God will do whatever it takes to make us useful for Him. If our outward behaviors are expressions of our inward rebellion, we can expect God's discipline because He loves us.
A Song We All Want to Hear Sung
Wherever You Are, Get Ready to Meet the King of Who You Are
A Kick in the Pants from the King of Us All
Who He Was, What He Said and Why He Said It
Father, thank you for a chance to get together and be encouraged from your Word. Thank you for a chance to get together and celebrate what you have delivered us from, that we were hateful people and were hated by others, but now, as we have read in your Scriptures, through no good deeds of our own, not according to righteousness which we have done but according to your mercy, your kindness, you have put us in a position of favor where we can sing of your love forever.
In fact, one day, Lord, we will know you so well and so fully we will never have a moment where there's not praise on our lips, as we know fully even now as we are fully known. We anticipate that day. We can't even imagine that your beauty is so great it will fill our eternity with joy as we just speak of it, as we glory in your presence. We seek to take a little bit of that eternal experience and apply it now by faith, that we would live our lives in such a way that speaks of that hope, that the world would be drawn to us.
As we study tonight the alternative to that…to neglect a relationship with you and, because of that, to incur your wrath and the opposite of all your goodness, but to be put in an expanse where there is nothing but evil to be tasted of…I pray that we, again, are reminded of the amazing grace which saves us and the amazing horror which awaits those who don't know the joy of our salvation, and that we would be compelled and moved to call others to get on this ark of rest, which is Jesus, and that we would do that with compassion, with grace, with fervor, and with an irrepressible spirit which comes from Christ. Teach us, then, from your Word. In Christ's name, amen.
We are looking at Zephaniah. It's one of those books that is kind of stuck back there in your Old Testament that you, honestly, probably don't spend a lot of time with. It's a book taken from this young man, this prophet whose name was Zephaniah, which means the Lord hides, and the Lord has hidden the good message in him.
These last couple of Fridays and Saturdays, I've been with a couple of different camp staffs, helping them get prepared for the kids they're going to be ministering to and encouraging this summer. Statistics say that as many as 80 percent of people who make decisions for Christ make them before the age of 18, and a large majority of those make them at some type of camping or unusual retreat experience.
So we need to all be mindful of the kids who are going to be at Young Life camps this summer. That's where this skinny folk got saved, up there at Castaway in Minnesota in 1979. Pray for the kids who are at Young Life camps all summer. Pray for those kids who are going to Kanakuk, Buckner, Longhorn, Olympia, Pine Cove, and Sky Ranch, that a lot of great things happen in the name of the Lord this summer.
I was talking to some folks this last Friday and Saturday, and their theme at this particular camp was "Whatever it takes." I spent three times with their staff Friday and then yesterday, and I did three things with them. The first time, I was letting them know, and I started in Matthew 14, and we hung out talking about the feeding of the 5,000.
To kind of boil it down, I said, "Jesus wants you to feed the multitudes who he looked out upon and had compassion on. He wants you to take care of them." He said to the disciples when they tried to get rid of the multitudes that were brought before him… They were overwhelmed and said, "Send these people away before nightfall hits and they're hungry and kind of angry and gruff people. Get them out of here. Get them off our hands." Jesus said, "No, you feed them."
As you remember, they were a little bit overwhelmed at that task, and Jesus taught them a very simple lesson. "If you give me your humble means and come to me and let me break what you have and let me minister through you, we can do miraculous things together." Our application from that time was "What the multitudes need they get from you, and you get that resource from me."
So, whatever it takes, it takes a relationship with Jesus, not looking at your own giftedness, talents, or resources, but it takes a connectedness to the Savior if you're going to minister to those kids, if you're going to minister to the folks at your office complex, your spouse. If you're going to minister to those in your apartments or your neighborhoods this summer, it's going to take a relationship with Christ.
The second thing it's going to take is discipline, for you to discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness. God wants you to grow in grace. One of the things we have to do is, having been saved, grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. Jesus again and again rebuked people who came to him and confronted him and asked him questions by saying to them, "Have you not read…?" or "Did you not read…?" or "Did you not know it was written…?"
Again and again, he drove them back to the Book, not because we are bibliolaters who worship the Bible but because the Bible is the place where the will and the mind of God is revealed to us. If we want to be people who teach what is on the heart of God and the mind of God, what is the will of God, we have to know it. He has given us his Book, that we might not just sit around and theorize about what is holy.
So I told them, "I'll tell you what it's going to take for you to be truly effective," and it's going to take the same thing from us. It's going to be a disciplined lifestyle. God, who is graceful, who gives us the means to godliness, expects us to seize upon them and then to be strengthened by them through prayer, through solitude, through journaling, through worship, through fellowship, through Bible study, through memorization.
Those are the means of grace God has given us, his people, to grow in right relationship to him so that we might have on our mouths the very words of God. That's what it's going to take for us to be effective as a people. We can't just sit here and say, "God, use us" and then twiddle our thumbs. God will not use a stupid people. He says, "I want you to apply yourself. You're going to starve to death if you don't eat the food which I've put before you."
So, that's what it takes: a right relationship with Christ, a growing in grace with him. Then the third thing I did with them in this theme of whatever it takes is I said, "Let me tell you something. If you refuse to be used by the Lord in the manner with which he desires to use you this summer… You need to know if you're not willing to do whatever it takes, God will do whatever it takes to use you, but don't make him."
