JESUS INCOGNITO – John 7:10-13

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INTRODUCTION:

Have you ever tried to conceal your identify in a public place where there were people who knew you?  Were you successful?  It’s not always easy to do so, is it?  The challenge is much greater if you’re a well-known person.  The Lord Jesus Christ was a man who was in the public eye.  He had become well-known in Galilee, Samaria and Israel, and was attracting a lot of attention because of the miracles He was performing.  He was also under close scrutiny because of the claims He made about Himself.  As far as the Jewish leaders were concerned, Jesus was now “public enemy #1”, and He was on their “hit-list”.

Once you’re in the public eye, how do you get out of it?  In John 7:10-13, we are going to be considering the tactics the Lord Jesus may have used in order to attend the Feast of Tabernacles incognito (unrecognized), as well as His reasons for doing so.

I.  THE PROPER TIME (verse 10)

Verse 10 begins with the words, “But when His brothers had gone up to the feast, then He Himself also went up”.  In verse 9, Jesus told His brothers, “Go up to the feast yourselves.  I do not go up to this feast because My time has not yet fully come.”  So He stayed in Galilee and His brothers went to the feast without Him.  Did Jesus lie to His brothers when He said He wasn’t going to the feast?  Did He change His mind?  The answer to both those questions is “no”.  Jesus was on His Father’s timetable and, after His brothers left, His Father revealed to Him that it was now the time for Him to go to the feast, so He departed from Galilee and was on His way to Jerusalem.  He didn’t tell His brothers that He wasn’t going to the feast.  He told them that He wasn’t going at that point in time.

II.  THE CHOSEN METHOD (verse 10)

The rest of verse 10 describes the manner in which Jesus attended the feast:  “not publicly, but as it were, in secret.”  By this time in His ministry, Jesus had become a familiar face.  How could He keep people from noticing Him – especially His brothers and the twelve disciples?  Was He wearing a disguise?  I don’t think so.  There were thousands of Jews attending this feast, and some of them lived outside the nation of Israel and had traveled several days in order to fulfill the commands of the Law concerning feasts.  These Jews had never met Jesus, and many of them may not have even known anything about Him.  Jesus could have spent His time with those Jews, who probably had their own area where they set up their tents and enjoyed one another’s company.  He may also have worn a covering over His head, such as a hood, keeping Himself within earshot of what was being said but not close enough to be recognized.

By staying incognito, Jesus is preventing the Jewish leaders from taking His life whenever they pleased.  The Father had set a time (an “hour”) when this was going to happen, and Jesus is taking the responsibility to protect His own life until the proper time.  You might say that, at this point in time, Jesus is in “self-preservation mode” once again.

III.  BEHIND ENEMY LINES (verse 11)

Verse 11 tells us that Jesus was able to get close enough to the leaders of the Jews that He could hear their voices and see the expressions on their faces without being detected by them.  This is what Jesus sees and hears:  “The Jews therefore were seeking Him at the feast, and were saying, ‘Where is He’.”  He watched as they looked around at all the people at the feast.  The looks on their faces as they did so, were evidence of their anger and frustration.  Some of them may have looked right at Jesus but didn’t recognize Him.  They were seeking Him alright!  They were seeking to kill Him!  You can almost hear the tone of their voices as they kept blurting out the words, Where is He?”  The “search party” hadn’t given up their search yet; but so far, things weren’t working out according to their plans.  Don’t you hate it when things don’t go your way!

IV.  HIS STRATEGY BECOMES UNFURLED (verses 12-13)

Does this scene bring to mind any memories from the Old Testament?  Can you think of a time when a similar strategy was used, and do you recall the reasons for that strategy and the impact it made on the people of Israel?  Let’s take a look at the book of Joshua, chapter two, and verses one, eight, and nine:

Then Joshua the son of Nun sent two men as spies secretly from Shittim saying,
“Go view the land, especially Jericho.”  So the men went and came into the house of
a harlot whose name was Rahab, and lodged there. . . . Now before they lay down,
she came up to them on the roof, and said to the men, “I know that the Lord has
given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the
inhabitants of the land have melted away before you.”

“Melted away” – those words cause me to imagine a stick of butter that’s been taken out of the refrigerator, placed on a dish, and set in the sunshine on a warm day.  Before long, the strength and consistency of that butter will be completely gone and you will have to pour it on your toast!  The people of that land were scared to death!  In verse 24, when those two spies returned to Joshua, they repeated the good news, saying, “Surely the Lord has given all the land into our hands, and all the inhabitants of the land, moreover, have melted away before us.”  After hearing those words, Joshua and all the sons of Israel were up early the next morning, ready and eager to cross the Jordan River and take on the enemy.

With those Old Testament scripture passages in mind, we learn, in verses 12 and 13 of John 7, the main reason why Jesus was attending the feast incognito.  Having been in the military for a few years, a word came to mind that I haven’t used or heard since those days in the armed forces.  The Lord Jesus was “reconnoitering” at the feast.  How’s that for a word?  Jesus was doing reconnaissance.  The following is part of the U.S. Army’s definition of that word.

