Obtain What God Promises
By Dr. Ted Baehr
How do you do that? The prayer or Collect summarizing all of the Scriptures for today asks God to increase in us faith, hope, and love and to make us love what he commands so that we can obtain what he promises.
This means it starts with God. When we think about obtaining his promises, when we think about Lili overcoming some serious trials and tribulations, when we think about what Bill said about people who are having problems, homeless, joblessness, whatever it is, it starts with God, so we will obtain the promises of God, which are multitudinous.
One of my favorite promises is John 10:10. The thief comes to steal, and when he can’t steal he kills, and then he destroys to get rid of all the evidence, but Jesus said, “I come to set you free and give you a more abundant life.”
All God’s promises are wonderful – promises of healing, promises of a more abundant life, promises of all sorts of wonderful things.
But, the beginning of that is turning to God. Now, we’ll take a step back from the prayer. We’re assuming that you’ve asked Jesus into your life and are filled with his Holy Spirit, because that’s where the beginning of all of that comes into your life. He increases in us faith, hope, and love. He makes us love what he empowers us to do and what he calls us to do.
“The LORD spoke to Moses, saying:
“Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.
“You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor. You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am the LORD.
“You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.”
A lot of people skip Leviticus. The pastor mentioned Bob Ingersoll. I thought he was talking about the comic book writer who wrote Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. He was a lawyer from Ohio, who said that the law is his guide. Here in Leviticus it makes that clear that God speaks to Moses about daily life, about all of your daily life. He says that you should act like he acts. You should be holy as he is holy.
That sounds tough. Sometimes when we think about that, we think about all the things that we should do to be holy. What does holy mean? Holy means, in Hebrew, to be set apart. God, of course, is set apart. No man has seen the Father, no not one. They’ve only seen Jesus, who is the full representation of the fullness of God from the beginning. He is God the Creator.
Why do we want to be holy? Why does God ask us to be holy? How can we be holy? What does it mean to be holy? Why? Because it’s the nature of God to be holy, and we are holy because we’re created in the image and likenesses of God. Because, we have been set apart. We’ve been chosen. Therefore, we have that nature. It’s the sign that we are of God.
How can we be holy? Well, we’re redeemed by Jesus’ blood. God has poured out his blood upon us to save us, to sanctify us, to renew us.
What does it mean? It means that then, once that happens, the Holy Spirit is working in us so that, as Leviticus says, you will be void of all idolatry and superstition. In other words, we’ll be set apart from all the false gods, all the false beliefs and all the false ideas of our age, whether they’re held by superstars or whether they’re politicians.
Specifically, Leviticus adds some things, and this all has to start with God because it couldn’t start with me, which is a manifestation of you being holy. The first is, “Do not render unjust judgment.” I see movies all the time. There are tons of movies and television shows about, “Judge your neighbor with justice. Do not render unjust judgment. Do not be prejudiced.”
“God’s Not Dead 2” is an example, or an episode of “Blue Bloods,” or “Twelve Angry Men.” All condemn rendering unjust judgment.
The next part of Leviticus is hard. Some of the most powerful movies ever done, like “Blindside” or like “Same Kind of Different as Me,” are about people who are homeless, who are down and out, whom you pity. You care about the poor. You care about the needy. We give these movies awards, so we like those movies. God says something here that is absolutely counterintuitive. Because Leviticus said it, God said it, “Do not be partial to the poor.” That’s really tough.
Another part of Leviticus is easy, “Nor defer to the great.” I can understand that. I was in England speaking at Parliament once upon a time, and I was introduced by Lord Orr Ewing when my children were young. My son Jim, who’s now a US Attorney and a major in the Marine Corps, leaned over and said to me, “These people, these lords, really think they’re different than you and me.” Do not defer to the great. We’re all equal in the eyes of God. So, we can forget the first part about the poor. We’ll just go back to the great, whomever it is.
Okay, Leviticus says, “Do not slander or gossip.” In the media, I can’t tell you how much news is slander or gossip. They spend a couple of years promoting slander and gossip, and I see it all the time with respect to people I know in the media, and then they say, “We made a mistake.” That’s real slander and gossip, and you hear it all the time in the media. You’re not supposed to slander and gossip. I’m not sure we’re even supposed to sit there and indulge in slander and gossip or listen to it.
