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When the Good Goes Bad, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
June 20, 2022 9:00 am

When the Good Goes Bad, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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June 20, 2022 9:00 am

Beginning in Judges Chapter 8, we see how Gideon’s victory as a warrior began to inflate his ego. Rather than giving glory to God, he chose to act like a king who deserved special treatment. In a real sense, Gideon manufactured his own “broken savior.”

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Today on Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. The human heart has to be changed. Your heart needs to be changed, which means that we need a Savior who can deliver us not only from the curse around us, we need a Savior who can deliver us from the curse within us. We don't just need a Savior to fix our situation. We need a Savior who can fix us. Hey, welcome back for another week of teaching here on Summit Life with Pastor J.D. Greer of the Summit Church in Raleigh, North Carolina.

As always, I'm your host, Molly Vidovich. Let me ask you a question. Do you think you have a tendency to take a bit too much credit for your success while overlooking God's blessing in your life? Even with the best of intentions, the human heart always defaults towards pride. Beginning in Judges Chapter 8, we see how Gideon's victory as a warrior began to inflate his ego.

Rather than giving glory to God, he chose to act like a king who deserved special treatment. If you missed the beginning of this sermon, I just wanted to remind you that you can always hear previous broadcasts at our website, Pastor J.D. titled today's message, When the Good Goes Bad.

So, let's get started. When we left Gideon last week, we left him on a high. Gideon had just pulled off what is arguably the most incredible upset in military history.

Gideon has assumed that it was his strength that accomplished this, and his heart has turned inward, and it has begun to spoil. Verse 22, Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, Rule over us, because you have saved us from the hand of Midian. But Gideon said back to them, I will not rule over you, the Lord will rule over you. That was actually a great response on Gideon's part, because God had told Israel that Israel was not to have a king, because God would be their king.

But jump down to verse 30. Now, Gideon had 70 sons, for Gideon had many wives. Verse 31, And his concubine, who was in Shechem, also bore him a son, and Gideon called his name Abimelech. Now, Abimelech in Hebrew literally means, my dad is the king.

What? Sounds like Gideon thinks of himself as king after all. Go back to verse 24, Gideon said to them, Every one of you give me the earrings from his foil. Now Gideon is collecting taxes.

That's also pretty king-like. Verse 27, And Gideon made an ephod out of it and put it in his city. And all Israel hoard after it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and to his family.

Gideon may not be trying to deny God altogether, but Gideon has put himself in the place of God, and Gideon has taken onto himself some things that belong only to God, and he is now directing people's attention away from God. You see, when Gideon was small and weak, he was dependent on God. It was when he got strong that he forgot God and made it about himself. Beware your strengths. Don't bemoan your weaknesses.

Beware your strengths. Beware your prosperity, because that is the thing that will woo your heart away from God. I do not want to be Gideon where the whole God gives me great success, and at the end, I lose everything that is precious to me, which leads me to part two here, Abimelech, the tumbleweed. After Gideon's death, Abimelech says, I want to be king like my dad was without the name, except I want to have the name. So Abimelech goes out, chapter nine, and he hires a bunch of worthless vagabonds to be his posse, and they ambush and kill all 69 of Gideon's other sons, except for one named Jotham, who escapes by hiding in a closet. Then Abimelech says, well, I guess I have to be king now, since my dad has no other sons left. The leaders of Israel, who know all of this, go along with it and crown Abimelech as shechem, king.

Well, Jotham, the one brother who escaped, comes out of hiding when Abimelech is away on a trip, and he gets in front of Israel's leaders, and he tells them a parable about a bunch of trees in a forest who are going to choose for themselves one tree to be king. So first, he says, they go to the olive tree, and they say, would you be the king over us, because you're an awesome tree? And the olive tree says, no, I don't really want to be bothered with that, because I'm making too much money making all this olive oil, and so I don't want to get involved in all the politics. And so then they go to the fig tree, and they say, the fig tree, would you be our king? The fig tree says, no, the whole fig Newton thing just exploded, and I got to give myself to that.

And they go to every tree. Eventually, they go to the grapevine. The grapevine's not much of a tree, but I don't know, will you be our king? And the grapevine says, no, I'm making all this awesome wine. I don't want to be your king. So finally, they go to Tumbleweed, and they say to the Tumbleweed, will you be our king?

