I AM – Gospel of John Introduction

I_Am_posterWe all long for peace, security, and fulfillment. Denying that we have those needs is pointless. Trying to meet them in unhealthy ways is counterproductive. And languishing in frustration when those needs are not met is unnecessary, because God has a better plan. Jesus came to tell us about Himself. We can find our satisfaction in a relationship with Jesus Christ. Through Jesus we can find peace, security, and fulfillment—everything we need. He is the great “I Am.”

Dates      Titles                                     Scriptures
April 4 – I Am the Resurrection and Life (John 11) EASTER
April 11 – I Am the Bread of Life (John 6)
April 18 – I Am the Good Shepherd (John 10)
April 25 – I Am Way, Truth & Life (John 14)

May 2 – I Am the True Vine (John 15)
May 9 – I Am the Living Water (John 4) Mothers’ Day

John’s purpose for writing the gospel: “these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ” (John 20:31).

John’s 2 questions for the reader to wrestle with: 1. Who is Jesus? 2. What do I do with his words/teachings?

“I AM”

OT Background: Exodus 3:1-20, especially verses 13-18. (cf. Is. 41:4; 43:10-13)
NT fulfillment: John 8:58

When God calls Himself the “I Am” in Exodus 3, it’s a pivotal moment in redemptive history. God reveals Himself to His people and comes to redeem them out of exile and lead them into a new life. God’s name discloses who He is and what He is like. He is the I Am, the eternal, unchanging, self-existent one, infinite and glorious in every way, and above and beyond all created things. He is God.

When Jesus applies the title “I Am” to himself, he claims to be God (John 8:58). Not a helper to God or a great teacher, but the divine, eternal, pre-existent, infinite, perfect Being. He is Israel’s God. He is greater than Moses because he is the God of Moses. He has life in himself and he can give life to us.

I hope that you can join us for our new series, “I Am” Jesus in His Own Words

Darrell

www.Upwards.Church

Watch Messages: YouTube-Upwards Church

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Enough Rebellion – Numbers 16

Rebellion involves knowing what God wants me to do and refusing to do it.

Some notorious historical figures might have remained anonymous if they hadn’t tried to grab on to more than they could hold. But by refusing to be content with what they had, and by trying to get more than they deserved, they ended up with nothing. Korah, one of the Israelite leaders, was one such person.

Korah was a Levite who assisted in the daily functions of the Tabernacle. Shortly after Israel’s great rebellion against God (Numbers 13-14) (or see the last post) Korah instigated his own mini-rebellion (Numbers 16:1-2).

Korah was the ringleader of the coup. He was a Levite and, interestingly, a cousin to Moses. Their fathers were brothers. Three other brothers of the tribe of Reuben were also ringleaders: Dathan, Abiram, and On. Korah was from the Kohathite clan. The Kohathites and the tribe of Reuben camped on the south side of the Tabernacle, camped side by side. Living close together and being friends and co-leaders gave them ample opportunity to sit around in the evenings grumbling, murmuring, and sharing their complaints and disappointments.

Korah recruited a grievance committee and confronted Moses and Aaron. Their list of complaints boils down to three statements (Numbers 16:3-4): (1) You are no better than anyone else; (2) everyone in Israel has been chosen of the Lord; (3) we don’t need to obey you. It is amazing to see how Korah twisted the first two statements—both true—to reach the wrong conclusion.

  • Rebellion reveals deeper problems.

Whenever you find complaining and rebelling among God’s people, there’s usually a “stated reason” and a “hidden reason.” Korah’s public complaint was that Moses and Aaron were “running things” and not giving the people opportunity for input. He wanted more democracy in the camp. After all, the Lord dwelt in the entire camp and all the people were “a kingdom of priests” (Ex. 19:3-6), so who were Moses and Aaron to elevate themselves above everybody else? The hidden reason was that Korah wanted the Levites to have the same privileges as Aaron and his sons (Num. 16:10). Korah wasn’t satisfied to be assisting the priests; he wanted to be a priest.

Korah and his associates had seen the advantages of the priesthood in Egypt. Egyptian priests had great wealth and political influence, something Korah wanted for himself. Korah may have assumed that Moses, Aaron, and his sons were trying to make the Israelite priesthood the same kind of political machine, and he wanted to be a part of it. He did not understand that Moses’ main ambition was to serve God rather than to control others.

