Ministry of Love

The intention of this blog is to share Biblical messages at least on a weekly basis. Any response is appreciated. I do not expect everyone to agree with my interpretation of Biblical passages. I will try to respond with love and thoughtfulness.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A Matter of Motive by John.

A Matter of Motive
Revelation 2:14

1. Where is Balaam mentioned in the New Testament? Only three places: 2 Peter 2:15
Jude 11 and Revelation 2:14, "Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality."
2. I've read the story of Balaam over and over again. It's in Numbers 22. In Numbers 31: 8, the Israelites killed Balaam as they conquered Moab.
3. The first time I read this story, I marveled at a talking donkey!
4. Sometime later in my reading, I began to wonder, Why did Balaam consider himself a prophet?
(1) Did God call him?
(2) Did he call himself?
5. If the latter is true, then I have to wonder what his motivation was, and I'm aware that most things done in this world are done to gain money.
6. Jude 11 indicates followers of Balaam have a profit motive, and it's reasonable to assume that was Balaam's reason for becoming a prophet.
(1) If he didn't expect profit, Why didn't he tell king Balak's elders that he could not curse the Israelites?
(2) I really think Balaam was shocked when he encountered an angel, and even more shocked when God spoke to him!
(3) We can also be relatively sure there was a conversation between Balaam and Balak that is not recorded in the Bible, because the Moabite women did exactly what Satan consistently tempts people to do.
7. To me, Balaam is one of the most controversial figures in the Bible.
(1) He seems to have been a self-proclaimed prophet of God.
(2) But he also seemed to try to obey God, and did outwardly up to a point.
(3) He was also his own publicity agent. Listen to Balaam in Numbers 24:4, "The oracle of Balaam son of Beor, the oracle of one whose eye sees clearly, the oracle of one who hears the words of God, who sees a vision from the Almighty, who falls prostrate, and whose eyes are opened." My mother would have said that he was tooting his own horn! His first two oracles to Balak did not begin with this, but his last two did. I believe that is significant! I believe he could not contain his greed!
(4) He certainly failed to obey at two points, one when he went with the dignitaries from Balak, and then after he finished prophesying, he taught Balak how to get Israel in trouble with God.
8. How can a prophet of God do such a thing?
(1) In our day and time, we have seen ministers of the Gospel on national TV go astray.
(2) In areas where I have served, I've seen pastors divorce their wives to marry someone else. I've also heard of it happening the other way around.
(3) We know of church treasurers who absconded with all of the church funds.
9. I believe these people all started out, called of God, dedicated to Him, and somehow they fell for the enticements of Satan!
10. I believe Balaam did the same thing. It was no excuse for him, and it is no excuse for any of us, people.
11. When we sin, the fault is all ours! Satan may have tempted us, but God gave us a way to escape, so we are guilty before God! I Corinthians 10:13 says, "No temptations has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."
12. All of this, leads me to question what our own motivation for serving God is?

I. Response to God's Call Should Motivate Us for Service.

1. He calls us to salvation, obedience and to service.
2. When you do something good for someone, what is their first response?
3. Isn't it, What can I do for you? Let me pay you! Well, thanks! I'll remember this!
4. We like to pay for what we get, don't we? (You do something for me, and I'll do something for you, or vice-versa.)
5. God does so much for us, it is natural to want to do something for Him.
6. We are all sinners! We either are, or were, under a death sentence from the heavenly court of God!
7. No one has ever done for any one of us individuals what God the Father did when He sent His Only Begotten Son Jesus to die for us.
8. We can never balance the books! If we try, we just get deeper in debt to God. It's a fact, we cannot out give God!
9. The wonderful thing about God's gift of life to us is that we don't have to repay Him by work.
10. Micah 6:8 says, "He has showed you, O man, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."
11. That requires a new life, a new personality, and the only way for that to happen to any of us is for us to place our entire lives into the hands of God by committing our lives to Jesus. Martin Luther liked to quote, "The just shall live by faith!" (Romans 1:17 KJV).
12. Hebrews 11:6 says, "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."
13. The closer we get to our heavenly Father, the more we want to serve Him!
14. He calls us to be saved. He calls us to become His children. He calls us to join Him in winning others, and it is natural for us to do it.