I told them, as a kid, I was blessed to have parents who helped me make decisions to do things I wasn't fond of doing, and one of those was to be a part of Boy Scouts. I went to Boy Scouts, and I was the only Eagle Scout in the history of Troop 360 to never be a patrol leader, which tells you a little bit about my character at the time.
I had a dad who said, "You get a merit badge or you don't get your allowance." It was good for me to endure through this thing to learn some discipline, but I was the only guy in the history of our troop who achieved the highest rank in Scouts who they didn't think was worthy of giving six or seven other guys to lead, because I was typically out of my tent at night causing havoc amongst the campsite.
Our troop leader was a guy named Mr. Baker, and Mr. Baker often called me to his side at the beginning of our camping trips and said, "Let me tell you something, Todd. If you don't do what you need to do, you're going to meet my size 12." It was kind of a joke, along with all the rest of us little Boy Scouts, that you don't want to meet Mr. Baker's size 12, because he would do whatever it takes to get you to be obedient, as a little good Boy Scout, during that weekend you were under his care.
What I told the folks this weekend was, "God will do whatever it takes to get you to be useful to the Master, if indeed you are his child." You don't want to meet his size 12, because it's a whole lot bigger than a size 12, and he's a whole lot better aim than Mr. Baker. Mr. Baker had a size 12, but he also weighed about 360, so you could easily get away from him before he got to you. But the times his size 12 found my little size puny, I did the Cub Scout honor and oath and everything else I needed to do for a while.
God will do whatever it takes to make us useful. Look at Hebrews 12, verse 5. It says, "…you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons…" Understand, folks, that when the Bible says sons it means children. When it says men, it means men and women, often. This is one of those places where it speaks of us as God's sons. It is inclusive there to both sexes.
It says, "** My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord…"** In other words, "I don't want you to regard it lightly in one of two ways. First, how bad it can be." It says in Proverbs 29:1 he who hardens his neck after much reproof will suddenly get a size 12 on their rear. "A man who hardens his neck after much reproof will suddenly be broken beyond remedy."
We're not to regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, how bad it is and also how good it is. When God brings about discipline in your life, it's going to be a good thing if you endure it. Look at what it goes on to say. "…nor faint when you are reproved by him; for those whom the Lord loves he disciplines, and he scourges every son whom he receives."
Gang, this is the truth. The Lord determines, if you are part of his family, that he wants you to be useful to him. He wants you to be a vessel of honor, of gold and silver, not earthenware or wood. He wants you to be that precious thing which he can bring down to serve those he determines to be a host to and to bring into relationship with him and to feed and to comfort and to supply grace to. He wants to use you in that way. If you are his son who determines to be foolish, he will get your attention. He will do whatever it takes. Now look at what it says in verse 9.
"Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subjects to the Father of spirits, and live? For they [our fathers] disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He [the Lord] disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness."
What I want to encourage you with tonight is don't need his size 12 on your rear. The truth is we all need a talking to sometimes, but the Lord is gracious. He's not looking just to unleash discipline into your life, but if it's necessary… I'm not talking about the normal travails and trials of life that we all are affected by because we live in a fallen world. I'm talking about specific things we bring upon ourselves because we have been foolish.
God loves you enough to see that you will be conformed to the image of his Son, and some of us he loves enough, because we determined to be used for righteousness' sake but continually are used for unrighteousness' sake… Eventually, he loves us enough to discipline even unto death. Paul said of a man he judged, "I myself have already turned his body over to the Devil that he might be destroyed, but as it were his soul would be saved." That's a rather severe discipline that the Lord holds out for those who are continually rebellious who are his sons.
Here's the thing. If you are in continued rebellion, not walking in truth, in the light, not yielding to the Spirit of God, not letting the Word of Christ richly dwell within you, not being filled with the knowledge of his will, as it says in Colossians, and you see no consequence in your life, there's no distaste in your mouth, then I have great cause to be concerned for you for two reasons.
First, it might mean the reason you're not being disciplined is because, horror of horrors, you're not his son or because you are resisting, as we mentioned two weeks ago when we started Zephaniah, that little moth God first brings into your presence, as it says in Hosea 5. "I will be as a moth to Ephraim." A moth is a bothersome thing. He says, "If you resist the moth, I will then send a lion." In other words, discipline is coming.
God will do whatever it takes to get his people to be useful to the Master. What you're going to find in Zephaniah is a very difficult portion of Scripture where the Lord is saying, "It's time for me to do some serious size 12-ing. Whatever it takes is not pleasant, but I do it because I love him." Now turn back with me to Zephaniah.
Spurgeon was the guy who was walking through the country, and he came across a farmer who had a weather vane on top of his farmhouse that said, "God is love." Spurgeon, being the zealot he was, walked up to this guy and said, "What do you mean by that, O farmer? Do you mean that God's love is as changeable as the wind?" The farmer said, "No, of course not. I do not mean God's love is as changeable as the wind. I mean that whichever the wind blows, God is love."
What the farmer taught that world-renowned preacher that day was he knew that even in the dark times, even when a size 12 found his tail, God is love. I want you to remember that as we go through this today. There are going to be some portions of Scripture, and some folks might go, "Man, it's the first time I've come to church in months, and here comes hellfire and brimstone." No. What I want you to hear today is "Here comes love in the form of a size 12 Boondocker that the Lord's foot is in."
Verse 7, which tied up the first six verses of Zephaniah… We ended there two weeks ago with just this: "Hush." I told you that's kind of an onomatopoeia, which is a word which has come to mean what the word sounds like when you pronounce it. As best I can understand, that Hebrew word in a sense sounds like that. Just, "Hush. Listen up. Be quiet. Be silent before me."