Like Korah, we often desire the special qualities God has given others. Korah had significant, worthwhile abilities and responsibilities of his own. In the end, however, his ambition for more caused him to lose everything. Inappropriate ambition is greed in disguise. We should concentrate on finding the special purpose God has for us instead of wishing we were in someone else’s shoes.

Note the reaction of Moses: he fell face down, seeking God (Numbers 16:4-11). How long he stayed upon his face seeking the Lord is not stated. But falling prostrate apparently so startled the rebels that they temporarily held their peace, somewhat backing off until he arose from the ground. Note that Moses did not lash out nor retaliate against the rebels. When they first confronted him face to face, he simply fell prostrate to the ground—in great meekness and humility—and took the matter to the Lord.  This is a great lesson for us as well; when confronted with bad news, or argumentative people, we should go to the Lord in prayer first.

When Moses got up, he responded: 

They were the ones who had gone too far. He used their own charge against them. They were guilty of abusing and trampling underfoot God’s call to them to serve as Levites (Numbers 16:8-9). They had personally been given the privilege of being set apart to serve God and His people. This should have been enough: they were already leaders and servants of God, appointed to lead God’s people as directed by Him. They were guilty of seeking the priesthood itself—seeking a much higher position that should come only from God, never from selfish effort.  Numbers 16:10-11

They were revolting against the Lord Himself!  (Numbers 16:11)       

  • Rebellion is ultimately against God.

When Jude wrote to warn the early church about false teachers, he used Korah as an example, pointing out that he “rejected authority and spoke evil of dignitaries.”  (Jude 5-11).

The test Moses proposed was a simple one. If Korah and his men were indeed priests acceptable to God, then let them bring their censers to the tabernacle and see if God would accept them. Surely the rebels remembered what happened to Nadab and Abihu when they rashly brought “strange fire” before the Lord (Lev. 10), but even this warning didn’t deter them.  The next morning, Korah and his followers showed up with their censers and stood with Moses and Aaron at the entrance of the tabernacle, while Dathan and Abiram stood with their families at the doors of their tents on the south side of the tabernacle. God showed his displeasure with the rebels as the earth opened up and swallowed them! (Numbers 16:32-35)

Korah’s story of rebellion gives us numerous warnings:

  1. Don’t let desire for what someone else has make us discontented with what we already have.
  2.  Don’t try to raise our own self-esteem by attacking someone else’s.
  3. Don’t use part of God’s Word to support what we want now, rather than allowing its entirety to shape our worldview.
  4. Don’t expect power and position to be an end all; God may want to work through us in the position we are now in.

The selfish desire for greatness and authority is a common theme in Scripture, whether it’s Korah opposing Moses and Aaron, Absalom defying his father (2 Sam. 15), Adonijah claiming the crown (1 Kings 1), the disciples arguing over which of them was the greatest (Luke 22:23-25), or Diotrephes loving to have preeminence in a local church (3 John 9-11). And yet the most important place in the Christian life is the place of God’s choice, the place He’s prepared for us and prepared us to fill. The important thing isn’t status but faithfulness, doing the work God wants us to do. Every member of the church, the body of Christ, has a spiritual gift to be used for serving others, and therefore every member is important to God and to the church (1 Cor. 12:14-18).

  • Rebellion must be replaced with submission.

Whether it’s the ancient camp of Israel or a modern city, no society can function without subordination. Somebody has to be in charge. Parents have authority in the home, teachers in the classroom, managers in the factory or office, and civil servants in the city or nation (Rom. 13; 1 Peter 2:13-25). When this kind of order breaks down, then society is in serious trouble. God places us in families, churches, communities, countries and all of them have people who the responsibility to lead, manage and we must submit to the authority God has placed over us.

Darrell

www.Upwards.Church

Watch Messages: YouTube-Upwards Church

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Sources:
Preacher’s Outline and Sermon Bible – Commentary – The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible – Numbers.
Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – Old Testament – The Bible Exposition Commentary – Pentateuch.
Life Application Study Bible.
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Enough Doubt – Numbers 13

Doubt is a lack of confidence or assurance that God will keep His promises.

