søndag 26. mai 2013

Ephesians 1:1-14 God’s Plan for the world

Ephesians 1:1-14

What is God’s plan for the world? For your life?
Is it the same as yours?

Where are we headed? What is our destiny? Is this world chaos headed for destruction, or is there a plan, a purpose behind it all?

Well, the letter to the Ephesians answers those questions in its magnificent opening chapter. 10 And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth.

All things are working together for this goal: to glorify God. Everything that happens in your life will glorify God. Your purpose is to glorify God. That is why you were created. That is why you have breath in your lungs and the spark of eternity in your soul. 12 God’s purpose was that we [Jews first and then Gentiles (non-Jews)] would bring praise and glory to God.

And God the Father will be most glorified when all things are brought under the rule of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the goal to which all creation is moving, because that is what gives God most pleasure.

As you will have noticed, we have completed our time with the prophet Amos, and a magnificent time it was indeed, tasting the deep truths of God’s awesome power and majesty – and marvelling at his ability to save the unrighteous, the sinful, those deserving of death, and give them an eternal hope, an eternal future.
Ephesians, you will note, has the same themes, because it is the same God.

Today we’re going to look at the passage under 3 points:

1. Introducing Ephesians (more general)

Then, into tonight’s passage

2. We have EVERY spiritual blessing

3. Guaranteed by GOD

1. Introducing Ephesians

Ephesians is a letter, written by the Apostle Paul. Remember that the Bible is a library of different books, from different genres (types) of writing, written by different people, but all under the inspiration (control) of the Holy Spirit. That means they wrote what they wanted to write – and what they wrote was what God had decided they would write. That’s why we can say “Paul says in Ephesians” and “God says in Ephesians”. Both are true.

So far this past year we’ve read through Mark’s Gospel, which is (mainly) historical narrative (telling what happened); Amos, which is a book of prophecy: God speaking directly to his people, warning them of the consequences of their actions, and promising a Great Rescuer (Jesus); and now Ephesians, which is a letter to a church, like us! We need to keep in mind what kind of book we’re reading, and when it was written. The Bible’s like Telen. Telen has sports, letters from the readers, news, and comics – and you automatically change how you read each of those. Remember to do that when you read the Bible!
Particularly important is remembering where you are in salvation history – that is how much has God revealed of his plan to bring everything together under the authority of Christ. The Old Testament looks forward to the coming of Christ, the New looks back to his death and resurrection, and forward to his return as the conquering King.

Now Ephesians was written by the Apostle Paul. Paul you can read about in the book of Acts – he was a Pharisee (the religiously self-righteous guys we met in Mark’s gospel, who ended up putting Jesus to death because he kept making them feel like the sinners they were. They didn’t like being called sinners, so they murdered him...!). Paul was like that. He started off opposing Christianity, and, zealous for God, he went around arresting Christians. That is until Jesus met him on the road to the city of Damascus, and turned his life upside down. There Jesus commissioned him to be his missionary, his Apostle, to the Gentiles. For a Jew of Jews, a Pharisee, ritually clean, this was a HUGE shock – he had spent his whole life looking down on Gentiles, thanking God that he was not one – and now God was ordering him to take the gospel to Gentiles?! To proclaim to them that they too could be united to Christ, take part in the blessings of God given to Israel, could stand shoulder to shoulder with the Jew in the throne-room of Heaven, equal before God because of the work of Christ.

Mind. Blown.

That’s why Paul begins his letter like this: 1. This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus.
“chosen by the will of God” – you can almost hear him saying “it wasn’t MY idea!”.

No it was God’s plan, God’s amazing plan, his mysterious plan to glorify his name even amongst the Gentiles.

Who do you think is beyond salvation? Who do you think is so far away that God cannot reach them? The Muslim? The Taoist? The New Age believer with her crystals and her runes? The Nietzschen nihilist? The Hindu?

No, says Ephesians, no-one is beyond the reach of Christ. 3:6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Even the Gentiles! There was not a bigger gap between people than between Jews and Gentiles. To a Jew there was a hierarchy of Jewish men, Jewish women, dogs, and then Gentiles.

But Jesus does the impossible. 2:12 You [Gentiles] were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope. 13 But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.

The church united, a great song of praise to the majesty and glory of the Living God – that is the great theme of Ephesians. A theme that we will be exploring over the coming weeks. A theme that, I’m grateful to God, we represent! Look at this room, all the different nationalities, different religious backgrounds, different ages, different genders – all brought together, united in Christ. Brilliant! We are an advert to God’s grace, proclaiming “glory to God, glory to God, glory to God”. (see 3:10)

Another big theme is God’s sovereignty (which we see in today’s passage) – his good rule over all things. And so we don’t need to fear any darkness, any spiritual powers, any curses or evil spells. Jesus has authority over them. Jesus is sovereign. In Christ, we fear no darkness.