“Reconnaissance is a mission to obtain information by visual observation or other detection methods, about the activities and resources of an enemy or potential enemy.” This definition fits the description of Jesus’ activities – wouldn’t you agree?  In verses 12 and 13, there is a quiet, public-opinion poll going on, and Jesus is nearby incognito, watching and listening to what’s being said. Let’s catch up with Him again and see if we can find out what kinds of information He’s been gathering.  Verse 12 begins with the words:  “And there was much grumbling among the multitudes concerning Him.”  They’re mumbling and grumbling again!  Why the muffled voices and low voice tones?  We’re going to find out.  Jesus moves a little closer to these “discussion groups” in order to hear what they are saying.  Verse 12 continues, “Some were saying, ‘He is a good man’.”  That’s good news to Jesus’ ears!  There are people in these crowds that have a positive attitude toward Him!  Those words must have encouraged His spirit and brought a smile to His face.  Even though they called Him a “man”, at least He was a “good man” in their opinion.  Does it make you wonder which Jews the apostle John was referring to?  I think those Jews were the ones from Galilee and the outlying areas.  The good news is now followed by the bad news:  “others were saying, ‘No, on the contrary, He leads the multitude astray.”   These Jews are the ones living in Jerusalem and its neighboring towns in the district of Judea.  They have heard the Jewish leaders use those words in their conversations and are believing them and repeating their words of warning and instruction.

These two opposing views about Jesus’ character have a lesson for us to learn.  Jesus is either “good” or He’s a “liar”.  It’s one or the other; there are no compromises.  A person can’t be good and a liar at the same time.  The same is true of our own conception of Jesus Christ:  He’s either the Son of God or He is a deceiver, a lair.  There are no intermediate conceptions.  Which of these have you chosen to believe?  Do you have a firm basis for your personal choice?

Since Jesus has been prophesying, performing miracles, and calling God His Father, to call Him a deceiver would be equivalent to calling Jesus a false prophet or a false Messiah.  In Deuteronomy 13, Moses wrote that a false prophet was to be stoned to death.  Very soon the Jews are going to attempt to do just that.

In verse 13 we find that Jesus is not the only one who is being secretive.  John writes, “Yet no one was speaking openly of Him for fear of the Jews.”  The people in the crowds are also trying to be secretive in their conversations with one another.  The Greek word translated “openly” can also be translated “boldly”.  The leaders must have made it clear that no one was to talk about Jesus at the feast.  They may have boldly announced this prohibition in loud, angry voices to let the people know that they meant business and would punish those who disobeyed.  They weren’t afraid to speak boldly and loudly against Jesus.  Their goal was to instill fear in the people, and it looks like they succeeded.  Many leaders over the years have used that approach with success.  During his years as premier of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev denounced many of the policies and atrocities of Joseph Stalin.  Once, as he censured Stalin in a public meeting, Khrushchev was interrupted by a shout from a heckler in the audience.  “You were one of Stalin’s colleagues.  Why didn’t you stop him?”  “Who said that?” roared Khrushchev.  An agonizing silence followed as nobody in the room dared to move a muscle.  Then Khrushchev replied quietly, “Now you know why.”  Khrushchev used that response to demonstrate what it was like to be around Stalin.  You didn’t question or criticize Joseph Stalin unless you no longer wanted to remain alive!  He was a man to be feared!  In the 1930’s, he had changed his birth-name to Stalin, which means “man of steel”, and he lived up to his name!

This passage of Scripture we are studying, John 7:10-13, is a lesson in contrasts.  The first contrast is between the words spoken by various people in the crowd concerning Jesus.  Some said He was a “good man”, others said that He was a“deceiver of the people”.  If there was ever anyone who lived on this planet who was not a liar or a deceiver, it was the Lord Jesus Christ.  If there was ever anyone who was truly good in every sense of the term, it was He.  Yet He was being accused and denounced by some of the most deceitful and evil-minded people of that day – the leaders of the Jews.  No wonder Jesus called them hypocrites (ones wearing a mask)!

The second contrast is between the reasons for silence at the feast on the part of Jesus and on the part of the members of the crowd. The religious authorities didn’t even want Jesus’ name spoken aloud.  They wanted the people to act as if Jesus didn’t exist.  I think the people feared being excluded from the synagogue and exposed to ridicule if they were caught mentioning His name, especially in a positive manner.  It was a fear for their reputations and social status, at the very least.  Fear of what others may think, say, or do is a powerful deterrent from speaking one’s mind honestly.

The Lord Jesus, on the other hand, was not motivated by fear, but by obedience to His heavenly Father.  He was being silent because He was gathering information concerning the people’s attitude toward Him at the feast.  He learns that there are many in the crowd who admire Him and think well of Him.  In the next passage of Scripture we will examine how Jesus puts that information to good use.  He learned what He wanted to learn while incognito, and is ready to openly do what the Father wants Him to do next.

CONCLUSION:

Does fear have any effect on your life?  Are there times when you are afraid to speak or act because of what others may think, say, or do in response?  Are you afraid to become a follower of Jesus Christ because of what you might lose, what you might have to give up, or what family and friends might do as a result?  Those are concerns that many people face as they consider placing their faith in Jesus Christ.  Don’t let fear get in the way of making the most important, and the most wonderful decision of your life.  God will give you the strength and peace of mind and heart to make that decision if you ask Him and rely upon Him.  God’s words to the nation of Israel in Isaiah 41:10 are meant for you today because He hasn’t changed:  “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen and help you; I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”

If you are a fellow-Christian, then, like me, you’ve had moments when you’ve been afraid to be a witness for the Lord.  Pray and ask God to fill you with a deep, unconditional love for that person.  God will enable you to overcome that fear with love.  The apostle John says in I John 4:18, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.”  In the next passage of Scripture, it’s going to be love that motivates the Lord Jesus to come out of hiding and once again expose the people to truth in spite of threats to His own life.  May we manifest the love of Christ as we live for Him and seek to introduce others to Him.

