June 21st, 2015
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We’ve looked the last couple of weeks at God’s provision and God’s promises.
God is a good God. His provision is complete and His promises are absolute. Yet even with all of this, we tend to stray.
I’m so thankful that throughout my life God has had patience with me. He could have thumped me plenty of times. He could have thrown in the towel, but He didn’t.
Today we read about God’s patience with His rebellious children. Even in the midst of all of God’s blessings they turned from Him, yet God patiently corrected them and brought them back, consistently blessing them and fulfilling His promises in spite of their inconsistency towards Him.
Fasten your seat belts while I take you on a roller coaster ride via God’s Word.
Nehemiah 9:16-17, 26-31, ““But they, our ancestors, became arrogant and stiff-necked, and they did not obey your commands. They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles You performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But You are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore You did not desert them. But they were disobedient and rebelled against You; they turned their backs on Your law. They killed Your prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to You; they committed awful blasphemies. So You delivered them into the hands of their enemies, who oppressed them. But when they were oppressed they cried out to You. From heaven You heard them, and in Your great compassion You gave them deliverers, who rescued them from the hand of their enemies. “But as soon as they were at rest, they again did what was evil in Your sight. Then You abandoned them to the hand of their enemies so that they ruled over them. And when they cried out to You again, You heard from heaven, and in Your compassion You delivered them time after time. “You warned them in order to turn them back to Your law, but they became arrogant and disobeyed Your commands. They sinned against Your ordinances, of which You said, ‘The person who obeys them will live by them.’ Stubbornly they turned their backs on You, became stiff-necked and refused to listen. For many years You were patient with them. By Your Spirit You warned them through Your prophets. Yet they paid no attention, so You gave them into the hands of the neighboring peoples. But in Your great mercy You did not put an end to them or abandon them, for You are a gracious and merciful God.”
It’s like watching a tennis match. Back and forth and back and forth.
First off very quickly, this is exactly what America is doing right now. We have become stiff necked, disobedient, rebellious, and arrogant and have turned our back on God and His law. We should expect nothing less of punishment and judgment from God as any other culture and people in history have received.
If America doesn’t receive punishment for their rejection of God and His Word, He will have to apologize to everyone else in history who has followed the same path of rebellion and experienced punishment as a result.
But I’m not here today to talk about God’s judgment which will surely come, if it’s not even here right now.
What I’d like to emphasize today is that, even in mankind’s rebellion, God is patient. God’s is loving. God is merciful. God is compassionate. God is kind. God is long-suffering. God rescues. God forgives. God redeems. And God restores.
His judgment is restorative in nature. He is patient, but He also knows that change in our lives will really only come through effort and pain.
I’ve been in ministry long enough to hear story after story of God’s patience and long-suffering in people’s lives. Eventually it comes to a head, a breaking point, and then judgment comes, brokenness occurs, repentance takes place, and renewed commitment to the Lord is made in their lives.
And God’s judgment is just. We really bring it on ourselves, don’t we? We reap what we sow.
But even in spite of all of our short comings, God is merciful and He restores.
Failure is never the end as far as God is concerned. In fact, many times it’s the beginning of something new and altogether different in the best possible ways, as we learn to lean more heavily on the Lord.
He becomes stronger in our weaknesses.
On this Father’s Day, I want to bring encouragement to the men today.
As much as would hate to admit it, none of us are perfect in this place. We all have weaknesses and short comings. We’ve failed, many of us multiple times in the same thing.
But we are all created needy by God. And He has made provision for all our needs. We need His strength where we are weak.
There were many needy, weak men in the Bible who went on to do remarkable things for God.
Today I’d like us to look at a few of them to bring encouragement to us, us weak and needy men, to let us know that, in our weakness, God in His patience can and will redeem us for great things in Him.
Abraham was a man who walked in obedience to God. It was through him the nation of Israel was born. It was through his linage the Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ, was born.
There are some pretty incredible and impressive things regarding the life of Abraham.
In fact, he was called by God Himself a righteous man becuase of his strong faith in God’s promises. Genesis 15:6, ” Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness.”
But before what we know ultimately about Abraham’s life from the history books, we see he was also at times a man who would resort to what some may see as lying or manipulating a situation to his benefit.
Genesis 12:10-11, 13, “Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.”
Regardless of the Egyptian culture or any other circumstance, Abram conveniently adjusted the story to suit his immediate needs. Some may call it a lie. Some may say it’s the lie of omission. Some may call it manipulation. Others may just think he was a coward.