And the Tumbleweed says, sure, but first thing you got to do is I need you to cut down all the other trees and burn them to the ground. And so they do that, and the Tumbleweed becomes their king. And then Jotham says to the leaders of Shechem, this is just what you've done in anointing Abimelech to be your leader. And Jotham says, this is going to come back on you.

Sure enough, that's what happens. Abimelech turns out to be a terrible leader, no surprise there. Eventually, all those leaders in Shechem that anointed Abimelech realize what a scumbag he is, and they revolt against him. So Abimelech and his army attacks them. And so the people there in Shechem flee to the city tower. Abimelech takes, ironically enough, a bunch of Tumbleweeds, and he packs it around the base of the tower, lights it on fire so that he burns a thousand people alive in the tower. Then he goes on to the next city, and he drives all the people of that city back into their tower. But as he is about to light that tower on fire, a woman in the top floor takes a moderately sized millstone, and she drops it out of the top window, and it lands on Abimelech's head. And as he's lying there, barely conscious, with his head all mangled, he says to one of his servants, quick, kill me with your sword so that I don't go down in the book of Judges as yet another guy who got killed by a woman with a kitchen utensil. And his servant obliges him and takes a sword and kills him, and he dies. Now, chapter nine, verse 56, thus God returned the evil of Abimelech, which he committed against his father in killing his 70 brothers upon his head, literally.

Verse 57, and God also made all the evil of the men of Shechem return on their heads, and upon them came the curse of Jotham, the son of Jerabal, which was the other name of Gideon. What is this teaching us? What does this generation of judges teach us?

Let me give you three brief things here. Number one, this story teaches you that God's judgment is slow, it is sometimes subtle, but it is always sure. Now, I told you a few weeks ago that in this life, we may not see every wrong-righted.

Millstones don't get dropped on the head of every bad person that we know, but every once in a while, Scripture records stories like this one to show you that what is not happening here on earth will indeed happen in eternity. And the more important point, listen, is this, you must not let the slowness of God's judgment, you must not let his apparent absence lull you into complacency, because the Apostle Peter says that throughout human history, mankind has repeatedly made the mistake of assuming that God's patience, his long suffering, and his subtlety and judgment equate with his absence. And the example that Peter uses is Noah. Did you know that between the time God said there would come a flood and the time it came, there was nearly a hundred years? And then Peter says in Noah's generation, they assumed that that hundred-year gap meant that Noah was a fool and that God had not really spoken. They said, but the flood came upon them when they weren't even expecting it. And they misused that time. They thought that the Lord was slow concerning his promise, 2 Peter 3, but the Lord is not slow concerning his promise, Peter said.

One day with him, it's like a thousand years. The reason he did it, Peter said, is because the Lord is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. He'd given them that hundred-year space to allow them to repent. And they confused the sign of God's patience with the fact that he wasn't there. In fact, let me give you another cool thing that Genesis shows you. There's one other prophecy about the flood that people always overlook, Methuselah. You know what the name Methuselah means in Hebrew? When he dies, it will come. If you add up the years, Methuselah died the year that the flood came.

He was 969 years old, the longest man. Scripture records living as a sign that God's patience is what holds history together. And you must never confuse his space that he's given you to repent as the fact that he is not there. You see, Peter says, this is what you do with the coming of Christ. It's been 2,000 years.

And many of you say, well, I got time. I'll just wait till next week. Next week will be just like this week. Tomorrow will be just like today. Next year will be just like this year.

I'll get to this later. And Peter says, don't be a fool. God has simply done this to give you a space to repent. But in the moment you don't realize it's happening, the flood comes. The coming of Christ comes. Your death comes.

And you will have abused what God intended for patience towards you. When I lived in Southeast Asia, I lived in this place where the tsunami came through in 2004 and killed 180,000 people. I was gone before it came. But I went back in 2004, just three weeks after the tsunami had come to visit that area. And I talked to a guy that I knew there who told me the most remarkable story. He said, I was on the beach. I spent the night on the beach with eight friends of mine. We were doing a camp out the night that the tsunami came.

