Advent - Hope

Introduction to Advent Season: It is a process that will incorporate lots of great things. 1st Advent: Birth of Christ / 2nd Advent: Return of Christ

Hope is a Natural Human Feeling: The special this morning demonstrates this fact.
We continually want something to come, happen, be found, change, or turn out well.

Hope is a Fitting Inaugural Theme for Advent:
Hope of the Birth of Christ and now hope for the Return of Christ. OT looked forward in hope to the birth and the NT (and us) look forward to the return. These are the Advents, the arrival of something long awaited. The something so momentous is the presence of Christ, Immanuel.

1. The popular English idea of hope is that it is a subjective desire or it is to want something very much.
2. The Biblical idea of hope is that it is Desire + Expectation.

Hope in the Scriptures:
We must draw a distinction between hope and faith. We can do that with a few Scriptures:

1. 1 Corinthians 15:19 We Hope in Christ for the Next Life – Promises of God
“If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.”

2. Romans 8:24-25 Hope is Waiting
“For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.”
-Who does the pouring? The Holy Spirit Who was given to us.
What is being poured? God’s Love = the Gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection
-People need concrete evidence and God gave/gives it to us by the message that Christ Jesus died. So we know that hope will not disappoint us. At the mention of the Spirit here, it leads me to believe that the Spirit continuously declares the Gospel Word to us.

3. Romans 5:5 Hope Does Not Disappoint
“Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

How can you remain “grounded and steadfast, not moved away from the hope of the gospel?”
1. Hope is induced by Scripture: “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” Rom 15:4.
2. Allow the Spirit of God to speak to your spirit: “the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” Rom 5:5.

Do you know what the Law tells you? You are Guilty! You are Guilty!
What about Satan? You are Doomed! You are Doomed!
The Spirit declares day after day, moment after moment,
He Loves you and Gave Himself for you! He Loves you and Gave Himself for you!

Isaiah 40:28-31 Does God Pause to Catch His Breath?

Let me start by taking a quick survey of five questions and I would like for you all to raise your hands if any of these apply to you.

1. Have you ever paused to catch your breath?
2. Have you ever grown weary or felt weak?
3. Have you ever fallen?
4. Has your memory ever failed you?
5. Is there anyone who is tired right now?

What about God? Does God ever pause to catch his breath?
Is God truly dead as German philosopher Friedrich Nietzshe made famous in his 1883 book?
Is God old? Is God worn out? Is God useless? Is Christ of no profit?

These were the questions that Israel had for God in Isaiah 40 and these are also the questions of contemporary culture. The LORD obviously had/has an answer. I want you to be encouraged by God’s Word and I want you to learn (or maybe be refreshed) of an indispensable message-
“Those who wait on the LORD will renew their strength.”

READ Scripture- This is the Word of God

Context: God speaks through the prophet Isaiah of a future captivity in Babylon. The people would feel that their God had abandoned them and that they would never return to their land. God knew that they would say things such as ‘Where is God? Why is God not doing anything? Has our God been defeated? Is God forgetful? Is He limited by space and time? Is He limited in wisdom and power? Is Yahweh perhaps inferior to the Babylonian gods?’ “The setting of this act has Jacob/Israel still the heir to election in Abraham but now in Babylonian exile, no longer a nation, scarcely a people… She is still disbelieving and complaining.”

Two specific complaints can be found in Isaiah 40:
1. vv6-7 humanity has no real substance or reality
2. v27 Israel’s plans and rights are not observed by God in the manner they would like.

Then in vv28-31 we see that instead of Israel looking at themselves they needed to look to God. These are some of the most comforting words in Scripture. God Himself gives an answer of who He is and how He works. Let’s look at some of the content of these verses for just a few minutes and then draw some conclusions which I hope will be encouraging.

“Everlasting God” = Literally “God of an Age.” He is a God of the long view. His strategies and His workings are not only moment by moment but are age by age. Our God is an Everlasting God. Israel demanded immediate satisfaction of what they viewed as rightfully theirs,
YET God was, and always is, prepared for the long haul.

