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Posts Tagged ‘renewal’

[rewritten]

Step #1 – Understanding what God’s will is, acknowledge your weakness to do what God says. To be prepared for testing, learn God’s will and humbly acknowledge your areas of weakness.

Jesus knew God’s will for his life, that he was to die on the cross –  Mark 10:33-34. And Jesus was upfront that this would be hard. He acknowledged that “the flesh is weak” – Mark 14:28.

Step #2 – Remain alert in prayer for times of testing and temptation. We are weak and Satan is out to destroy us. To be prepared we need to be alert and to pray to God to be spared testing.

Jesus was alert and so he prayed  that “the hour might pass from him” – Mark 14:35. He prayed fervently, three times, “remove this cup from me” – Mark 14:36.

Step #3 – In a time of testing – Keep your mind focused on God’s truth. Once you are in a test, Satan works on your mind to make you unsure of God’s truth so that you will rationalize making wrong choices. So you need to stay focused on the Scriptures (reading, quoting, meditating on them) and tell Satan to leave in the name of Jesus

Earlier, when Satan tempted Jesus to take another way than the cross, Jesus spoke out God’s truth and told Satan to leave. As Jesus was arrested he said, “let the Scriptures be fulfilled.”

Step #4 – In a time of testing – Receive strength from the Spirit to do God’s will. Once you are in a test, Satan works on your heart to get you to choose what is wrong; to give in to the desires of your flesh to take the easy way out. Ask God for strength from the Spirit to overcome the desires of your flesh so you can do what is right.

Jesus received strength from the Spirit to pray “not what I will, but what you will” and to go to the cross and die.

Step #5 – Endure the test. Even if you are successful at first, Satan will try to wear you down. So you must keep focused on God’s truth and keep receiving strength from the Spirit until the test is over. No matter how long the test lasts, don’t quit thinking and choosing what it right.

Jesus endured until the end. And he was blessed for his faithfulness. He was raised from the dead and seated at the right hand of God.

William Higgins

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We are bringing our series on ‘How to overcome sin in our lives’ to a close today. Our focus has been on how to get rid of our sinful behaviors and habits which enslave us and keep us from experiencing all that God has for us.

And the message has been that there is freedom in Jesus! We can overcome. We can be fee. We can walk in the fullness that God has for us.

I have been sharing all of this with you so that you won’t sin. It is very much like what John says to his readers in 1 John 2:1, “I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.” But then he goes on to address the reality of failure. He says, “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” – 1 John 2:1-2. (NRSV)

If you do fail and fall into sin, John teaches us that Jesus can help. He died for our sins, so that we can be made right with God. And he is our advocate before God, seeking out God’s mercy for us; interceding for us.

But we also need to do something in order to receive what Jesus provides for us; to experience restoration and renewal. So today we look at –

What you must do

– when you fail and fall into sin.

1. Be honest. Our natural human response is to hide our sins and live in denial. Or if we can’t do that we find excuses for our sins, or we deflect attention away from our failure by focusing on the faults of others. We all see this kind of stuff a lot.

But a true mark of repentance is honesty. You must be absolutely honest with yourself first of all. Because without this you can’t make any progress in Christian faithfulness. And then you must be honest with God and others.

Proverbs 28:13 says, “No one who conceals transgressions will prosper, but one who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” Honest confession leads to mercy.

2. Take responsibility for your actions. This means that you own your actions; they are yours. You don’t shift the blame to other people or circumstances or whatever. You are accountable.

After committing terrible sins, David prayed, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me . . . you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment.” – Psalm 51:3-4. He’s saying, ‘I did it. And whatever negative consequences come my way are my fault. Because I’m the one who did wrong.’

We see the same thing in Jesus’ story of the prodigal son. When he came back and wanted to make things right with his father, he said, “Treat me as one of your hired servants” – Luke 15:19. He was ready to live there as a servant. He knew there were consequences for his actions. And he had squandered his share of the family estate.

Now, his father – in love and grace – accepted him back as a son, not a servant. But notice, he still lost all that he had, for all the rest that the father had was the elder son’s now, and that would not change.

So there are negative consequences that come on you when you sin. You reap what you sow. And you need to take responsibility for all this, because it’s a result of your actions.

