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It’s Not Luck, It’s God

Today, in our journey through the Bible together, you should have read a portion of the Joseph narrative.

Pharaoh’s Dream

If you remember, Pharaoh has two crazy dreams. In the first, seven ugly and thin cows eat seven plump and fat cows but their appearance doesn’t change. The second dream involves seven thin and blighted grain eating seven ears of plump and good grain. Although Pharaoh is troubled by the dream, no one in the kingdom is able to interpret it for him, except Joseph.

The dream, Joseph tells Pharaoh, is about a future famine, which will occur after seven years of plenty. God is warning them of the famine so they can prepare during the years of plenty for the years of famine by storing up the excess.

The Future

After hearing Joseph’s interpretation, Pharoah places him in charge. Sure enough, seven years of plenty turns into seven years of famine. Since Egypt saved during the years of plenty, they were able to provide for the whole earth and grow economically during the famine as the entire earth came to buy food from them. Joseph’s long lost family were included in the ones who came. Fast forwarding a bit, after giving his brothers who sold him into slavery a hard time, Joseph reconnects with them. Eventually, his family settles in the land of Goshen where they become fruitful and multiple.

What Struck Me

As I read the story again this morning, I was struck by Joseph, Pharaoh, and his brother’s recognition that God is the one who is in control.

  • As Joseph is interpreting the dream for Pharaoh, he pushes Pharaoh to recognize that God is the one who is showing Pharaoh what He is about to do (Ge 41:28).
  • Pharaoh puts Joseph in charge because he recognizes God is the one who has shown the future to him (Ge 41:39).
  • Joseph names his first son Manasseh saying, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” His second son he names Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction” (Ge 41:51-52).
  • At one point, during their imprisonment, Joseph’s brothers come to the recognition that God is dealing with them concerning their sin against their brother (Ge 42:21-22).
  • On their way home, when Joseph’s brothers discover that the money they used to purchase the grain was placed back in their sacks, they say, “What is this that God has done to us?” (Ge 42:28).
  • Once Joseph reveals himself to his brothers, he gives God all the credit for what had been done (Ge 45:4-15)

These passages and more show us that Joseph, Pharaoh, and his brothers didn’t view these events as luck or chance. Nor do they pat themselves on the back for their ingenuity or intellect. Instead, these events led them to recognize God is the One who is in control.

We need to come to the same conclusion. Instead of attributing things in our life to luck or a lack thereof, we must recognize that God is the One who is in control and He is working out His plan, of which we are apart. You see, it’s not luck, it’s God.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you recognize it’s God, not luck?

Resource

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Self Righteous Pews

11 Characteristics of the Self-Righteous

Self-righteousness is rampant in our churches. Pews are packed every week with Pharisees, who think they are doing everything right. Scripture, however, paints a woefully different picture. Far from thinking, we have arrived or that we are superior to others, we should see a need for and dependence on the righteousness of Christ.

Instead of raising our spiritual noses at those struggling with sin, we should humbly bow before the Savior knowing we too are sinners saved by God’s grace. Instead of thinking of ourselves as self-righteous, we should thank and praise God for sending His Son to die for our sin.

Even though we should humble ourselves before our Savior, we often don’t. We have a tendency to act like we are the ones who make ourselves righteous by our own efforts, instead of relying on Christ’s work. When we rely on our own efforts we acting self-righteous. We can fall into self-righteousness without even knowing it.

In an effort to keep us out of the trap and create self-awareness here are 11 characteristics of the self-righteous adapted from Paul Tripp’s book, Dangerous Calling.

11 Characteristics of The Self-Righteous

1. They do not see their walk with God as a community project.

2. They do not work well with others.

3. They consistently believe they are right and know best.

4. They are resistant to change.

5. They do not respond well when reminded they need to change.

6. They do not desire others exhortation or admonition, even getting angry at times.

7. They are not patient with those who mess up, struggle with sin or have lost their way.

8. They do not deal well with opposition or accusations.

9. They will consistently wonder why God has singled them out for difficulty.

10. They do not see a need to admit or confess their sin.

11. They consistently point out the sin of others with an air of superiority.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do your actions or attitudes reflect any of these characteristics?

Resources

Characteristics in post adapted from Paul Tripp, Dangerous Calling, 73-74.

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jesus-prophet-priest-king

How Do We Reject Jesus’ Prophetic Message?

Before the ball dropped and the New Year started, I posted an article entitled: Jesus the True and Better Prophet, Priest, and King. In my next several posts, I want us to explore those roles in more detail.

Much like the prophets of the Old Testament, Jesus’ message didn’t resonate with everyone, especially the high ranking officials in His day. Since He opposed their way of life and threatened their power and position, they rejected Him and had Him killed.

The Jews, however, weren’t the only ones to reject Jesus. We are still rejecting Him today

How Do We Reject Jesus’ Prophetic Message?

We reject Jesus’ message in a number of ways. Certainly, this is happening through:

Laws that are being enacted. 

Under the Bloomberg administration, New York City sought to keep churches from using public schools to hold worship services.

