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February 22, 2015

God’s Desire, Part 2

 

In Exodus chapters 5 and 6 it is revealed that God has a fourfold desire. He wishes to save his people. He desires to establish a godly community. He invites his people into the adventure of knowing him. And, he purposes to give them an abundant life. We see this design throughout the Old Testament. However, it becomes even more pronounced, at least with respect to clear teaching on these subjects, in the New Testament.

 

There is one important distinction. Whereas in the OT Scriptures, after Genesis 11, God’s plan and purpose was with Israel, in the NT it is reaching all the earth.

 

Everything begins with God’s desire to save. God is not indifferent to the plight of man. In the news lately we have read of some very terrible things happening at the hands of a bloodthirsty group called ISIS. When we consider their actions we cannot come to any other conclusion except that they are evil. They are deceived; it is true. But, they are nevertheless evil. But it is not just ISIS. The majority of the human race will never do the atrocities that ISIS has done and will continue to do, but the human heart, the Bible says, “is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, KJV) According to God, the human heart is so deceitful and so wicked that we cannot even know it! We cannot even know our own heart, let alone the hearts of others. It is God’s common grace that keeps most people from doing things along the lines of ISIS or Ted Bundy.

 

Man’s sins have separated him from his God and, unless God comes and brings reconciliation there is no hope when we will stand before him on Judgment Day. We all need salvation from the justice of God Himself for He must rightly judge sin and rebellion.

 

But we have also ruined our own lives. By living contrary to God’s precepts we miss out on godly family life and godly community. We miss out on relationship with the Living and Loving God. And, we are unable to find the abundant life because we are selfish.

 

We need deliverance not only from God’s judgment and wrath, but we need deliverance from ourselves! We need salvation from sin!

 

The good news is that it is God’s desire to grant this salvation and deliverance!

 

I told the story of Liu and Xu and how, because of Liu’s love for his wife, he carved 6,000 steps by hand into a mountain so that Xu could come and go to town and back to their mountain hut in China in safety. Love joyfully fulfills the needs or desires of the one you love.

 

Last time I encouraged an embracing of God’s desires (salvation, godly community, knowing Him, and the abundant life) as applied to ourselves as individuals. This, of course, is where it must all begin. We must ensure that we are saved, that we participate and enjoy godly community, that we experience the adventure of coming to know God intimately, and that we enjoy the abundant life that God provides.

 

It is self-evident, is it not, that God’s desire is not just for you. It is for many. Here is a question for us this morning: Do you love God enough to bring about His desires, His purposes, in the lives of others? 

 

[I] We must be about the business of saving the lost because it is the desire of our Father. We have seen that it is a truism of life that when we love someone we seek to meet their desires. In the same way that we love a fellow human being, as Liu loved Xu, and we seek to meet their desires, so when we love God we will seek to bring about His desire. 

 

Love, though, is not measured by a feeling but by actions. Love does not consist of actions. It is deeper than that. However, it is measured by actions. Actions will demonstrate the authenticity and the measure of our love. 

 

The Father has a desire to save. Do you love the Father enough to partner with Him in fulfilling His desire and purpose?

 

This is not only the Father’s desire. It is Jesus’ desire. READ John 4:31-38. PRAY.

 

Jesus had just had a conversation with the woman at the well in Samaria. That conversation was about eternal life. His disciples had been with him the whole day and they took note that he had not eaten. They loved him so, naturally, they are concerned for his hunger and fatigue. But Jesus is so interested in the work of saving souls that he dismisses the call of hunger. That he could speak truth to the Samaritan woman, which was his Father’s will, gave him greater joy and strength than any food. The sinner has given him joy because she has accepted the message of life.

 

The disciples at this time are more concerned with physical things than with spiritual matters. They are concerned with food. Jesus is focused on the desire of God.  There will come a time when the disciples will change and they, too, will be surrendered to carrying out the will of the Father rather than earthly matters. But now it is not so.

 

Who are we more like? Are we more like the disciples here, concerned with food, or are we finding our strength, our sustenance, in seeing God get his desire?

 

It is no wonder that when Jesus says, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” they still do not understand. They think he has some food hidden somewhere. So, he tells them straight up, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and accomplish His work.” The Son loved the Father and to carry out His will gave him a joy and a strength that was greater than physical food.

 

We must be about the business of saving the lost because it is the desire of our Father.

