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Weekly Word


Jesus Prepares for Ministry

Mark 1:9-13.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on February 10, 2019.

I apologize for taking so long to get the article up this week.  The snow definitely puts a crinkle in all of our plans.  We pray that you are all safe and have what you need.

Today we are going to continue in Mark chapter 1 as Jesus prepares to begin His ministry.

The beginning of the ministry of Jesus

Very little is said about the activity of Jesus before His water baptism in the Bible.  We are told of an incident at the temple when he was 12.  Other than that and the time around his birth and toddler years, nothing specific is revealed to us.  Jesus simply grew up as another Jewish boy in an Israel that was occupied by the Romans.  There are specious stories that developed later by people who had ulterior motives, but none of these have a shred of evidence that they are true.  As best we can tell, it was God’s plan for Jesus to simply be an Israelite and identify with their life before He took up the mantle of the Messiah.  Luke tells us that when Jesus started ministering he was “about thirty.”  If you take time to think about this, you will find that it is easy to be so ambitious that you jump ahead of God and try to accomplish things in your own power and strength.   I think this is what Moses encountered when he struck the Egyptian.  His heart was ready to deliver Israel, but God was not ready for Moses to deliver them yet. 

Throughout His ministry we see Jesus emphasizing that He was following the timing and direction of the Father.  He who had the most critical work for God the Father ever, had to wait for the timing of the Father.  We need to be led by the Holy Spirit and according to God’s timing, not ours.  This may call for time where we faithfully do those things that are “less” than the big desire that is in our heart.  Learn to trust God.  Yes, He works to put things in our heart, but we must still wait for His timing.  Waiting on the Lord can be our most difficult test.

When Jesus does come forward, He does so with a public act of being baptized in water by John.  Remember that John is telling people to repent and prepare their hearts for the Messiah.  He had them come to be baptized in the Jordan as a sign of the cleansing that was going on in their hearts.  So why would Jesus need to be baptized?  Mark sort of skips over this point.  However, we know from other Gospels that Jesus explained it this way.  He was to be baptized in order to fulfill all righteousness.  For Jesus this act was an important picture.  He personally had no sin from which to be cleansed, but He is not just saving us by waving a wand over our sin.  Just as Moses personally led the people from Egypt to the Promised Land, so Jesus is personally leading us in the way we must go.  He is baptized to set the example for us of what we need to do, and I am not talking about getting soaked.  As the “Captain of our Salvation” (Hebrews 2:10), Jesus comes to the Father in humility and presents Himself in a way that will make clear that He is the One for whom Israel had been waiting.

When Jesus comes up out of the water there is a witness given from the Father and the Holy Spirit in heaven.  Now having at least two witnesses is very important for Israel because The Law stipulated that all legal things must be established by at least two witnesses.  Again, Mark does little explaining, but in this event the ministry of Jesus will start with a witness from earth, John the Baptist, and a witness from heaven, God the Father and the Holy Spirit.  In fact, in the other Gospels John explains that the whole reason he was baptizing people was because of a prophecy that God had given him.  He had been told that He would see the Holy Spirit come upon the person who was the Messiah.  John gave testimony to the fact that he saw the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus like a dove.

Now the heavenly witness has two components.  First, the heavens open and the Holy Spirit, like a dove, descends upon Jesus.  Second, a voice from heaven states, “You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”  Both of these are important.  The first establishes that the Spirit of God is upon the man Jesus, which he will go on to demonstrate.  The second is that God the Father is pleased with whom He is and what He is doing.  This will be in contrast to the lack of approval from the Pharisees.  It is interesting that the words of the Father are directed to Jesus personally.  Later during the transfiguration (Mark 9:7) the Father says something similar, but it is directed to the disciples.  “This is my Beloved Son.  Listen to Him!”  I don’t think the first time is directed to Jesus because He needed assurance.  I think it was to publically show an intimate moment between Father and Son.  Both are for the sake of the people and have the effect of encouraging them to listen to Jesus.

Water baptism would become the initial act of obedience that all who believed upon Jesus would be told to do.  It still retains its imagery of repentance, but it also included an element of putting your faith in Jesus.  Thus water baptism speaks of dying with Jesus to the lusts and desires of our flesh and this world, and coming alive to the Spirit of God in order to live a new life.  It is important not to skip over this too quickly.  At its heart, salvation is about repenting of living life selfishly, in order to gratify our flesh, and then putting one’s faith in Jesus.  Thus repentance must be a dying to self.  In fact we cannot allow repentance to be just a thing of the past, but rather it must be a daily thing.  To such a person the Spirit of God will take up residence in their life, lead them, and guide them in the way of the Lord.

