Request and Response

Preached on: Sunday 1st August 2021
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. There is no PowerPoint PDF accompanying this sermon.
Bible references: Matthew 21:28-32
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Today’s hero is the older son because he shows us the gift of having a changed mind.

This little parable packs a punch. Here we have the vineyard owner again, but instead of looking for hired workers, he’s asking his own sons to help out. The two sons both react very differently in the moment. They both tell the truth one says ‘No’ or perhaps ‘I won’t’ or ‘I don’t want to’ but the other obeys in that moment. The good son is obvious as we see in the passage, the words are empty, much like the religious leaders in the faith it encounters. The challenge of this parable goes two ways – to act on our convictions and to make us willing to recognize our errors and to put them right.

If you perhaps have older kids about your lives, you delve into the questions that the religious leaders hit and pass on the things. We so often ask and the Yeses and the No’s we get are perhaps even just the grunts or the groans. The religious leaders at that time were trying to trap Jesus but He kept asking them questions and they were too scared to answer those questions. and then he had another question for them in our parable this morning.

There was a vineyard owner, says Jesus, and Jesus liked to tell stories about vineyard owners there were lots of vineyards about lots of people drank wine and this vineyard owner had two sons two sons who were sitting near his house not doing anything at all to help

and of course there’s a shout from their father as he spots them and he says those vines they need tending go and help the workers he goes right over to the elder sun where he’s sitting and he asked them to go and help and the son looks down at the ground he really didn’t want to help today he was hoping that some of his friends were maybe going to come round but yet he didn’t want to lie to his father he says i’m sorry father i don’t want to today says

the father looked sad but decided to ask the younger son will you go and help

yes sir he replies knowing that was what his father wanted to hear he thought that he would go and help and as soon as he finished the game he was playing

now we find hours later the younger son was still sitting playing he knew he should be in the vineyard but he was having too much fun and his father didn’t seem to be too upset he wasn’t chasing about after him and his older brother had said no and so he didn’t move all day until the evening meal had been called meanwhile the older brother feels terrible when his friends arrive he sends them away so he could go and do his work as the father had asked he changes his clothes and he goes to work and make up for the time he’d sat around the house which of the two did what his father asked says Jesus

it was an easy answer the older son because the older son saw that his choice had been wrong and he changed his mind yet the religious leaders didn’t want to change their minds even when they realize that they might be wrong

Jesus said that because of this they would be the very last to enter god’s kingdom

like any parable we have different aspects of symbolism for the listener the Jew of that day they would have understood the vineyard to be Israel and the work to be god’s work and the father would be God and the sons would be two different classes of people the good son who agrees to work would be the pharisees and the religious Jews who outwardly would affirm their relationship with God and yet inwardly did nothing to further his kingdom and the other son would be the sinners those who had rejected God in the past but through the good news of the gospel preached by Christ and by John the Baptist they’ve repented and they began to do the work that God calls them to do

in this short story you can see the frustration of Christ at the long history of the Jews who have seen god’s work tasted god’s goodness and favor and yet still turn away for us today the symbolism is similar the good son could be those who can talk a good game when it comes to God and religion those good people who believe in God and try to be good but it stops at that the commands of God and the work of the kingdom have no place in their lives the rebellious son would be those who have turned from God rejected him at various points in their lives and have that heart change and now become active in the kingdom obeying his call and his commands

it makes you think which one describes you better

now we know neither of these sons are perfect and that was not the intent of Jesus to say that one or the other is how we should be there are those who say yes to God and they follow through and the intent of Christ here the big idea is to impress upon his disciples that a relationship with God is about more than just words and a theme that we’ve seen repeated over and over as Christ has dealt with the pharisees it’s not about the outside the way we look and the ceremonies we engage in and the trappings of religion it’s about that heart change it’s about obedience and a being and before his ministry is done Christ wants to make sure that there’s no doubt at all about this fact in god’s kingdom it’s not enough to talk the talk you’ve got to back it up by walking the walk so let’s pull a few things out of this little passage first of all there’s a request he says son go work in the vineyard today not much has changed over the years fathers are still having to get after their sons and their daughters to be somewhat more productive all of us can remember our moms and dads asking us to do something that we absolutely didn’t want to do maybe because of the kind of work it is maybe it was because we had other plans and we all know what it’s like to be doing a job we don’t want to do we’re not going to spend much time here rather than to point out that the request and the call is there it’s identical to the call given in the parables in other parts of the new testament God has not and he won’t change he wants us to be active out there in the fields active in the harvest active in the work of the kingdom here in Brightons Church and far beyond it

often times for us the that work is not something that we want to do maybe we’re shy maybe we’re busy maybe we’re preoccupied with other things

