A Manual For Discipleship

 

Disciples – Expect The Unexpected

 

The opposition to Jesus and His ministry was growing. Some, like John the Baptist, had been martyred (Matthew 14:1-12). He had just had a discussion where He rebuked the traditionalism of the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 15:1-20). Jesus now left Gennesaret for the region of Tyre and Sidon (14:34; 15:21). This marks the first and only known time that Jesus ventured into Gentile territory to minister. This is new territory for Jesus and for His disciples in terms of ministry. When Jesus sent the disciples out on their first missionary journey He directed them to avoid Gentiles and focus upon “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:5-6). Now Jesus was going into Gentile territory, what gives?

 

In the remainder of Matthew 15 the disciples and we will learn something about ministry with Jesus. What they will learn is expect the unexpected in the Lord’s ministry. We see this in a number of different ways in the rest of this chapter. Let’s see what unexpected ways God worked here.

 

God Works In Unexpected Places

 

Matthew 15:21 – “Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon.”  [1]

The context for what happens in the rest of Matthew 15 is that it occurs in Gentile Territory. Of this area that Jesus journeyed to the Pulpit Commentary states:

“These two cities lay on the coast of Galilee, and had never been really

conquered by the Israelites, though allotted to the tribe of Asher. There

was no very exact limitation of territory between Phoenician (of which they

were the capitals) and Jewish land, but there was a great moral distinction.

The Phoenicians were sunk in the grossest idolatry; the worship of Baal

and Ashtaroth reigned among them with all its depravity and pollution.”  [2]

Up until this point in His ministry, Jesus had focused upon the nation of Israel. But now He was headed for the territory of the Gentiles. This was what many viewed to be a godforsaken place. And yet we see Jesus going here and we see Him work mighty works here.

We should always be open to wherever God might choose to work. He may surprise us, (like He did with the disciples) with the places He decides to do a work. The region of Tyre and Sidon may have been seen as out of bounds for the Jews, but for Jesus there was a host of needs that needed to be met, a harvest of souls to be made in this dark territory.

We might be tempted to think, “God, you would never want to work here,” or “God you would never want to work there.” But we should be open to wherever God might want to work, near or far.

God Works in Unexpected People

Matthew 15:22 – “And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, . .” [3]

In the parallel account in Mark’s gospel the woman is described as a Syro-Phoenician (Mark 7:26). She was a woman from a Gentile pagan land where idolatry and immoral pagan worship was the rule. And yet, Jesus did not see her as one beyond His grasp. Jesus was going to change this ladies life, though at first it may have seemed as though He didn’t have the time for her.

No person is beyond the grasp of God. We should not be surprised when God works in the most sinfully lost people. In fact, God specializes in lifting people up out of the depths of the miry clay of sin. Read what the apostle Paul wrote:

  • Ephesians 2:1-5 – “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins,2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience,3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),”  [4]

You can’t get any worse than being “dead in trespasses and sins.” And yet, these are the ones whom God reaches down to, lifts up in Christ, and transforms into a beautiful piece of art. That is what this above passage goes on to say:

  • Ephesians 2:6-10 – “and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”  [5]

Interestingly, the word “workmanship,” is translated from the Greek term POIEMA Strong’s #4161). POIEMA refers to, “that which is done, made, created; deed or act.” We get another English word from the term POIEMA, that word is poem.  Have you ever tried to write a poem? Poetry is not simply putting a few rhyming words together, it’s much more than that. Poetry involves meter and structure and a host of other technical traits. To write a good poem is not easy. But that’s what we are to God, we are His poem. We are God’s work of art. And what makes that work of art of God all the more spectacular is the stuff He uses to make it. God takes a fleshy human covered in the dirt and sludge of sin, a person that is dead and lifeless spiritually, He takes such stuff and works it into what He sees as a beautiful piece of art, something to behold. God works in people we might not expect Him to work in, but that is the joy of salvation. That God would take a sinner such as I, love me, mold me, make me into something useable and productive and purposeful, it simply is wondrous. That is the message of the following hymn entitled Such Love:

That God should love a sinner such as I, Should yearn to change my sorrow into bliss, Nor rest till He had planned to bring me nigh, How wonderful is love like this!