As we read through Ephesians we’ll look at what the church is for; how we need to be taught the Bible as our lifeblood; and how we should behave as a church, the church of Christ, God’s family, in our workplace, with our wives, our children, and with each other. But before we get onto all that, we need to first start with God, and what he has done for us.

Because Christ is the way into all these blessings. He is the beginning and end of our salvation. In him we are complete. In him, we have

2. EVERY spiritual blessing

Ok. Imagine that you are a Gentile (that should be easy) in the 1st century (ok, a bit harder!), in Ephesus (hmm!). You’ve heard the good news about Jesus and have accepted him as your Lord and Saviour. But you’re overawed by the Jewish Christians. They have all this history, all these promises from God. They are the chosen people. How would you feel?
Maybe a bit “second-class”. I mean, you’re in – but they’re really in!

Paul nails that thought immediately in the opening of his letter. v1 I am writing to God’s holy people in Ephesus, who are faithful followers of Christ Jesus. If you follow Christ you are holy. You are a saint! St. Daniel. Etc.! Now holy means holy. There’s not different levels of holiness. And in case we were confused: 4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. If we are in Christ we ARE holy and without fault, blameless. In the language of Romans: righteous. Remember what we’ve learnt from Romans 3:21 But now the righteousness of God has been made known. Jesus is God’s righteousness and if we are in Him, we have His righteousness.

That’s why there’s no such thing as second-class citizens.

You may have come from a church tradition which says you start with Christ, but then you move on to greater or deeper things. You need to say Hail Mary’s, you need to wear the sign of the Cross, you need the second blessing of the Holy Spirit, you need to follow the law, you need prophecies, you need tongues, you need to dress like this, you need to meet on a certain day and no other, you need to be part of our church and no-one else’s, you need to be baptised in this way. It’s that experience or this religious duty or this secret knowledge and then you’ll be a truly fulfilled believer. It is Gospel PLUS. And Gospel PLUS is no gospel at all – God’s gift of grace, his salvation, is made worthless by adding all these things that we must do. It is a huge mistake, forgetting that we are sinful, unable to please God, forgetting that God is sovereign in salvation (as in all other things), that it is HIS good work. Gospel PLUS is no gospel at all.

And v3-14 absolutely DESTROYS that kind of evil, Satanic thinking. In the original manuscript vv3-14 is all one sentence! One magnificent hymn of praise to God who has blessed us with EVERY spiritual blessing. If we are in Christ we have (past tense) every spiritual blessing. We lack nothing.

Have a look what we have in Christ: 4 we are loved, holy, without fault, 5 adopted in God’s own family, brought (reconciled) to God, 6 grace is poured out on us, 7 our freedom is purchased, our sins are forgiven through his Son’s blood, 8 we have all wisdom and understanding (how? Through this Book + Holy Spirit! We have all we need for life and godliness), 9 he has revealed his mysterious (secret) plan to us, 10 we are under his authority, 11 we have an inheritance, 13 we have the truth, 14 we are Gods own, we have the Holy Spirit. And so we do indeed want to praise and glorify him with pur whole lives, at every minute, with every breath: praise be to God.

What do we lack? Nothing! Don’t let anyone fool you by saying you need to move on from Christ, you need to claim this or that blessing, you need this secret knowledge which only we can give you. Trust and obey, that’s all you need. Read your Bible, pray every day. It’s that simple. God has done everything for us. We are his children. So be his child! Listen to him, talk to him, trust him, obey him.

That’s why every Christian can pray. We don’t need priests to pray for us. My prayers and your prayers are heard in the throne room of God – why? Because JESUS is there, and we are “in Him”. When we pray, it’s like Jesus is praying, and the Father hears the prayers of his Son. Grab hold of this truth. You are blessed with every spiritual blessing. You lack nothing. You have been given everything.
Christian maturity or Christian growth is not adding levels of holiness, “do this and you advance to level 3” – no, it’s simply acting more and more like Christ. It is allowing this truth to so infiltrate (go through) every part of us, every part of our lives.

We have 3 every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. So let us give 3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!

3. Guaranteed by God

I want you now to cast your eye down the page and look at the subject of vv3-14. Who is taking the action in these verses? Who is standing behind these truths, these promises?

You see, our hearts are deceitful (we tell ourselves lies) – and we may imagine that we somehow deserve all these blessings, or we sought God out and found the truth.

No, the truth is even more magnificent – we were his enemies, and he sought us out to save us!