"Nobody is going to come and claim to me that they are righteous when that day falls. When judgment hits, when my size 12 catches your tail, whether you're my son or whether it's the judgment you will receive…" Because all children are sons of God in one larger sense, but few of us are related to him as a part of his body through the blood, which we will celebrate with the Table tonight. All sons will one day get kicked in the tail.
By that I mean those who don't know Christ as a God of grace but know him as the Judge, the one who comes to separate the living from the dead. He'll say, "Hush. Don't get your Johnnie Cochran before me, telling me how innocent you are. There's no instant replay to go and review the film. Hush." Now that's an awful day.
Verse 8 is where we pick it up again this week. "Then it will come about on the day of the Lord's sacrifice…" On the day that God is going to discipline… You have to understand Zephaniah is writing, and again, I asked you to go back and read the historical context, which takes place in 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles. It is the last of the Minor Prophets that spoke to this nation that God intended to use in great ways.
He wanted them to change the lives of all of the kids he was sending to them at camp this summer. He wanted them to change Dallas, Texas. He wanted them to change the world, but they were obstinate and rebellious people who did not walk in his ways. Oh, they basically hung out at the temple. They did the major things. They showed up at church on Sunday, but their hearts were far from him. They weren't truly walking with the Lord. They weren't truly living for him, and he said, "I'm through with you."
In the midst of this group that was the nation of Israel, there were those who truly loved him, and there were those who just kind of went through it and loped along. God said, "All of you have become useless enough to me that discipline is going to fall." As a whole, this nation was wicked. There were a few who were righteous, but they were going to go through some pretty awful times. God would spare the remnant, the holy few who were left, but as a whole he was done using that body.
Some serious discipline was going to come so that future generations would walk with him. Some of this discipline is still going on with the nation of Israel who specifically was the target of this size 12. One day it's going to be grown and expanded, not just to the nation of Israel but in a much, much larger sense to the world, because every man will give account on that day to the Lord.
Now, in the New Testament, we have to understand this: we, as the body of Christ, are subject to the same discipline that, in some ways, Israel was accustomed to in the Old Testament. There are promises in Deuteronomy 28-30, some curses, some blessings, which are unique to the nation of Israel. You'll find the fulfillment of some of those here, but you will see some application applies to us here in the church, and we'll try to draw out some of that.
Let's see why this group of believers or this group of people who met underneath the Lord's name, some believers, some not, were about to get disciplined, and let's make sure we, a group of people who gather underneath the Lord's name here tonight… Let's see how we can avoid the disciplining of the Lord. Let's see how we can be useful to the Master. Let's make sure we don't make the same mistakes they made.
Verse 8: "Then it will come about on the day of the Lord's sacrifice, that I will punish the princes, the king's sons…" What does he mean by that? Basically this. I'll give you one quick idea. There were in this ancient nation called Israel, which God specifically chose to do great things with…
He said, "I'm going to take this people, and I'm going to make them a great nation, and they're going to be mighty in war. They're going to have vats which will overflow with wine and barn houses which will overflow with wheat, and they're going to be a nation that is going to be revered like no other nation in the history of the world. When other nations come to them and ask them to make a defense, to give an account for the hope they have, they are not to say, 'We are brilliant.'
They are to walk to the temple in the middle of the city and say, 'Right there. All that temple is is a building, and the living God doesn't actually live in a building, but that is where he, in a sense, communes with us. The reason we are great as a nation is because we know Jehovah. We know the Lord, and you can know him too, because he means not just to simply bless us. He chose us first, to bathe us, to cleanse us, to make us useful to him first so that you would notice a difference, and having noticed that difference…'"
"I'm glad you asked," the Jews should have said. "Let us introduce you not to our God but to the God." It is the exact same thing that ought to be happening in the New Testament today. Again, I just quoted 1 Peter 3:15, which says, "You get right with God. Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, and then always be ready to make a defense when anyone asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you. Do it with gentleness and with respect."
So, when the world comes and cocks its head at us and says, "Why are you hopeful?" we say, "The reason we're hopeful is not because we're brilliant. The reason we're hopeful is not because we're healthy, not because we live in North Dallas. The reason we're hopeful is because we know the Lord, and we will sing of his love forever. We want to invite you into relationship with him."
Now this nation had a very speckled history. That nation, which was made up of 12 tribes, basically had a disagreement about 931 BC, and they split. Ten of the tribes went to the north, and two stayed in the south. In the north, those folks were continually wicked. There were 19 different kings who reigned in the north. There was never a good national leader. So God wiped them out in 722 BC, which left two nations which surrounded Jerusalem. They were what was called the southern kingdom of what was left of this great country.
Zephaniah is a prophet who speaks to these two tribes and says, "Do you know what happened to your 10 tribes of the north? It's going to happen to you if you don't let me use you the way I want to use you. Not just because I love you, and I do, but because I love the world. As you walk in righteousness with me, the world is going to want what you have, which is me. What they need you have, and you get it from me." Same story.
You're going to find out this was an obstinate group in the south. There were 20 different kings who reigned in the south. Eight of them were righteous. The last righteous king was a guy named Josiah. He was the king at the time that Zephaniah was prophesying. Josiah, you will see, is a man who was rightly related to God. He brought about some national reforms. He got rid of some of the idolatry. He did some good things.
But I want to make a quick application here from verse 8. Just because your daddy is a righteous king, that doesn't mean you, the king's sons and the king's princesses, will be. Just because you have a godly discipler, maybe a godly leadership, as we do at this church, I think… Just because you have godly parents who raised you, just because you live in a culture that is part of the Bible Belt, that doesn't mean you yourself will be godly.
