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Weekly Word

Entries in Authority (12)

Tuesday
May212019

The Authority of Jesus

Mark 3:1-12.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on May 19, 2019.

Today, we are back in the Gospel of Mark.  We will be talking about the authority of Jesus. 

After the Resurrection, Jesus told his disciples that all authority in heaven and on earth had been given to him.  Thus, he was sending them out to proclaim who he was and what he had done.  They were to disciple those who believed in Jesus.  When you bring the Gospel into someone’s life and teach them to follow Jesus, you are operating under the authority of One who is greater than the Washington State Legislature, or the United States Congress, or the United Nations Security Council.  You are operating under the authority of Jesus, who is the King over all kings and the Lord over all lords.

However, this does not mean that we should be arrogant, and neither does it mean that we should be fearful and timid.  May the Spirit of Christ rise up within us and enable us to rise up in the face of the spirit of this world.  May we be bold enough to lead people to Jesus.

Jesus appoints The Twelve Apostles

Though Jesus has already called the twelve disciples to follow him, here we have an actual appointment to a position that these men didn’t understand completely, at the time.  They are not just to be his disciples (a word that focuses on being students of Jesus), but also to be his apostles (we will talk more about this word in a bit).

Verse 14 in the King James Version and in the New King James Version do not have the added phrase “whom he also named apostles.”  This is due to the fact that many more manuscripts and many older manuscripts have been discovered since the creation of the KJV in the early 1600’s.  Modern translators have had to weigh the evidence of the many manuscripts that currently exist and make choices of what was in the original.  In case you think this is unacceptable, you may be interested to know that the translators of the King James Version testified that they had done this very thing themselves.  They did their best with the manuscripts they had at the time.  This is why most modern versions have added the phrase “whom he also named apostles.”  It is interesting that sometimes it goes the other way, a phrase is believed to have been added later and is thus removed by newer versions.  Either way, we want to have what was written originally, no more and no less.  Thankfully, none of these questionable phrases or words affect any doctrinal positions of the Bible.  Even if the word “apostle” should not be connected to this passage (even though the evidence seems to point in the other direction), Mark will undisputedly use the word apostles of these guys in chapter 6.  This is also backed up by multitudes of other passages throughout the New Testament.  The 12 Disciples were also called to become the 12 Apostles.

Before we look at the names that are listed, we should note that it says that these men are those that Jesus wanted.  We should not rush by that statement.  It is his choice; and when you analyze his choices, you find them to be revealing.  None of these men are professionally trained in the Scriptures.  They are also mostly lower class (although Matthew does represent the wealthy).  Even in Matthew’s case, his wealth is attained through taxation and therefore makes him an outcast to his people.  They all are from a rural area of Israel, and all from Galilee except for Judas Iscariot.  He is the only man from Judah picked and his name is also the Greek form of the Hebrew name Judah.  Still he is “Iscariot.”  This is a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew Ish Kerioth, or man of Kerioth (a rural town in Judah).  When you connect all of this to the New Testament theme that Jesus calls those who are not always the greatest and wisest of this world, you begin to get the picture.  The greatest and wisest of this world are often so full of themselves that there is no room for God.  Also, God purposefully operates in a way that the simplest among us can understand and come to Him for salvation (not to say that The Twelve were simple-minded).  This is counter to the operations of the great in our world today.  Those who wish to create great organizations look for the brightest stars to work for them, but Jesus calls those who are not the brightest stars.

So, what is an Apostle anyways?  In the vernacular of the day, they would be official representatives of Jesus, at least when he is not available.  They would be his “sent ones.”  The main purpose of this appointment would be evident after the ascension of Jesus.  The text tells us that these apostles would be with Jesus (everywhere he went).  Thus, they would be eye-witnesses of all the miracles that he did and the teachings that he delivered.  They would also be eye-witnesses of the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.  They would represent a solid foundational witness that would stand the test of time.  In this sense there are no apostles today.  We operate on the foundation built by Jesus and his apostles, once and for all, in the first century.