In verse after verse we see it is GOD who acts. 3 God has blessed us, 4 God loved us, God chose us, 5 God decided, God is bringing us to himself, 6 He poured out grace, 7 He is so rich in kindness, he purchased our freedom, he forgave our sins, 8 he showered kindness, 9 God has revealed, 10 He will bring everything under Christ, 11 the inheritance is from God, he chose us, he makes things work according to his purposes, 13 he tells us the truth, he gave us Himself, His Spirit, 14 and He is our guarantee.

This is his world, and he rules it. He plans, he chooses, he adopts, he decides, and he achieves his plans. He is sovereign.

And that is good news for us. You see, if our salvation, if our blessing, was based on us: our cleverness, our efforts – well, it stands on shaky ground. What if I’m not performing? What if I’m making a mistake? Every other religion or worldview, including the so-called “neutral” secular atheism, has fear of failure at its heart. You must conform, you must act in a certain way, you must think a certain way – or be excluded. It’s uniformity, not unity. In Christ we are united as a diverse church – think of all the different ways around the world people express their love and devotion to Christ. We are good fathers for God’s glory. We are good mothers for God’s glory. We are accountants and creative people, nurses and street sweepers, husbands and wives all for God’s glory. All unique, expressing our love for him in the different roles we have been given. Even church services are COMPLETELY different around the world! But the focus is the same: the glory of God. The joy is the same: we are adopted as his children! The love is the same: his people united, one church, one family.

God brings us together in our diversity, to bring glory to him not as robots all acting the same, but as multicultural, multiethnic people – wonderfully diverse, each one of us unique, given unique gifts to contribute to the song of praise to God. This is his plan, to bring EVERYTHING together under the authority of Christ. And he points to the church as the great picture of his glory and wisdom 3:10 God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. We are a display of God’s rich wisdom!

Our salvation is guaranteed by GOD. His performance is perfect. He never makes mistakes. In Christ, we are holy, blameless. If you are ever feeling guilty, far away from God, doubting, feeling alone in the world, or that you’ve let God down – remember that Jesus is never guilty, he is never far from God, he never doubts, he is never alone, he never let His Father down, and YOU are IN CHRIST. 4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.

Now read it again with your name there 4 Even before he made the world, God loved Daniel and chose Daniel in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. Wow. Praise God!

How can he do this, you may ask? How can he declare Daniel, a man know to be a sinner, one who is not perfect (just ask his family) – how can God declare me perfect, blameless, holy, without fault?

Because 7 He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. All your sins – the darkest things you’ve ever done, your shame-filled memories, those words which lashed out and hurt deeply those you love, the horrible thoughts you held on to bitterly, the lies you told. My shame, my darkness, my lies, my pain – covered by the blood of His Son. “Father, forgive them” he cried. And we are forgiven. And not just past sins – future sins! God is not bound by time. He saw your sins in the past and poured them out on the Cross – he saw your sins still to come and poured those out on the Cross. No performance anxiety – if you are in Christ you are without fault. Holy. WOW!

Why does God do this incredible, mind-blowing thing? Because he wants to! God delights in saving people. Did you notice that? V5 adopting forgiven sinners into his family: This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. His plan to glorify his Son v9 is a plan to fulfill his own good pleasure.

God is happy. And he shares his happiness with us. Come, come be part of the great Cosmic party. Soon, very soon, the grey clouds of this world will part, and the bright sunshine of the Son’s glory will burst through in great joy! Come and rejoice. Come and rejoice!

søndag 19. mai 2013

Amos: An epilogue.


How we need to grasp this word, this concept! It changes how we view ourselves, how we view other people, how we view this world. Eternity.

Genesis 1:1, the beginning of the Bible says “In the beginning, God”. God is eternal. He was always there and will always be there. His name “Yahweh” (some translations say Jehovah) means I am who I am. When Moses says to God “Whom shall I say has sent me” God replies tell them “I am” sent you. God is eternal.

But we, too, are eternal. We were made in his image, the divine spark of eternal life placed within us. Each of us, from the smallest unborn child to the most wizened and wrinkled old person, is a god or goddess, a glorious creation, a song of praise to the Almighty God on the throne.

C.S. Lewis, in his sermon “The Weight of Glory” says this about us: “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.”

Eternity is the backdrop, the big theme, behind Amos’ message. The Lion roars from Zion at his people, his people who are going the wrong way: towards eternal darkness, instead of eternal Light.

Preaching is a strange business, because it is both immensely personal, and very public. You prepare a speech to be given publicly, but as you prepare it you are impacted by it personally. For it is the Living Word of God – and a preacher who is not listening to God himself has no right to get up on Sunday! I was deeply challenged by God’s word through Amos, I personally felt that we needed more time to absorb the lessons, the deep, challenging truths about God.