That Christ should join so freely in the scheme, Although it meant His death on Calvary. Did ever human tongue find nobler theme. Than love divine that ransomed me!

That for a willful outcast such as I The Father planned, the Savior bled and died, Redemption for a worthless salve to buy, Who long had law and grace defied!

And now He takes me to His heart a son; He asks me not to fill a servant’s place; The ‘far off country’ wanderings all are done’; Wide open are His arms of grace.

Such love, such wondrous love! Such love, such wondrous love! That God should love a sinner such as I, How wonderful is love like this![6]

The apostle Paul knew of this wondrous life-changing love. Read some words of testimony from the apostle:

  • 1 Timothy 1:12-17 – “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry,13 although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.14 And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.15 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.16 However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”  [7]

God took Saul, a murderous persecutor of the church and transformed him into a born again apostle of God. That is what the wondrous love of God can do and it often happens in the most unexpected people.

God Works In Unexpected Processes

Matthew 15:22-28 – “And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.”23 But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.”24 But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”25 Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!”26 But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”27 And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”28 Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.”  [8]

At first glance this account seems to put Jesus in an uncharacteristic light. A woman, burdened and weeping over the demon possessed condition of her daughter, comes to Jesus begging Him to intercede. What does Jesus do? How does He respond? The Bible states, “But He answered her not a word.” Silence, stone cold silence, not a word. Have you ever felt that Jesus was silent to your prayers, to your requests? Why was Jesus silent to this woman’s begging? Why is He at times silent to us? Let’s see.

“Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David!” – Formulas Fail.

This lady came to Jesus and addressed Him with the phrase, “Son of David!” Why did she do that? “Son of David,” is a messianic title familiarly used by the Jews. This woman was a Gentile, a Canaanite, why would she address Jesus with this title. Perhaps she thought that if she addressed Jesus with these words, in this special way, He would be more inclined to respond to her. In other words, she was trying to use a formula to get what she wanted from Jesus. She likely viewed the title “Son of David” as the key to opening the door of Jesus’ merciful miraculous ministry. But Jesus saw right through this superficial attempt to get Him to work on her behalf. Jesus doesn’t respond to pat formulas, “He answered her not a word,” in response to this attempt.

Formulas fail. So often we try to approach by way of a formula. Formulas depend on a specific format of doing things. People who use formulas see the formula as a key to open the door of God’s graces. When we relate to God on the basis of a formula, we thing, “if I just do this . . .do that . . .then God will hear me, then He will respond to my need.” But God doesn’t teach us to use formulas, nor does He respond to formulas. When we look at the Bible we see that God is creative, He works in processes that are unable to be put into a formula format. There are some constants; God works through His word, by the Holy Spirit to change people. But when we look at how God works, His processes defy formularization. If we can’t approach God by way of formulas, how can we approach Him?

“Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” – Worship Works!

When the formula didn’t work, she threw herself down before the Lord and simply and sincerely worshipped Him. Formulas fail; worship works. That is what Jesus wanted to teach not only that woman, but His disciples and us as well. He didn’t want her to relate to Him in terms of her perceived wittiness and wisdom by way of a formula, no, Jesus wanted her to abandon herself before Him in worship.

Oswald Chambers often spoke of abandonment towards God. Read some of his insightful statements in this regards:

“The weakest saint can experience the power of Deity of the Son of God if he is willing to ‘let go.’” . . . “God can do what He likes with the man who is abandoned to Him.” [9]

“Jesus Christ always brings us back to one thing – ‘Stand in right relationship to Me first, then the marvelous doing will be performed in you.’ It is a question of abandoning all the time, not of doing.” [10]

Jesus wanted to bring this pagan Gentile to her knees so that she would not settle for and caught up in a pharisaic formula oriented way of relating to Him. The worship this lady was led into by Jesus is characterized by humble faith.

“Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”

Jesus responded to her worship by telling her that it was not good to throw the food (i.e. His spiritual message) meant for Israel (i.e. the “children”) to the “little dogs” (i.e. Gentiles or non-Jews). This might have deterred a person of pride. A proud person would have said, “Well, here I humiliate myself before You and throw myself at your mercy and all you do is offer me further rejection!” A proud person would have responded that way, but not this lady. This lady had been brought to a humble faith that was willing to be associated with the lowest of creatures, “little dogs.” Jews referred to Gentiles as dogs. There is some debate as to whether or not the words used here by Jesus speak of house pets or puppies or simply dogs generally. But that is neither here nor there, the point is that this woman humbly put her faith in Jesus to persist in her request.

“O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.”

Jesus gave the woman her request when she learned the lesson of faith. We need to stop coming to God in a manipulative way. We cannot think that God blesses us on the basis of any good we do. That is the message we see here. Formulas fail, worship works! [11]

The KJV Bible Commentary states:

‘She knew what could be hers, even as a Gentile and, thus she became an illustration of millions of Gentiles who would later be blessed by the Messiah of Israel. Great is thy faith. Jesus again commends Gentile belief (cf. 8:10).” [12]

Jesus is looking for us to approach Him in faith, not formulas. That is why He initially responded to this woman with silence.

The Silence of God

Have you ever experienced the silence of God? Have you ever been seeking Him on something like the woman of Canaan and He is silent? Perhaps He’s trying to teach you something. Perhaps God is trying to teach you to cast aside your formulas and manipulative machinations and simply sincerely worship Him. The silence of God is meant to purify our faith from the futility of formulas. That is what Jesus did with the Canaanite woman. If God is silent toward you right now, perhaps He is trying to purify you from a formula; perhaps He wants you to come to a place where you simply sincerely wait on Him in worship.

Waiting In Worship Through God’s Silence

If we learn anything form the account of the Canaanite woman, it is that Jesus led her to a place of worship and His response followed shortly thereafter. Jesus wants to lead us to wait on Him in worship through he silent times of God. The Bible is filled with mention of waiting on God during such times:

  • Psalm 62:1-12 – “Truly my soul silently waits for God; From Him comes my salvation.2 He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved.3 How long will you attack a man? You shall be slain, all of you, Like a leaning wall and a tottering fence.4 They only consult to cast him down from his high position; They delight in lies; They bless with their mouth, But they curse inwardly. Selah5 My soul, wait silently for God alone, For my expectation is from Him.6 He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved.7 In God is my salvation and my glory; The rock of my strength, And my refuge, is in God.8 Trust in Him at all times, you people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah9 Surely men of low degree are a vapor, Men of high degree are a lie; If they are weighed on the scales, They are altogether lighter than vapor.10 Do not trust in oppression, Nor vainly hope in robbery; If riches increase, Do not set your heart on them.11 God has spoken once, Twice I have heard this: That power belongs to God.12 Also to You, O Lord, belongs mercy; For You render to each one according to his work.”  [13]
  • Lamentations 3:25-26 – “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, To the soul who seeks Him.26 It is good that one should hope and wait quietly For the salvation of the Lord.”  [14]

The book of Psalms is the worship book of Israel. The psalms were initially sung amongst the people. Psalm 62 is a song of worship sung while waiting on God to act. Don’t run from God’s silence; wait on Him in it by worshipping Him.