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  COMPLETED

Thank you for visiting this site – John 7:10-13. There are over 130 completed sermons on this blog site if you would like to walk around the block.  There are so many of them that it’s going to take several walks to see them all, even if you are a “marathon walker”!  My prayer is that the Word of God will draw you closer to the Living Word – the Lord Jesus Christ, and transform you more-and-more into His likeness as you seek to know Him and follow Him.  Please come back again.

 

PRACTICING THE TRUTH – James 1:19-27

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INTRODUCTION: James now comes to the basic theme of his letter:  the importance of behaving like we believe.  In these verses James states that we have three responsibilities toward God’s Word;  and if we fulfill these responsibilities, we will have an honest relationship with God and with others.

I.  PREPARE OURSELVES TO RECEIVE THE WORD (verses 19-21)

Our first responsibility toward God’s Word is to prepare ourselves to receive it.  James says that we can do this by: 1)  Being quick to hear.   To prepare ourselves for the truth, we must be ready to listen to God and to others.  Romans 10:17 says, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing  by the Word of God.”  Just as a servant is quick to hear his master’s voice, and a mother is quick to hear her baby’s smallest cry, so the believer should be quick to hear what God has to say.  Listening is a part of loving.  It involves giving of ourselves and our attention wholeheartedly to another person.  And this involves really caring;  setting aside our own concerns and focusing on God or on others.  It’s much easier to find a good speaker than a good listener. 2)  Being slow to speak.  Proverbs 17:27 says, “He who has knowledge spares his words.”  God gave us two ears and one mouth,  which ought to remind us to listen more than we speak.  An anonymous poem goes like this:

A wise old bird sat on an oak.  The more he saw the less he spoke.                         The less he spoke the more he heard.  Lord, make me like that wise old bird.

We learn while listening, not while talking.  Those who want to learn the truth must silence their tongues in order to hear God speak. 3)  Being slow to anger.  Don’t get angry at God or His Word.  A pastor once said:  “Temper is such a valuable thing, it is a shame to lose it!”  It is temper that helps to give steel its strength.  The person who cannot get angry at sin does not have much strength to fight it.  But James warns us against getting angry at God’s Word because it reveals our sins to us.  Like the man who broke the mirror because he didn’t like the image he saw in it, people rebel against God’s Word because it tells the truth about them and their sinfulness.  The story is told that when Leonardo da Vinci was about to paint his masterpiece “The Lord’s Supper”, he had a serious quarrel with another man.  A spirit of revenge began to grow in his heart.  It occurred to him that when he painted the picture of Judas, the one who betrayed the Savior, he could easily make Judas’s face look like the face of his enemy.  And that’s just what Leonardo did.  At last he came to the figure of Jesus.  His attempts to paint his impression of Jesus were a complete failure.  He tried again and again, but still no success.  In his heart he knew why he was having such difficulty.  He finally took his brush and painted out the face of Judas.  Then, going to his enemy, he confessed the ill-will he had been feeling toward him.  With a cleansed mind, he returned to his work and painted the figure of our Lord with the freedom and genius that resulted in a masterpiece.  Leonardo found that when he had evil and revenge in his heart, he was not able to reproduce the likeness of the Master, neither in his own personal life, nor on his canvas.  Anger makes a mess of our lives and blocks God’s truth from coming in. 4)  Having a prepared heart  (verse 21)  James saw the human heart as a garden.  If left to itself the soil would produce nothing but weeds. James urges us to pull out the weeds and prepare the soil for the implanted Word of God.  How?  First, by confessing our sins and asking God to forgive us.  Then by meditating on God’s grace and asking Him to “plow up” any hardness in our hearts.  Finally, we must have an attitude of “meekness”, which is the opposite of wrath.  “Setting aside filthiness” means demonstrating that we appreciate the blessings of God by eliminating the sins and bad habits in our lives that destroy our witness for Christ. One day a preacher visited a coal-mining town and noticed how dingy it was.  The coal dust seemed to blacken the buildings, the trees, the shrubs and everything else.  As he was walking down the street with the foreman of the mine, his attention was focused on a beautiful, white flower.  He said, “The owner of this flower surely must take good care of it.  There’s no dust and dirt on it at all.”  The foreman threw a handful of dust on the flower.  It immediately fell off and left the flower as stainless as before.  “It has a natural enamel which prevents any dust from clinging to it”, the foreman explained.  “I think it must have been created especially for such a place as this.”  This is the way Christians are to be in this world, which is filthy because of the dust and dirt of sin.  God gives a spiritual enamel to those who yield themselves completely to the leadership of the Holy Spirit,  and who  seek to make Jesus Christ the Lord of their lives.