God’s call comes at the most convenient time for us in our lives but yet that call

is consistent it’s work in my fields get out there and do something and perhaps as we start to move out from this pandemic it’s even more important to get out there amongst those and get that work done because they haven’t heard about God and the wonderful things that he can do for us in our lives

and then we have two sons that respond in very different ways

the response of the first son was nothing short of open rebellion we don’t know if he was angry about being asked and that’s not important but we do know that he was certainly stubborn the moment he heard the request he says defiantly i will know

those two great words that are used there are as defiant and as resolute responds as could be in any of the gospels

there’s there is no precedent in the bible for such a short and sharp reply in the same way it’s constructed together he didn’t care to argue with his father he just said it the message was clear i don’t care don’t bother me

get someone else it was pure open rebellion and maybe sometimes we know perhaps ourselves or others that can fall into that category openly defying god’s call and his offer of that relationship openly living in a way that displeases him and while that may only describe a few now the reality is at that point that we often find ourselves in these positions

many do in Colossians 1 21 it says you were once so far away from God you were his enemies separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions all of us become separated from God at one point all of us have shared the mark of this first son being rebellious by virtue of the sins that were born into and now there would have been very little good that we could take from this story if rebellion was the only thing that marked out the sun but there was something else because this sun was also marked by his repentance

the new inter international version use of the phrase changed his mind is rather a weak and inferior translation the Greek is regretted or repented it’s the same word Matthew used for Judas’s repentance literally being seized with remorse the son came to the point where he wished his rebellion had never changed and he had changed not only his mind but his attitude his whole heart his priorities and his actions changed he came to the conclusion that he was wrong and he expressed his remorse and repented and understood that the father was right and he went out and he did what was asked of him and of course repentance leads to forgiveness allows us those who were once rebellious and sinful to stand before our God holy and clean and pure again it’s an amazing truth and the first son’s story was marked by rebellion but then repentance led to his life being marked as a life of obedience for each of us is the end result of that repentance true repentance involves turning from our sin and heading in the opposite direction that direction is the way that God calls us to live Paul says in acts 26 20 first to those in Damascus then to those in Jerusalem and all Judea and to the gentiles also i preach that they should retire repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds

the proof that repentance has happened is in our actions and the way we live and in the way we obey and follow god’s call in our lives the first son’s change of heart would have been rather hollow if it had not been followed by obedience of his actions

and then we have the marks of the second son on the surface this one sounded like he would be the good son he hears the request he immediately replies a whirlwind and for good measure he throws in a sir how many parents would pass out if this was the immediate response they got from their teenage child now when asked to do some work the first son agrees to request unfortunately where things got better for the first son they didn’t go well for the other and while he agrees initially we see that he’s also marked by his inactivity he agrees but then nothing happens he accepts the call but no activity on his part he may look good on the outside he may look like there’s an issue of repentance but not like that rebellious brother of his on the inside

unfortunately today there are too many Christians who fall into the category of this son come to church they sing the songs they do a few more things along the way and throughout the week but when God says work in my field they decide they’re quite comfortable where they’re at yet god’s call requires commitment to him and to his church it requires stepping out and being uncomfortable at times god’s call is not a call to sit and look good it’s a call to get dirty and messy and to be involved in the lives of those he puts in our path

if our relationship with our father is definitely by inactivity i hope this story might make us sit up make us a bit uncomfortable

and maybe lead us to a change and realize our disobedience

Matthew 7 21 says ‘Not everyone who says to me Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven but only the one who does the will of my father in heaven.’

doing nothing is a sin in the same way that openly rebelling is conforming to what God expects outwardly but refusing to do it inwardly is empty and hollow and doesn’t please God

I’m sure you’ve all heard those stories of a conversation perhaps with a toddler or a little one and you’re asking them to do something or perhaps rather to stop doing something and eventually they do stop doing it but you get that little mumbo but they’re still doing it on the inside

Was that obedience?

