Entrusted: What We Learn in Captivity



Hi family. How are you so glad you're here with us. Thanks for joining us online. Man, if you didn't like the third song, you're sitting in the wrong spot. Wait, listen, preachers tell who's in church and who --you guys are sitting in the wrong spot. Stop it. Stop changing seats on me. I wouldn't even know who was here. I don't even, I can't even – just joking. Hey, glad you're here. Welcome to 2021. We're all praying that 20, 20 didn't turn 21 and start drinking, right? Like that's what we're hoping. We're praying for this to be a blessed, blessed year. I'm excited about what the Lord has in store. I need my sermon notes on my monitor. There we go. Thank you. That would have been bad? We would just been killing time, small talking for 30 minutes. It wouldn't have made any sense at all.

Hey, I want to talk about one thing before I get running and then we're going to move at an incredible rate of speed. Are you guys ready to go to work today? I'm excited. I'm excited. I want to say thank you for all the support. I got a number of supportive emails about moving in this direction of biblical justice pastor and, and a lot of people like, Hey, we'd like this, we think this is God's direction. And that a church would try to tackle this as good and yeah. Yep. All those things are true and also got some emails that were like, well, we have a question in there and they're actually really, really good questions. We got, we got some really, really good questions. One of the things that I want to make sure that we reiterate in this process is, no matter what happens, the Bible is the inerrant, infallible word of God.

And it's really important for us to remind ourselves of that. Like, the Bible is God's full revelation to us without error and without mixture. And that's significant because we will never allow our church, as much as we're able, to do less than the Bible says. Now, we're never going to ask it to do more than the Bible says, but we're never going to allow it to do less than the Bible says. Here's, here's the thing. The Bible says what it says, right? And we got to, as people who believe that God is good and that he's for us and that his agenda for the world is better than what we can come up with. Our, our obligation then is to figure out what the Bible says. And then just do it, just read the Bible, do what it says like this isn't complicated. It's not easy, but it's also very simple. Just read the Bible and do what it says, right? So here's what I know. And it's a fair question because churches that have had a tendency to kind of wade into these waters typically have a tendency to want to lean more towards socially accept -- culturally accepted stances rather than biblically grounded stances. We will never do that. We'll never do that. The Bible says what it says, and I know that we are wading -- thank you. I know that we are wading into muddy waters. I know we are. But here's the thing for me, if God is who he says he is and the Bible is what it says it is. And Jesus and his mission are what they say they are, there has to be a way to stand firmly in grace and truth. There has to be a way to do that. And by cracky, we're going to figure it out. We're going to figure it out. The Bible says what it says, and we're going to live into that truth.

