Joseph’s Brothers Go to Egypt | Genesis 42

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Then they said to one another, “In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us. (Genesis 42:21 ESV)

He said to his brothers, “My money has been put back; here it is in the mouth of my sack!” At this their hearts failed them, and they turned trembling to one another, saying, “What is this that God has done to us?” (Genesis 42:28 ESV)

OPENING THOUGHT

Genesis, the first book of the Bible, can easily be divided into two main parts. First, chapter one through eleven deal with the shaping of the world as we know it through creation, humanity’s fall into sin, the great flood, and the humanity’s dispersion at Babel. Second, chapters twelve through fifty focus upon Abraham and how God would use his family to bring salvation to all of humanity.

We now follow the life of Joseph, Abraham’s great grandson. After being sold into slavery by his brother, Joseph rose to a prominent rank as a servant only to be falsely accused and cast into prison. As a prisoner, Joseph was placed in charge of other prisoners, like Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker. After correctly interpreting the cupbearer’s dream, Jospeh beg him to mention Joseph to Pharaoh, but two whole years passed before the cupbearer remembered Joseph. In a blur of a moment, Joseph found himself removed from the prison, interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams, and placed as second-in-command over all of Egypt. In all of these things, God’s providence has been on grand display, but Joseph’s story isn’t finished yet.

Today we learn that the famine struck Canaan as well, forcing Jacob to send his ten older sons to Egypt to buy food. Of course, the men must buy their food from Joseph, who is now an Egyptian noble named Zaphenath-paneah, and although they don’t recognize Joseph, he realizes who they are. Joseph then proceeds to test his brothers, casting them into prison and speaking roughly to them. But all of this is God providentially bringing the men’s guilt over Joseph to the surface that they might find true repentance.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read chapter 42 and discuss the following.

  1. Jacob derides his sons for doing nothing when they know that Egypt has food to buy. Of course, their reluctance may have come from a fear of traveling to the land where they thought Joseph was most likely a slave. Similarly, can you think of times in your life when sin caused you to shirk your responsibilities?
  2. God uses Joseph’s harsh treatment of his brothers to remind them of their bloodguilt against Joseph. Can you think of a similar time when God used circumstances to convict you of sin? When is guilt beneficial, and when it is harmful? What is the ultimately goal of our guilt?
  3. When Joseph’s brothers find their money still in their bags, they are afraid, knowing that they might be accused of stealing whenever they return, and they held God responsible (and He was).  How can you resonate with the men’s fear of God? What is a biblical fear of God, and why is it important?

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. 
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Sept. 23, 2016

Repentance: Running to the Greatest of All Treasures

This fits pretty well with the theme of my most recent post.

The proper response to the gospel is to repent (Acts 2:38). The question is, have you repented? If you haven’t repented in such a way that you’ve turned to Jesus by faith, your so-called repentance is deficient and damning.

What Does TV Say About Sex?

This is a much needed call for us to be mindful of what media is teaching us.

In ten minutes, I heard at least three lies: 

  1. Heterosexual sex outside of marriage is commendable and good.
  2. Homosexual relationships are commendable and good.
  3. It’s fun and exciting to invite someone you don’t know to come on to you sexually.

Save Your Soul: Stop Writing

As writers, we often hand over our souls and stories for the price of approval, advances, page-views, speaking opportunities, and more book deals. But sometimes (not always) the best thing to do is to be silent. To listen. To hear.

15 Reasons Why Visitation Is Vital for Your Pastor

Here Andrew Roycroft writes a response to Thom Rainer’s post on why pastor’s should not visit much. I really appreciate the thoughts of both Roycroft and Rainer, and together the two articles provide a nice balance for pastoral and congregational visitation.

Pushing Kids Into Transgenderism Is Medical Malpractice

The problem with taking the steps to transition physically—cross-gender hormones and surgeries—is that physical changes are likely permanent, but the feelings driving the desire may change, especially for young people.

 

 

a thought on repentance, obedience, & the Law

I’ve wrestled with this question a lot.

Though I was saved at an early age, I didn’t fully understand the gospel (especially the eternal security of believers) until I was in college.

As a kid, I truly wanted to live a Christ-like life, I knew I was a sinner, and I believed that Christ died for my sin. I struggled, though, with the notion of what Jesus’ forgiveness looked like.

It seemed both logical and desirable to repent regularly, both of known and unknown sins. Yet for several years, the need to ask for forgiveness consumed me.

Each night I would fall asleep praying for forgiveness over and over again. I was terrified that if I died in my sleep, God would send me to hell because my last thought might be a sinful one.