Well, it’s conforming outwardly but rebelling inwardly it was disobedience and it was sin and in the same way the second son conformed and agreed on the surface but in the heart he rebelled and remained inactive and disobedient

two very different responses

give us two very different results the results are clear and simple repentance led to the work of getting done Christ said that those who are like this son who turn away from their son their sin when they’re confronted with the truth they enter the kingdom of God ahead of those who produced the second result and their lip service led to the work remaining untouched when you consider that the work we’re talking about directly influences the eternity of all those around us it’s quite a sobering thought of what we’ve been left to do and yet even this reality is not enough for some to change their focus from what they look like on the outside or what ministry looks like on the outside or to whether or not that heart is clean and obedient and the work is there on the inside

as we close why not take three things away with you as we apply them in our lives

firstly there’s always hope God is not looking for the ones who look perfect on the outside he’s not asking us for unattainable perfection he just wants us to obey his call no matter where we’ve gone or what we’ve done no matter how much rebellion there’s been in our lives there’s always hope through the forgiveness of our sins and we only have to ask for it and we can join the others in the field and build god’s kingdom here on earth secondly repentance is a right response to our sin when we see a rebellion for what it is repentance is the only right response before our God we need to have that remorse over our sins turn away from them and back to God and with repentance comes this third truth our obedience is shown through our actions

some of us say yes in church every week yes in bible study yes and prayer meetings yes in our small groups

we become like the pharisees looking spotless and holy on the outside but like that child rebelling still on the inside

Jesus says in john 14 15 if you love me you will obey what i command it’s as simple as that he wants our hearts he wants our obedience and if the external is not flowing out from inside and our lives are not marked by our obedience then we’re just playing at being religious missing out on that relationship with god

obedience is shown through our actions hope repentance and obedience these are the lessons of this short story this morning these are the truths that Christ wanted his disciples then and wants his followers today to grasp hold of every word every action contains the truth that can transform the way that we think and live today

Amen. Let’s pray:

Father God we ask that indeed we can say Yes and our Yes will mean Yes rather than a firm No that means No. You give us the opportunity to change our minds changes from this day forward that we continue to work and serve You in our in Your kingdom. That our hearts are open and obedient to you so that we can trust and obey because there’s no other way to be happy and serving You. Trust and obey. Amen.

Amazing grace: amazing power

Preached on: Sunday 30th May 2021
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 21-05-30 Message PPT slides multi pages.
Bible references: Acts 14:21-26 & Hebrews 4:14-16
Location: Brightons Parish Church

let us come to God in prayer let us pray

come holy spirit soften our hearts to the word of God come holy spirit with revelation and wisdom of our father and our lord Jesus

come holy spirit with power and deep conviction for we ask it in Jesus name amen last week we began a new sermon series on grace and our aim is to understand more of this wonderful word because it is rich and meaningful partly because of its many uses and references in the scriptures and we saw previously that one of its uses is to talk about our spiritual gifts that the spirit gives us to enable us to be part of God’s mission but our passage today doesn’t use grace in that manner we read from Italian Paul and Barnabas sailed back to Antioch where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed earlier in chapter 13 these two men had been prayed for by the local church and sent on their way because the church had felt prompted to do this by the holy spirit so what we read here in chapter 14 is telling us that those prayers are committing of these Christians to the grace of God and so grace here is not referring to spiritual gifts or to saving grace or to God’s character of grace so raises the question what is this grace and what does it do because let’s notice something else first despite being committed to the grace of God despite being faithful and exemplary brothers in the faith they faced hard times in fact a little earlier if you go back earlier in chapter 14 we read of Paul being stoned in response to his labors for the lord and in the second letter to the church in Corinth Paul says five times i received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one three times I was beaten with rods once i was pelted with stones three times I was shipwrecked i spent a night and a day in the open sea i have been constantly on the move I’ve been in danger from rivers and danger from bandits in danger from my fellow Jews in danger from gentiles endangering the city endangering the country in danger at sea and in danger from false believers I have laboured and toiled and often gone without sleep i have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food i have been cold and naked besides everything else i face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches and i don’t know about you but looking at that list there’s part of me that says what is so amazing about grace if this is what Paul had to face what is so amazing about grace

and I wonder friends if you can relate to that and the hardships that you maybe face right now are you maybe asking what’s so amazing about grace where are you God why how am I meant to cope with this when will this end Christians across the ages have shared these same questions and struggles the famous preacher Charles Spurgeon who was used mightily of God in the 19th century suffered recurring bouts of depression throughout his adult life he was also simultaneously popular and unpopular in the stands he took and often as a result would face ridicule including from other pastors added to this was his need to provide relentless care for his wife who was an invalid for most of their marriage and on top of all that if it wasn’t enough Spurgeon faced the last 20 a third of the last 27 years of his ministry out of the pulpit because of his own physical illness there was hardly a weakness an insult a hardship or difficulty that Spurgeon didn’t know personally