In the book of Acts we have the account of Paul and Silas being imprisoned for delivering a girl from a fortune-telling career and therefore her masters rose up in arms because of their loss of profit. A riot ensued and the two disciples had their clothes torn off their backs, were beaten with rods and thrown in jail (Acts 16:16-24). They must have been hurting and there was no indication of any audible word from the Lord. God was silent during this sequence of events. What did they do? Read on:

  • Acts 16:25-34 – “But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.26 Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed.27 And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself.28 But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.”29 Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas.30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized.34 Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.”  [15]

Paul and Silas worshipped God in the silence. They were so much in a spirit of worship that when the opportunity to escape the prison presented itself via and earthquake, they did not cease the opportunity. Instead they used the situation to lead the jailor and his family to salvation in Jesus Christ. That earthquake had to have been unexpected on their part. When they were thrown in the jail they couldn’t have expected the jailor who put them in the stocks to be converted. And certainly the dungeon where they were was no place for a worship service! But these disciples had come to learn to expect the unexpected, and as a result God used them to do His work.

God Works Through Unexpected Provisions

Matthew 15:29-31 – “Jesus departed from there, skirted the Sea of Galilee, and went up on the mountain and sat down there.30 Then great multitudes came to Him, having with them the lame, blind, mute, maimed, and many others; and they laid them down at Jesus’ feet, and He healed them.31 So the multitude marveled when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.”  [16]

Who could have expected Jesus to perform miracles in another Gentile territory? Miracles are never expected, but especially not in a heathen territory! But Jesus did do miracles here. Jesus moved from the region of Tyre and Sidon on into the region of Decapolis (Mark 7:31). Decapolis was a confederation of ten Gentile cities that had its own currency, government network and military. There was a huge monument to the pagan god Zeus and Aphrodite and Roman style coliseums where entertainment occurred.

He had been rejected in His own hometown of Nazareth and few miracles were done there because of their unbelief (Matthew 13:53-58). But here, in Gentile territory, Jesus not only did miracles, He healed multitudes causing them all to marvel and glorify God. Again we see that Jesus works in unexpected places and makes unexpected provisions for those coming to Him.

God Provides Again and Again Because of His Compassion

 

Matthew 15:32-39 – “Now Jesus called His disciples to Himself and said, “I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. And I do not want to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.”33 Then His disciples said to Him, “Where could we get enough bread in the wilderness to fill such a great multitude?”34 Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” And they said, “Seven, and a few little fish.”35 So He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground.36 And He took the seven loaves and the fish and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitude.37 So they all ate and were filled, and they took up seven large baskets full of the fragments that were left.38 Now those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children.39 And He sent away the multitude, got into the boat, and came to the region of Magdala.”  [17]

Now because of the disciple’s reaction to Jesus some liberal scholars have asserted that the feeding of the four thousand here is simply a convoluted repetition of the previous feeding of the five thousand (Matthew 14:13-21). They assert this because they can’t understand how the disciples could have forgotten that Jesus a few days earlier provided for the feeding of the five thousand. Are the disciples that stupid? No, I don’t think stupidity is the reason for the disciple’s reaction on this occasion.

 

There are too many differences in the two feedings to assert that they refer to the same event. In one you have 5,000 plus people fed, in another you have 4,000 plus people fed. In one you have 5 loaves and two fish, in another you have 7 loaves and a few fish. In one you have people sitting down on “the grass” (14:19), meaning it was likely spring or early summer, in the other account they are told to sit down on the “ground” (15:35), literally bare ground meaning it was likely later in the year. The feeding of the five thousand took place in the north of Galilee and the feeding of the four thousand took place in the eastern part of Galilee. These differences make it unlikely that the two accounts are of the same event. There were two feedings of two great masses of people.

 

Why did the disciples say, “Where could we get enough bread in the wilderness to fill such a great multitude?” Were their memories so bad that they had forgotten Jesus feeding the 5000? Their memories were not likely bad and they weren’t likely just plane stupid. No, I believe there is a much more human explanation. It is more likely that the disciples just couldn’t fathom God repeating the same miracle again; it was just too good to be true!

