If you haven’t had time to read the entire Bible (or want a refresher), you might like my attempted highlight reel of the story from Genesis to Revelation beginning in this section: Where we came from. By remembering where we came from and where we are going, we can better understand who we are and what we are to do in the present.
This sermon was delivered on January 24, 2015 to Indonesian Presbyterian Church Seattle where I serve as an elder.
I’ve been with this community from day one. From the days of the Indonesian Christian student fellowship Ekklesia to the present time. My dad was a leader of that fellowship when I was born.
I was the cute little toddler who crawled under the chairs of Larson Hall at University Presbyterian Church. All the ladies loved me and loved pinching my chubby cheeks and hearing me giggle.
I was the little the boy who squeaked along to Christmas carols on his quarter size violin, while everyone approvingly smiled despite the ugliness of the sound.
I was the elementary school student who recited bible verses from memory and won the award for being the most competitive Sunday School kid.
We moved locations a few times.
For me, the most memorable building was in Laurelhurst at what is now Seattle Community Church. There was a large tree in front where I would climb with my friends. We would make lego guns and run around the lawn shooting at each other, dreaming up stories of epic space battles or commando missions.
I didn’t know it at the time, but we shared the building with the up-and-coming Mars Hill Church. I think the adults were worried for our safety when they saw muscular tattooed folks wandering around the building. They always complained about the noise coming from the other services.
Eventually we left that building and came to where we are today: Wedgwood Presbyterian Church.
To be honest, my fondest memory is probably having all you can eat hot pot downstairs on cold autumn days.
More seriously, it was during our time here that I began to grow up, helping to craft the 2020 vision for our church, starting the Aletheia youth fellowship to serve those who outgrew the Sunday School and leading worship. I remember spending hours agonizing over what songs to sing, making beautiful powerpoint presentations and writing up meaningful things to share for the English service we started.
It was a lot of hard work, but I believed it was worth it since the Scriptures say:
“Therefore my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, because in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
(1 Corinthians 15:58)
Like many of you, I poured my heart and soul into this church and community.
But then some very painful things happened.
I began to realize how much of a stranger I felt like at my own church.
People were always expecting me to welcome new students coming from Indonesia since they assumed I was the “host”. But it always felt awkward—in some ways these guests were more at home at my Indonesian church than I was because it was the closest thing they had to home here in America.
I remember how hard we tried to integrate the American-born and Indonesian-born youth at our church by doing joint events and outings, but always feeling like an outsider.
One time all the young people agreed to eat dinner at a particular restaurant after church so I drove there to join them, but when I arrived no one else was there. It turns out that they changed their plans and went somewhere else without telling me. I was the outsider.
As a church we are at a crossroads. We have a difficult choice to make.
Who is an insider and who is an outsider?
Will non-Indonesians be insiders in this church?
Will my generation be insiders?
Will the children be insiders?
Will the poor be insiders?
Will the church simply be a comfortable place where people hang out with people like them and fulfill their religious observances?
Or will it be something more?
What does it even mean to be an insider? Who are we?
I do not intend to answer all of these questions.
Instead I want to zoom out and retell our story.
The big one.
Think of this as a highlight reel of the Bible. Talk to me afterwards if you want to know verse references.
Where we came from
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. He made an amazing universe to display his glory, chose a special planet in which he created life, chose a special creature named Man whom he created in his own image, breathed life into Man and gave him the privilege and responsibility of cultivating the earth, multiplying and filling it with the glory of God.
He planted a beautiful garden and put Man and Woman in the garden with only one rule: they were not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. However, a crafty serpent came one day and deceived the woman by urging her to disbelieve and disobey God for her own apparent gain.
She took the fruit ate it and gave some to her husband. Their eyes were opened, they realized they were naked, and tried to hide themselves from God. As judgment, God exiled them from the garden of Eden and cursed them. But he did not leave them without hope. He gave them animal skins to cover their nakedness and promised the woman that her offspring would one day crush the head of the serpent that deceived her.