My young mind essentially created its own penitential system for dealing with sin. Instead of trusting God to forgive all of my sins by grace through faith, I established a means of working off my sins through the constant and repetitive asking of forgiveness. I was heaping up empty phrases, hoping to be heard for my many words (Matt. 6:7). It was an attempt to barter for grace instead of receiving grace through faith.

Once For All

A trip to New Mexico one summer changed everything.

I don’t remember who preached or what text they preached, but after worship service, I sat on a pew and understood (for the first time) the significance of Christ dying once. As common sense as it might seem, I never truly considered that Christ’s death paid for ALL of my sins– past, present, and future.

And it was the future sins that really got me.

On that cross, all of my sins were future sins, but He died for them. This meant that He knew them, even the ones that will come decades from now. None of my sins came as a surprise to Him, and because of that once-for-all sacrifice, I could be truly certain of my forgiveness and salvation.

But that isn’t to say that we should stop repenting of sin.

In many ways, repentance is the great mark of a true Christian.

We are called to repent of sin continually, not just initially (Matt. 3:8).

However, laying my cards on the table, the question “Must I repent after each sin?” is a loaded one. The word must implies an obligation, a requirement, or even a coercion to do something, but as followers of Christ, we get to repent of our sins, knowing that God is faithful and just to forgive us. It is a joy to ask our Father for forgiveness and strength to turn from sin because we already know what His answer will be.

Outward Obedience

While studying to preach on Christ’s relationship to the Old Testament Law, I finally came to understand why Paul calls us captives under the Law before Christ came (Gal. 3:23).¹

Laws are necessary, but by nature, they merely rein in our sin. A law’s power is equal to the consequence for breaking it, and those punishments leverage our sinful nature for the benefit of society. For instance, if the consequence is severe enough, most people will not risk stealing. Or we could ask, how many killings are prevented simply because the fear of punishment hinders an act of blind rage?

Laws confine sinful behavior by establishing a punishment as a reason to refrain from sin.

Because of this, obeying a law does not make me a inwardly moral person; it only means that I am outwardly behaving according to the law.

Outward obedience does not necessarily correlate with an internal godly morality.

This is why Jesus’ teachings so angered the Pharisees. They nearly perfected outward obedience, but Jesus called their bluff. He knew their hearts didn’t line up with their actions, so He called them what they were: hypocrites (Matt. 23:25).

Inward Obedience

Fortunately, Jesus had a better answer to the problem of sin than the Law could provide.

Jeremiah describes Jesus’ followers as having the law written on their hearts (Jer. 31:33). This means that they would no longer be compelled to obey God’s law out of fear of punishment; instead, they would actually want to obey.

Our captivity to the law is broken on two fronts.

First, Jesus’ death decisively eliminates the eternal punishment of sin, allowing us to live in the joy of knowing that we will never suffer the wrath of God, only His loving discipline.

Second, we have a joy from obeying the law because Christ has now written it within our hearts. We, therefore, no longer feel obligated to obey God; instead, we joyfully obey Him with thanksgiving!

Jesus has erased the must, the obligation, from obedience and from repentance.

Conclusion

So, in answer to the original question, if a Christian dies immediately after sinning, they are still in Christ because God already justified them once for all. The lack of time to repent of a particular sin will NOT override God’s grace.

But of course, given time, Christians will naturally desire to repent.

Repentance is what we do.

And that desire will come from gratitude to God, not requirement or mere necessity.

My younger self’s brokenness over sin and desire for obedience was certainly a good sign of truly following Christ, but I’m immeasurably thankful for the grace of knowing the gospel’s truth and assurance more fully.

Does repenting of sin ever become a requirement in your heart instead of being a desire, delight, and grace?


 

1) Charles Leiter’s The Law of Christ has helped me tremendously to understand our New Covenant relationship to the Old Testament laws. Hopefully, the brief discussion of the topics in this post will encourage you to study them more deeply in Leiter’s book.

To Laodicea: Be Zealous & Repent | Revelation 3:14-22

Seven Letters Week 8

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

I know your works: you are night cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:15-16)

I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. (Revelation 3:17)

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)

OPENING THOUGHT

Jesus’ letters to the seven churches of Revelation were essentially report cards on the health of each church. Ephesus had great works and doctrine but had forgotten their first love. Pergamum was conforming to the society around them, while Thyatira allowed false doctrine into the church. Sardis was a church that appeared to be healthy but was actually dead. Smyrna and Philadelphia were beacons of good news in the midst of the rebukes. Jesus urged Smyrna to remain faithful until death and Philadelphia to patiently endure by holding fast to Him.

We conclude the series this week with the final church: Laodicea. Similar to the church of Sardis, Jesus has only rebukes for the Laodicea church. Located near the Colossians, Laodicea was a prosperous city with little need for aid from the Roman Empire or its neighboring cities. Apparently, the church developed a similar mentality.

