We are in a Romans 12 series, based on Chip Ingram’s book “True Spirituality”. Today we are in session 2. Last week we looked at part 1 of a two Sunday’s message on ‘God’s dream for your life‘. Our focus was the Christians relationship with God and the world. Today the focus will be on the Christians relationship with himself, with other believers and with nonbelievers. We hope you will join us in our study of this rich and practical chapter of Romans.
Everyone knows that the words we speak reveal much about our life.
Just like a photographic image is revealed while immersed in the developing fluid, so the background of our outside life and the richness of our inner life are revealed through our words.
The words that you and I speak are conditioned by the background of our daily lives – affections, thoughts, longings, anxieties, struggles, passions, what we read, what we watch, what we listen too.
In Matthew 5:6 we come across these words:
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
Considering our “theory” expressed above, what do these words say about Jesus, about his life? The question will be answered in a future article.
But for now let’s look at the words and the listeners. When Jesus spoke these words, the people to whom he was speaking, the people who heard the words for the first time, for them HUNGER and THIRST rang a clear bell. They knew what it meant to be hungry (they didn’t have our supermarkets, our constant access to food, our money and our refrigerators) and they knew what it meant to be thirsty (they didn’t have out taps, where at any time of day you can have clean, fresh water).
But Jesus meant more than that.
What he was talking about was a kind of hunger and a kind of thirst, which, if not quenched, would lead to death. Have we ever felt like we would die of hunger or thirst?
When we go over these words in Matthew our brain can have a somewhat difficult time in actually rendering the feelings, the anxieties, the fears and the pains which hunger and thirst would provoke.
Now … here is the difficult part: as believers, we should hunger and thirst to be righteous. Its not food and water we are talking about, but RIGHTEOUSNESS.
In 2 Corinthians 5:21 Paul says this:
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
If we put them together – the verse in Matthew and the one in 2 Corinthians, we can see the following:
- our hunger and thirst for righteousness is our thirst and hunger for Christ (“IN HIM we might become the righteousness …”)
- [to be made righteous you need a sinless person to satisfy God’s wrath (“sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins”) (see 1 John 4:10)]
- it was God’s plan to accomplish this – us being made righteous (“HE MADE him to be sin …. SO THAT ….”)
- we are in the same “class” with Paul when it comes to sinners being made righteous (“WE might become …..”)
- Jesus is talking about a hunger and thirst that only He can satisfy. (Matthew 5:6)
- it is a promise – the fact that if we hunger and thirst – we will be satisfied (Matthew 5:6)
- this hunger and thirst comes with a unique kind of joy in the life of those who have it. (BLESSED are those who ...) (Matt 5:6)
The questions for us today are:
– Can these words hit us, IMPACT our hearts and minds in such a way that we can feel that, if we do not eat and drink, we will die?
– DO WE HUNGER AND THIRST FOR … RIGHTEOUSNESS?
One last thing:
Jesus says : “THOSE WHO hunger and thirst”. Not everyone does.
Do I? Do you?
This is an encouragement for you to desire more of Christ, to want to know Him more, to want to be more like Him, to want to follow Him and obey Him, to desire to be more holy, to be more humble, more loving, more sacrificial.
HUNGER AND THIRST for righteousness, knowing that only God can make you righteous through CHRIST.
The purpose of the maze-like picture game “Where’s Wally” is to find a skinny, tall guy, with striped (red and white) shirt, striped hat, blue pants and glasses – in a labyrinth of people, in a
setting where a crowded mass of people (some wearing striped pieces of clothing), shapes and colors, hide Wally like a perfect camouflage. The same is happening with Israel in the book of Judges, in the canaanization of their hearts, where, reaching the end of the book, you find yourself asking: “Where’s Israel?”
Chapter 13 begins with the people sinning – “Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord” – and as in all cases throughout the book, as a consequence of their sinning, God gives them in the hands of the Philistines. For 40 years.
