Bible insights from your friends at La Jolla Lutheran Church

Recognize the signs of God's love

A few points about signs before we get started.

  • Signs of God’s amazing love for you abound, but they are not available on demand. (See, for example, John 21:25 and Matthew 12:38-42.)

  • Signs often need interpreters. People can see signs without recognizing their significance or understanding what they mean. (See, for example, Daniel, Romans 10:13-14, and Acts 8:30-31.)

  • Signs are not for entertainment; they are expected to lead you to God. (See Matthew 11:20-23.)

  • People can see signs of God’s love for them and not believe them. (See Matthew 12:22-24.)

  • Unfortunately, signs can be faked and used for bad purposes. (See Matthew 24:23-24.)

The gospel of John says the first sign Jesus did happened at a wedding. The hosts ran out of wine in the middle of the party. Mary pointed it out to Jesus, and he told her that it wasn't time for him to act. Mary ignored Jesus' objections and told the servants to do whatever Jesus told them.

Jesus could have reiterated that it wasn't his time to act. He could have done something small, just enough to give the hosts time to take care of the problem. But instead he responds with generosity and abundance. Even though it's not his time to act, Jesus tells the servants to fill six jars with water. Each held 20 or 30 gallons.

When they began serving from the jars, what poured out was of such fine quality that the astonished head of the banquet mentioned it to the groom.

We can infer a few things from this first sign of Jesus' ministry.

1) Jesus responds to requests, even if they are inconvenient or not at the right time.

2) Jesus is about abundance. A little bit might have helped. But Jesus provided 120-180 gallons.

3) Jesus is generous, not just in quantity. The quality astounded the banquet professional.

4) If you have a problem, tell Jesus about it. The initial reaction you might get is, "This isn't the right time." Don't give up hope. Trust in God who loves you. When you persist, you might find people astounded at the abundance of God's provision.

Sometimes it's hard for us to see the signs of God's love that are all around us. If that is the case for you, Charles Finney has some surprising advice. He says if you notice how much you have done wrong and ask forgiveness for it, it will put you in a position to see how much God forgives, loves and restores. You can find more information about this in the highlights from his third lecture, which follows below.

God, thank you for all the signs of your love. Help us to recognize them and to correctly interpret them. Thank you. Amen!

Charles Finney delivered 22 lectures on renewal of the church and society.  What follows are highlights from his third lecture.

Excerpts from Lecture on Revival #3

Break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till He come and rain righteousness upon you. Hosea 10:12

I. What is it to Break up the Fallow Ground?

To break up the fallow ground, is to break up your hearts, to prepare your minds to bring forth fruit unto God.

II. How is the Fallow Ground to be Broken Up?

It is not by any direct efforts to feel. But we can command our attention to [an object] and look at it intently, till the proper feeling arises.

Your sins were committed one by one; they ought to be reviewed and repented of one by one.

Sins of Omission

1. Ingratitude. Write down all the favors from God for which you have never exercised gratitude. Go on your knees and confess them one by one to God, and ask forgiveness.

2. Want of love to God. Think how grieved and alarmed you would be if you discovered any flagging of affection for you in your wife, husband or children.

3. Neglect of the Bible.

4. Unbelief. You have virtually charged the God of truth with lying, by your unbelief of God’s express promises and declarations.

5. Neglect of prayer.

6. Neglect of the means of grace.

7. The manner In which you have performed those duties - such an uncaring and careless manner

8. Want of love for the souls of your fellow-men.

9. Want of care for the heathen. Measure your desire for their salvation by the self-denial you practice in giving.

10. Neglect of family duties.

11. Neglect of social duties.

12. Neglect of watchfulness over your own life.

13. Neglect to watch over other believers. How many times have you seen other believers growing cold in religion and have not spoken to them about it? You have seen them beginning to neglect one duty after another, and you did not reprove them. You have seen them falling into sin, and you let them go in. And yet you pretend to love them.

14. Neglect of self-denial. They are not willing to deny themselves any comfort or convenience whatever for the sake of serving the Lord. So far are they from remembering that self-denial is a condition of discipleship that they do not know what self-denial is.

Sins of Commission

1. Worldly mindedness. What has been the state of your heart in regard to your worldly possessions?

2. Pride. How many times have you thought more, and taken more pains, and spent more time about decorating your body to go to Church than you have about preparing your mind for the worship of God? You have, in fact, set up yourself to be worshipped.

3. Envy.

4. Censoriousness. Instances in which you have had a bitter spirit, and spoken of Christians in a manner devoid of charity and love.

5. Slander. You need not lie to be guilty of slander: to tell the truth with the design to injure is to slander.

6. Levity [before a holy God]

7. Lying. By words, and looks, and actions, designed to make an impression on others for selfish reasons that is contrary to the truth.

8. Cheating. That which you would not like to have done to you. That is cheating.

9. Hypocrisy. Set down the instances in which you have prayed for things you did not really want.

10. Robbing God. Think of the instances in which you have misspent your time, squandering the hours which God gave you to serve Him and save souls.

11. Bad temper.

12. Hindering others from being useful.

Confess to God those sins that have been committed against God and to people those sins that have been committed against people.

[Go] over your whole history in this way, [then a] second time. Then go over it a third time. Unless you take up your sins in this way and consider them in detail, one by one, you can form no idea of the amount of them.

Reflection questions

Who do you know that doesn’t have a close relationship with God?

What will you do on their behalf?

What caught your attention in this message?