Laodicea did not suffer from the kind of poverty or persecution that other churches were facing; instead, they were wealthy and prosperous. Yet because they only considered themselves to be materially rich, Jesus concludes that they are actually poor. Due to their prosperity, they thought they were in need of nothing, yet they were lacking Jesus. Therefore, Christ urges Laodicea to buy gold from Him in order to be truly rich and to open the door at which He is knocking. As Laodicea was essentially a church without Jesus, we must strive to not follow in their footsteps.

Read verses 14-16 and discuss the following.

  1. Jesus opens His letter to Laodicea by stating that they are neither cold nor hot, and because they are lukewarm, He will spit them out of His mouth. What does Jesus mean by calling them lukewarm?
  2. Why does He threaten such a negative reaction as spitting them out of His mouth?

Read verses 17-18 and discuss the following.

  1. Here Christ lists how the church of Laodicea saw itself (rich, prosperous, and in need of nothing), but then He offers His view of them (wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked). What problem caused the church to see itself differently than how Jesus saw them?

Read verses 19-22 and discuss the following.

  1. What actions does Jesus command the church to take in response to the rebukes given?
  2. What promises does Christ give to those who repent?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • Living in a prosperous society always leads to the possibility of developing the same sinful independence as the church in Laodicea. After all, it is difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of God precisely because materially wealth often masks spiritual need. Therefore, consider whether you are rich with gold that comes from Christ.
  • Prayerfully reflect upon the message to Laodicea, considering any areas of your life where repentance is needed.

To Thyatira: Repent of False Teaching | Revelation 2:18-29

Seven Letters Week 5

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. (Revelation 2:19)

Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. (Revelation 2:16)

Only hold fast to what you have until I come. (Revelation 2:25)

OPENING THOUGHT

Having discussed the churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, and Pergamum, we now come to the center of the seven letters of Revelation. To the Ephesians, Christ applauded their works and theology, but He condemned their lack of love. For the church in Smyrna, Jesus had nothing to say against them; with the world attacking them, He encouraged them to persevere throughout hardship. The church in Pergamum was a mixed bag: some were holding firm during persecution, but others were conforming themselves to the society around them.

The church in Thyatira is essentially the foil of the Ephesians. Jesus begins by commending the works and love of the Christians there. They were succeeding where the Christians in Ephesus were failing. However, Jesus then rebukes them for tolerating false teachings in their midst. So the success of the Ephesians was Thyatira’s failure. Thyatira and Ephesus were in this way mirror opposites of one another.

It could also be said that Thyatira was the unfortunate progression of Pergamum. Both churches were guilty of the sin of comprising with the society around them and tolerating the false teaching within the church. The letter to Pergamum focused more on former, while Thyatira exemplifies the latter. It is too true that compromise with the world is a stepping stone toward the blatant accepting of false teaching within the church.

Read verses 18-19 and discuss the following.

  1. Christ begins His message to the church of Thyatira by commending their love, faith, service, and works. They were triumphing in the areas that the Christians in Ephesus were failing. Could Jesus’ say of you His words in verse 19?
  2. Like those in Thyatira, are you continuing to grow in good works?

Read verses 20-23 and discuss the following.

  1. In the Old Testament, Jezebel was a wife to the king of Israel, who incited Israel to worship the false god, Baal. Jesus is likely using this as a symbolic name for one or more false teachers within the church of Thyatira who were leading the believers away from the truth. What sorts of heresies might have been taught to Thyatira?
  2. What are some false teachings that are prevalent within our culture?

Read verses 24-29 and discuss the following.

  1. Like the church of Pergamum, Jesus urges the Christians within Thyatira to hold fast until He comes. In what ways can we hold fast and guard ourselves against false teaching?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • Take time this week to pray specifically for people being deceived by false teachings and for those who are holding fast to Christ in the midst of false teaching.
  • Prayerfully reflect upon your works, love, faith, service, and patient endurance for Christ, and consider how you might continue to grow in weaker areas.

To Pergamum: Hold Fast to Christ | Revelation 2:12-17

Seven Letters Week 4

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

I know where you dwell, where Satans throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. (Revelation 2:13)

Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. (Revelation 2:16)

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promising is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23)

OPENING THOUGHT

We have now explored two of the seven letters that Jesus gave to the churches in Asia. The church of Ephesus was strong in action and doctrine but lacking of love. The Christians in Smyrna were facing near constant persecution for their faith in Jesus as lord, yet they remained faithful, even though some of them were killed. Over the years, Christ removed the church from Ephesus and city fell into ruin, but the church in Smyrna persevered and is still striving for the faith today.

