Archives
Tag Cloud
: Mothers Abandonment Abomination of Desolation Abortion Abraham’s Bosom Abuse Accounting Activism Adoption Adultery Affection Affliction Afterlife Allegory Alliances Altar America Analogy Angels Anger Anointing Apologetics Apostasy Apostles Armor of God Ascension Ashamed Atonement Authority Baal Babylon Bad Baptism Belief Betrayal Bible Bitterness Blasphemy Blessing Blessings Blindness Boasting Body of Christ Bondage Book of Life Borders Born Again Bottomless Pit Bride Bride of Christ Bridegroom Calling Capital Punishment Carnal Celebration Character Childbirth Children Children of God Chosen Christ Christian Life Christians Christmas Church Circumstances Civil Disobedience Clay Cleansing Comfort Commands Communion Community Comparison Compassion Complacency Complaining Conception Condemnation Conduct Confidence Conflict Conformity Confrontation Confusion Connection Conscience Consequences Contentment Conviction Cornerstone Correction Cost Counsel Courage Covenant Coveting Creation Creator Crisis Cross Crowds Crowns Crucifixion Culture Curse Darkness David Day of the Lord Death Deceit Deception Decisions Defense Delegation Demon Demon Possession Demons Denial Dependency Design Desolation Desperation Destruction Devil Direction Disaster Discernment Disciple Disciples Discipleship Discipline Discontentment Discouragement Disease Disgrace Disputes Distraction Diversity Divine Division Doctrine Double Fulfillment Doubt Drought Drugs Duties Duty Earth Earthly Earthquakes Easter Edom Education Elders Elect Emmaus Emotions Employment Encouragement End Times Endurance Enemies Enemy Environment Environmentalism Equality Equipped Eternal Eternal Life Eternity Evangelism Everlasting Life Evil Evolution Exaltation Exalted Exclusion Excuses Exorcism Expectations Eyes Failure Fairness Faith Faithful Faithful Servant Faithfulness False Christs False Doctrine False Gods False Prophet False Religion False Religions Family Famine Fasting Father Father’s Day Fathers Favoritism Fear Fear of the Lord Feasts Feasts of the Lord Fellowship Fig Tree Finances Fire First Coming First Resurrection Firstborn Flesh Flock Folly Foolishness Foreigner Foreknown Forgiveness Fornication Forsaken Foundation Freedom Friends Friendship Fruit Fruit of the Spirit Fruitfulness Future Gentiles Gentle George Wood Giving Glorified Body Glory God God’s Word Godliness Godly God's Will Good Good Shepherd Good Works Gospel Gospels Government Grace Gratitude Great Commission Greatness Grief Growth Guilt Hades Hardship Harvest Hate Hatred Healing Heart Heaven Heavenly Hedonism Hell Help Herod Hidden Holiness Holy Holy Spirit Home Homosexuality Honor Hope Hopelessness Humility Husband Hypocrisy Idolatry Ignorance Image Immanuel Immigration Impossibility Incarnation Individuals Indulgences Inheritance Injustice Inner Battle Instructions Insults Integrity Intercession Intermediate State Interpretation Israel Jerusalem Jesus Jewish Temple John the Baptist Joy Judas Judgment Judgment Day Judgments Justice Justification Justify Key Keys Kids Kindness King Kingdom Kingdom of God Kingdom of Heaven Knowledge Lake of Fire Lamp Law Law of the Lord Lawlessness Leader Leaders Leadership Leftism Legalism Leprosy Lies Life Life-Span Light Like-minded Lord Lost Love Lowly Loyalty Lust Lusts Luxury Malachi Manipulation Marriage Martyrdom Martyrs Mary Master Materialism Maturity Meditation Men Mentoring Mercy Messiah Metaphor Millennium Mind Mind of Christ Minister Ministry Miracle Miracles Mission Mocking Money Mothers Murder Mystery Nations Natural Natural Gifts Naturalism Nature Nazareth Near-Far Fulfillment Necessities New Covenant New Earth New Jerusalem New Man New Testament Obedience Obstacles Obstructions Offense Old Covenant Old Man Old Nature Old Testament Omnipresence Omniscience One Mind Outcast Pagan Pain Palm Sunday Parable Parables Paradise Paranormal Parenting Passion Passover Path Patience Patriotism Peace Peer Pressure Pentecost People of God Perception Perfect Persecution Perseverance Persistence Personal Testimonies Perspective Perversion Pestilence Peter Pharisees Philosophy Piety Pilate Politics Poor Position Possession Possessions Posture Power Praise Prayer Preach Preaching Preparation Pride Priority Privilege Prodigal Promise Proof Prophecy Prophet Prophets Prosperity Protection Protestant Reformation Proverbs Providence Provision Punishment Purgatory Purity Purpose Questions Racism Rapture Reason Rebellion Rebuke Reconciliation Redeemer Redemption Refuge Regeneration Rejection Rejoicing Relationship Relationships Reliability Religion Remember Remnant Renewal Repentance Reputation Resolve Rest Restoration Resurrection Revelation Revenge Revival Reward Rich Riches Ridicule Righteous Righteousness Rights Riot Risk Rivalry Robbery Roman Catholic Church Rule Sabbath Sacred Sacrifice Saint Salvation Sanctification Sarcasm Satan Savior Schemes Science Scoffers Scripture Seasons Second Coming Secret Seed Seek Self Self Control Self-centered Self-Control Selfish Ambition Self-Righteous Servant Servant-Leadership Servants Serve Service Serving Sexual Immorality Sexual Sin Sexuality Shame Share Sharing She’ol Shepherd Sickness Signs Signs and Wonders Simplicity Sin Sincerity Singing Singleness Sinners Slavery Sober Society Sojourner Sojourners Son Son of God Son of Man Sons of God Sorrow Soul Source Sovereignty Speech Spirit Spirit Realm Spirits Spiritual Spiritual Battle Spiritual Birth Spiritual Death Spiritual Gifts Spiritual Growth Spiritual Rulers Spiritual Warfare Stewardship Storms Strength Stress Strife Stumbling Block Submission Suffering Supernatural Supper Surrender Syncretism Tags: Patience Taxes Teacher Teaching Teachings Tears Technology Temple Temptation Temptations Terminal Illness Test Testimony Testing Tests Thankfulness Thanksgiving The Curse The Day of The Lord The End The Fall The Grave The Holy Spirit The Law The Way The Word The World Theology Throne Time of Visitation Times of the Gentiles Tithing Tongues Tradition Tragedy Transfiguration Transformation Traps Treachery Treasure Tree Tree of Life Trial Trials Tribulation Trifles Trinity Triumphal Triumphal Entry Trouble Trust Truth Unbelievers Uncertainty Unity Unpardonable Sin Utopia Value Victory Vigilance Vindication Virtue Virtues Visiting Ministries Voice of God Volunteer War Warning Warnings Wars Watching Water Baptism Water of Life Weary Wicked Wickedness Widows Wife Wineskins Wisdom Witness Witnesses Witnessing Women Word of God Word of the Lord Works World World View Worry Worship Worth Wrath Yahweh Yeast YHWH Yoke Zion