 

[II] We must be about the business of saving the lost because it takes precedence over earthly concerns like food. At this point someone may be thinking and some will say, “That was Jesus. Of course he could fully deny himself because he was God come in the flesh. But everyday people cannot live like that.” Is that true? Consider the circumstances surrounding Isaac when Abraham had sent an unnamed servant to find his son, Isaac, a wife from among his kinsman.  (Turn to Genesis 24) The servant travels over 500 miles to Mesopotamia where Abrahams kinsmen lived. READ 24:10-12. We see that this servant loved his master, Abraham. He is sincerely interested in seeing his journey be successful and asks the Lord to show steadfast love to Abraham.

 

The Lord then arranges for Rebekah to come and water her camels in a way that answers the prayer of the servant. She goes and gets her brother who comes to the servant and says, in verse 31, “      “Come in, O blessed of the LORD. Why do you stand outside? For I have prepared the house and a place for the camels.” So the man came to the house and unharnessed the camels, and gave straw and fodder to the camels, and there was water to wash his feet and the feet of the men who were with him. Then food was set before him to eat. But he said, “I will not eat until I have said what I have to say.” He said, “Speak on.”

(Genesis 24:31-33 ESV)

 

Then the servant tells his story and Rebekah is won for Isaac.

 

This was a 500+ mile journey. There was no fast food establishments on the way. Certainly, the servant brought provisions but it is also a certainty that he is hungry after three weeks of trekking through the wilderness. Yet, when food is set before him to eat he said, “I will not eat until I have said what I have to say.” He was on a mission for his master and he was intent on fulfilling it above his own personal desires. 

 

It is not just Jesus who puts His Master’s desires over earthly concerns. It is the lowly servant of Abraham. We must be about the activity of saving the lost because it takes precedence over earthly concerns as it ought to!

 

[III] We must be about the business of saving the lost because Jesus lived his life this way. He was constantly pointing to the mundane activities of life and applying them to the message that this life is about preparing for the next life.

 

  • When he comes to the fishermen among his disciples he says to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 
  • When he is sitting at dinner with Pharisees he says, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.”
  • He had just spoken to the woman at the well and used the water in the well as a picture of what He could give her that was infinitely more valuable than physical water – living water!

 

In verse 35 of our text in John, Jesus says, “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest? Look….” As he is speaking to his disciples he is pointing to the fields of grain. He tells them to look. But he uses the farmland as an illustration of what his life and what their life is supposed to be about: the harvesting of souls!

 

He says: “Lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.” 

 

  • There are multitudes that are yearning for release from the bondage of their own sins. 
  • There are many that have become fed up with the sad condition of their life.
  • There are many that are ready to receive the words of eternal life and apply them to themselves.
  • There may be even more that are content to remain in their sins, but it is still true that there are many who can be harvested.

 

We must be about the business of saving the lost because Jesus lived his life this way. And he is our example and pattern.

 

[IV] Finally, we must be about the business of saving the lost because of the rewards that await us. Verse 36 reads: Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together.

 

This passage can only be properly understood when one sees that Jesus is speaking of three grand dispensations or ages: that of sowing, that of reaping, and that of rest and joy when the wages, or rewards, will be enjoyed. All sorts of misunderstanding results when one tries to make all three actions (sowing, reaping, rejoicing) to be presently occupied. Of course, there is some sowing now, there is some reaping now, and there is some rejoicing now. This cannot be denied. And, praise God that there is! But, what was Jesus actually trying to communicate in this passage?

 

We must distinguish between interpretation and application. Often, well meaning Christians get these two confused. They may think that interpretation is subjective rather than objective. That is, some are under the impression that one can interpret a verse any way one wishes, just as long as it is “true for you.” This is nonsense. Interpretation answers the question: What did the speaker or writer actually mean by what they said or wrote? Others may think that application is the same as interpretation. Then if someone intends on applying a Scripture in a different way than you do then they are heretical. Application answers the question: How may I apply what the author meant to my own life?

 

There is only one interpretation but there may be more than one application. Application, although it may be varied, still must be tethered to a correct interpretation. It must apply what the author or speaker actually meant.

 

Remember that Jesus is speaking to his original 12 disciples. In verses 37 and 38 he says,     For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

 

Who are the others who have labored? They are the same ones who have sown. So, who are the ones who have sown? They are not contemporaries of Jesus. Jesus is the first one to tell the Samaritan woman that He is the Messiah and that He gives eternal life. (And the disciples will soon follow the example of their Master in spreading this good news.) The ones who have sown are Moses and the prophets. The Samaritans had the Scriptures. The Scriptures prepared their hearts to receive the good news.