 

Too Good To Be True? God Blesses Abundantly On A Regular Basis

 

When God works, He works abundantly; there is no limit to God’s grace and provision. This second group ate and they were all filled, (literally gorged!) God is like that; He loves to bless His people. Jesus taught this when He said:

 

  • Luke 11:13 - “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”   [18] (See Matthew 6)

That little phrase, “how much more will,” makes all the difference in the world. Many people make the mistake of gauging God through their personal experience with their own earthly fathers. But that’s like gauging the magnificence of a space shuttle craft through the experience you had with a paper airplane. You can’t get an accurate idea of the infinite heavenly Father by looking at Him and projection your experience with your finite earthly father, no matter how good, and holy he was or is. Earthly fathers do play a critically important role in giving their children an understanding of fatherhood and that is to some extent projected onto our Heavenly Father, but only to a limited degree. The truest and only reliable perspective on our Heavenly Father is what He has revealed of Himself in the Bible. And what we see in the bible of God is the “HOW MUCH MORE.” God is able and willing to do so much more than we can ever expect or imagine Him to do.

 

When we go to the Bible to see what God is willing to provide us with, we see that it states every good gift comes from Him:

 

  • James 1:17 – “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”  [19]

EVERY GOOD GIFT comes from God. That is true whether or not you are a believer. Think of all the good things we have in our lives each day. We awake to another day of life, we have another day with loved ones, hopefully a job, we have food to eat, clothes to wear and a place to stay, (usually, and if not, God wants to provide it). We in America want for little if anything and we live under the mistaken notion that what we have comes from our own productivity. Baloney! Every good thing we have comes from God.

 

And what is incredible is that God provides for us over and over and over, again, and again, and again! The Bible goes on to say:

 

  • Psalm 31:19 – “Oh, how great is Your goodness, Which You have laid up for those who fear You, Which You have prepared for those who trust in You In the presence of the sons of men!”  [20] (See Psalm 145:9)
  • Psalm 36:7-8 – “How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings.8 They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house, And You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures.”  [21]
  • John 10:10 - “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”  [22]
  • Romans 8:31-32 – “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”  [23]
  • 2 Corinthians 9:8 – “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.”  [24]
  • Ephesians 3:20-21 – “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”  [25]

Whatever good there is in the world comes form God, no one else. You may not have expected this to be so, but it is. In reality we must expect the unexpected from God because He regularly does that which we could not even begin to imagine Him being willing and able to do. God surprises us every day, expect it.

 

Under The Spout Where The Glory comes Out – Keeping Yourselves In The Love of God

 

Now you may be thinking, “Hmmm, that doesn’t seem to be my experience. I don’t relate to God with any expectation or see His abundant blessing regularly. What’s wrong?” There is an old hymn in which there is a phrase, “I’m under the spout where the glory comes out!”  There is a place we need to be in order to experience the fullness of God’s blessing. This is not to imply there is a work on our part to secure God’s blessing. God’s blessings are based on His loving Fatherly nature, not our work. But there is a place we need to be to experience God’s fullness.

 

But the Bible does speak of keeping yourselves in a place to receive God’s blessing. When we look at the book of Jude it states:

 

  • Jude 21 – “keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.”  [26]

In this verse wee see the most strategic area in the letter of Jude, and the key to understanding a very practical and rewarding set of truths. Jude tells us the pitfalls of past believers and how they missed out on God’s blessings. Then he tells us the practical steps to keeping ourselves in a position to receive the fullness of God’s blessings. Let’s briefly look at these.

Pitfalls That Prevent Us From Experiencing the Fullness of God’s Blessings

There are six pitfalls that prevent us from experiencing the fullness of God’s blessings.

First, lack of faith prevents us from experiencing the fullness of God’s blessings.

  • Jude 5 – “But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.”  [27]

God miraculously and powerfully saved Israel from their slavery in Egypt. Egypt had been at the time the most powerful empire on earth. God brought various plagues that showed the impotence of the idolatrous pantheon of gods Egypt relied upon and the power of Yahweh, the God of Israel. But once they were brought out of Egypt, through the Red Sea and to the threshold of the Promised Land, the people shrunk back form what God wanted to give them through unbelief. How much we do miss out on because of unbelief! William Carey once said:

 

            “Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.”

