This week, Todd kicked off a new sermon series on the book of Acts. Acts is a book that showcases the living God actively working through His Church to proclaim His gospel message to the world. Before the Church could embark upon this mission, Jesus needed to “explain to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself,” (Luke 24:27). Todd does this very same thing for us in today’s sermon.
Stephen…a Faithful Mailman Who Saw Jesus
How to Destroy a Shadow: Stephen’s Masterful Defense of Jesus Finished Work
Hellenistic Lives Matter (And So Does the Ministry of the Word)
The Gospel is NOT a Fad
Beauty and the But
Where Does That Come From?
Living Bolder as We Grow Older
What Makes a Man Fit for Judgment, Ministry and a Ready Response - Acts 4:7-23
The Beginning of Persecution and the Proper Reason for It. - Acts 4:1-12
The First and Enduring Attributes of Christ’s Church
The First Savior Exalting Sermon of the Church
The Gift of Tongues Part 2
Baptism of the Spirit, Tongues of Fire and the Beginning of the Church
From Judas to Matthias: How to Choose Leaders and Find Hope in Failed Ones
The King’s Orders for the King’s New Men
The Story Before the Beginning of the Story: Genesis - Acts 1
Good morning, Fort Worth, Plano, and Dallas. How are y'all doing? He is risen! Because he's a risen Lord we serve, he is still at work. He is still acting. God is not dead. He is real, he is good and loving, and he is sovereign and powerful. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you weren't here last weekend. We wish you were, but we're glad you're here this weekend.
For weeks to come, we're going to start looking at more evidence God is real, loving, and sovereign, and that you matter. Because you're not dead, but you have been called out of your trespasses and sins and have been brought to life, you are to be acting. I'm going to show you who you are.
We're going to study the book of Acts. It is probably most properly called the Acts, not of the apostles, but of the Spirit of God. The Gospels talk about what God did when he was on earth. About 30 years are covered in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and about 30 years are covered in the book of Acts.
You saw what God the Son did when he was on earth, and now you're going to see what God the Son was up to while he's seated at the right hand of God from heaven through the Spirit, which he said he would send to his people. That's the same Spirit that allowed him to be faithful to the Father when he was here on earth.
He told his disciples, "I'm not going to leave you as orphans. The things I did… Even greater works than these will you do. If you just ask me, I will do it through you, and it will be amazing. There will be a sense of awe, and it will start right here in Jerusalem. It will go to Judea, Samaria, and then the uttermost parts of the earth.
Probably, 2,000 years later, there'll be a bunch of folks gathered in Dallas, Plano, and Forth Worth, and all over the world, who are still going to still be a light in the midst of darkness. They're going to be sons of God, servants of the true King, proclaiming his excellencies and calling other people out of darkness into his light.
They won't need to make provision for the sins of the world, because that's what the Son of God alone can do, but they will have been redeemed from being slaves to their fleshly lusts and the brokenness that is in the world, and they will be a proclamation that Jesus is who he said he would be. It's going to be something to watch."
I'm going to teach you the book of Acts. Are you ready? Turn to Genesis. Here we go. I'm serious. Open your Bible at Genesis 1. I'm not going to start in Acts without telling you how we got there. I'm going to let you know who we are. If you have ever wondered what this book, the Book, is, it is a book that is one story. It is his-story. It is God, who is real, his story, his explanation, and his revelation.
We are not a bunch of men who are speculating. We are not philosophizing. We are not lovers of wisdom who put our finger up and go, "What is the spirit of the age? What do we think is true?" God, who loves us, has told us what is true. He has told us who he is, why we're here, why the earth is in the condition it's in, why this is not a great place to be right now, what God has done about it, what he's going to do about it, and what it's going to look like at the end.
It is the Bible, the Biblos, the Book. People ask me, "Todd, what's your favorite book of the Bible to read?" That is really asking a question poorly. There are not separate books of the Bible. There is one Book, and there are different chapters in the Bible. We call them books, and one of them is Acts.
You have to understand why the apostles are called apostles, who they were, what they were supposed to do, what they started, where you fit into a relationship with them, and why this book shows up where it does. If you've always been curious about the Book and what it is, and if you've never been in church before or haven't been in church long, some of you think this is a book God drops on you and goes, "Get busy. Be good long enough and well enough that I might let you in."
You've never read the Book. It has nothing to do with us performing for God long enough and well enough so he would let us in. It has everything to do with a good, loving God who created us and wanted to bless us and declare his goodness and glory through us. He's declaring, specifically to the angelic realm, that he is good, loving, sovereign, and powerful and there is no life apart from him. You are an illustration to the angels. That's who you are.