It says right here the king's sons are in for all kinds of trouble, and that is a great burden for any king who is righteous, to go, "O Lord, I want and I desperately desire for my children to grow in right relationship with you, even as I have come to know you." But it wasn't to be. Josiah had several sons. Three of his descendants were going to be kings, and none of them were righteous.
It says in John 1:12, "But as many as received Him [Jesus Christ] , to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood…" Meaning, you are not a Christian because your daddy was a Christian, because your mama was a Christian, because you went to vacation Bible school, because you were confirmed or baptized as a child.
You are a believer not because you had righteous parents, but you're a believer because you yourself have come rightly related to the King. We all need to hear this again. Ask yourself why you are here. If you're here just because your friends are here or because your parents would will for you to be here, it's great that you're here, but don't confuse attendance or family lineage with a right relationship with the Lord.
"…who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh…" Let me make this clear. The reason you can eat this bread and drink this cup tonight is not because you have determined to make your life pure for Christ. See, we cannot, as Greg read earlier from Titus 3:5… "But we have been saved according to mercy, not according to deeds which we have done in righteousness."
You cannot get yourself beautiful enough for the Lord that he would call you his son. "Men not born of blood, men not born of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man." I am desperate, as are many people who love Jesus Christ in this room tonight, for you to know him, desperate for this city to know him. I am desperate for my three children to know him, but it's not according to the will of man. I cannot convince, argue, explain, prompt, prod you into right relationship with God.
It says in John 1:13, "Men born of God." I pray that tonight, as we go through this little chapter and you hear about the wrath of his size 12, you are moved to come into right relationship with him. It says in the second part of that verse, "I'm punishing the princes and the king's sons," people in leadership. To whom much is given much is expected, and just because your daddy is righteous doesn't mean you are.
"I'm also confused and bothered by all who clothe themselves with foreign garments." That could mean a couple of things. Deuteronomy 22:5 says, "If you're a woman, dress like a woman. Don't dress like a man. If you're a man, you don't need to wear a dress." Do you think that's a problem just in our culture? Back when Moses was roaming the earth, God said, "No cross-dressing." You can wear your Nike cross-trainers, but that's as far as it goes.
Some people think the "foreign garments" referred to here is simply that God wants men to dress like men and women to dress like women. Some people think he was rebuking some of the idolatrous priests of the day who would put on the outfits of guys who led worship services to false gods. The point is that whatever he's making reference to here, he's saying, "Listen. Some of you are not willing to dress in a manner which glorifies the Lord, which speaks of your right relationship to him."
Deuteronomy 22:11 said, "I don't want you to wear clothing that is a mixture." The Jews alone were given certain dietary laws, certain dress laws, certain moral laws, certain ceremonial laws, because God was their King and he wanted them to look different. Now listen to me. He wanted them to be unique, set apart. That's what the word holy means. It means set apart. Not this way. Not like, "You go there. We're going to build a wall and be in our little commune," but this way, on a higher ethical plain, a higher moral plain, more righteous.
We have a different standard we live by because we have been shown the light. We have been given the way. We are experiencing the life. So, holy, set apart, saint, sanctified… Those are all basically the same thing. You have a group of people who apparently were not willing to be set apart for him, and he had a problem with that.
If you will, I could say it this way. He said, "The problem with the clothes you wear is that's not why you're going to go to hell, but it's the outward manifestation of an inward rebellion. Your clothing, which is supposed to be unique…" God, specifically for that nation, wanted them to dress a certain way.
"I wanted you to do that so you would be different so the world would say, not just by the clothes you wear but by the heart that was inside those clothes, which was represented through the obedience and the clothes you wore, that they would go, 'You're different.'" This was a people that was not willing to be seen as set apart for God.
If you will, one guy said that in our culture today, we have a lot of saved souls with Babylonian minds. I think it's fair to say we need to evaluate ourselves as a body. As summer rolls around… Think about this. We have a lot of saved souls with worldly wardrobes. I mean, I'm not here to give a dress code tonight, but I want to tell you that God does not like his children dressing and clothing themselves in foreign garments.
Let me make some specific application. When you, as a daughter of Christ, when you, as a child of God (I'll hit the women first), come into a relationship with him, the way you dress ought to be different. I didn't go this year on the singles' retreat, but I've been on other singles' retreats, and I've seen some of the suits that slide down that slide at Sky Ranch.
Here we are, a bunch of believers who are together who are supposed to have a weekend away where we can focus on the things of the Savior, and let's be honest. There are some other things that are begging for our attention when we're out there by the slide and by the swimming pool. I've seen more cotton in aspirin bottles than in some of the swimsuits you girls are wearing.
I said that one time, and I had a girl say this to me. She said, "Listen, man. You'd lust after me if I wore a space suit." I said, "That might be, but that is definitely my problem. That doesn't mean by default you have to walk around in that." All I'm asking is that you girls think when you dress, "Is what I'm wearing glorifying to my Father? Does what I'm wearing reflect that I'm a daughter of the Lord?"
It's specifically in Timothy said this way. The women are told to adorn themselves in a certain way. If you will, not to carry a Gucci purse but to carry a Gucci soul, because one of the ways women draw attention to themselves is through the way they dress. What he's saying is, "Women, when you go to worship, you ought to go and be mindful of the fact that the Lord has made you beautiful and the Lord has made your bodies attractive to the men who are his sons, and you should dress in such a way that you don't inhibit their focusing on me."
