Joseph Before Pharaoh | Genesis 41

Week 5 | Sermon

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will. (Proverbs 21:1 ESV)

Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.” (Genesis 41:16 ESV)

OPENING THOUGHT

Genesis is the introduction to the Bible. The first eleven chapters reveal how the world became like it is by describing creation, our fall into sin, the great flood, and the scattering at Babel. The rest of the book concerns how God begins working through one family to repair the effects of sin, the family of Abra-ham. But Abraham did not save us from our sins nor did his son Isaac or grandson Jacob.

Thus, now we come to the story of Jacob’s son, Joseph, ready to learn more of God’s plan for salvation. For being in a blessed family, Joseph’s story does not appear to be one of blessing. Although beloved by his father, his brothers despised Joseph, eventually selling him into slavery. In Egypt, Joseph was sold to a captain named Potiphar, and the young man quickly earned the Egyptians favor. Unfortunately, a false accusation from Potiphar’s wife got Joseph cast into prison where he interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh’s cup bearer and baker.

Though Joseph is still in prison, his fortune shifts in our present text. After successfully interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams, the king of Egypt will place Joseph as his second-in-command over the entire kingdom. In this, we see God’s providence elevating Joseph from his temporary stay in prison to the palace of Pharaoh, and we see Joseph’s faithfulness to trust God through sorrow or joy.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read chapter 41 and discuss the following.

1. When Pharaoh was distressed by his dreams, he turned to his wise men and magicians for answers, but God alone could provide the peace that Pharaoh sought. What are things you turn to during times of stress, anxiety, fear, confusion, etc? What should we do instead?

2. Joseph’s knowledge of God’s plan for Egypt leads him to almost immediate action. Similarly, how should God’s sovereignty of salvation and missions lead us to bolder evangelism?

3. In some ways, wealth can make following God more difficult since it provides more opportunities for our hearts to stray. How did Joseph remain faithful even when elevated to second-in-command?

4. Though Joseph has been elevated, the story of Genesis is not over because Judah’s descendant, Jesus, is the hero, not Joseph. Joseph must still be used to save Judah from the famine, so that Jesus can be born. Likewise, in what ways does your life reflect that Jesus is the hero of your life story?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions.

• What has God taught you through this text (about Himself, sin, humanity, etc.)?

• What sin has God convicted or reproved you of through this text?

• How has God corrected you (i.e. your theology, thinking, lifestyle, etc.) through this text?

• Pray through the text, asking God to train you toward righteousness by conforming you to His Word.

Joseph Sold into Slavery | Genesis 37

Week 1 | Sermon

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Then Midianite traders passed by. And they drew Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. They took Joseph to Egypt. (Genesis 37:28 ESV).

If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. (1 Peter 4:14 ESV)
OPENING THOUGHT

Genesis is the book of beginnings. It opens with eleven chapters that describe the creation of the world, humanity’s fall into sin, the great flood that only Noah’s family survived, and the scattering of humanity at Babel. In the creation account, we learn that God created the world good and even made humanity in His image. We were not content, however, to be made in God’s likeness. We wanted to be God, and so we disobeyed, bringing sin onto the earth. But even in the midst of our sin, God showed grace beyond measure, proclaiming hope that one day sin would be defeated for good. Indeed, these chapters are essential for properly understanding both the Bible and ourselves.

Beginning with chapter twelve, Genesis takes a significant shift in perspective by focusing upon a man named Abram instead of on humanity in general. Through his faith walk with God, the LORD promises to bless him by giving him a son through his barren wife, blessing all the nations through him, and giving him all the land of Canaan. Abraham then dies, only seeing the first of God’s promises fulfilled. The narrative then follows Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, as he attempts to follow God but repeatedly trusts in his own strength instead.

We now come to the fourth and final section of Genesis, which focuses predominately on Jacob’s son, Joseph. As the eleventh of twelve sons, Joseph could have been the runt of his family but was favorited by his father instead. This favoritism ultimately causes Joseph’s brothers to sell him into slavery, leading to one of the most well-known stories of the Bible. Unlike the lives of Abraham and Jacob, Joseph’s life is marked by stunning displays of God’s glory; rather, Joseph’s life is saturated in the providence of God. Although he faces abuse, slavery, and prison, God’s plan is present throughout and ultimately leading to Joseph becoming Pharaoh’s right hand. As we dive into Joseph’s story, may we become more aware of the everyday glories of God around us.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read chapter 37 and discuss the following.