You're like, "You're telling me, Todd, that God's throwing a chess game down here, and he's let some angelic being deceive us, and that's why we're killing each other and there's death, disease, and chaos?" Yes. You, my friends, have been created by God, and you are a pawn God is moving through human history to show his glory to the angels.
God is good, and he's going to reward you for that. This Book says though for a little while you were lower than the angels, you will be exalted above them. Figure that. There's only one way that's going to happen, and that is if you pay attention to the Book. I'm going to explain to you the Bible.
I'm not going to tell you stuff like this, which I could. I start in Genesis 1. If I really wanted to teach you something, I'd go back to the table of contents, and I would tell you, basically, there are 66 books in your Bible. There are 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. "How do you remember that, Todd?" Easy.
God gave us the English words Old Testament. Old has three letters: 1-2-3, O-L-D. Testament has nine letters. Just count the letters in Old Testament, and you know how many books are in your Old Testament. There are 27 books in the New Testament. "How do you know that?" You have New with three letters and Testament with nine, but the New Testament is about multiplication, so 3x9=27.
How can you remember how many books are in the Bible? There are 66. You can't add, and that's one of the hard ones. That 7+9 always screwed you up in second grade math. It's a hard one to add. How would you get 39+27=66? The way I always remember it is a guy named J.B. Phillips wrote a translation in the 60s, but he only wrote the New Testament. He basically did a paraphrase of the New Testament, not unlike The Message today. He only did the New Testament because his name was Phillips, and he didn't want his Bible to be known as "Phillips 66."
I'm going to tell you that and move on. I wouldn't tell you the 39 books in the Old Testament are broken up this way. It's not one chronological story. Chronology ends 17 books in, from Genesis through Esther. Those are the historical books. The next 5, 18-22, are poetical books. Every one of those next 5 books fits somewhere back in the first 17.
All your history in the Old Testament, from, "In the beginning…" to, "I'm going to send the prophet Elijah to you and turn the hearts of fathers back to their children, and they're going to do what I want them to do…" All those 17 books are from the creation of the earth to about 440 BC. The next poetical books tell something in the story in those first 17.
Then there are 17 more. There are 17 historical, 5 poetical, and 17 prophetical books. Those 17 prophetical books, from Isaiah all the way to Malachi, also fit somewhere back in the first 17. Prophets are people who are there to remind the people God wanted to work in and through that they should do what God wants them to do, or it won't go well with them.
You have to understand where that second group of 17, the prophets Isaiah to Malachi, fit back there in those historical periods. You understand your Bible more when you're trying to figure out not how to read it straight through, but where those books fit. Then there's about 450 years of silence, and then God speaks again.
Let me give it to you this way. There's creation, then there's the fall, and then God gets busy offering rescue. In that rescue there is an anticipation. The Old Testament is anticipating how God is going to rescue. When you get to the New Testament, you have the manifestation. You have God saying, "This man is the one. I'm going to show you who I am through him."
Then you have the people who are to proclaim who God showed. That's the book of Acts. Proclamation is the job of the church. The you have, from Romans through Jude, an explanation of the way the church should operate and live and who they should be. Then you get to the book of Revelation, and you have the culmination of history and the coronation of God as King.
Every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that people who were people of the Book, who understood the truth, had it right. One day, everybody is going to say to you, "You were brilliant." We're not brilliant. We're people whom the grace of God has spiritually appraised and inclined our hearts to understand who he is, and we have a serious job. I'm going to show you what happens when people don't do their jobs.
I have some great news. God is good. He is loving, kind, slow to anger, compassionate, gracious, and willing to forgive sins and iniquities, but by no means will he let the guilty go unpunished. When God raises up a group of people and says, "I'm going to save you, and I want to use you," and those people go, "I don't really think we care we've been saved. We don't think we need to be saved. We don't think you're the Savior, and even if you are, we don't think we need to do what you ask us to do," that is not a people God takes kindly to.
What you're going to see, what's showing up right now in the book of Acts, is God watched the way the game was unfolding. He was coaching, blessing, and scholarshiping people. He was giving them an opportunity to represent, and they didn't do it well, and he just says, "Wagner, Gentiles, put your shoes on. Get over there and check in." I sub in, and out comes the nation of Israel. He says, "Sit down." That's not a pleasant time for Israel.
This thing called the church begins. The church isn't just Gentiles like me. It is made up of barbarian and Cynthian, slave and free, Jew and Greek. There are some Jewish people in the church. They're called Messianic Jews, or Completed Jews, but it is not the nation, as God intended.
There's going to be a day when he's done with the church. He's done with the church in a lot of places today. He's saying, "Dadgum apostate church… Get them out of there." He's going to get them out of there through judgment and destruction. He will deliver the true church from judgment and destruction.
