sermon: God's Investment in You
Having Earnest Desire For God's Kingdom
Given 05-May-12; Sermon #1100B; 41 minutes
God can take misdirected zeal, as in the case of Saul, who became the apostle Paul, rechanneling it to a positive purpose. God wants to protect His investment in us, calling those whom He knows will exercise the ardency, zeal, willingness to sacrifice, and pure sitzfleisch to stick with the project until it is completed. Are we able to see the investment God has made in us? Are we willing to make a 24/7 commitment to our calling?
There is a show on television that I enjoy called Shark Tank; it is usually on Friday nights so I set it up to be automatically recorded and watch it later on in the week. Contrary to what you might think, this is not an animal show about killer fish. It is, rather, a show about human sharks, the kind that are very good at negotiating deals to their advantage and others in creating great personal wealth.
The premise of the show is that an individual brings a particular idea for a business, such as a new invention or a new way of performing a service, etc. into the shark tank, and then they try to negotiate a deal which will be beneficial for the growth of his or her company.
The shark tank is made up of five very successful people who have made millions and billions of dollars for themselves and for others by skillfully negotiating themselves into advantageous positions of partial or complete control of companies that they have determined were viable operations which showed considerable growth potential. They then expended a great deal of their own time, energy, and resources to make what they had invested a great success.
They are the people who are used to very hard work and positioning themselves in the best place to increase their wealth and power. Of course it is called the shark tank because, negotiating by yourself with these five business-savvy individuals who have years of experience in getting what they want, takes almost the same amount of courage of a landlubber diving into and swimming with a group of aquatic predators. Despite the title, the show is actually an entertaining look into the ideas that people come up with, as well a look at what goes into making something successful, as revealed to the thoughts toward negotiating a deal from the five sharks.
It often ends up being a good deal for both parties involved in the negotiations. Perhaps as important as the actually liability of the product or the service, I noticed three key factors, either implied or actually stated, which had direct impact on all the five negotiators. These three certainly seemed to be crucial to their decision and their decision process regarding whether any of them would be willing to make a deal with the person doing the presentation.
Those three things were: (1), a thorough understanding of what it was they were offering and therefore a correct evaluation of the product or service; (2), humility; and 3), an absolute commitment to working twenty-four hour days, seven days a week to make their ideas a success, because that is what all of them had done to become successful themselves.
If a person comes to them with a proposal, these five presume that they are looking for more than just money, but their expertise as well. It becomes obvious to them when a presenter considers his own pride to be worth more than anything the sharks may have to offer. Quite often that is a deal-breaker in creating a reasonable partnership for success.
This particular aspect within this setting, though, often has as much to do with their own pride as the pride of the presenter; however, it is still crucial to the results of the negotiations. But the first and third factors seem to be obviously more important to all of them is: a correct evaluation of what they have and an earnest desire with the absolute will to do whatever it takes to make their enterprise a success.
There are even occasions when the idea being put forth might only produce marginal return on investment, but someone took a chance on it, because they saw that the person behind it was someone who makes the same kind of sacrifices that they would to achieve success. They knew from their own experiences that this was a major key to success, even sometimes more important than the product or service itself. Any partner to whom they would trust their own wealth had to have humility, to submit themselves to someone who understood the plan for success better, along with personal preparation and a drive as part of their own way of life.
On the flip side, there are also a number of times when the opposite was true; one or all the sharks refused to negotiate a deal with the person because they detected unreasonable pride, poor preparation, or half-hearted commitment, or all three of them.
This is a very profound lesson for all of us. Is God going to entrust us with His wealth, His investment, if we are not going to submit to His expertise, care enough to know the facts, and be a 24/7 partner in living as He lives?
Luke 22:14-16 And when the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. Then He said to them, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat Passover with you before I suffer. For I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.”
We just recently read over these as we were preparing for the Passover. But have we really stopped to consider what our Lord and Master was telling us about living His way of life, especially in consideration of what we have just seen in the introduction of this message? We have our own responsibilities to Him as we count the days of the harvest of the firstfruits.
Before we go further, I want us to get the full impact of what Jesus was saying in these three verses; so, I will read this scripture again in several translations.
Luke 22:14-16 (Amplified) And when the hour came, Jesus reclined at the table and the apostles with Him, and He said to them, “I have earnestly and intentionally desired to eat this Passover with you, before I suffer, for I say to you I will eat of no more until it is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.”