II.  PRACTICE THE WORD (verses 22-25)

It is not enough to hear God’s Word.  James says, in verses 22-25, that our second responsibility toward God’s Word is to practice it.  Many Christians have the mistaken idea that hearing a good sermon or Bible study makes them grow and get God’s blessing.  It’s not the hearing, but the doing, that brings God’s blessing. In verses 23-25, James compares the forgetful hearer with the doer.  The forgetful hearer is like the person who looks at himself in the mirror, notices his uncombed hair, dirty face, and unbrushed teeth, and instead of taking care of himself, he goes on his way, forgetting all about the problems and presenting a very unattractive appearance to others.  In the same way, a Christian who hears God’s Word without doing anything about it,  turns other people away from the Savior, rather than drawing them to Him. A bus driver became annoyed with his job because he had to wait seven minutes after every run near an open field which “litterbugs” had made into an “unofficial dump”.  He often thought that someone ought to do something about that unsightly mess.  One day he himself decided to get out and pick up some of the tin cans and other debris which were lying all around.  This improved things so much that he soon was eager to complete his route and spend all his free moments in cleaning up the area.  When spring came, he was so enthusiastic about his project that he decided to plant some flower seeds.  By the end of the summer many people were riding to the end of the line just to see what the bus driver had accomplished by “doing” what he and others had only “talked about” before.  Are you brightening the corner where you are? In verse 25, the words “looks intently” come from the Greek word which means “to stoop down”.  It refers to the Christian who humbles himself before the Word of God and lets God’s Word become a part of him, so that he becomes more like Christ in his attitudes and actions.  I have been reading from a daily devotional by Billy Graham, and in yesterday’s devotion on becoming like Christ, he said a few words that convicted me so much that I wrote them on a piece of paper so that I could put it in my wallet as a reminder.  Speaking to Christians, he said these words:  “You should be closer to God today in heart, soul, and body, than at any other time in your life.”

III.  SHARE THE WORD (verses 26,27)

In verses 26 and 27, James tells us that our third responsibility to God’s Word is to share it.  James gives us three tests to enable us to find out if we are taking God’s Word seriously.  The first test is self-control.  Are we able to control our speech so that we’re not lying, gossiping, or using filthy language.  The second test is compassion.  Are we concerned about the needs of others, and are we demonstrating that concern.  The third test is  holiness of life. Noah sent out two birds from the ark.  One was a raven – a ceremonially unclean animal;  the other was a dove, which was a clean animal and became the symbol of the Holy Spirit and holiness.  The raven did not return to the ark, even though the waters were still upon the earth.  No doubt it found a place to rest upon the floating body of some animal.  The second bird, however,  a ceremonial clean creature, returned to Noah for she could find “no rest for the sole of her foot.”  The dove would not land on an unclean thing like a corpse!  Someone has said, “In a world of sin we too have the choice of being a raven or a dove, unclean or clean, spotted or unspotted.  By the power of God’s grace, let’s keep ourselves uncontaminated by the things of the world.  While the Christian must live in the world, he should not let the world live in him..

CONCLUSION:  No sermon is done until we have done something about it.  As the apostle James said:  “Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only”.  May our prayer be that of the hymn writer, Ira Wilson:  “O Savior, I pray, Make me a blessing to someone today.”

A LESSON ON COMPASSION (Part II) – Jonah, chapters 3 and 4

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The book of Jonah, chapter 2, ended with the description of the great fish spitting up Jonah onto the dry land at God’s command.     God caused this to happen because of what Jonah said at the end of his prayer of thanksgiving.  To put it in today’s language, Jonah was saying, “I’ll do what you command”  and “You can save whomever you choose.”  Let’s see what happens in chapters 3 and 4.

III.  JONAH’S PREACHING AT NINEVEH (Chapter 3)

We find God repeating His initial command to Jonah in chapter 3, verses 1 and 2, and this time Jonah obeys God’s command and walks through the city over a period of three days crying out and saying, “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”  The result was that the people believed in God and repented of their sins.  They demonstrated their repentance by proclaiming a fast and putting on sackcloth.  That would be like wearing a large burlap sack over your bare body.  Can you imagine how much that would itch and irritate your skin.  Even the king of Nineveh took off his royal robes and put on sackcloth and sat on the ashes.  He also issued a decree, beginning in verse 7 saying, “. . . Do not let man, beast, herd, or flock taste a thing.  Do not let them eat or drink water.  But both man and beast must be clothed in sackcloth; and let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way and the violence which is in his hands.  Who knows, God may turn and relent, and withdraw His burning anger so that we shall not perish?”

It doesn’t say how long they did this.  It may have been for days, or weeks, or even the full 40 days.  They were appealing to God’s mercy and they found that God is a merciful God.  In verse 10 it says, “When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them.  And He did not do it.”

II.  JONAH’S DISCONTENT AND CORRECTION (Chapter 4)

There must have been great rejoicing in the city of Nineveh.  But one person wasn’t rejoicing.  He was angry.  And that person was the prophet Jonah.  Was Jonah mad because his prophesy didn’t come true?  Was he embarrassed?  No.  The real reason why Jonah fled from the Lord, and why he was angry with God is found in 4:2-3.  Jonah was willing to die for the sailors.  He thanked God for sparing his own life.  But Jonah didn’t want God to spare Nineveh because they were a very wicked people; they weren’t Jewish, and Nineveh was the capitol of the nation of Assyria.  The prophet Isaiah had already prophesied that Assyria was going to someday destroy the nation of Israel  and take the remainder of the people back to Assyria as captives.  This prophecy is found in Isaiah 7:17-20 and following.  In Jonah 4:2 he even accuses God of being “gracious, compassionate, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness”, as if those were God’s faults or weaknesses!

Jonah is so angry that he asks God to take his life.  He would rather die than have God spare the lives of the people of Nineveh, and God questions his anger.  Jonah leaves the city and builds a booth “outside” the city; waiting to see if God will come to His senses  and decide that these people don’t deserve to be spared.  While Jonah sleeps God causes a gourd plant to sprout out of the ground overnight and grow big enough to provide shade for Jonah.  This makes Jonah very happy!  He must have been thinking, “God has finally come to His senses and has agreed with me that these people don’t deserve to live!”  But then God causes a worm to destroy the vine, and Jonah becomes very angry again.  There is an important lesson here.  God is in control.  He caused the storm.  He caused the fish to swallow Jonah and later spit him out.  He caused the vine to grow up overnight, and He caused the worm to kill the vine.  Everyone and everything obeyed God except the preacher.  The storm, the dice, the sailors, the fish, the Ninevites, the east wind, the gourd plant, the worm!  Everyone and everything except . . .  Jonah!  Sometimes God allows us to suffer the consequences of our actions so that we might know that He is in control.