It came, I think, about eight o'clock that morning. And he said that we spent the night there on the beach. And he said, something woke us up in the morning. None of us knew what it was. Looking back now, I realize it was the earthquake. He said, but we got ourselves up and we walked outside and we saw the most unusual thing.

The water, you've seen the pictures, had receded back several hundred yards. He said, we'd never seen anything like that. He said, and so my eight friends thought it was the strangest thing. So they just went walking out on the ocean bed to see what was going on. He said, I felt like something was not right. So I got on my motorcycle and I drove back to my parents' house because I wanted to check on them. He said, that's the last we heard from any of those eight friends.

He said, I sometimes wonder what it was like for them as they got out there. And then suddenly they see a 70 foot high wall of water that is coming that not only killed them, but would destroy 180,000 people in our country. You see the cross and resurrection of Jesus are like the receding of that water. The cross and resurrection show you that God is indeed in charge, that God is the judge and that God will one day return. And God has given you a space to repent. Do not use this moment to treat it like a curiosity where you say, well, I'll get to this when there's time. It assures you that it is coming, that God's judgment is coming and He's given you right now a space to repent. Don't confuse His patience with His absence. God may not be as obvious right now, but God is every bit as present and God is working history and He commands you to repent. This is Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. We'll return to our teaching in just a moment, but I wanted to quickly tell you about our featured resource this month. Let's face it, let's face it, we all need to be able to give a reason for the hope we have in Jesus and how that hope affects the way we think about things in the world.

In our newest book, we hope to equip you with answers to difficult questions that make sense and aren't overly complicated. In Honest Questions, Quick Answers, we'll address things like, if a child wanders from the faith, is it the parent's fault? And how do you know you're growing as a disciple of Jesus?

These types of questions can be barriers to those who are searching, so having solid responses in our mind can help along the path of bringing people to Jesus. Receive it with your gift to the ministry right now by giving us a call at 866-335-5220 or check it out at Now let's get back to the conclusion of today's teaching.

Here's Pastor J.D. Here is number two. The second thing we learned from this story is that the problem is not out there. Our problem is in here. You see, this story is the first one in Judges where the actual oppression comes not from outside of Israel, the oppression comes from within them. It's one of their own people, the son of one of their greatest leaders that is the oppressor this time. And so finally in the book of Judges, it is made clear that foreign nations are not Israel's problem. Israel is Israel's problem.

As I've told you, that's always kind of been the case, but now you see it clearly. In fact, think about this. There's really no special outpouring of judgment in this story, is there?

There's no fire from the sky. God just allows Israel to experience the results of their own sinful choices. It is Gideon's self-centeredness and glory lust that produces a son who murders his brothers so that he can be king. It is Shechem's disregard for God's commands and their self-interest that lead them to selecting an opportunistic man like Abimelech who will betray them.

It is Abimelech's treachery and backstabbing that lead to his downfall. What does it show in you? Listen, sin is its own curse. It's not that God curses your family because of your sin, you curse your family because of your sin.

C.S. Lewis said to those people who objected the idea of God's judgment, I don't like God's judgment, it makes God mean. Lewis said, in the long run, the answer to all those who object to God's judgment is a question. What are you asking God to do? Are you asking God to wipe out people's past sins and to give them a fresh start? Are you asking him to offer miraculous help in their new life? That is exactly what he's done to the cross. Are you asking him to forgive them? They refuse to be forgiven. Are you asking him to leave them alone?

Alas, that is what I'm afraid he does. In the end, you see, there are only two kinds of people, those who say to God, thy will be done, and those to whom God says, thy will be done. Sin is its own curse. Israel is its own problem. You wonder, why doesn't God take everyone into heaven?

Look at what this race of people have done to the earth. God doesn't want heaven to become hell, and he knows if he just takes us there the way that we are, we will turn heaven into hell, which leads me to number three. We need a new king.

We need a better judge. Like the Israelites, we come to God thinking we primarily need him to deliver us from some bad thing, the Midianites of pain or broken relationships or a lack of money. We need him to give us a new marriage or to fix our family, and we might need those things. But see, that's not what we most need. What we most need is freedom from our own heart because we are our own curse.

Thus, any salvation that fails to deal with the human heart is not a real or sufficient salvation. Think about it. What if God cured all of the prayers of the human race?

