In the last one week, who have we glorified? Is it us or is it God? Who is God? There are so many papers and articles written that God does not exist. For 150 years Darwinism has been floating around. It states that God does not exist and that man came from monkeys. We take it for granted that we know God and that God exists. It is true that God exists but how sure are we that God exists? Can we sit in front of an atheist and tell him that God exists and convince him? We've got to understand who God is.
1. God is a God who protects - El-Roi
In Hebrew it is El-Roi (God protects).
9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.
10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them.
11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name--the name you gave me--so that they may be one as we are one.
12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.
13 "I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.
14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.
15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.
16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.
17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.
18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.
19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
Interestingly it says something important about protection. Jesus prays for it. Why do we need protection? Because Jesus thinks it is very important. Jesus does not pray for the world but for us. We don't understand how much we are protected. Isn't that true? Do we know how much God has protected us by putting angels around us in our journey? We don't even think about it. We forget to thank him. Day after day, God wakes us in the morning and let's us see a new day. God says protection is important for us.
Without prayer there is no protection. Our prayers protect us. Our prayers protect others. That's why Jesus was so specific, 'God protect them because they are in the world'. As long as we are in the world we need protection. We've got to keep ourselves in this world to help others. Jesus protected us while he was in the world and now God has sent the Holy Spirit to us to protect us. We've got to pray for each other to protect us.
Jesus, when he talked about protection, did not talk about the short-term benefits - daily food etc. He prayed about long-term protection. For the future - protect them today so that tomorrow they can do great things for you. Jesus keeps reminding us that we are different from the world.
Some of us have may have taken this for granted living 6 days of our week in the world and only on Sunday we say we are Christians. We take it for granted that we are alive, that God has given us everything that we need. We take it for granted that we are without sickness. One visit to the government hospitals to see the sickness that many people suffer from will teach us that there is an extraordinary protection for us. It's something beyond our imagination.
Jesus also prays that God will protect us from the Evil One. That's an important prayer to pray. Some of us think that the Devil is the one who causes us pain and God only gives us comfort and takes care of us, that God will never cause us pain. Amazingly, when we look into the Bible we see that it is God who gives us pain, it is God who lets us go through trouble. Remember Job, remember Abraham? It was God who gave permission to Satan to trouble Job. It was Satan who wanted to give Jesus everything. He showed Jesus the cities of the world and said, 'If you bow down to me, I will give you everything'.
The Christian world thinks 'if I have everything God loves me very much. If I have money and everything this world has to offer, God has blessed me'. That's not the truth. The truth is that God gives us a little pain so that we can overcome the bigger pain that we would otherwise have to face after we die. We can escape the bigger pain after we die.
God has given us the opportunity to raise children. Children are very tempted to push things or put their hands in the fire. We allow them to do that sometimes and face a little pain now so that they won't have to face a bigger pain in the future. Similarly God allows us to go through some pain in our lives. As we grew up, some of our parents were too protective of us. 'Don't do this, don't do that, don't touch this'. The child comes and touches the glass bottle on the table. The parents move it. The child touches it again. Again the parents move it. How many times can we keep moving it? We assume that the child is never going to obey and so we feel we have to protect him. How? By moving the bottle. That's not the way to do it.
If the child touches the bottle, we need to give him a tap on the hand and say, 'Don't touch'. Keep watching. He won't cry the first time we spank him. He will be tempted to touch the bottle again. When he reaches out for it, spank him harder on the hand. That's when he will cry. After a few minutes he will look at you, then look at the glass and again look at you. He puts out his hand towards the bottle as he looks at you. That's where you've got to win. Take the child's hand again and spank it harder one more time. With most children three times is enough. Some children need more. We've got to protect them because otherwise they will fall into more sin later on. We cannot push a beautiful woman out of their lives, we cannot push drugs out of their lives, and we cannot push other bad things away from them. We may not be there to do it. God will teach them. That's how God teaches us. God lets us go through pain so that we can be protected by God.
This is how we protect others. As disciples we go up to people who are going through problems and difficulties. Protection is not about punishing them. Protection is about how much we tell them we love them. When people are sick and have pain and problems in their lives all they need is a hand to hold. Have we been beside a person who is sick and about to die? What does he need? Just a hand. We hold him tight. Tight. That's all they need. Sometimes that's what we need and God has given us an opportunity as Christians to lend a hand to others. That protects them, that shows them that we care for them, that let's them know they are loved. It's not works, it's not the action. It's just being there for them, spending time with them that will help them to do what is right. That is God. Who is God? A God who protects us, who lends us a hand and helped us to understand who he is. He has been very gracious to us.
2. God is a god who provides - Jehovah-Jireh.
He provides, he gives. He gives himself to us ultimately. We need to enjoy knowing God, who he is to us so we can also be good daddies and mummies to our children and to the people around us.
1 Timothy 6:11-12
11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.
12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
The question is, have we taken hold of it or have we let it go? How do we know whether we have let go of it or not? Jesus had a way to help others. God gives us an opportunity to serve the poor and take care of them. He serves us, he provides for us. He not only provides food, clothing, air, sun and everything else but he also provides himself, his blood so that we can be sanctified.