So, what's the standard? I would just tell you this. The standard is if you're dressing to draw attention to yourself and to draw attention away from the Lord, that's a problem. If you're saying, "Well, listen, man. The clothes I'm wearing are so much better than what's going on in Cosmo and Vogue," I'm saying those are the garments of the world. Those are foreign garments. You are a citizen not of this world but of a different kingdom, and you need to run through your little filter, "Am I dressing like I'm a citizen of the kingdom of heaven?"
If you're confused about what you should wear, then walk up to another girl and say, "Let me ask you a question. Is this an appropriate outfit for me to wear? What do you think this will do to the guys at the church?" Again, you might say, "We could come in here in space suits and the guys are going to have a problem." Again, that's the problem of the men, but you have to ask yourself very honestly why you are buying the clothes you're buying. Why are you wearing the clothes you're wearing? Why are you wearing that swimsuit you're wearing? Just have peace before the Lord.
Are you willing to be set apart? I want to tell you, girls. One of the things that attracted me to my wife, who is a beautiful lady, is I was never in her presence… Not once did I see Alex Watts dress in an inappropriate way which tried to lure me to her for all of the wrong reasons. I never saw her in a swimsuit. I never saw her unbutton the shirt. I never saw her wear a skirt that was saying, "You can be attracted to me for this reason only." It was attractive to know that girl was secure in who she was.
There were other girls… I'm not kidding you. I'd walk around, and I had to wear a neck brace sometimes my head would snap so hard, just because by nature I'm drawn to look. That doesn't mean I get to look. It just means I have to fight against it. So ask yourself that question. Men, you're not immune, because the first thing women are going to say is "Hey, let me tell you something. When I go to the lake and these guys rip their tee shirts off, it affects me too."
Men, are you willing to keep your shirt on and have a farmer's tan if that really, truly does affect the sisters in your boat? One of the things we have to learn to be able to do is communicate and talk like adults and not just say, "Well, if I can't wear a two-piece, then you can't take your shirt off." If that's what you mean, then fine. I don't know what the right balance is. I don't have a dress code, but the fact is the Lord says his children ought to look different, even in the way we dress.
All I'm asking you is whether you purchase clothes mindful of whose daughter you are. Do you purchase clothes mindful of whose son you are or do you just want to get the tightest jeans you can so they can read the buffalo on the back of your nickel? Something to think about. I think there's an application there for us. As we head into the summer, let's be mindful of one another, and let's be sensitive to the fact that we can make our fellowship easier to focus on the Lord or more difficult to focus on the Lord. Women, in a loving way, talk to women. Men, in a loving way, evaluate men.
Last thing about this. I mentioned something like this about four years ago, and afterward, I had a number of guys come up to me, and the men were ticked off that I said this. The men who were ticked off… Seriously. They were mad, because they said, "Man, you can't tell the women not to wear certain clothes and certain dresses." I said, "Why not?" They said, "Who are you to tell folks that?" I go, "Hear what I said. I didn't tell them what they could or couldn't wear. I just said to think about it."
I'll tell you what. The men were more discouraged, because I think some of the men wanted you to wear that way, and the reason you do wear those clothes is because you do get feedback when you do it, and we apologize for that. I apologize for the men in this church who encourage it, myself among them, by sometimes looking. "Whoa! No, I can't do that."
Let's just be mindful. That's one of the things I think we can get out of Zephaniah. The Lord says, "Don't adorn yourself in foreign garments." Again, let me say this: your outward clothes are only an expression of your inward heart. I don't know what's right. If you're curious, go ask my wife. She knows this stuff.
Look at what else it says in Zephaniah. Verse 9: "And I will punish on that day all who leap on the temple threshold, who fill the house of their lord with violence and deceit." He's making reference to the fact that in that day and age, there were a lot of rich folks who were exploiting the poor. They would send their servants out, literally, and they would exploit the houses of the weak and the poor who were defenseless, who could not get their day in a court of law.
They would, basically, fill up the house of their lord (as in a serf or a master, more than the "lord" being a false god) with stolen items. It's interesting. Israel would, at times, in their nation's history, glory in the fact that they were financially blessed. They would look at the poor, the sick and diseased, with pride and contempt and think, "There's evidence of God's lack of love in their life." There was no middle class. There were the very rich and the very poor.
If they saw, for instance, a leper walking down the street, they'd pick up a stone and throw it at him as a sign of, "God has judged you, and I'm going to judge you too. I'm joining in with what the Lord is doing." In our society today, sometimes we look at the poor and maybe the homeless with contempt, thinking, "Get your act together." I'll tell you something. Most of them need to.
There are more cons walking the street of Dallas than there are truly burdened people, but if you believe that everybody who can't read has chosen to not read or everybody who lives in poverty wants to live in poverty and you say, "If you'd work as hard as I do, then you'd get as far as I got," that's probably a problem. Not every one of us is equipped to minister to the poor, and that is why you need to be wise in the ministry you support. With discernment minister to people.
The fact is there are a ton of cons out there, and sometimes the reason we give $5 to people is because it makes us feel better than it actually ministers to them. So I'm asking you to still use discernment in who you serve. Those guys know where to hang out. They know what time churches let out. They know what kinds of flyers to put on cars. They are pros at it.
What I'm saying is, as an attitude, if we as a people say we have no responsibility for the poor or we will take advantage of those we can take advantage of intellectually or otherwise, physically even, the Lord has a problem with that. It's interesting. In Hindu society, their whole religion is built on stuff that enables them to scoff at the poor. Do you know that when they walk down the streets and see people who hardly have enough money to buy a cricket to feed themselves, they will glory in walking by in all their wealth?