3. Express your sorrow. When we fail and fall into sin, we cause God and others pain. And when we realize this it should cause us to be sorrowful. We should feel it, and have regret.

After James calls his readers to repentance he says, “Lament and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection” – James 4:9. (NRSV) Paul calls this “godly grief” in 2 Corinthians 7:10, which is a part of the process of repentance.

4. Stop the behavior. There is no healing with God or others if you don’t turn from your sin.

You know the person who wants mercy, mercy, forgiveness, forgiveness – but doesn’t want to change anything in their life. This isn’t repentance. It’s manipulation.

If you have failed, what you must do is resolve never to do this sin again, and to do everything necessary to make this happen. All the things we have been talking about in this series.

Proverbs 28:13 says, “he who . . . forsakes his transgressions will obtain mercy.” Ezekiel 18:30-32 says, “Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise iniquity will be your ruin. . . Turn then, and live.” When you stop the wrong behavior, then you can receive “mercy” from God and others; you can “live.” When you don’t, “iniquity will be your ruin.”

5. Ask God to forgive you. Ask God for mercy to pardon you. And this is the time to be truly honest with God, taking responsibility, expressing your sorrow and committing to stop the wrong.

Pray like the tax collector in Jesus’ story, “God be merciful to me, a sinner!” – Luke 18:13. Or you can pray from the Lord’s prayer and personalize it – “Forgive (me) us (my) our sins” – Luke 11:4.

God’s promise to us is this: “If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” – 1 John 1:9. And we can hold on to this promise knowing that God will keep his word to us – to forgive, to cleanse and to renew us.

6. Seek reconciliation with others. If your sin involved hurting others, a part of dealing with it is that you seek to make things right with them as best you can. Again this is the time to be honest, to take responsibility, to express your sorrow and to commit to stop the wrongdoing.

Jesus said, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your sister or brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.” – Matthew 5:23-24 (NRSV). Prioritize making things right with the one you have wronged, even over worship of God. First go and be reconciled to your brother or sister; seek forgiveness. Restore the relationship damaged by your actions.

Now also, if you have harmed someone in a way that can be restored, make amends. The example of Zacchaeus’ repentance speaks to this. He was a wealthy tax collector who was despised because he made his profit off charging more taxes than were necessary. When he repented he said, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold” – Luke 19:8. He tried to make things right. He made amends. And he is an example to us.

What should you do when you fail?

1. Be honest

2. Take responsibility for your actions

3. Express your sorrow

4. Stop the behavior

5. Ask God to forgive you

6. Seek reconciliation with others

This is how you get back on track. Not giving up because you have failed. Not wallowing in despair. But repenting in all these ways. And then moving forward with what God’s will is for your life.

Psalm 51 (1-4; 7-12; 16-17)

I want would like to end with a prayer of repentance from David in Psalm 51. He knew how to repent and we can learn from him.

L: Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.

P: Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!

L: For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.

P: Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

L: Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.

P: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

L: For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.

All: The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

William Higgins

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Covenant Renewal

We are beginning our time of Covenant renewal this morning. Leading up to today, we have been looking at spiritual renewal for the past few weeks, specifically . . .

Five Marks of Spiritual Renewal

This is what we have covered:

1. Instead of compromise, sin, excuses and apathy – we are honest with ourselves, see our failures and yield every part of our lives to God.

2. Instead of a damaged and broken relationship with God – we ask for forgiveness for our sins and find renewed relationship with God.

3. Instead of damaged and broken relationships with others – we find renewed relationships with others when we make things right with those we have wronged, and forgive those who have sinned against us.

4. Instead of grieving and quenching the Spirit, shutting the Spirit out of our lives – we invite the Spirit to work in us so that we are strengthened to do God’s will and bear the fruit of the Spirit.

5. Again, instead of grieving and quenching the Spirit – we invite the Spirit to work through us to minister to the needs of others with the power and abilities that the Spirit provides.

The reason I have shared on this leading up to our time of recovenanting is that this is meant to be a time of spiritual renewal.

This is certainly the way it worked in Israel. There are a number of examples of recovenanting in the Old Testament. For today, we’ll look at . . .

Joshua’s covenant renewals

He was a part of the original time of covenanting at Mt Sinai with Moses. But beyond this he was a part of three other recovenantings (at least as far as we know, there may have been more.)

