God’s Ways Are Not Our Ways
God has always done things different than the world does them.
One reason God does this is so that we might see his power. God defied
the ways of the world when the Hebrews were led out of Egyptian slavery.
However, when he accomplished his purpose the world had no doubt about
the supremacy of the God leading the Hebrews. God wants the world to know
when he accomplishes his purpose. What better way to do this than defy
the ways of the world? He wants the world to take note that it is truly
God accomplishing the task.
God wants us to understand the difference he makes. God
chooses to reveal himself to the world in such a way that the world may
know him and be drawn to him. He is not out to simply accomplish a task.
He wants to accomplish it in such a way that the world will take note.
If God had done those things as the world does them, they would have never
seen the one behind what was happening.
God's ways have always defied the ways of the world. When
the Israelites marched on Jericho, God defied the ways of the world. Marching
around the walls for seven days, and shouting and blowing the trumpets
to make the walls collapse defied the ways of the world. The world would
have laid siege to the city to starve the inhabitants out. Then the world
would have used ladders to scale the walls of the city. God did it his
way. God's way revealed his power. God left no doubt as to who brought
down the walls of Jericho.
Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way
and the evil man his thoughts.
Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,"
declares the LORD.
As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return to it without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields
seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth: (NIV)
God's Way Requires Changing our Ways
God’s ways are different because he wants us to change our ways. The
message of God’s kingdom is much different than the message of the world.
The message of the kingdom may be much different than the message the modern
church. The message of the kingdom of Christ may be different than the
message you have accepted to direct your life.
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the
Desert of Judea and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."
This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: "A voice of one
calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths
for him.'" John's clothes were made of camel's hair, and he had a leather
belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went
out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan.
Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. But
when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was
baptizing, he said to them: "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee
from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. (NIV)
John the Baptist came proclaiming the message of God saying repent for
the kingdom of God is at hand. The message of repentance is a message that
forces us to change our minds about how things ought to be done. It forces
us to choose God's way or the world's way?
Repentance is the simple message of Christ’s kingdom.
John was pleading with those listening to accept God's way for their lives.
That is the simple message of repentance---God's way vs. your way. In repentance
we must recognize God’s way for our lives. Repentance requires us to renounce
the ways of the world for the purpose of allowing God to direct our lives.
John told the Pharisees and the Sadducees that their ways were
not the ways of God.
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming
to where he was baptizing, he said to them: "You brood of vipers! Who warned
you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.
And do not think you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.'
I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.
The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not
produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. (NIV)
When you are trying to turn your life around, you need to know
that God's power is sufficient. John had a powerful way of telling
them that God’s way was not their way. Imagine, children of Abraham rising
up from the stones lying on the bank of the Jordan River. This was a poignant
way of telling the Pharisees and Sadducees that God’s way was much different
than their way. However, God's way was powerful enough to bring stones
The Pharisees and Sadducees ancestral pride caused them to lose sight
of God. The Jews had become so orthodox in keeping God's law that they
lost sight of God’s ways. The scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees had developed
all kinds of interpretations of scripture that were misleading and confusing.
Their ways left them powerless to change their world. They needed to know
that God could give life to stones.
Jesus derided the scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees because of the impotence
of their teaching. "One of the experts in the law answered him, "Teacher,
when you say these things, you insult us also." Jesus replied, "And you
experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens
they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help
them." (Luke 11:45-46 NIV) A religion that leaves us helpless to bear
the burdens we place upon others is impotent.
Often crucial biblical teaching is reduced to a lifeless set of church
ordinances. Confession, repentance, baptism and communion they become nothing
more than ordinances essential for church membership. We may obey the ordinances,
but have we recognized God’s way for our lives. We may do that in this
church. What impact do the things we do here at this church have on the
direction of your life? Are they leading us into God’s powerful way of
God’s Way Is The Better Way
When God led the children of Israel out of Egypt, they were told that
the way of the world was not God’s way.
The LORD said to Moses, "Speak to the Israelites and
say to them: 'I am the LORD your God. You must not do as they do in Egypt,
where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan,
where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. You must obey my
laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the LORD your God. Keep
my decrees and laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them. I am
the LORD. (NIV)
The story of the Bible is about how we are called upon to the renounce
the world’s way for God’s way. When Paul preached Christ in the city of
Ephesus, the Ephesians came to Christ confessing and forsaking the way
of the world. They came to Christ because they recognized the difference
Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried
to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed.
They would say, "In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you
to come out." Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this.
the evil spirit answered them, "Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but
who are you?" Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered
them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked
and bleeding. (NIV)
When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living
in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus
was held in high honor. Many of those who believed now came and openly
confessed their evil deeds. A number who had practiced sorcery brought
their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the
value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. In this
way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power. (NIV)
The Ephesians recognized the difference between what Paul was doing
and what the exorcist were doing. They literally burnt the books, which
they used to direct their lives in the world’s way of doing things. Do
we have any books that we need to burn today?