They will glory in walking by the pauper, because they say, "The reason that guy is poor is because of his faith. His kismet, his karma has brought him to this state, and if I intervene to help him and love him, then I am intervening in breaking up his karma, and that's bad karma for me. So, if I'm going to evolve to the next level, I have to not only let them in their poor estate but encourage it." What a self-justifying, godless system.
All I would say to us, as believers, is we ought not to do that. God will say, "To whom much is given, much is expected." That doesn't mean you throw money into the wind so you feel better. It means as a wise steward who is as innocent as a dove but as wise as a serpent, you're careful for the many ways the Lord has blessed you.
Verse 10: "'And on that day,' declares the Lord** , 'there will be the sound of a cry from the Fish Gate…'" Which is in the north."…a wail from the Second Quarter…" What he's saying here is he's building up, "Judgment is coming," and he's going through the city."…and a loud crash from the hills."** Probably the three hills, Mount Moriah and Zion and others, that are inside the city gates. He's saying, "Judgment is going to come from everywhere when it comes, and everybody is going to be crying."
"Wail, O inhabitants of the Mortar…" Or the market district. It's interesting that many people believe the area referenced here in Zephaniah is the area that ran alongside a certain wall of the temple, a certain wall of the temple which still stands today. Guess what that side of the temple wall that's still standing is called: the Wailing Wall.
He's going to say, "When my judgment comes, you're going to wail, because things aren't going to be like they should be." Today, thousands of Orthodox Jews go to that wall and pray, "O God, restore the temple. Restore us as a people. Restore us as a nation," not knowing that their Savior, their Messiah, is available to them by simply hitting their knees, by simply turning to him in their hearts. But he says, "You will wail."
"…for all the people of Canaan will be silenced; all who weigh out silver [do improper business deals] will be cut off. And it will come about at that time that I will search Jerusalem with lamps…" There's going to be nowhere to hide when God comes for judgment. In fact, what he says here is "You might as well deal with your sin, because I'm going to find you out. I'll search you with a lamp. I'll get in every nook and cranny, every closet of your heart. I will know what's going on there."
Men, if you're struggling with pornography on the Internet, God says, "Deal with it. It will make you useless to me." You don't have to walk into a 7-Eleven anymore. You don't have to go down here to Northwest Highway to an adult bookstore. You can just in the quietness of your home click on that wrong website and have at it. There are a ton of men in this body who are enslaved by that. He's saying, "Deal with these issues, because I want you to be a holy people, set apart, not playing games with me, but truly investigating your heart and asking me to do a work in it."
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the guy who wrote the Sherlock Holmes books, was known as a practical joker, and he wrote out a telegram to a bunch of his friends at one point. The telegram said, "All has been found. Flee to the country." Twelve of his friends ran from the British Empire. Took off. Gone. It was a joke, but they had stuff in their lives they were hiding. The truth is if some of us got a telegram today that said, "All has been discovered; flee," we'd go, "Man, I'm out of here. It's going to hit the Dallas Morning News tomorrow. I'm gone."
The Lord is saying, "Listen. All has been discovered. There is no hiding. Flee, or better yet, repent. Let me deal with you." It says in Proverbs 28:13, "He who confesses his sin will find compassion, but he who conceals it is going to get a size 12, because I love you." Look at what it says in the second part of that verse. "…who are stagnant in spirit…" The NIV says, "You who are wine left on the dregs," or the margin will say, "You who are a thickening on the lees."
It's another way of saying simply, "You individuals who are stagnant." When you make wine, the dregs are the pulp or the effects of fermentation. If you let any kind of liquor as it ferments sit on its dregs, sit on the rudimentary elements of what's left as you're letting it ferment from the fruit, it will harden. It will thicken. It will become syrupy. It will become bitter and tasteless. It will become unpalatable. You can't eat it.
If you don't deal with the scum that's forming in your life… In fact, when you make wine, you have to pour it from one vessel to another lest it thicken on its lees or thicken on its dregs. The dregs are the worthless part of any remaining thing, is one definition of it. What God says is you, as a people, have become complacent with some of that sickening stuff, which is going to embitter the fruit. It's going to make your life tasteless. It's going to make it syrupy. It's going to make it not as sweet and refreshing as it should be.
Amos 6:1 says, "Woe to you who are at ease in Zion." God wants us not to be neurotic, not to be so introspective we're insecure, but he wants us to truly deal with the issues in our lives, and not just in our lives but what's going on in our culture. It's not enough for us to get a righteous life; he wants us to be involved in our world. He wants us to say, "Listen. That's wrong." We have to speak out in loving, gentle ways against it and be willing to talk about it.
For instance, if we truly are dressing inappropriately… Listen. You don't have to wonder if I'm trying to send a message to you tonight, because the Lord says if there's a guy in this room there's a problem with about the way he's dressing, I owe it to him to come to him, not try to hide behind a pulpit. Same thing with a woman, that I would be wise enough to send my wife or send a woman there and say in a loving way, "Let's talk to her about that."
In effect, what he's saying here is silence in the face of sin is a sin. "Woe to you who are complacent in Zion. Woe to you who are thickening on the dregs. Woe to you who are hardening in your consciences, who are having a seared conscience." A number of months ago, a group of couples my wife and I spend some time with did a Bible study, and we took a little test in this little Bible study about your conscience. It was to see if you had a hardened conscience or to see what kind of conscience you had.