1. Just before Israel entered the promised land – Deuteronomy 29. Israel had failed in the wilderness and most of that generation had died off. Moses gathered the people together on the plains of Moab.

  • He recounted to them the story of God’s salvation.
  • He repeated the Law of God in their hearing and expounded on it (which is where the name Deuteronomy comes from – the second giving of the Law).
  • All the people committed to obey and serve God

This was time for them to be reconstituted as a people. The earlier generation had failed, and now the new generation was coming forward. This new generation was reminded of God’s Law and called to commit to this.

2. After the failure at Ai – Joshua 8:30-35. Because of Achan’s sin Israel was defeated before its enemies. And then, after they recovered from this Joshua gathered the people of Israel.

  • They offered up sacrifices
  • They wrote the Law in stone
  • All Israel stood before the ark of the covenant
  • They recounted the blessings and curses in the Law
  • The Law was read before everyone

So this recovenanting came after deep failure on Israel’s part. It was a way for them to get back on track and recommit themselves to serving and obeying God.

3. Near the end of Joshua’s life – Joshua 24 he led the people in a covenant renewal.

  • He gathered all the people together
  • He recounted the story of Abraham, the deliverance from Egypt, and their victories over their enemies
  • Joshua charged Israel to be faithful
  • The people responded, “The Lord our God we will serve, and his voice we will obey” – v. 24

There was no failure here. The recovenanting was simply a part of the people being called to full commitment to God.

What we can learn from this

In each of these cases, covenant renewal was an aspect of their overall spiritual renewal.

  • When there was failure, it was a time to regroup and repent
  • When there wasn’t failure, it was a time to refocus and remember their commitment to obey and serve God.

Similarly for us recovenanting is an opportunity to

1. Honestly examine our lives and deal with our issues. One of the themes I have tried to highlight is that we have to be honest with ourselves. If we can’t do this, we won’t see the areas in our lives where we are failing. And if we can’t see where we are failing, we can’t act to make things right through repentance. We get stuck in the same rut of failure and compromise.

But if we are honest, we can make progress in our Christian lives.

Recovenanting is also an opportunity for us to 2. Reaffirm of our Christian commitment to God and each other. Whether we are struggling or not, it gives us a chance to remember and refocus. And this is what we want to do this morning.

William Higgins

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We are looking at Five Marks of Spiritual Renewal trying to see what our Christian lives should look like, so that we can examine ourselves and see how we are actually doing. I suspect we already know where we are failing. But it is good to be encouraged to deal with what we already know about.

The first mark is Complete Yieldedness to God. And, as we saw last week, it is the key to all the rest. Because when we deal with our sins, then we are able to experience all that God has for us. And as we’ll see today it is the key that releases the Spirit to work in our own hearts, and then also to work through us to touch other people’s lives.

I want to begin by pointing out that . .

Our sin blocks the Spirit from working in and through us

When we don’t yield ourselves to God we grieve the Spirit. Did you know that you can do this? Paul says in Ephesians 4:30, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.” We can cause the Spirit to be distressed, sorrowful, pained, sad; that’s what the word “grieved” means. We do this when we sin.

In the verses just before and after v. 30, Paul talks about various sins in the lives of Christians:  v. 25 – lying; v. 26 – inappropriate anger; v. 27 – stealing;   v. 29 – corrupt speech; and v. 31 – bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander and malice. We grieve the Spirit through these things, and any other sins which we allow to remain in our lives.

Also when we don’t yield ourselves to God we quench the Spirit. Paul talks about this in 1 Thessalonians 5:19, “Do not quench the Spirit.” To “quench” means to suppress, or to extinguish, like putting out a fire. This is what we do when we sin. We put out the fire of the Spirit within us. We put a lid on what the Spirit wants to do. We shut the Spirit out of our lives.

And that’s why David prayed in Psalm 51:11, “Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.” He was repenting of adultery and murder and he knew this would affect the Spirit’s presence in his life. And he didn’t want that to happen.

The result of our sin is that we hinder the work of the Spirit in us and through us. God is not able to do what he wants in us to strengthen and help us. And we are certainly not in a place where the Spirit can work through us to minister to others.