Human history continued to unfold with Man going from bad to worse until God finally wiped the earth clean through a worldwide flood. He chose Noah, saving him and his family, to be the fresh start for humanity. They begin to repopulate the earth, but instead of filling the whole earth as commanded by God, their descendants decide to stay together and build a city and tower to make a name for themselves. So God confused their languages, dividing them into many nations and dispersed them throughout the earth.
After many generations, God calls one particular man named Abraham to be the father of a special nation through whom He would bless all the families of the earth. God calls him out of his homeland and promises to give him the beautiful land of Canaan and descendants as innumerable as the stars in the sky or the dust of the earth. Abraham believed God’s promise and God counted it to him as righteousness.
This promise is repeated to his son Isaac and his son Jacob (later renamed Israel). Unfortunately, Jacob’s family ends up in Egypt because of a severe famine in Canaan. After several generations, the people of Israel are enslaved by the Egyptians, but God remembers his promise to Abraham and chooses Moses to deliver Israel and return them to the promised land. Through many spectacular deeds God rescued the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and led them towards Canaan.
Their first major stop is Mount Sinai. This is where Moses first encountered the Lord in a burning bush only this time, it is a burning mountain. All the people tremble with fear when they hear the thunder and trumpet blasts as God tells them the Ten Commandments and they ask Moses to go up the mountain to speak with Him on their behalf. On the mountain, God gives Moses the Law: a covenant that promised blessing, land, riches, prosperity, peace and happiness as a reward for obedience and curses, suffering, loss, exile and death as the consequence of disobedience.
All the people agree to the terms of the covenant. God calls Moses up Mount Sinai once again to record the design for the Tabernacle where He would stay and the rules for the priests who would serve Him. And then God wrote with his own finger the Ten Commandments on two tablets of stone and gave it to Moses.
But in Moses’ absence, the Israelites grew impatient. In their boredom, they broke the covenant, created a golden calf idol, offered sacrifices to it and worshiped it as the god who delivered them out of Egypt. God sees this and is about to completely destroy them, but He relents when Moses desperately intercedes and asks God to remember his sworn promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Moses destroys the calf, disciplines the people and God graciously renews his covenant with the congregation. The people then follow the instructions for building the Tabernacle and the Aaronite priesthood is established to offer sacrifices to protect the people from the holiness of God lest they perish for their sins while He stayed with them. Even so, as the people journey to the promised land, they stubbornly distrust and disobey God resulting in judgment after judgment and 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.
Finally the old generation passed away and God chooses Joshua to succeed Moses and lead the Israelites into the promised land. Against intimidating foes and overwhelming odds, the Israelites invade and successfully take over Canaan because God fought for them. They settled in the land and enjoyed some of God’s good promise. But as new generations came and went, the people forgot the Lord and began worshiping other gods. They cycled back and forth between repentance when oppressed and rebellion when at peace.
Eventually, the people rejected God as their leader altogether and asked for a human king instead. Despite their treasonous request, God rebuked and warned them through his prophet Samuel and then graciously chose Saul to be the first king of Israel. Saul began well, rallying the Israelites to fight their Philistine oppressors, but his glory did not last. He quickly went astray and arrogantly disobeyed the Lord on multiple occasions while pretending to honor God. He got so bad that God regretted making him king and rejected him, seeking a man after his own heart to take his place.
That man was David, the son of Jesse of the tribe of Judah. Despite being a young, lowly shepherd boy, God chose him to be king and sent the prophet Samuel to secretly anoint him in the presence of his family. From that day forward the Spirit of God was with David and left Saul. However, he did not ascend the throne overnight.