Today we examine Numbers 13. This chapter tells about a crucial event in the history of Israel. And I believe it is relevant to us because the way they reacted in doubt is too often the way we react today.

This is the story of Moses & the people of Israel as God freed them from their slavery in Egypt & led them to the border of the Promised Land. When they arrive, God gives the command, & Moses tells the people, “It is time for us to go in & take the land which God has given us.”

But first, he chooses 12 men – one from each tribe – & tells them, “Go & spy out the land. Observe the people, their cities & fortifications, & their produce. Then come back & tell us what the land is like.”

So these 12 men take off & spend 40 days spying out the land. When they come back they reported, “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit.” (Numbers 13:27)

God was right! “We looked at the land & it is exactly what God said it would be. But from that point on, their report was no longer unanimous. They were divided 10 to 2, & the majority begins the rest of its report with the word, “But“.

Have you ever noticed how often the word, “But,” is used when we don’t want to do what God is asking?  “I know you said this God, but.”  “I know your word is clear on this, but.”

That is exactly what was happening here in verses 28-33 where their report continues: “But the people who live there are powerful, & the cities are fortified & very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there.

Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses & said, ‘We should go up & take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.’

John Gardner said, “We are continually faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems.” A faith that can’t be tested can’t be trusted, and God tests our faith to help us make sure it’s genuine.

  • God places regular tests of faith before His children.

But the men who had gone up with him said, ‘We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.’ . . . ‘All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the descendants of Anak there. . .’  ‘We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, & we looked the same to them.'”

Oh, no, the majority is recommending they disobey God!  Why?  Doubt that expresses itself in fear, worry and anxiety.

Caleb & Joshua, even though they are in the minority, urged the people to do what God wants them to do. They argued, “If God is leading the way, then why should we be afraid?”

  • Doubt sees obstacles, faith sees opportunities.

After all, look at the miracles God had already done on their behalf. He had sent the plagues upon Egypt & forced Pharaoh to let them go. He had divided the waters of the Red Sea, & then closed those waters upon the chariots of Egypt.

He had given them water in the desert when they were thirsty, manna when they were hungry, & quail when they wanted meat.

God had been with them all through the wilderness. He had led them with a pillar of cloud by day, & a pillar of fire by night. They had even heard His voice in the midst of the thunder & lightning & smoke on Mt. Sinai.

After witnessing so many miracles, why did they stop trusting God? Why did they refuse to enter the Promised Land when that had been their goal since leaving Egypt? They had fear and doubt. Often we do the same thing. We trust God to handle the smaller issues but doubt his ability to take care of the big problems, the tough decisions, the frightening situations.  He brought me this far and won’t let me down now. We can continue trusting God by remembering all he has done for us.

But sadly, ten of the spies were so afraid that they were not willing to obey God.

“We are not able” is the cry of doubt (Num. 13:31), but, “Our God is able” is the affirmation of faith.

Vs. 31-32 says that “they spread a bad report” among the people, and each time they told it, their description was exaggerated, misrepresented or flat out lies.  When our eyes are on ourselves and our circumstances, we lose our perspective and say and do ridiculous things.

And in vs. 33 they say, “We saw the descendants of Anak there!”  The “descendants of Anak” were a race of abnormally large people. The family of Goliath may have been descended from these people.

These 10 spies are saying, “We don’t stand a chance because there are giants – fearsome warriors – in the land! Everywhere you go there are giants!” They saw themselves as grasshoppers. They saw the enemy as giants. And they didn’t see God at all!

The negative opinion of 10 men spread doubt among the people.

  • Doubt is contagious.

Because it is human nature to accept opinion as fact, we must be especially careful when voicing our negative opinions. What we say may heavily influence the actions of those who trust us to give sound advice.  The ten spies spread an evil report among the people. They exaggerated and distorted the truth. They became stumbling blocks to Israel. Scripture is clear: we are not to be stumbling blocks, not to cause people to stumble and fall.

Now let’s apply this to our lives today. To the children of Israel, the Promised Land represented their future. And God gave them the opportunity to go in and start a new life.

As you look into the future, what do you see? Do you see giants, or God?

There are crises in our world, a crisis in the family, a crisis in morality and a crisis in government. Integrity and morality has been shoved aside. We are a people living as if there is no God.