Instead of being filled with the Holy Spirit, we are empty. We are dried up spiritually. We are weak and helpless.

Now, the Spirit doesn’t give up on us. The Spirit still works to convict us of our sin and unrighteousness, as Jesus talks about in John 16:8. The Spirit waits for us to respond to deal with our sin.

And this is exactly what you should do. Yield yourself completely to God. Submit every area of your life to God. Hold nothing back. Deal with all your sins, your failures and your compromises. Remove all the hindrances to the Spirit’s full working in and through you.

And then, ask God for the Spirit to come into your life anew. Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” – Luke 11:9. He goes on to say, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” – Luke 11:13

Once we have dealt with our sin and found forgiveness, the Spirit is free to come and work. All we need to do is ask in faith and God will give us of his Spirit.

This brings us to the fourth mark of spiritual renewal . . .

4. The Spirit comes to work in us

When the Spirit comes we come alive again. The Spirit’s presence rejuvenates us. As Jesus said in John 6:63, “It is the Spirit who gives life.” When the Spirit is present, the Spirit brings forth life. Just as we were born of the Spirit when we first became a Christian, so our life is renewed when the presence of the Spirit comes again in fullness.

We are also transformed within. Instead of a heart of stone that is dead to God, as Paul says in Romans 5:5, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” The Spirit works in us to produce change. Paul speaks of this as fruit in Galatians 5:22-23. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control.” Something new and different, happens within us.

And a part of this is that we are enabled to do God’s will. In Romans 8:4 Paul talks about how “the righteous requirement of the law” is “fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

And Jesus said in Mark 14:38, “the Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” All of us have weaknesses and brokenness in us; our flesh is weak. And these are sorely tested in times of difficulty and trial. But the Spirit helps us to endure and to overcome despite our weaknesses and times of testing.

The Spirit not only comes into us to make us new, the fifth mark of spiritual renewal is that . .  .

5. The Spirit comes to work through us to minister to others

The Spirit empowers us. Jesus said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses . . .” throughout the world.  – Acts 1:8. The word power means also, strength and ability.

The disciples are a good example here. Before the coming of the Spirit, they were fearful. But once the Spirit came they were strengthened to speak with conviction and boldness.

The Spirit gives us words to say. Jesus says that when you are being persecuted and brought before the authorities and you are anxious about what to say, “the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” (Luke 12:12). And if God can give us the right words to say under such duress, how much easier in our everyday lives?

The Spirit gives us gifts or abilities. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:7, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” Each one of us is to receive and use the gifts of the Spirit to minister to the needs of others. Paul mentions things like words of wisdom and knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, working of miracles, prophecy speaking in tongues and interpreting tongues.

After giving these examples, he says, in 1 Corinthians 12:11, “All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.”

So we are not alone, or left to try to serve God in our own strength. The Spirit helps us in all these ways and more.

Let me end by saying that as we minister to others in the power of the Spirit, the cycle starts over. Those we minister to

1. Are convicted to yield themselves completely to God

2. They experience renewed relationships with God, and 3. others

4. The Spirit comes to work in, and 5. through them.

And the cycle continues, again and again. This is how spiritual renewal works.

William Higgins

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We are looking at Five Marks of Spiritual Renewal trying to see what our Christian lives should look like, and then, I hope, we will each evaluate how we are actually doing.

Last week we focused on the first mark: Complete Yieldedness to God. I showed you how this has to be at the core of our Christian lives. And that’s because without this we remain stuck in our sins, failures and compromises. But with this we are able to move forward and experience the spiritual renewal that God has for each one of us.

Specifically today, we see how completely yielding ourselves to God is the key to restoring our relationships with God and with others. We begin with the first of these . . .

2. Renewed relationship with God

Our unyieldedness to God damages and eventually destroys our relationship with God. Isaiah 59:2 says, “Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.” Our undealt with sin, which we know about and continue to choose, creates an obstacle, a wall, a barrier between us and God.

1 John 1:6 says, “If we say we have fellowship with him (God) while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” Its not possible to have a right relationship with God, while there are areas of our life where we choose not to submit to God.

So because of our unyieldedness, our relationship with God becomes distant, stale, and cold. As Paul says, we are “alienated from God” (Ephesians 4:18).