so what about you what’s your story

and in the midst of that story are you asking what’s so amazing about grace

and to begin responding to that question we need to turn to other passages later in the same letter to the church in Corinth Paul says i was given a thorn in my flesh a messenger of Satan to torment me three times i pleaded with the lord to take it away from me but he said to me my grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness therefore when i am weak then i am strong what does this passage say about grace well the lord says my grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness notice the parallel my power my grace so when we receive the lord’s grace we receive his power but power for what does he give this power for well based upon Paul’s experience and the t his teaching in part God gives his grace his power to sustain us to sustain our faith that we might persevere to the end after all in our passage from acts we read Paul and Barnabas return to Lystra Iconium and Antioch strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith we must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God they said core to the teaching of the early church was the awareness that hard times come that in fact we will say face such difficulties that it will potentially rock our faith that will test our faith and we may even be tempted simply to walk from Jesus

so what can help us persevere what will hold us fast that we might persevere to the end and share in the perfection and glory of the kingdom of God when it comes

well the answer my friends is the grace of God it is his power that sustains now maybe you’re thinking well that doesn’t sound like very much Scott I’d like a bit more

and i wonder if part of that thinking is because we want a Jesus who makes things right now we want a Jesus who meets our needs in the way we want them met

but as one commentator said God did not change the situation by removing the affliction he changed it by adding a new ingredient grace God did not give Paul any explanations instead he gave him a promise my grace is sufficient for thee we do not live in explanations we live on promises for promises generate faith and faith strengthens hope

I wonder brothers and sisters how’s your faith doing what’s your level of hope in the face of your hardships how how how are you trying to persevere are you simply trying to kind of work up some more willpower and get through on your own strengths or are you trying to resort to positive thinking and simply downplay the doubt in the heart because Paul’s perseverance didn’t come from either of those approaches instead he found in the grace of the lord Jesus Christ a power a strength beyond any human capacity to emulate or duplicate earlier I spoke of Charles Spurgeon and the great hardships he faced and yet he himself said this it is easy to believe in grace for the past and the future but to rest in it for the immediate necessity is true faith at this moment and at all moments which shall ever occur between now and glory the grace of God will be sufficient for you this sufficiency is declared without any limiting words and there I’ve therefore I understand the passage to mean that the grace of our lord Jesus is sufficient to uphold thee sufficient to strengthen the sufficient to comfort thee sufficient to enable thee to triumph over it sufficient to bring the out of ten thousand like it sufficient to bring the home to heaven whatever would be good for the Christ grace is sufficient to bestow whatever would harm thee has grace is sufficient to avert whatever thou desirest his grace is sufficient to give thee if it be good for thee whatever thou wouldst avoid his grace can shield thee from it if so his wisdom shall dictate hear let me press upon you the pleasing opportunity of taking home now the promise personally at this moment for no believer here need be under any fear since for her or him also at this very instant the grace of the lord Jesus is sufficient

Paul and Spurgeon in the midst of their suffering knew God’s grace in the face of any suffering wherever however whenever they knew the grace of Christ to be sufficient but let’s not fall into easy errors in relation to these words or the words from acts Paul is not a theological masochist who glorifies suffering itself indeed he prayed for deliverance from his hardships what is more Paul is not saying that only when you are weak do you have the grace and power of Jesus weakness is not its one and only condition what is more the experience of grace is not a reward or payment for suffering nor must we seek suffering to receive grace and not going through hardships does not earn us a place in the kingdom of God so let’s not misconstrue things from these weighty passages instead let us see the invitation of God the invitation of God to each of us brothers and sisters to have a grace to have a power that is sufficient for any and every need we may face

yet yet to find and receive this grace there needs to be a response of trust and so we come at last to a passage from Hebrews earlier we read since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven Jesus the son of God let us hold firmly to the faith we profess for we do not have a high priest who is unable to feel sympathy for our weaknesses but we have one who has been tempted in every way just as we are yet he did not sin let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need if we want God’s grace if we want his power and his help in our time of need then the response of trust is to approach him it’s basically to have a relationship with him and to come in prayer that is how we find and receive the grace of God the writer says we’ve to approach let us approach and the idea in the original language is approached regularly almost constantly he says too we’ve to come with confidence as one commentator put it approach with bold frankness with bold frankness that’s the invitation of God to you he’s not a God who asks you to deny the situation he’s not a God that says well it’s all karma so it’s your fault or this is because you’re too attached to the physical world and so again it’s your fault no no no no that’s not our God our God is the God who says come to me oh you are weary and burdened we are to have this confidence we are to pursue God this intently because he knows our experience Jesus knows our experience he shared the depth of our humanity he shared the suffering of humanity our God does not stand alive but he sympathizes to the point of stepping into our brokenness and experiencing it himself

that is our God

yet friends how easy how often too easy too often we drift from God and we allow bitterness and self-pity to create distance between us and God and in doing so we we rob ourselves of immense and timely help

