A Study of Joel: The Serious Love of God

In the summer 2020 message series “For the Love,” the Clear Creek Community Church Teaching Team will examine one of the least known sections of the Bible, the books known as the Minor Prophets, to better understand the great love of God and our faithful response to that love. Join with us in reading each book along the way! Each Sunday afternoon we will post an introductory video by The Bible Project and a 5-day reading plan with reflection questions to prepare you to hear the following Sunday’s message.


DAY 1—Read Joel 1:1-12

The book of Joel begins with the recounting of devastating tragedy. What natural disaster has affected the nation (v. 4-7)? What difficulties and disappointments are they facing?

In an agricultural society, the loss of crops was equivalent to a loss of life. What poetic comparison does Joel make in v. 8 in order to describe their mourning?

 

APPLY—As the locusts destroy their land, Joel’s countrymen watch their hopes disappear as “gladness dries up from the children of man” (v. 12). When have you faced this kind of loss? What does a godly grief look like when gladness feels impossible to find?

 

 

DAY 2—Read Joel 1:13-20

The second half of Chapter 1 begins by addressing Israel’s priests. How would the locust swarm have affected their responsibilities? How does he expect them to respond?

It seems that the locusts have been followed by more disaster. What difficulties have afflicted the land next (v. 17-20)?

 

APPLY—Joel ends the chapter with a description of the creation itself longing for God to meet their needs, for his judgment of Israel’s sin has affected the land as well as the people (v. 20). What sin do you need to turn away from today? What difference might that transformation make in the lives of your family and neighbors?

 

 

 

 

DAY 3—Read Joel 2:1-17

In Chapter 2, Joel connects an impending judgment to the destructive locusts and fire in the previous chapter. What is threatening the nation now? How will the land and people be affected?

“The day of the Lord” is a phrase frequently used by the biblical prophets to speak of a coming time of both judgment of evil and salvation for the righteous (v. 1, 11). Who is facing judgment in this passage? How does the Lord want them to respond, and what will happen if they do (v. 12-17)?

 

APPLY—Joel 2:13 contains a description of God’s character, using the same words that he proclaimed after the Israelites worshipped a golden calf at the base of Mt. Sinai (Exodus 34:6). The Lord is recalling his past mercies, reminding them that he always responds to repentance with grace. How have you experienced his forgiveness in your own life? How can a reminder of his compassion for you affect your willingness to turn back to him today (Hebrews 4:16)?

 

 

DAY 4—Read Joel 2:18-32

In today’s reading, we see the Lord’s compassionate reversal of the judgments of the first half of the book—not because of their righteousness, but simply as a gift of grace. In the chart below, identify the judgments found in the previous passages and the promises of renewal in Chapter 2.

 

God’s Judgment   Judgment Reversed
1:1-7 The locust swarm 2:24-26
1:10-12 2:23
1:19-20 2:21-22
2:1-11 2:20

Verse 27 promises that God will dwell among his people during this future renewal, both reminding them of his past presence in their midst and anticipating a greater fulfillment to come. What does John 1:14 reveal about how Joel’s prophecy has come to pass?

 

APPLY—On the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), the apostle Peter preached from Joel 2:28-32 in order to explain the day’s events to the crowd. The Holy Spirit had come in power to everyone who believed: young and old, rich and poor, slave and free. God was no longer simply dwelling amonghis people, but withinthem. What encouragement can you take from God’s promise to send his Spirit to live within you? How might his presence shape your daily choices, actions, and attitudes?

 

 

 

DAY 5—Read Joel 3

The final chapter of Joel begins with a reminder that God’s mercy is not universal. Who will be judged on the day of the Lord (v. 1-12)? In contrast, who will find a refuge in the Lord (v. 16)?

In verses 15-16, Joel describes the creation’s response to the Lord’s judgment. How do we see these same phenomena take place in Matthew 27:45-54? Who is receiving the wrath of God at the crucifixion, and who will receive salvation (Romans 5:6-9)?

 

APPLY—Joel concludes with a description of the Lord dwelling again in Jerusalem on Mt. Zion, in the midst of his people. In Revelation 21-22, John describes the New Jerusalem that we will inhabit following Christ’s return, using images that relate back to Joel’s writing. What do these images of peace and flourishing stir in your heart? How can a longing for eternity shape the way we walk with God and love others today?