This shows up in different ways:

  • We have little if any sense of God’s presence in our lives. You know, God speaking to us, comforting us, guiding us, fellowshipping with us. God is distant.
  • We have little if any sense of devotion toward God. I’m talking about that sense of deep emotion that is connected with that which has the most value for us in all of life. Think of the devotion you have to your family. You feel strongly about them. Well, when we choose not to yield to God, we lose this for God.
  • We spend little if any time with God, that is, in prayer, reading the Scriptures, Christian fellowship and worship. Oh, we may come to church, but our heart doesn’t enter in. We’re just going through the motions. Its like with a person that you aren’t getting along with. You don’t really want to be around them. And if you see them you just go through the motions.

If this is where you find yourself, here’s . . .

What you should do to renew your relationship with God. As we talked about last week, yield yourself completely to God in every area of your life. And we do this through honest assessment of our lives and making hard choices of repentance.

And then, ask God to forgive your sins, your failures, and your compromises. Jesus’ blood was poured out on the cross “for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28). And you are a part of that many. He died for you.

The promise to us is that, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). Through what Jesus has done, and our receiving this gift by faith, the walls of our sin are broken down. The barriers are destroyed. We have –

Restored relationship with God:

  • We come to know and feel the presence of God in our lives. God is close to us, leading us and helping us.
  • We come to feel devotion for God. We have a deep passion and desire for God and to serve God.
  • We want to spend time with God; to be in God’s presence, to soak up all that God has for us from the Scriptures, times of prayer and worship and Christian fellowship. We can’t get enough of it.

This is the second mark of a vibrant Christian life. Renewed relationship with God in all these ways.

3. Renewed relationships with others

Our unyieldedness destroys our relationships with others. And this can happen in two different ways:

  • Our own wrongdoing can destroy relationships
  • Or our unwillingness to love and forgive those who have wronged us can destroy relationships

Either way our relationships with others become distant, stale and cold. They become characterized by things like bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander and malice, as Paul says in Ephesians 4:31. If this is where you are at, here’s –

What you should do to restore these relationships. Again, yield yourself completely to God – here in terms of how you have treated others, and how you have responded to those who have hurt you.

More specifically 1) Make things right with the one you have wronged. Jesus said, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you (you have wronged them), leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” – Matthew 5:23-24.

There is no guarantee that they will respond and the relationship will be restored, but do what you can to restore the relationship through repentance and love for them

2) Forgive those who have sinned against you. Jesus said, “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him” – Luke 17:3.

Again, there is no guarantee that they will repent and seek forgiveness. And without repentance on their part there can’t be restored relationship. But, do what you can to restore the relationship. Show love for them and be willing to forgive if they repent so that there can be true reconciliation.

I would just note here the seriousness of this. In both of these cases our relationships with others, has a decisive impact on our relationship with God.

Matthew 5:23-34 shows that our unrepentance for hurting others affects our relationship with God. Why do we first seek reconciliation? Because if we have sinned against someone and don’t seek to make it right, our relationship with God is broken. There is no need to try to bring your gift to give to God in worship. You have to first make it right with the other person.

Matthew 6:14-15 teaches us that our unwillingness to forgive others affects our relationship with God. Jesus said, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Our horizontal relationships with each other, affects our vertical relationship with God. This is really important. So if nothing else, this should spur us on to the goal, which is . . .

Restored relationships with others. This is when we set aside hatred and love each other from the heart. This is when we set aside bitterness and find forgiveness. This is when we put away hard-heartedness and find compassion and mercy.

As Paul said, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:31-32.

This is where we love each other and are willing to lay down our lives for each other, to sacrifice for each other. As John says, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers and sisters” – 1 John 3:16.

Restored relationships mean that we are humble before each other. As Paul says, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” – Philippians 2:3.

And we live in peace with one another – As Jesus said, “Be at peace with one another” – Mark 9:50.

This is the third mark of a healthy and faithful Christian life. I hope that you will look at both of these and evaluate where you are at. Do you have this kind of relationship with God? Do you have these kinds of relationships with others?

William Higgins

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I want to share with you about spiritual renewal for the next few weeks. We are preparing for our time of covenant renewal on October 4th. I would like for this to be a time when we examine our lives and our commitment to God. It should be a time of spiritual reflection on where we are in our life with God.