so what about you where are you at with God and the hardships you face the hardships you observe are you making space for God are you coming to his throne of grace or does your life display a practical atheism does your lack of prayer show your true colors do you say with your mouth yeah i believe in God but any lack of prayer simply points to something else that actually deeper down you believe you can do without them that you don’t really need them in huddle recently which is one of our discipleship groups we’ve been exploring the rhythms of our life we’ve been talking about the balance of our relationships and in the midst of that we’re just beginning to hear both the invitation and challenge of Jesus to order our lives according to his wisdom i wonder brothers and sisters do we need more of the same in our own lives

and i don’t simply mean going to Jesus and with lots of words good though that is unnecessary though that is because one of the things I’ve been learning in recent months is just the value and the discipline of silence and solitude and so every day i will try and spend 10 minutes in silence before the lord saying as little as i can seeking him in that place vernally honestly and as much as i can with a heart of worship though it’s easily distracted and it’s only been a couple of months but i can tell you those 10 minutes are making a difference because they are a means of grace in my life but i not only spend some time in silence i do pray as well i pray for the day ahead i pray for my family i pray for some close friends and i pray for at least two families in my pastoral grouping every day so that by the end of the week i pray for my whole pastor of gripping every week and that’s my way of approaching the throne of grace for myself and for these others that we all might know the grace of God and i wonder friends are you creating space are you creating space for God and approaching his throne

because he calls us to be a family and a family is there for one another and so will you seek God will you come to his throne both for yourself and for one another that together with Paul we might confidently say the grace of Jesus is sufficient and though we are hard pressed on every side we are not crushed and though perplexed we do not despair and though we may face persecution we are not abandoned and even if we are struck down and our life is given in the cause of Jesus and his gospel we are not destroyed we are not destroyed for we are heirs of God and coheres with Christ and we shall know his glory and the glory of his kingdom for his grace is sufficient

let us pray

God’s right here right now

is there an area of your life where you need to come before the throne of grace

and maybe just in the quiet of your heart

tell him what that is it might just even be one or two words

he knows what’s on your heart

he knows who you’re breaking

he knows where you’re doubting

and he wants to meet you now with his grace

lord for however is upon our heart or whatever situation breaks our heart maybe today for whatever feels like it’s just too much and we wonder how will i cope and when will this end father we ask afresh for your grace your power to uphold us to hold us fast

both now and always

for we ask it in Jesus name

Amen

Joshua: go and trust

Preached on: Sunday 18th April 2021
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. there is no Powerpoint pdf accompanying this sermon..
Bible references: Joshua 2:1-19
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Before we come to our message this morning let’s come to God in prayer let us pray

father God we come to you now and we ask that indeed these words of scripture might indeed encourage and lead us in our lives as we continue through this time just as you led the Israelites through and eventually into the promised land we know that you will encourage and lead us to that place too within the meantime encourage us by this message and let your spirit indeed fill all our lives as indeed we look as to what more we can and should be doing as we journey through our lives with you in Jesus name we ask amen

in the previous chapter that we had um last week from Scott God had promised Joshua and the Israelites the land and he said that in verse 1 3 that everywhere you set their foot they would have victory so now in this next chapter Joshua gets busy he secretly sends a couple of people to spy out the land especially this great city of Jericho you may remember that Joshua had gone as part of a part of um a spy mission earlier when indeed 12 spies were sent out to go into the promised land to come and report back 10 of those spies came back reporting about the fears they had of entering that land but Joshua and indeed Caleb too both returned full of praise and full of hope to enter the promised land knowing that God would go with them during that time my bible doesn’t say anything about God telling Joshua to send more spies in and indeed didn’t God just promise in the chapter before to give Joshua the whole land then why did he see the need to send in the spies does that display a lack of trust on josh’s part a sort of taking matters into his own hands kind of thing why didn’t he just trust God rest on the promises and march across the river Jordan and claim that land

the questions become even more relevant if we sneak a peek ahead into chapters five and six where we have the story of the fall of Jericho remember how the city falls into the hands of the Israelites they take the city simply by marching around it for seven days and then God miraculously tears down the walls at a shout yeah simply a shout of the Israelite army God had a plan for the fall of Jericho he knew how it was going to happen so why bother with this whole spy thing they obviously weren’t going to need detailed reconnaissance on the military readiness of the people of Jericho why send spies if God was going to do a miracle even worse isn’t it this whole spy thing contrary to the very nature of what it means to trust God isn’t it an example of Joshua acting on his own strengths rather than in Gods

