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That I may know him.

Sermon June 13, 2009

(Jeremiah 9:23-24 KJV) Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: {24} But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.

Consider this as a goal: To know and understand God as he reveals himself,


Not exercising ourselves in matters not revealed.

            Not attempting to understand God on our own terms.

And consider the life we lead, as a road.


There are two ways of getting from Texarkana to Branson, Mo.

                        One is mostly interstate, and the part that isn’t is still pretty fast.


The other road turns north through Hot Springs and runs north through some lovely mountain scenery—but it winds marvelously through the mountains and gives some grand views. It is Arkansas highway 7.

            I’ll bet you know of some similar choices where you grew up.

I’ve compared life to a road we travel. I guess I borrowed the metaphor from Jesus:


(Matthew 7:13-14 KJV) Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: {14} Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

I just noticed something about this passage this morning.


          In the Greek it is the gate that is narrow. The road is “Thlibo” which means tortuous, rutty, afflicted.


                      The word is used 10 times in the NT, and only here is it rendered “narrow.”

So, the way to destruction is an interstate.

The way to life is unimproved, a mountain track, a rut.

When I thought about this for a while and looked back over my life, I can see that a Goal was set for me long ago.


          Jeremiah expressed it as I read it: “But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth:”


          But the road to that Goal was not a straight line.


          It went through the rough country, and now I know why.


                      There were things I had to see, people I had to meet, experiences I need to round me out.


                      Old paradigms had to be broken. Old patterns of thought changed.


                      Old ways of explaining the Bible had to be corrected.

As it happens, I have given the same sermon more than once—for two reasons.


          People don’t always get it the first time.


          I find I didn’t have it quite right the first time.

By the way, have you ever listened to a sermon a second time and heard things you missed entirely the first time through?


          That is not a failing of yours. It was the natural way the mind works.


                      If the speaker says something that causes you to think about it, you will miss the next few minutes of what he is saying.


                      A book is better in that when you think about what you are reading, you stop reading. You rarely stop the tape in the same way.


          Even so, A preacher who is constantly learning will come to see things differently and feel a need to “edit,” to improve what he said before, so he will revisit the same scriptures and redevelop the same outline.

But back to my theme: The way to life is like a tortuous mountain trail. Why?


          There are vistas we cannot see if the road is flat and straight.


          There are things we must come to see, and you can’t see them from the Interstate.


          There are people you need to meet, who will change your life.


                      They aren’t out there on the Interstate.

Remember the poem by Robert Frost? Endnote


Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Jesus said that the road that leads to life is “thlibos.”


          What does that mean?

(Hebrews 11:32-33 KJV) And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: {33} Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,

V. 36

(Hebrews 11:36-37 KJV) And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: {37} They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted [thlibos], tormented;


          All those people described in this chapter walked a very hard road.


          What on earth for?

Because it changed them.


It made them into something they had not yet become.

            It turned them from merely faithful people, into towers of Faith.


          Let’s try another one:

(1 Timothy 5:9-10 KJV) Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man, {10} Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints' feet, if she have relieved the afflicted [thlibos], if she have diligently followed every good work.


          Think about that. Sometimes the road we travel puts us in a place where we can relieve the afflicted soul.


                      We may not see him on the Interstate.

(2 Thessalonians 1:4-7 KJV) So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure: {5} Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: {6} Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation [thlipsis] to them that trouble [thlibo] you; {7} And to you who are troubled [thlibo] rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,


          I came to a fork in the road at this point. It was the word thlipsis, which means tribulation.


                      Yes, it is the same root as thlibo, Noun and verb.


          And yes, it is the word that is used in


                      (Matthew 24:20-21 KJV) But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: {21} For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.

There is a startling truth in all this.


          When Jesus said the road would be narrow, he meant that it would involve tribulations.


                      And that we have to go that way to reach life.

But returning to the trail we were following.

(1 Thessalonians 3:2-4 KJV) And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith: {3} That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto. {4} For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation {thlibo}; even as it came to pass, and ye know.


          Where did Paul get that?


Jesus: in the world ye shall have tribulation.

(2 Corinthians 7:4-6 KJV) Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my glorying of you: I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation. {5} For, when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears. {6} Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus;

(2 Corinthians 4:6-10 KJV) For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. {7} But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. {8} We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; {9} Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; {10} Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.


          We, you and I, are a manifestation of the Life of Christ Jesus.

(2 Corinthians 1:5-7 KJV) For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. {6} And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. {7} And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.


          “If we had not come down this troublesome road,” said Paul, “we would not have been here for you.”

In all of this is the answer to the age old question:


Why is the way of the Christian so hard?


You would think God would make it easier.

And this serves to explain something Jesus said to his disciples at the last supper:

(John 16:32-33 KJV) Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. {33} These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation [thilpis]: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.


          But here is a question that may be hanging in your mind.


                      How do I know I am on the right path?

                      And how do I know where to go?

There is in the heavens this thing called Global Positioning Satellite.


          If you have a receiver for it, It can tell you precisely where you are.


          I have one I take with me in the car.


          It displays a map on my dash with my position relative to the highways around me.

I have told this little computer where I want to go. I can give it the street address of a place halfway across the country.


          It calculates the routes, computes the distance, and gives me instructions.


          It is programmed to speak to me with a woman’s voice.


          She will say, drive north to highway 346.


                      As I approach the intersection, she will say, in 300 feet, turn right.


                      When I complete the turn, she will say, drive 5 miles and then turn left.


          If I make a wrong turn, she will say, “Off route, re-calculating.”


                      The she will tell me the next turn, and take me either back to the original route, or to another route that works better from where I am now.

So, how does this thing help me spiritually?


          It doesn’t.


          The Holy Spirit serves as a kind of GPS.

Let me give you an example:

(Acts 16:4-10 KJV) And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem. {5} And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily. {6} Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, {7} After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not. {8} And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas. {9} And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. {10} And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.

The Bible is our map. The Holy Spirit is our GPS.


          And it has brought us by a route we could not have planned to where we sit today.

But why? To what end?


          (Jeremiah 9:23-24 KJV) Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: {24} But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.

(Philippians 3:7-10 KJV) But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. {8} Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dog food, that I may win Christ, {9} And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: {10} That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

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