“Do not profit by the blood of your neighbor.” I don’t think any of you here would even consider profiting by the blood of your neighbor. In the news media, since we work in the media, there’s a phrase, and that phrase is what you’re supposed to do with your television news, “If it bleeds, it leads.” That means that if it’s bloody, gruesome, car crash, riot, whatever it happens to be, you put it on first because that captures people’s attention. If somebody was just being nice and kind to somebody outside today, we wouldn’t pay attention, but if they were beating someone up, we’d run out there to see what was happening. The news media works based on violating what we’re supposed to do if we’re gonna to be holy, “Do not profit by the blood of your neighbor.” Now, of course, you wouldn’t do that directly, but if we’re watching the news media when they put on these programs where if it bleeds, it leads, or we’re watching movies like “Crash,” where we’re indulging in watching people bleeding, and we’re getting turned on by it, well, I won’t go there. You understand what I’m saying.
Then, Leviticus says, “Do not hate your countryman.” Actually, another version says, “Don’t hate your relatives.” I can’t tell you. Lili and I are listening to books on Greek tragedy and Greek comedy. They hated all of their relatives. Then, we just listened to a course on Shakespeare. Hamlet not only hated Claudius, but he spewed hate when he talks to his mother. “Do not hate your relatives”? People ask me all the time why movies are filled with dysfunctional families. Because it’s drama, the conflict between the different members of the family. I’m not sure that we should just continue to immerse ourselves in that if we want to be holy.
“Reprove your neighbor or incur guilt yourself.” “Blindside” and many movies are good enough to follow this teaching. God says to Nehemiah, “You’re supposed to stand at the wall. You’re supposed to warn the people. If you don’t warn the people, and they sin, then their sin is on your head. If you do warn them and they sin, then their sin is on their head.”
Quite often we don’t warn people. We heard a Marine yesterday at the tower that overlooks the Lewis and Clark Museum. The Marine said that when he was young, he came to Christ because he was taking out gasoline from an extremely large storage tank. The tank ignited, and he thought, “I’m looking at my future, which is hell.” It was a warning from God to him.
This one I’m laughing at is, “Do not take vengeance or even bear a grudge.” Has anybody watched any movies their life or any television? Vengeance is central to many movies. “Taken” and a lot of Liam Neeson movies, is about taking revenge on all these people who’ve hurt him and his family. Even one of my favorite movies, “Braveheart,” is about revenge. Taking vengeance is the stuff of drama. However, God says, “Don’t do it.”
“Love your neighbor as yourself,” is the passage in Leviticus that Jesus quotes. There are movies that do that. In “Up,” the old man even has to pay attention to and even love the young Boy Scout who’s really obnoxious.
Now, to obtain what God promises, we have to ask him to give us faith, hope, and love and to love what he instructs, because our very nature is to indulge, or to at least watch people indulging in things that we’re not supposed to do. The ratings for movies with vengeance, the ratings for movies of dysfunctional families, the ratings for movies that have some of these cautions in them, would not be so big if people were doing what God asked them to do. God increase in us faith, hope and love so we can do what you’ve instructed us to do.
In Greek philosophy, perfection is always some standard, some goal, something you have to achieve. In Hebrew, it’s an instruction that improves you. When you say, “the Truth” in the Bible, when Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” the Truth means you’re revealing the fullness of God. It’s not some specific Greek measurement. It’s the totality of being.
“Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked, nor lingered in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seats of the scornful!
“Their delight is in the law of the LORD, and they meditate on his law day and night.
“They are like trees planted by streams of water, bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither; everything they do shall prosper.
“It is not so with the wicked; they are like chaff which the wind blows away.
“Therefore, the wicked shall not stand upright when judgment comes, nor the sinner in the council of the righteous.
“For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked is doomed.”
The first word in Psalm 1 is, “You’ll be happy… You’ll be blessed… You’ll be joyous… You’ll be satisfied.” What a wonderful promise from God.
How do you obtain that promise? Do you ever wake up and you feel a little unhappy? You get through the day and feel that you’re not as joyous as you should be? God tells you specifically what to do.
“Do not walk in the counsel of the wicked.” I’m going back to the news media, because I just did a radio show yesterday on Sirius Radio. Is that the way you pronounce it, Sirius Radio? A big show. Of course, one side was talking about the sex scandals in Hollywood, and then the other side was talking about Roger Ailes and all the terrible people who were in the news business, who engaged in a lot of abusive behavior. Walking in the counsel of the wicked. When you’re listening to the news, when you’re reading the newspaper, what are we doing? Are these people saved? Are they redeemed? Are they talking about the true, the good and the beautiful?