 


 

A Study of Hosea: The Scandalous Love of God

In the summer 2020 message series “For the Love,” the Clear Creek Community Church Teaching Team will examine one of the least known sections of the Bible, the books known as the Minor Prophets, to better understand the great love of God and our faithful response to that love. Join with us in reading each book along the way! Each Sunday afternoon we will post an introductory video by The Bible Project and a 5-day reading plan with reflection questions to prepare you to hear the following Sunday’s message.


DAY 1—Read Hosea 1-3

In Chapter 1, Hosea is told to marry Gomer, a “wife of whoredom”—language that can feel shocking to us. She then abandons Hosea to pursue a life of sexual immorality. How is Gomer’s behavior representative of the nation of Israel? (1:2)

Chapter 2 gives us a poetic extension of the metaphor depicted by Hosea’s family. Who is the husband that Israel has spurned? Who are the lovers that Israel is pursuing? What does she believe that her lovers provide for her? Who is her true provider?

 

APPLY—Although the nation had forfeited many blessings because of their idolatry, Hosea still shares a hope of future restoration. How do we see this depicted in Chapter 3, both in Hosea’s marriage and in the nation of Israel? What hope can this give to followers of Jesus when we stray from obedience and intimacy with God?

 

 

 

DAY 2—Read Hosea 4-6

The remainder of the book contains the prophecies, or oracles, of Hosea—the messages he received from God to deliver to the nation of Israel. There are three types of oracles found throughout the books of the Prophets: warnings of judgment, calls to repentance, and promises of salvation. Which of these is most evident in the chapters you read today? What actions of his people have resulted in God’s response?

There are only a few verses in this chapter that provide a glimpse of hope to Hosea’s audience. Hosea 6:1-3 calls the Israelites to repentance with the promise of God’s mercy in return. When does the Lord promise to raise them to new life? How do we see this promise fulfilled in the New Testament? (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)

 

APPLY—Hosea’s promise that God “will raise us up, that we may live before him” is no longer just a future promise. Though we have not yet experienced bodily resurrection, believers have already been rescued from spiritual death through God’s mercy.  Read Ephesians 2:1-7. In what ways did our lives before Christ resemble the idolatrous behavior of the Israelites? How can God’s grace to us in Christ, despite our sin, give us a hope that will ultimately transform our lives?

 

 

 

DAY 3—Read Hosea 7-9

In Chapter 7, Hosea uses several examples of metaphorical language to describe the nation of Israel (also frequently referred to as Ephraim)? To what four things does Hosea compare them, and what characteristics does each seem to illustrate? The first has been completed for you.

Object of Comparison Characteristics of the People
v. 4-7 A heated oven Angry and rebellious
v. 8-9
v. 11-13
v. 16

 

In Chapter 8, Hosea reminds his listeners that this is not the first time that Israel has violated their covenant with the Lord. To what past rebellions is he referring in verses 4-6? (Check out Exodus 32:1-14 and 1 Kings 12:25-33.) Is God’s coming judgment an impulsive lashing-out or evidence of his patience and compassion?

 

APPLY—Chapter 9 continues the description of both the Israelites’ failure to honor God and the coming judgment that their behavior deserves. Why is it difficult at times for us to appreciate the Lord’s commitment to justice in the same way as his love or grace? What difference can it make when we attempt to know God in allthe ways he reveals himself?

 

 

 

DAY 4—Read Hosea 10-11

Chapter 10 continues Hosea’s indictment of Israel’s lack of faith. Where are they placing their faith instead? In what circumstances are you tempted to trust in your own way rather than God’s plan?

Hosea creates an extended analogy in Chapter 11, describing God as a loving father. Who is his child? What has the father done to care for his child? How has the child responded to the father’s care?

 

APPLY—Chapter 11 ends with a glimpse of hope that Israel will not be destroyed completely and permanently. Is this because Israel has changed their behavior (v. 12) or simply because of God’s love (v. 8)? In what ways have you experienced God’s grace in your own life, extending his compassion and blessings to you when you least deserve it?

 

 

 

DAY 5—Read Hosea 12-14

Hosea connects his nation to their historical context in Chapter 12 by retelling the story of Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel by the Lord. Jacob was known as a deceiver from his earliest years (Genesis 25 & 27), yet he received a vision of God’s greatness and a promise of future blessing from the Lord (Genesis 28:10-22). Hosea argues that just as Jacob had to leave his home as a consequence of his behavior, so would the people of Israel be sent away from their land (v. 9). But hope can still be found in the commands given to Israel in verses 4-6. What are they commanded to do, and by whose help will they obey?