Weekly Word

Tuesday
Jun252019

The Parable of the Soils I

Mark 4:1-12.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on Sunday, June 23, 2019.

Today we are back in the Gospel according to Mark.  Here we are going to look at one of the parables that Christ told, the Parable of the Soils.  Jesus often used the common experiences of the first century Israelite to Illustrate spiritual truth.

As we approach this passage today, there is something we should all ask ourselves.  Am I responding to the Holy Spirit, who is drawing me to Christ, or am I simply going along with a ritual that I think I am supposed to do?  The condition and purpose of our heart are what is most important in this thing that is called Church, and Christianity.  As David said long ago, “For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering.  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart—these, O God, You will not despise.”  (Psalm 51:16,17).  He also said earlier in that same chapter, “Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part, You will make me to know wisdom (vs. 6).

Yes, God is concerned about our outward lives.  However, He will not settle for an outward conforming that lacks inner transformation.  It is not enough to look like Jesus when my heart does not look like his.  So, today, let us hear the Holy Spirit calling us to a deeper growth and a deeper walk with Him.

Jesus teaches the multitude

At the beginning of the ministry of Jesus, he was very popular and multitudes would crowd around to hear him teach.  This was sometimes 1,000’s of people.  Whenever we have a multitude, crowd, or even mob, it is a mixed bag.  So, it was in those days.  They ranged from people who were there seriously seeking truth from Jesus to those who were there looking for a cause to shut him up.

At this point we are told that Jesus is beside the Sea, which is most likely the Sea of Galilee.  The crowds are pressing in so hard that he gets in a boat and puts out from the shore a little bit. This would keep them from pressing in too much on Jesus, and it would allow more people to see and hear him.  The water and the ground rising up away from it would also serve as a natural amphitheater, making it possible for far more to hear his teaching.

We should take time to note that this is in comparison to his times of teaching in the synagogues (or even in people’s homes).  Jesus was not stuck to teaching in special religious places.  The synagogue would be small, restrictive to crowds, and often filled with the notable people of the village.  Jesus preached wherever he knew that people would listen.  It is important for Christians to avoid the trap of only preaching in our Church buildings.  How many people do not hear the Word of God because they would never enter a Church?  Most likely a large number.  We must go out to them.

We are told that Jesus often used parables in his teaching.  The term parable often brings the person of Jesus to mind, even among non-Christians.  IT comes from a word that means to cast or put alongside.  Thus, it came to be used of a comparison of two things.  It could be a simple simile, or a more complex story that still functions as a simile.  The parables of Christ are illustrations of spiritual truths that all believers should want to study and understand.  Many times, the explanation to a parable is given in the Bible, and other times we may receive a string of parables with only one of them explained.  It is understood that the unexplained parables are teaching a similar point and thus can be sleuthed out by those that are explained in the context.  We should also understand that parables were never intended to be allegories where every single detail has a mystical or metaphorical meaning.  There is a long history of people who have taken the parables of Christ and twisted them to mean patently false things.

Jesus did not entitle his parables.  However, believers and teachers often refer to them with titles.  The parable today is sometimes called The Parable of the Sower.  The titles have developed over the years and are not original to the stories.  They only help us to identify which parable a person is referring.

We should also recognize that sometimes a parable can be found in the other Gospels and may have details in the others that are not included in the first.  So, these are some things to keep in mind when reading and trying to understand a parable.

The parable in front of us today involves a person who is sowing seed.  The seed falls upon four different types of ground and thus has four different effects.  We are going to deal with the interpretation more next week.  However, verse 14 tells us that the seed represents the Word.  I think it is obvious Jesus specifically means the Word of God.  The sower would be anyone God sends to proclaim His Word, which in this case would be Jesus.

The main thrust of the parable centers on the different kinds of soil that the Word of God falls upon when it is spoken or broadcast.  The condition of the place it falls explains the different responses that individuals have to it.  The illustration is helping us to see the different spiritual conditions that can exist within a person’s heart.  The first soil corresponds to those who do not respond to the Gospel.  The seed (Word of God) is quickly lost to them.  The second soil corresponds to those who respond positively and quickly, but their quick growth does not last during the heat of trials.  The third soil corresponds again to a person who responds positively and yet the Word is eventually choked out by the desires of their flesh.  The fourth is the soil that responds positively and goes on to bear fruit at varying yields.  The fruit is the effect that the Word of God produces within their souls and within their lives.  The reason that I am not going to spend more time on the interpretation this week is that Jesus himself goes on to talk about the purpose of the parables before he explains its interpretation.  In fact, the explanation is given later to The Twelve when Jesus is alone with them.