I wanted to draw out three lessons from Amos as follows:

1. People matter (people are valuable!)

2. The purpose of suffering is to turn us back to God (and away from eternal darkness)

3. Jesus our only Saviour

1. People matter

Amos’ prophecy opens with these thunderous words 1:2 “The Lord’s voice will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem! The lush pastures of the shepherds will dry up; the grass on Mount Carmel will wither and die.”

What is this blast of anger from the throne? Why does God roar? Why does he thunder?

We find out quickly that it’s because of people hurting people.

Injustice, abuse, war, slavery, oppression, theft, corruption – the terrible things that we do to each other. And the Lord sees. And the Lord will judge. People matter. We cannot do whatever we want to other people and not expect any consequences. The Lord sees.

It really hit home reading chapter 1 how highly God values people, all people. People matter to God! We matter because he made us. The anger, the fury which we see unleashed in chapter 1 “The people of xxx have sinned again and again, and I will not let them go unpunished!...  So I will send down fire on xxx, and the fortresses of xxx will be destroyed.” – it’s the kind of anger we see in the movies when the daughter gets kidnapped or killed and the father goes after the baddies in his righteous fury. It’s the kind of anger reserved for those who hurt the ones closest to us. And God has that kind of anger for all people. All of us matter. Isn’t that mind-blowing?

And it’s not just Christians whom he loves – it’s all people! We know how “his people” were behaving themselves – yet he is angry when they are mistreated. He is angered by Moab’s attitude towards Edom – two foreign nations. We are his creation, and he loves us. We are made in his image, and he loves us. We have an innate value, each of us.

You may have experienced something terrible in your life. Maybe you had to flee for your life from people doing evil things. Maybe those who were supposed to love betrayed you. Maybe you have been sexually abused, or imprisoned, or lied about, or cheated out of what was rightfully yours. You may feel like you have no value, that you are worthless.

Amos 1 says “no”. Indeed, Amos 2 says “NO!” when God confronts his people for their abuse of the poor, and the powerless, and their sexual immorality. No, says God, you are valuable to me, and I will punish those who have done evil against you. Like a father coming to rescue his daughter, so is God coming to judge the evildoers.

Let that penetrate. You have value. No matter what you’ve done or experienced. You have value.

But more than that: every person has value. Think now about those people or groups of people who you dismiss, ignore, don’t care about. It may be people far away – it may be people in your own family. Bring them to your mind now. And say “you have value”. God values them. Look them in the eye and say “you are valuable”.

We are all eternal beings, created in the image of God. People matter.

Because God loves us, because we are his, eternal, he will do whatever he must to call us to turn to him. To make us listen.
He will roar from Zion. He will send disaster on the city.

2. The purpose of suffering is to turn us to God

3:6 Does disaster come to a city unless the Lord has planned it? 7 Indeed, the Sovereign Lord never does anything until he reveals his plans to his servants the prophets. 8 The lion has roared— so who isn’t frightened? The Sovereign Lord has spoken— so who can refuse to proclaim his message?

This really challenged my thinking about God – and I ended up with a much bigger view of God, and a much smaller view of myself! If God’s Word keeps breaking the box you’ve put God in, get rid of the box! This is one of the truths of the Bible that really streeetch our understanding of God.

God loves us, and so he sends disaster on us. Huh? But that makes sense if the ones you love are heading for disaster! If your son is about to take drugs, who’s going to stop him? The drug dealer? He wants him to take drugs. The other addicts? They don’t care about him. But if you were there? Boom! You’d tackle him to the ground to stop him making a decision that could ruin his life. Why did you react and the others not? Because you LOVE him, they did not.

That’s why God allows suffering. It’s him tackling us to the ground, saying “think! Do you know what you’re doing to the rest of your life – eternal life”?

He does this in two ways: he allows sin, and he sends disaster. Those two can be quite strongly linked sometimes.

God allows sin so that we can see the depth of depravity (evil) in our own hearts. When we see men like Gosnell, the baby-killer, or Ariel Castro who kept three women captive for nearly 10 years, or the list of criminals, murders, corrupt officials, and dictators that just goes on and on. This is allowed in order to WAKE US UP to the fact that we have gone astray, that we need help, that we should repent of our sin and turn to God – or in the words of Amos 5 Seek the Lord and live!
Instead we use those stories to feel superior about ourselves “well, I’m fine because at least I’m not like them” and to use it to argue against believing in God “a loving God would never allow suffering”. Actually that’s exactly what a loving God would do. People matter to God, he loves people, and so he will punish, he will warn, he will do anything to turn them back to him.

Disasters like earthquakes, famine, landslides, floods, storms, accidents – all shout out to us that we are not God. That this foolish idea that “I am the captain of my destiny” is a lie. That we need to look up and acknowledge that God is God and we are not. It is God shaking us awake!