You go, "Todd, how do we know which one we are?" He says, "Ultimately, I will show you myself. Don't try to figure it out. You can judge a tree by its fruits. A good tree can't produce bad fruit, and a bad tree won't produce good fruit. Watch them. This is what they should look like. This is what they should do. They should be a holy people and busy with what God wants them to do. They don't just gather."
I'm going to show you something this morning. I really am going to start in Genesis 1:1 in just a second, but I'm telling you the whole story once, and you're going to see where you fit. We have to move. We're going to cover the Bible today. I'm going to start with what the church shouldn't be. You know where Genesis 1:1 is, so we're not going to lose it. I'm going to read to you the first 11 verses in Acts, and then we're going to go right back to it.
Are y'all ready to learn your Bibles? You already know if you want your Old Testament all you have to do is those first 17 historical books, and then you have to figure out what those other 22 books (chapters) have to say about those first 17. Then you have what God is doing in those last 27, and then it's history.
Let's read Acts 1:1-11. Come on. Here we go. God is real, he's alive, he's at work, and he's telling you about history. Luke is the only non-Jewish person who wrote a chapter (we call them books) in your Bible. He wrote the gospel of Luke, and he is picking up right here. This is a continuation of Luke 24:53. Here he goes.
"In the first account I composed, the book of Luke, Theophilus…" Theophilus means lover of God or friend of God. There's a big debate, but who cares. I don't know. Lots of guys were called Theophilus. You ought to be. That ought to be your nickname: friend of God, lover of God. Philadelphia is the City of Brotherly Love, and Theophilus means brotherly lovers of God. Maybe he was writing to his friend called Theophilus, but I think he's writing it to all of us, or both.
Here we go. "In Luke, the last book that covered those 30 years… Go read it. I recommend it to you. I'm telling you about all Jesus began to do and teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, the ascension…" You'll see it mentioned here again. "…after he had, by the Holy Spirit, given orders to the apostles, whom he had chosen."
I'm going to tell you next week the word apostle means sent forth. They were specific men, uniquely chosen by God and sent forth by the one who was the manifest presence of God, Jesus, who saw all he did, knew he was God, saw him die, saw his resurrection, and hung out with him for 40 days after that resurrection.
He said, "Wait here until I send you the Spirit, which was 10 days after that ascension, and then you're going to get busy right here in Jerusalem. You're going to hang out in Jerusalem for seven chapters in the book of Acts, and then I'm going to have this thing start to spread through persecution.
We're going to go to Samaria in verse 8, and in verse 9 and through the end of the book, we're going to go into the outer parts of the world. In 2,000 years, some guy in a purple shirt is going to talk to royalty, because they're children of the King, about what you guys have started." Come on. Watch this.
"To these [apostles] He presented Himself alive after His suffering with many [convincing] proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God." We have a question: If Jesus is the coming King, and he's rejected by the people he was the King of, the Jews, what's going to happen to the kingdom? So he explained that to them for 40 days, and you're going to learn more about it yourself.
"Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, 'Which,' He said, 'you heard of from Me…'" He talked a lot about it in the upper room the night before he was betrayed. "'…for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.' So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, 'Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?'""Are you going to get it done? Is now when you're going to go?"
"He said to them, 'It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but…" Remember this. "…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.""You will be able to do what I ask you to do, because I'm going to give you the means to do it. If you ask me, I will do it." He outlines the entire book right there. Verse 9:
"And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.'"
Right here, after the Mount of Olives, he went up, and right here, he will return. This is what the early church did. They weren't really the church yet because the Spirit, the Promise, hadn't come. But a bunch of men who aren't filled with the Spirit, this is what they always do.
For a lot of people, that's what church is. Every now and then, someone wakes them up and goes, "Sing this hymn, show up at this hour, and give 10 percent," but they walk out of church, and they're just sitting around on Monday. Is that like the church you grew up in? Isn't that the church? I've been around a lot of people who die. Do you know what people who are almost dead do? Nothing. That's what a non-Spirit-filled church always does.
God is alive. He acts. I get so sick of people saying, "Watermark is a do church. You guys do, do, do. I want to go to a be church, where I can just be with Jesus." If you be with Jesus, you act. You are not diluted, almost dead, dying, or stuck. My kids and I get on I-75 all the time. We're driving north on it, and they go, "What in the world? Why is there all this traffic?" We find out the reason there's all this traffic is there's something on the other side of the highway folks are looking at.
That's called a gaper block. A bunch of folks, instead of driving and doing what they're supposed to do, are slowing down to see what happened. It's a gaper block, and it's what the church is doing today. There is a congestion, a lack of activity, faithfulness, and fruitfulness, because people are standing around wondering what God is going to do. What God wants to do is work through you.
