like peace with God, access by faith into God's grace, joyful expectation to see God's glory, even glory, joy in tribulations because of what God does in us through those trials. In this section that actually begins back at chapter 4, verse 24, notice where the section ends: with this powerful insight into the Peron and Work of the Holy Spirit: God gives us His Holy Spirit, He actually pours out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit – why? To validate our hope! To make certain, to help us know for sure that the hope we have, the eager expectation that we have to one day see and take part in God's glory, God's given us His Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God works in God's children, to solidify that hope and to solidify them IN that hope, when tribulation, tests and trials might otherwise shake and even shatter that hope!

God's Holy Spirit in God's child to solidify him or her in the hope of the glory of God, Romans 5:5.

Secondly, Romans 8:26-27 – How may of you have ever been so confused, so discouraged, so distressed that you simply COULD NOT pray, that you simply didn't know what to say to God? Romans 8:26-27 – Look at what this passage has to say about the job of the Spirit of God.

Romans 8:26-27, “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”

Psalm 46 begins with these words: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present HELP in trouble..” Ever wondered how God fulfills that portion of His Word in your life? He does so, Romans 8:26-27 tells us, by way of His Holy Spirit! The Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, is the One God gives to us, to make good on His promise to be our ever present help in trouble!

Then one more, as we prepare to close, what is the Holy Spirit up to as He works in the saved? Ephesians 5 & 6 – Take a look beginning at verse 15 of chapter 5. In that text, the apostle Paul urges Christians to walk circumspectly, to be careful how they live, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time! Now here's a question I want you to consider: How? How are folks like you and me, God's people, yes, but weak in the flesh, how are we to live carefully, to act wisely, to walk circumspectly? More specifically, Men, how are you and I to love our wives as Christ loved the church, how are we to learn to love them as much as we love our own bodies? And, Ladies, how are you to submit to us, your husbands, as the Church submits to Christ? And you, young ones, how are you to obey your parents in the Lord? How are you to go about honoring your Mom and Dad? And, Dads (and Moms), how are we to bring up those precious little ones in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and not provoke them to wrath?

The answer for all of these questions is one and the same:

Ephesians 5:18, "And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit.”

Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me, melt me, mold me, fill me, use me, Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me...”

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

This God Is Our God, Forever and Ever

Image credit
Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, June 5, 2011

Psalm 48:1-14, “Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God,in His holy mountain. Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion on the sides of the north, the city of the great King. God is in her palaces; He is known as her refuge. For behold, the kings assembled, they passed by together. They saw it, and so they marveled; they were troubled, they hastened away. Fear took hold of them there, and pain, as of a woman in birth pangs, as when You break the ships of Tarshish with an east wind. As we have heard, so we have seen in the city of the LORD of hosts, in the city of our God: God will establish it forever. Selah. We have thought, O God, on Your lovingkindness, in the midst of Your temple. According to Your name, O God, so is Your praise to the ends of the earth; Your right hand is full of righteousness. Let Mount Zion rejoice, let the daughters of Judah be glad, because of Your judgments. Walk about Zion, and go all around her. Count her towers; mark well her bulwarks; consider her palaces; that you may tell it to the generation following. For this is God, our God forever and ever; He will be our guide even to death.”

There's nothing quite like a funeral to get you to thinking about the things that really matter in life. You know how it is, don't you? We plod along in life, living it day-by-day, sometimes even minute-by-minute, and often, we get caught up in the necessities of life, maybe even the urgencies of life. But until something like a funeral comes along, we don't stop, perhaps won't stop, to consider, to wrestle with, to face the things that really matter in life.

You know our tendency, don't you? We awaken in the morning, and almost before both feet hit the floor, we're thinking about what we've got to do today! The list is long with the necessities of life, fix a meal, fold the laundry, pay the bills, punch the time clock, fight the traffic, purchase the groceries, cut the grass. Makes you tired just thinking about it, doesn't it? But, then along comes the flat tire, the trip to the emergency room with the sprained ankle, the burst water pipe, the hail damage to our roof or our car, and suddenly, we're faced with a list of urgencies also, to go along with all those necessities.

