Sermon Notes – Ps. Jim White
Sunday 13th January, 2019
I don’t know about you, but ever since I shared the incredible story of Joseph a couple of weeks ago… his life, his character, his attitude… it has continued to speak to me. And that’s exactly what the Word of God is meant to do… it speaks, it convicts, it challenges now as much as it ever has, because it is alive. The bible carries life!
Many have had that revelation – but it can’t be emphasised enough. We are not about a “dead religion!” We are about “life.”
Joseph copped more than his fair share of issues… And they are the same kind of issues that we face even now… maybe not to the same degree as Joseph… but he gives us the same keys that we need to move beyond them.
He struggled against rejection, abandonment, persecution, false accusations… he was even wrongly imprisoned…
But throughout it all, his secure and deep foundations of faith in God – even when he often didn’t understand what was happening to him – plus his unwavering strength of character – saw him prosper and flourish wherever he found himself.
The crux of Jospeh’s doctrine regarding the journey of his life can be summed up in his response to his brothers – as he stood before them as the ruler of Egypt. His brothers, father, and all their families had been suffering from a severe drought in Canaan. It was a drought that spread throughout the whole of the Middle East.
But because of God’s divine intervention into Joseph’s life, revealing divine strategies to him to prepare Egypt beforehand for the drought, Joseph is now positioned with great power, influence, authority and provision – and the precious grain of Egypt is what his brothers have come for.
Remember, they themselves had sold Joseph into slavery in Egypt as a teenager many years before.
Genesis 50:20, “He said, But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”
Millions of Middle Eastern people were saved from starvation. But the nation of Israel was also saved and actually thrived and multiplied under the care of Joseph.
It’s an amazing story of redemption, forgiveness and restoration. And I think God has highlighted those scriptures to us as a church to set our foundations for this coming year.
The reality is, life throws curve balls at us. Sometimes it’s the devil himself doing what he does best – robbing, killing and destroying! Other times it’s the brokenness and woundedness of other people. Sometimes it can be our own personal, distorted filters that cause us to receive things incorrectly – and so we respond inappropriately.
But there’s a principle of faith and life that cannot be destroyed, when those who love and worship God stand firm on the Rock of their salvation – Jesus Christ.
When our character and attitudes and responses come from a heart that is surrendered to Him, no matter what comes against us, including all the unfair things that Joseph faced, we will always flourish and be fruitful when our foundation in life is Christ Himself.
The bible even says,
Psalm 92:13-15, “Those who are planted in the house of the Lord Shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; They shall be fresh and flourishing, To declare that the Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.”
I know that’s a bit of a summary of my last message – but it’s really important that we grasp what God is saying to us as a foundation, as we step into this New Year.
So this morning I want to build upon that truth. I have some scriptures to share in a moment, but firstly, I’ve been reminded of a statement that was made by a famous Christian scribe from the second century. So we’re talking in the 100 AD’s – which is not that long after Jesus and the apostles.
He played an important role in the spreading of the gospel and the guarding of true doctrine. His name was Irenaeus.
And in the midst of his writings, he is well known for saying: “The glory of God, is man fully alive…” Some say a more correct translation is, “The glory of God is the living man…”
I think we can presume that Irenaeus isn’t saying that God’s glory depends upon men living fully. But a man or women who is fully alive in Christ, will bring glory to God through their life.
The question is then – are you fully alive? Are you truly “living” your life – or are you simply navigating through life the best you can, playing it safe, keeping your head down, with the goal of heaven being your main pursuit?
Many of us are excited about heaven – and rightly so. Especially when more and more of our loved ones are populating heaven! But sometimes we struggle with our earthly existence.
We sometimes struggle with the concept of giving up certain things so that we can fully follow all that Jesus has set before us.
While we were out having coffee yesterday, Venese told me about the devotional from “Word For Today” that she had only just read that morning. She really didn’t know what I was preaching on this morning. But I knew it was God’s confirmation for me – and I want to share some of it with you.
It’s called “Dare to Dream.”
And it talks about many famous people, including biblical characters, who have passionately followed their dream and accomplished some incredible things in life. Your dream or your vision for your life is like your roadmap. It might not have all the details in it from the start, but it’s what leads and calls you forward.