A second lesson is found in 4:10-11.  Jonah lacked God’s compassion for people.  There’s a little bit of Jonah in all of us sometimes, isn’t there?  Sometimes more than a “little bit”?  It is the Jewish custom on the annual celebration of the Day of Atonement to read from the book of Jonah.  And at the end of the reading all would say, “We are Jonah!”

If you don’t know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and Lord, the book of Jonah is saying that God loves you and wants to show you mercy, no matter how sinful you have been.  God wants to receive you into His family if you are ready to turn from your sins and let the Lord Jesus Christ take control of your life.  The Controller of the universe gives you the freedom to give Him control over your life, and you can do that right now.

If you are a Christian, the book of Jonah is saying that people are precious because God considers them to be precious.  God wants us to lay aside our prejudices and let Him fill our hearts with His compassion for the sinning and suffering people we meet.  Do you remember that person I asked you to bring to mind at the beginning of this message?  What are you and I going to do this week to reach out by the power of God’s love to that person we’ve been avoiding?

I’m closing this message by reading a portion from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  The Lord Jesus says it better than anyone else.  The passage of Scripture is Matthew 5:43-48.  The Lord Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?  Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same?  And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others?  Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

HOW TO OBTAIN WISDOM – James 1:5-8

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INTRODUCTION: Someone has said that knowledge is the ability to take things apart, while wisdom is the ability to put them together and make sense of them.  The people to whom James wrote this letter had problems with their praying.  When we are going through difficulties, what should we pray about?  James gives the answer:  ask God for wisdom.

I.  ASK FOR WISDOM (verse 5)

Why do we need wisdom when we are going through trials?  Why not ask for strength, or grace, or even deliverance?  We should pray for wisdom for this reason:  we need wisdom so that we will not waste the opportunities God is giving us to mature in our Christian lives.  Wisdom helps us understand how to use these difficult circumstances for our good and for God’s glory.  This kind of wisdom comes from God.  It is a gift from God.  God’s wisdom enables a person to make decisions as God would make them, and solve problems the way God would solve them. In his search of the source of true wisdom, Job cries out, “But where can wisdom be found?”  His answer is that wisdom is not found among the living on this earth;  it is not found in the depths of the sea;  and it cannot be purchased with precious stones.  Finally Job declares, “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom.”  True wisdom has its source in the true and living God. We all have a natural tendency to be selfish in our prayers.  Some of us recall how we were tempted to ask God for special help when facing a difficult examination during our school days, but in our hearts we knew He would not bring to our minds material which we had not studied.  Prayer is not a magical formula enabling believers to escape self-discipline and hard work.  However, it isn’t selfish to pray for spiritual wisdom – the ability to meet life’s problems and to make decisions that will please God.  King Solomon, with all his knowledge, realized that unless the Lord gave him spiritual wisdom to direct his actions, all his human skill and learning would be of littlevalue. President Abraham Lincoln was impressed with this truth during America’s Civil War.  A personal friend of his once wrote, “I had been spending three weeks at the White House as the guest of the President.  One night – it was just before the Battle of Bull Run, I was restless and could not sleep.  From Lincoln’s bedroom I heard the low tones of his voice.  Looking in the door that was slightly ajar, I saw a sight which I have never forgotten.  The tall Chief Executive was kneeling before an open Bible.  He did not know that I could overhear his agonizing prayers as he pleaded, ‘O Thou great God that heard Solomon in the night when he prayed and cried for wisdom, hear me.  I cannot lead these people.  I cannot guide the affairs of this country without Thy help.  O Lord, hear me and save this nation.’ ”  The answer he received is now history, for the Union was preserved.  Lincoln found that James 1:5 was not an idle promise.