It's true. In our Bible study, there were two people who came out with, by definition, a hardened conscience. One was one of my best friends and the other was my wife. By the scale, as you go down it, she was just barely under that, kind of had a seared or hardened conscience. The funny thing is, as we went around the room and shared our answers, I had to tell everybody I knew what they were asking, and I lied about my answers so I wouldn't have a seared conscience. Now what does that tell you? I have a seared conscience about having a seared conscience.
What he says is, "Deal with it, and get off the dregs." Now very quickly, let's finish this. "…who say in their hearts, 'The Lord will not do good or evil!'" Basically, "God is dead. He's not coming. He's impotent. He's not powerful. He's ignorant of my sin." What he's saying is, "I'm not ignorant of your sin. I am patient, but I am not permissive. There will be a time that eventually, if the only way to get your attention is to deliver my foot to your hind end, I will do it, but I don't want to do it."
Some of you all, meaning the people he's addressing here and maybe us… We have grown callous toward the Lord because of our affluence. Because of our ability to provide for ourselves, we've become indifferent. He says in verse 13, basically, "Your wealth will become plunder. You trust in your money, it's gone. Your houses are desolate. You trust in your mansions, they're gone. You plant vineyards. You trust in your merriment, it'll be gone."
God will remove the things in our lives we're using to make us indifferent to him. That's a severe problem. Look at what it says in verse 14. You do not want this. "Near is the great day of the Lord…" **"Wake up," he's saying. "Here comes the discipline.""…near and coming very quickly…" I just drove down I-35 and went right through Jarrell, Texas. They had a 5- or 10-minute warning."…near and coming very quickly…"**
The Bible talks about the judgment of God on the day that it comes. It says what precedes him are floods and whirlwinds and tornadoes. That isn't even the judgment of the Lord. Did you see the pictures of that town? Those of you who have a hard problem believing that when God wants to judge he can judge…
Every now and then, in his grace, he gives us a preview of what will happen when he judges the world. It says the asphalt was ripped off the streets. That's amazing. The asphalt was literally peeled back from the highway that man has paved, to say nothing of the houses and their foundations. Look at verse 15.
"A day of wrath is that day, a day of…distress, a day of destruction and desolation, a day of darkness…a day of…thick darkness, a day of trumpet and battle cry, against the fortified cities and the high corner towers. And I will bring distress on men, so that they will walk like the blind…"
Deuteronomy 28 is one of those areas where God says to the nation of Israel, "If you walk in righteousness with me, I will bring about great blessing to you," but he says, "If you don't, one of the things that's going to happen is you'll be like blind men, stumbling across the city." If you want to, just go back on your own. Read Deuteronomy 28:1 and then verses 15 and following.
"…because they have sinned against the Lord; and their blood will be poured out like dust, and their flesh like dung.""Your blood is going to be everywhere," he says, "as much as the dust is, and your body parts will be so affluent in terms of their destruction they'll be stacked up like dung in the city." When you hear that you just go, "Oh man!"
Let me remind you that God doesn't do this because he gets a thrill. This is a loving God who is delivering a severe mercy to get your attention. If this is the only way he can get the attention of the people of Israel that he determines to do a great thing through (and I believe he will), he'll put them through thousands of years of discipline to teach them that their answer is not in themselves.
Gang, don't think for a moment that God won't put us through the same discipline. He wants us to be used by him. Do you know that 75 percent of Americans believe Christ will return and 85 percent of Americans believe God will one day judge everybody? Let's just take some real inventory about how we're doing as a body. Are we truly living for Christ? Are we passionate about preparing for him?
He says in verse 18, "Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to deliver them on the day of the Lord's wrath…"Again, think about this tornado. Think about Hugo that wiped out southern Florida. You didn't see us moving down there with our National Guard. You didn't see us pointing missiles out there into the Atlantic Ocean. No. There is nothing we can do or buy or negotiate or no power we have, when God wants to come and deliver judgment, that will be able to prevent that judgment from falling.
So, what is he saying all this for? He's saying all this before he goes even deeper into judgment in chapter 2, and we end with these three verses. He says, "Gather yourselves together, yes, gather, O nation without shame…" I don't believe that sin today is more rampant than it has ever been. I really don't. I think sin has always been among us, but I do believe one of the things that's happening in America today, as we move farther and farther toward judgment, what's happening more and more even in the church in America today, as we move farther and farther toward judgment…
Sin has always been in the church. Sin has always been in this country, but we're becoming more shameless with it. I was laughing with Linda before I came up here. We walked up there, and she was putting on some lipstick. I just laughed. I said, "What are you doing putting on that Devil's stuff?" Just laughing. I couldn't have been more in jest, but she said, "You know what? When I was in church as a girl… I grew up, and every time I put this on, I still feel guilty."
We talked about that a little bit, and we talked about how there are extremes which aren't healthy, but you know what? We've probably given ourselves license in other areas we probably shouldn't be giving ourselves license in. It's not enough anymore just to sin. You look at the world we're in in America today. Sin has always been. There has always been abuse. There has always been child molestation.
There has always been homosexuality, but it's not enough to be a homosexual today. You have to parade down the streets of New York chained to your homosexual lover and say, "You have to accept this. You have to like it. You have to call it legally okay." We are a nation without shame. Divorce has always happened. Infidelity has always been here, but today, we're as surprised when somebody stays married as when we hear they have a divorce.