But it says, “if your dream is only to have a mansion and accumulate a fortune for yourself, don’t count on God to underwrite it.”
It says, “your dream is worth only what you are willing to pay for it; inspiration without perspiration is only a daydream.”
“Forty percent of the people you meet (it says) have great ideas, but all they do is talk about them. Another forty percent work hard and would be willing to give their all for a great dream – but they don’t have one! Only the remaining twenty percent have a dream and the faith to make it come true.”
The underlying message is: “Dare to Dream.”
My underlying message this morning is: “Dare to Live your Life Fully, to the glory of God!”
My own experience is fairly conservative and ordinary compared to what others have been called to do and to accomplish – but I can only share what I’ve found to be true in my own life.
Because of a dream… actually, because of a statement I made in a prayer with Venese’s agreement at the end of 1994, where I courageously said (some would say, recklessly): “God, we want to serve you full time,”… it’s only then that our dream of being in ministry began to unfold.
In the process of following our dream, we have left good paying careers, our home, family, the beautiful North Coast… all kinds of things we had to let go of to follow our calling. And it wasn’t easy doing that. Especially leaving family. It cost us!
We left our parents, when they were getting older and going into retirement, to go to Brisbane to study and minister. Then when the call came for us to move back to Ballina, we left our three daughters in Brisbane, because they had made their own life up there. We again, left a house we’d bought, and sacrificed financially…
Rightly or wrongly, probably unwisely in some ways, money was never the deciding factor in following our life path.
It was hard. And in some ways we struggled.
I’m just telling the story. I’m not complaining for a moment. Because now we consider ourselves extremely blessed, and as much as we face life’s challenges like everyone else, we are flourishing in things of the spirit, the soul and the world, more than we have ever been.
Many of those who live only for worldly gain and material possessions and a comfortable lifestyle can’t even say that! Because in the end, those “things” mean nothing. They are just things!
We are as open to continually growing and expanding ourselves as we have always been – but I consider that we are on a journey of living life fully – we are living in a way that hopefully glorifies God in some way – and yet we keep running towards the goal.
Do you have those friends who when you ask them, how are you going, they respond by saying, “I’m living the Dream!”? I have someone who says that to me regularly, and it’s always said in sarcasm. I pray that one day he actually finds God’s dream for his life. It’s never too late to start walking towards your dream!
Everything that Venese and I think we have ever sacrificed or given up to follow the call, has all been given back to us in abundance and we are blessed beyond measure.
There are costs. Sometimes it’s hard. But In reality, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Mark 10:29-30, “So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.”
My point is – fullness of life is for now – not just in the sweet by and by. And fullness of life will not simply be for our own gratification. If we maintain a humble and grateful heart, it will be for the glory of God!
And it doesn’t negate persecutions. It doesn’t negate struggles and challenges and opposition.
The closest scripture I could find to back up the statement made by Irenaeus is one I’ve partly alluded to already:
John 10:10, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.” (Jesus says:) “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
If Jesus has come that we may have life – then what did we have before? What do people have who don’t know Jesus? Do they have life?
Well, they obviously don’t have the “abundant life” that Jesus came to earth to give them. They don’t have the life that only He can impart, because of His death and resurrection.
On the cross of Calvary, He took our death upon Himself and exchanged it for resurrection life. The same kind of life transforming power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead.
Whatever people have who are living in this world without Christ – it’s not the fullness of resurrection life that Jesus intends for them to have.
But let’s not get all smug about having something that others don’t. Because we have to answer honestly – am I living out of the fullness of that which Jesus has given me?
Philippians 3:12, “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.”
That is a really humbling scripture! Jesus paid a high price for me – for my life – for my purpose in life – for everything pertaining to my life. So how else can I respond except to ask that question of myself? Am I living the fullness of that life that cost Him so much? Have a really laid hold of it?
If that question even makes us feel uncomfortable – well that’s a good thing.
If you can answer with a resounding yes – that’s awesome! And I know many of probably can!
Here are a few other scriptures that hopefully call us forward – challenge our thinking – help us to see ourselves from a heavenly perspective.
John 7:38, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”
What flows out of your heart? Life giving streams? Rivers of life?
Could we go as far to say this river of living water is the same as that which Revelation 22 tells us flows from the throne of heaven? It is also called “a pure river of water of life.”