But there is something missing as the history develops and we reach, after 40 years, the announcement of Samson’s birth. Israel is not crying out to the Lord. Before, in similar settings, they cried out after 8 years of suffering. In this case, it was 40 years. But was it suffering? The fact that the crying out to God is absent leads us to believe that what they experienced in the hand of the Philistines was not suffering. If we go deeper into the problem we might say that if God did not intervene by raising a judge, namely Samson, the 40 years would have become 50, 60, ….
God manifests His grace again by raising a deliverer that the people didn’t ask for, and didn’t think they need. Grace saved Israel from itself. Again. Samson’s birth is a sign of God’s commitment to Israel. A sign of love and faithfulness
for His chosen people, an unloving and unfaithful nation.
The context of Samson’s birth is one which reminds of a few other, almost identical, contexts. Isaac, Samuel, John the Baptist, and ultimately Jesus. The impossibility of these births (barrenness and virginity – in the case of Mary) and the purpose of those born point us to a God who is sovereign, and graceful in accomplishing His will and plan for His people. It shows us that salvation is a miracle and that the only source of if is God.
Chapter 13, in the book of Judges, and the announcement of Samson’s birth are a sketch of the Gospel – a nation sinning, without desire for salvation due to hardness of heart, and a servant born, miraculously, to deliver them from God’s wrath. Will Samson live up to this picture?
We don’t know if, in the game, Wally wants to be found, but what we do know is that, in the book of Judges, Israel has no clue that they need finding. “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25)
Through Samson, an imperfect deliverer, and later, through His Son, the perfect deliverer, God sets out to find us, and bring us back.
One of the most valuable lessons, especially valuable today, when apparently everyone speaks his or her own mind, without thinking much about the weight and sharpness of their words, is the lesson that Jephthah learns (or should have learned). He says in Judges 11:35 – “I have opened my mouth to the LORD, and I cannot take back my vow.” – and this in the context where God did not expect or require a vow from Jephthah.
The lesson here is the lesson of so many verses in the Book of Proverbs that talk about our words, mouth and tongue:
18:21 – Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.
17:27 – Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.
21:23 – Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.
16:24 – Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.
15:4 – A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
10:19 – When words are many, transgression is not lacking.
Words have a weight, and in a sense, it is a weight that nothing else carries. Besides their weight, our words are part of a larger narrative, that of our own being, of who we are inside. We speak from our inner man. Our words carry the weight of our heart. Jesus, in Luke 6:45 says: “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” There is no way of escaping this truth. What ever else we do to hide who we truly are, in the end our words and actions present our true image, the real portrait of our heart.
What was the abundance of Jephthah’s heart? What is the abundance of my own heart? What is the abundance of your own heart? You can measure it by listening to your words, what you say, how you say it, by seeing the reason for which you say a thing or another. (Do you want a realistic photography of your words? Ask both those closest to you and those with whom you come in contact less often, what your words really “say”, how your words really sound like.) Jephthah, as we have seen last Sunday, when he opened his mouth to the Lord, he was proud and foolish, unwise. If he were less proud and more focused on what God wants, he would have known or remembered Deuteronomy 12:31 – “You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the LORD hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods.” The questions is, then: If we were less proud and more focused on what God wants, how would we speak?
Another way of seeing the abundance of your heart is looking at what you treasure most in life. Jesus said in Matthew 6:21 – “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” That which is the highest, most precious treasure of your heart is what will drive your actions and ultimately your words. If Jesus Christ is your highest, most precious, most treasured treasure, He will have your heart and your words will bear the mark of that treasure. You will be loving in what you say, you will look to build others up through your words and intentions. As Proverbs 15:4 says, your tongue will be a tree of life for others.
The book of Judges ends with a, by now, very famous verse, Judges 21:25 – “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” The lack of a king in Israel drove them to do what was right in their own eyes and mind. Today, let the presence of the King of Kings in your hearts drive your words and intentions. Let Jesus be King over your mouth.