Jesus goes into the wilderness

Once Jesus comes up out of the water, you would think that Jesus would begin teaching and healing people.  However, instead of doing those things, the Spirit of the Lord does an odd thing.  It drives Jesus away from the crowds and people and into the wilderness.

Two things need to be pointed out here.  First, the word used is “driven.”  It is the same powerful word that is used of Jesus driving demons out of people.  It is an authoritative directive, which seems strange in relation to Jesus.  However, it emphasizes how important this is to the Father, being that the Spirit does nothing of itself, but only what the Father and the Son send it to do.

Second, Jesus goes into the wilderness.  It is as if He is reenacting the life of Israel.  When Israel had reached maturity as a nation, God then called her out of Egypt into the wilderness.  There He made a covenant with them and prepared them for what was ahead.  The wilderness is a barren place and it is an isolated place.  Before we can minister for God, we need to get to a place that is isolated from the world and receive from the Lord what we need from Him.

While Jesus is in the wilderness, He will be tested in body and in spirit.  We should beware trying to make the wilderness an ideal place of being close to God.  Both the wilderness time and the time later among the multitudes were equally part of God’s will.  Now, Jesus was tested physically because He was fasting over the course of 40 days.  Of course on the spiritual front, the devil comes and tries to tempt Him away from His purpose.  Now there are several words that Mark uses in a row that are important Old Testament concepts: Wilderness, 40 days, Satan, Wild Beasts, and Angels.  As I said earlier the wilderness is a place of physical and spiritual testing (these are integrally linked) that prepares us for what is ahead.  We often feel alone and like God isn’t keeping up His end of the bargain, especially when we are attacked by the devil.  However, God is faithfully preparing us.  Isn’t this whole life a wilderness that God uses to prepare us for His Eternal Kingdom?  I think so.  Thus there are many layers to this.

Forty days is also an important concept.  The rains of the Flood lasted 40 days and 40 nights.  Moses went up on the mountain to receive the law and stayed there for 40 days.  The spies of Israel were in the land 40 days before they returned to give their report.  Also, Goliath taunted Israel for 40 days before David came forth.  In all of these times, God was getting ready to do something new, and so God was doing with Jesus.

Satan of course comes to tempt Jesus.  However, the next phrase “wild beasts” is not a coincidence.  Yes, Jesus may have had to face a wolf or lion, but I think the proximity to Satan is intended to remind us of the biblical metaphor in the Old Testament.  Daniel 7 and Revelation 13 used wild beast imagery to represent the beastly empires that Satan would raise up in order to try and dominate God’s people.  They are a picture of the savagery of Satan and His angels.

However, God was faithful to send His angels to minister to Christ so that He would not physically perish under His heavy testing.  God is always watching over us in order to give us the ministry that we need, whether from heavenly messengers or earthly ones.  Ultimately we must recognize that none of us minister without the need to be ministered to ourselves.  No work for God is so great that He expects you to burn yourself out and your family.  God pulls us out of the fray from time to time and ministers to us in ways that we could never receive if we are still out there on the front lines of ministry.  Learn to listen to the Spirit and let your ministry be driven by Him, rather than your best intentions for God.

Jesus Prepares audio


Song Service Sun AM 190210

Here is the song service for this morning.

Worship in Song


A Person Prepared for Jesus

Mark 1:1-8.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on February 03, 2019.

Today we are going to begin the Gospel of Mark.  The Gospels are more properly named “The Gospel according (insert Gospel writer here).”  It truly is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that is written by individual disciples of Jesus.  Comparatively, Mark’s Gospel is much smaller than the others.  It is just over half the size of the Gospel according to Luke.

As we walk through the Gospel according to Mark, let us keep in mind the reality that the Anointed Savior sent from Heaven has come in the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth, Israel.

Hearts need to be prepared for Jesus.

Mark starts off with the reality that it had been revealed through the prophet Isaiah that there would be a forerunner of Christ, the Messiah.  In a way, that would make Isaiah the forerunner of the forerunner of Christ.  In fact, there are innumerable people who stand in a long line of those who God has used to prepare mankind for His Anointed Savior.  We could focus only on those like Isaiah who impacted large numbers of people, but on a smaller level there are those like parents, grandparents, co-workers, friends, or even chance encounters, who were used by God to prepare our hearts to receive Jesus.

This is the work that God has been doing from time immemorial.  He moves upon the hearts of those who are open to Him and sends them to speak to others.  Mark recognized that the entrance of Jesus into the world was taking this work to a more powerful level because He was about to physically step onto the scene.  John the Baptist was important because the person and work of Jesus was too critical for all of Israel to miss it.  He had come to prepare the hearts of Israel for their Messiah.