You know, our minds are predisposed to like the opinions we already hold. The pleasure centres of our brains actually light up when we hear something confirming what we already know to be “true”. Therefore Christianity is weird. Because we spend our time learning stuff which goes against what we believe or want to believe! That I’m good. That I am like God. Every time we come to the Bible we are shaken, and stretched, and told to believe things we don’t want to believe!

So why do we do it? Because it’s the truth.

Ps 50:22 (NLT) Repent, all of you who forget me, or I will tear you apart, and there will be no one will help you.

We are not free to disregard parts of the Bible we don’t like. Either God is God, or he is not. Either Jesus was raised from the dead, or he was not. If not, this is a sham, fake. If he was, and the evidence is overwhelming that he was, then all this is true, and the Bible is the very words of the Living God – and then we must bow our knees before him and say I don’t understand, but I accept.

I read Isaiah 42 last night (I’m reading through Isaiah with the kids) and at the end of the chapter it says: Is 42:23–25 (NLT) Who will hear these lessons from the past and see the ruin that awaits you in the future? 24 Who allowed Israel to be robbed and hurt? It was the LORD, against whom we sinned, for the people would not walk in his path, nor would they obey his law. 25 Therefore, he poured out his fury on them and destroyed them in battle. They were enveloped in flames, but they still refused to understand. They were consumed by fire, but they did not learn their lesson.

Suffering is for us to learn, to understand. To understand why, although we know we are loved, we don’t feel loved. Instead we feel alone, we feel guilty, we feel condemned. We were designed for intimacy with our God. Instead we have a broken relationship with God.

As Morpheus says to Neo in the Matrix “Let me tell you why you're here. You're here because you know something. What you know you can't explain, but you feel it. You've felt it your entire life, that there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me.”

Disaster strikes! Why? To wake us up to the eternal danger we face. Like being rugby-tackled by your friend just before you jumped off a bridge – the tackle may hurt for a moment, but he saved your life!

As Christians we understand. This world we live in is broken – and its brokenness drives us to Jesus. Pain in our own lives drives us to Jesus, to make us more like him.

Just one final point, in case the devil is in our heads saying “ha, you see, God doesn’t care, he’s evil – just like blasting you with his anger, watching you suffer”. Take the devil to the cross, and watch his argument vanish. God suffered everything we did, and more. He suffered and carried our suffering, so that we can live eternally free from suffering. We may struggle to understand suffering – but we cannot ever say that God is distant and unfeeling. He bore the marks on his body, a love that says “I am with you”.

Suffering drives us to the One who suffered for us. In eternity, his body will be the only one bearing scars, scars which brought us life.

Which leads me on to my final point, the final “WOW” moment I had from Amos that I would like to share with you:

3. Jesus, our only Saviour

Now that I’ve finished preaching through Amos I feel that I’m ready to preach it (ha!). Because now I understand the structure of Amos. After spending so much time with this book it’s opening before me like a brilliant treasure. And it is brilliant.
Chapters 1-6 paint a dark picture of Israel. It is ramming home the fact that they are just a sinful as the surrounding nations they look down upon. In fact they are as sinful as Egypt was in the days of the Exodus. So corrupt have they become. By the time you hit chapter 6, you should be despairing! That’s what gave Christian such a hard time preaching it: it is the low point of Amos. We should be helpless, hopeless, despairing at our sinfulness, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. Woe to us! There is no hope. Our comfortable lifestyle is built on a lie, and all will come crashing down. That’s Israel in 760BC – and indeed, us in Norway in 2013: rich, comfortable, ignoring God, trampling one another in order to get what we want. And so chapter 7 opens with utter destruction – Israel totally wiped out. Am 7:1–2 (NLT) The Sovereign LORD showed me a vision. I saw him preparing to send a vast swarm of locusts over the land…2 In my vision the locusts ate every green plant in sight. Am 7:4 (NLT) Then the Sovereign LORD showed me another vision. I saw him preparing to punish his people with a great fire. The fire had burned up the depths of the sea and was devouring the entire land.

Sackcloth. Ashes. Darkness. Hopelessness. Israel cannot rescue itself. Norway cannot rescue itself. We are ripe for the judgement of God, turning his rich gifts into praise for ourselves while ignoring him. The shadow of judgement lies heavily across our nation.

But wait! What is this? Verse 3, verse 5 Then I said, “O Sovereign LORD, please forgive us or we will not survive, for Israel is so small.”There is a mediator, one who pleads for Israel! A glimmer of hope! And the Lord relents “I will not do it,” said the Sovereign LORD.

There is still time to come back to the Lord and live (chapter 5)! There is a remnant who will be saved!

And so we enter into the brilliant chapters 8 and 9 where our eternal destinies are contrasted. Either you will remain in your sin, and chapter 8 will be your destiny: utter destruction, cut off from the word of the Lord, a spiritual famine, an eternal spiritual death.