The purpose of parables

In verse 9, Jesus ends his parable with a statement, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”  This phrase uses an obvious physical necessity to point to an inner necessity.  Of course, everyone there had ears and could most likely hear.  If they had been deaf, Jesus would typically heal them.  Just as we use the word “to listen” or “to hear” to mean more than just the act of hearing itself, so did the Hebrews.  When we say to a child, “Are you listening to me, or Did you hear me,” we clearly mean more than only picking up auditory signals.  We are pointing both to understanding of the words and also obedience or acting upon the words.  Many people hear the Word of God, but not all understand it, and even fewer will actually turn from the self-life and follow the Lord Jesus.  Jesus knew this about the multitudes.  Many of them did not understand what he taught and were not really looking for spiritual teaching.  Rather, they wanted miracles, healings, and free food.  This phrase really expresses a challenge, “Do you really want to know what I am talking about today?”

Ultimately, Jesus states that the parables only explain for those who are inside, but they are intended to cloak the truth for those who are outside.  So, who are these outsiders and insiders that Jesus is talking about?  From our passage, we can tell that at least The Twelve disciples are on the inside because Jesus gives them the explanation later.  We would also suspect that most of the multitude are on the outside.  It is helpful that the Apostle Paul also uses these terms in 1 Corinthians 5:12 and following.  There he defines the insiders as those who are believers in Jesus and therefore, part of the body of Christ.  They are inside the grace of Christ.  The outsiders are those who are not believers in Christ and are not a part of his body.  They are the unbelievers.  Paul’s usage of these words definitely fits our context.  Many people in the crowd were not actually believers in Jesus.  They were there to see a spectacle and others were there as his enemies.  So, why would Jesus teach in a way that would cloak God’s Word to those who don’t believe?

It is instructive that he quotes from Isaiah 6:9. In that passage, Isaiah had spoken the Word of God to people who had received many Words from the Lord over the course of 700 plus years.  When Jesus spoke, it was another 700 plus years on top of that.  Israel had so much Word of God that it was coming out of their noses, to use a manna reference.  Yet, many of them were not really understanding it and much less obeying it.  Those who have no shortage of the Word of God were challenged by this cryptic saying that God gave Isaiah.  Why would God say to us to keep on hearing and not understanding, keep on seeing and not perceiving?  I believe it was a direct challenge from God for them to change their ways and press in to Him further in order to understand.  It is the same reason that Jesus sometimes said things that were very hard to accept and understand.  It is a challenge to see if you will follow the Holy Spirit and truly learn what is being said, or will you shut down and turn away from Jesus? 

When he told the people that if their eye leads them into sin then they should gouge it out, and if their hand leads them into sin then they should cut it off, he is not instructing us to literally do these things.  Yet, we can get offended at the harshness of the teaching and walk away.  Alternatively, we could press in to Him in order to gain better understanding.

Another example is when Jesus told the people that unless they ate his flesh and drank his blood, they would have not life in them.  Many were offended at that teaching and walked away.  We are actually told in John 6:66 that “From that time, many of his disciples went back and walked with him no more.”  Then Jesus turned to The Twelve and says, “Will you too go away?”  Peter’s response is priceless.  “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the Words of Life.”  We can only understand the teaching of Christ if we are willing to first believe in him, and that belief will be challenged along the way.

In some ways Christ was being gracious.  His desire was not to heap more guilt upon them, but rather to prick their conscience.  It was to cut through the thick flesh that encased their hearts and call them back to faith in God, specifically faith in the One whom the Father had sent, Jesus!

I pray that today your heart is trusting Christ.  When you read verses that seem hard to understand or to accept then don’t let the offense of your heart cause you to go away from Christ.  Rather, let Christ know in your prayers that you trust Him even when you don’t understand everything that he taught.  Ask him to help you to understand and follow him in faith.  He is faithful always to help us to grow in understanding what only the Spirit of God can teach us.

Parable of Soils I audio

Tuesday
Jun182019

Finding Focus after Failure

Philippians 3:7-16.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on Father’s Day, June 16, 2019.

Today, we take time to celebrate fathers; a blessing for which they did not ask.  Being a father can fill you with all kinds of moments in which we feel great success and, of course, great failure.  It is one of those things that we cannot fully appreciate until we have been put in the harness ourselves.  Of course, this applies to parenting in general.

Our passage today is not about being a father.  However, it presents a problem that is common within parenting, that of getting up from failure and moving forward.  What do you do when your greatest attempts and endeavors are found out to fall short?  What do you do when that little baby who has grown up yells at you and slams the door to their room, or storms out of the house?  Sadly, many men run from such experiences.  Our society is full of missing-in-action fathers who decided to never start in the first place (often despite the children they have helped create).

Yet, for those who bravely jump into marriage and children, the challenges can mount and overwhelm a person.  We seem to be confronted with our weaknesses and shortcomings at every turn.  It is a very intimidating situation, even a crucible of sorts. 

So, I want to use this passage where the Apostle Paul is explaining his come-to-Jesus moment.  In it we will discover the proper response to those moments when you are made aware of your failures.

Confidence in the flesh does not lead to Jesus

Paul often spoke against the religious mindset that focused upon its own religious accomplishments because this does not lead anyone to Jesus.  Oh, it leads to all manner of places, but never to Jesus.  Confidence is good if it is placed in the right thing.