The history lesson doesn’t end with Jacob, for Hosea then gives more evidence of Israel’s record of disbelief. At the end of Chapter 12, he references the nation’s wandering in the wilderness (v. 9, 13), where they were forced to spend forty years after doubting God’s promise to bring them into the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 1:19-2:15). This continues in Chapter 13—though God had provided for their needs in the wilderness, the nation failed to trust him even after they were brought into the land (v. 4-6). In what ways can comfort and complacency lead us into disbelief? How might we avoid this pitfall and continue in faith instead?

 

APPLY—In chapter 14, Hosea again pleads for Israel’s repentance, with a beautiful description of the blessings of a life lived under the mercy of God. Repentance always involves both turning fromsin and turning tothe Lord. What does Israel need to turn from? Why should repentance be a regular pattern in our lives, rather than a one-time event?


 

A People Not a Place?

With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic and local churches subsequently suspending in-person gatherings for the sake of public health, a popular statement you hear from spiritual leaders is that the church is a people not a place. 

 

The statement isn’t new. I’ve said it numerous times in the past. It’s even on our church website in big, bold letters. Originally, the phrase was employed to help prevent folks from equating church with a building or a worship service. It was a hard turn away from biblically inaccurate statements like, “I’m going to drive to church this Sunday,” or “Man, I loved church this morning.” Those sentiments expose a thin view of what the church really is. On the contrary, the church is God’s people on mission, which is much more than any corporate worship gathering or a building on a street corner. 

 

So, it is true: the church is a people not a place. 

 

And yet, if spending days sheltering-at-home has taught us anything, it’s highlighted the reality that the church is a people who, in living out the mission, do so (at least in part) by gathering in places. 

 

Don’t misunderstand. I am grateful that as we endure this global pandemic technology allows followers of Jesus to connect with their local churches via online services, virtual small groups, and the like. Make no mistake, this is a good and helpful thing when in eras past this would not be possible! 

 

But it’s also woefully inadequate.

 

If anything, these virtual venues only serve to highlight the need for the church to gather in-person. Being face-to-face, embracing each other, the gift of physical touch, and simply feeling each other’s presence in a room are specific dynamics technology cannot reproduce. And you don’t need to have some big theological epiphany to come to that conclusion. 

 

Don’t believe me?

 

Just start singing. 

 

The first Sunday we suspended in-person services I sat down in my living room with my wife and three boys to participate in our online gathering. The service opened with our worship leaders leading in song. We began to sing as well. And by we l mean me and Jennefer. My boys oscillated between mumbling and sitting in silence. Frankly, that’s not too different from any other Sunday. However, the biggest difference was not doing so within our congregation, of not seeing hands raised or heads bowed, of not experiencing the power of the chorus of voices, of not sensing the intimacy of attendance. That real absence gave me a greater appreciation for real presence. Paul’s instruction in Ephesians 5:19 for local churches to be about, “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,” came home to me in a new way. Singing alone in our living room only pointed to the truth that, as part of the church of Jesus, we aren’t just a people but a people who gather in places. 

 

The word “church” in Greek – ekklesia literally means “the gathered ones” or “the assembly of people.” From meeting at the Temple in the Old Covenant to local churches in the New, the whole history of God’s people is about, among other things, regularly coming together in the name of the Lord. This shouldn’t surprise us. We are embodied people. We live in time and space. The way of the kingdom is to glorify God as embodied people – loving, embracing, touching, holding, supporting – coming together in real places. Being homebound as a nation has given me a deeper appreciation for the command of Hebrews 10:24-25 which says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” 

 

It didn’t take long for me to miss being together with my church family in a physical place. And it shouldn’t. Even though the church is “a people, not a place” spread all across the globe yet carrying a unified purpose and mission, that same church thrives when it’s members gather together in very real places. We were never meant to be the church alone. 

 

Lord, hasten the day when we can meet in places again.


 

032: The Resurrection of Jesus – History or Hoax?

Did the resurrection really happen or was it all just made up? On this week of Easter, Ryan Lehtinen sat down with Bruce Wesley and Yancey Arrington to discuss the most compelling evidence for the historical reality of the resurrection of Jesus. They also talk about the hope the resurrection offers for us today.