Or chapter 9, you can choose life, follow the King like David, the one who will restore the fortunes of Israel. Take shelter in the King and you will never be uprooted.

It parallels Moses’ final speech in Deut 30 , where he lays before Israel their future: choose death, or choose life.

Amos lays the same choice before Israel, and, indeed, before us: continue in your ways, live it up, ignore God – and you have chosen death, destruction. It will come. 9:10 But all the sinners will die by the sword— all those who say, ‘Nothing bad will happen to us.’

Or take shelter in the King, cry out to the one who can gather his people from every nation, all those whom he has called to be his, and choose LIFE. You will never be uprooted. You will be eternally HOME. Am 9:11–12 (NLT, Greek text) “In that day I will restore the fallen house of David. I will repair its damaged walls. From the ruins I will rebuild it and restore its former glory, 12 so that the rest of humanity, including the Gentiles— all those I have called to be mine—might seek me. The LORD has spoken, and he will do these things.

The way is open, and the future is glorious! All our needs are met in abundance (the grain and grapes will grow faster than they can be harvested and the terraced vineyards on the hills of Israel will drip with sweet wine!) and the King who calls the even the Gentiles will gather his people back from distant lands to live forever, secure, firmly planted, never uprooted: home! Dear fellow foreigners and wanderers from foreign lands – one day we will be in our true home, where we belong. Our restless hearts will be at peace. In Christ. Firmly planted, forever.

O Glorious future!

I will let Moses have the last word:

Dt 30:19 (NLT) “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!

Choose life! Eternal life. Place your life in the hands of the King, Jesus, the Christ.

søndag 12. mai 2013

Amos 9:5-15 The King is unshakeable

Amos 9:5-15

6 The Lord’s home reaches up to the heavens, while its foundation is on the earth. He draws up water from the oceans and pours it down as rain on the land. The Lord is his name!

The Lord! God of the whole Universe. Powerful, awesome, holy, perfect. This is the God who made us, and made us like him, in his image. We are made for him, for his good pleasure, to know him, deeply, intimately, perfectly. Each person, made in his good image. Each person, therefore, infinitely valuable.

For we are eternal beings, all of us. Luminous – not just this crude matter. We are built for the world to come. And finally, finally!, we see a glimmer of hope as Amos takes us up, up and onward to a world where 13 the grain and grapes will grow faster than they can be harvested. Then the terraced vineyards on the hills of Israel will drip with sweet wine! A land where the exiles are brought home, when they can live in peace and security.
Imagine Sudan, at peace. Exiles like Ahmed, return home, plant their crops, live in peace.
But it’s more than that, greater than that. The exiles come from the whole world, the grain and grapes grow faster than possible, and the people will never be uprooted. It is a picture of Heaven, the life we were made to live. The life that is only possible through Jesus – he is the door, the key. He is the King of the fallen house of David, now restored (v11). He is our hope, because he is the one who has defeated sin, paid the price to rescue us, and who is seated on the throne, our mediator and our guarantee of safety. The Lord is his name!

Two points from the passage tonight:

1. We will be shaken

2. The King is unshakeable

1. We will be shaken

We pick up where we left off last week. Israel, shock and horror!, has become like Egypt under Pharaoh. Corrupt. Enslaving people. Sexually immoral. Caring nothing for the word of the Lord. Caring only for wealth and comfort. Fat cows saying “bring us a drink”.

Sounds like us? Well, maybe not yet. Our courts are generally fair, and people are generally honest. But for how long? How long will the legacy of Christian morals: treat others like you would want to be treated – how long will that last against the secular onslaught of look out for number 1. Love yourself.

We don’t have slavery – well, at least within the borders of the country. What about where the products we buy are made?

Our sexual morals are in a complete mess. “Families” are gone, replaced with way stations where the parental figures are swapped out every few years, and where the children commute back and forth between two or more homes. Fathers are nearly non-existent.

Why? As we see in Amos, because our centre did not hold. Our churches are rotten, filled with religion, the glorious gospel of grace replaced with a Mother Grundy wagging finger of “Behave! Or else the troll will get you. Troll, sorry I meant to say God”. Sin was reduced to naughtiness. Sin is no longer a relational thing – I am distant from God; but reduced to behavioural. As someone remarked to me the other day “people are sick of hearing about sin here in Norway”. If sin is just someone else’s’ idea of how you should behave, then yes. The key of course, is to preach MORE on sin, REAL sin – ignoring God, being estranged from Him. If someone has the counterfeit, the false, give them the truth!