 

The result of that exhortation was a mighty revival and the expanse of the gospel through modern missions. Unbelief can keep you from God’s blessing; belief in God can open the floodgates of His blessing.

 

Second rebellion prevents us from experiencing the fullness of God’s blessings.  

 

  • Jude 6 – “And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day;”  [28]

The angels who aligned themselves with Satan in his rebellion against God represent the nature of rebellion, which moves us out of the will of God where He desires to bless us. The angels couldn’t have had it any better, being in the constant presence of God. But at some point they stopped appreciating what God had blessed them with and rebelled against His plan for them. We too at times become impatient and rebel against God’s plan for us. The result is missing out on God’s perfect and full blessing.

Third, lust prevents us from experiencing the fullness of God’s blessings.

 

  • Jude 7 – “as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.”  [29]

Lot lost everything, his home, his integrity, his wife and nearly his life. It was lust that moved him closer to the vile and immoral cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Lust can draw us away form God and His plan for us. Lust can become all consuming, just ask the one addicted to pornography or sexual sin (See Genesis 18-19).

Fourth, hatred prevents us from experiencing the fullness of God’s blessings.

 

  • Jude 11a – “Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, . . .”  [30]

Cain was religious and believed in God, but on his own terms. He rejected God’s plan of redemption by blood. When his brother Abel was blessed by God for accepting humbly and in full surrender God’s spiritual plan, Cain struck out in a hateful rage and killed his brother. Hatred will drive you to do things you’d never think you were capable of. Hatred will get you outside of God’s will and place of blessing very fast.

Fifth, greed prevents us from experiencing the fullness of God’s blessings.

 

  • Jude 11b – “Woe to them! . . . [they] have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, . . .”  [31]

Balaam was willing to corrupt an entire nation, Israel, so that he could pad his pockets with greedy gain (Numbers 22-23; 31:16). And he did all of this despite of God’s clear command to not bring a curse against Israel. Greed will cause you to disobey God and go your own willful way, and it will get you out of the flow of God’s blessed love.

Sixth, jealousy prevents us from experiencing the fullness of God’s blessings.

 

  • Jude 11c – “Woe to them! . . . [they have] perished in the rebellion of Korah.”  [32]

Korah became jealous of the blessings God had poured out upon His servant Moses. The result was opposing not only Moses but also God and the consequences were fatal for Korah, his family and his followers. Jealousy is rooted in dissatisfaction and a failure to appreciate what God has given you, and will get you out of the place of God’s blessing.

The Practical Ways To Keep Yourself In A Position To Receive God’s Blessings

There are three simple things you need do to keep yourselves in the love of God.

First, understand you are “beloved.” God loves you and will look out for you. He has gone to the extreme to show His love for you. You can trust that love. As the Bible states:

  • Romans 8:31-32 – “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”  [33]

You are believed; trust God’s love to bless you.

Second, be built up in His word. You won’t be aware of God’s blessing or where to find it unless you are regularly in His word and His word is regularly in you. You need to get into His word. Read what God told Joshua just before Joshua stepped over into the Promised Land of God:

  • Joshua 1:8 - “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” [34]

Disciple, get into God’s word and you will be blessed.

Third, pray in the Holy Spirit. God speaks to us in His word; we speak to God in prayer. Prayer is our declaration of dependence upon God. We need to regularly, moment by moment, rely on God and His will in prayer. And we need to pray in the Spirit. That means when we pray we need to seek the Spirit’s guidance and empowering. The Spirit helps us to pray as it states in Romans:

  • Romans 8:26-27 – “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” [35]

When you pray in the Spirit, God will lead you to where He wants to bless you. Disciple, pray!

Conclusion

God works in unexpected places; He works in unexpected people; He works in unexpected processes; and He works in unexpected provisions. Disciple, expect the unexpected. Such was the example of the founding of Applegate Christian Fellowship, a Calvary Chapel affiliated church. The story of how the church was started illustrates what happens when one is open to expect the unexpected.