Then Psalm 1 says, “Do not linger in the way of sinners.” I just saw a movie that opens in April, “Chappaquiddick,” and it’s about Ted Kennedy when he drove off the bridge in Chappaquiddick, and left Mary Jo Kopechne dying for hours. You’re actually watching this. It’s a great movie. I recommend the movie, but what are you doing? You’re lingering in the way of the evil that’s occurred. You’re lingering and watching it happen.
“Do not sit in the seat of mockers.” I’m sure somebody in here could give you a more theological, but when I think of sitting in the seat of mockers, I think of Saturday Night Live. They’re mocking people that maybe shouldn’t be mocked. Then you take that into your soul, and you start being one of those mockers.
Psalm 1 also gives us another perspective. It says to delight in the law. “Finding Dory” does that. The other characters say, “What would Dory do?”
Then, Psalm 1 says, “Meditate on his instruction.” Think about it. Ask what it means to us in our society. There’s a lot of movies like that. Bob Ingersoll wrote Captain America. Captain America is often thinking of what it means to be an American, what it means to be free, what it means to do the right thing. That’s the whole point of “Captain America: Civil War”. “Thor: Ragnarok” meditates on what it means to be a civil society.
If you do that, which you can only do through the power of God’s grace, you will obtain God’s promises. Psalm 1 says you’ll be like trees planted by fresh water. You’ll bear fruit, and I want to bear fruit. I want to bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control. I’d like to do that all day long, to have people see the fruit of the Spirit in my life, so they can see Jesus. I’d like to bear fruit in my four children and my eleven grandchildren. Without faith, hope, and love from God, you probably can’t do it.
Then Psalm 1 says, not only will you bear fruit, but you will not wither, versus the wicked, who, like chaff, will be blown away. And, everything you do shall prosper. I see that in our lives. I see miracles, prosperity and blessings in my life all the time.
God knows you. I was wicked. I grew up in the entertainment industry. I can tell you stories that even my family hasn’t heard. My mother was from Texas. Her family settled in Hunt and Ingram in the 1830s and 1840s. She was starring with her sister in a play in a little Texas high school, and an agent from Hollywood came and picked her at 15. Hollywood’s been the same, and God saved me out of that world. All of the things that they think they’re doing that are fun, are not fun. It is frustrating. It never fulfills you. The only thing that can fill the whole in our heart is Jesus, who gives us the Holy Spirit so that we can be filled with faith, hope, and love.
1 Thessalonians 2:1-8:
You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain, but though we had already suffered and been shamefully mistreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition. For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts. As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others, though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.
I just have to mention 1 Thessalonians 2 briefly because it’s addressed at ministers. It’s how does a minister obtain what God promises, whether the minister is anybody else here.
1 Thessalonians 2 says that this is what you do as a minister to obtain God’s promises. First, it says, preach even if you suffer persecution. I’ve preached in India, in Cambodia, and all over the world. You face persecution.
Then it says to be courageous in spite of opposition. In India, there’s a lot of opposition. An Australian medical missionary with his two cute boys were bringing medical supplies into the mountains. At night, the Hindus burned them alive in their car. We’re supposed to keep going.
I just saw the sequel to the movie about Eric Liddell, “Chariots of Fire”. It’s called “On the Wings of Eagle”. It is absolutely terrific. Eric stayed in China to do the ministry of the gospel, and he died in a concentration camp. You’re supposed to preach in spite of the persecution and in spite of the opposition if you want to obtain the promises.
1 Thessalonians 2 says, proclaim the truth. There’s no greater truth than His Word written. Please God, not man. Do not flatter.
Care for others. Love others, “like a mother suckling her babe,” caring for her child. Since my daughter had her first baby, and the baby’s three weeks old, I know what that is, and it’s such a beautiful thing. The preacher is supposed to be like a mother suckling children.
When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: “What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,
‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”‘? If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?” No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.
Matthew summarizes all this. How do we obtain the promises? Ask him for faith, hope, and love so we can do what he tells us to do. What does he tell us to do? Love God with all your heart, mind, and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself. That’s easy, isn’t it?
Well, we just went through some Leviticus things that the news media and movies can’t get with the program of loving their neighbor as themselves. They take advantage of people. They take advantage of audiences. We know all that.
The Pharisees there did not like what Jesus was saying. The Pharisees wanted to be great and have people defer to them. The Pharisees were not interested in loving their neighbor as themselves. They were just human. They were sinners who needed to be saved by grace.
Jesus, recognizing that the Pharisees can’t get along with the program to love God with their whole mind, heart, and soul, to love their neighbors, asked them, “Son, who is the Messiah?” He’s saying, “Who am I?”