Those are some of the giants we face. But as we look into the future, I think that sometimes we become so overwhelmed by the giants that we are like these 10 men, & we think that there is no way we can take the land.

But if there has ever been a time when our world needs Christians who care about people who are hurting, who will reach out to a lost & confused world, who will live out and speak the simple Bible message without compromise, now is that time.

We must not retreat. We must not be intimidated. And don’t ever forget, our God specializes in slaying giants. David slew Goliath. So what do you see when you look into the future? Do you see giants, or do you see God? God is bigger. No obstacle is too big for God..

Finally, as you look toward the future, where are you going? Isn’t it amazing how short a memory the children of Israel had? For over 200 years they had suffered as slaves in Egypt, & complained bitterly to God about it.

So God heard their cries, set them free, & led them through the wilderness to the Promised Land. But now they’re afraid to go in. And they’re saying, “Maybe it would be better if we went back to Egypt.” What???   How sad, how defeating!

  • Doubt can lead to despair.

For some people they would rather suffer in what is familiar than trust God in what is unknown. They were ready to give up their freedom & become slaves once again, just for a measure of security.  Our security is in God.

What do we do if we are gripped with doubt?

  • Doubt must be replaced with faith.

If your life is in the wilderness, if you feel doubt, then Jesus Christ is the one who goes before us!  He conquers the giants of death and sin.  Jesus Christ is the one to deliver us from bondage and take us into a growing relationship with Him, a promise land that starts now: a life of faith, with growth and struggles, but leads to victory and ultimately heaven.  It all starts with faith in Jesus.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.  Ephesians 2:8   

Darrell

www.Upwards.Church

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Love…

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  How fitting to look at “love” on the day that we honor of the missionary who went to Ireland out of love for Christ and the people to whom he was bringing the gospel.  As noted in the last post,  we must replace the sinful attitude of criticism with love.

But what is love? Love is misunderstood and over used. We use the word love for just about everything: “I love BBQ!” “I love the Aggies!”  “I love my wife.”

We use “love” in referring to how we feel about a lot of things.

But besides being misunderstood, the word love has also been misinterpreted. Many today are use the word love in place of the word lust. Also, people say, “I fell in love” as if somebody tripped them and the force of gravity takes over.  Unfortunately people also say they “fell out of love.”

Love for many is an ocean of emotions. And while love does create feelings, love itself is not just a feeling. What is love as the bible describes it?  In the Greek language that the New Testament was written there are four distinct words for love.

1. “Eros” – means sexual passion, is where we get our English word, erotic.
2. “Philia” – means a bond of friendship, from which the city of Philadelphia is named, the city of brotherly love.

3. “Storge” – means affection and is the type of love we display towards family members.
4. “Agape” – means unconditional no string attached and is word use for God’s love for us and how we are to love one another

Instead of love being only a feeling, love is a choice. We must choose to love.

One of the greatest descriptions of how to love is found in 1 Corinthians chapter 13.  From a literary viewpoint some would argue that this the greatest passage Paul ever penned.

Paul lists fifteen characteristics of Christian love.

1. Love is patient. It describes the one who is “slow to anger.” It is used of God in his relationship with us. Such patience is not the sign of weakness but the sign of strength.  Like the man who is wronged and who has the power to avenge himself but will not.

No one treated Abraham Lincoln with more contempt than Edward Stanton. He called him “a low cunning clown.” He nicknamed him “the original gorilla.” Lincoln said nothing and never retaliated. Later as president, Lincoln make Mr. Stanton his war minister. When asked why, Lincoln replied, “because he is the best man for the job” and he treated him with every courtesy. The night came when the assassin’s bullet murdered Lincoln in the theatre. In the little room to which the President’s body was taken stood that same Stanton and looking down on Lincoln’s silent face, he said through his tears, “There lies the greatest ruler of men the world has ever seen.” The patience of love had conquered in the end.

2. Love is kind.  Church father Origin wrote that this means “sweet to all.” Such love is considerate and helpful to others. Kind love is gentle and mild, always ready to show compassion, especially to those in need.