II.  ASK IN FAITH (verses 6-8)

James not only explained what to ask for, but he also described how to ask.  We are to ask in faith.  The greatest enemy to answered prayer is unbelief.  The story is told of a small town in which there were no liquor stores.  Eventually, however, a nightclub was built right on Main Street.  Members of one of the churches in the area were so disturbed that they conducted several all-night prayer meetings, and asked the Lord to burn down that den of iniquity.  Lightning struck the tavern a short time later, and it was completely destroyed by fire.  The owner, knowing how the church people had prayed, sued them for the damages.  His attorney claimed that their prayers had caused the loss.  The congregation, on the other hand, hired a lawyer and fought the charges.  After much deliberation, the judge declared, “It’s the opinion of this court that wherever the guilt may lie, the tavern keeper is the one who really believes in prayer, while the church members do not!”  We smile at this story, but it suggests how faithless we sometimes are when we offer our prayers to God. Even the first-century Christians were guilty of such unbelief.  Acts 12 tells us that after Peter escaped from prison, he went to the house of Mary, where many were praying for his release.  When he knocked, Rhoda came to the door.  Hearing his voice, she ran back to the “prayer meeting crowd” and announced that the apostle Peter was outside.  “You are out of you mind!”, they said.  But when she insisted, they kept saying, “It is his angel”.  Well, Peter kept on knocking at the door, and when they finally let him in, “they were astonished” at the way God had answered their request. May our attitude be different when we pray!  Let’s believe God and expect the answer!  God loves to honor the prayers of those who earnestly seek His wisdom and want His will for their lives. Verse 8 talks about a double-minded person.  A double-minded person is a person who has a civil war going on inside him continually.  Two heads may be better than one, but a double-minded person is no good at all.  There is a smooth, shiny lizard called a skink.  This little animal wouldn’t attract any crowds at a zoo, but if one of these lizards showed up with two heads, one on each end of its body, that would be quite a spectacle.  A newspaper had a picture and a story about the two-headed skink I just described to you.  It was found by a homeowner in Jacksonville, Florida, and it was an illustration of absolute frustration.  When it tried to run, its two legs moved in opposite directions.  It was running like mad but going nowhere!  That’s the fate of a Christian who is trying to go his own way, and trying to serve the Lord at the same time. This is also true of the Christian who is more concerned about pleasing others than he is about standing up for the truth.  There was once a preacher who was approached by some members of his congregation concerning a disagreement in the church.  After stating their grievances, they said some vicious things about the people they disagreed with.  Responding to their complaints, the preacher said, “You’re right;  you’re absolutely right!”  The next day, the other group came to his home and told their side of the story.  The preacher listened quietly, and when they had finished, said, “You’re right;  you’re absolutely right!”  His wife, working in the kitchen, overheard everything.  As soon as the parishioners left, she rushed into the living room and said, “You’re just about the most wishy-washy individual I’ve ever seen.”  To that he immediately replied, “You’re right;  you’re absolutely right!” There are so many Christians who are unwilling to take a stand on issues.  Some are afraid;  others just don’t like to make decisions.  But God wants us to know His Word, to pray for His wisdom, and to take a stand for what we believe.  Then we’ll feel secure in the Lord’s strength, and then our prayers will not be hindered.  But when we do take a stand for what we believe, let’s do it with the wisdom and love of our Lord Jesus Christ.

RIGHT THINKING – Philippians 4:8

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INTRODUCTION:

Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he thinks within himself,  so is he.”  Our thoughts are the clearest test of our character.  When compared with our actions and our speech, our thoughts are the hardest things to control.  Evil thoughts, impure desires and temptations are constantly knocking at the door of our minds.  We cannot always avoid them or shut them out, but we can keep from entertaining them and making them feel at home.  The best way to keep evil thoughts out, is to bring good thoughts into our minds.  What you and I read, look at, and listen to, will to a great extent determine our thoughts and our outlook.

The best way to keep evil ideas and worry out of our minds is to concentrate on things that are good and pure and beautiful.  The mind is not a blank slate, and is never totally at rest. Also, our thoughts are real and powerful, even though our thoughts cannot be seen, weighed, or measured.  In verse 8 the apostle Paul tells us in detail what things we ought to think about as Christians.  He gives us eight things to dwell upon.

I.  “WHATEVER IS TRUE

Dr. Walter Cavert reported a survey on worry that indicated that only 8 percent of the things people worried about were true concerns.  The other 92 percent were either imaginary, never happened, or involved things that the people had no control over.  In John 8:44 Jesus said that Satan  “is a liar and the father of lies”.  Whenever we choose to believe an obvious lie, Satan takes over.  The word “true” means “real” instead of phony. It can also mean “unconcealed” or “undeniably true”. Two opposite examples of this kind of thinking are found in the New Testament.  Barnabas determined to sell his property and donate the money to the church in Jerusalem.  He responded to the leading of the Holy Spirit and did it.  Ananias, on the other hand, had thoughts of personal glory.  He said publicly that he would give all the money from the sale of a piece of property to the church at Jerusalem;  but then he only gave a portion of the money, kept the rest, and lied about it.  This attitude, and the actions that resulted, cost him and his wife their lives.  You can read about this in Acts chapter 5.

II.  “WHATEVER IS HONORABLE

The word means whatever is “worthy of respect” and “serious”, rather than trivial and unimportant things.  For example, while Moses was on the mountain, alone with God, and receiving God’s Law for his people, his brother Aaron was down in the valley having a party with the people of Israel,  and they worshiping a golden calf.  Later Aaron was ashamed.  God wants us to fill our minds with things that are serious and noble, rather than things that are of little or no value.

The apostle Paul also uses this word when speaking to the deacons and elders of the church in I Timothy 3.  He tells them to be honest and straightforward, not being gossipers nor slanderers. Paul is saying, “If it’s not true, don’t let it enter your mind.”

III.  “WHATEVER IS JUST

The apostle Paul is talking about focusing our thoughts on what is right rather than on what’s comfortable or what’s convenient.  For example, Joseph of Arimathea was a just man, concerned about doing the right thing.  He risked his life when he went and asked for the dead body of Jesus.  Taking the body of Jesus and burying Jesus in his own tomb was no easy task, and Joseph became an enemy of the Jews for doing it.  But it was the right thing to do and he did it.  Pontius Pilate, on the other hand, tried to avoid the decision he was faced with, and he tried every trick in the book.  But Jesus was still standing before him on trial for His life.  Pilate knew what was right, and he knew what would happen if he did it.  He chose what was convenient, washed his hands of the matter, and let the Jews put Jesus to death. Pilate went to his grave responsible for his thoughts and his actions. The word “just” here means “just in the eyes of God”, not merely in the eyes of men.