Of course, if they say, “the Son of David,” then he’s just a man. But, then David called him Lord, so he’s not just a man. He’s God. He’s Lord. He’s the Lord over David. This is the essence of the gospel that Jesus is both/and. Both/and is the heart of Christianity. He’s both fully God and fully man.
As fully man, he knows how difficult it is for us to obtain the promises, because he knows how difficult it is for us to love God with our heart, mind, and soul. As fully God, he can give us those promises, a more abundant life. He can give us the healing. He can give us new life. He can answer our prayers, and he answers our prayers continually. As fully God and fully man, he stands there amidst the Pharisees, the lawyers, and against what they’re doing, which is making people defer to the great.
God fulfills his promises. God is the one who fulfills them. It’s all very theocentric. It’s all about God. He makes the promises; he tells us that he’ll fulfill the promises; and, he gives us the ability to do those things that he’s asked us to do to fulfill them. How do I know that?
Well, I know it in terms of MOVIEGUIDE®. I was just in Atlanta. Years ago, in Atlanta, I was head of the organization that produced “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” which had 37 million viewers and won an Emmy Award in 1980. When I said in 1980, “I’ m going to give up making programs like “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to concentrate on redeeming the movie industry,” because I grew up in the entertainment industry, because my parents were stars. They said, “You can’t do it.” Many Reformed ministers said, “You can’t do it.” Many people from different churches said, “You can’t do it.”
When we started, it looked very bleak. There was only one movie with very strong positive Christian content, “Trip to Bountiful.” It’s probably so long ago, 1985, that you don’t even remember. It was a great movie. I called up the writer, Horton Foote, and I said, “Horton, why did you put so much Christian content? Are you a Christian?” He said, “No, but I want to be honest.” Last year, 62% of the movies had some good, positive Christian content.
I’ll give you one example that was one of the biggest grossing movies, “The Boss Baby.” “Boss Baby” starts out in heaven, and God is designing babies and assigning them to families. This is very biblical. God says, “I knew you before you were born.” He designed us. He created us. It was God, 100% God. Then, God said, “There’s a problem. People aren’t having babies anymore.” There’s another company called Puppy Co., and it’s got people buying puppies, and they’re about to design the most perfect puppy of all time. They send this little cherubim down to earth. He gets into a family. The little boy walks in and sees him on the phone to Heaven, and he says, “You’re not a baby.” He says, “No, I’m not a baby. I’m the boss.” He says, “Oh, you’re Jesus?” He said, “ No, I’m just middle management.” So, Jesus is the real boss. Then, they expose Puppy Co, and it’s one of the cherubim who had defected from heaven because he wanted to be like God.
That movie tells you the story of the gospel. It’s amazing because everybody who worked on the movie, some of them who have come to the MOVIEGUIDE® Awards, are the movie says, “Babies are made by God. Babies are special. Life is special. God wants people to be fruitful and multiply.” All of this. To think that Hollywood would put out a movie like that, and it made $499 million. That means it’s one of the biggest grossing films.
Then there is a movie called “The Star.” This movie is the first big budget animated movie that’s been done on a biblical topic since “Prince of Egypt.” “The Star” tells about the birth of Jesus, the nativity story, from the point of view of the animals. They had hymns in there, classic hymns about the birth of Jesus. Every line was affirming that Jesus was fully God and fully man. Every line affirms that Jesus is the king of the universe. Sony Pictures, one of the biggest movie companies produced a movie about Jesus that tells you exactly who he is and that he came to save you, even the most despicable sinners.
There are miracles happening. When people told me, the people I saw a week ago or two weeks ago in Atlanta, when they told me in 1980, “You can’t do this,” all things are possible with God. There’s nothing too big for God. All of these promises can be found in our life.
How do we obtain his promises? We pray to him. We ask him for faith, hope, and love and to love what he instructs us to do, so that we can obtain his promises.
Let us pray:
Father, we see that being holy is a big, difficult task. I don’t know how I could be holy. We see that a lot of these things that you’ve called us to do. All these things that look at us in terms of our life and our daily struggles look very big. But, we do ask you, Lord, that you increase in us faith, hope, and love through the power of your Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus. And, help us to love what you instruct us to do, because you want us to obtain the promises. Thank you, God, that you have fulfilled so many promises in our lives, that we know that you are the one true God, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, our Savior. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Now go forth in the name of Jesus to love God with all your heart, mind, and soul, to love your neighbor as yourself, that you tell him the good news, that you warn him so that he can be saved, that you bless her in a mighty way. In the name of Jesus, go forth.