What if he answered them all in kind of one fell swoop and gave us everything that we as a race have asked for? What if we had prosperity? Do infinite amounts of money make people virtuous?

Does the name Kardashians mean anything to you? I saw a study that showed that drivers of luxury cars are less likely to stop for pedestrians at a crosswalk. Those people in higher brackets of wealth and education are four times more likely to cheat at a card game when any money is at stake. So no, money does not make people virtuous.

In fact, it usually perverts virtue. What if we were all educated? Would that take away evil? Stalin and Lenin were the most well-educated men of their generation, so they didn't keep them from being two of the most evil, murdering men that have ever walked the face of the earth. What if we were all perfectly governed?

Would good government guarantee goodness in people? One of the best answers to that came from Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who was imprisoned under Stalin. Stalin thought that good government would make everybody virtuous if we made everybody equal. Well, Solzhenitsyn and 20 million other dead Russians said, that's not true. Then Solzhenitsyn, who wrote the most remarkable thing in the Gulag, in the prison, he said, I entered into the Gulag thinking that the communists were the problem. If we could ever shake off communism, then everybody would be okay if we could get back to democracy. He said, we always thought evil was somebody else.

Listen to this. If only there were evil people somewhere, insidiously committing evil deeds, then we could separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.

Who was willing to destroy his own hearts? You see, we always think the evil is the communists. No, the evil is the capitalists. The evil are the republicans. Oh, no, the evil are the democrats. The evil are uneducated people.

No, the evil is on Wall Street. And God says, no, the evil is you. The human heart has to be changed. Your heart needs to be changed, which means that we need a savior who can deliver us not only from the curse around us, the curse within us. We don't just need a savior to fix our situation.

We need a savior who can fix us. We need a king who will not only rule with love and justice, we need a king who can make us more like him. And that's why all these stories point us through their messiness and their disappointments and their failures to the ultimate king who would come, the Lord Jesus. You see, Jesus in many ways would be the opposite of Gideon. Unlike Gideon, Jesus had every right to demand service as a king.

And unlike Gideon, he rightfully could wear the ephod because he was himself the tabernacle of God's presence on earth. But unlike Gideon, Jesus successfully resisted the temptation to rule over the nations when God had not appointed it. So Jesus in the temptation said no to Satan. And until the very end of Jesus' life, Jesus maintained that he did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. Jesus did not take our treasures to make a garment of gold for himself. Jesus poured out his blood to clothe us in his righteousness and give us a seat at his table forever.

Jesus was definitely the opposite of Abimelech. Unlike the trees of the forest who were too self-interested to rule, Jesus was more than willing to be our shepherd. But when we chopped him down and killed him, he didn't burn us to the ground in his anger, he willingly took the fire of God's judgment for us and to himself in love so that we could be saved. The millstone of God's judgment was dropped on his head, not ours, so that we could live.

He is the true king that we seek in every reform. You think salvation comes from a better situation. God says salvation comes from being embraced by the Savior for whom you were created. You think that if God would fix your marriage, that he would fix you. God says, nope, I gotta fix you before I fix your marriage.

You don't need a better situation, you need to have your heart changed. The problem is not this way, the problem is between you and me. And if you will come to understand Jesus as the king for who you have been seeking, then he will change your heart so that you become like him. Which leads me to the conclusion of this whole thing, which I will just cover very, very briefly.

Look at this. You get introduced to the next generation of judges and all it says is this, watch this, chapter 10, verse one. After Abimelech there arose to save Israel, Tola, who was the son of Puah, the son of Dodo, which those are really tough names, my daddy Dudu and his dad Puah.

Tola lived at Shamir in the hill country of Ephraim. He judged Israel 23 years, then he died. After him arose Jair the Gileadite who judged Israel 22 years. And he said, well, what possibly could we learn? That's just a bunch of details.

No, it's what's not said that you should learn from. Two things are not said there. Number one, there's no mention of who the Israelites need to be delivered from.

You want to know why? They don't even mention the enemies anymore because the enemy is not the foreign nations, the enemy is them. The judge needs to deliver them from the curse here, not the curse there.