IV. “WHATEVER IS PURE

This probably refers to moral purity. There will always be temptations to sexual impurity. There is so much in our world today that gets our minds focused on things that are immoral. In the Old Testament scriptures David and Uriah are good examples of these two opposite thought patterns. King David sent his men to war and went to bed himself. He saw his neighbor’s wife and went to bed with her while her husband was fighting the enemy. He got the woman pregnant and called the husband home on a phony excuse hoping he would go to bed with his wife, but his plan failed. David then got him drunk but he still wouldn’t go home to his wife. So he sent Uriah back to the battlefield with instructions that he be killed. All of this was the result of David’s dirty mind. Uriah, on the other hand, was pure and blameless. He couldn’t go home to his wife for even one night when the soldiers under his leadership were risking their lives on the battlefield. Even when David got him drunk, Uriah had more moral stability than David did when he was sober.

What do you do when impure thoughts and desires start to enter your mind? Do you open the door and invite them in, or do you shut the door and move away from them? God wants our minds to be uncontaminated by sin and always prepared to worship Him.

V. “WHATEVER IS LOVELY

It means to think about things that promote brotherly love rather than conflict and disharmony. Many things happen to bring misunderstanding and conflict, and often these things happen because they are made to happen by people who want them to happen. They are miserable people, and they want to make other people miserable too. For example, Demetrius, the silversmith in Acts 19, was trying to stir up trouble for the apostle Paul and cause a riot at Ephesus, but the town clerk, whose name we don’t know (so we’ll call him “anonymous”), calmed the crowd. What are you – a Demetrius or an “anonymous”? Do your thoughts focus on peace with others or conflict?

VI “WHATEVER IS OF GOOD REPUTE

We get the word “euphemism” for this Greek work.  It refers to what is praiseworthy, highly regarded, and of good reputation.  The word is used to describe Cornelius in Acts 10:22.  He was “well spoken of” by the entire nation of the Jews.  Are we focusing on the good things we see in others, or do we dwell on their faults and shortcomings?

The following is a powerful lesson learned about negative thinking.  In 1892, John Hyde boarded a ship in New York harbor and set out for India.  His goal was to proclaim the gospel to people who had not heard about Jesus.  During the next 20 years he earned the nickname “praying Hyde” because he often spend hours and even many days in prayer for the salvation of nonbelievers and the renewal of Christ’s followers.  On one occasion, Hyde was upset about the spiritual coldness of a pastor, so he began to pray, “O Father, you know how cold -”  But it was as if a finger stopped his lips from uttering the man’s name.  Hyde was horrified when he realized that he had judged the man harshly.  He confessed his critical spirit and then determined not to focus on the shortcomings of others but to see them as individuals whom God loves.  Let’s not be faultfinders in our thoughts, words, and prayers.

VII. “IF THERE IS ANY EXCELLENCE

The word means “helpful”,  not critical. It also means “goodness” and “uprightness”. When Nehemiah and Ezra were trying to rebuild Jerusalem, Tobiah and Sanballat found fault with everything that was done. In contrast, in Mark 5, when Jesus healed the demon possessed person, this man went through ten cities giving a helpful message to all who would listen, and great blessing resulted. What a wonderful demonstration of his joy and appreciation!

VIII. “IF THERE IS ANYTHING “WORTHY OF PRAISE”

This means thinking about the positive side rather than the negative side of a situation. When the twelve spies were sent out to look over the promised land and give their report, Joshua and Caleb gave a positive report and believed that God would give them the victory. The other ten spies saw some large problems and wanted to forget the whole thing. They disobeyed God’s command to conquer the land which He had already given to them. The result was that God allowed only Joshua and Caleb, from their generation, to enter the promised land.

As a thought enters your mind, ask yourself the question:  “Would God praise me for that thought?” Then ask yourself:  ” Do I want my thoughts to  be worthy of His praise?

CONCLUSION:

These eight categories of thought can be found in their clearest form in the Bible , the Word of God, and also in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ as He is described in God’s Word.  The apostle Paul says, “consider these things” –  memorize them, meditate on them, let your mind be constantly occupied with them.  Remember, we are in a battle against the ways of the world, the lusts of the flesh, and the temptations of Satan, and that battle is won or lost in our minds.  We give in first in our minds.  We sin first in our minds.  As II Corinthians 10:5 says, “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.  Enjoy the victory as you fill  your mind with the things God desires, and leave no room for the things He forbids.  “Good thinking, my friends!”

DEALING WITH WORRY – Philippians 4:1-7

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If anybody had an excuse for worrying, it was the apostle Paul. He had friends in Philippi who were disagreeing with each other, and he couldn’t be there to help them. There were also problems at the church in Rome. Paul also faced the possibility of his own death. Paul had many reasons to worry, but he did not! Instead, he takes time in his letter to explain the ways to have victory over worry. What is worry? The Greek word translated “anxious” or “careful” in verse 6 means “to be pulled in different directions”. Our hopes pull us in one direction; our fears pull us in the opposite direction; and we are being pulled apart! Worry can give us headaches, neck pain, ulcers, even back pain. It can affect our thinking about circumstances, people, and things. It is the greatest thief of joy. Telling others to quit worrying doesn’t work, does it? In the passage of Scripture we’re studying today, Philippians 4:1-7, the apostle Paul gives us part of the solution to worry.

I. AN EXPRESSION OF LOVE AND CONCERN (verse 1)

First of all, in verse l Paul lets the members of the church at Philippi know how special they are to him, and how concerned he is about their spiritual growth and victory in their daily lives.