1 Corinthians 15:1-11 is a better place where the Apostle Paul takes time to describe and explain the appointing of the apostles.  They were those who were eye-witnesses of the post-resurrection appearances and had been given the Gospel directly from Jesus.  In fact, Hebrews 3:1 tells us that Jesus is the Apostle and High Priest of our faith.  Just as the father sent Jesus to the world, so Jesus was sending his apostles to continue his work to the ends of the earth.

Now, I know that there is a lot of controversy in the Church today over whether or not there are still apostles today, and in what sense.  There is a good article online at the Assemblies of God website: https://ag.org/Beliefs/Position-Papers/Apostles-and-Prophets.  This should walk you through all of the pertinent issues and is well-balanced.

Mark emphasizes their closeness to Jesus (as opposed to the many other disciples who did not travel everywhere with Jesus).  These guys would have the most time with Jesus compared to anyone else.  He would explain things to them that he may not have explained to the crowds.  This would enable them to accurately preach, or proclaim, what Jesus wanted them to teach.  The Kingdom of Heaven was here, and whosoever will could join and become a part of it.  Always remember that proclaiming the truth for Jesus begins with first spending time with him, through his Word and spiritually in prayer.

They were also going to be given power to heal and cast out demons.  This demonstrates the power of Christ in regards to physical matters and spiritual matters.  They would truly operate under and in his authority.  This would be especially important as the Gospel was taken to the nations.  These nations represented the territory of the spiritual enemies of Christ and his people.  The apostles were the tip of the spear of Christ’s invasion of the spiritual kingdom that Satan had amassed over the years. 

So just who were these guys?  The apostle Peter is actually named Simon and Jesus has given him the nickname Peter, which means rock.  Yes, Peter may have been the original Rocky!  Jesus also gave nicknames to the two sons of Zebedee, James and John.  They are called the Sons of Thunder.  Boanerges is a Greek spelling of an Aramaic compound word.  We can also notice that there is another James in the list, the son of Alphaeus.  He is sometimes called James the Lesser.  There is another Simon who is a Cananite.  This is not a reference to Canaan (notice the two a’s in a row).  It was a word that was used of a group of Zealots who resisted and plotted against Rome.  Lastly, we have the infamous Judas Iscariot.  He would be the one who would betray Jesus and then go on to commit suicide.  He is replaced in Acts 1 by Matthias.  Yes, Jesus knew very well that he had chosen a guy who would one day betray him, but that was part of the plan.

Challenges to his authority occurred

Jesus had far more authority than people could really accept.  He literally is the One who had given the Law and had brought Israel into the Land of Canaan, but that is another story.  So in these verses, we see several challenges to what Jesus was doing.

First, there is a challenge mentioned from his own family (this is what is meant by “his own people.”)  It could mean those who are from his clan, but most likely meant his immediate family.  The question here is that they think Jesus is out of his mind.  Perhaps it was the continual traveling around causing disruption with great crowds of people.  Perhaps it was the way in which he didn’t fit in with the religious establishment.  We don’t know exactly what bothered them, except the fact that they don’t understand and spiritually are not in the right place. 

Let that be a lesson to us.  Sometimes those closest to us can resist the work of God in our life the most.  This is not always true, but it often can be.  Don’t be that type of person that holds people back from what God is doing, out of your own fears.  Make sure that you are following God and then you will be in a good position to help others to do so.  Yet, even then, remember that you are not God.  Leave room for the Holy Spirit to operate in the lives of your loved ones. 

Now, recognize that this passage is not supporting crazy actions.  Jesus was not climbing up on top of the temple and casting himself to the ground.  Rather, it is showing that what Jesus was doing was far outside the normal, and thus, it was hard to accept for many, including his own family.

The second attack on his authority in this passage is from the scribes who are experts in The Law.  They come down from the big city and proclaim that these country bumpkins are being taken in by a charlatan.  They claim that Jesus is able to cast out demons because he is in league with Beellzebub, which was an Aramaic term for the “Lord of the flies,” (aka, the lord of the demons).

However, Jesus sets the record straight.  He first points out that Satan is not going to cast himself out (that is cast out demons who are there doing his bidding and extending his kingdom).  Clearly, Jesus sees Satan as the head honcho of an evil, spiritual kingdom that had been set up on this earth.  No general or king gives up their territory of authority without it being taken from them in some way, which leads to the next point.