 

RESOURCES:

Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright

The Resurrection of the Son of God by N.T. Wright

Jesus and the Eyewitnesses by Richard Bauckham

“Historical Evidence for the Resurrection” by Matt Perman

028: What Does it Mean to be a “Gospel-Centered Church”?

Gospel Centrality is one of the core values of Clear Creek Community Church. Ryan Lehtinen talks with Bruce Wesley and Yancey Arrington about what it means to be gospel-centered, how it became a core value, and how it influences every aspect of the church.

 

RESOURCES:

Clear Creek Community Church Values

“What Is Gospel-Centered Ministry?” by Timothy Keller (conference video)

“Centrality of the Gospel” by Timothy Keller (article)

The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith by Timothy Keller

Gospel Wakefulness by Jared Wilson

Tap: Defeating The Sins That Defeat You by Yancey Arrington

 

025: The Big Picture – How the Whole Bible Points to Jesus

The Bible is comprised of 66 books, written over a period of 1,500 years, in three different languages, by at least 40 authors, and yet it is one cohesive story of God’s redemption of the world. Ryan Lehtinen talks with Doug Dawson about his journey to understand the big picture of the Bible and how the gospel of grace found in Christ is the culmination of the entire biblical narrative.

RESOURCES:

The Holy Bible

Big Picture of the Bible class

God’s Big Picture: Tracing the Storyline of the Bible by Vaughn Roberts

Gospel and Kingdom by Graeme Goldsworthy

The Scriptures Testify about Me by D.A. Carson

The Unfolding Mystery: Discovering Christ in the Old Testament by Edmund P. Clowney

The Bible Project

Exploring My Strange Bible (Podcast)

Help Me Teach The Bible (Podcast)

 

023: How Can I Follow God When Those Who Follow Him Seem Intolerant?

On this episode, we continue discussing questions people have about faith, God, or the church as part of our “Here’s My Issue” message series. Ryan Lehtinen sits down with Yancey Arrington and Lance Lawson to address those who question following God because they view those who follow him as intolerant and hateful.

RESOURCES:
Starting Point – Class
Go Local – Find ways to love and serve our community
The Reason for God by Tim Keller
A New Kind of Apologist by Sean McDowell

 

020: The Problem of Evil/Suffering and How Can There Be Only One True Religion?

In our message series called “Here’s My Issue,” we kick off 2020 talking about barriers or issues that some people may have with faith, God, or the church. Over the next three weeks on the podcast, we’re going to discuss some of the major questions often raised. On this episode, Ryan Lehtinen sits down with Yancey Arrington and Aaron Lutz to discuss the questions—If God exists, then why is there evil and suffering in the world?  And how can there only be one true religion?

RESOURCES:
The Reason for God by Tim Keller
Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering by Tim Keller
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

 

The Unforgivable Sin

Are there things we can do that God can’t forgive? Is there an “unforgivable” sin? What does it mean to blaspheme the Spirit?

These questions usually arise after reading Matthew 12:22-32,

Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to [Jesus], and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”

The narrative here is pretty straight forward. Jesus healed a demonically-oppressed man and the religious leaders accused Christ of accomplishing the feat by the power of Satan (referred to here as Beelzebul). Jesus highlighted the ridiculousness of their accusation by asking why the Satan would want to thwart his own agenda. The reality was, in expelling the forces of darkness, Jesus demonstrated that he was establishing the kingdom of God. In short, Jesus was clearly the Messiah sent from God the Father. Christ’s entire earthly ministry up to that point – work the religious leaders witnessed with their own eyes – undoubtedly pointed to that truth.

So, it was in that context, in the middle of those undeniable demonstrations, when Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come,” (Matthew 12:31-32).

It appears Jesus was saying that the Pharisees were blaspheming the Holy Spirit by rejecting the Spirit’s testifying work about who Christ is.[2]Even worse, not only did these religious leaders reject the Spirit’s work, but attributed it to Satan himself. It was this specific blasphemy from which Jesus said there is no return. 