And that's a great segue into what we're talking about today is as we move into January, we're in this season of like kind of setting objectives and goals for 2021, or at least for the first few days of January. You know, we'll see, we'll see how that goes for all this. Like I want to, I want to give us a challenge to really steward life in a way that is consistent with the word of God, because I promise you it will go better. It will go better than what we can come up with on our own. If we just allow God to be God and we trust him. And so what I want to talk about today is what we learn in captivity. It seems like a weird statement, but I want to set a stage for us in this message. And what I can tell you is what we're talking about today. So important, so important to the world that Jesus stepped into. I cannot stress to you in strong enough terms, how significant the Babylonian captivity was for the Jewish people. So much so that at the time of the first century, they are no longer mosaic Christian Jews. They're no longer mosaic Israelites, they're Babylonian, Israelites. They're different. They're a different breed. They're a different kind of people. And if we don't understand that, then we don't really understand the world that Jesus stepped into the Jews believed that they went to Babylon, they got pulled into captivity, because they had sinned. And that's so critical for us to understand because coming out of Babylon, the number one thing that they had determined for themselves was that they were going to live righteously. That there's nothing more valuable than that to them. They want to live righteously. And I know when we read the gospels we’re like, man those pharisees are jerks to Jesus. No, they're not, they're not being jerks. They're trying to live righteously because they don't want to go back into captivity. And so the law is really important to them. If you look at the old Testament, like they're kind of like moral reprobates, they can't keep themselves above ground. They're kind of constantly intermingling and becoming like all the other people that they're not supposed to be intermingling with. And, and all that, they kind of just keep getting sucked back into the idolatry and all that stuff. They keep getting sucked back into that. When Jesus shows up, they won't even be in the same house. They won't even allow the dust of a, of a Gentile house to cover their feet. Right? They've, they've so disconnected. Why? Because they want to live righteously so that they don't go back into captivity, which raises a myriad of questions. Not the least of which is, but they're under Roman rule, what about that? That’s another sermon for another day. Or you can come to Israel with me because it's a major framework for what we talk about in Israel. So this is something that is, is going on. They had developed the school system that they use in the Orthodox community to this day was developed in Babylon. They were so determined to live righteous, that they wanted to infuse their children with the text. In fact, every man's Talmud says this. It says before the age of five, we do not receive a child, but after the age of five, receive him and stuff him with Torah, like an ox. And still by the age of 10, the least academic of them, the ones that would struggle to pass to the next grade, have the Torah memorized. That's Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy memorized. To which we immediately go my 10 year old can't remember to tie his shoes, right. Go sit with them when he plays video games and watch how quickly he puts a cheat code in a why, why is to cue left right? Left right up, down, up, up, down, down. Right? You're like, how did, how did you put that together? Here's why, because we remember what's important to us -- cause we remember what's important to us. Come on, me and Angelia are going to have a conversation. I don't know where you guys are at. They were so determined to live righteous because they believed that they went to Babylon because they sinned. That being the case then, what we need to wrestle with is what did they consider sin? What was their sin? What was the unrighteousness? And then what did righteousness look like for them when they came back? And I think what we can do is begin to learn what is it that God's trained to teach his people in captivity and maybe then we can learn to get unstuck  in our own life.

So I want to begin with the book of Jeremiah chapter 25. And we're gonna look at a lot of text today. I know totally different than every other Sunday, but we're gonna look at a lot of scriptures today cause I want to put the pieces together in the timeline. And I'm going to walk through a timeline of the Babylonian captivity into the rebuilding of the nation. Chapter 25 of Jeremiah goes like this, “the word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, the King of Judah (that was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon), which Jeremiah the prophet spoke to all the people of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem: “For 23 years, from the 13th year of Josiah the son of Amon, King of Judah, to this day, the word of the Lord has come to me, and I have spoken persistently to you, but you have not listened.” 23 years I've been preaching this at you and you won't listen. “You have neither listened nor inclined your ears to hear, although the Lord persistently sent to you all his servants the prophets, saying ‘Turn now, every one of you, from his evil way and his evil deeds, and dwell upon the land that the Lord has given to you and your fathers from of old and forever. Do not go after other gods to serve and worship them, or provoke me to anger with the work of your hands.” Listen to that statement: or provoke me to anger with the work of your hands. “Then I will do you no harm.’ Yet you have not listened to me, declares the Lord, that you might provoke me to anger with the work of your hands to your own harm. Therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: because you have not obeyed my words, behold, I will send for all the tribes of the north, declares the Lord, and for Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants, and against all these surrounding nations. I will devote them to destruction, and make them a horror, a hissing, an everlasting desolation. Moreover, I will banish from them the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the grinding of the millstones and the lighting of the lamp. This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon 70 years. Then after 70 years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their inequity, declares the Lord, making the land and everlasting waste.”