In Hebrews 4:16, the writer of the letter says: “we draw near to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” If you go to the one who seats on the throne of grace, what else can you find if not grace and mercy.
We are reminded of this in another way, when reading Jonah 2, where you find this verse that we’ve read so many times, but maybe it never had it’s full effect on our heart. The verse goes like this (Jonah 2:1) – “Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish.”
It automatically brings to mind this question: What was the strangest, most difficult circumstance where you prayed? Why is the place or the circumstance in which we pray important or helpful? Because of what Jonah says later. But let me ask you this, first:
What was the most difficult place in your life, where you had to kneel before the throne of grace? Our “times of need” (Hebrews 4:16) are our “belly of the fish” (Jonah 2:1).
So why is the place important? If you read chapter 2 in Jonah you will understand how important the belly of the fish was for him. It helped him understand and recognize, through prayer, God’s sovereign power. Jonah says this in his prayer:
Jonah 2:3 – “YOU cast me into the deep”
Jonah 2:6 – “YOU brought up my life from the pit”
Jonah and all of us, sometimes, need the “belly of the fish“/ the “times of need” in order that we:
- acknowledge that God is in control, that he is SOVEREIGN
- that He alone is our saviour
- that everything works for the good of those who love Him and are called for His purpose
- that we need to kneel before the throne of grace for grace
- that He will save us for a purpose
Rejoice in the Lord always!
What are the things that mostly fill your thoughts and meditations in moments of silence, or when waiting for the bus, or when riding your bike through Aalborg, or when you simply look out your window for no reason?
Don Delillo, the american writer, in his novel Libra, writes this beautiful sentence that contains a vivid image of people not thinking of anything while waiting for the subway: “People stood on local platforms staring nowhere, a look they’d been practicing for years.” Are you like that, are you “staring nowhere“? What are you thinking of?
What is the life our minds? What does it do? What does it “feed” on? What does it delight in? Paul writes to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:7 – “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.”
One of the effects the new birth has on our lives is the renewal of our minds: Romans 12:2 – “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind”. What do you do with a new mind? Paul answers this question for us in Philippians 4:8 – “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
So dear brothers and sisters in Christ, THINK over the Word of God, think over what Paul says (just like he tells Timothy to do) because through your thinking over it the Lord will give you understanding of it. And if our minds have been renewed, and were cleansed by the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 9:14 – “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience“) think of the things that God wants you to think of, delight in the things God wants you to delight in, and want the things God wants – namely His glory.
Glorify God with your mind and your thoughts too!
Leszek Kolakowski, the Polish philosopher, in one of his essays, entitled, “Why a calf? Idolatry and death of God, wrote that “we are sacrificing God on the altar of our own selfish interests, as if we were worshiping ourselves instead of Him.”
Idolatry is on the one hand very comfortable and on the other, very dangerous.
Firstly, I say comfortable because of a cluster of things – easy access, as it were, to the act in itself – can be done any time, any place; then there is the easiness with which the heart is inclined to do it; and also the imediacy of its reward – somekind of fleeting sentimental pleasure that boosts the mood of the “worshiper” – which is actually of a more complex nature than I have the space and time here to expand on).
Secondly, I say dangerous, based on two things:
1. For the disastrous exchange of the worshiped person: we replace God with ourselves, or some man made thing.
2. For what David says in Psalm 115:4-8
“Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands.
They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see.
They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell.
They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk;
and they do not make a sound in their throat.
Those who make them BECOME LIKE THEM; so do all who trust in them.”
Idolatry has https://www.acheterviagrafr24.com/achat-viagra-en-ligne-quebec/ the power to make us mute, blind, and unable to feel or move, just like the idol we worship, which in itself has no powers at all. Mute and blind towards the real God. Unable to feel or move – feel Him and move/act according to His guidance.