Thus we need to understand this important thing about God.  He has always been faithful to send messengers to humanity.  He is not content for people to be ignorant of His purposes and plans.  In fact Amos 3:7 states, “For the LORD God does nothing without revealing his secret to His servants the prophets.”  God does not set us up for a secret take down.  He has very openly promised us that He would send a savior and warned us of the judgment to come.  He is still sending messengers today.  His words to His disciples, before He ascended into heaven, was all about them preparing to tell the whole world about Him.  We are a part of a long line of those who have received these promises and warnings, but we are also a part of the long line of those who are sent with the message of Christ.  May God help us continue to be faithful messengers.

By the way, the Hebrew word that is translated “angel” in many Bibles basically means “messenger.”  It can be used for a human messenger or a heavenly messenger, and requires context to understand which is intended.  This too underlines God’s desire to get His message across to humanity.

Mark’s quote in verses 2-3 comes from Isaiah 40:3.  He could have continued quoting verses 4 and 5 because they continue the thought.  They say, “Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth…”  This is road building terminology that challenges people to get the road, path, or way of the Lord ready for His coming.  Now Jesus didn’t need them to build a road so that He could get into Jerusalem, though He would definitely go there.  Rather, He wants to come to their hearts and gain entrance there.  Our lives can get so full of sin and hurts that the path to our heart becomes full of obstacles.  If Jesus is to come into our hearts then there are high and mighty things in our life that need to be cast down, and there are lowly, broken, and abandoned places that need to be built up.  This gives us a picture or analogy of what true repentance looks like.  Verse 4 of Mark 1 says that John preached repentance for the remission of sins.  What things have become huge in my life and they are keeping me from receiving Jesus?  What things have I neglected, to which I give no thought, but I need to build them up?  We need to recognize our sins and reject them while recognizing that we have neglected a relationship with God and turn towards Him.  Just because a person once repented and Jesus came into their life, it does not mean that we no longer need to prepare our hearts for Him.  Like the Lord did in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, so He wants to do in our hearts every day.  We must prepare ourselves daily, keeping the path to our heart clear of debris for the Lord.

In verse 5 we are told that they were confessing their sins as they were baptized in the Jordan River.  The word literally is “to confess out,” and it involves a public expression of my sin.  We can confess many things, but here they confess those things that were blocking God in their life.  Repentance is an inner work that must make its way to the surface of our life, if it is to complete its work.  Part of this work is an outward confession of our rejection of sin and embrace of the Lord.  James 5:16 tells us to “Confess your sins one to another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”  When we try to hide behind a mask of perfection, we do ourselves and others a disservice.  The point is not to tell everybody you meet every sin that you ever committed.  The point is the work of recognizing and removing those barriers to the Lord in our life.   Sin loves to keep hidden and tells us that it will behave as long as we don’t confess it outwardly.  Beware of those sins that convince you to keep them hidden and yet leave you in a cycle of falling and getting up over and over again.  You need a spiritually mature person in your life to whom you can confess your sins.  They can pray with you and encourage you as the Lord gives you victory over that sin in your life.

Another thing that is good to see here is that Jesus is faithful to come.  Though it had been promised for millennia that the Messiah would come, this was the day that He was really coming.  We are always mystified by the timing of people coming to the Lord.  Some are saved as a little child, others somewhere in the middle of their lives, and some even on their death bed.  Just as the Lord is faithful to send us messengers in our lives, so He is faithful to come.  In fact each time a person tells us of the Gospel, it is Jesus standing at the door of our heart knocking to come in.  Though we may reject Him throughout our life, He just keeps knocking.  This is the grace and love of our Lord.

Now, we have been speaking of Christ coming spiritually to our hearts.  However, we would be remiss if we didn’t recognize that we are also warned that Jesus will physically return on the clouds of the sky in order to judge the nations and take up His earthly rule.  Just as He physically came in Mark’s day, so He will be faithful to come physically at the end of this age.  Are you ready for that day?  If you are preparing yourself daily for fellowship with God through repentance and confession then you will be ready for that day when He splits the sky.

We are tempted to look for someone other than Jesus.

From time to time God sends exceptionally gifted and anointed people to get our attention on a larger scale.  Due to weariness in waiting for the Messiah, it is the nature of people to grasp at anyone who comes along and shows greatness.  John recognized this and warned the people that he was not pointing them to himself, but to the Messiah who would come after him.