 

The sowing and the reaping represent two different eras: Moses and the prophets are the first and our current time, beginning with Jesus, is the second.  But a third is coming! There will come a time when the sowers and the reapers will rejoice together. It is a time when rewards, or wages, are enjoyed. That time is still future. Of that time, the time of enjoying rewards, the Scriptures have very much to say, even though the subject is sorely neglected to our own impairment by most teachers.

 

With respect to sowing and reaping, there is application to us today in the sense that we may speak to a person about the Lord and they positively respond but it is because someone else has spoken to them before we did. Someone else has sown seed in the same sense. Then, by God’s grace, we can reap what they have sown. But, our Lord’s intent was in reference to the writings of Scripture.

 

There will come a day when both the Old Testament saints and we, the New Testament saints, will rejoice together when we are shown the harvest that has resulted from the efforts of both.

 

One can imagine a call that went out to help a tiny community on the side of a large hill that was in danger of a mudslide because of several days of rain. The waterlogged soil on that hill was in danger of bringing down that hill. So, the mayor of a neighboring community sent out a message for all to come and help relocate the families there. A man who was a Christian heard the call but he had already reserved a spot on the green for a game of golf with his friends. (Now, I am not picking on golfers. You can put anything in the place of golf: a chess tournament, a basketball game, etc.) He went to play golf and he had a good time. While he was playing golf about two dozen townspeople busied themselves with moving families, like one family that consisted of a single mother and her four young daughters. No sooner had they relocated them and others to a shelter when the hill came down and buried the houses on that hill. Had they remained there they would have perished. A week later that Christian man was on his way to go to the mall when he happened to notice that the parking lot of the local shopping center had some kind of activity with balloons and fanfare. He stopped and sat in a chair to hear what was going on. It was a commemoration and a heartfelt “thank you” from the members of the hillside community. The mayor spoke. Then some of the community spoke, including the single mom who, in tears, thanked the people who helped saying that her children would all be dead if they had not helped. Then, to everyone’s surprise, awards were given. The developer of that hillside community was a very wealthy man: the wealthiest man in the state. When he had heard what had happened he gave a very large sum of money as a reward for those people who helped. To their great surprise, the two dozen caring rescuers each received a check for $25,000. They did what they did expecting nothing in return but they were rewarded. 

 

How do you think our Christian man felt that day? Not only did he neglect his responsibility to help his neighbor, he saw and heard the good that he could have participated in and chose not to. I do not know about him, but I would have felt very bad indeed knowing the good I could have done and did not. Part of that sorrow, I think, would be the realization that it was my own selfishness that was revealed to me in my choice. That would be worse than missing out on the $25,000.

 

The rejoicing in lives that were saved is the best portion. The $25,000 is just extra.

 

That man could not rejoice in the same way that the others could because he did not help.

 

How will you rejoice?

 

What about verse 36 of our text in John 4? Jesus says, “Already, the one who reaps is receiving wages…” That is present tense. We ought not think that our reward is only in this life. As if, the only reward we will get is the satisfaction that we have done God’s will. Indeed, there is great and deep satisfaction in that! This is the food that Jesus speaks of. But to say that this pleasure in work is the wages is to miss the point. Any laborer knows the difference. Would you find a farmer able to dismiss his men without payment by saying, “Well now, lads, you have had such beautiful weather, and have been so happy among yourselves as you worked side by side, that you cannot expect, or even wish, for wages?” The laborers so appealed to, far from being satisfied with such a speech, would rather imagine that their employer had taken leave of his senses.

 

No, the Lord has promised wages, or rewards, and these will be enjoyed in the next age. The present tense here refers to the certainty of their bestowal and future enjoyment. It is what Paul referred to in 2 Timothy 4:8. 

 

    Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

(2 Timothy 4:8 ESV)

 

His reward, the crown of righteousness, was already laid up for him. It was his. He had received it. But it would neither be awarded nor enjoyed until “that Day.”

 

So it is that when we labor in performing God’s desire of saving the lost we do receive, presently, rewards that are laid up for us to be enjoyed with those who went before us.

 

We must be about the business of saving the lost because of the rewards that await us. 

 

[V] [Conclusion] God has a desire. His very name alludes to it – Yahweh. The name of Jesus in Hebrew proclaims it – Yahshua- God saves. God’s desire is to redeem man.

 

  • We must be about the business of saving the lost because it is the desire of our Father. 
  • We must be about the business of saving the lost because it takes precedence over earthly concerns.
  • We must be about the business of saving the lost because Jesus lived his life this way. And he is our example and pattern.
  • We must be about the business of saving the lost because of the rewards that await us. 

 

What will be your experience on “that Day?” Is your life the life of the golfer or the caring neighbor? You can still cancel your reservations.