“The Creator of the ends of the earth” = “According to Babylonian myth, the god Marduk received advice from Ea, the god of wisdom, when he created the world. The Lord, the real creator of the world, consulted no one. He needed no advice or blueprint; his wisdom and skill were sufficient.” His workings involve long distances, not just specific locations. Simply put, His strategies and workings are more than Palestine or Babylon.

“Neither faints nor is weary” = God moves through centuries and millennia accomplishing His strategies according to His works and NEVER… gets… tired….

“His understanding is unsearchable” = What was asked in v14 is now undoubtedly answered, Question- “With whom did He take counsel, and who instructed Him, And taught Him in the path of justice? Who taught Him knowledge, And showed Him the way of understanding? Answer- His understanding is unsearchable.” Israel was trying to do the impossible. They were trying to get to the root of God. They were trying to get to the source of God. No where in the Bible is this ever seen as a possibility. We study His Word to learn of Him and His ways, but we will never fully know the whole mind of God.

VV29-31Not only can we not know the whole mind of God nor the source of God, but God is actually the source of man’s power, strength, and endurance.

Application: There are things in this world that wear us down, for example: job, health, relationships. But we need to know three things and we can learn them from this passage:
1. He is aware of our circumstances.
2. He has the authority and means of lifting us up
3. We have meaning because of the fact that God’s Spirit includes us and His Word addresses us.

Though there are those in the best possible condition in this life that will faint, be weary, and utterly fall there is a special group of people that will run and not be weary, walk and not faint. How can you be a part of the special group? Wait on the LORD. It is a hopeful waiting for the God of the ages to intervene. We can gain strength to rise above the moment and not grow weary or faint.

Waiting- 1. Complete dependence on God 2. Willingness to Allow Him to decide the terms.
Waiting is declaring our confidence in His eventual action on our behalf. It is not killing time, but a life of confident expectations. You see, we have no other help unless He intervenes.

The picture of the eagle is perfect. The eagle has powerful wings, but that is not what sustains him. It is the current of the winds that allows him to fly high for long periods of time. The soaring eagle is relaxed and calm as the elements of nature carry him along. It is the eagle’s reliance on the wind that carries him. And so it is with us. It is not our strength or might that allows us to continue on. It is the Spirit of God that lifts us high and carries us on even in the midst of the most difficult circumstances, in His time and manner. That is grace and that is faith.

We know and have now been reminded that with God age, health, stamina, and none of the like mean anything. He is the Everlasting God. So, too, let us not say, ‘I am old, I am past my prime, I am tired, I have worked for so long, there is no way I can continue, I am weak, I am weary.’ “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

If you are tired or feel like you can’t go on anymore then WAIT. Wait on the LORD. He is the One who promises to renew your strength. We need to be a people who hopefully wait on the LORD. He alone is the One that will exchange our weakness for His strength, so wait on Him. Rest in faith knowing that God will raise you up. Be like the eagle that never tires because he relies on the winds. Rely on God, wait on Him, and He shall renew your strength. You shall run and not be weary, you shall walk an not faint.

The Book of Jonah

The Book of Jonah is an interesting little book. It is the fifth of the twelve Minor Prophets, coming between Obadiah and Micah. In the Hebrew canon these twelve compose one book. The other eleven state some of the prophet’s background, detail their preaching in Israel, and give us lengthy sections of what they said in their sermons. Jonah, on the other hand, gives no personal background, only narrates his mission to Nineveh (a foreign city in Assyria), and gives one sentence of what he proclaimed there “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

So this book stands out from the rest of the twelve Minor Prophets. This has motivated some to interpret the narrative as a parable. They would state that the literature is parabolic, written by some obscure prophet many years after the historical Jonah to teach Israel a lesson through this fictional character. I suppose the debate is still open on this subject, but I agree with Jewish and Christian tradition that this was an historical/literal prophet and narrative written by Jonah himself. That is what the church taught until sometime around A.D. 1800.

The reason that some believe this to be a fictional story used to teach a lesson is because of the seemingly supernatural accounts found in the book. A storm arises while Jonah is on the ship, the storm ceases immediately as Jonah hits the water after being thrown out, he survives being swallowed by a large fish while staying in its belly for three days, he is vomited back closer to Nineveh, toward the end a large plant grows overnight, and then is quickly destroyed by a worm. There is no doubt that these are miraculous events, but is it that hard to believe that these things could happen? Jonah calls God the “God of heaven who created the land and the sea.” Is it difficult to believe that this God could do these marvelous things? I think not! Yet, then some skeptics will ask, ‘It is not could God do this, but why would God do this?’ Why has God done any miraculous things in history? He is a marvelous God who does marvelous things from time to time to make Himself known and to make His glory known.