First, a tormenting spirit was sent to afflict Saul and David was called upon to play music to ease the king’s mental disturbances. This won him favor with the king. Next David was sent by his father to the battlefront against the Philistines to bring food for his brothers. With Saul and his troops daily cowering in the face of the giant Goliath, David, with God’s anointing challenged and killed the mighty champion. This won him the praise of all of Israel and in similar fashion through trial after trial, God gradually exalted David from being a lowly shepherd boy to becoming an honored leader.
Saul perceived the threat to his power and tried to kill David multiple times, forcing David to become a fugitive. But eventually God fulfilled his promise to give David the throne and Saul ends up killing himself in a desperate battle against the Philistines.
After his kingdom was firmly established, David wanted to build a house for God because until that time, God’s dwelling place was a tent—the Tabernacle. Instead God promised David that he would make him a house—a royal dynasty from his own body that would reign forever over Israel. David is overwhelmed by this promise of an everlasting dynasty and can only worshipfully ask God to fulfill his word.
God later tells David that he chose his son Solomon to be king after him and to build the temple. So, David makes extraordinary preparations before his death to ensure Solomon has everything he needs for the work including the plans, labor, finances, materials and political support. When Solomon ascended the throne, God visited him and gave him unparalleled wisdom. He successfully built the glorious temple for God to dwell in and became exceptionally famous, wealthy and powerful.
However, later in life Solomon’s heart was led astray by his many wives who worshiped foreign gods and Israel turned away from keeping the commandments of God. After his reign, Israel split into two kingdoms with two lines of kings. Some feared God and obeyed him while others continued to lead Israel astray in worshiping false gods and behaving like the surrounding nations.
The injustice, idolatry and immorality in the land becomes so severe that God finally evicts Israel out of the promised land. The Assyrians invade, defeat and exile the northern kingdom of Israel and the Babylonians invade, defeat and exile the southern kingdom of Judah.
It is a dark time. The glory of God departs and the temple is destroyed. David’s descendant no longer sits on the throne. The Law of Moses has been broken and its severe consequences have been enacted. Abraham’s descendants are scattered to the ends of the earth and the land is no longer theirs. God’s promise seems nullified (though it actually was the fulfillment of the covenant curses).
But during this time of despair and sorrow, God sent his prophets to promise that he would gather the people of Israel from the four corners of the earth and bring them back to the land he promised to their forefathers. God promised a new covenant in which he would give his people a new heart to fear him and cause them to walk in his commandments. He promised a new covenant in which he would remember their sins no more.
And God began to make a name for himself among the nations so that even the idolatrous King Nebuchadnezzar of the powerful Babylonian Empire was humbled before the Lord’s awesome majesty.
During these days, God raised up prophets including Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel. Eventually the Babylonian Empire fell to the Medo-Persian Empire as prophesied by Daniel. To fulfill the word God spoke through Jeremiah, God stirred up the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to call the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple of the Lord.
The Jews return to the promised land in three waves over the span of almost 100 years, facing great opposition, discouragement, delays in the work and many distractions. During this season we read of leaders like Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther along with prophets like Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. The temple and the city of Jerusalem are rebuilt, but the nation continues under the reign of foreign kings. The people of Israel finally put away their idols in order to worship the Lord alone and they begin to hope for the promised Messiah of whom it is written:
Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”
He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”
I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
(Psalm 2 ESV)
In other words, the people began to hope for God’s chosen king, the Anointed One, the Messiah who would restore the kingdom of God and fulfill the promise of God’s global dominion. The people believed that when the Messiah came, they would finally be free from oppression, restored to the blessings of the promised land and exalted above all the nations.
Over 400 years after the time of the last Old Testament prophet Malachi, the prophet John appeared to prepare the way for the Lord, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Many people of Israel repented and were baptized. Some wondered if John was the Messiah, the Christ, but he confessed that he was not and testified that Jesus was the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”. John testified that he saw the Holy Spirit descend like a dove on Jesus when he baptized him and those present heard a voice from heaven saying, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Jesus was immediately led into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan for 40 days. Satan tempted him to prove that he was the Son of God by using his power to feed himself, to test if God was truly faithful by throwing himself off the top of the temple, and to worship Satan in order to get the kingdoms of the world.