These comforts and these dangers show how easily can a heart be deceived. We see this in the book of Judges, where the text talks about Israel doing evil in the eyes of the Lord. Judges 3:7 says – “The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord; they forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs.” What was the evil? Forgetting God and serving idols.
In Galatians 5:19-20 Paul writes – “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, IDOLATRY, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
So the question is: how do we keep ourselves from idolatry? John writes in his first letter: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” (1 John 5:21) Yes, but how?
Paul gives us the answer in Galatians 5:16-17 – “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”
Therefore, on Sunday, in celebrating Pentecost, we celebrate the Spirit that helps us put to death any desires for idolatry, any desires to put ourselves in the place of God, any desires for “sacrificing God on the altar of our own selfish interests.”
In Judges 4&5, the process of the “canaanization of Israel” is in full development. Instead of obeying the Lord, the people of Israel embrace the idolatrous culture and continue to do evil in the eyes of their Lord. This “friendship with the world” will lead in the end to the famous, but sad, last verse of the book “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.”
Reading this, it is hard not to hear ringing again and again in your ears James’s question: “don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God?” (James 4:4)
Here, in these two chapters also, the focus on the sovereignty of God is unmissable.
v.2 – “the LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan”
v.7 – “I will draw out Sisera”
v.14 – “this is the day in which the LORD has given Sisera into your hand. Does not the LORD go out before you?”
v.15 – “the LORD routed Sisera and all his chariots and all his army before Barak by the edge of the sword”
v.23 – “on that day God subdued Jabin the king of Canaan before the people of Israel”
This time, God appoints a prophetess to judge the people. But her duty is different from that of Othniel, Ehud or Shamgar. Deborah, the prophetess, comes to summon a leader. She is not a ruler, or a military leader, she is not responsible for leading the nation. What she does is find the one who is supposed to lead Israel to war. Deborah, as a prophetess, plays the role of an intermediary between God and the people, which leads Barack in v.8 to say: “If you will go with me, I will go, but if you will not go with me, I will not go.” He agrees to lead the people, but with the condition of having the Lord with him, through Deborah.
There are many ways of looking at and studying the book of Judges. One of them is to look at the things that the Lord wants to teach His people and the people are simply blind to it. In verse 14 Deborah says to Barak: “this is the day in which the LORD has given Sisera into your hand.” Here, one of the things that God is trying to teach the people is His grace, the undeserved gift from God. If you look closely Deborah uses past tense in addressing Barak – “the Lord has given”. The Lord has already, by grace, given the enemy in his hand, before he even went to battle. Isn’t that an encouragement? Rejoice, because by the same grace of God we are victorious today.
The accounts of chapters 4 and 5 are relevant for us today in several ways:
- The way in which God uses Deborah in the life of His people should be an inspiration for all christian women today – to put their life in http://www.achaten-suisse.com/ God’s service and serve boldly and joyfully.
- In the way in which God is not bound by context or culture – the so called “canaanazation of Israel” is not something that holds God at bay. He sovereignly and gracefully accomplishes His will in the life of His people, for His own glory and honor.
- In chapter 5 (which is a poetic retelling of the account in chapter 4) in verse 16 we are told – “Among the clans of Reuben there were great searchings of heart”. This great searchings of the heart is something that should characterize us all, christians, today. It should be a discipline put in practice through prayer and meditation on God’s word, through repentance of sin and through turning to God, our Lord, and obeying His commands.
- One of the things that is extremely relevant for us today, and it is also one of the reasons why in Koinonia we choose to study the book of Judges, is this aspect of not being “conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:2). Our threat is not called canaanazation, but the ungodly culture and the idols are just as prominent as then. Today, very much like in the time of Judges, everyone is doing what is right in their own eyes. As christians we are called to be salt and light in the world and in the culture and context where we live, so that Christ can shine brightly through us. By doing that we are called to not identify ourselves with the world, but to present and talk about our identity in Christ. So, … “Do not be conformed to this world”, be conformed to Christ.