Do you know what the fact is? All too often, it's the same in the church. God says, "Judgment is about to fall when people call evil good and good evil." When you speak out against righteousness… See, in our country today, when you come out, oh, you're courageous, you're broad-minded, but when you speak out for morality, they say you are intolerant and bigoted and self-righteous. A nation without shame. He says:
" [Repent] before the decree takes effect—the day passes like the chaff—before the burning anger of the Lord comes upon you, before the day of the Lord's anger comes upon you. Seek the Lord, all you humble of the earth who have carried out His ordinances; seek righteousness, seek humility. Perhaps you will be hidden in the day of the Lord's anger."
Gang, is there application in Zephaniah for us? I believe there is, not the least of which is that God wants us to be useful to him. Think about it. God had Ephesus, this great church that was in the middle of a metropolitan city, as one of the key churches in the early church age, and he wrote them a letter in Revelation 3 and said, "I wish you were either hot or cold, but because you're lukewarm I'm going to spit you out of my mouth, because you're just sitting on the dregs, because you're complacent, because you kind of go, 'We're so much better than the world.'"
He says, "Don't compare yourself to the world; compare yourself to me, to the righteousness I've called you to be, set apart. Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, not so I can love you, because I already love you. I died for your sin, so there's no sin you can do which is going to make me turn away from you, but I will not use an unholy people. So repent. Seek the Lord. Seek righteousness. Seek humility."
Gang, please hear me. If you know Christ in here today, and I know I do… There is no room for pride in my life. I don't look at that homosexual chained to his buddy marching down the streets of New York and go, "You idiot." I look at you, and I really mean it when I say, "There but by the grace of God go I." God has plucked me out of probably the path I would have loved to have chosen. For me it wouldn't have been homosexuality; it would have been some perversion in some other area, but I have them.
If God didn't do a work in my hard heart… As Greg read at the very beginning of this sermon, we would have been hated people who hated others. That's me, but by the grace of God he has taken the scales off my eyes, and I am not prideful. Look today at the things in our country we're prideful of. Our race… What do you have to do with what race you are? Not a thing. Of your place…where you live, what your zip code is…of your face because you're beautiful. As J. Vernon McGee says, some people are prideful not just of their race, their place, their face, but of grace. He says, "Seek the Lord. Seek righteousness, and seek it in humility."
I want to tell you, as I get ready to take that wine and take that bread and break it, there is not a prideful drop of blood in my body that believes the reason the Lord is going to love me is because I know his Word, because I've memorized his Word, because I've shared Christ with his people. I am saved as a sinner who has clung to the cross of Jesus Christ alone, and by his incredible mercy I'm going to miss his size 12, which will send people into a wrath of judgment I can't even imagine.
By the grace of God, I try to walk in righteousness today so I don't have to get a size 12 on my rear as I live in faithful service for him today. Will you join me in celebrating the grace and the goodness of the Lord? Let me close by saying a couple of things to tie this together. Whatever you heard tonight, you need to know I'm not asking you to hide from this God. I'm asking you to draw near to this God. That's the point.
He's just telling you, "There will be a day when I'm going to display that I'm not impotent, that I'm not indifferent, that I'm not ignorant of your sin, that I'm not infinitely patient toward your sin, that judgment will fall." That's a loving thing. It would be an awful thing if God would let us live in the midst of sin for eternity. There's a way when he will rid this world of it. We are people that God has radically dealt with our sin, and he did it through the shed blood and the split body of his Son. In that alone do we glory.
I don't want us to leave here tonight in insecurity, wondering, "Oh my gosh! Does he think I dress wrong? Does he think I do this?" That would not accomplish what the Spirit would have us accomplish. That we would, though, leave here with a mindset committed to living in appropriate response to this Table, that we would walk away from here saying, "Whatever I do, whether in word or in action, in deed or in thought, I would do it to the glory of the Lord."
That's all I'm asking you to consider tonight, that everything we would do would be a response to this Table, that we would have the confidence that if there was a problem amongst us we would speak the truth to one another in love. I'm also saying this is not a place where people shouldn't come in… If somebody comes in here in a Speedo next week, I won't have a problem with it. Or a halter top. I don't care. You plug in whatever is going to work for you.
But if there's somebody who says, "Hey, I'm one of you. I think like you think. I love the same God you love," then I owe it to them to sit down and talk about it, but I don't expect the world to think like me. Too many times, the church has been guilty of saying, "We don't care what you believe; just look and act like us," and we're losing the world. The only reason I am changing the way I dress is because the Lord has changed my heart.
That is the call he has to us tonight. "I want to use you people to change the campers in Dallas, Texas, who I send amongst you. Will you let me?" I do believe Jesus is the answer to the world today. I want to stand, and let's close by singing that. If you're a parent and you have loved ones over there in the nursery, please go rescue those nursery workers, and my apologies to them.
Let's stand and declare that Jesus is the answer and that we don't need to hide ourselves from him, but we can expose the dark sin of our lives and repent from it and know that we find in him not judgment but grace. That's good news. Make this your benediction, and make this your calling to go out and declare that, indeed, Jesus is the answer.
From one of the least-read books of the Bible's twelve minor prophets comes a message that could not be more relevant for us today. Pronouncing "the day of the Lord", Zephaniah warns of inescapable judgments against Jerusalem because of its sins. He declares that God is gracious and compassionate, but that when all His warnings are ignored, judgment can be expected.In these four messages Todd Wagner relates the warnings and blessings of this ancient book, highlighting the unmistakable application today both for Christ-followers and those far from God. We are reminded that while those who are faithful to God may be relatively few, He is faithful to remember His own and that in His justice He is still merciful.