Luke also records the story of John’s preaching. He gives us some insight
as to what those listening to John's message of repentance were thinking.
They ask questions about what they should do. John's answer reveals the
very nature of repentance.
"What should we do then?" the crowd asked. John answered,
"The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one
who has food should do the same." Tax collectors also came to be baptized.
"Teacher," they asked, "what should we do?" "Don't collect any more than
you are required to," he told them. Then some soldiers asked him, "And
what should we do?" He replied, "Don't extort money and don't accuse people
falsely-- be content with your pay." (NIV)
God’s ways require us to forsake our wicked ways. Isaiah
writes, "Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts.
Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God,
for he will freely pardon." God’s way requires a change in direction
that is evidenced by the fruits of repentance.
The ways of God exposes the world's way as a way of sin.
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality,
impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy,
fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness,
orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who
live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit
of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those
who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions
and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the
Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
Selfishness, cheating, adultery, anger, hatred, pride and such like
are the ways of the world. In Psalms 25, we hear David as he cries the
cry of true repentance.
To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul;
in you I trust, O my God.
Show me your ways, O LORD,
teach me your paths;
guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long. (NIV)
God's ways are higher because they lead to life. The world's
way leads to death. The choice is yours.
This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against
you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now
choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love
the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD
is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give
to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (NIV)
The way of the world is a way that brings the kind of sorrow that leads
to death. Paul says, "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation
and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death" (2 Corinthians
7:10 NIV). Solomon writes, "He who conceals his sins does not prosper,
but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy. Blessed is the man
who always fears the LORD, but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble"
(Proverbs 28:13-14 NIV).
For you have delivered me from death and my feet from
stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life. (NIV)
So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who
believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose
God?" When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised
God, saying, "So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance
unto life." (NIV)
We Must Agree with God's Way
There can be no repentance without recognizing our personal sin.
Those listening to John's message came confessing their sin. John didn’t
hesitate to point out sin. John called the Pharisees and Sadducees a brood
of vipers. "But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming
to where he was baptizing, he said to them: "You brood of vipers! Who warned
you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance."
Have you ever heard someone call another person "A snake in the grass?"
Maybe this is where this saying originated.
Confession forces us to accept God's assessment of our lives.
Confession is absolutely essential for repentance. Confession goes beyond
confessing Jesus as the Christ; it forces us to confess our sins. Confession
forces us to face our sinfulness and our need to repent. The hardest part
of repentance is confessing your sin.
As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even
there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.
All have turned away, they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good, not even one."
"Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice
deceit." "The poison of vipers is on their lips."
"Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness."
"Their feet are swift to shed blood;
ruin and misery mark their ways,
and the way of peace they do not know."
"There is no fear of God before their eyes."
Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those
who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole
world held accountable to God. (NIV)
This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus
Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned
and fall short of the glory of God, (NIV)
In confessing our sin we come into agreement with God's
assessment of our lives. Confession is the only action that
can bring us to repentance. John wanted them to recognize and confess their
1 John 1:8-10
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and
the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just
and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If
we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word
has no place in our lives. (NIV)
Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up
my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD"-- and
you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah (NIV)
In confession we agree with God's assessment of our lives, but
it is repentance that aligns our lives with God's purposes. God
requires that the acts of the sinful nature must be replaced with the fruits
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life,
to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;
to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self,
created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (NIV)
Repentance calls for radical surgery as it calls us to be recreated
in God's image. "You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.'
But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed
adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge
it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your
body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right
hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for
you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell"
(Matthew 5:27-30 NIV).
John told the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to him to "Produce fruit
in keeping with repentance." Repentance goes beyond
cleansing our lives of evil. The purpose of repentance is more than merely
emptying our lives of evil; we must produce the fruits of repentance. Seeking
to rid our lives of evil without replacing the evil with good will make
us a sevenfold child of hell.
"When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through
arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, 'I will return
to the house I left.' When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept
clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits
more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition
of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked
God's word is designed to achieve God's purposes. God's
word is designed to reveal God's ways and thoughts so we can identify and
respond to his working in our lives. It is given to us to meditate upon
As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do
not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my
word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will
accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (NIV)
Through a willingness to repent we make ourselves available to God.
Mark says that John "preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness
of sins" (Mark 1:4). Isaiah says, "Let him turn to the LORD,
and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon."
Peter preached the message of repentance on Pentecost. Repentance
goes beyond baptism as it embraces the life of Christ.
"Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has
made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." When the people
heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other
apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized,
every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your
sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is
for you and your children and for all who are far off-- for all whom the
Lord our God will call." (NIV)
God is working all around us to turn people from sin. He is not
willing that any should perish, but he desires that we come to repentance
(2 Peter 3:9).
(This introduction to this sermon leans heavily upon Henry T. Blackaby's
and Roy T. Edgemon's book The Ways of God, Broadman & Holman
Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 2000.)