We’ll focus on Five Marks of Spiritual Renewal. And as we look at these, we will see what our Christian life should look like. And also reflect on what our Christian life often actually looks like. The difference between what should be and what is.

We begin with Complete Yieldedness to God. This mark is foundational, because without it you don’t get anywhere else in terms of faithfulness or renewal.

Another way to say this is that . . .

We are to give ourselves completely to God

  • To be totally committed to God.
  • To hold nothing back.
  • To be obedient in every area of our lives.
  • To yield in every way to what God’s will is for us.

Jesus calls us to this in several different ways: 1) He names this as the greatest of God’s commandments to us: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30). Every part of us is to love God. And to love God means at its core, that we keep God’s commandments, as I John 5:3 says.

2) Jesus also calls us to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). The rule and will of God is to be our first priority in all of life. Think of all the other things there are in life; good things. The kingdom is to be first.

3) Jesus told this parable to tell us what God wants from us – “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Matthew 13:44). To be truly submitted to God; to be a part of God’s kingdom and under his rule – it will cost you everything. This man sold all that he had to gain the kingdom. We will have to do the same.

4) A final example is Jesus’ call to take up the cross. He said,  “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34). The cross is an instrument of death. We have to deny ourselves; we have to die to ourselves. This is the commitment that is called for; this is the commitment that is required by God.

In all of these different ways, and more, Jesus calls us to complete yieldedness to God.

Now, if we ask, ‘What does this kind of commitment look like?’ The answer is – You just need to look at Jesus.

Jesus is the standard

And he’s the standard because he gave himself completely to God.

  • Jesus was totally committed to God
  • Jesus held nothing back
  • Jesus was obedient in every area of his life
  • Jesus yielded to God’s will. At the time of his greatest testing, he prayed, “not my will, but yours (God) be done.”

1)       He loved God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength.

2)       He sought God’s kingdom first.

3)       He gave up all he had for the kingdom.

4)       He denied himself and took up his cross – literally.

And he is now the standard for us as we seek to do God’s will. For he is the only one who truly and completely did God’s will. So if you want to please God; if you want to do God’s will truly and fully – do what Jesus taught and modeled for us.

This is, in fact, what Jesus calls us to. He said, “Learn from me” – Matthew 11:29. Jesus is our teacher. And so we learn from his teaching how to do exactly what God wants; how to please God in every way.

And Jesus is also our example. As we saw, he said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34). What he did, we are to do. Just as he denied himself and took up his cross, we are to deny ourselves and take up our cross.

Jesus is the picture of complete obedience and we are to learn from his teaching and example how to be completely obedient to God ourselves.

Now, this is what we do at baptism. We commit to give ourselves completely to God, like Jesus did. But often it isn’t long until we have gone back on this; we retreat from such total commitment. And that’s because there are many –

Obstacles to complete commitment

And the first obstacle is You. Your own human weakness.

  • Your propensity to do what you want, instead of what God wants.
  • Your tendency to take the easy way, instead of the way of Jesus.

Jesus speaks of our human weakness in Mark 14:38 when he said, “the flesh is weak.” We are weak when it comes to doing what God wants of us.

And then there is the obstacle of the World – all those who don’t follow Jesus or share his values, who pressure us to go along with them instead of following Jesus. This is peer pressure. This is following the crowd instead of following Jesus.

  • The world offers us many opportunities to fail in our commitment. Jesus said, “Woe to the world for temptations to sin!” (Matthew 18:7)
  • The world offers us many distractions to keep us from seeking first the kingdom. Jesus talks about “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things” (Mark 4:19)

The world pressures us to fail and to be distracted, along with everybody else.

And in all this is Satan who puts us in tests where we have to make hard choices and then encourages us in our weakness to give in.

The result

. . . of these obstacles so often is that when hard choices confront us; when we are in difficult tests – we compromise; we choose what is wrong. We want what we want, not what God wants. We want the easy way out, not the way of Jesus. We want to fit in with our friends and peers, not submit to God.

And then we start to make excuses. We rationalize our sin. We think of many good reasons why we should do what we are doing. We think of why its OK in our situation. And we can always find someone else who is worse than us.