So here's the thing we need to always remember. There's no unimportant numbers in the Bible so when you see a number, you need to figure out why it's there. You need to ask yourself, why is it there? Why do we need to know that it was 70 years? Well, what Jeremiah will go on to say is one year for each one of his Jubilees that they did not honor. Not Jubilees, Sabbath years, each one of his Sabbath years that they did not honor. Here's what a Sabbath year is. These people are subsistence farmers. They're not vocational farmers. They don't have massive tracts of land to store crops. They have little tracts of land that provide food for their family year upon year, upon year. So six years they farm. And in the sixth year, they have to trust that they're going to collect enough for two years because on the seventh year, they have to let the land lay fallow. Now you can say, you know, God was into crop rotation before crop rotation was cool, right? Like, and it replaces the soil and dah dah dah. Yes. Yeah, sure, sure. But why should they let the land rest? Here's why, because God said to, and when we have to trust that God is going to provide enough for us from not enough. Then, what happens is, we reveal exactly who God is to us, to the whole world. And that matters because, apparently, they weren't honoring the Sabbath, which is fundamental to who they are in covenant relationship with God, they weren't honoring the sabbath. I remember -- if you remember the movie Noah, that movie Noah -- everybody was like, ah, liberal environmental agenda. Remember? Because it was that God destroyed the earth because they weren't, they were over producing, producing, producing, producing. Well, first of all, it was built from a mid rash of a called the book of Enoch. And it, it came from the idea that they wouldn't, they kept producing, they kept forcing the land to produce, produce, produce, but they were hoarding it all, right. They were hoarding it all. And for you go, well, that's liberal agenda. Well Noah means ‘he rests’. And you can go, well, I don't buy that. Okay. But that's the story that's being told in Jeremiah. The problem is they're not letting the land rest because when we do this, we allow God to be who he is in our own hearts. So there's this reality of unrighteousness that comes from not trusting God to do what he says he's going to do. And what happens is, they begin to turn to other gods to even increase their production. But in increasing their production, they're not living with an open hand. They're hoarding, T And this is really, really bad. And so God sends them into captivity and in six 606 BC, we have the first deportation Babylon comes in, there will be three deportations. This is the first one in 606 BC. They come in and they start hauling Israelites off to Babylon. And Babylon's ruling style was very cruel. They would beat you and kick your dog and haul you off and make you a slave. Like they were, they were really, really heavy handed leaders. And then somewhere between 588, 586 BC, we have the third, the last deportation of Israelites to Babylon. Okay. And then what happens is what happens to all great nations in history? Babylon gets conquered by Persia. Through a leader called Cyrus. The great which by the way, is prophesied in the book of Isaiah chapter 45. He's the -- Cyrus has prophesied over as God's Messiah -- another sermon for another day, but he's the savior for his people, for God's people, Cyrus isn't the savior for his own people. Cyrus becomes the deliverer of God's people. And his name of course is Cyrus the great, because in history, you never have Cyrus the normal, right? You don't have the Cyrus the mediocre, the incredibly average guy who didn't do a whole lot. We don't have that guy. Right. We don't have that guy remembered. So he issues a decree when he takes over Babylon, he issues a decree and that decree is recorded in Ezra chapter one verses two to four. So here's what it says. “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: the Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build them a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah”. Okay. So, what's going on here, Cyrus, who's the King of Persia -- the God of the earth of all the earth has charged him to build a house at Jerusalem. For God, we call that a temple. You with me. So Cyrus has been given, God has laid it on his heart, that a temple needs to be rebuilt in Jerusalem. So here's what he says. “Whoever is among you, of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel -- he is the God who is in Jerusalem. And let each survivor, in whatever place he sojourns, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods, and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.”

And so 538 BC, Zerubbabel leads the first wave of Jews back to Israel. And they begin this process of rebuilding their country. Here's what's -- and again, I want to go back to this premise. We can learn what they believed their sin was, based on how they respond in this new opportunity to live free. Does that make sense? Before they even go to their own homes, all of them go to Jerusalem and here's what they do. “Some of the heads of the families, when they came to the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem” and that's not been rebuilt yet. It's in shambles. They “made freewill offerings for the house of God, to erect it on its site. According to their ability they gave to the treasury of the work, 61,000 darics of gold.” And we all know what a daric is, “5,000 minas of silver, and 100 priests' garments. Now the priests, the Levites, some of the people, the singers, the gatekeepers, and the temple servants lived in their towns, and all the rest of Israel in their towns.” After they had come, the first thing they do before they even have a place to lay their own head is to make sure that they are generous to God. Why? Because the foundation upon which righteousness is built is generosity. And I, and I know that that, well, that's interesting. That's an interesting thought, but blah, blah, blah. No, it happens over and over and over and over and over again. Any time that they hit a central moment in their development of their country, they stop and they're generous back to the Lord. Why? Because generosity is the foundation of righteousness. And by the way, hoarding is the foundation of unrighteousness. They learned that in captivity. Now the first thing they do when they're there -- and think about this, they come into a destroyed country. The cities don't have any walls. None of them are protected. And all these other nations have kind of been in there, looting their stuff and all that stuff. Right? The first thing they do is build an altar to God. Now, remember the date, what's the date. When they go back? 538 BC, that matters on the timeline because watch me now, the first thing they do is build an altar to God. I want to read out in Ezra 3, check this out. It says “when the seventh month came, and the children of Israel were in the towns, the people gathered as one man to Jerusalem. Then arose Jeshua the son of Jozadak, with his fellow priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel with his kinsmen, and they built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the law of Moses the man of God.” So, this is the first thing that they do. “They set the alter in its place, for fear was on them because of the peoples of the lands.” Okay? Wait, what? If you're afraid of the people around you attacking you? Build a wall! No. What did they learn in captivity? It's the hand of God that offers them protection. Nothing else. Nehamiah is going to come build a wall, but it is going to be almost a hundred years from now.