In a short biographical work on Robert Murray M’Cheyne, the Scottish preacher (who died at 29), Andrew Bonar, wrote this about him: “His preaching was in a manner the development of his soul’s experience. It was a giving out of the inward life.”
In Koinonia, during our weekly service, we have a time dedicated to Testimonies, or, as we sometimes call it, Sharing your story. During this time we invite people to share with the fellowship what God has done in their lives during the week. We also encourage them to share prayer requests, answered prayers, the joys and the sorrows of their walk
with Christ – in a city like Aalborg, especially for a student who believes in Christ, who loves Christ and pursues holiness, the challenges are many.
So … why does Koinonia believe that this is an important time during the service, and why do we do it?
In 1 Thesallonians 5:11 Pauls says: “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” The author of Hebrews says in Hebrews 10:24: “… let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works …” Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:26: “When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.” Paul again in Romans 14:19: ” … let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” Or Ephesians 4:29: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
Koinonia, just like Paul and the author of Hebrews, believes in the mutual upbuilding of the members in the body. We believe, that as professing christians, we all have something to share. We believe in the power of encouragement and in the strength that is contained in stirring up one another to love and good works.
Just as Andrew Bonar was writing about Robert Murray M’Cheyne, we believe that what we share with one another are the riches of our soul, the riches that Christ has laid there, through his Word and His Spirit. It is from our “inward life” that we share, from the soul’s experience, as Bonar called it. It is out of the riches of our heart that we speak, that we encourage, that we bring a word to our brothers and sisters.
Koinonia believes in the importance of testimonies because they open hearts and minds, they move the affections to new territories, make us acknowledge challenges that we have not yet encountered, or joys that we have also, so vividly, experienced, testimonies remind us that we are not alone, and that we should not be alone. Only iron can sharpen iron, and so we are reminded that we need to be sharpened. We are reminded in new ways of the grace of God and His love. We are reminded that even though challenges are many, we are to rejoice in the midst of them. Testimonies should stir us to pray more. They should stir us to think of others more. They should push us to speak to each other more, and more often. And, since I mentioned the inner riches, testimonies should make us enrich our souls with grace and Word so that we would be stewards, good stewards for others of these riches of Christ. Testimonies are one of the best tools to point the eyes of brothers and sisters towards the cross and towards heaven.
Probably the words to best describe the weight and the importance of testimonies in Koinonia are found in what Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 2:8 :
“… being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.”
So, we invite you every Sunday, at 17:00 o’clock, at Karmel Baptistkirken, Petersborgvej 35B, to come and Share your story.
“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave[b] to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”
70 years ago, on May 5th, Danes woke up to freedom from under the German occupation. Last night, in our family, we lit candles in the windows to remember this freedom. In this I was reminded of these verses, that talk about the true freedom, the freedom that Jesus offers us, freedom from sin that weighs us down, freedom from anxiety, from worry, from addictions like alcohol, food, medications.
Waking up this morning, I was thinking about how the Danes must have felt waking up to freedom from under the Nazi occupation. But in my mind I quickly thought of today. Do we wake up FREE every morning, free from the power of sin in our lives?
Today, I know that I don’t have to turn to food for comfort, but to Jesus who is the supreme comforter!
What about you, whoever you are? To whom or to what do you turn instead of Jesus? It might not be food, but there surely is something. Will the truth about FREEDOM, a truth that is all over the Bible, fill my heart and mind, and feed my soul, or will it be the lies of Satan?
In Colossians 3:13-15 Paul says :
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
My prayer for all of us is that we would be Alive and Free today and everyday. May the candles we light in our window remind us of the true and precious freedom we find in Jesus Christ and the hope he offers. And may we in turn share this treasure with everyone, the treasure of true FREEDOM from sin through Christ.
” … if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)