Paul had been raised in a religious environment in which performance was everything.  In verses 4-6 of this chapter, Paul lists his credentials among the Jewish people.  He had been circumcised when he was 8 days old.  This was the required mark that he belonged to God.  He was also from the tribe of Benjamin, a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Thus, he was a true heir to the promises of God.  He was also a Hebrew of Hebrews, which meant that he was not one of those Hellenized Jews who adopted the Greek culture and mixed it, in varying degrees, with the culture of Israel.  He was a Pharisee, who prided themselves on exact, literal conformity to the Law.  His zeal was so great that he had been persecuting the Christians and even going to Damascus in order to seize more.  Lastly, his law keeping was blameless by the standards of his day.  Everything in Paul’s life told him that he was blameless and succeeding within his society.  Yet, the day that Jesus confronted him, he was made aware of just how greatly he had been failing God. 

Think about how we come from different subcultures within the greater USA culture.  Even Christians grow up within a subculture of the overall world-wide Christian community.  Each subculture has its own variation of what it means to be good, right, and successful.  However, those cultural trappings, whether religious or not, can blind us to our mounting failures.

Paul should have had his confidence centered upon God, but he had been taught to center it upon himself inadvertently.  On the road to Damascus, when Paul finally saw the light, he began to know just how far away from God he was, and yet also, that God still loved him.  I pray that today you may know that no matter whether you were a failure or a great success story, in regard to the subculture in which you were raised, God loves you too much to leave you alone.  He calls you to Himself through Jesus and says, “Put your trust in me.” 

Perhaps the greatest problem within Christianity throughout history has been the many men who were more confident in their ideas about Scripture than they were in the God who gave them.  On top of this is a similar problem.  Christians are often looking back to smart Christian men of the past and put more confidence in their great ideas about Scripture than in the Word itself.  Whether a group points to Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, John Calvin, or for Pentecostals, men like Charles Parham or William Seymour, or for the Assemblies of God, men like E. N. Bell and J. Roswell Flowers, it matters not what men your subculture points to and holds up as the great light to this generation.  What matters is if our confidence is truly placed upon Jesus instead of the reason of brilliant men.

Knowing Jesus is more important than the things we lose

Paul recognized that everything for which he had been working fell short of God.  He would rather know Jesus than have the greatest Jewish resume among his people.  Thus, he had to let go of certain things in order to know Jesus.  He had come to that moment of realization (my great works have fallen short), and chose to go after Christ rather than doubling down on his life’s work.  He let go of his standing and reputation within the religious community.  He let go of his potential within the leadership of Israel.  However, verse 9 also points out that he had let go of the righteousness of his own attempts to satisfy the Law of Moses, in order to obtain a righteousness that is from God through faith in Jesus.  The righteousness of faith in Jesus is diametrically opposed to the self-righteousness obtained by keeping the law.  Paul points to this as the great problem for Israel in Romans 10:2-3 where he says, “I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.  For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.”

To know Jesus is more than to know information about him.  Yes, we want to learn about who Jesus was, what he did, and what he taught.  However, the words used for “knowledge,” and “know,” in this passage, include a knowledge that comes through a relationship with someone.  Paul doesn’t just want to go to school and learn about Jesus.  He wants to do life with Jesus.  His life would now be about learning who Jesus is through a personal relationship with him.

So, how do you have a relationship with Jesus?  You do so by faith.  You pray, you believe, you trust, you succeed, you fail, you repent, you keep your eyes upon Jesus.  I pray that today you will be struck with this desire to know Christ and not settle for anything less.

However, to really know Jesus, you must also get to know those major aspects of his life.  Paul wanted to experience and to learn about that same power that raised Christ from the dead.  He wanted that power operating in his life.  He also wanted to experience and to learn about the sufferings that Christ submitted himself to go through, even to the point of laying his life down for others.  Paul wanted his death to conform to that kind of death that Jesus had, which was a noble and godly one.  Ultimately Paul wanted to experience the Resurrection from the Dead himself, which is promised by Jesus to all believers.  There is coming a day when he will give the command and all the righteous saints of history will receive glorified, immortal bodies.

What do I do when I haven’t arrived yet

Fatherhood is a constant reminder that we haven’t arrived yet, and I’m not talking about the kids in the back seat droning, “Are we there yet?”  It is easy to get the wind knocked out of your sails when you are faced with your own failures.  In fact, it is easy to get angry, even filled with rage, as life constantly reminds us of how short we fall.  Yet, just as Christ was calling Paul to a different life that was not filled with hatred, anger, and rage, so Christ is calling us to let go of our failures and follow him.

Paul clearly says in verse 12 that he had not attained the list of the facets of knowing Jesus.  In fact, because the Resurrection is on the list, he still hasn’t attained that whole list even today.  Unless Jesus returns in our lifetime, all of us will close our eyes in death, realizing that we hadn’t attained it all yet.  But, God will not fail us.  He has set a time in which all of these things will be attained by all of the saints of all time together.  All of us will simultaneously enter into our full inheritance on the Day of Resurrection.  Wow!  What a day that will be.

Paul could have run away from his failures and away from Jesus.  Instead, he ran towards Christ.  Jesus is the “author and finisher of our faith.”  Yes, we are to cooperate with the Holy Spirit and work hard for our Lord, but we always remember that he will bring us through and finish us.  Yes, I haven’t arrived yet, but Jesus will get me there, just as he will get you there too.