This is a big deal. Where does their security come from? You can build a wall to the heavens. It doesn't matter if God's hand of protection isn't on you. And so, because they were afraid of the peoples in the area, they start being generous back to God. That's where they begin. “And they offered burnt offerings on it to the Lord, burnt offerings morning and evening. And they kept the Feast of Booths, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number according to the rule, as each day required, and after that the regular burnt offerings, the offerings at the new moon and at all the appointed feasts of the Lord, and the offerings of everyone who made a freewill offering to the Lord. From the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the Lord. But the foundation of the temple of the Lord was not yet laid.”

Now, question? What did Cyrus send them back for? Remember, remember Cyrus's decree? God put it on his heart that he needed a house in Jerusalem. So he sent him back to build the temple and they have not even begun to build the house of God, but they built an altar. Why? Because they choose to live righteous and righteousness begins with generosity. It begins with generosity. It's that simple. It's simple math, by the way. You can't live righteously, we can't live righteously without also being generous first. Now, can you be generous without being righteous? Sure. But you can't be righteous about being generous. Can't do it. Oh, and by the way, what are they doing when they're giving sacrifices? Yes. They're being generous to God, but that they're giving to God as an act of worship. That's what the sacrifices are. They're an act of worship. Now, what do we say every week? We're going to continue our time of worship with our tithes and offerings. Why? Because the way you give to the Lord is an act of worship, or it isn't. Now 520 BC. Let's do the timeline. When do they come back from Babylon? 538 BC. Okay. 18 years later, a guy by the name of Haggai begins to prophesy. And here's what he says. Haggai 1:1-4: “In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadek, the high priest: ‘thus says the Lord of hosts: these people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.’” What have they been doing for 20 years? Let me tell you what they did. So when they come out of Babylon, they bring with them, all of these really expensive woods and cloths and tapestries and gold and silver, and all of this stuff was supposed to be used to rebuild the temple because Cyrus was funding it. You know what they did? They took that stuff and built their own homes with it. Look at, keep reading: “then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, ‘Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?” They took all of God's things and rebuilt their own houses. To which we go, Listen, when you don't tithe, you're taking God's money and building your own world with it. How do you think God's going to like that? Apparently, he doesn't. So they get convicted In their hearts. They're like, yeah, we gotta fix this. And in 520 BC, they rebuild the temple.