Jesus successfully fought back with the word of God and passed the test. God said that he was God’s beloved Son. God said that God would not be put to the test. God said that God alone was to be worshiped.
Israel constantly distrusted and disobeyed God, pursuing its own desires in its own ways, but Jesus refused to distrust or disobey God desiring solely that God’s will be done in God’s way.
Jesus refused to disobey God to satisfy his hunger.
Jesus refused to disobey God to satisfy his doubt.
Jesus refused to disobey God to satisfy his ambition.
His hunger, doubt and ambition would be satisfied only through obedient faith.
He believed the word of God and obeyed God flawlessly.
Do you want to be like Jesus?
After John was arrested for preaching the gospel, Jesus began preaching:
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15 ESV)
He called his disciples, taught, healed the sick, cast out demons, raised the dead, performed many miraculous signs, forgave sins, opposed false teaching, and step by step, made his way to the cross. He called it his hour of glorification when he would be rejected and killed by the elders, chief priests and scribes and after three days rise again. Jesus fulfilled everything that the Scriptures—the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms—said concerning him as the Messiah even down to his betrayal by Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve disciples who sold him for 30 silver coins as prophesied by Jeremiah (and Zechariah).
After many failed attempts, the Jewish leaders finally manage to arrest Jesus. They were envious of his popularity and charge him with blasphemy for claiming to be the Messiah, the Son of God. They hand him over to Pilate, the Roman governor of the region who had the authority to put people to death. Despite his attempts to have Jesus released on the grounds of his innocence, Pilate caves in to the pressure of the crowds who demand Jesus’ execution.
Jesus is flogged, mocked, spit upon and forced to carry his cross to Mount Calvary. There he is crucified for being the King of the Jews. While on the cross Jesus continues to fulfill the Scriptures with his dying breaths. He asks God to forgive his persecutors, believing that he was dying to pay for their treason against God. He cries out to God from Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” and then dies.
Jesus knew that the only way he could establish God’s global kingdom without condemning God’s rebellious people was by suffering God’s wrath on their behalf. Without his death everyone would be wiped out as in the days of Noah when God destroyed humanity for all its evil.
Jesus was buried and three days later rose from the dead. He physically appeared to his apostles and disciples and sent them as his witnesses to every nation on earth to warn them about the coming judgment, urge them to repent and believe in him for the forgiveness of sins, and to baptize those who believed and received the Holy Spirit as a foretaste of eternal life in the kingdom of God.
Friends, if you have not put your trust in Jesus, today is the day to do so. Save yourselves from God’s judgment and become a citizen of the Kingdom of God.
Who then is Jesus?
Jesus is the offspring promised to the first woman in Genesis who would crush the head of the serpent that deceived her and sent humanity into disaster.
Jesus is the descendant of Abraham through whom all the families of the earth would be blessed and in whom God would give Abraham descendants as many as the stars in the sky.
Jesus is the Lamb of God who fulfilled the Law of Moses and all the terms of the covenant by bearing the sins of the world, suffering the curse of the Law, and making atonement for sin by bearing the wrath of God on the cross. In exchange he gave his righteousness, the forgiveness of sins and eternal life to all who believe in him.
Jesus is the Son of David, the offspring to whom God promised to give an everlasting throne and all dominion. He is the King not only of the Jews, but the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, to whom God has entrusted all judgment and given all power and authority in heaven and on earth over every single nation.
Jesus is the new temple where people meet God.
Jesus is the leader who brings those who hope in him into the true promised land—a new heavens and new earth, a perfect city designed by God with everything glorious and good brought in for the enjoyment of His redeemed people and every evil, wicked, filthy thing cast out.
Take a moment to stand in awe of Jesus Christ and worship him.