Regardless, what he did wasn’t right. It wasn’t complete honest. Believe it or not, Abram had faults! Yet, later on God called him a righteous man of faith.
King David was called in 1 Samuel 13:14 a man after God’s own heart. What a title!
Yet, even with that King David in 2 Samuel 11 succumbed to one night of adulterous lustful passion with Uriah the Hittite’s wife, Bathsheba, getting her pregnant, resulting in getting Uriah murdered in battle to cover things up.
So a lust-filled, adulterous, murdering man was still called a man after God’s own heart. And after all of this some of David’s greatest victories and accomplishments took place. After it some of the most profound and anointed psalms were written. After it God blessed him, used him, helped him, stayed with him.
Jesus declared to Peter that he would be the one Jesus would use to launch out and help build the Church. Matthew 16:18-19, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Yet this same Peter was a fearful defeated hot head. He angrily cut off the ear of one guy in the garden when Jesus was being arrested and then denied he even knew Jesus to three others during Jesus trial.
Yet we know today that Peter, even after the denials and the angry outbursts, was key to the founding of the Church and the bold leader of the Disciples.
Out of all the people in the world, Jesus called Paul as the first to proclaim His Gospel to the Jews and the Gentiles. Acts 9:15, “But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.”
Paul wrote 2/3 of the New Testament and planted as many as 14 churches in strategic cities, of which they in turn planted others which spread the gospel throughout Asia and the Roman Empire. His influence and impact in establishing the Church and spreading the Gospel are hard to measure, but they are being felt to this day.
Yet this same Paul who was first known as Saul ruthlessly killed or had killed countless numbers of Christians in the name of God as he attempted to wipe out this Jesus movement at its infancy.
So, we have a lying coward, an adulterous lust-filled wife stealing murderer, a fearful hothead, and a ruthless religious murdering zealot. Yet one was also called righteous because he believed God, another was a man after God’s own heart, another was given the responsibility of founding the Church, and still another was given the responsibility of evangelizing the known world with the Gospel.
Guys, I’m encouraged.
What this is telling us today is this. In spite of our weaknesses, God can use us. In spite of our fleshly tendencies, God isn’t finished with us. In spite of our failures, God’s plan for our lives is one of great success in Him.
In the seesaw and back and forth of our lives, our ups and downs, those times we are at the peak and the other times we are in the lowest of valleys, God is patient. God is kind. God forgives. God redeems.
We’re not washed up. He has a plan for our lives that will be accomplished if, IF, we will repent from our stiff necked ways. If we will repent from our rebellion. If we reject our self centered arrogance.
God changed Abram’s name to Abraham to reflect Abraham’s newly expanded faith. Exalted father to father of a multitude.
God accepted David’s repentance when he said, “I have sinned before God and God alone.”
Jesus changed Simon’s given name to Peter, which means “rock”, reflecting his new assignment in Christ.
Saul changed his name to Paul to remove himself from his old man to the new man he was in Christ.
What new name do you want for yourself?
What new identity do you want to reflect?
Are you tired of being the way you are?
Maybe you’re dealing with lust. Change your name! I am pure in heart!
Maybe it’s lying. Change it! I’m a truth teller.
Are you a cheater? Be called honest. Are you a coward? Be called brave. Do you run from responsibilities? Be called responsible.
Are there perversions in your life that seem to always get the best of you? Be called free!
It’s not the end of the book of your life! Things can change!
You can be a better father, husband, employee, Christian!
It all begins at the foot of the Cross. It’s where repentance takes places. It’s where a new start begins. It’s where forgiveness is given. It’s where a new name is bestowed on you!
God is patient. But He also is just. Be sure that if you continue down whatever path you are traveling that you know is not holy, righteous, or pure, that you know is rebellious and stiff necked and arrogant, restorative judgment will come, because you will always reap what you sow.
But instead of remaining in the place you are that is away from God and Way from His plan for your life, how about on the Father’s Day making it a day of commitment to turn back to Him, completely, whole-heartedly, holding nothing back.
God has more chapters to write in the story of your life. Let them be chapters that turn the story towards redemption, purpose, and effectiveness for all of eternity.
We only have this one life, with its up and downs and successes and failures, but we serve a patient God who redeems, rescues, restores, and sets us up for success in Him.
Let Him rescue you from the name you’ve worn as a saddle these many years. Be free. Be changed. Embrace the new name God has for you in Christ Jesus.