  1. A great benefit of reading narratives in Scripture is that we often are able to become aware of our own sin through reading these ancient sins. Do you presently wrestle with any sins present in this chapter (i.e. Jacob’s favoritism, Judah’s greed, the brothers’ unwillingness to reconcile, etc.)?
  2. How does this chapter serve as a stern warning against the dangers of unrepentant jealousy?
  3. Because no sin is ever committed in isolation, Jacob is grievously impacted by his sons’ sin. Can you recall a time when your sin hurt someone else? How might “secret” sins still harm others?
  4. The chapter ends with a cliffhanger, informing us that Joseph’s story is only beginning and that his visions might still become reality. How might this example of God’s providence provide hope for those suffering?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions.

  • What has God taught you through this text (about Himself, sin, humanity, etc.)?
  • What sin has God convicted or reproved you of through this text?
  • How has God corrected you (i.e. your theology, thinking, lifestyle, etc.) through this text?
  • Pray through the text, asking God to train you toward righteousness by conforming you to His Word.

Healthy Members | Ephesian 4:17-32

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. (Ephesians 4:25 ESV)

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clarmor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:29-32 ESV)

OPENING THOUGHT

In the Western Meadows Values Series, we have been studying the primary values that we hold as a church. We began with the Great Commission, Jesus’ final command for His disciples to continue making disciples. The great purpose and mission of each Christian and church is, therefore, to make disciples, and we do so because by making more disciples of Jesus we continue to fill the earth with Christ’s image and glory.

Like the Christian walk, making disciples happens on two fronts: individually and corporately. As individuals, we live our lives as a witness for Christ, proclaim His gospel to nonbelievers, and teach other Christians to obey all that He has commanded us. Corporately, we make disciples by devoting ourselves to Scripture (by faithfully preaching and hearing them), prayer (specifically praying for boldness to proclaim the gospel), and community (by loving one another as Christ has loved us).

We now conclude our study of the church’s values by turning to Ephesians 4. In the first half of the chapter, Paul described how to become a healthy church by prioritizing unity and helping one another grow in maturity through our diverse gifts. The second half likewise describes being a healthy church member. Here Paul urges us to put away our previously sinful way of life and to live like Christ. He ends with a volley of quick commands that show practically how we are meant to live around each other in Christ.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read verses 17-24 and discuss the following.

  1. Here Paul commands us to put off our old, sinful ways of living and to put on our new life in Christ. What aspects of your life before Christ have you put away? What aspects do you still wrestle with? How does this gospel provide us hope even in the midst of our sin?

Read verses 25-32 and discuss the following.

  1. Within these verses, Paul delivers a series of exhortations for how we should live as members of the body of Christ. Which verse is most convicting for you? Why? What practical steps might you take to walk in obedience?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions.

  • What has God taught you through this text (about Himself, sin, humanity, etc.)?
  • What sin has God convicted or reproved you of through this text?
  • How has God corrected you (i.e. your theology, thinking, lifestyle, etc.) through this text?
  • Pray through the text, asking God to train you toward righteousness by conforming you to His Word.

What Is the Mark of the Beast?

Revelation is a weird book.

Filled with plagues, dragons, angels, beasts, and a lot of numbers, it is a difficult book to understand.

But Revelation is also necessary. In the final chapter, we find this reminder: “And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” (22:7) This means that Revelation is not a book that can be ignored or can be treated as unimportant until Christ returns. We need its message to the Church, and we must obey it.

Though there is much we could discuss, I want to focus specifically on the mark of the beast and what it might be.

Here is how the Bible describes it in Revelation 13:11-18:

Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed. It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived. And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain. Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.

Probably the most common interpretation of this passage asserts that this beast (who is later called the False Prophet) is a literal person who will enforce worship of the first beast (called the Beast later and who many believe to be the Antichrist). The False Prophet will, therefore, institute a worldwide religion around the Antichrist, and those who refuse to worship by receiving its mark will be slain.

Proponents of this view typically believe that the mark of the beast will also be a literal branding of some sort. The rise of microchip technology has led many to wonder if the mark will be an implanted chip that is used in much the same way as credit cards.

While such an interpretation may very well come to pass, I would like to make a brief argument for another view.

Instead of viewing Revelation as wholly futuristic, it seems best to view it through the lens of symbolism. After all, Revelation is explicitly a book of prophecy, and God repeatedly called the Old Testament prophets to use symbolism in their prophecies.

In a symbolic view, many interpret the False Prophet to be a representation of all false prophets, who ultimately turn the hearts’ of people away from Christ and toward antichrists. Revelation’s visions of the Antichrist and False Prophet are viewed, therefore, as warnings of the plethora of antichrists and false prophets who will deceive people throughout history.

1 John 4:1-3 seems to complement this view (especially since it is probably the same John who authored Revelation):

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.

The spirit of the antichrist was already in the world in John’s day, and false prophets were already directing worship to it. The spirit of the antichrist is anything that opposes Jesus. We either worship Christ, or we worship the antichrist. We worship God, or we worship ourselves. The spirit of the antichrist is worldliness and lawlessness (aka sin). When we sin, we place ourselves against Christ.