In 2 Kings 14:25 we find a reference to Jonah which says, “He (Jeroboam King of Israel) restored the territory of Israel from the entrance of Hamath to the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the LORD God of Israel, which He had spoken through His servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet who was from Gath Hepher.” With this reference we can place this narrative of Jonah sometime between 790 and 760 B.C. During these years Assyria, with a great city like Nineveh as a preeminent part, was in practical anarchy. Between 763 and 768 B.C. there were notable series of rebellions.

Annotated Reading:
Let’s recount some of the book of Jonah before I make three major points at the end. Jonah received a commission from the Lord. READ 1:1-3. It seems that the greatness of Nineveh was the fact of the size of its population. Later we read that Nineveh was numbered at more than 120,000 which is a large number for an ancient town. As of July 2008 one estimated population of Henry County was 55,316 and Martinsville was 14,543. Nineveh was a major Assyrian city. If you remember, Assyria was a major enemy of both Israel and Judah. Actually, it was Assyria that swallowed up the northern kingdom of Israel and all of the tribes disintegrated, never to be seen again, except for Judah that was in the south.

Jonah decides to run away from what the Lord planned to do in Nineveh and he went to Joppa to hop a ship to Tarshish. Jonah was not scared of the commission nor was there any other reason for leaving except for his hatred of foreign peoples. From what I have read it appears that Jonah actually leased out the boat for the trip. That would mean that Jonah spent a pretty penny to get far away from his homeland, Nineveh, and seemingly God. Tarshish’s exact location is uncertain, but it seems to represent the farthest known point in the west.

Surely if Jonah doesn’t accept the commission God would simply choose another prophet, right? Wrong! Paul said in the NT, “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” The same applies to the prophet Jonah. Yet, do not let us think that God needs us. We have been given the right to be His children. He will accomplish His plans whether He finds someone else or if He gives no option. For Jonah, God gave Him no option.

In chapter one we see that the Word of the Lord comes to Jonah and Jonah runs. Eventually, God sends a big storm and a big fish! Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. By stating that Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days it is to say that he was on the threshold of death. Three days and nights were the marker of the validity of someone’s death. In chapter two we read that at some point Jonah was conscience while in the fish’s belly and he prays (READ 2:1-2).

Chapters one and two form the first part of this narrative and then in chapter three we transition into the second. The Word of the Lord comes to Jonah a second time and this time “Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the Word of the Lord.” When we look through the entire book, we only find that the extent of Jonah’s message is, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” We see that Jonah must have known that though his message was a simple proclamation of coming doom there would be forgiveness. The people of Nineveh did not brace for wrath nor did they run from the city. Though it wasn’t explicit, the Ninevties heard in the warning a chance to repent and so they did. This, we see, was the inevitability of the situation.

READ 3:10. Does God change His mind? C4 shows that God can not be manipulated and is not part of some corrupt system that people can develop by their own means. God is not dependent on us in anyway; not our thoughts, not our attitudes, not our behavior or choices. He planned to forgive Nineveh beforehand. He wasn’t forced to “repent” but is the one who made the proposition by sounding the warning through Jonah. Of course, from our human vantage point we evaluate the situation and with the only means we have of explaining what happens we use words and say that God ‘changed His mind.’ Yet, in reality, God was going to be merciful to the people of Nineveh. It was inevitable. READ 4:2. These attributes that Jonah declares are the OT slogan for God and it is God Himself that first declares this of Himself. In Exodus 34 when God passes before Moses on the mountain He says, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty…”

It was inevitable:
1. Jonah would preach
2. Nineveh would respond (though ignorantly and inadequately)
3. God would “relent” i.e. be merciful to Nineveh

I conclude that there are three major points in the Book of Jonah:

1. Jonah’s Sinfulness
2. God’s Sovereignty
3. God’s Salvation

Point 1: Jonah’s Sinfulness1. Rebellion – Jonah flees from the presence of the Lord (READ 1:3, 12).
2. Racism – What a terrible picture we have of Jonah in C4. (READ 4:1).
3. Unrepentance – There is not an ounce of repentance in the book. (READ 2:8-9).