Who then are we?
After Jesus rose from the dead, he told his followers:
“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:44-49 ESV)
They were Jesus’ witnesses and we are the people who believe their testimony. Jesus prayed for us saying:
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:20-24 ESV)
Who are we? We are people loved by the Father and given to the Son. Children of God through faith in Jesus. Disciples who abide in Christ and abide in his Word. The body of Christ, the new temple that the Holy Spirit is building to be a permanent dwelling place for God.
In the words of the apostle Peter:
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9 ESV)
We are God’s people, God’s priests, God’s nation, God’s possession, God proclaimers, God glorifiers.
Consider what this means for your life.
What does it mean to be God’s chosen people?
Have you experienced the vast contrast between darkness and his marvelous light?
What are the excellencies of God that you are to proclaim?
Who will you proclaim it to?
Where are we going?
Now that we have glimpsed who we are, let us go to Revelation to get a vision for where God is taking us. Where are we going?
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:1-8 ESV)
There are only two places to go. Outside of Jesus Christ is the fire of second death. Inside of Jesus Christ is the beautiful holy city. God is taking those of us in Christ to His promised land: a new heavens and a new earth where we will dwell with him, see Jesus Christ face to face and enjoy him forever. We will reign with him and share in his infinite glory with ever increasing joy and brightness.
Where are we now? What time is it now?
By studying the arc of God’s story, we see that we live in the last days—the days between the first and second coming of Jesus Christ. We live in the days of the Acts of the Apostles as the Church progressively proclaims the gospel to the ends of the earth. We live in a time of proclamation by word and deed, a time to get the message that “God’s Kingdom is at Hand” to every language and nation on earth. Only after the gospel has been preached to all nations will the end come. Only then will every promise be fulfilled and our hope become reality.
Consider King Jesus’ commission to his disciples in Acts:
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:6-8 ESV)
I want you to consider this. If the apostles and disciples failed to fulfill their mission, there would be no Indonesian Presbyterian Church today. The gospel would have remained stuck in Jerusalem. No missionaries would have ever reached the rest of the Middle East, modern day Europe or Asia. No one would have come to America for the sake of the gospel.
We have been the beneficiaries of God’s faithfulness in sending generation after generation to the ends of the earth to proclaim the gospel so that we today could have faith in Jesus Christ and be saved. Therefore, we are under the same obligation to our King—we share a common responsibility to get the gospel to the nations that have not yet heard.
However we define who is inside and who is outside the church, the whole point is that Jesus wants the people inside to get the gospel to the people outside.
Do you want a church of friends? Fine, but the point is to get the gospel to those who are not your friends.
Do you want a church of your ethnicity? Fine, but the point is to get the gospel to those of every ethnicity.
Do you want a church of your politics? Fine, but the point is to get the gospel of God’s power to those of every persuasion.
Do you want a church of your socioeconomic status? Fine, but the point is to get the gospel to everyone whether greater or lesser than you.
Not everyone will receive the gospel, but out of those who do there will be many outsiders whom God desires to bring inside his fold.
Before we act based purely on duty, we must remember that it was God’s Spirit that activated the believers, dispersed them and empowered their proclamation.
Only after the Holy Spirit is given to the Church on the day of Pentecost, is the gospel proclaimed. It begins with Jerusalem, spreads to Greek-speaking Jews and following persecution spreads to the Gentile nations as the Roman centurion Cornelius and his whole household receive the Holy Spirit and are baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
The Spirit of Jesus was fulfilling his mission of giving the entire world the opportunity to repent and believe for the forgiveness of their sins before He comes as the judge of the world to make things right and destroy Satan, sin and death once and for all. And the Spirit of Jesus was fulfilling his mission through the people He filled.
What is God is calling us to?