to answer those questions this morning we need to know what the response of God was to josh’s actions was Joshua rebuked punished for not believing chastised for not simply trusting no not at all in fact and this is fascinating God says nothing in this chapter this morning he has lots to say in chapter one and much more to say in three four five and six in all those places we read and the lord said to Joshua but here it just says Joshua secretly sent two spies obviously God was not upset at Joshua or there definitely would have been consequences as we’ll see when we get into chapter 7. in fact there’s a wonderful result to this spy story and that’s the meeting of rehab and having her become a celebrated woman of faith seeing all her family saved and indeed through that family and through that lineage it came right down indeed to the father to the lineage of Jesus Christ himself

so obviously God blessed josh’s actions and God worked through those actions even though God had a different plan for taking the city

here’s the lesson i see for you and i this morning

sometimes it’s okay for us to get busy and do the things that make the most sense I’ve known people who wanted to walk with God they wanted obedient to God they wanted God to take to be in control and so they would even pray about very minor things and attempt to discern God’s will for which pair of socks to put on that morning i believe that God gave us the ability to make decisions and we often take that and run with it and we try to make all the decisions ourselves without involving God in our daily lives and that so often is what goes wrong

but it’s also wrong to never make decisions that leads to disobedience for example if God tells us to go in one direction and then we sit around waiting for him to tell us whether to walk or run or take the bus obviously wearing our mask and end up staying in the same place we disobeyed God’s call to go sometimes all he tells us is to go and he leaves the method of travel up to us to decide

here’s what i want to say trusting God means that we wait on him for guidance and direction and leadership it also means that we get going in the direction that he points us in

let me give you an example most times when i sit down at my computer to work on a sermon i pray i ask God to speak to me to show me what he wants to reveal to me and to us through his word sometimes i sit there and pray waiting for all those great revelations to come flooding into my mind but most of the time that doesn’t happen maybe some of you agree with me on that most of the time the ideas and the revelations start to flow as a right in fact I’m a bit concerned this morning about the writing and the time because I’ve tried to move a bit with technology I’ve got my paper copy here but I’m using the tablet but the sermon is actually 35 pages long on a tablet a lot more than the usual 10. so you see trusting in God does mean waiting for his direction and then starting to head in that direction with trust and that’s what we see here this morning in the second chapter of Joshua even though God had a different plan for taking Jericho Joshua was not wrong in sending the spies it wasn’t an indication of a lack of trust or a lack of faith it was the right thing to do God surprised them with a different ending but God also honored Joshua for doing the smart thing by sending in the spies he was getting a handle on what was happening in Jericho right at that time

sometimes in life we get stuck we get in a wrap we feel like we’re spinning our wheels we’re discouraged and down and going nowhere maybe that’s how you’re feeling about life today that you are kind of stuck i suppose for a while we all have been stuck at home and we look forward perhaps to getting out and about a wee bit more and traveling that bit further distance but if you’re stuck in a rat in any other way because you don’t know where to go or you’re stuck because you do know where to go but you’re waiting for something else to happen before you’re going to head that direction if you don’t know where to go then you need to pray and seek God’s guidance wait a little while and let go and listen to him

and on the other hand if you’re stuck but you do know which way you should be headed get going get moving make the necessary decisions stop waiting for each piece of the puzzle to fall into place before taking those early steps just get moving and God will lead the Israelites as we know had been stuck at this place before 40 years earlier they knew which way to go under Moses but got scared and retreated and this time around they still know which way to go and by the way it’s still the same direction if they go but this time they get a little extra encouragement from the report of the spies

the lord has surely given the whole land into our hands all the people are melting in fear because of us says verse 24. that was just the added bit of confidence that they needed and maybe that is the added bit of encouragement that you need today God has it under control he knows the hardness he knows the pitfalls he knows the obstacles and he’s bigger than all of them

you will find sufficient on that journey you will find him abundantly able to meet the needs as you go along the road this is the big message trusting in God in God waiting on him getting direction and then using our minds and our gifts and as long as we head out in that direction in his strength and not on our own as long as we continue to trust him along the way and even make those mid-course corrections we can be confident with trusting him and walking in his power and not our own there’s one other point i want to get out of this passage this morning and that is that God goes ahead of us Joshua does the smart thing sends the spies in they go to the house of a prostitute most likely because it was a place where the foreigners wouldn’t arise a lot of suspicion and whether we’d be able to get a handle on what the people were thinking and what they find there is miraculous somehow word gets out to the king and he sends in his henchmen so much for those secret undercover agents but here is where the story gets interesting because rehab that very prostitute hides them she lies for them she sends the king’s men off on a wild goose chase and protects them and gives them the information they need provides an escape route and what happens in return she and all her family have their life spared and rehab takes a very prominent place in the history of Israel and in Christianity because of our faith