Like Israel, much Christianity here in Norway has been and is simply empty religion. Much activity, but a stench in God’s nostrils, just like Israel in the time of Amos. If you don’t believe me, talk to non-Christians about their experience and view of the church. They feel condemned, they feel rejected, they feel inferior. They see the church as a holy huddle, a bunch of superior religious types looking down their noses at the “failures” the sinners and tax collectors…. Just like Pharisees.

Oh be warned! Being in church your whole life means absolutely nothing. Jesus’ terrifying words “get away from me, I do not know you!” (Matt 7:23). What we’ve seen so far in Amos is that religious activity counts nothing before God. Our righteous acts are dirty rags before him. Do we really think that you can get right with God by being good? Do we? Do we really think that being “a good person” is enough.
Fools! Do we not know who we are talking about? The great God, the Holy God, the perfect God, magnificent, pure, perfect, seated in unapproachable light on his throne high above the Heavens, a searing, blinding HOLINESS shining out from Him, his word goes forth and shakes kingdoms, brings down the mighty, h8mbles kings; his breath holds the world in check, he commands the sun to run its course, the rain to fall, the moon to rise. Our “goodness” is RIDICULOUS, laughable. A mockery of his Goodness and Justice.

Look at what he says to Israel 7 “Are you Israelites more important to me than the Ethiopians?” asks the Lord. “I brought Israel out of Egypt, but I also brought the Philistines from Crete and led the Arameans out of Kir.

They thought their bloodline mattered. I’m a Jew, so I’m safe from God. They thought their religion mattered. I serve God, so I’m safe. God owes me. They thought their goodness mattered. I’m a good person, so I’m safe.

God says: who do you think you are? Oh, I rescued you from Egypt – but I also rescued the Philistines and the Arameans.

What makes Israel special? Not Israel. Only God’s favour. It is his sovereign choice, his great mercy – and Israel instead of praising God for his mercy is betting on his grace in order that they may do evil!

This is grace: not what we do, but what God does.
Israel thought it was what they had done, and therefore thought that God owed them. You know, like they were somehow special, unique, superior, better than everyone else. How often this same thought is in our hearts. God loves me because I’m special, better than the others. Oh, we might not say it like that – but we feel it.

Oh, oh, how foolish we are! We are not special, we are not better. Israel is not more important than the Ethiopians, the Philistines, the Arameans. We are not more important than the drunkards, the New Age believers, the Muslims, the “råner”, the sexually promiscuous single mother next door, the grumpy old man up the street – whoever it is that we look down on, feel superior to. Thank goodness I’m not like “them”.

We think “God loves me” not because of his amazing grace poured out through the cross, his anguished cry “Father forgive them” covering our sins – no! We think he loves us because of us. I am nice, so God loves me. And we think we deserve his love instead of his wrath.

Oh, that is so dangerous! 8 “I, the Sovereign Lord, am watching this sinful nation of Israel. I will destroy it from the face of the earth. But I will never completely destroy the family of Israel,” says the Lord. 9 “For I will give the command and will shake Israel along with the other nations as grain is shaken in a sieve, yet not one true kernel will be lost.

One day God will shake the foundation of our lives. And if we have built on anything- ANYTHING other than Christ crucified… it will be a day of shame and terror as our whole life will crumble before our eyes and we will stand naked and alone before the God whom we have tried to manipulate and control and whose Word we have ignored and whose free gift of forgiveness we have rejected.
What a terrible Day that will be. 10 [A]ll the sinners will die by the sword— all those who say, ‘Nothing bad will happen to us.’
Sin is not firstly what we do, but what we are. Who are the sinners? Those saying “Nothing bad will happen to us” – those ignoring God’s Word, pretending He doesn’t exist. That is sin. It is relational before it is behavioural. It is the root before the fruit.

So where is your root? Where is your life anchored?

Will you be standing on the Rock of Christ when the world around is shaken? Will you be standing when the spiritual breaks through into the physical – when Christ’s trumpet will sound and his mighty army of thousands of angels reveal themselves in splendour and we will see HIM, coming in the clouds, victorious, splendid, the KING.

Will you be grasping his hand of eternal life, will his Breath be in you as you take your last breath on your death bed and awake to New Eternal Life. Or will you gasp your last breath as you realise your life was built on you, and you are now dead, and you sink down to the utter darkness?

We must turn to Him, for he is unshakeable. Not one true kernel will be lost. Because our King is the King like David, the unshakable king, the King of the Restored kingdom.

We will be shaken, but...

2. The King is unshakeable

11 “In that day I will restore the fallen house of David. I will repair its damaged walls. From the ruins I will rebuild it and restore its former glory. 12 And Israel will possess what is left of Edom and all the nations I have called to be mine.” The Lord has spoken, and he will do these things.

As an Israelite you would have been delighted to hear these words. David was Israel’s greatest king, a great warrior who defeated Israel’s enemies and finally brought peace to the region. He was a good king, a man who loved God, and honoured his people. David!

