SUNDAY MESSAGE | 03/12/2017 | Dr. Jacob Cheriyan |

When God sends His Word, He wants His people to repent, take Him and His Word seriously and turn to Him wholeheartedly. For anyone who does that, God promises to do 7 things in their lives.

In Matthew 11:20-24, we can see Jesus denouncing three cities for their unrepentant attitude despite the many miracles He performed.

Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.  Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.

What is the significance of these  places mentioned by Jesus?

Capernaum was the hometown of Jesus (Mark 2:1, Matthew 4:13) and the place where many mighty miracles took place (Matthew 9:27, Mark 1:21, Luke 7:1). Here, they heard the message of Jesus first hand, saw the mighty miracles, and knew who Jesus was. The problem with them was that they knew too much but believed too little.

Jesus at Capernaum is a picture of humility, but conversely, Capernaum was known for its  pride. Though the natives of Tyre and Sidon heard the gospel only once, they caught the message. That’s why the faith of the Canaanite woman impressed Jesus. Jesus says these cities would have repented long back.

Chorazin was the place where Moses’ seat was established during 4th century. Jesus preached here too, but they did not repent.

Bethsaida too had Jesus preaching there. Some of Jesus’ disciples, Philip, Andrew and Peter belonged to this place (John 1:44). And it was there Jesus fed the five thousand (Luke 9:10). Still, the city did not repent.

Why does God send His word and do His miracles in a particular place?
So that

  1. They will repent.
  2. They will take God and His Word seriously.
  3. They will turn to God wholeheartedly.

Jesus chose these cities to manifest His glorious power and awesomeness through the many miracles He performed because He was concerned about them.

Along with repentance, the timing and depth of it is also very important.

The Lord admonishes us and urges us to repent hastily without wasting time. Jesus says that the city of Tyre and Sidon would have repented in sackcloth and ashes, had they heard the message. In Old Testament times, people repented in different ways. They cried, wailed, tore their clothes, put ashes on their head, etc. It was an expression of repentance and a desire for deep change.

Rend your hearts and not your garments; return to the Lord your God.

(Joel 2:13)

God wants a deep repentance not a superficial, emotional one, merely feeling sorry and going back to one’s old way of life. Repent quickly and wholeheartedly

For it will be more tolerable for Sodom on the judgement day.

(Matthew 11:24)

So there is  a Judgement Day for all of us. On that day, the rewards and punishments will vary from person to person (Luke 20:46,47). Who knew His will, yet did not do accordingly, will receive greater beating and those who did not know, will receive a light beating (Luke 12:47;48). Very few are willing to repent and return with words and deeds to show they are repentant.

The Lord promises to do 7 things when one repents and returns.

1) Redeem you and make you righteous.

References:
Psalms 49:7 (no man can pay a ransom for his soul);
Ephesians 1:7 (we have redemption… according to the riches of His grace);
Galatians 3:12. (Christ has redeemed us from the curse);
Psalms 130:7 (with the Lord there is steadfast love and with Him is plentiful redemption); Hebrews 9:12 (entered once for all… securing eternal redemption);
Col 1:14, 1 (in Him we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins);
Peter 1:18 (knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things)

The redemption which God gives is near, abundant and eternal.

2) Refresh you and give you rest.

Freshness from His presence is your portion.
References:
Acts 3;19 (repent and return… that times of refreshing may come);
Jeremiah 31:25 // Psalms 19:7 // Proverbs 11:25 // Psalms 23:3 // Romans 15:31,
1 Corinthians 16:17,18 (Stephanas, Fortunatus, Achaicus — for they refreshed my spirit)
2 Timothy 1:16 (Lord, grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus for he often refreshed me)

If you are feeling down, weary and dry, go and encourage others. You will be refreshed and strengthened. This is indeed one of the ways to be refreshed. God wants each one of us to be a person who refreshes others. It is a great ministry, just like Onesiphorus did.

Along with refreshing, God promises you your rest.
References:
Psalms 116:7 (return, O’ my soul to your rest)

Jesus says in Matthew 11:28

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in and you will find rest for your souls.

This rest is something higher, it isn’t easily available. One has to find this rest. Hence receiving rest and finding the rest, which Jesus speaks about, are two different matters. Somewhere at some point of your life you did receive the rest, but did you find the rest which is able to sustain you even today? You should examine yourself, to know when and where have you lost that rest. God wants you to find this rest. Amen!

In Genesis 8:6-12, we see a picture of the Father as well as the church, when Noah sends a  raven to find out whether the floods have receded or not. It went to and fro until the waters had dried up, but never returned to the ark. We should never be like this raven, wandering in search of earthly things and not returning to the Father.