3. Love does not envy. It has been said that there are really only two classes of people in this world–“those who are millionaires and those who would like to be.” There are also two kinds of envy:  one covets the possessions of other people. The second doesn’t so much want things for himself as he wishes that others had not got them at all.  Are you thankful when family members or friends gain success, get raises and do well?

4. Love is not boastful. When the loving person is himself successful he does not boast of it.  He does not brag.  Love does not parade its accomplishments. Bragging is the other side of envy. Envy wants what someone else has. Bragging is trying to make others jealous of what we have. Envy puts others down; bragging builds us up. It is ironic that, as much as most of us dislike bragging in others, we are so inclined to brag ourselves.

5.  Love is not proud. The loving person really never thinks of his own importance. William Carey, who began life as a cobbler, was one of the greatest missionaries and certainly one of the greatest linguists the world has ever seen. He translated at least parts of the Bible into no fewer than thirty-four Indian languages. When he came to India, he was regarded with dislike and contempt. At a dinner party a snob, with the idea of humiliating him, said in a tone that everyone could hear, “I suppose, Mr. Carey, you once worked as a shoe-maker.” “No, your lordship,” answered Carey, “not a shoe-maker, only a cobbler.” He did not even claim to make shoes–only to mend them.

6. Love is not rude. There are some Christians who takes a delight in being blunt and almost brutal. There is a graciousness in love which never forgets that courtesy and tact and politeness are loving.

7. Love is not self-seeking. There are those in this world who are always thinking of what life owes them and there are those who never forget what they owe to life. Most of our problems which surround us today could be avoided if we would think less of our rights and more of our duties. Whenever we start thinking about “ourselves” and “our place” we are drifting away from true love.

8. Love is not easily angered. Love never becomes infuriated with people which is a sign of defeat. When we lose our tempers, we lose everything. Kipling said that it was the test of a man if he could keep his head when everyone else was losing his. The one who is master of his temper can be master of anything.

9. Love keeps no record of wrongs. “Record” is an accounting term, the word used for entering up an item in a ledger so that it will not be forgotten. That is precisely what so many people do. One man in describing his wife to a friend exclaimed, “When we get in an argument, she always gets historical!” “You mean hysterical, the friend replied?”  “No, historical! She brings up everything I ever did wrong!” Love learns to let go.

10. Love does not delight in evil. Love finds no pleasure in anything that is wrong.  In particular, the delight that comes to most of us when we hear something derogatory about someone else. It is one of the traits of human nature that we prefer to hear of the misfortune of others rather than of their good fortune. Love finds no pleasure in gossip or bad news about someone.

11. Love rejoices with the truth. That is not as easy as it sounds. There are times when we definitely do not want the truth to prevail; and other times when truth is the last thing we want to hear. Love has no desire to veil the truth; it has nothing to hide and so is glad when the truth is revealed.

12. Love always protects. It is possible that this may mean “love can cover anything,” meaning it will never drag into the light of day the faults and mistakes of others. Love would rather mend things than publicly displaying them. It can also mean that love can bear any insult, any injury, and disappointment.

13. Love always trust. This characteristic has a twofold meaning. (1) In relation to God it means that love takes God at his word. (2) In relation to people it means that love always believes the best about other people. We make people what we believe them to be. If we show that we do not trust people, we may make them untrustworthy. If we show people that we trust them, we may make them trustworthy.

14. Love always hopes. Love looks forward, not backward. It seeks for growth and maturity in the church, knowing that God is working in every person.  It knows that failure is not the end.

15.  Love always perseveres. Love is active and committed. When we love we hold on, no matter what difficulties we face. Hardship and pain do not stop love. When we persevere, we hang on when the going gets tough. We strive to save our marriages and love our children despite disappointment and to continue to trust God despite setbacks, and to continue to serve God despite fear or sorrow. When we truly persevere in love nothing can stop us!

Dr. Karl Menninger, the famous psychiatrist and founder of the Menninger Clinic, has written that “Love is the medicine for our sick old world. If people can learn to give and receive love, they will usually recover from their physical or mental illness.”

Darrell

www.Upwards.Church

Watch Messages: YouTube-Upwards Church

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Sources: Life Application Bible Commentary – Life Application Bible Commentary – 1 & 2 Corinthians.
MacArthur New Testament Commentary, The – MacArthur New Testament Commentary – 1 Corinthians.
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