here is what this tells me God goes ahead of me and not only does he go ahead of me preparing the way he prepares the hearts of people he reveals his fame he reveals his glory and he goes ahead of each one of us

those spies found God at work in the most unlikely place in the faith of Rahab and applying this to sharing our own faith we often look at the prospect of having to share our faith with some trepidation like we’re making a further foreign into enemy territory we don’t want to cross the lines and share our faith in the unknown perhaps with those who live beside us in the street work beside us or even our relatives or close friends we head into those situations feeling like it is our God job to take God to people to take it to those who don’t know him and there is this big dark land and we have the light and we must take it into this very dangerous place but this spy story this morning reminds us God is already ahead of us we aren’t going in carrying him along with us he’s beginning to make a start and his spirit is possibly working and prodding and pursuing in these lives that we are going to meet sharing our faith isn’t only about bringing people to salvation that’s the final step in the process and of course it’s a final step and a person’s growth to faith but there are lots of steps lots of steps to go lots of things to do words deeds expression and love lots more to do when we can meet with those people that perhaps are coming to God through this time lots more when we can share with them here in this place of fellowship God’s ahead of us but look out for those opportunities look out for those people that you can speak to and you can share God goes ahead he prepares away and he has all sorts of things prepared for us he writes to the Ephesians in chapter 2 10 he says for we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do the way is prepared Joshua is sure he has God with him and yet he sends some men before him he didn’t quite trust the situation but then things sorted himself out

where has God been or is going to call you to go what’s he been telling you that you need to be obedient about if you’re feeling stuck if you’re uncertain about which direction to head or how to get started be encouraged that God goes with you and God goes ahead of you he’s prepared the road he knows where our journey is going and he knows what we need the promise of God is that he has prepared for us a great kingdom which he desires us to experience here in this life as well as in the next it’s a kingdom of joy and freedom and of power God invites you and me to experience this kingdom through his holy spirit and i encourage each of us to take some steps to do the things that make sense and pursue a more fulfilling experience in God’s kingdom in our lives so that we can continue to see God’s kingdom come to those others around us that will also share and benefit in that

Amen

Joshua: respond

Preached on: Sunday 11th April 2021
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 21-04-11 Message PPT slides multi pages.
Bible references: Joshua 1:1-16
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Let us take a moment to pray before we think about God’s word:

Come Holy Spirit, have your own way. Change our hearts and minds to be more like Jesus.
Come Holy Spirit, shape us as the church of Jesus.
Come Holy Spirit with power and deep conviction.
for we ask it in Jesus name, Amen.

As I said before our reading the opening portion of the book of Joshua finds the people of God at the beginning of a new chapter Moses has died and gone to be with the lord before his death he wrote down the law of God enabling Israel to know the ways of the lord so that the promises of God could be fulfilled with Moses departure a new chapter begins and in many ways it foreshadows what the disciples would experience with Jesus after the resurrection in Matthew chapter 28 we read this the Holy Spirit and teaching them to be everything I have commanded you and surely I am with you always to the very end of the age hopefully we remember from last week that when the angel came and spoke to the woman and then through the women to the disciples the instruction was that they were to go to galilee and there Jesus would meet them well here they are they’ve responded in faith and they meet with Jesus for sure for some there is doubt still but they all worship Jesus as the risen lord and into that doubt into this group of people Jesus speaks he begins a new chapter these two moments in the history of God’s people echo one another and in doing so they show us what to pay attention to what to draw from the opening chapter of Joshua that it might speak into our day because we as followers of Jesus as members of his church we too are given the same commission as those early disciples so what are we to pay attention to well firstly we are to respond to God’s word the lord says to Joshua now then you and all these people get ready to cross the Jordan river into the land I am about to give them I will give you every place where you set your foot now then get ready these words carry drive impetus in the original language their commands to be put into practice and similarly Jesus says go and make go and make again these words are weighty they are strong they are urgent calling us to be about this rather than put it off it’s interesting that Joshua is also told that wherever they set their feet this will become home to them but here’s the thing it will only become home if they set out if they get actively involved if they cross into the promised land

in both Joshua’s time and in Jesus commission to the church God’s people are called to respond to God’s word because if we don’t

then his calling and commission is not fulfilled as he intended and there’s no plan b friends you and I here in the sanctuary and at home we are it it is through us that God intends for others to come into his family and into his kingdom just a few weeks ago I was reminding us of the drastic fall in church membership over the last 20 years a fall which it could be asked does it show our apathy to our commission or that we have become comfortable with our ineffectiveness and so once again I effectively ask you have you had enough of decline enough so that we do something about it that we recognize that we all have a part to play and it must include some way somehow the sharing of our faith with today’s generation because the people who seem to be coming to church staying at church getting involved with church are people who choose to identify as Christian who choose to follow Jesus but people don’t reach that stage if they’re not first hearing about the Christian faith and so they must hear it some way somehow

and so I ask you here and you at home do you hear the personal call to respond and own this commission to own it to say it is mine it is mine