Noah then sends a dove. However, since it could not find a resting place because of the waters, it came  back to the ark. Noah put out his hand and took her back into the ark. We should be like this dove, always returning to the Father.

He sent a dove, a second time, and this time the dove returned with a freshly plucked leaf in her mouth. Similarly God sends His children, into the world with a purpose, we need to come back to Him on a victory note telling Him that you have accomplished that for which He had deputed you. You can accomplish the work of God fully. It can be done. It is possible.

A third time, he sent the dove, but it did not return. That shows maturity.
Be like a dove of Noah, but not like a raven.

3) Be your refuge and relief

References:
Deuteronomy 33:27-29 (the shield of your help);
2 Samuel 22:2,3 (my rock, my Shield, my stronghold and refuge)
Psalms 31:19,20 // Isaiah 25;4 // Psalms 46:1 // Psalms 91:4 // Joel 3:16,
Jeremiah 16:19,20 (Lord, is my strength my stronghold)

4) Revive your strength and restore you.

The level of strengthening varies depending on your commitment and sacrifice. We can see instances of God strengthening different people at different times. Like He strengthened some with bread and water, then in the New Testament, an angel came and strengthened Paul and again Lord himself stood beside him, to strengthen him.
References:
Ps 28:7,8 (the Lord is my strength),
Isa 40:29,31 (those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength)
Eph 6:10 (to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might)
Genesis 21:14 // Luke 22:39-44 // Acts 14:19,20 // Acts 27:23,24,25

The higher the calling of an Apostolic ministry, greater is the level of strengthening God provides.

5) Rebuke and refine you.

References:
John 15:1,2 (like the gardener)
Heb 12:5,8 (disciplines his children)

 

6) Rejoice and revel over you.

He will exult over you with joy… He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.

(Zephaniah 3:17)

 7) Reward and repay you.

Our God will recompense and repay you when you turn back to him.

For what deeds does the Lord reward us?
Good works, giving generously, showing compassion, for enduring till the end, etc.

References: 1 Corinthians 4:15 // Matthew 19:21// Luke 14:13-14 // Romans 2:6,10 // Matthew 16:24-27 // Luke 6:35 // Hebrews 10:34-36 // 1 Corinthians 4:2,5 // Luke 6:22, 23 // Matthew 25:14-23 // Galatians 4:6-9

How does the Lord reward?
Just like punishments are not the same for all, the rewards too are not the same for all. There are eternal positions with the eternal possessions. Rewards are given not for our recognition only, but for His glory. In the book of Revelation, we read of the elders worshiping God, laying their crowns down. There are five types of crowns mentioned in the Bible.

  1. Crown of life
  2. Crown of rejoicing
  3. Crown of glory
  4. Indestructible crown
  5. Crown of righteousness

References: Isaiah 1:12 // Revelation 2:10 // 1 Thessalonians 9:24-25 // 1Peter 5:1-4 // 2 Timothy 4:6-8 // Revelation 4:10

And the Lord will repay you.

References: Isaiah 35:4 // Isaiah 34:8 // Psalms 94:2 // Psalms 91:8 // Psalms 62:12 // Isaiah 40:10

 

The Word also tells us to “guard our crowns carefully” as we can be disqualified from receiving them, lose them, taken away from us

References: 1 Corinthians 9:27 // 1 Corinthians 3:15 // Matthew 25: 15-25 // Matthew 6:5-6

Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward.

(2 John 8)

Not all of us will receive the same rewards in heaven.

“No matter how we attempt to explain it, no matter how uneasy it makes us, it is a fact that the biblical doctrine of differing rewards and positions in heaven means we will have different experiences in heaven. These eternal experiences are presently being forged in the crucible of this life. Even if I cannot yet comprehend how the fact remains that what I do with my money and possessions here and now will significantly affect my eternal experience in heaven”

says Randy Alcorn in his book, ‘The Law of Rewards: Giving what you can’t keep to gain what you can’t lose’.

References: Matthew 25:23 // Matthew 6:19-21 // Luke 19:17 // 1 Cor 3:12-15

Our time here can be likened to a photograph in the darkroom process: any alteration should be done when it’s in there. Once it’s out of the chemical bath, gets dried and leaves the room, the image stays intact. We won’t ever get a chance to better us once we leave this earthly abode.

How about you, will you stand empty handed in heaven? Will you be contented saying “I have escaped hell fire and it’s enough that I reach heaven”?

Or will you earn your rewards when you reach heaven and worship Him who is worthy to be praised?

[You can download the notes as PDF here]