Then comes the call, or perhaps the notification by way of an obituary in the paper or a message that comes to your email inbox, that so-and-so has died, and all of the sudden, as if someone is jamming on the brakes of your run away train life, you're forced to stop and think. Forced to consider what really matters in this world, not things that moth and rust can destroy or objects that thieves can break through and steal, but what has more lasting value. Forced even to ask, “where is God in all of this?” Or, even, “have I even stopped to ASK HIM to be at work in all of my necessities, urgencies and crises?”

I was thumbing through a little devotional book my brother bought for me in Germany over 25 years ago, and again came across these verses that, along with the funerals, pulled me up short. Listen to them with me, would you please? Psalm 48:14, the last verse of the passage I read at the outset, declares it this way: “For this God is our God, forever and ever, He will be our guide even unto death.” And, then, along with that verse from Psalms, was set this verse from 2 Corinthians 12 (verse 9): “And He said to me...” Here's the Lord Jesus giving His gracious counsel to the apostle Paul in a time of great 'thorn-in-the-flesh' testing Paul was struggling to endure, to this discouraged, yes, even distressed, servant of God, the Lord Jesus speaks these words of counsel and comfort, “My grace is sufficient for you; for power [Christ's power] is made perfect in weakness [in our weakness].”

There's a lot to chew on in just those two short and simple verses, isn't there? And, I encourage you to spend sometime chewing on them. But, while you're doing that, allow me to remind you, maybe even to confront you, with a thought or two that we'd probably rather not have to deal with.

Here goes: As I said, there's nothing quite like a funeral to bring issues back on to the 'radar screen' of our lives, is there? And, so, here are the reminders, the 'blips' on our lives' radar screen that we would much rather ignore.

Mom and Dad are gone, I mean they are laying in that cemetery across town or across the country from where you are, your spouse is gone also, even though the two of you enjoyed life together for 40, 50, maybe even 60 years, your siblings, the freckled-faced, curly-headed, mischievous youngsters you grew up with, their hair turned gray, then silver, then white and the freckles gave way to wrinkles and guess what? Now they're gone too! And, yes, for some, in God's mysterious plan, even the children, your own flesh and blood offspring, are gone, too. And you find yourself all alone. One day, something like that, a situation similar to all of that, will be your situation - what then? To whom will you go, then? On whom will you lean, then?

Psalm 48:14 – Look at that verse a little more closely with me now, will you, please?

The verse simply says: “This God...” the psalmist is talking there about the God of Israel, the One, True Living God of the Bible, not one of those 'gods' that we often make up or pursue, when we're zeroing in on the necessities of life, and the urgencies of life, and certainly not one of the 'gods', made up by the minds of sinful man, made in his own image, in man's image, in order to fashion out of it a 'religion', a false religion meant to suit his tastes and desires.

No, the psalmist, or perhaps I should say, the psalmists, the Son of Korah, when they pen the words, “This God...” they are talking about the God who had repeatedly secured and kept and blessed a nation, a people, and, in particular, a city, to the extent that they could say of that city, and of the Lord and God of that city: “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God,in His holy mountain. Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion on the sides of the north, the city of the great King. God is in her palaces; He is known as her refuge.”

When your parents are gone, for some of us, long gone, when our spouse is gone, our siblings are gone, perhaps even our children are gone, what then? Who will be there for you, then?

Psalm 48:14 - Are you beginning to get the picture as to why I love this verse? Read it with me, please. “This God is our God forever and ever, He will be our guide even unto death...”

Recently, at our home, we have been reading through the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament, during our family devotional time at the breakfast table. And, reading through it, I have been reminded of dramatic, gripping accounts of Bible heroes I have looked up to since I was 4, 5, 6 years old. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Adednego. And folks like Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Cyrus and Darius, whose lives and authority over their lives, serve as the backdrop for an amazing series of accounts that illustrate this verse from the psalms. You think about those four Hebrew young men, those four young Israelites, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Dust off your Bible memory, and think again with me, will you?

Those 4 young Jewish men, when King Nebuchadnezzar and his army took those fellows away from their homes and families, as his captives and transported them to his country, hundreds of miles away from their homeland, they were just teenagers, 15, 16, 17 years of age. Imagine that happening to your son or daughter or grandchildren...