That's what he has said. He's said, "Let's go, boys. You're going to do even greater things than I did. These things you will do if you believe me. If you ask me, I will do it through you. You are going to know me, and because you know me, you're going to make me known." Do you remember when I told you what this little phase in history is called? It's called proclamation. I'm going to show you what happens when you don't proclaim as God wants you to in Genesis 1:1. Watch this.
Genesis 1:1 says, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." That's true, but Genesis 1:1 is not the beginning of your Bible. If you were here when I taught through the gospel of John you know when you start the gospel of John in John 1:1, it says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God."
Who is this he? We find out a little bit later, heis the Word which became flesh and dwelt among us. During the explanation period in Colossians 1, we found out who this he is. He was with God in the beginning, and he was God, but he wasn't the Father. God is one in essence but three in person. He represents himself specifically through the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They are all eternally God and equally God, all existing at the same time and operating in different ways for God's glory.
If you don't understand the Trinity, we've taught on it. It's a series called the Big XII. It's about 12 essential truths of the faith, and there's one on the Trinity. Go check it out. There's a Real Truth. Real Quick. on it. Go check it out. We'll explain it to you. It is not nonsensical at all. If you said there was one person who was three persons, that would be nonsensical, but you have one God who is and has always been three persons.
This is what we say about who he is, this Jesus, the one who was there with God before, "In the beginning…" Before human history and God's interaction with it, you were created by God for the purpose of displaying his glory, because there had been treachery in heaven. There had been one of the angels who said, "Do you know what? God might be glorious and good, but I think I could do better."
He got a third of the angels to follow him, and God cast them into an outer darkness. The angels go, "Well, that settles that. God is sovereign and powerful, but I wonder if he's just a bully. I wonder if Lucifer and others really could have done it better than he did." God says, "We're going to show you something. I'm going to let him be prince and king of that world. I'm going to set it up perfectly."
He goes into that chaos, if you will, and he makes it beautiful. He creates a perfect environment, because he's going to put something there he perfectly loves, something made in his image the angels have never seen: human beings. He says, "You walk with me down there, and you'll do just fine and see my goodness, but if you listen to that deceiver, that liar, who says to worship him and that he can do better for you than I can, it's going to spin out of control." That's exactly what happens.
I digress. Genesis 1 is not the beginning; John 1 is. John 1 is talking about who this one with him is. I'm going to introduce him to you again right now. He's the one with whom the church was in a gaper block, when it wasn't doing what the church should do. They were wondering when he was coming back when he had just told them, "I'm not coming back for a while. You go be busy. Wait for the Spirit and pray, and I'll come. In a relationship with me, I'll give you the power to do what I want you to do, but you do it."
In Colossians 1:15, this one is the image of the invisible God. It is the firstborn of all creation. It says right here in Colossians 1:16,
"For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything."
That is Jesus. He is the star of this book. He is our risen Lord, and he is real. He is anchored in history, and God is showing you what's going on right here. He's telling you why you're here. He's telling you why there's trouble, death, chaos, and pain, and he's telling you what you should do in the midst of it.
Back in Genesis 1, he created the heavens and the earth. The next few verses talk about some of the chaos that's around and how things were. Then we get to a place where God starts to create. In the midst of that chaos he separates the outer space region, if you will, from this little thing here called the earth. Then he separates this little thing called the earth from its atmosphere. Then he makes the dry land and separates the land from the sea.
He makes the plants, then he makes the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, and then he makes animals that walk on the earth. Then he creates man, and this is what he says to man in Genesis 1:26-28. By the way, right now, did God create the Jew? No. God created the world. God loves the world. The Jew doesn't even show up for 12 chapters. Your Bible is distinctly non-Jewish for 12 chapters, because this is a world Bible.
You're going to see what role the Jews have, and you're going to see what happens when they don't do what they're supposed to do. You had better clue in, because we have been subbed in where they were subbed out for a season, on purpose. These last several millennia haven't gone too well for the Jews, and it won't go well with people today who scoff at what God wants them to do. Take note. Here's what he says he wants people to do.
"Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.' God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them…"
God gave them the very first cultural mandate. When you go, "What are we supposed to do?" you don't go to Matthew 28:19-20: "Go, and make disciples." That is the second commission given to people. The first cultural commission is in Genesis 1. You are to be actively involved in your land. You are to fill the earth and subdue it. You are to rule well.
How can I rule well? I should rule well if I rule the way my ruler rules me, with graciousness, kindness, selflessness, and others-centeredness. Christians are never supposed to be people who are so heavenly-minded they're no earthly good. Heavenly-minded people have always been a blessing to the earth.
One of the ways you're a blessing to the earth is by involving yourself in how the earth is governed. In this country, you have been given an office called citizen. You delegate your authority to somebody. How you vote matters. See the Real Truth. Real Quick.Scotty mentioned, How Should a Christian Vote If They Don't Agree With Either Candidate?, if you feel like there's nobody you can vote for, who you can delegate your authority to, who will govern well. Here's a clue: it doesn't mean you don't vote.