Point 2: God’s Sovereignty1. Storm (1:4) “But the LORD sent out a great wind on the sea”
2. Fish (1:17) “Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah.”
3. Vine (4:6) “And the LORD God prepared a plant and made it come up over Jonah…”
4. Worm (4:7) “But as morning dawned the next day God prepared a worm…”
5. Wind (4:8) “God prepared a vehement east wind”

Point 3: God’s Salvation1. Toward Jonah – Saved him in the fish, Commissioned him a second time
2. Toward Nineveh – Sent a prophet, He did not bring disaster upon them

The Main Point of the book of Jonah is God’s salvation. He alone is righteous, good, holy, and perfect yet He looks at helpless mankind and desires to save us. He is “a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm.” I think that is why Jesus refers to Jonah in reference to what He would do. The people were seeking a sign from Him, though He performed miracles all around them and taught with authority unlike anyone else. The Scribes and Pharisees pressed Him for a sign and He said in Matthew twelve, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.”

The book of Jonah was about salvation and so was Christ Jesus. God has sovereignly worked through His Son to work salvation for us. His crucifixion, death, and resurrection (three days and three nights) sealed salvation for all peoples; all those who will put their faith in Him.

Indeed, One greater than Jonah has come!

Romans 4:13-16 What Voids Faith?

Romans 4:13-16 What Voids Faith?

I have been saying for some weeks now that all of God’s blessings are accessed by faith. It is faith alone which gives us access to graces such as justification, righteousness, and ultimately salvation. The Bible teaches us that we are saved by faith, not works, yet we are to obey the Lord by doing good deeds in response to the grace we have been given. I feel like this is a subject that cannot be taught on in excess. Continuous reminders of who we are and why God has done what He has done are useful and necessary. I ran into this question during the past week and thought that it would be a valuable task to take on. WHAT VOIDS FAITH?

READ Scripture- This is the Word of God

Point 1: The Importance of FaithIn tracing the spiritual descendants of Abraham in verses 11 and 12 Paul makes no mention of the Law. (v13) Now he tells us why (FOR…). The main thrust of the argument is that the promise was attained through the righteousness of faith and NOT through the Law. What was promised to Abraham was not received by him or his descendants by their doing of the Law.

“Those who are of the Law” (v14) refers to those who base their hope of justification and blessing on law-keeping. How can blessing truly be a matter of promise and faith if people can earn it through their obedience to the Mosaic Law? And if the promise depends on keeping the law perfectly, then it will never be fulfilled because no person can sufficiently obey the law.

(v15) That the Law brings wrath is in contrast with what it cannot do which is secure the inheritance of the promise. The only thing Law can do is reveal our sin and label us as guilty with no opportunity for justification or salvation. The Law says we are sinners, guilty in the eyes of a holy God. Yet, the cross of Jesus Christ says we are justified, not guilty if only we will put our faith in Him. We must believe that His accomplishments as our sin-bearing-substitute are sufficient for salvation. And know this, His righteous works are enough for He offered up Himself as a sacrifice for the people, once for all.

In Summary- Why was the promise not made through the Law?
1. No one can sufficiently obey the whole Law.
2. The Law functions only to designate what is sin.

(v16) The promise is sure because it is only attained by faith, according to grace. The Apostle comes back to the heart of his argument. The Gospel directly tells us that we all have equal access into this grace because it is only by faith, yet it has special significance to proclaim this to the Roman church. In the midst of division and confrontation between Jews and Gentiles in the church, Paul says that the promise is sure by faith. Those of the Law (Jews) come by faith and those outside the Law (Gentiles) come by faith. Abraham is the father of us all. What does that mean? No matter what category the world puts us in, we are family in faith! The promise can only come to fruition by God’s working. If it is up to man’s working it will not be accomplished. That is why it is by the grace of God and not by the works of men.