Brothers and sisters, I believe God is calling us to be filled with his Spirit first. Unless we are filled with the Spirit, whatever missional activities we pursue are in vain. As long as we are worldly instead of spiritual, we will only seek our comfort, self-interest, deceive one another, fight one another, hurt one another, use one another, play favorites with one another, ignore one another, and ultimately destroy one another.
But if the word of Christ dwells in us richly, if the Spirit of Christ fills us, we will love one another, we will tell the truth to one another, we will serve one another, we will lay down our lives for one another, we will fight for one another, we will teach one another, we will bear one another’s burdens, we will not show favoritism, we will not form cliques, we will not slander, we will not manipulate, but we will do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
Beloved church, my message for you is to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus. Repent of your sins and confess them to the Lord that forgiveness and times of refreshing may come. Your Shepherd loves you. He does not want you to perish or to suffer the loss of your reward, he wants you to flourish and thrive and to show you the riches of his glorious grace. He wants you to share in his glory and fulfill his good purpose for you. God is for you—he wants you to make it and that is why he will not let you stay as you are, he will not let you wallow in the status quo.
The Kingdom of God is at hand! It is glorious. It is full of justice, righteousness and steadfast love.
When the Holy Spirit reigns in your heart you will experience:
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility and self control. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Do you want that?
Do you want others to experience that from you?
Beloved today is the day. If you hear God calling, do not harden your hearts. Hear the Word of the Lord and repent of your sins and put your hope in the Lord. Ask him to fill you with His Spirit and ask the Spirit to direct your life.
If you confess Jesus Christ as Lord, then honor him by obeying him. And this is his commandment: that you love one another. As Christ has loved you, so you must love one another. And this love and the Spirit’s power will direct you individually and corporately on the mission that God has called this community to.
There is one Lord and his mission is for the gospel of his kingdom to be proclaimed to the ends of the earth. Where we fit in that picture is something that together we must ask the Spirit to lead us in as we search the Scriptures and our own lives. It will take time. But I urge you to take the first step today by submitting to the Lord:
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:7-10 ESV)
Give him your heart—not as an act of devotion, but because you are desperate for him to make your heart right before God and to uproot the sins that cling to you so closely and to give you the fruit of his work in your life.
And if the Lord wills, this can be our story. That in our time of pain, confusion, weakness and brokenness, the Holy Spirit came upon us with power and transformed us so that in a way uniquely suited to us, God made us His witnesses in Seattle, Indonesia and to the ends of the earth.
O Lord, we tremble before your awesome majesty. Who is a God like you? Holy, righteous, the creator, ruler and redeemer of all things. We tremble because we are not holy or righteous.
Despite the grace you pour out on us day after day, we forget you. We forget what your grace is for. We forget your extraordinary love for us in sending Jesus Christ to die in our place for our sins and to give to us everlasting life in a new creation without pain, suffering, sin or death. We forget that you never intended for the message of the cross to stop with us, but that you always meant for it to reach the ends of the earth so that you would be worshiped by every nation.
We are allured by worldliness. We love so many things more than we love you. We disobey you and do not give it a second thought. We seek our comfort and security instead of your kingdom and for your will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
O Lord, forgive us. Forgive us and let times of refreshing come. Holy Spirit, please be merciful to us and convict us personally of our sins that we may confess them, repent of them and be restored to a life of joyful obedience and unshakable faith in Christ Jesus. O Lord, restore to us the joy of your salvation. Make us a people who know who we are in Christ. Make us a people who love one another as Christ as loved us and laid down his life for us.
Father, thank you for disciplining us in love. You always give us only the best. It is painful, but already we see glimpses of your grace working holiness in us. Complete the good work you have begun in us. Fill us with your Spirit and give us boldness as you send us out to live a life worthy of the gospel and to proclaim the hope of your kingdom clearly to those who need to hear.
Give us one heart, one mind, and one voice in accord with the heart, mind and voice of Jesus Christ our King so that we may welcome one another for your glory Father.
We humbly ask in Jesus’ Name,