We travel now to the third church, located in Pergamum. The Christians of Pergamum receive a message of great encouragement and severe warning. Like their brothers in Smyrna, Pergamum’s church suffered greatly for following Christ as lord. Jesus even goes so far as to say that they dwell where Satan’s throne is; no doubt this is a reference to the great idolatry that existed in Pergamum. They were Christians in a culture that was very much anti-Christian. They were living behind enemy lines.

Though many in Pergamum remained faithful throughout their hardships, Jesus does not withhold His rebuke from them. The Christians of Pergamum appeared to have the opposite problem of those in Ephesus. While the Ephesians held tight to right doctrine but lost their love, the Pergamum church became accepting to the point that some of them were being swept away into false teachings and sinful living. We must avoid both extremes. We can neither separate entirely from the culture around us, nor can we submit to it. Instead, we are not of this world, but we have been sent into the world to expand the kingdom of God.

Read verses 12-13 and discuss the following.

  1. Though the Christians in Pergamum dwelled where Satan’s throne is, Jesus commends that they have held fast to Him and did not deny the faith. How does the Bible instruct us to hold fast to Christ?

Read verses 14-15 and discuss the following.

  1. In His rebuke against the church of Pergamum, Christ states that some of them were deviating into false teachings and sinful behavior of the culture around them. What are some false teachings and sinful behaviors of today’s culture?

Read verses 16-17 and discuss the following.

  1. Christ claims that unless the church at Pergamum repents it will find itself at war against Jesus Himself. Why is repentance so significant in the life of a follower of Christ and to the church community?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • Just as some in Pergamum were being swept away by the sins and false teachings of the society among them, consider areas of your life in which you may be doing the same thing, and repent of them.

The Heart of Repentance (Psalm 51)

Psalm Study Guide (Week 4)

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. (Psalm 51:1)

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. (Psalm 51:12)

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.  (Psalm 51:17)

OPENING THOUGHT

All of life is worship. We cannot escape from God’s glory as revealed in His creation. We cannot feign ignorance of God’s revelation through His Word. The only question is whether we will worship God or something else. There can be no other answer. We were made to worship. Last week, we saw the great psalmist, David, worshiping the LORD by expressing his confidence that the LORD is his shepherd. His faith in God is worshipful to God because it expresses his reliance upon (and the reliability of) God.

We now leave the beautiful and tranquil 23rd Psalm in order to study Psalm 51, which is anything but tranquil. The subscript of the psalm informs us that David wrote this psalm after Nathan spoke to him about Bathsheba, which can be read in 2 Samuel 11-12. This was, by far, the darkest moment of sin in David’s life. He had committed adultery with a woman named Bathsheba, and when she became pregnant, he had her husband killed as a cover up. David went months thinking that he managed to fully hide his sin until God sent Nathan to rebuke David.

From this rebuke, David pens one of the most insightful chapters in all of the Bible. We have modeled for us within this psalm the heart of repentance. David humbly and brokenly begs God to cleanse him of sin and to restore his joy in the LORD’s salvation. Within this psalm, there are many important keys for us to learn from David of how repentance is a form of worship.

Read verses 1-2 and discuss the following.

  • In beginning his petition for forgiveness, David sets the foundations of his prayer upon God’s steadfast love and abundant mercy. This shows that David is completely reliant upon the LORD’s grace for forgiveness. In what ways is this similar to how we believe in the gospel?

Read verses 3-6 and discuss the following.

  • Here David claims that his sin was only against God; however, we know that his sin also did great damage to Bathsheba and, of course, Uriah. What does David mean then by saying that he only sinned against God?

Read verses 7-12 and discuss the following.

  • In the midst of the guilt of his sin, David prays to hear joy and gladness. By comparing his guilt to having broken bones, we know that David was burdened with the weight of his transgressions, but still he prays that they would rejoice in being broken. How is David able to take comfort, and even rejoice, in the breaking of his spiritual bones that God is doing?

Read verses 13-17 and discuss the following.

  • David claims that the result of God forgiving his sin will be David teaching sinners about the LORD. Out of his gratitude, David will gladly and boldly declare the glorious goodness of the LORD. How ought our approach to evangelism be similar to these verses?

Read verses 18-19 and discuss the following.

  • In making a prayer for Zion, David understands that his sins have impact upon others in Israel; thus, he also prays for God to do good to them as well. In what ways can our sin harm or impact others?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • Note David’s desire for more than simply forgiveness of his sins; he longs for God to fundamentally change his heart. Prayerfully consider if this too is your heart’s desire.
  • Consider David’s thought on sacrificing to God, which he knew that God wanted to come from gratitude, not from obligation. Consider also your own offerings and giving to God, whether they come from gratitude or obligation.