Okay. In Ezra 6, here's what it says, this is how they kind of coronate the temple: “And the people of Israel, the priests and the Levites, and the rest of the returned exiles, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy. They offered at the dedication of this house of God 100 bulls, 200 rams, 400 lambs, and a sin offering for all Israel 12 male goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel. Like, that's, they gave a lot, they gave a lot. Why? Because every time they have a major moment, a major completion, a major event in the moving forward of the building of their nation, they remind themselves that they came back, determined to live righteous and righteousness, the foundation upon which righteousness is built is generosity and generosity begins when we properly steward God's resources. They can't escape it. Now here's the, here's the keep going on the timeline, 457, 458 BC, somewhere in there – that’s when Ezra returns to Israel with the second wave, and then in 444 to 445 BC, Nehemiah returns to rebuild the wall. And so, they’re contemporaries. Ezra and Nehemiah are in Israel at the same time. So if you want to, by the way, there's a ton of your Old Testament that was written about this specific time period – Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther and tons of the prophets, Haggai and Zechariah they're all written around this time. And so that you have a ton of scripture about this window, and it just keeps getting reinforced, just keeps getting reinforced that we're determined to live righteous. And the foundation upon which righteousness is built in generosity. And that begins when we properly steward God's resources. Now, when they show up, Ezra and Nehemiah, it seems they have to call people back to this idea of generosity and they do so. And they start to pick up on it again, like Nehemiah 7:70-73 is an example of that, which we won't take the time to read. But the reason why I say that is because somewhere in the window of 460 to 440 BC, Malachi writes his prophecy. So it's in this window of time where they're trying to rebuild the country in this lax time between Zerubbabel and Haggai and Zechariah and Ezra and Nehemiah in this window, how are they doing? How are they doing there? Well, here's the, it says Malachi 3, “For, I, the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me and I'll return to you, says the Lord of hosts.” Like, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. We want God. We need you to show up. He's like, okay, return to me and I'll return to you. “But you say, ‘how should we return?’ Will man rob God? Yet you're robbing me. But you say, ‘how have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions.” They got, they got off the, off the path again. You're cursed with a curse for you're robbing me, the whole nation of you. And I just wonder for you and me, I wonder what part of our life is cursed, cursed, because we're not stewarding God's resources God's way. Furthermore, we've been talking a lot about calling the nation back to God. What part of that is our responsibility to own just in how we give to the Lord. The nation was under a curse cause they wouldn't tithe. Like, that's no joke. You can't, you can't sit and scream at the country to come back to God and not tithe. Cause you're getting into way. “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. I rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts. Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts.” Like, what would happen, I wonder, what it would look like if we would just tithe, just do what we're supposed to do, what we're clearly commanded to do.

And here's the deal. I know that for a lot of us, when we talk about this, we talk about it in the terms of, well, yeah, preacher, it's really easy for you to say that. It's like a husband telling a wife that she should be a better wife. Of course you would say that you receive the benefit of it. Right? Well, let's walk that out and see if that's true. Let's pretend that all of us are billionaires. May it be so in 2021 may it be so, right? If they keep printing money, the way they are, we're going to have a billion dollars. Just won't be worth anything. Here’s the think, we're all billionaires. And none of us have tithed ever to this church. And because of the powerful preaching of the word of God, that's the third time I've done that. It doesn't get old. We all come under deep conviction of the Holy spirit. Okay? So we're walking it out here. We're like, we're going to tithe. And so the church budget goes from here to here, right? Guess what happens to my salary? Nothing. I don't receive any benefit from you tithing -- you do. And here's the deal. It's not about whether – like, I would so much rather not talk about this. You know why? Because I'm going to get blasted this week with emails you don't know and you don't know how dare you and why I'm going to get all the emails. So I'm gonna get them all. This it's fine. It's fine. I, I can handle it. I’m a big boy. I can handle it. However, I don't love you if I don't tell you the truth about what God's word says. It's not because, it's not because I'm mad. I'm not mad at you. I want you to experience everything that the Lord has for you because when you do, you become a light to the world because people want the good life. The problem is we try to come with the good life, our own way. You can't do God's things your own way and get his results. We can't do it. And I will go even a step further. She was like, there are steps further than it because dang. Here's the deal in Ezekiel 14, what happened was God had come to Ezekiel, early in his prophecy, and said, I want you to go through the land and tear down all the idols. And so he does that. The priests go through with him and they tear down all the idols and they restore the temple, And then, in chapter 14, it says that the priests come to Ezekiel and say they were still not being blessed by God. What's the problem? We tore down the idols like he asked. We're still not being blessed by God. And so God comes to Ezekiel and he says, Hey, tell him this, tell him the reason that they're not being blessed is because they've set up idols in their hearts.