II. THE IMPORTANCE OF HARMONY (verses 2-3)

Then in verse 2 Paul challenges two specific women to live in harmony. Euodia and Syntyche were not on speaking terms. They were both believers and members of the Philippian church, but they had a difference of opinion and the quarrel between them had become so serious that it reached the ears of Paul in his prison quarters in Rome. It grieved Paul greatly, and he pleads with them to resolve their differences and get along as Christians. If you have something against another Christian, you cannot solve it by not speaking to him or her. The very opposite is true. You should go to that other person and seek to get back into fellowship. If you refuse to speak, you injure yourself more than anyone else. This reminds me of a story of a certain farmer who lived on one side of a mountain, and he went to see his neighbor who lived on the other side of the mountain. Leaning on a rail fence, he watched his friend plowing with a mule. Finally he said, “I don’t want to butt in, but you could save yourself a lot of work by saying “gee” and “haw” instead of jerking on those lines to guide your mule.” The old timer mopped his brow with his red handkerchief and replied, “Yep, I know that; but this here mule kicked me six years ago and I ain’t spoken to him since!” This may sound foolish but the kick in the pants by a mule is no more foolish than many of our “spats” over little things. If you are not speaking to another brother or sister in Christ, what are you gaining by continuing to feud? Start with a smile, and follow it up with a gentle, kind remark, and then, forgetting your hurt feelings, be friends again!

In verse 3 Paul must be speaking to Epaphroditus, the man who brought Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi. Paul asks him as well as Clement and the other church leaders to help these women resolve their differences. Instead of worrying, Paul went to work and did something about it, delegating the responsibility for meeting this need to others he trusted and respected.

III. THE IMPORTANCE OF REJOICING (verses 4 and 5)

Verses 4 and 5 focus on the importance of rejoicing. The apostle Paul says in verse 4, “Rejoice in the Lord always”. “Always? But if you only knew what I am facing!” Yes, but what about the apostle Paul? He had been beaten repeatedly, stoned once, shipwrecked three times, and was often falsely accused by his enemies. But he didn’t complain or give up. He knew the secret of joy, and without boasting he could point to himself as an example for believers to follow.

We may not always feel like rejoicing, but we can and we must choose to rejoice. Even though circumstances may change, we have an unchanging God, and in Him we can always find cause for rejoicing. In verse 5 Paul says that we are to have a “forbearing spirit”. This means being satisfied with less than we feel we deserve in this life. Our joy is based on what God has for us in heaven, not on what we can get out of this life.

IV. THE IMPORTANCE OF PRAYER (verses 6 and 7 )

In verse 6 Paul is saying, “Don’t worry about anything but pray about everything”. The word “prayer” is a general word for making requests known to the Lord. It has the idea of adoration, devotion, and worship. Think about the goodness and majesty of God! We need time to remind ourselves in prayer that God is big enough to solve our problems. Too often we rush into God’s presence and hastily tell Him our needs, when we ought to approach His throne calmly and with deepest reverence and adoration.

The second form of prayer mentioned in verse 6 is supplication – sharing with God our needs and our problems, and confessing our sins to Him. Nothing is too small to bring before the Father’s throne. What a difference it would make in our day if we talked to God about every problem and concern. As the hymn writer said:
What a Friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!

The last form of prayer mentioned here is thanksgiving. It’s not easy to have a thankful heart in every circumstance in life, is it? Yet the Scriptures say in I Thessalonians 5:18 and in other passages that we should give thanks in everything. There was a godly old preacher whose pastoral prayer was a source of great inspiration to the members of his congregation. Sunday after Sunday he would begin his prayer with praise and thanksgiving to God. Downhearted worshipers were often lifted by his positive spirit. One Lord’s Day, however, it seemed as if there was nothing that anyone could be happy about. The weather was cold and damp, only a few church members came to the service, and gloom was everywhere. The few who did show up that morning wondered what can the pastor be grateful for on a day like this? At the beginning of the service the pastor stood up and folded his hands in his usual manner. Then he began, “Thank you, Father, that every Lord’s Day morning is not like this one!”

Even if we can’t be grateful for what we receive, be grateful for what we escape. Yes, in everything God wants to hear us say, “Thank you, Father!”

The result is that the “peace of God” guards our hearts and our minds. This peace does not mean that the trials of life are gone, but it does mean that we have a confidence within us, regardless of circumstances, people, and things.

Daniel gives us a wonderful illustration of peace through prayer. When the king announced that none of his subjects was to pray to anyone except the king, Daniel “went to his room, opened his windows, and prayed as before”. You will find this story in Daniel 6:1-10. Note how Daniel prayed. He “prayed, and gave thanks” before his God in verse 10, and he made supplication in verse 11. Prayer – Supplication – thanksgiving. And the result was perfect peace in the midst of his difficulty. Daniel was able to spend the night with the lions in perfect peace, while the king in his palace could not sleep! We find this in verse 18.

Those who place themselves in the care of God experience the peace of God. Instead of being anxious about everything, you could be anxious about nothing. Instead of praying about little or nothing, you could be praying about everything. And, through prayer, your heavy load of worry would become God’s, and His gift of peace would become yours. You won’t find a better bargain than that in your Christian life!

If your life is filled with worry, and you have no peace with God and no evidence of lasting joy in your life, apply these principles of prayer to your life. Declare to God in prayer that He is a holy and righteous God who sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the penalty for your sin. Acknowledge your own sinfulness; confess your sins to Him and ask for His forgiveness. Invite Jesus Christ to come into your life and be your Savior and Lord (Romans 10:9-13, 27-30). Thank Him for His presence and His power in your life. Spend time daily in the Bible and in prayer. Get involved in a Bible-teaching church, receiving encouragement from other Christians and serving your loving Lord with all your heart. And don’t forget to tell others about what Jesus Christ has done for you.