(NIV) When the hour came, Jesus and the apostles reclined at the table, and He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat of it again until it finds fulfillment in the Kingdom of God.”
(Good News) When the hour came, Jesus took His plate from the table with the apostles, He said to them, “I have wanted so much to eat this Passover meal with you before I suffer. For I tell you that I will not eat it again until it has given full meaning of the Kingdom of God.”
(Philips) Then when the time came, He took His seat at the table with the apostles and spoke to them, “With all my heart I have wanted to eat this Passover with you before the time comes for Me to suffer. Believe Me I shall not eat the Passover again until all that it means is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.”
You have heard the old saying, “his heart was just not in it”? That certainly was not the case with our elder Brother and our supreme Example, Jesus Christ, and it should not be with us either.
The Amplified Version, which we read at the beginning, readily translated Jesus’ desire as being earnest and intense. The New Webster Encyclopedia Dictionary defines earnest as “ardent in the pursuit of an object, eager to obtain, having a longing desire, warmly engaged and excited, warm, zealous and intense, serious, great.” A second definition of earnest, though not a literal application here, but having a direct bearing on this sermon because of what is stated in this second half of Luke 22:15 (“until all is fulfilled” refers to the Kingdom of God), is the word earnest as being “something given by way of token or pledge, to bind a bargain and prove a sale, a part delivered beforehand as a pledge and security for the whole, a token of more to come. Anything which gives assurance of promise or indication of what is to follow.”
In describing the second definition of earnest, Webster gives what I thought was a very curious way to describe the application of that word. In Webster's dictionary it defines its application of the word earnest as "firstfruits." What better meaning than this secondary definition as we count the Feast of Weeks looking to the first fruits of the harvest—the very One who bound and proved the sale through His sacrifice, the One who is not just a token, but is the reality of more to come.
Why was Jesus so earnestly desirous to share this last Passover with those who followed after Him before He suffered and died? Because, just as we saw with the first key factor to the sharks, He knew the correct valuation of what His product would produce and everything about it.
Jesus knew the plan and purpose of the Father and Himself from before the foundation of the earth, and what it was going to do for all those who share His sacrifice with Him from that time forward until eternity.
This last Passover before His suffering, death, and resurrection was the key moment when sharing the family name was as good as done. Something He could see clearly from the beginning to the end. Just as Richard said last week, God's perspective is what He looks at and He looks at everything in the context of the great sweep of time.
I would like us to look at what Christ saw at that moment by reading the words of two men who are just like you and me. These two men had the zeal for the moment, but without being able to see things as God does toward the big picture. This was a zeal that could only end up leading them to the wrong direction to disaster.
However, through the years of reevaluating and reworking our positions, zealously considering daily where our own life stood in the harvest of the first fruits, under the guidance of God's Spirit, they came to see as Christ saw. Their 24/7 attitude must be continuously fueled by humility and right evaluation.
The men I am referring to, who I mentioned a number of times already today, are Peter and Paul. Some of the scriptures I will be going to have already been danced around or hit on. Before we read what they wrote that gives us the key to Christ's earnest desire on that night, we will first look at what they were before their own harvest count began.
Mark 8:31-33 And He [Christ] began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priest and scribes, and be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke this word openly, and Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. But when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”
Luke 22:31-34 And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon, indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat, But I have prayed for you that your faith should not fail and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” But he said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you, both to prison and to death.” Then said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.”
Peter may have had a zeal, but without sincere humility and correct valuation of the current events with an appreciation of all that God does to deliver him, his intense and earnest desire as indicated in the word savoriest, was not toward God's purposes, but toward this world’s, as Satan was already sifting the firstfruits of the harvest.
I would like to stop here and look at some important clues that Christ gives us in Luke 22:31-32 that are especially pertinent to our own growth during this season representing the harvest of the firstfruits. I will read verses 31-32 from the Phillips translation.
Luke 22:31-32 (Phillips) “Oh, Simon, Simon do you know that Satan has asked to have you all? To sift you all like wheat, but I have prayed for you that you may not lose your faith, Yes when you have turned back to me you must strengthen these your brethren.”