Paul points out that he had to forget those things that were behind him.  We can learn lessons from our past, but we must not allow ourselves to become stuck in our past and frozen.  Paul had much guilt and shame behind him.  Yet, Jesus had forgiven him.  Have you ever noticed that we can still hold failures over our own head, even though Jesus says that he forgives us?  Faith is letting go and trusting Jesus.  Yes, you fell short.  Leave it behind you and move towards Jesus who promises to forgive you.

In fact, Paul was pressing forward to the things that Christ had set before him and us.  We first press towards those things that Jesus has for each of us in this life.  We don’t know what that will involve and everybody’s story is unique.  Yet, as we approach the end of our life, we must again press forward to those things that lie in our resurrected future.  Our greatest prize is that which we enter into at the Resurrection of the Dead.  All of us have to learn to get up and go to work.  This is what Paul is expressing.  He had to get up and get to work finding out just who this Jesus was.  Jesus is calling to each of us today.  “Come and get to know me!”

Paul ends this section with a reminder of our thinking, which he had been addressing back in chapter 2.  The mind of a person who keeps doubling down on their own accomplishments is not the mind of Christ.  Christ trusted the Father instead of trusting what he could do in the flesh.  He submitted to the cross and was rewarded with the highest honor of the entire universe.  The mind that is never too great to simply do what the Father asks us to do.  Failure is part of who we are as humans, but in Jesus it is not the final word.  If we will humble ourselves and press forward towards him, then Jesus will bring us to victory!

Finding Focus audio

Monday
Jun102019

Will You Walk with Me?

Romans 8:1-11.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on Pentecost Sunday, June 09, 2019.

Pentecost Sunday emphasizes the giving of the Holy Spirit to God’s people, which is described in Acts chapter two.  In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit is very active.  However, He comes upon certain individuals, at certain times, for a particular work such as: prophesying, miracles, and even physical exploits in the case of Samson.  During this time, God promised that a day would come when His Spirit would be poured out upon all God’s people.  Thus, in the New Testament at the day of Pentecost, we see God’s Holy Spirit come: to dwell within believers versus come upon them for a moment, to do so with all believers versus a select few, and to do so continually versus at special occasions. 

As a feast in the Old Testament, Pentecost celebrated the middle of the Harvest and points to the great harvest of God among mankind.  In one sense people are harvested when they are taken from the field of the world, bundled together with other believers and eventually brought into the barn of God.  This analogy does miss the other sense in which believers are called to become fruitful in their life.  In that sense we are not harvested until we leave this earth.  Harvest points to God’s desire to have humans in His family.  It is His work of drawing mankind back to Himself.  Thus, it is all about relationship.

The title of this sermon comes from the fact that Romans 8:1 refers to walking with the Holy Spirit as opposed to walking with the flesh.  This ties back to the Garden of Eden where God would come down to walk and talk with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day.  This relationship between God and humans is adversely affected in Genesis 3.  What used to be a wonderful thing filled with joy (God’s presence in the Garden) had become a fearful thing filled with dread because of their sin.  Yet, God in His mercy speaks of help that will one day come to help them against their adversary the devil.

Our passage today is on this side of the cross of Jesus and a long history.  Today, I would like us to recognize that Jesus and his apostles continued this theme of calling people to quit running from God and walking with the devil by following the desires of your flesh.

Will you walk with me?  This is the question God asks every person today through the work of His Holy Spirit and those who believe in Jesus.  No, it won’t be easy.  Your greatest enemy will actually be your own fleshly nature, but it will give you life and peace with God rather than death and condemnation.  I pray that we will be a people who choose to walk with God.

Christ invites us out of condemnation and into life

Verse 1 makes a statement about those who are “in Christ.”  The statement is simply that those who are in Christ Jesus are not under condemnation.  Before we delve into the statement itself, it is important to recognize just how a person comes to be “in Christ.”

It is Jesus who first invites us to come to him.  In Matthew 11:28 he states, “Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  His invitation is for people who are in a place, or legal status, of condemnation before God.  Thus, in Romans 8, Paul is not talking about a feeling of condemnation, but an actual legal guilt before God.  Jesus calls people out of that place to himself.  Those who come to him leave their condemned state behind and enter into a place of forgiveness, life, and peace (again, this is about a relational peace between us and God, not a feeling of euphoria).

When Jesus went into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father, He sent the Holy Spirit to continue this calling of people to Jesus.  Yes, the believers of Jesus also have a role in this, but they are to do so with the help of the Holy Spirit.  Only He can convict people of their sin and the judgment that hangs over them.  Only He can convince them that their righteousness is not good enough, but that the righteousness of Jesus was intended to give them freedom and life.  It really is a work of the Holy Spirit when a person comes to believe in Christ as their Lord and Savior.  Without His gracious work, they would not choose to believe.

So, the Holy Spirit brings us to Christ and asks us to choose.  Will you walk with Jesus?  Those who choose to follow the Holy Spirit into Christ by putting their faith in Jesus enter into a new standing before God.  The Holy Spirit takes up residence within them and causes them to become spiritually alive, which means they can sense God and interact with Him).  They are saved from the judgment that looms over them because the righteousness of Christ covers any sins that they have.  Even more, they are adopted into the family of God and made co-heirs with Jesus. We become the children of God.

Having chosen to follow the Holy Spirit into the new place before God called being “in Christ,” our walking after the Spirit shouldn’t stop there.  In Romans 8, Paul is speaking about this new standing we have before God and emphasizing that we are those who keep following the Holy Spirit now that we are in Christ.  This brings up the issue of our flesh, which Paul also talks about in this passage.

The flesh can refer to muscles, bones and tendons.  However, in this context Paul uses the term flesh to refer to that part of us that is drawn away from God towards sin.  It is so connected to our bodily appetites that the simplified word is used.  Context helps us determine if the word merely means flesh, or if it is referring to the tendency towards sin within us.