The second thing that's not mentioned, watch this. Do you see any reference in there to them crying out to God for help? No, they're not even crying out to God anymore, yet God keeps saving them. Over and over in the book of Judges, you are confronted with the fact that it's not that Israel is getting themselves into a shape where God then feels like he's going to come after them. It's that God seeks them when they're not seeking him, that God is chasing them.

He is pursuing them when they're running as hard as they can the other direction. And what that teaches you is something that's probably the most important thing for you to learn in the book of Judges, is that God is not waiting on you to get yourself in a shape before he comes to you. God's like a father who's seeking you. God came to you, Romans 5a, while you were a sinner, while you were as far and as hard as you could the other way, God was coming after you. And he was saying to you, come back, come back. I can tell you this weekend that if you're sitting here listening to me, that in itself is evidence that God has been pursuing you. You're like the people in the book of Judges, you keep wandering. And God's not like, get yourself together and cut.

He's like, I'm here, I've turned my face towards you. I pointed this out a couple of weeks ago, another place in Judges where this was taught. It was in the first part of the story of Gideon. You remember this, I pointed out that when Israel had wandered from God, God sent a prophet who told them about their sin. And as we come to the end of the prophet's sermon, we are expecting Israel to respond in repentance. But I showed you that before Israel responds, God starts raising up Gideon. God starts working salvation before they ever say, I'm sorry. There you see it. It's that God is coming to us before we are even interested in him.

He is seeking us like a father, seeks a lost son or daughter. That night at dinner, I asked my family, my two older daughters, sit through the service and I asked them, I said, so what'd you get out of the sermon? And my second daughter, Allie, she said, dad, I thought of something while you were preaching. I said, okay, what is it? She said, you know that show that we like to watch the voice? I said, yeah. She said, okay. She says, here's what I was thinking.

You know that point that you made about how God comes after us when we're not even searching for him? I said, yeah. She said, so what I thought about was on the voice, you know how like when you're singing, the judges have their backs turned to you, but if they like your singing, then they turn around their seat and it says, I want you in big letters across the bottom. I said, yeah. She said, it's like, it's like God turns his chair toward us before we ever even start singing. Now, when she was telling me that, I kept thinking like, she was going to say as a result of our pretty singing and I was going to have to correct her.

And then she said that and I was like, no, you pretty much got it. That's the gospel. The gospel is that you were dead in your trespasses and sins. It is because God has been pursuing you that you're here. It is because God has turned his chair toward you and the judge has become savior. That's the most important thing for you to learn in judges is that God has pursued you and God wants to bring you back to himself. We need a savior without God's help and his work on the cross. We are completely lost in our sin. Thankfully, our savior is available and ready for us right now. We just need to ask. This is Summit Life featuring pastor JD Greer and in our new series, Broken Saviors, we're looking at the book of judges and some pretty strange stories, right, JD?

Yeah. You know, Molly, this is one of my favorite series and just in terms of how much fun I had in the study of it and then the preparation of it. The church really seemed to love it. I think you'll find a lot of benefit in it because in the book of Judges, you're going to find, let's just go ahead and say it, some of the most scandalous and outright weird stories in the entire Bible. But through this scandalous history, we're seeing what God could do with the most broken of heroes. And our prayer is that through this series, you will see that behind every broken hero is a God who remains faithful even when we're faithless. The real hero in the book of Judges is not Samson and it's not Gideon.

The real hero is going to be the Messiah, Jesus that they're pointing to. And so we've created a new resource for you this month that also covers some, well, let's just say it's strange, but brutally honest topics like the ones we find in the book of Judges. I think you'll find a lot of things in this volume or questions that you've heard or questions you've considered. So let's make sure that you get that soon. When you partner with us financially, you'll be sharing the life-changing truth of God's word in your community and across the U.S. and even the world. As our way of saying thanks, we'll send you the newest resource created by the Summit Life team. Honest Questions, Quick Answers Volume 2 is yours when you give right now to support this ministry.

Call 866-335-5220 or give online and request your copy at I'm Molly Vidovitch inviting you to join us again tomorrow when J.D. Greer continues our series titled Broken Saviors. That's Tuesday on Summit Life. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-30 22:57:41 / 2023-03-30 23:09:14 / 12

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