There are two things we need to note here before we go any further: first is that Satan is going to put those called in the time of the first harvest through the same similar trials that he was permitted to do to Job. Bullinger's Companion Bible writes about these two verses “Hath desired means has demanded.” The word occurs only here in the New Testament and it means to obtain by asking. The indication is that God will allow Satan to put us through severe trials for the purpose of making us whole.
The second thing which is vital for us to note is what Jesus tells us all in verse 32: through His intercession, along with our cooperation, it is going to be a done deal, and He gives us additional help through the experience of those who have already gone through it, to strengthen us.
Let us take a look at the apostle Paul before God called him, when he was yet the unconverted Saul of Tarsus. We will first look at what he did and then we will see what he actually had to say about himself, the rest of his life when he was the unconverted Saul.
Acts 7:59-60 And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Acts 8:1-3 Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem. And they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.
Acts 9:1-2 Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
Now let us read on how the converted Paul repeated many times about his ignominious past and his life with neither godly humility nor proper evaluation of God's plan and purpose. This is Paul speaking about himself before he was converted:
Acts 22:3-4 I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in the city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our father's law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today. I persecuted this way to the death, binding and delivering into prison both men and women.
Acts 26:4 My manner of life from my youth, which was spent from the beginning among my own nation at Jerusalem, all the Jews know.
Acts 26:9-12 Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against. And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme, and begin exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities. While thus occupied, as I journeyed to Damascus with authority and commission from the priests.
Galatians 1:13-14 For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
Acts 9:3-6 And as he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” So he, trembling and astonished, said “Lord, what do You want me to do?” And the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
Acts 9:10-16 Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias, and to him the Lord said in a vision, “Ananias,” and he said “Here I am Lord.” So the Lord said to him, “Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus for behold, he is praying.” And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight. Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to My bear name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.”
Galatians 1:15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood.
Did you catch that, brethren? By this time, about 50 AD, after 20 some years of zealously living according to God's purpose, he could see the big picture as God does. He knew that he had been purposely set apart from before he was born by the grace of God to reveal the Son working within him. Brethren, do we clearly see this in our own lives? Handpicked as a very special first harvest of the Father to reveal the Son working within us?
I would like to tie this altogether now with what Christ told Peter about Satan requesting and receiving permission to sift the firstfruits, trying to destroy the grain of the harvest, while all the time God is using him, Satan, to fortify all the firstfruits.
Acts 9:5 And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
It is recorded that Christ told Saul, “It is hard for you to kick against the pricks." Vine's Expository Dictionary writes about this word translated pricks in the King James and goads in the New King James version. It means to “strike or prick violently, to stun.” Vine's also says, “this phrase, speaking about the promptings and misgivings which Saul of Tarsus had resisted before his conversion.” Apparently God had already been trying to nudge Saul on the way he was supposed to go.
Brethren, tie this along with Christ's rebuke of Peter, in Mark 8:33.
Mark 8:33 “Get behind Me, Satan, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”
Tie these together: looking at what Jesus said to Peter here and what we see He said to Saul on the road to Damascus, combined with Paul's declaration that he was called by the grace of God in his mother's womb. Is it not entirely possible that God allows Satan to start his sifting process long before we actually see the emergence of the converted man?
With this going on so long, how far do you think God would let Satan go with His firstfruits before Christ is actually living within them? Not very far, but still far enough to begin a process which was individually managed by God to bring each of those men to the place He wanted them to be.
What an incredible investment God makes in His time and energies over an individual’s whole lifetime because He knows the big picture. How much properly directed, earnest desire did this promote in Peter and Paul when they themselves saw the big picture as well?
Brethren, if He did it with them to fulfill their position as part of the firstfruits harvest within the body of Christ, do we not think He is doing the same for the rest of us? His unique small group that He is winnowing in the first harvest?
How many of us considered, especially in these days as we count the Feast of Weeks, that our time with trial and testing did not just start with our baptism but long before that, perhaps even from our mother's wombs? Do we see the big picture, and have humbly valued the product of our lives because God's earnest and intense will for us is to succeed?
Satan sees the trials of our lives as opportunities to destroy the wheat. God sees our trials as His opportunity to get rid of the chaff and the straw in order to fortify the wheat.
Thirty-some years down the road of striving to live as Christ does, with Him as his advocate, Peter saw a time the same way as Jesus did that night in 31 AD.