In verse 6, Paul points out that this choice leads us into one of two directions.  If I follow the flesh then I will find death, but if I follow the Spirit of God then I will find life and peace.  The devil is good at using our past life in sin against us as a means of condemning us in our hearts and minds.  Through this, He is able to rob people of their inner sense of peace.  However, the devil cannot touch our standing before God.  He can only attempt to convince you to walk away from Christ on your own.  Yes, I was a sinner and unworthy of the grace of Jesus, but the Holy Spirit drew me to Jesus and says that I can be clean if I will only believe.  Remember this always.  If God has removed you from your deserved condemnation, why would you continue to participate in condemning yourself?  And, if God has declared us to be at peace with Him, why would I worry that He will change His mind and go to war against me at any moment?  Why would I interpret every bad thing that happens as proof God doesn’t love me anymore?

Be careful of looking back at your past life and dwelling there.  If we look back, may it be in order to learn from our errors and to draw strength in order to press forward in Jesus.  However, let us not look back and become stuck in the quicksand of fear and depression.  God has not led us to this point to abandon us!

My flesh tries to pull me back into condemnation

In verse 7 Paul speaks about the challenge that lies before the Christian each day.  The Spirit is faithful to lead us to accomplish those things in your life that He has for you.  Yet, our sinful nature (or flesh) keeps trying to pull away from Jesus and back towards that place of condemnation.  In fact, we are told that the flesh is hostile to God and the things of the Holy Spirit.  The word translated as “enmity” or “hostile” has at its roots in the idea that it hates the things of God.  My flesh wants me to follow its desires and whims, but when I follow the Holy Spirit, I am led away from pleasing my flesh and its whims.  This doesn’t mean that we never have any joys and pleasures.  It just means that those joys and pleasures are not my focus.  Rather, the Spirit of God is my focus.

I know that there is a part of us that wishes or thinks that God might zap us and make our flesh go away.  However, this is not His way.  He puts His Spirit within us to help us to say “no” to the flesh and to say “yes” to Him.  God’s way teaches us to become spiritual warriors against our own evil desires, rather than to focus completely on the evil of others.

Satan’s mindset is the way of death because it focuses on others and uses them as an excuse for its sin.  It is interesting that our flesh will focus on others when it comes to sin and yet, focuses on self when it comes to love.  The Spirit of God calls us to flip this and focus on ourselves when it comes to sin and to focus on others when it comes to love.  Our flesh hates this. 

In verses 9 and 10, Paul challenges us.  If the Spirit dwells in us, which He does if we have put our faith in Jesus, then we are no longer in the flesh, but in the Spirit.  This is just a different way of describing this new state in which we find ourselves before God.  Being “in Christ” is to also be “in the Spirit.”  Yes, we still have flesh to fight against and we will not feel like we are in the Spirit during those battles.  However, we are in His Spirit because that Spirit is within us working to help us overcome sin and our flesh.

This leads us to verse 11, which makes a powerful statement.  The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead is dwelling in you and leading you.  It will give life to your mortal bodies!  Pause and meditate on that for a moment.

There are two ways in which this can be applied.  First, the Spirit gives us life spiritually in victory over our flesh in this life.  As we walk this Christian life, we are given eternal life by the Spirit of God and victory over the flesh (not without wounds and failures).  As we choose to follow the Spirit of God, or as some of the translations say “walking after the Spirit,” or “walking according to the Spirit,” we obtain a wellspring of life within our soul.  This life is experienced each day as He gives it to us in victories over sin, and spiritual accomplishments.  We grow spiritually and bear fruit in Jesus (a process that does not happen overnight).

However, just as Jesus was physically resurrected, so too, we are promised the same.  This is the second way in which verse 11 can be applied.  At the day of Resurrection, we will physically receive the eternal life of God in a new body.  Though it will be physical, it will not have the propensity to go towards sin, neither the physical decay and weaknesses of these mortal bodies we now have.  This becomes the capstone to our salvation as God completes every promise to us and then some.

Final Thoughts

The Holy Spirit is not someone that we can define and use against each other.  There is a lot of water under the bridge when it comes to the Holy Spirit and especially the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.  Too often, it has been used as a kind of badge of accomplishment against other Christians, particularly certain gifts including speaking in tongues.  However, in so doing we forget that the Holy Spirit is not an inanimate object or a force that we operate.  He is a person who is capable of being grieved and resisted.  Some of the fleshliest things that have happened in the Church were done “in the name of the Holy Spirit.”  We cannot follow our flesh and then call it the Holy Spirit.  This is the same kind of thing the Pharisees did.

So how should a believer navigate this area?  First, quit worrying about speaking in tongues and spiritual gifts.  Instead, focus upon the One who is busy working in your life and wants you to cooperate with Him.  Focus upon the Holy Spirit.  Were you actually led to believe in Jesus, or were you simply looking to use church for your own ends?  If you were actually led to believe in Jesus then the Holy Spirit led you to that place.  If you surrendered and embraced Jesus in faith then it was the Holy Spirit who made you spiritually alive and even now dwells in you.  No one can take that away from you regardless of what spiritual gifts may or may not have been expressed in your life.  Quit worrying about what others think and start listening to what the Holy Spirit thinks.  Choose to follow Him.

Lastly, recognize that the Holy Spirit wants to lead you and empower you to do the work that Jesus has given you.  Pray each morning for the Lord to fill you with His Holy Spirit and to help you to listen to Him.  Pray that the Holy Spirit will empower you so that you can be more effective in your own life and the life of others.  Be open to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but don’t focus on what that must look like.  Rather, keep surrendering to the Holy Spirit and being open to what He is doing in your life.  I know that people can take what I have just said and twist it to their own ends, but those people will one day have to give an account to God.  Today, however, the Holy Spirit calls out to you.  Will you walk with Me?