II. If Our Calling Is Not Nurtured, We Fall.

1. We are born anew into God's kingdom as "babes in Christ."
2. We become fully mature in Jesus when we learn His Word and systematically use it in our daily lives.
3. Christ must be central in our lives, or we will fall for Satan's temptations.
4. We must not give Satan a "toe-hold" in our lives! If we give and inch, we will fall a mile!
5. Every church service is important!
(1) We are nurtured in Bible Study.
(2) We respond to the presence and the power of God when we worship.
(3) We need to spiritually consume God's Word, the Bible, regularly! Jesus is our spiritual Bread and Drink! We certainly eat physical food at least three times a day, and many of us seldom stop eating during our waking hours!
6. We need to cultivate Christian friends who will help us stay straight with God!
(1) Satan may fool us into thinking we are doing the right thing, and it may be a real friend who shows us how wrong we are!
(2) The Holy Spirit will help us get back on track as soon as we confess our sin!
(3) There's always a great danger that we will say, "The devil made me do it!"
a. That is not true, the devil can only tempt us.
b. The decision to sin is always our own choice!
c. That's why we have to admit that we are guilty!

III. Count the Milestones and Make New Ones!

1. I like to remember when I became a Christian.
(1) Some of us can remember the exact moment, and some cannot, but all of us can remember there was a time when we were lost, and we know now that we are saved! Moving from being lost to being saved is a milestone in our lives!
(2) We should be able to look back, too, and be aware of a time when we suddenly felt like we had to dedicate our lives to the Lord. (Isaiah 6: 1ff) That's another milestone in our spiritual lives.
(3) That may be the time God called us to serve Him in a particular way. That's a milestone, too.
(4) Marriage, graduation, a particular revival meeting, or a service where we suddenly realized we would never be the same again. That's another milestone in our spiritual lives.
2. The milestones in your life may be somewhat different to those in someone else's life, but one thing is sure. God's claim on our lives became paramount at the moment we wholeheartedly said, "Yes, Lord, what will you have me do?"
3. The sad truth is that service of any sort, in business, in teaching, in art, or to our Lord loses its luster, it's newness. It can become extremely stale. 4. Marriages become stale sometimes, don't they? I have often told young people about to marry that their marriage would not last and succeed if their only attraction to each other was sex.
(1) Sex and family are an important part of marriage, but with all of the senses God has given us, we will be attracted to other people. David and Bathsheba are a very real example of that.
(2) We have to develop trust, respect and friendship in marriage that grows from day to day. When we do, our marriage will last and won't be stale!
(3) In a similar way, our service to God may get stale because we seem to do and say the same things all the time. We begin to feel like nothing is happening. We may feel like total, abject failures!
5. We need some milestones in marriage, and we need milestones in our spiritual lives. ill. In I Samuel 4 in the days of Eli, the Philistines fought Israel and killed about 4000 soldiers. In chapter 5, the Ark of the Covenant was brought into the camp, and the Philistines routed Israel and captured the Ark of the Covenant. In chapter 7, Israel's leaders, Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, his sons, are dead, and Israel has defeated the Philistines. In verse 12, Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpeh and Shen. He called it Ebenezer. Ebenezer means "stone of help." It was a milestone to remind the people that the Lord helped them win the battle!
6. We need to recall our Christian milestones, but we also need to set our sights on reaching new ones.
(1) We can choose to be stale, trite and defeated, or we can choose to do something!
(2) I am sure none of us have done all we can for the Lord! Amen?
(3) That means there is challenge and victory in the future! Maybe that future starts today!

Conclusion:

1. If you have been a Christian very long, you are a Christian veteran of spiritual wars!
(1) There are all kinds of veterans. I'm a veteran of WW II, but I never saw action. The only explosion I saw was a floating mine in the Pacific Ocean that we blew up one day by shooting it with a five-inch gun. Other veterans fought, had ships and planes shot out from under them, and today, in this war, we are seeing people returning home blind, lame, crippled for life, and some will never come home. They are casualties of war!
(2) Veterans have all experienced the contrary winds of war to some extent or other.
(3) Veterans are seasoned and better equipped to stand against the stronger winds of war.
2. God uses His veterans who are willing to win new victories that will glorify Him, and that will extend His kingdom on Earth!
3. Do you see yourself as a loser? You're not! Because no one who trusts Jesus is ever a loser!
4. I heard a man say, "Not one of those churches listed in Revelation are in existence today! That proves that Jesus was wrong when He said, "Upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it." That man was wrong. Not a single Christian in those churches is in hell. Those entire churches were transferred into heaven. They were all winners. They were victors over the dark domain! And we are, and we will be, too!
5. Determine in your heart not to be like Balaam. Determine to be like Christ! As someone said, "Expect great things from God! Attempt great things for God!
6. Let's pray. Ask yourself, what is my motivation for serving God?

Emmanuel Community Church 7/23/2006

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