John uses two words of Christ that we should always remember.  First, Christ is mightier than any who serve him, no matter how great they may appear to us.  Whether Noah, Moses, Abraham, David, Elijah, or John the Baptist, none of these are mightier than Jesus.  Even today we see strong believers accomplishing great things for Christ throughout the world.  However, we must never confuse these messengers and servants of Christ with Him.  Too many churches and ministries that have seen great success and increase of numbers of people and amounts of money have fallen into the trap of idolizing a leader.  We must not try to tear down leaders, but neither should we put them on a pedestal that endangers them and us.  Without the Spirit of God, none of us has any power to produce any amount of salvation, healing, and deliverance.  We must never lose sight of this.

Second, John makes a statement of the worthiness of Christ.  He recognizes that he wasn’t worthy even to loosen the strap of Christ’s sandals.  This of course would have been understood as a very low duty.  The irony is that John is performing a very high service for Christ as His forerunner.  Thus John was extremely aware of his unworthiness to do anything for Christ.  Yet, Christ loves us nonetheless and calls us to work with Him nonetheless.  It is not that humans don’t have any worth, but when our worth is placed next to Christ, we quickly recognize that we aren’t even in the same ballpark.  His worth is magnitudes beyond our own.  This leads to the next point.

God uses many people to minister to us in His name throughout our life.  John would be the one who would baptize them in water as a sign of repentance.  Later the disciples would baptize people as a sign of repentance and faith in Jesus as God’s savior for them.  John points out that people can baptize another in water, but they can’t baptize them in the Holy Spirit.  This is the work that only Jesus can do.

Perhaps you have people in your life that led you to Christ, another who baptized you, maybe married you to your spouse, and the list can go on.  All of these are wonderful and those people are special.  Yet, they cannot do for you what only Christ can do.  We need more than outward things.  We need the Holy Spirit on the inside transforming our life.  Using water baptism as an analogy, John recognizes that Jesus can immerse you in the Spirit of God.  At salvation the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our life and makes us spiritually alive.  We are now connected to the vine, connected to Christ through the Spirit.  Yet, we must pray daily for Christ to immerse us in His Holy Spirit that we can be empowered to do the work that He has for us to do.  It is the work of God’s Spirit at salvation and everyday afterwards that makes us worthy to be called the Children of God!

Prepared for Jesus audio


When Our Tank Is Empty

Matthew 11:27-30.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on January 27, 2019.

Running on empty is a metaphor that uses the image of a vehicle that is nearly out of fuel.  It can be picturing a physical aspect of a person who is not eating right and or sleeping enough.  However, it also can picture something that happens spiritually in our life, regardless of how much good food and quality sleep we get.  Christians can find themselves feeling empty even though they still have faith in Jesus and are trying to live for Him. 

Part of this is just our humanity.  We are frail and will have such moments, but we are not intended to remain stuck in that situation.  God has provided a way for us to fill up our tank, so to speak.  I don’t want to make this a crass and simplistic answer.  However, it is true that we can lose sight of where our strength lies.

So let’s look at our passage today.

We need the rest that only Jesus can give

In many ways the call of Jesus to come unto him is the call to sinners who haven’t heard the truth, or who have, but haven’t yet responded in faith towards Christ.  He is calling to those who are harassed and beaten down, without strength to go on, and offering hope.  His way is much easier on our soul than the ways of our own making and the world around us.

However, believers can never think that this call is no longer to us, since we have responded in faith towards Christ.  This same call is the echo of the Holy Spirit in the heart of God’s people every day and everywhere.  It is an echo of that first call to which we responded, reminding us not to go it alone and forge our own way.  If we “soldier on” trying to be a good Christian in the strength of our initial salvation then we are going to burn out spiritually.

So let’s talk about our salvation.

Understanding the salvation that Jesus is offering and taking hold of it is compared to resting.  It clearly means a rest for your inner self.  Be careful that you do not let the Gospel become some version of this.  Come join our group, follow this list of do’s and don’ts, and God will be happy with you.  Such an offer is not that of Christ’s.  The true Gospel is that the Son of God has joined our group (humanity).  He has satisfied all the requirements of God the Father and has paid the price for our sin and rebellion.  If we will simply yield to him as our Lord by putting our faith in Him (His actions and His teachings) then we have eternal life welling up within us.  The true Gospel removes the focus from me trying to measure up enough in order to be acceptable and it places it upon staying close to Jesus.  I don’t need to measure up, I just need to keep clinging to Jesus by faith.  Good News, He also holds onto us.  Faith in Christ is how we overcome this world and its temptations that pull us away from our Father in Heaven.