So, you go. You have a cultural mandate. You be faithful, get it done, and go. We're going to be busy. Fast forward. Men rebel. They think there's something better than God telling them what is good, and if they knew good themselves, they would like it. The Enemy came up to them and said, "Things are going pretty well around here, but do you know what? God doesn't have your best interests in mind. He's telling you what's good all the time.
How about you just thought for yourself? Do you know why God doesn't want you to think about what's good for yourself all the time? He wants you to always need him. You don't need him. How about being king? How about doing what you want to? How about you knowing what's right and wrong? How about you just follow you? I'll give you the chance to follow me over here, so you can do what you want to do and eat of this tree of good and evil."
God said, "I don't want you to do that. Have faith I am good." God is always a God of relationship. He doesn't force anything. That tree of good and evil represented our faith and the character, nature, and goodness of God. The Enemy always says the same thing: "God is not good, his Word is not true, and disobeying him is not that big a deal," even though that scallywag has now been put in a beautiful place and brought out of his own curse, only so he can display the glory of God. We bought the lie, and all hell broke loose.
But you're going to see right away what God does. He doesn't smack man down or destroy him. That's what he did to the Enemy, Satan, when he rebelled. What he's going to do with us is something the angels are going to look at in disbelief. He's going to rescue sinners. You're going to find another one who said he was better than God. He's a liar, and the world he is prince of is filled with deceit, death, destruction, selfishness, sin, poverty, and hunger, and he loves it.
God is going to say, "That's the world you get when you follow him, but I'm going to rescue some of you out of it. I told you you'd die the day you did it, so I have to take care of that." He does that, first of all, by having an innocent animal shed his blood. Life is in the blood, so blood must be spilled.
God has this animal that had never done anything wrong, probably a lamb, sacrificed. With that, he covers the sins of humanity. It is a foretelling, and we anticipate the ultimate Lamb of God who will finally take away the sins of the world, because some 12-week-old lamb cannot appease an eternal God. We have to find an eternal lamb.
In Genesis 3-7 it gets worse. Finally, there's one who is righteous. In Genesis 7:1, the Lord said to Noah, "Build an ark, a means of rescue, an instrument of wood I will lift up and put the righteous one on it. You will call people to come and trust in the provision of God, to come to this instrument of wood that is lifted up from the earth, that they might escape judgment."
Does that sound familiar? Is there any anticipation there? "You and your household, for you alone I see to be righteous before me in this earth, you'll find out there's a day when judgment comes." He says, "Noah, get in the ark. Call the critters to come. There's going to be a day when I shut the door." It was seven days after Noah got on that ark before God shut the door. We don't know the times and epochs before God shuts the door of grace that is available now through the church, but mark my words: The door will be shut.
"Your job, Noah, prince of peace…" That's what his name means, rest. You people who have come to God and found rest should be like Noah, herald of righteousness, who called the critters to come to the ark of wood that has been lifted up over the judgment on the earth. They come and join you in your heralding until God shuts the door.
In Genesis 9, the ark beaches, if you will, and God blessed Noah. There's another man who's told the same thing. "Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth." Does that sound familiar? "Let's do this again, Noah." He puts government there in 9:6. "Because there was treachery before, I'm going to now let you execute evil men."
Genesis 9:6 says, "Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God he made man." We're not going to have this murder, chaos, and craziness, like Cain, Lamech, and others. Now we're going to have judgment and a minister of God for good, described in 1 Peter 2:13. The purpose of government is to prosecute evil and protect those who do right. You see the foundations of government right there in Genesis 9:6.
We are still in a non-Jewish Bible, people. Are you ready? Are you learning anything? In Genesis 9, Noah has three boys, Shem, Japheth, and Canaan. Canaan is a dog. He's not good. He is one who will, therefore, submit in judgment to God, and he will serve Shem. Shem means name. Yahweh, or, I Am Who I Am, is the Lord's proper name. A Jew would never say that because it's too holy. Shem is what they call him, because in Hebrew, Shem means the Name.
The Lord, whose name is I Am Who I Am, of Shem, the Name. He's the Lord of the Name. All the nations are going to be blessed through him, so Shem is the descendent who comes from Noah from whom you eventually get the Shemite people, Seminites. The most Semitic people on earth are Jews.
You see this start to happen. Chaos spins out of that little family because man is not innately good. You see the earth come together. Shem, Japheth, and Canaan all get together and have descendants, and they decide to not do what God told them to do, which was to fill the earth. They said, "We're going to build us a city. We're going to make a name for ourselves. We're not going to be worried about his name."