Listen, what giving does, what generosity does, is it forces us to tear down the idols in our hearts so that we can be blessed. Like, God's not trying to do this with you. God. I want to pour open the flood gates for you. But if you won't live righteous, you won't steward it well. So you'll take my blessing and blow the world up with it. Why would you do that? Like the worst thing that God could do would be to pour out his blessing on somebody that won't properly steward it. Because then we tell everybody a wrong story about who God is and we mess everything up. Now here's the thing. Paul talks in the book of Romans about acts that lead to life and acts that lead to death. You know what the thing is about acts that lead to death? They always lead to death. And you know what the thing is about acts that lead to life? They always lead to life. You will never choose acts that lead to death and have it turn out well. As soon as we choose to walk down a path that is outside God's agenda for our life, we turn a clock on ticking down to where everything falls apart. Like it's just, it's just a matter of time. Why? Because acts that lead to death, always lead to death. Acts that lead to life will always lead to life. That's why you will never hear a story that goes like this: Man, I started shooting heroin and then everything worked out. That story doesn't exist. Why? Because acts that lead to death, lead to death. What you will hear is I started shooting heroin and I lost everything. And now I don't know how to quit because it's got control over me. Acts that lead to life, lead to life. Acts that lead to death, lead to death. And for us, man, what would it be like for us, not just to have life in our own world, but because we carry life with us, we leave life wherever we go? We release the curse because God's people are properly stewarding God's resources, God's way. If we talk about wanting 2021 to be this place where we stand for something. Maybe we need to start doing what we already know we should do, and then let the opportunities to be God's hands and feet take shape. Like I, I think that most of us Christians, this is bonus material -- most of us Christians are already educated way past what we're doing. Like we're not walking out what we already know that we should. What if, what if we just did that much? Let's do that much. Here's the deal? What are we learning in captivity? We learn that if we want to be free, we have to be righteous. But in order to be righteous, we have to be generous. And in order to call ourselves generous, we have to steward God's resources God's way. This is what we learned in captivity.

Maybe we're tired of being enslaved. You're like, I'm not a slave to anybody. Maybe you're a slave to your own agenda. Did we step too far? Listen, I'm not trying to call anybody out. I'm not, I'm just saying like, we've got to wrestle with this because the word says what the word says. And I'm never going to ask you to do more than what the word says, but I will never ask you to do less than it either. Right? Like we're going to do -- the word says what the word says. And here's what I've learned in my quick life. My very short, very young life. What I've learned so far is that it's always better to do things God's way. It's always better. It's not just right. It's better to do things God's way.

So I've got some implications for us. You ready for this? We're gonna do it different this week. We're gonna have four implications. As opposed to the other weeks, when we have four implications. Number one, God commands don't change with the times. Following them is all about the posture of our hearts. Like, God's commands are timeless. They're true for all people, all places, all times following them is about the posture of our hearts.

Implication number two, finding loopholes in our faith is easy when circumstances are good. The hardest part about receiving the blessing of God is living in it. Well, here's the deal. We got to stop trying to loophole our Christianity. Like, do you really, I, I hear this. I've heard this a hundred times. And as a pastor over the years, do you really expect that in my context, that God actually expects me to give? Yes. I expect that because it's what his word says, right? There's never going to be a situation in anybody's context where God's going to come in and go, Oh my goodness. I didn’t think of that, dude. You're off the hook. I didn't even think about that one. That's never going to happen. So his commands are true for all people, all places, all times. Right? We have to understand that. Now, I know that as soon as I do that people are going to try to pick that statement apart. Understand the heart of the law not the letter of the law. But they're, they're the true, they're true. Like they're true. You don't get the loophole, your faith because you don't like your circumstances. You know the, well, if I just made a little bit more money than I'd be free to give. That's a lie. If you’re faithful with a little, you'll be faithful with more, right? It's a lie to say that when we hit a certain amount. Because generosity doesn't have an offset, it doesn't.

Implication number three, as followers of Jesus, we must be willing to call one another towards God's standards for living. Why? Because we want to prove everybody wrong? No, because we want you. I want you to have the best life. Listen. The people that I've rubbed shoulders with week in and week out, it's better for me if you're happy. Do you know what I'm saying? Can you, can you imagine what it's like to live with miserable people all the time. So yeah. I have a job, right? But think about it. Like it's better for all of us if we inspire one another towards God's standards for living, because then you have peace, you have happiness, right? It's not better for us to be okay with people's compromise. And yes, we have grace. Yes, we have grace. But listen to me, we don't give forgiveness without repentance. What we want is forgiveness without repentance. We want to be forgiven without having to change anything. That's not how it works. Yes, we have grace, but we also have truth. Yes. God's grace, his love is unconditional and he will keep welcoming us back. Yes, yes, yes, yes. But our call is to righteousness and holiness, and right-living before God, like that's also true. And we, we throw ourselves at the mercy of God's grace. Not because we slipped up, but because we don't want to live right. And that's forgiveness without repentance and doesn't work that way. It doesn't work that way.