And then we become apathetic about our Christian life; we stop doing the hard work of denying ourselves and taking up our cross and dying to ourselves. We begin to coast.

And then we begin excusing this. We put our trust in cheap grace, telling ourselves ‘It’s OK if I allow constant patterns of disobedience in my life. I’ll just shoot a prayer up to God for forgiveness and all is well. We deceive ourselves forgetting that without repentance, there is no forgiveness.

What should you do?

First, be honest. Stop living in denial. Take a hard and rigorously honest look at your life. Stop making excuses – if my life had been different, if I were in different circumstances, if, if, if. And stop comparing yourself to other Christians, so that you come out looking good. Well at least I’m doing better than so and so. Jesus is the standard! Compare yourself to him.

Be honest with yourself and before God. God already knows the truth about you, it’s just a matter of whether you have the courage to know and acknowledge the truth about yourself.

  • Where are you holding out on God?
  • Where are you are not fully committed to God?

The second thing you should do is make some hard choices. Where you are compromising, choose to yield to God. Where you are holding out, submit.

1)       Choose to love God fully in every are of your life

2)       Choose to make God’s kingdom first

3)       Choose to give up everything for the kingdom

4)       Choose to deny yourself and take up your cross

And make whatever sacrifices you need to make to keep to this: friends, the approval of others, your privacy by confessing and being accountable to others; access to what leads you to sin. Even though its hard, do what it takes.

Jesus made this point in Matthew 18:8-9 –

“And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.”

Complete yieldedness to God has to be at the core of our Christian lives.

We will still fail. But with this in place we won’t excuse it or tolerate it. We will immediately deal with it.

And with this in place in your life, and in our congregation as a whole, we will be in a place to experience the spiritual renewal that God wants for us.

William Higgins

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We are beginning to draw to a close our ‘on again, off again’ series on the kings of Judah from 2 Chronicles. To give us some perspective on where we have been, we have looked at: Asa, Jehoshaphat, Joash, Uzziah, Hezekiah, Manasseh and now Josiah. We will have covered 300 years of history.

Josiah – the basics

  • He began to reign at eight – 34:1. His father had been assassinated, which is why he became king so young.
  • He reigned thirty one years – 34:1.
  • He was righteous. As 34:2 says, “he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, and walked in the ways of David his father; and he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.”
  • He began to seek the Lord when he was 16 years old, in the 8th year of his reign. As 34:3 says, “while he was still young, he began to seek the God of David his father” (NIV)

The 12th year of Josiah reign

This is when he begins to reform God’s people. Remember, Manasseh, his grandfather spent most of his time as king, 55 years, promoting various forms of idolatry. And his father Amon also took this policy. So idolatry was deeply ingrained throughout the land of Judah and the territory of the former northern kingdom of Israel, which had been destroyed by Assyria. Now here Josiah is, 20 years old, trying to set things right.

First, he destroyed Judah’s idols. “He began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the Asherim, and the carved and the metal images. And they chopped down the altars of the Baals in his presence, and he cut down the incense altars that stood above them.” – 34:3-4.

The story goes on to tell how he scattered the dust of the idols over the dead idol priests graves and he burned the bones of the priests on their altars – thus defiling the altars.

Next, he destroyed Israel’s idols, that is, the territories north of Judah. 34:7 says, “he broke down the altars and beat the Asherim and the images into powder and cut down all the incense altars throughout all the land of Israel.”

The 18th year of Josiah’s reign

This year is the focus of the rest of our story today. He is now 26 and he accomplishes more in this one year, than any other king in terms of reform (only Hezekiah comes close).

Five things need to be pointed out here: 1. The temple restoration. It needed repairs – 34:8. As it says in v. 11, the previous kings had let it go to ruin, presumably Manasseh and Amon.

A collection from both Judah and Israel was given for the work – 34:9-11. So we again see that some in the former kingdom of Israel were connecting with Judah.

The Levites oversaw the work – 34:12-13. It notes in particular the Levitical musicians, who it says, “were over the burden bearers and directed all who did work in every kind of service . . ..” This is interesting. Were they simply supervisors, or did they play music at the work site to set the pace? Its not clear.