Why not? We are filled with all the fullness of God! We have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us! Rivers of life should be flowing out of our heart.
There’s an amazing picture that is painted in Rev 22 of this river having the tree of life planted on either side, and the trees producing fruit every month. And the leaves of the trees are there for the healing of the nations.
I’m not sure we’re even meant to fully understand what all that means – except this is all part of the life giving streams of water that are meant to flow from our own life.
How cool is it to think that we carry the Spirit of fruit bearers, and nation healers?
Proverbs 4:23, “Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.”
The Passion Translation says it beautifully: (Proverbs 4:23) “So above all, guard the affections of your heart, for they affect all that you are. Pay attention to the welfare of your innermost being, for from there flows the wellspring of life.”
Rivers! Wellsprings! They speak of life giving refreshment and goodness!
Our lives being lived fully, are these rivers and springs in full flow. And this is what brings glory to God.
John 1:4, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.”
In Jesus Christ was life… and His life is the light of men. It’s another facet of God’s multi-faceted expression of Who He is.
I think all of us need an awakening! I need an awakening! We need an awakening to who we are in Christ. The light that we carry. The rivers of living water that have the potential to be freely flowing through us and flooding our world.
Only yesterday, a friend sent an encouragement to me saying that God is going to pour a new anointing and new wine into my life. If it leads me further into fullness of life then bring it on! Because fullness of life will bring glory to God!
I love our church! Our prosperity of soul and our flourishing and fruitfulness has a whole lot to do with all of you. What an amazing thing God is doing in building Seacoast Church. I sit back in wonder and awe!
But there’s so much more to come! We are born for more! We have been called and set apart for more! We have a certain amount of freedom and spiritual awareness already – but there’s more! We have a foundation of Christ, of His Word, of His Spirit… but there’s more!
When I think of Christians and the Church being fully alive, I can’t help but consider the early church. There was such generosity, freedom, sense of community! There was a hunger for spiritual truth and experience. There was a hunger for newness of life!
Just imagine living in Acts 2! Don’t get caught up in the whole selling houses and possessions thing. It’s the heart and Spirit of their lives that I believe the new wine will be for us as a church.
Acts 2:41-47, “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”
This is the heart of a Pentecostal Church.
The Passion Translation uses words like, “faithfully devoted,” “mutually linked,” “holy awe,” “celebrate,” “joyful hearts,” “tender humility,” “continually filled.”
It sounds like an awesome church! It sounds like a church that is fully alive! Abundantly loving out of new life, new wine, new oil…
Here is a reminder of a couple of scriptures God gave to Venese and I at the same time He spoke to us about the Seacoast.
Jeremiah 31:12,14, ‘Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, Streaming to the goodness of the Lord — For wheat and new wine and oil, For the young of the flock and the herd; Their souls shall be like a well-watered garden, And they shall sorrow no more at all. I will satiate the soul of the priests with abundance, And My people shall be satisfied with My goodness, says the Lord.”
Joel 2:19,21-24, “The Lord will answer and say to His people, “Behold, I will send you grain and new wine and oil, And you will be satisfied by them; I will no longer make you a reproach among the nations. Fear not, O land; Be glad and rejoice, For the Lord has done marvelous things! Do not be afraid, you beasts of the field; For the open pastures are springing up, And the tree bears its fruit; The fig tree and the vine yield their strength. Be glad then, you children of Zion, And rejoice in the Lord your God; For He has given you the former rain faithfully, And He will cause the rain to come down for you— The former rain, And the latter rain in the first month. The threshing floors shall be full of wheat, And the vats shall overflow with new wine and oil.”
It goes on to speak about God restoring what had been lost and robbed.
This is the fullness of life that we can be part of together – because Venese and I have always believed it is prophetic for us as the church.
Let’s come back to the main thing! Are you living life fully? Are rivers of living water flowing from your life? Is your life bringing glory to God?
Remember, it’s not about living free from challenges, struggles, persecutions and just downright tough times. But it is about choosing to remain grounded in Christ whatever else is going on – and in that place, there is a flourishing, there is a prospering, there is a fruitfulness…
Whatever the devil meant for evil – God will turn it for good! Our response, our attitude, our character… that’s what God has to work with.
It’s that classic statement: It’s not what comes against us that matters – it’s all about how we respond!