Implication number four, we cannot allow ourselves or others to make excuses for disobedience. Can't do it. I know that as Christians, it's hard because our biblical standards are, and they're increasingly getting further removed from the cultural norms. Right. And so it's harder to take a clean stand, like take a clean stand on something. I really believe, and it's especially true right now, I really believe that the world is dying for somebody to take a clear stand on God's principles. Like I really believe that I really believe that if you just go out and do it, you might lose a friend. You might, I don't know what they're going to do. They might huff and puff and blow your house down. I don't know. I don't know. What I know is what will happen as a ripple effect of our faithfulness will be way bigger than the things that we lose in the process. Like that's what Jesus says. What Jesus says is there's nobody that hasn't lost family member or friend or land for my namesake, that won't be paid a hundred fold in this life and in the life to come. That's what Jesus’ own words are. We just gotta be willing to trust him. Either he means it or he doesn't, but we can't make excuses for why it's okay to live a life of disobedience. I think 2020 gave us enough grief that we ought to open up every opportunity for God to work in 2021. And righteousness is built on the foundation of generosity, which begins with properly stewarding God's things God's way -- easy math.

And I love, you know, we take communion every week, but again, this segue into communion out of that truth, like the more that we try to hold onto our own life, the more that we lose it, like it slips through our fingers, the tighter we grasp it, the more it slips through our fingers, which is why it's so important for us to recognize the more that we just live a life that Jesus modeled, we lay our lives down like Jesus did, the more that he can open us up to the blessings that fill our life with more than we could ever come up with on our own. If you worked hard and you're smart, you can have the best that you can produce for you. That's true. But Ephesians 3 says: “to him who is able to do a measurably more than we could ever think or imagine to him be the glory.” So here's a question. Do you want the best life that you could come up with or do you want immeasurably more than you could ever think or imagine that's like asking, do you want a dollar or do you want a million dollars? I'll take the dollar. I just spent a week with my father who was born and raised in Kentucky and the words of my father that don't make no sense. Right? Why would you do that? Maybe it's time for us to just take a minute and say, Lord, this communion thing that we do every week, like I take it and I'm thankful for it. But Lord today, I don't want to miss the model for me, that it is of laying my life down. Let's take a minute prepare our hearts as we get ready to take communion together.

On the night, Jesus was betrayed. He took bread and he broke it. And he said, this is my body, which is given for you. So whenever you eat this bread, do it in remembrance of me. Let’s remember. Then, after the dinner he took a cup and he said, this cup, this is my new covenant, my blood, which is shed for you. As you drink this cup, do it to remembrance of me.

Let's pray. Thank you for your grace. Thanks for the call to trust you. And thank you God, that you are infinitely and perfectly faithful. Thank you that we can rest in your plans for our life. And Lord, I pray God that right now, as we sit here in this space, thinking about what all this means, that you would begin to reveal the idols in our own hearts so that we can begin to tear those down and be a light and life everywhere that we go. Thank you, Lord, for your promises. In Jesus name, amen.

Let’s stand and sing one more song. So we're in this space 2021, we're sitting like what's the year going to be like for us? Like, what are the things that we're committing to? What are the things that we want to make our life stand for in this year? I would just invite us to consider how important it will be for us to stand up and be counted for as Christians, as people of faith, as people who take God at his word, as people who are willing to step into that, regardless of what it costs us, regardless of what it takes for us.

And so, my challenge for us is, may you and I be people who steward God's things God's way so that we can be defined by your generosity and called righteous in this world. Our world needs living examples of righteousness. And if you're sitting in this room this morning, or in your home and you are struggling, there are people that are here to pray with you. As soon as they do their reprise, you can step up here and pray with them. Or the prayer room is open and available. You can go in there and pray with someone or by yourself, either one is fine, but we want you to make sure that you leave here encouraged and prayed up and ready to charge into 2021, believing that God has great things in store for the people who will trust him. May we be people who take God at his word, thanks for coming and have a great week.

Speaker: Aaron Couch

January 3, 2021

Aaron Couch

Lead Pastor

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