After all the doom of judgement what a glorious message to hear. Those who had listened to Amos and believed him knew that they were going into exile for their wickedness. They knew the day was soon coming when armies would swoop down from the north and wipe out Israel. So this was a great hope –something to hold on to in those years of captivity. A day is coming when all will be restored.

And it was. 2 of the 12 tribes of Israel were restored, brought back from captivity after 70 years in Babylon. They did indeed rebuild their walls and plant vineyards. But the grapes did not grow faster than they were harvested, and they were not safe forever. This prophecy was not yet fulfilled – for it was looking forward to a greater restoration, a greater day, a greater King.

12 Israel (Hebrew: “they”) will possess. “they” literally – those who are in the house of David. It is “David” who will possess the nations. David the great King, who in 2 Sam 7 wanted to build a house for the Lord. The Lord said “who are you to build a house for me – I have no need for a house (duh! 6 The Lord’s home reaches up to the heavens, while its foundation is on the earth! The Lord is his name!) But I will build YOU a house. With an eternal King.
In 760BC the house of David lies in ruins. The land is corrupt, the king is evil, religion is corrupt, false, idolatrous. But there is coming a King, a King from the line of David, a King who will restore the house of David and gather all the nations in to it.

That King is JESUS of Nazareth. He is in the line of David (Matt 1:6. Luke 3:32).

Jesus is the great King who will restore Israel.

But wait, there’s more! Remember in the book of Acts when the gospel first moves out to the Gentiles (non-Jews), and the church is not quite sure about this – can non-Jews be Christians? So they call the first ever church Council, this held in Jerusalem. All the main guys are there, Peter, Paul, Barnabas. At the end James, the brother of Jesus, gets up to summarise the Council’s decision. And guess what he uses to back up his point that Gentiles like you and me can be included in the gospel? Amos 9:11-12! These are our verses!

Ac 15:13 When they had finished, James stood and said, “Brothers, listen to me. 14 Peter has told you about the time God first visited the Gentiles to take from them a people for himself. 15 And this conversion of Gentiles is exactly what the prophets predicted. As it is written: 16 ‘Afterward I will return and restore the fallen house of David. I will rebuild its ruins and restore it, 17 so that the rest of humanity might seek the Lord, including the Gentiles— all those I have called to be mine. The Lord has spoken— 18 he who made these things known so long ago.’ 19 “And so my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.

The King who will restore David’s house is looking beyond just Israel! He will possess not just Edom , the great enemy of Israel, as far “outside” Israel as you can get – but indeed, ALL who are outside Israel can now be brought in! All the nations I have called to be mine.

This King is Jesus, the Christ. He of unlimited power, power to reign, power to rule. When he came into Jerusalem crowds lined the streets shouting Hosanna! Yet he rode in on a donkey, not a mighty horse of War. He used his power to heal, to preach, to reveal his identity. And he laid aside his majesty and died a sinners death on the cross for you and for me in order to restore the fallen house of David, in order to pay the price so that Israel could be washed clean and could be included in the house of David, and we who are outside (Gentiles) could be brought in, all who are called by his name.

Notice again that we are called by him. It is not our actions which save us, but his. It is his grace, not our effort. Praise him.

This should make us bold to share the gospel with our friends and neighbours. Yesterday my daughter said sadly “I’m the only Christian in my school”. What a privilege! She’s a missionary to an unreached people. And she can have confidence to share the gospel because it is GOD who works to call people to himself. Already His Spirit is at work awakening some in her class to life. Our confidence in witnessing is his grace, not our efforts. All the nations I have called to be mine.

Will you show that his call is upon your life by responding in joy and committing yourself to him, our Great King!

This is what we were made for! He is unshakeable, and will not lose one true kernel. Do you see the ruined cities rebuilt? The grain and grapes growing faster than they can be harvested. Do you see sweet wine running down the terraced vineyards? Do you want to be 15 firmly planted in your own land. You will never again be uprooted from the land I have given you,” says the Lord your God.

Is that not the cry of your heart. Home! A place to belong, to be at peace, to be a rest. A place where you are free, loved, accepted, cared for, looked after, free to be yourself, the true you without sin and anger and fear and worry and pain and suffering. Truly free. Christ the Kin had bought this future with his blood. Accept it. Accept it with joy and gratitude.

That is where we are going, friends, brothers and sisters. This is our future. And we know it is secure, because Jesus rose from the dead. He smashed death, and the evidence is utterly overwhelming.

The King has restored the kingdom. This is a foretaste here on earth – but the Reality. Oh my! The reality that is coming, perhaps today.

Let’s celebrate, let’s thank God, let’s tell other people! Hallelujah! Praise God. Hooray for King Jesus!