While this was disguised as an attempt to separate Church and State, it was clearly an attempt to silence the message of the gospel in New York City. Space in New York is limited and expensive. Without the ability to use the school’s facilities many churches would be forced to either move out of the city or quit gathering altogether[1].

Or think of the battle over bathrooms that is currently happening in our country. While the battle over bathrooms is generally taking place in the public sphere, in Massachusetts it’s even affecting churches. On September 1st, 2016 the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination released a Gender Identity Guidance legislation, which says, among other things, that all places of public accommodation have to allow people to use the bathroom of their choice.

Churches aren’t exempt from this ruling[2]. They say,

“Even a church could be seen as a place of public accommodation if it holds a secular event, such as a spaghetti supper, that is open to the general public.”

So if a church denies a person from using the bathroom of their choice, they could be prosecuted. Going even further, they say that the failure to use a person’s preferred pronoun at these events would also trigger anti-discrimination laws and the church could be held liable [3]. Clearly, this is an attempt to silence churches from speaking the truth by forcing them to participate or pay the price.

In the State of Texas, the city of Houston tried to silence pastors’ speech from the pulpit about these same transgender issues.

Those few examples are just the tip of the iceberg. There are people right now pushing for laws, legislation, and ordinances that seek to silence Christians.

Closer to Home

The above, however, aren’t the only ways Jesus’ message is rejected. Bringing it a little closer to home, there are people in Decatur, the town in which I live, who reject Jesus’ message.

We reject Jesus’ message because we don’t recognize we are sinners

Many think they can save themselves because they see themselves as good. For some reason, we have this idea that God keeps a tally of our good and bad actions. When we die and stand before Him, He is going to bring out His heavenly scale and weigh our good against our bad. If our good outweighs the bad, the pearly gates are going to open and we are going to be ushered into heaven.

This thinking, while it leads to moral living, at least moral living that is better than the guy down the street, ultimately leads to a rejection of our need for Jesus, because the core of this type of thinking believes that Jesus came not to save, but to provide the ultimate example of how we should live. In this way, then, we change Jesus’ prophetic message from one of repent and believe to follow My example and everything will be alright.

While some, then, may not be working to enact laws, or blatantly stifle Jesus’ message, we still rejecting Jesus’ prophetic message when we claim and even teach others that we can get to heaven by simply doing more good than bad. But that’s simply not true. We can’t work our way to heaven by doing more good than bad, which is why:

We Shouldn’t Reject Jesus’ Prophetic Message

Instead, we should listen to it.

The Bad News

Paul provides a good summary of Jesus’ message in his letter to the Romans. In Romans 3 starting in verse 10, Paul paints a startling picture of just how despicable we are when he says,

“as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”” (Ro 3:10–18)

This is us! This is the bad news. “no one is righteous”. “No one does good.

If no one is righteous and no one does good, how then can our good outweigh our bad? The answer is: It can’t! Our good can’t outweigh our bad if all we do is bad. So, even if God kept a tally and weighed our works on a heavenly scale, the “good” side would be empty. Instead of being ushered through the pearly gates, we would be ushered into eternal destruction, if it’s our works that we rely on.

You see, we are that bad, and since we are that bad we can’t save ourselves. In verses 19 and 20, Paul says,

“Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” (Ro 3:19–20)

You see what he is saying? The idea that we can work our way to God is the same idea that condemns us. That’s because we learn what is good or bad through the law. Either the law of God given in the Bible, or in the case of those who don’t have a Bible, the law that is written on their hearts; the one that is apparent in their society (Rom 2:14-15).

Once we have this law, which we all have, we all stand condemned. “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight”, Paul says. And “No one does good, not even one” (Rom 3:12b-c). We are all sinners who are incapable of working our way to God.

I don’t know about you, but that is enough to convince me that I need to listen to Jesus’ prophetic message. But in case you still think that you are a pretty good person, consider what Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount, revealed about God’s knowledge of us. There we learn that God doesn’t just judge us by our outward actions, He also judges according to our heart. That’s a scary thought for someone who is trying to justify themselves by their works. Outwardly you might appear to be a good person. You might do and say all the right things, fooling yourself and those around you into believing you are a good person. But God looks past the facade. He peers into the very depths of your soul, judging you not just by what you do, but also by what you think, want, and desire. He knows the motivation behind every action. We all know our thoughts, wants, desires, and motivations aren’t always righteous, which means we really are that bad.

The Good News

We, then, need to listen to and believe Jesus’ prophetic message. Realizing that Jesus isn’t just a prophet announcing the coming of the Kingdom, instead, He is the One who brings the kingdom. He is the bread of life. The One in and through whom we find our salvation. He is the true and better Prophet who offers complete forgiveness and reconciliation.

Don’t Reject Jesus’ Prophetic Message

Instead, hear it, believe it, turn to Jesus as your Lord and Savior, and experience the good news of the gospel for yourself.

If you have already experienced salvation in Jesus, praise God for sending His prophet, His Son into the world, to not only announce the good news but to be the good news Himself.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Do you realize that you are that bad?
  2. Do you see your need for Jesus?

Resources

Post adapted from my sermon Jesus as Prophet

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[1] Washington Post

[2&3] Mass.gov AND Washington Post