But if the False Prophet is symbolic, then what is the mark of the beast?

Notice that the mark of the beast is placed upon the right hand or forehead. This is probably best understood as a reference to the Shema in Deuteronomy. Jews have traditionally prayed the Shema twice a day because they view it as a sort of summary statement for their theology.

But you should read it for yourself:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

In the Shema, God was calling Israel to know Him through His Scriptures. He begins with a statement of who He is, and then commands them to love Him with all their heart, soul, and strength (which Jesus said was the greatest commandment, by the way).

But He didn’t stop there.

He then told them to take His Words with them.

Teach them to your children.

Talk about them in your house, while you travel, when you go to sleep, and when you wake up.

He told them to bind His commands on their hand and place them on their forehead between their eyes.

Write them on every doorpost of every house and gate.

What’s the point?

God wanted His people to be saturated in His Word. Even in the Old Testament, God’s people were to be known by their love for God’s Scriptures because God revealed Himself in them. We should be so steeped in God’s Word that it might as well be marked or branded on our hands and forehead.

So, if the mark of Christ’s followers is their love for one another and the Scriptures, couldn’t the mark of the beast be a sign of us devoting ourselves to anything other than God through His Word?

As we saw John say already, the antichrist is any spirit that does not proclaim Jesus as sent from God, but he continues in his letter to tie the antichrist to worldly thinking:

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (1 John 4:4-6)

God’s people are commanded to speak the Scriptures to one another, but those who follow after the antichrist “speak from the world, and the world listens to them.”

Could it be, therefore, that the mark of the beast is saturating our lives with the things of this world, instead of with God, His Scriptures, and His people?

This interpretation resonates with me because while many Christians watch vigilantly for the latest news of microchips, few saturate themselves in God’s Word, teaching others to obey all that Christ commanded us.

Few watchfully persevere in prayer, praying for boldness to proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into marvelous light.

Few fill their lives with the community of their brothers and sisters in Christ, showing the world our love for Christ through our love for His people.

Martyrdom can quickly become a fantasy.

It is easy to look forward to a day when we are called to stand for Christ in the face of martyrdom, but the reality is that our Lord already called us to die to self. Each day is an act of martyrdom as we take up the cross of Christ so that He might live and reign in us. We must not romanticize dying for Jesus if we are not willing to live with Him everyday, saturated in His Word.

Many read the Bible, but few are saturated in it. Deuteronomy 6:6-9 describes Scripture saturation well.

As people who have been saved by God, do we long to hear from God in His Word?

Do we excitedly speak about it to each other while at home or traveling?

Is God’s Word such a component of our lives that we might as well have it tattooed on our forehead or hand?

Or are we marked by the wisdom of this world, which James calls unspiritual and demonic?

I would argue that if the beast’s mark is a lack of God’s Word, it is far more insidious and deadly than any microchip.

How Do We Make Disciples? (Making Disciples: part three)

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Acts 2:42 ESV

It is wonderful to speak about the importance and preeminence of making disciples; however, most of it is meaningless if we never ask the next question: How do we make disciples?

There has been a wonderful movement over the last several years to reclaim discipleship.

The state of the modern church looked rather bleak. The need to be comforted and encouraged slowly replaced the gospel call toward holiness and sanctification. Worship preference replaced joyfully solemn worship of the Holy One. And many saw these changes as the failure to make biblically-mandated disciples.

The response was to bring discipleship to an individual level, emphasizing that each Christian has the responsibility to make disciples. Typically, one-on-one regular meetings are promoted most, though discipleship within small groups has also become tremendously popular.

As I said, this is a wonderful and much-needed movement, but we must also be careful not to jump to another equally dangerous extreme in reaction.

I believe discipleship, like our own walks with the Lord, occurs on two fronts, individually and communally.

In the past, we tended to rely upon the church community alone to make disciples, but we must be wary of over-emphasizing individual discipleship now, lest we ignore the benefits of community discipleship.

Because these posts are focused upon the church as a whole, I will spend more time covering the three basic forms of communal discipleship (Scripture, Prayer, and Community) within the next three series.

But for now, let us briefly discuss over the next three posts the three broad ways that we are able to make disciples at an individual level: witnessing, evangelism, and teaching.

The Great Commission (Making Disciples: part two)

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:18-20 ESV

The life of Jesus is the most astonishing act in all of human history.

Because of our continuous sinning against God, we deserved nothing from Him except His wrath. As the Creator of everything, He demanded absolute perfection from us and even the smallest of sins bear eternal consequences because He is an eternal God. We were trapped in a well of sin with no hope of escape.

Two of the most beautiful words in the entire Bible are: but God. They appear whenever God intervenes on our behalf, which means they appear often. Sin and its consequences are bad news, but God intervenes, bringing good news.