They come together and try to work their way to God by building a tower. God says, "Nope. We're not going to have that." He creates nations at that point in Genesis 11. He disperses them, and there is now babble out there. They can't speak with each other anymore. That is how they're dispersed. It's a form of judgment, and a judgment is over all the earth.
Remember, God is good, so he's going to do what he said he was going to do in Genesis 9, which is to bring blessing through Shem. He just chose him. It's just because he's good. No one is going to listen, so he's going to separate one out and tune his heart to hear his grace. When things go well with the Shemites, other brothers are supposed to come back and go, "How come you guys don't kill each other? How come you're not always at war? How come there's peace in the land? How come things go well with you?"
They go, "Well, I'll be. It's not because I'm better than you. I came from the same dysfunctional family you did. My daddy was a drunk just like yours." See that story in Genesis 9. "There's another God, the God who created our daddy, and his name is the Eternal One. He has chosen to reveal himself to me. Let me tell you who he is so you can be blessed as well." That is fulfilled, ultimately, in Genesis 12. If you want to know your Bible, you had better know Genesis 12.
The Lord said to Abram, one of the descendants of Shem, "Go forth from your country, your relatives, and your father's house, to the land I'm going to show you. I'm going to make you a great nation. I'm going to bless you and make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I'm going to bless you to be a blessing. I'm going to give you a nation and a land, and I'm going to bless you. I'm going to bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you, and in you, all the nations of the earth will be blessed."
Do you see what happened? God is a God who loves the world. The world is crazy. God is going to take somebody in the world and bless them so he can redeem the world. The Jews didn't do anything. They got chosen by God for a purpose. God did everything the Shemites needed to have done for them so they could be who he wants them to be, but he expects the Shemites to do what he asked them to do, because he loves people. If he just sits there, he's going to have a problem with that.
In Genesis 15, he reviews with Abram. God said to Abram, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs. Abram, your descendants are going to be enslaved and oppressed for 400 years. I'm going to judge that nation who curses you, and afterward, they (meaning his descendants) will come out with many possessions. I will plunder the enemy. I will do for you what you can't do for yourself. I will bless you and give you what you didn't work for." Does that sound familiar? It's what God always does.
In the fourth generation, they will return right here to this place, because it's not yet time for the Amorites, descendants of Canaan, to be judged. There's a day the ark door shuts. God wouldn't let Abraham settle there because of the Canaanites. God was still going to be merciful, declaring grace to Abraham as he passed through there. They were going to scoff at him, fight him, reject his God, and eventually be judged for it. See also the Joshua conquest.
In Exodus 19, we're now in the fourth generation, about 400 years later. In the third month, after the sons of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. This is a historical book anchored in history where God is telling you who he is, what he's doing, who you are, and what's going on. God is real, and you see he is good, kind, and patient. Man is always a liar, and God is always true. That's what this book is trying to tell you. If you have any sense, you'll love him and walk with him.
He brings those men out, and Moses goes up to God. In verse 3, the Lord calls him from a mountain and says, "Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, the sons of Israel, these 12 men, the 12 tribes are now going to be the means through which the Jewish people will be established and goodness and kindness will come to the earth.
You saw who I am. I showed you my work. I've plundered and done to the enemy what you can't do on your own. I've delivered you. I bore you on eagles' wings. I brought you to myself." See also, later, the one this is all anticipating. "You will be borne, not on eagles' wings, but on the very wings of the Son of God, who plundered your enemies, sin and death, and carries you to heaven."
The name Moses means drawn out. Moses was drawn out of death and judgment to life. He is to tell people who God is. He's the ultimate one who was drawn out of death into life for your sake. In verse 5 he says, "If, indeed, you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all the people. All the earth is mine, and I will give it to you and bless you, Shemites.
You shall be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, because I want the world to know who I am, and I'm going to use my blessing on you to bless them. I don't love you more, but I want you to be my people. When it goes well with you, and people go, 'Why is it going well with you?' you say, 'Yahweh.'" When they asked, "Who are you?" Jesus said, "I Am." Yahweh.
In Deuteronomy 28:1, Moses says, "Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the Lord your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the earth." Those are Moses's last words to Israel. He's saying, "Do what God commands you. It's going to be awesome."
In verse 15, 14 verses later, he says, "But it shall come about, if you do not obey the Lord your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes with which I charge you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you." Do you want to get scared until you mess your britches? Go read from Deuteronomy 28:15 to the end of the chapter. It is nasty. He is gracious, compassionate, kind, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness, and happily forgiving the sins and iniquities of people, but by no means will he let the guilty go unpunished.
When you are an ambassador of God, and you don't do what God wants you to do, when you have the keys of the kingdom, when you have the ability to let others free because you've been set free yourself, and you just sit there with your mouth open and your hands in your pockets, and you do nothing… When you use your riches and your blessing for your own goodness, he doesn't like it.