Will You Walk audio

Tuesday
Jun042019

Joining the Family of Jesus

Mark 3:31-35.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on Sunday, June 02, 2019.

One of the great themes of Scripture is the family of God.  Some like to use this phrase to refer to all humans.  However, the Bible makes a distinction between natural biology and spiritual life.  Thus, not all humans are a part of God’s spiritual family according to the Bible.  We see this in John 1:12-13.

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become the children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

This biblical concept of becoming a child of God should not be confused with the many mythologies of the ancient world.  In these we often see particular gods coming down to earth and physically sire an offspring that were referred to as demi-gods.  This idea is diametrically opposed to the testimony of Scripture because it focuses on the flesh and sees the perfection of the flesh as the answer.  Thus, Zeus is actually copulating with a human maiden and she is actually birthing a child that is half human and half god.  These demi-gods would be faster, stronger, smarter, etc. than normal humans.

Yet, the Bible speaks of a spiritual birth that must take place in order for us to become a part of God’s family.  Birth in this case is a metaphor that is used of a person who received revelation from God and faith is conceived in their heart and mind.  They put their trust in God, namely in the One whom He sent, Jesus.  When this happens, the Holy Spirit takes up residence within that person and makes them spiritually alive and alert to His presence.  This is what it means to become a child of God.  We are not stronger or faster than normal humans.  Rather, we are in connection with the God of heaven and are being led by His Holy Spirit to become like Jesus, who is the exact representation of God the Father.

I pray that you are a part of the family of God, but today we are going to spend some time discovering just what that means.

The family of Jesus struggled with his ministry

It is no secret that the family of Jesus had trouble with him.  When he began his ministry, he had multitudes continually surrounding him and imposing on his time.  In fact, it was to the point that Mark says that Jesus had difficulty just eating bread (Mark 3:20).  Also, he was not being received well by the religious experts, who increasingly made their disapproval evident.  In our passage today we find Mary and her sons showing up to talk to Jesus.  However, before we get into this, we should remember the previous episode in this same chapter, verse 21.

There we are told that “his own people” came to take hold of him because they thought he was out of his mind.  When we compare that event with the one in verses 31-35, we see that the latter passage is far more specific on just who is involved.  “His own people” is very general, but clearly could involve any of his family, relatives, friends, and neighbors from the Nazareth area.  Mark has gone out of his way to put two similar events within 10 verses of each other.  Events in which those, who were close to him as he grew up, tried to take him back home.  It happened more than once and involved various subsets of the groups I mentioned above.

In our passage today, it merely states that they show up while Jesus is teaching and send word that he should quit and come out to them.  This time it is not as explicit as saying they think he has lost his mind.  However, they are clearly antagonistic to what Jesus is doing.  Why not wait until he is done?  Why interrupt him in front of a large crowd who want to hear what he is saying?  It is because they do not respect what he is doing.

Let’s look at the brothers of Jesus first.  It is worth noting that they are not full brothers because Jesus is not the offspring of Joseph and Mary as they are.  Yes, I am aware that some groups teach that Mary had no kids, but this flies in the face of the text and requires special pleading for the normal interpretation of these familial words.  In John 7:5 we are told that his brothers did not believe in him.  On top of this, none of the brothers of Jesus are mentioned among the disciples of Jesus until after the resurrection of Jesus.  So, it is no shocker that they arrive and were most likely also a part of the earlier group in verse 21.  They also think that Jesus has lost his mind and needs to settle down and be a good Israelite.

However, the mention of Mary in this group may be more puzzling.  By the way, the Gospel’s silence regarding Joseph throughout the ministry and execution of Jesus is usually taken to mean that he has passed away at some point.  This idea is further supported by the words of Jesus to his disciple John, telling her to take care of his mother as a son (i.e. in his place).  This would not be needed if Joseph were still alive.

So, Mary, who saw and heard the angel Gabriel, who said “Let it be to me according to your word,” this very same Mary is in the unbelieving group demanding Jesus to come out and speak to them.  Most likely, she has been convinced and persuaded by her younger sons, and the pressure of her family and neighbors.  Still, even Mary is lending her familial relationship to this cause of having an intervention with Jesus.  In the best of intentions, they believe that they are stepping in for the good of Jesus, but in the worst of motivations, they are most likely afraid of what people are saying, and most likely some jealously on his brother’s behalf, among many other emotions.  Flatly stated, even Mary struggled with what Jesus was doing.  I am not painting her out to be a complete unbeliever, but we see her struggling much the same way John the Baptist struggled as he pined away in prison.  Was I wrong about Jesus?  Did I misunderstand?

All that to say, these intervention groups in verses 21 and 31 come trying to do the righteous thing.  Yet, there is a sea of unrighteous things going on under the surface.  It is easy to cover impure motivations with a thin veneer of righteousness.  In fact, we see it everyday within our own society: at work, in politics, in business, in families, etc.

By the way, I should make a few parenthetical statements about Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Over the centuries, an increasing devotion to Mary has led to all manner of unbiblical teachings about her.  Contrary to what some teach, we have no reason to believe that Mary was “immaculately conceived.”  This idea is that God kept her from being contaminated with the sin-nature during her birth.  This is so that she would not pass it on to Jesus.  Of course, this doesn’t make sense, since God could have done so to Jesus if it was needed. However, Mary herself declares that she has needed a Savior, i.e. had a sinful nature that needed saving, in the Magnificat of Luke 1.  There she states, “My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior!”  Of course, in our passage today, her faith is wavering and she is helping to be an obstacle to the ministry of Jesus.