There they are, young teenagers, torn away from everything they knew, uprooted, replanted and, it was every bit Nebuchadnezzar's intention to reprogram them through a 3-year long period of educational indoctrination so as to re-make them into good pagans, good Babylonians - and what happens?

Do you remember the accounts of these 4 young Hebrews recorded there in Daniel, from all those years ago in Sunday School or VBS? Torn away from all you know and love and are acquainted with, force-fed with a new language, culture, customs, and even a new religion, as captives, in a foreign land, and in training to serve, and even worship the king of that foreign land – what would you do? Most 15, 16, 17 year-olds I know would melt, they would just fall in line, and become good Babylonians. Incidentally, so would a lot of 50, 60 and 70 year-olds I know, too! But not Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. And not Daniel!

Why no? I mean, it's a choice between bowing to the king's 90 foot tall golden image, or burning in his fiery furnace? Which would you choose? I mean, it's a choice between hiding your prayer life, so that no one knows that you worship and serve the God of heaven, avoiding a den of hungry lions, or throwing back the curtains and shades and letting the whole world know Whose child you are – hungry lions or not. Which would you choose? I mean, it's a choice between pacifying an angry, capricious ruler with a phony interpretation of the handwriting on the wall, and perhaps keeping your job - or your head - or telling him the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and letting the chips fall where they may. Which would you choose?
I mean, it's even a choice, for Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, it was a choice, some might say a simply, easy, 'no-brainer' kind of choice, I mean, just blend in, eat the king's food, drink his wine, never mind the spiritual implications of the fact that those things have been dedicated to the king's 'god', eat them anyway, conform, blend in, when in Babylon, do as the Babylonians do, and you'll make it alright. 'No brainer' - right? Not for those 4 young Hebrews! No, that was a choice with very deep and very, very serious spiritual implications; what did they do? What would you do, if you had to face any or all of these difficult choices and dilemmas?

This God is our God forever and ever, He will be our guide even until death!”

When you're lacking wisdom, needing direction in life, at one of those 'crossroads' we all come to along life's road, when you're even having to venture into uncharted waters, like Joshua leading his people into the Promised Land, like Peter stepping out of the boat – what do you need to know? “This God is our God – my God – forever and ever, He will be our guide even unto death...” When you're alone, so very, very alone, like young Joseph was in Pharaoh's dungeon, falsely accused, turned against by those whom you have loved and served, what keeps you going? This God is our God forever and ever, He will guide us even unto death...”

When you're devastated, I mean your life is in shambles, like Job's was, like the people of Joplin - who can put it all together, who can help you deal with the loss? “This God is our God forever and ever, He will guide us even unto death...”

When you're tempted, like Adam and Eve were, to eat of the forbidden fruit, like Jacob and his mother were, to deceive and get your way, like Peter was, to deny your Savior and King - is there a way of escape? Any help available to overcome? “This God is our God forever and ever, He will guide us even unto death...”

When you're sick, as Epaphroditus was – sick – nigh unto death, and Paul's hands can't effect a healing, there's a Great Physician! Oh, do you know Him, my Friends? “He is God, our God forever and ever! He will guide us even unto death...”

Yes, when you're facing death, as Mary and Martha did at that little cemetery outside of Bethany, as Eileen Spearman's family is, as the Apostle Paul did, when he struggled with a terrible thorn in the flesh, and later, when he received word from the Emperor that he had been found guilty, and was going to be executed – how are you going to do? Who will be there to help you?

This God is our God forever and ever, He will be our guide even unto death...”

Then one more, and most important of them all; when you're lost, I mean, like the Ethiopians Eunach was, like the Philippians jailer was, like the people on the Day of Pentecost were, when you're powerless, ungodly, sinful, even God's enemy, with out hope, without God in the world, an object of God's righteous wrath – what then?

This God, the God we read and learn about in this Book (the Bible), this God, through His Son, Jesus Christ, has made a way for Him to become your God, your Guide even unto death, and a way – Hallelujah! - an everlasting, path of righteousness for His names sake, the Way, the Truth and the Life, that you might be His child forever and ever!