Turn to Ephesians 2:4-10. This is the premiere passage for what I am teaching. The entire work in the Christian life is done by God that it might be done according to grace because He is rich in mercy and He loves us. And so the only way to become a Christian and to grow to maturity in Christ is to allow God to work in your life. How do we do that? Only by faith. It is not of ourselves, it is not of works, and we can not boast. This is a humbling reality. If you want to be forgiven, if you want to be transformed, if you want to be saved then your only hope is Christ!

Faith is important; actually faith is vital. It is our only means of salvation and all other blessings. It first came to us when we heard the Gospel proclaimed. Romans 10:17 says that, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” You remember that time. You may have been at a church meeting, some other public place, or even at home when you first heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You believed that He loved you, that He gave Himself for you, and that He could save you from your sins. You became a Christian by realizing how helpless you were and believing that only Christ could do anything about it. That is faith and that is how God wants us to spend our lives for eternity, continually relying on Him like a small child does his/her parents.

The necessity of faith is obvious to the attentive Bible reader. It is also apparent to every Christian simply on the basis of experience. The fact that faith is our only right of entry into the blessings of God begs the question, can faith be voided? And if faith can be voided then what is it that voids faith?

Point 2: Can Faith be Voided?Turn to 2 Corinthians 13:5. We ought to be able to examine and test ourselves to see if we are faithful. There is a slight chance that some within the Corinthian church, and as a general rule any church, are “disqualified.”

The Bible is full of “if’s” about salvation because it is dependent on us living a faithful life to the end. God will work in us and complete in us what He has started if we continue to yield to Him and trust that He can and will save us. A Scripture like Colossians 1:22-23 come to mind “to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight - if indeed you continue in the faith.” In Galatians 4:20 the Apostle said to the church “I have doubts about you” because they were turning away so quickly from the grace of God to a different message.

The Bible is clear that faith can be voided and all of the blessings of God can be forfeited by an individual who does not continue in the faith. We must be grounded and steadfast in our faith or else we could be moved away from the hope of the Gospel which we first heard. Can faith be voided? My answer is YES from what I understand in Scripture. Now we must answer the final question for the sermon, what voids faith?

Point 3: What Voids Faith?Let’s move back to our main text. Here is where we find the answer to our final question. We have now established the importance of faith and the fact that faith can be voided which is to say made of no effect, emptied of its validity, made worthless, rendered ineffective, and destroyed.

What is the one thing that voids faith? v14 “For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect.” When we stop relying on what God has done in Jesus Christ and we begin to rely on ourselves, whether intentionally or not, we may be on the verge of voiding saving faith.

This is the issue that the Roman churches and the Galatian churches faced during the 1st Century. Both were being invaded by false teachers desiring to woo them away from the faith and to convince them that they must be obedient to the Law to be saved. Paul had a life-long struggle with these people who attacked him verbally and physically on many occasions.

“Law” and “promise” are terms that exclude each other. On one side we see grouped together words like law, wrath, and transgression while on the other side we see grouped together promise, grace, and faith. These groupings cannot cross paths. They do not and can not work in harmony. Where there is law there is transgression and there is wrath poured out by God on all ungodliness and unrighteousness. Salvation is established by God’s grace alone and the only human response we have available to us is faith. We must believe in the grace of God.

The only way that salvation can be guaranteed is if it depends on God and not us. And so God makes it available to us by grace through faith. That is what makes Abraham the father of us all and not the Jews only. V16 says this clearly, “Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.”

The primary thing that voids faith is the Mosaic Law which is in the same category as any moral law or tradition that we set up against faith in Christ. We have begun by faith and must finish by faith. That is what makes us right with God and that is what saves us.

Have you put up any kind of law or tradition against faith in Christ? If you have all you are doing is relying on yourself. Do any of us think that we could ever be innocent in the eyes of God? He alone is holy, just, and righteous. Don’t void the faith that will save you by turning to any law. The promise is sure if only you will believe. What was Abraham’s first response to God’s graceful calling? He believed and that is what God accounted to him for righteousness. We know the importance of faith. The Scripture shows that it is the only proper response to God’s grace. We have also seen that faith can be voided and then spent time discussing what it is that voids saving faith. Law voids faith.

If you have turned away from reliance on Christ then make it right today. Turn away from self-confidence and renew your faith and trust in Him today. He alone offers salvation and He alone can be both Just and Justifier of the one who has faith.