Another thing that some teach about Mary is that she was a perpetual virgin.  The straight-forward teaching of Scripture is that she and Joseph came together sexually after the birth of Jesus.  She birthed at least 3 sons and 2 daughters, most likely more.  These all would have been at most ½ siblings to Jesus (Scripture gives no clue to the degree that God may or may not have used the genetic material of Mary’s ovum).

Lastly, it has become popular to teach and speak of Mary as the Co-Redemptrix of the world along with Jesus.  This is illogical because it confuses the clear biblical message that Jesus alone is the Redeemer of the world.  Yes, Mary plays a critical part in God’s plan of salvation, but it is Jesus alone who does the work of redeeming mankind.  Thus, Mary should be respected as a godly woman who was willing to do the will of God even though He asked her to do a difficult thing.  She should be honored, but not revered as a quasi-divine being.  In fact, we should recall the words of Simeon the prophet in Luke 2:34, who spoke to her in the temple.  “Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother, ‘Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (Yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts  may be revealed.’”  This is exactly what we are seeing in our passage today.  Their hearts are being laid bare so that they can make a real decision and not one that is masked by a veneer of goodness.  No matter how critically we have been used by God in the past, we must work to remain open and sensitive to the Holy Spirit and what He is doing today.

Jesus defines his true family

This event gives an opportunity for Jesus to define what it really means to be in such a close relationship with him that he would consider you his brother or sister.  Jesus is apparently in a house of some kind and it is full of people listening to him teach.  At some point, word comes to him that his mother and brothers are outside and they want him to come out to them.

As I said earlier, they are not there to receive his teaching and learn.  They are not there on a mission from God.  They are there on their own terms and for their own purposes, which happen to be contrary to the will of God the Father.  Jesus is doing exactly what he knows the Father wants him to do.  This sets up a chance for Jesus to teach on what is important when it comes to family, from God’s perspective.

It doesn’t matter into what family you were biologically born.  It could be the most spiritual family on the planet, or it could be the most heathen family on the planet.  This is not what connect you to God, nor is it what keeps you from connecting from God.  Some very wicked people grew up in Christian homes, and some very godly people have come from homes that were wicked and often so dysfunctional that the term home should not be used.  Thus, this saw cuts both ways.  The spiritual state of my biological mom and dad does not guarantee me a ticket, nor does it disqualify me.

This means that something besides physical birth has to happen in order for me to become a child of God.  Kids raised up in Christian homes have to come to Christ for themselves, at some point.  Parents can often lose sight of this fact.  We can be so focused on making them outwardly conform that we forget that works without faith are dead.  The Scriptures say, “For by grace you have been saved, through faith; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” 

Jesus is not being insensitive to his family.  They are the ones being insensitive to the call of God on his life.  Jesus is not teaching us to blow off our biological family and do whatever we want.  Rather, he is challenging us to place the work of God in our life above the desires and purposes of our biological family.  The best-case scenario is to have our biological family pulling together with us for God’s purposes.  In this sense our biological family is also our spiritual family.  The reality is that this is easier said than done.  Thus, we must desire to be spiritually born into the family of Christ.  Jesus takes advantage of this situation to define for us what puts a person in his spiritual family.

Whoever does the will of the Father is a part of the family of Jesus.  What do I mean by that?  Jesus points to the crowds who are sitting around him listening to the words of God and declares that they are an example of spiritual family.  God wanted all of Israel to listen to Jesus, but many didn’t.  These ones who were there that day were there because they believed that Jesus was the Messiah, or at least a prophet sent from God and worthy of their devotion and attention.  His biological family is there that day for the wrong reasons.  They aren’t the devil, but neither are they supporting what God is doing through him.  Times like these require getting on your knees in prayer and asking God to sift your heart and help you to see any impure motives that might be in your heart.

When you think about it, it is relatively simple for the devil to convince good Israelites, and good Christians, to do his bidding, if they do not guard their hearts and remain sensitive to the Holy Spirit.  He just comes as an angel of light doing what is right, but his every word is a lie.  In fact, Jesus explains this clearly in John 6:28-29.

Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”  Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”

Jesus is the One whom the Father has sent to the world.  It is not believing in the sense of intellectually believing that he exists, but rather believing that he really is the Son of God who was sent into the world to save us.  It is believing in the sense that we pick up our cross and follow him, first as a disciple or student, and second as one who has been sent to the world around them, to draw them to him.  Yet, true belief is not just an inner disposition.

True faith always makes an external difference.  It is the Father’s will that all people everywhere repent of their sins and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.  If we have true faith in Jesus then it will produce works of righteousness that come from the leading of the Holy Spirit, rather than a conformity to culture (religious or secular).  No matter how Christian the culture of America was in the past, no one was ever saved by conforming to the Christian culture.  In fact, even a Christian culture finds itself fighting against the will of God, just as the religious culture of Israel did in the days of Jesus.

Make sure that you are not just coasting along in a Christian Family or a Christian subculture, and yet not truly believing in Jesus as your savior and lord. On the other hand, make sure that you are not remaining in sin and pushing Jesus away because the people around you won’t understand, or you are afraid of how they will react.  The Holy Spirit is working every day to convict people of their sin and the judgment that looms over them.  Yet, He also convicts them of the righteousness of Jesus that can save them from that sin and judgment.  He is really all that we need.  If everyone forsakes you and ridicules you; if the comfortable Christians around you think that you have lost your mind and need an intervention; regardless of all these things, look to Jesus and the Word of God, and ask the Holy Spirit to lead you in the will of God.  It is His will that you be a part of His family today!

Family of Jesus audio

Page 1 ... 3 4 5 6 7 ... 106 Next 4 Entries »