When you think all he wants you to do is sit around and sing songs, talk about your creeds, celebrate what you know, argue about how to carpet the floor, or pride yourself in your coffee or the personality of your pastor, he doesn't like it.
Guess what happens in Jeremiah 2. It's not what happens in Deuteronomy 28:1. It's not faithfulness. Jeremiah 2 says to go and proclaim in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, "Thus says the Lord…" This is one of the 17 books at the end, so you have to go fit it back in. After years and years of God being patient with historical outworking of the nation of Israel, they fall away from God, so he sends them prophets.
"Go tell them, Jeremiah, I remember you in your youth. I remember the love of your betrothals, and your following after me in the wilderness, through a land not sown. I remember when you were holy to the Lord, the first of his harvest. All who ate of it became guilty, and evil came upon them. If people mess with you, I mess with them."
Do you guys remember when you first loved God? Do you remember how great your salvation was when you loved God and said, "All I want to do is serve you. I want to get baptized. I want to tell the whole world the Lord has saved me." Then you started getting distracted. You used your blessing for yourself and not for others. It's what Israel did.
"Thus says the Lord, 'What injustice did your fathers find in Me, that they went far from Me and walked after emptiness and became empty? They did not say, "Where is the Lord who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, who led us through the wilderness, through a land of deserts and of pits, through a land of drought and of deep darkness, through a land that no one crossed and where no man dwelt?"'"
We have to skip down to Jeremiah 2:11. He says, "Has a nation ever changed gods when there were not even gods in the first place? No, but my people, the Shemites, have changed their glory for that which does not profit. Be appalled, O heavens, and shudder. Be desolate, for my people have committed two evils. They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and they have hewn for themselves broken cisterns which hold no water."
A cistern is when you say, "I don't want the life-giving spring water that is given, for no good reason, out of the earth. I will dig a hole in the earth, plaster it with clay, and let that clay dry in the sun. I'll take water when it comes and drink out of that still, dead water." Not only that, but the clay cracks, so it leaks. It's an unreliable, dirty water source. Why would you do that? That's Jeremiah 2.
In Isaiah 40, God says, "I want you to comfort my people." He goes through and says, "I want you to speak kindly to Israel. I want you to tell Israel I'm going to do what I said I'm going to do. I'm going to bless them. Just to show you what kind of God I am, I'm going to give them double their iniquity with double blessing, but they're going to also get the fullness of what I said they'd get in Deuteronomy 28:15 and following, but one day I'm going to bless them more than they can believe."
It says, "So you go and prepare a way. Be a voice." He tells this prophet, "Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness. Make smooth in the desert a highway for the Lord our God." He tells Isaiah, "I want you to go and prophesy that there's a day coming when their God will show himself."
Look at Isaiah 40:10. "Behold, the Lord God will come with might, with His arm ruling for Him. Behold, His reward is with Him and His recompense before Him." He's going to be a sovereign God, but verse 11 says he's going to be a shepherd. "Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, in His arm He will gather the lambs and carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes."
Jesus came and flipped that. Jesus didn't come bowed up and smacking people. He came bowed up and smacking judgment, death, wolves, and the one who came to steal, kill, and destroy his sheep. He set his sheep free, bound the strong man, and showed he was gentle toward his sheep.
He says, "Mark my words. I'm going to come back, and I will have my recompense with me, but I'm coming in grace. I'm building an ark. I'm leaving my sheep here to talk about me as a shepherd, so others can come into this fold." This is your God. He is powerful and loving. Mark my words: he's real.
We go from there to the very end of the prophets, Malachi 4. He says in verses 5 and 6, the last two verses of the 39 books in the Old Testament, "Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse."
In Luke 1, there is one who is born. His name is John the Baptist, and he does Isaiah 40, and he comes in the spirit and power of Elijah. He says, "Get ready, because the double blessing is coming." Guess who he is. He's Colossians 1:15-26. He's John 1:1-3. He is the God who offers rest on an instrument of wood, that you could come.
When he is born onto this earth he takes on the likeness of men, that he could be a sacrifice for men. Men must be judged, so he will take on the judgment of men. He will die as a cursed man, though he is not cursed. He will take your curse, and he will deliver you out of an Egypt, a bondage you can't even think of.
Because he is who he said he was, he didn't just get his life taken. He laid it down, and he'll take it back up again. He'll hang out with those people who believed who he was, and he'll tell them, "Listen. Here's the deal. I am the King of the Jews, just like they nailed on that cross. I am who I said I was. You saw everything I've done. You know where I fit." He'll walk with them after his resurrection.
Let me show you what I basically just did with you. In Luke 24, you have Jesus walking up alongside some of his disciples, and they are all upset because all hell has broken loose. Their King has been defeated. He has been crucified. The women went to the tomb and heard he wasn't there. They couldn't even believe it.
