Third Sunday after Pentecost

Pentecost  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Welcome to our church. Let us praise God this morning.
Psalm 30:3–5 NASB95PARA
O Lord, You have brought up my soul from Sheol; You have kept me alive, that I would not go down to the pit. Sing praise to the Lord, you His godly ones, And give thanks to His holy name. For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning.
It’s one of the bees in my bonnet that certain Bible verses get quoted out of context on a very regular basis.
There’s a song that keeps singing, “joy comes in the morning” - but doesn’t quote the rest of the passage. It bugs me a little. Especially since most Christians are not aware that this verse has special meaning for Jehovah’s Witnesses, and nobody - nobody - has stopped to ask questions to verify that this singer does not have JW affiliations.
God’s Anger is for a moment - it sure doesn’t seem that way when you’re in the midst of it! Things blow up in your life, and there are times that it seems you’re in the middle of a Job moment.
Why does God allow these times to happen? That is the question many Christians ask. Why did God allow this?
A better question would be, why did God decree this?
The answer to this question generally is found in Eph. 1:6
Ephesians 1:6 NASB95PARA
to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.
This is essentially the general answer of the “Why” in God’s decree.
God’s grace is so astounding, so merciful, that all creation praises Him for it.
The general reason answered, let’s look at the specifics for each situation. Here’s the answer.
I don’t know. It could be a response to sin in the life of every believer. It could be the response to the failure of a test. It could be the test itself, because God tests us and proves us, so that we may be given rewards. Sometimes it is to purify us, to make us sharp, as in iron sharpening iron.
I can’t say what it is specifically in every case. Don’t ask me to tell you the specifics in your case, because it could be one of those reasons specifically. The general reason itself is for the praise of the glory of His grace.
Why did the Apostle Paul suffer through the serious condition of his eyes being inflamed, so that every blink was painful?
To the praise of the glory of God’s Grace.
Paul prayed several times for this to be lifted. God said no. My grace is sufficient unto thee.
Paul knew immediately what that meant. There’s a song sung at the passover feast called Dayeynu, which means “it would have been enough”, and it recounts all of the blessings of the Passover night, and each one is greeted with the refrain, “If we had just gotten that and nothing more, it would have been enough.” Literally, if God had just given Israel the Bible and left them in bondage in Egypt, it would have been enough, is what the song says.
God is telling Paul, My grace is Dayeynu. If that is all you were given, it would have been enough.
If you or I had gone through only a tenth of what Paul suffered after his conversion, we’d be complaining. Beaten with rods, scourged, stoned, whipped, three times beaten and left for dead, the loss of everything he owned… we’d be seriously complaining. And probably everyone we know would have said, “you know, When God closes a door, He opens another...”
Paul did not complain. He certainly didn’t boast about it. When others mocked him and said he wasn’t a real apostle, Paul’s response wasn’t to brag about Christ teaching him personally in the wilderness. Instead, he recounts his sufferings.
Laying at the edge of death, I can say that the most important thing to you becomes the praise of God’s glory. I can’t explain it. I know that when I was minutes from death, my entire focus was on the praise of God. Perhaps this is a glimpse into the future, when we have left this world and arrived in heaven, when we can see God face to face.
This is the meaning of the most misunderstood verse in the Bible. I’ve heard so many people say this is their life’s verse, and it’s obvious they have no clue what this verse means.
Philippians 1:21 NASB95PARA
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
What does this verse mean?
I would rather die and be with Christ. Death to me would be profit, a benefit. But to go on living is to serve Christ.
I cannot count how many times I have seriously angered Christians when I’ve said on public forums that is the meaning of this verse. This literally started a persecution on one Christian forum that culminated in me being driven off that forum - because I dared to tell people what the Bible meant. If this is your response, then I say that best case scenario, you are spiritually immature. I’m not even going to discuss what the worst case scenario might be.
If I have angered anyone hearing this, then I do not beg your forgiveness. I merely say - this is what the Bible means. The word gain is κέρδος in the Greek, which means profit. I profit by dying.
What does the Bible say in context in that passage?
Philippians 1:22 NASB95PARA
But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose.
“But if I am to live” continues the thought from verse 1:21. To die is a profit to me, and to live is to serve Christ. But if I am to keep living, this will mean more work and more hardship. It will be tough, but it will enrich others and provide fruit for Christ.
I don’t know which to choose.
Philippians 1:23 NASB95PARA
But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better;
I don’t even need to exposit that verse, when you read verse 1:21 in its correct context.
Philippians 1:24 NASB95PARA
yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.
This is why Paul continues to struggle. He fights on, enduring hardships for the sake of Christ and His church, and the believers he is writing to.
Christianity is not the best parking spaces, riches, wealth, and the miraculous ability to recall tornado’s back into the clouds.
Christianity is hardships and persecution. Christianity is tribulation and trouble in this life. We are hated by the world, hated by the devil, hated by all who follow not Christ but instead the devil.
We are even hated by well meaning brothers and sisters in Christ who do not have Biblical theologies, following instead philosophical worldviews that affect how they read the Bible. And if you want to increase that persecution at their hands, tell them they are doing exactly that - persecuting Christians with sound theologies because it conflicts with their philosophical lenses they interpret the Scriptures through.
I know. I did the same for many years, until what I kept seeing in the Bible pieced itself together and made it impossible to ignore any longer. Probably most of you feel the same.
The last question is, why do Christians we love have to die?
The easy answer to this again is to the praise of the glory of His grace. The specifics - once again - I cannot tell you.
But this has additional reasons not associated with the other questions we asked.
Isaiah points out that none take it to heart when the righteous die that they may have been spared the coming tribulation. As we get closer and closer and closer to the end of the United States and probably the beginning of the Tribulation - the two events may not be linked, or they may indeed be linked, because the coming seven year tribulation period does not mention the United States anywhere in the Bible.
We may see yet as this time grows closer that the righteous are getting cancer and dying. Or mesothelioma, or covid, or other diseases that cost them their lives. I know when my appendix exploded that I was in the best physical shape I’d been in for years - if I hadn’t been in such good physical shape, I’d never have survived it. Had God not preserved me through it, I would have died that night.
All of us are under a sentence of death. The soul that sins, that soul shall die. All of us inherited sin, because we all were in Adam when he sinned. There is no-one alive except Christ who can say they did not have this sinless condition.
Knowing these things does not help those who still live, and grapple with the fact that those we love are now gone to be with the Lord, and we’re hurting because of their loss.
All I can tell you is this - we are not as those who have no hope. You will see your loved ones again, when you too pass from this world to go to heaven. If you’re one of the fortunate ones who bypass death to be taken in the Rapture - that’s the only way to interpret the phrase in Thessalonians of “We who are alive and remain”- then you will see your loved ones then.
If you’re not saved at this time, then if you survive the Tribulation, you’ll be united with them when the Lord returns with us. I don’t really recommend this option - surviving the Tribulation is going to be difficult to say the least - the odds will be highly against you. Far better to try yourself constantly to see whether you are in the faith.
God is wonderful. The loss of parents, siblings, friends, children is only temporary if they belong to the Lord.
You will see them again.
Lord, we thank you for Your goodness and mercy. Watch over us in the coming week, and keep us close toy you, In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
Numbers 6:24–26 NASB95PARA
The Lord bless you, and keep you; The Lord make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.’
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