God gives us an opportunity to look up to him and say, 'Thank you, God, for providing us with everything'. Instead, do we take it for granted and say 'I've got everything because I have done something'? Are we in awe of God because he has given us eyes to see with, a mouth to talk with, legs to walk with? Do we look at the beggars on the road and think they are that way because they are lazy? We take it for granted that we are the way we are because of who we are.
Being contented is another way to look at God's provision for us. Admiring his provision for us and saying, 'Thank you, God, for giving us these things'. Paul teaches Timothy about how to be and how not to be. He tells him to flee from the desires of youth. Move away. God teaches us the same things - pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, endurance, gentleness and love.
The question is: Who is our Paul? Who is Paul in our life? Another question is: Who is the Timothy in our life that we teach and train and raise up and make special? Who are they? If we don't do it whom else will? If we don't lead a Bible Talk whom else will? If we don't teach people the Bible who else will? If we don't contribute whom else will? We as disciples have the attitude of 'I am better'. Better than whom? People outside in the world? Maybe people in other groups? That's fine. God has made us better but what are we going to do with 'better'? Do we give to others or do we keep it to ourselves?
True life is in heaven and we are going to enjoy our lives in heaven. That's why God has given us an opportunity to lay our treasures in heaven. 1 Timothy 6:17 onwards . Why did God give us everything? For enjoyment. Sometimes we are hesitant to call enjoyment a good thing. We feel it's not a good thing to enjoy. Sometimes we enjoy certain things in secret, thinking it is a sin. God has given us everything to enjoy. 'Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life'.
Some of us are very good social workers. We help the poor and give material things to other people. The problem is we don't give our time to others, we don't give a smile or a hug. Our fellowship is just a minimum. We talk only to the people we know in the church and then disappear for the rest of the week. In our mind we think, 'I have given to the poor'. Yes, that is true and God will give to us a hundred times more than what we have given to the poor, in this life. Sharing our life, sharing our time with others is for eternity. Laying up treasures for eternity. Giving to people today, in this world, will lay up a foundation that is strong and firm for us in heaven.
We know that the Bible says very clearly that we must earn heaven. We must push ourselves to do what is right to go to heaven and be with God. For example, if we were to be given Rs.1000/ - per hour for every hour that we loved somebody last week, how much money would we have earned for last week? How much money do we intend to earn in the coming week? God has given us an opportunity to give others from what we have. Not only should we give to others but we should also hold God's hand. Not only should we hold God's hand but also we must go to the next step of letting God hold our hands.
3. God is a God who punishes
2 Thessalonians 1:3-10
3 We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.
4 Therefore, among God's churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.
5 All this is evidence that God's judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.
6 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you
7 and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.
8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power
10 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.
Thessalonians is an interesting book that talks about punishment. There are two things that God looks for - Faith that is growing and Love that is increasing. This is how we know that we are secure in God. What is faith? Faith is not just believing in God. Faith is also believing each other. Faith that the other person is a disciple. Faith that God will change that person and faith enough to forgive others and believe that that person will forgive us. The growing of faith in us is evidence that we are going to heaven.
Increasing love. Has our love increased since we became a Christian? Or has it decreased? Increase of love shows we are going to heaven. Decrease in love shows you are not. Which is the punishment that you received from our parents that helped us the most, as we grew up? Maybe it was a whack, a stick, no food, being grounded, being shut up in a room or the toilet. What was the something that changed us - maybe we have bitter feelings about that but it changed us? And that's exactly what God pursues - something that will change us - and helps us to change.
Let's read further about God's punishment from v5 onwards. When we say punishment, it's not exactly about punishment but about God's judgement. Today's punishment is tomorrow's salvation but if today's punishment or judgment is not heeded to, there is nothing to stop us from eternal punishment. If God is going to punish those who do not know the gospel, how much more will he punish those who know the gospel and don't obey it?
Hell. Everlasting annihiliation. What is hell? Who made hell? Did the Devil make hell? No, it's God who made hell. Will God be in hell? David says something - even if I put my bed in hell you will be there. God is everywhere, even in hell. Going to hell is not the scariest part. There's something beyond it - it is complete separation from God. We take it for granted that God's fellowship will always be there and we don't even realize we have it. When we go out of God's fellowship, when we don't have God's power surrounding us we will understand what it means to be away from God's fellowship.
Another interesting thing is missing meetings. If we are doing this then we are a good candidate for being annihilated, removed from God completely. We have started to like being without fellowship. We have started to like being without God around us. We have started to enjoy being with our worldly friends, with our work and with everything else but being with the fellowship has become difficult. What we need to fear is not hell but complete disappearance from God. That is what's going to happen in the end - we'll be gone from his presence. God punish us now, God helps us now, and God gives us pain now. We accept it, we enjoy it, we go through it and we thank God for the pain you are going through in our life so that we will not be punished or removed from God's presence later on. God is a God of mercy and grace.
Do we know our God? God has many characters but we learnt three things.
God protects. El-Roi. It's not only that God protects us but also we have an opportunity to protect others. As disciples we must give them a hand so they can be protected. That's all they need. A lot of people who are lost don't want to come to church again - we can give our hand to them.
God provides. Jehovah Jireh. He gives us everything and has given us everything. It's time for us as a church to give to others, to give to God and thereby lay up a firm foundation in heaven.
Finally, God punishes us. God punishes us today so that our punishment after we die will not be removal from God's presence for eternity. Today God has given us an opportunity to praise him.
Let's praise God and give our best.