“Jon Courson stood on the banks of the Yale Creek in the Applegate Valley of Oregon. This husky fellow was silhouetted against the vibrant green all around him, as his thick mane of red hair shone in the summer sun. Before him stood the members of a colony of young people who had built a tree-house community in the Applegate hills. They were standing in the nude in the middle of the river waiting to be baptized and resembled aging nature children as their long hair blew and glinted in the sunshine.

Jon felt conflict over whether or not to make an issue over their nudity. He went with his gut sense, and decided to overlook it. This group before him had for years been a community of pot-growers whose tree-house community was on a large tract of land they owned. Their marijuana harvests had made large proceeds for them while their ‘Nirvana Community’ had looked for enlightenment through Eastern Yoga and Native American shamanism. But the bubble of their dream had burst. Just when they had built their ideal community, a gaping vacuum appeared within their hearts. This huge utopian experiment had not satisfied their souls. . . .

With wave of mounting inner joy, Jon baptized each one of them in the name of Christ. They stood on the banks dripping and smiling ear to ear. That evening they would gather up all their marijuana and burn it up in a huge bonfire.

Jon, meanwhile, was overseeing a church being built from scratch in a region of Oregon so sparsely populated that no demographically oriented church planner would ever try what Jon was attempting. Applegate was a region containing verdant mountains, forests, and clear rivers with a widespread population of fewer than a thousand . . . .

When Jon first came to Oregon, he had only five couples attending his fellowship. He had left a thriving Calvary Chapel that he and his brother had started in San Jose. But he was certain the hand of God was directing his move.

Before Jon moved to Oregon, during a teaching retreat with the Christian couples, there were two prophetic visions about the coming harvest. The first vision was of fire descending on Applegate Valley and then spreading beyond. The second vision of massive thunderheads pouring out rain foresaw the end of Oregon’s long drought. And a further message in this was that God’s grace would be released when the first rains came. Jon was reluctant to accept these visions as prophecies and was by no means sure he would leave San Jose for Oregon. Interestingly, the day Jon began his first Sunday service there, the rains came flooding down. He also sensed in his heart that God’s grace was being released.

Today Applegate, Oregon, is still a community of only a thousand people. But its Calvary Chapel fellowship, Applegate Christian Fellowship, is known throughout the region. Its church membership is actually three times the size of the town’s population – three thousand members – all coming in from surrounding communities. They are now meeting in a large church facility of 40,000 square feet that they built together . . . . In the summer, they meet in a large grass-covered outdoor amphitheater near the main church building . . . .

Jon has experienced the fire and the rain of this harvest. He will tell you flatly that it is a miracle . . . .”  [36]

Disciple, expect the unexpected and God will use you too!

 



[1]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[2] H.D.M.  Spence and Josseph S. Exell, Eds. The Pulpit Commentary – Volume 15 MATTHEW (Mclean, Virginia: Macdonald Pub.,Co.) exposition of Matthew 15:21.

[3]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[4]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[5]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[6] Robert Harkness, 1877-1961 Worship In Song (Kansas City, MO: Lillenas Pub. Co. 1972) #220

[7]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[8]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[9] Harry Verploegh, Ed., Oswald Chambers The Best From All His Books (Nashville, TN Oliver Nelson Books, 1987). P. 1. From Studies in the Sermon on the Mount and The Psychology of Redemption.

[10] Ibid. Volume II, p. 1

[11] Jon Courson, Tree of Life Commentary – Matthew Volume 2, (Jacksonville, OR: Tree of Life Pub. 1993) p. 37

[12]Jerry Falwell, executive editor; Edward E. Hinson and Michael Kroll Woodrow, general editors, KJV Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1994.

[13]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[14]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[15]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[16]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[17]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[18]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[19]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[20]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[21]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[22]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[23]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[24]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[25]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[26]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[27]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[28]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[29]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[30]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[31]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[32]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[33]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[34]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[35]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[36] Chuck Smith, Harvest, (Old Tappen, New Jersey: Flemming H. Revel Co., 1987) pgs. 91-94.