The good news is that God came into the world as a man, Jesus Christ. Being fully human and full divine, Jesus lived the perfect sinless life that we were commanded to live. He then died a horrific death for us, even though He did not earn death. Jesus lived His life and died His death in substitution for us. But the good news doesn’t stop there. Jesus did not merely die for us; He also rose again to life, defeating death permanently.

It is from this position of death-conquering that we receive the Great Commission.

Before ascending to sit at God the Father’s right hand, Jesus gathered His disciples to Him for one final in-person teaching. He gave them a declaration of His authority and their final mission until He returns.

Notice that Jesus’ prefaces His commands with a declaration of His authority. Just as God gave Adam the First Commission as Creator, Jesus commissions His disciples as Lord of all, as the Re-Creator. We must, therefore, keep this authority in mind as we move forward to the commands.

As with the First Commission, Jesus issues four commands, but they are summed into one. The heart of the First Commission was the order to multiply. Being fruitful was accomplished through multiplying, and filling and subduing the earth could only be fulfilled via multiplication. Likewise, making disciples is the heart of the Great Commission. We go to all nations, baptizing and teaching, in order to make disciples.

We are called to make disciples, and this call comes from our Lord.

Making disciples, therefore, is not optional.

We can only either obey or disobey the command.

But why does Jesus call us to make disciples?

Jesus did not command His disciples to multiply simply for the sake of creating more disciples. Jesus never played the numbers game. John 6 gives the account of Jesus feeding the 5000. After doing so, Christ had more than 5000 followers because everyone loves free food. But seeing that they were not actually interested in His words, He told them that real food is found by eating His flesh and drinking His blood. Almost everyone left because no one likes to get free food from a possible cannibal.

Jesus was never afraid to thin the crowd by separating the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats. But still Christianity has become the most culture-shaping force on the planet, with Christians being found in every nation. How is this so?

We should note that disciples, being students, embody the characteristics of their teacher. It is a natural process to become like whomever you follow. This thought is captured in the word Christian, which essentially means “like Christ” or “little Christ”. As Christians, we desire to become like our Lord and Teacher, meaning the goal of creating a disciple is to create an image-bearer of Christ.

The First Commission and Great Commission, therefore, both have the same goal: the glorification and exaltation of God. Both accomplish this goal through multiplying and filling the earth with image-bearers.

Making disciples means creating more image-bearers of Christ. As disciples of Jesus, we should desire to make more disciples of Jesus. We should desire to make the good news that God saves known to the world, a truth which brings light into the darkness of the world. Jesus also called this the expansion of His kingdom against the kingdom of darkness.

As the Church (the collective followers of Christ), our aim and mission is to make disciples, which is the expansion of Christ’s kingdom, which is the exaltation and glorification of Jesus Christ.

Because local churches are composed of their members, each individual church congregation will change continuously with each member that goes and comes, but this mission does not and cannot.

The function of the individual Christian and the Church collective is to make disciples.

A Christians that does not make disciples is no Christian.

A church that does not make disciples is no church.

 

 

Making Disciples | Matthew 28:18-20

Week 1 | Sermon

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (Acts 2:42 ESV)

OPENING THOUGHT

The Great Commission is important because it is Jesus’ final words to His disciples before He ascended into heaven. These are the words that Christ wanted to be ringing in our ears until He comes back. We would, therefore, do well to heed them. Jesus’ Great Commission is the mission statement of the Church. His earthly ministry was primarily about bringing the kingdom of heaven to earth, which reached its culmination in His death and resurrection. Though Jesus is no longer physically here, God’s kingdom must continue to expand. This is where we come in.

Disciples are made through two simultaneous avenues: individually and communally. As individual Christians, we obey Christ’s command primarily by witnessing, evangelizing, and teaching other about Jesus. As a community, we make disciples through the proclaiming and holding to the Scriptures together, praying together, and growing into mature community together.

Through the Western Meadows Values Series, we will focus on why making disciples is the mission of the church and how disciples are made through Scripture, prayer, and community. As the church, our aim and mission is to make disciples to the glorification and exaltation of Jesus Christ. This mission comes directly from our Lord. Making disciples, therefore, is not optional. We can only either obey or disobey His command.

Read Genesis 1:28 and discuss the following.

  1. Why did God command humanity to multiply and fill the earth?

Read Matthew 28:18-20 and discuss the following.

  1. Why does Jesus command His disciples to go to all nations and make more disciples?
  2. How can each Christian obey the command of making disciples?
  3. How does the church as a community make disciples?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • Obey. Are you intentional about making disciples, both individually and collectively? Think through how your life serves as a witness for Christ, how you have shared the gospel with someone, and/or how you have trained someone up in the faith. In what ways will you continue to do so?
  • Pray. Ask the Father for grace and strength to obey the commands of Christ.