Joshua was called to respond and to ensure that he would know how to put God’s word into practice the lord says to him be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you do not turn to it from the right or to the left keep it always on your lips similarly Jesus says that part of raising up disciples is teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you not only are we called to respond to God’s word we are called to know it to chew over and to do so in community

we are called to this because Jesus is not after people who know some nice stories or can recite some of his nice morals Jesus says that a disciple is someone who knows his lord’s teaching and knows it well enough that they put it into practice

so I wonder friends what’s the way that you are engaging with God’s word maybe you’re using the new testament reading plan or an app like Lectio365 or Pray as You Go maybe you use printed daily reading notes no matter your preference though if we are to be a people who confidently share our faith such that we raise up new disciples we need to know our faith and the scriptures that underpin it

Joshua was a man of God a person who knew God’s word and put it into practice and so his next step is to speak to the leaders and to the people so that what the lord had commanded would be put into practice but what I find really striking here is what he says to the Reubenites Gaditzen halftribe of Manasseh he says your wives or children and your livestock may stay in the land that Moses gave you east of the Jordan but all your fighting men ready for battle must cross over ahead of your fellow Israelites you’re to help them until the lord gives them rest as he has done for you and I find that remarkable because these tribes these fighting men are called to leave their security their safety leave what is precious to them and rest their lives in fact they’ve to go ahead of their fellow Israelites never mind tag along at the back where do you think you would prefer to be at the back not the front and I think for me this shows that God calls us to a way of life where we stand alongside one another a way of life where we cannot be indifferent to the welfare of one another now Jesus does not mention this explicitly at the time of the great commission but let’s remember only ten days before he had taught them this command love one another as I have loved you so you must love one another by this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another

care for others to the point of sacrifice is meant to distinguish us we cannot claim to be following the teaching of Jesus and remain indifferent to one another so what could this look like what could this look like well this summer there’s an opportunity for us all it’s my intention that from June to august there will be no Tuesday evening events and that’s to give us time to connect and reconnect with one another however i’m conscious that because of covet and because we’re a medium-sized church it’s easy for people to be overlooked or maybe even forgotten because we haven’t seen them in over a year and so we need a vehicle to care for as many as possible and a vehicle which also allows as many as are willing to get involved and so this week you will be sent a letter via email or post and in that letter you will be asked whether you are willing for your name address and phone number to be shared with the other members of your pastoral grouping this would then allow each of us to get in contact or do a card and visit or send a card do something and over the summer hopefully reconnect as a church family and if you’re not in a pastor or grouping then get in touch if you want to get involved because please note this only those who opt in will have their details shared and only those who opt in will receive details of others who have also opted in so if you don’t opt in your details will not be shared so let’s not worry but neither will you receive details and we’re sharing this just now because hopefully as many of us will get involved as possible and it then just takes time to put that into place additionally I would like to encourage you to read a book that I’ve been reading it’s Francis Chan’s Letters to the Church and i’d like you to try and read it over June to august because that’s less than one chapter a week i’ve been found in it both stimulating and easy to read much easier than the book I gave to the elders okay but it gets us into God’s word chewing it over and understanding some of what it means to be the church you can of course order a copy for yourself but if you would find it helpful for us to order your copy then give it out simply on the reply slip with the letter let us know there’s space to make that known to us okay friends if we respond I’m excited about what the summer could hold for us I reconnected church family who are chewing upon God’s word and responding to it such that we are better enabled to fulfill the commission given to us but before the end there’s one final thing one final thing ultimately it’s not our unity or our obedience or our knowledge which will enable us to fulfill our commission it’s that the lord is with us for he says to Joshua as I was with Moses so I will be with you I will never leave you nor forsake you be strong and courageous to not be afraid for the lord your God will be with you wherever you go and similarly Jesus promises surely I am with you always to the very end of the age friends our calling is momentous sometimes risky surely self-sacrificing and humanly impossible but the lord promises to be with us in the times of Joshua in the times of the early church and even still today as I said last week Jesus is leading us onward and so it is his presence his faithfulness that gives us true courage as well as the love and power to respond to his commission

and to be a people united and living out his command

I pray it may be so, Amen