Thus, Jesus uses the image of a yoke.  Here we see that He is offering far more than just knowing that we are eternally safe.  It is very much about changing masters and the expectations that cling to our hearts and minds.  The yokes that the world puts upon us and the ones that we put on ourselves are all the obligations and expectations that connect us to the world.  They become very heavy.  In fact, they are impossibly heavy.  Thus the phrase, “I can’t breathe,” could be a metaphorical statement of life in this world.  It can become so heavy that you can’t even draw a spiritual breath. 

Some in this world believe that the answer is to toss off all yokes including Christ’s.  However, this is impossible.  Our flesh is a creature of servitude by nature (cue Bob Dylan song, “You’re gonna have to serve somebody”).  It is the default setting of humanity.  Even if we manage to break off all attachments to people and society outside of ourselves, we will still end up serving our own fleshly desires.  Believe me, they can be the worst of task masters.  The only way to be freed from it is to get a stronger master who is not interested in making you a slave.  Yes, we serve Christ and are His servants.  However, in so doing we are made free because He wants us to be free.

So does this mean a Christian should ignore any obligations they may have in this world?  No, it doesn’t.  You see, Jesus told His disciples to pay their taxes and be good citizens of the world.  However, they were to do so to please Him, not the government.  When we quit trying to please everyone, self included, and only serve Jesus, our soul is finally allowed to breathe and the breath it takes in is life itself. Yet, He helps us to truly serve the world around us without the insufferable, crushing weight of their expectations.

This is not intended to be a onetime thing.  We need to come back to Jesus continually and find the rest of simply serving Him.  When we lose focus of this truth, we become harassed by all the obligations that we feel.  Just as you need sleep every night in order to be any good the next day, so we need to rest in Jesus continually in order to have any hope of accomplishing something.  This is His gift to us, rest.  Let us take hold of it.  It is one of the reasons why many believers feel like their tank is empty.

We need the food and water that only Jesus can give us

The phrase in verse 29, “learn from me,” involves us receiving from Christ.  This receiving is not just a mystical, intuitive recharge.  Rather, it is a rational, informing of our heart and mind of the Truth of God.  We can’t just learn about Jesus, we must truly learn from Him.  There are things that only He can teach you.  At best a good, spiritual teacher can only point us to the truth, but we must come into relationship with that truth in order for it to truly be ours.  It is the Spirit of Christ that helps this to happen. 

So how does this spiritual learning happen?  In 1 Corinthians 10:3-4 the Apostle Paul compares Christ to Spiritual Food and Spiritual Drink.  Just as we need to rest daily, so we need food and water daily.  This is where we get down to earth in our walk with Christ.  How do I learn from Christ?  It starts with the Word of God.  It gives us food for our spirit.  The Bible compares the Word to food, calling some parts of it milk and other parts of it solid food (1 Corinthians 3:2; Hebrews 5:12).  We cannot ignore God’s Word and think that we will be mystically fed by Christ.  Yet, we cannot rely only on spiritual teachers to be our only source of hearing the Word of God.  As a spiritual baby we may need help to know which parts of the word will be easier for us to digest, but at some point we have to take ownership of this need of our to feed spiritually upon the Truth of God (Which is only a literal form of our Lord Himself).  Believers need to be in the Word and seeking Christ for wisdom through it.  When we don’t understand something, it is fine to talk with other people, but ultimately we will only learn it from Christ Himself. 

Of course your flesh will be resistant to spending time in the Word, meditating on it, and conversing with the Lord about it.  However, we need it nonetheless.  Without this in our lives, we will find ourselves trying to run on an empty tank.

It also involves more than just reading the Word or spending X amount of minutes asking God for things.  Fellowship with God through prayer enables the Word to strengthen us spiritually.  It is easy to let our prayers remain at a level of simply asking God to do things for us.  However, the Holy Spirit uses the difficulties of life to call us up to a higher interaction with God (this does not mean we quit praying for His help in matters).  Just as you would spend time talking about your day with a spouse, or friend, even more so we need to talk with the Lord.  This spiritual interaction, fueled by spending time in God’s Word and trying to live life as He has shown us, gives us a place where God teaches us.  In that holy place He gives us strength and vitality that we need. 

We all need spiritual replenishment and spiritual refreshing, and that every day.  Yet, God has provided Himself as the means to that end.  Don’t settle for only having knowledge about Jesus and carrying Him around like a lucky rabbit’s foot.  Instead take time this week to rest in Christ and draw strength from His Word through the holy fellowship He calls you into, instead of telling yourself that you don’t have time for it.  He is there for you, waiting to fill you with Him strength and His life.

Empty Tank audio