This should make some sense if you consider the greater context of the passage. When the Pharisees said Jesus was from Satan, they were rejecting the only path God offers humanity for forgiveness. Therefore, denying what is really the work of the Spirit in Jesus and attributing that power, instead, to Satan, is ultimately a product of unbelief. Simply put, the Pharisees’ stubborn rejection of Jesus and the Spirit’s testimony of him was a stubborn rejection of the gospel. This is what is meant by the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. As biblical scholar Graham Cole notes, “The blasphemy against the Spirit is that self-righteous persistent refusal to embrace the offer of salvation in Christ.”[3]

This is invaluable for believers to understand. Unfortunately, we hear Christians (and sometimes Christian leaders) warn the church about the “unforgiveable sin” as if there was something we could do as believers that would remove us from the family of God. Consequently, some get nervous wondering what sins might expel them from the kingdom. However, this is where we should remind ourselves of the context of this passage. Theologian and scholar R.T. France said, 

It is [the Pharisees’] diabolical opposition to the good purpose of God which is ultimately unforgiveable. The point needs to be emphasized, since the language of this saying has been incautiously applied to real or supposed offenses ‘against the Holy Spirit’ which have nothing to do with the blasphemy of these Pharisees, and serious pastoral damage has been caused. This saying is a wake-up call to the arrogant, not a bogey to frighten those of tender conscience.[4]

Frankly, some scholars wonder if this text can be applied today at all, thinking it unique to the Pharisees, if not limited to the earthly ministry of Jesus.[5]Others believe the specific blasphemy of the Spirit isn’t so much a doubting of the truth about Jesus, but a rejection of the Spirit’s clear and direct testimony the individual knows as true in head and heart but rejects it still.[6]Thus, while there may be differences in the particulars concerning blaspheming the Spirit, the general idea is that this sin is the unbelief and rejection of who Jesus truly is and what he does. 

Therefore, when others ask, “Can a Christian commit the unpardonable sin?” the clearest answer is “no,” because to be a follower of Jesus is to believe and accept the testimony of the Spirit – that Christ is Lord – which is the exact opposite of the Pharisees’ response. Thus, the sin of blaspheming the Spirit is one which a believer cannot commit. 

It is true that Christians should live lives that seek to flee from sin, yet when we do disobey, we ought not to be so distraught as to think we’ve committed an unforgiveable sin. The gospel reminds us that Christ’s cross has taken the penalty of all our sins. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 should encourage us at this point: 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Christ is our righteousness. His redeeming work at the cross has forgiven us all our sins, where our trespasses aren’t counted against us anymore. For those who believe, there is no sin we can commit that is unpardonable. The gospel is bigger than the failure of all our sins. This is where our confidence should lie; not in us, but in Christ for us!

Theologian Louis Berkhof offers a pastoral thought for Christians who fear if they have committed the sin of blaspheming the Spirit, writing, “In view of the fact that this sin is not followed by repentance, we may be reasonably sure that they who fear that they have committed it and worry about this, and who desire prayers of others for them, have not committed it.”[7]Cole offers counsel as well, saying, “Any Christian disturbed as to whether they have committed this sin needs to be encouraged to think that they have not. Rather, such warnings, I suggest, are used by the Spirit to recover the drifting Christian and to encourage perseverance in the faith. The tender Christian conscience is a sign of hope, not evidence for despair.”[8]

Follower of Jesus, rest well in Christ. He has obeyed for you. You are clothed in his righteousness. Your sins are forgiven. This is the good news of the gospel! Know that you can never blaspheme the Spirit and commit the unforgiveable sin. On the contrary, you live by the Spirit, are gifted by the Spirit, sealed by the Spirit, and may you be continuously filled with the Spirit. 


[1]See also Mark 3:29-30; cf. Luke 12:10

[2]It could be possible that Jesus, seeing the trajectory the Pharisees are taking with him, is warning them not to commit this blasphemy.

[3]Cole, Engaging with the Holy Spirit, Crossway, 2007, 29.

[4]France, The Gospel of Matthew, NICNT, Eerdmans, 2007, 482-483.

[5]e.g., Chrysotom and Jerome.

[6]cf., Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 3, Baker, 2006, 156. See Louis Berkhof with almost exact statement in his Systematic Theology, Eerdmans, 1938, 253.

[7]Berkhof, 254.

[8]Cole, 34.

Who is Baptism For?

Teaching Pastor, Yancey Arrington breaks down how God designed baptism to be practiced in his church as the first public way of communicating one’s personal choice to become a follower of Jesus. We want to celebrate those who have come to faith in Jesus and choose to be obedient in baptism.