2. The “Book of the Law” is rediscovered. 34:14-15 says, “While they were bringing out the money that had been brought into the house of the Lord, Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law of the Lord given through Moses. Then Hilkiah answered and said to Shaphan the secretary, ‘I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord.’”

It may have been hidden in the temple during a time of invasion or threat from an unfaithful king, like Manasseh or Amon.

This could refer to all five of the books of the Law, from Moses, the first five books of the Bible. But most think that this refers to a particular part of the Book of the Law, that is, the book of Deuteronomy.

The book was read to Josiah – 34:15-18. Deuteronomy is clear that breaking the covenant, as they had done, would bring judgment and exile. 34:19 says,  “And when the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his clothes.” As Josiah says, “For great is the wrath of the Lord that is poured out on us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the Lord, to do according to all that is written in this book.” – (v. 21). He knew they were in serious trouble.

So he sent messengers to see if this would indeed happen – 34:21. They found a prophetess named Huldah, who gave them . . .

3. A prophetic word. She said that, because the people had forsaken God (v. 25) and committed idolatry, judgment would come. “Thus says the Lord, behold, I will bring disaster upon this place and upon its inhabitants, all the curses that are written in the book that was read before the king of Judah.” – 34:24

She goes on to speak out God’s word in v. 25 – “. . . my wrath will be poured out on this place and will not be quenched.”

But she also had a word for Josiah. Because his heart was tender and he humbled himself before God when he heard the Book of the Law (v. 27), “Behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place and its inhabitants.” – 34:28.

So he got mixed messages. Unstoppable judgment for the people. But kind regard for him as king.

After hearing all this, Josiah didn’t despair, but acted to do what was right. He gathered everyone together at the temple, to carry out a . . .

4. A covenant renewal ceremony. He read to them the book of the Law – 34:30. And then he recommitted to following God’s covenant. It says, “And the king stood in his place and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant that were written in this book.” – 34:31.

He also led the people to recovenant – 34:32; to be faithful and to do God’s will as well. And he also “made all who were present in Israel (the northern territory) serve the Lord” – 34:33.

The rest of v. 33 sums up, “All his days they did not turn away from following the Lord, the God of their fathers.”

Finally, 5. The celebration of Passover. We won’t get into all the details of this. We looked at Hezekiah’s Passover celebration several weeks ago.

Suffice it to say that Josiah’s was even more grand. For instance, they had nearly twice as many sacrifices at this celebration.

35:18 says, “No Passover like it had been kept in Israel since the days of Samuel the prophet. None of the kings of Israel had kept such a Passover as was kept by Josiah . . ..” A sweeping statement!

On this high note, Josiah ended his 18th year as king – 35:19.

Lessons from our story

1. Young people can do great things for God. When he was 16 he began to seriously seek after God for himself. Not because of parents, or circumstances, but from his own heart and desire.

And this is what we look for in those who come for baptism. But this is a call to all our young people whether you are baptized or not. Are you seeking after God? There are so many distractions in the world. Give yourself fully to seeking after God and you can do great things for God as well.

When he was 20, he was a leader who began to act as a reformer. Do we as a congregation have room in our midst for young people to serve and to lead?

When he was 26 he accomplished all his great reforms. At 26, he was one of, if not the greatest of all the descendents of David. So, yes, young people can and should be serving and leading and doing great things for God’s kingdom.

2. How to respond to God’s word. Josiah was walking in the light he had. But then they found the Book of the Law and read it to him, he responded immediately to all that was new to him, to obey God’s word. He sought to make things right, when he learned how far off track they were.

When we read the Scriptures, when we hear the word, when we learn something new – we also need to respond immediately to obey God’s word in our lives. When we find out that there are things in our lives that need to change, may we act like Josiah, with humility and speed to make things right.

Finally, 3. How to go about covenant renewal. This is one of several examples of this in 2 Chronicles.

What I want to say is that, since we are in a process of covenant renewal, we can learn from Josiah how to do this the right way.

34:31 says, he “made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant that were written in this book.”

Our hope, as Elders, is that as we go through our covenant renewal that each of us will take it seriously. And that we will all reaffirm our trust in and obedience to our Lord Jesus. And that it will come from our heart, and that we will make it with all of our heart and soul, like Josiah.

William Higgins

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