Peter and John ran to the tomb and confirmed the tomb was empty, but they didn't believe he was risen, so they were just discouraged. They're walking along the road, and Luke 24 says Jesus shows up and basically tells them, "This is who I am." This is verse 13.
"And behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. And they were talking with each other about all these things which had taken place. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them. But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. And He said to them, 'What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?' And they stood still, looking sad."
That's what the dead church always does. Does it seem familiar? They stood still, looking sad. Does that not describe the American church, standing still and looking sad? One of them named Cleopas said, "Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who doesn't know what's been going on?" Jesus said, "What? Tell me about it." They went on and told the story of Jesus.
Then he basically says, "O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?""Do you remember way back when, when there was a little lamb that was killed to cover the sins of the world? Do you remember that? It's impossible for a little lamb to take away the sins of the world, but the eternal, perfect Lamb of God can take away the sins of the world.
When he was with you, do you remember how he told you no one was going to take his life, but he was going to lay it down? You know the guy who rose people from the dead, walked on water, fed homeless people, brought healing, reversed the curse, and cast demons out of folks? Do you remember that guy? Do you remember that guy whose tomb the women and Peter saw was empty? It was necessary."
Then, beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them the things concerning himself and all the Scriptures. Then their eyes were opened. They were like, "Oh, my gosh. Look who he is. Look what God is doing. God is good, sovereign, and real!" He says, "You be my apostles. Hightail it back to Jerusalem, and wait. When my Spirit comes upon you, don't make the mistake of the Shemites.
Do the work of an evangelist. Be holy. Trust in me. Abide with me. Be faithful. Be fruitful, and multiply. Seek the welfare of the city in which you live. Talk about what God has done, that he has plundered the enemy. Don't believe the lie that God is not true, that his Word is not reliable, and that disobeying him is not a big deal. It's a big deal.
That wrath you saw poured out on me is just a picture of the wrath that is to come, but I am slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. This is an age of grace. The door is open for all the critters to come, and you, my friends, the church, are going to do it. I'm going to bless you, and it's going to make Israel jealous.
There's going to be a day when I'm going to go back and do with Israel what I said I'm going to do, but right now I'm doing it with you. Don't worry about when I'm going to do that. You just do what you're supposed to do, and do it well, abiding in me, knowing I don't expect you to do it so I can love you.
Don't you see how much I love you? What a privileged place you have. It's a big deal to me when people in a privileged place don't do what they're supposed to do. Be strong. Be on the alert. Act like men. Stand firm in the faith, and let everything you do be done in love, to the glory of the Father." That's how the church should act, and that's where we'll pick it up next week. Are y'all ready? This is a big deal.
Father, I pray we would be faithful to the big deal you have given us. You have taught us something this morning. We see who we are. We don't know why you chose Abraham. We don't know why you chose Shem. We don't know why you chose us. All we know is you have gone and done what we could never do.
You have plundered the enemy and given us abundant riches, blessing, and glory. You have made us, who were servants and slaves in the land, royalty. You have made us a chosen race, a holy nation, and a royal people for your own possession, and you want us to live as sons of the King, by the power and anointing you have given us. Lord, we want to do it. We want to do it well and humbly.
We are not better or smarter than anybody else, our brothers Canaan and Japheth. We are just chosen by you, and we want to do what you chose us to do. Father, take these hands. I know they're empty, but with you, they can. Take this mouth. It doesn't know what to say, but fill it with your words. Help us be your people. Help us be the church. Stop the gaper block, standing there still. Let us be busy, not deluded with information but inspired by the transforming, eternal delivering power of Jesus Christ, for whom we live. Amen.
That's a lot to cover, but I want to say this to you. If you're here and you are not part of the church yet, you have one responsibility this morning: to hear God is good, real, loving, and powerful, and you had better know him and to come and receive his grace and mercy and get associated with him by grace through faith.
But if you're part of the people who have been blessed, you need to see the reason you're blessed is to be a blessing, not just to sing a few songs and go, to have your mouth open, standing still, doing nothing, and meeting in little rooms. You are supposed to go. Fill the earth and subdue it. Fill the earth with gladness and goodness. Don't be ruled by the world and the sin and deceit in it. Live above it.
Take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and proclaim to others where the rest can be found, where the provision of God is. Be people of peace, a holy nation. Tell people, "Come on and see. The goodness of God dwells here." People of the Name, whose God is the Lord, who always has been and always will be. That's your job. We act as witnesses of the Holy Spirit, celebrating the King who is the provision for sin and God's blessing to the world.
If you're here this morning and you just go, "What was that?" God is good, and he loves you. Come. If you know that, go. Have a great week of worship. We'll see you.