I Peter 1:2-12 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. Grace to you and peace be multiplied. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, who having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory. Receiving the end of your faith the salvation of your souls. Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and diligently, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand and sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which searched now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things which angels desire to look into.
Toward the end of his time of perfecting, Peter came to see events from the prophets in the same eternal context of the Father and the Son.
Ephesians 1:3-4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.
The Holy Spirit of promise which dwells within us is Jesus, Himself. The firstfruit of the firstfruits, who gives us the ability to see the way He sees.
At the very day of Pentecost, 31 AD, Peter through God's Holy Spirit, began to see events as God saw them—the very way that Jesus Christ saw those things that made Him earnestly and intensely desire to eat the Passover with His disciples before He suffered.
Acts 2:22-24 Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know, Him, being delivered by the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death, whom God raised up having loosed the pains of death because it was not possible that He should be held by it.
Adam Clarke's commentary writes about Acts 2:23,
By the determinate counsel, that counsel of God which defines time, place and circumstance according His foreknowledge which always saw the most proper time and place for the manifestation and crucifixion of His Son so there was nothing casual in any of these things. God having determined that the salvation of a lost world should be brought about in this way, and neither Jews nor Romans had any power here, but what was given to them from above. It was necessary to show the Jews which was, not through Christ's weakness or inability to defend Himself that He was taken. Nor was it true their malice merely that He was slain, for God had determined long before from the foundation of the world, as Revelation 13:8 says, to give His Son as a sacrifice for sin.
This is what caused Jesus Christ to earnestly and intensely desire to keep the Passover with them that night in 31 AD, as well a desire to spend His whole life about His Father's business as a living sacrifice to others, as we ourselves must now become.
Let us go back now and tie ourselves into this earnest desire to fulfill our part in the work, knowing what we know, in the big picture, as Jesus Christ knew and as all those who follow Him must come to see just as Peter and Paul did.
I Peter 1:6-7 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
I Peter 1:13-16 Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy for I am holy.”
Brethren, this must be a 24/7, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week work, because we have come to understand the product that God is producing, and we must earnestly desire to make this investment a huge success by doing whatever it takes.
Within the context of his series on the sacrifices of Leviticus our pastor told us, concerning Christ's earnest desire as recorded in Luke 22:15,
This specifically concerns Jesus' Passover offering; we need to consider the effects in light of the peace offering rather than the sin offering. First, God is satisfied because man is in communion with Him through Christ as the offering. Second, man is satisfied because he knows he is accepted by God and in fellowship with Him. Third, the priest is satisfied because as the common friend of formerly estranged parties, he is happy to see them in fellowship. No wonder Christ desired this particular Passover; it produced the very purpose for which He came.
The medium that brings this all about, is sacrifice; it is not just Christ's sacrifice on the stake. It just culminates a whole series of sacrifices that begin in heaven when He sacrificed His glory as God, became a man and subjected Himself to the Father's will perfectly. Christ's stated desire, here, is looking forward to God and mankind being in fellowship with each other in His Kingdom. The ultimate effect of giving the best of ourselves to God, following Jesus' example.
The apostle Peter shows us in II Peter that this is the same way we need to be.
II Peter 1:3-10 His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control, perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he that lacks these things is shortsighted even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Therefore, brethren be even more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble.
How much do we consider the investment in us that God has made? Do we have the vision to see the end from the beginning of this product? Are we willing to work 27/7 to protect God's investment and make His purpose a reality in us? Do we earnestly desire to make this happen, just as Jesus Christ did and does?
Today is the twenty-eighth day of the Feast of Weeks count, just over halfway to Pentecost. We must be asking ourselves as we observe the days of the count and understanding our part in it: Are we carefully considering in our own lifetime a commitment to God in working through the harvest time of His firstfruits? Is it really a 24/7 commitment to the product of our lives that involve the precious investment of time, energy, and the wealth of the Father and the Son, even from our mother's womb?
Do we earnestly desire to see the perfection of the product of our lives for the honor, glory, and purpose of God, because the Father and the Son expect nothing less than we become holy in all conduct of our time? 24/7.
We will close with the words of the apostle Peter, as he neared the end of his life. He was doing the things that Jesus told him to do. God had given him the responsibilities to strengthen his fellow firstfruits' lives. This is what Peter said, in I Peter 5.
I Peter 5:5-11 Likewise you younger people, submit yourself to your elders, yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.