Jesus makes it clear that he is casting out demons because he has first “bound the strong man.”  He has somehow put Satan in bonds and thus can go out and mop up his territory at will.  So, what does Jesus mean by binding Satan?

Revelation 20 speaks of a time when Satan will be captured and bound in the bottomless pit for 1,000 years.  He is then going to be released for a short time before he is recaptured and thrown into the Lake of Fire, never to return again.  Of course, Jesus cannot be talking about this actual removal of Satan from earth because the apostles later warn believers to be aware of Satan and his tactics, i.e. he is not bound up yet.  1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”  So, we can call this the ultimate binding of Satan and it is not what Jesus means.

The binding is in his own life.  The gospels all point out that the first thing Jesus does in his ministry is to go into the wilderness, where he is tempted by the devil.  Jesus thwarts Satan’s every attempt to bring him under his control.  That is why Jesus later says in John 14:30 that the ruler of this world is coming, but “he has nothing in me.”  So, Jesus has bound Satan in his own life by countering each temptation and spiritual attack.  Notice that most people are possessed by a demon.  However, if we are to set other people free from the bonds of sin that Satan has used to bind them, t hen we must first bind Satan’s work in our own life.  It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit and looking to Jesus Christ that we can overcome the enemy and then plunder his kingdom.

So, as we close this morning, just remember that Christ calls all of his believers to be learners or students of his word.  He also calls us to pick up the work that the apostles began and go to the world with the good news of the person and work of Jesus Christ.  He is God’s answer for the problem of sin in this world.  Put your faith in him today.

Authority of Jesus audio

Tuesday
Feb262019

The Power of Jesus

Mark 1:21-28.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on February 24, 2019.

Having introduced us to Jesus, Mark goes on to give evidence of the powerful things that Jesus did while he ministered on this earth.  This is important because we need to recognize that, though Jesus was smart and spoke in a way that amazed people, the biblical authors highlighted his power over his talk.  Paul references the effect of this reality in 1 Corinthians 4:20, when he says, “The Kingdom of God is not a matter of talk, but of power.” (NIV) 

If we only have fine sounding words to offer people then we might as well hang up our hat now.  At some point, they will come to realize that they need real power.  Yes, knowledge is power, but not all knowledge can set you free from the bondage of sin and hurts that so easily entangles us.  Even knowing the Scriptures is not enough to break the bondage of sin.  We must have a living relationship with Jesus, who alone has power to break every fetter!

Jesus teaches in Capernaum

Jesus focuses his ministry in the northern part of Israel for several reasons.  The more he ministered in Jerusalem the quicker the authorities would want to kill Him, and God had a particular timing about all of this.  Another reason is that it was symbolic of God’s care and heart for those who need help.    Jerusalem represented the best of Israel in the natural.  All the political and religious leaders were there.  Compared to Jerusalem, Capernaum represented the country bumpkins.  Jerusalem represented riches and knowledge, whereas Capernaum was a fishing village on the Sea of Galilee and would not have the greatest teachers in the land.  Those who know they are poor are quicker to receive than those who think they already have everything.

So Jesus goes into the synagogue of Capernaum on the Sabbath.  The Sabbath was the day of rest, which corresponds to Friday evening to Saturday evening.  The people of Israel had developed the habit of gathering in buildings in order to worship God, to hear the Word of God read and to have it explained.  The concept of a synagogue developed at some point after Israel’s exile into Babylon and subsequent return to the land.  Before this time, their religious life was mainly at the Temple, where they worshipped God and offered sacrifices.  With the temple destroyed in 586 B.C., they had to wrestle with continuing to worship.  Thus the concept of synagogues that focused on teaching was born.  In fact, early Jewish Christians called their gatherings synagogues as well.  However, the term “Church,” that had been used by Jesus, later became the main word to describe Christian gatherings.  So this is much like a Jewish Church service in its function. 

The fact that the leaders of the synagogue let Jesus teach says something.  He was not a rabbi who had learned under the rabbis of the day.  Normally this would preclude him from being able to teach.  Yet, the prophet, John the Baptist, had gone on record that Jesus was God’s anointed one, the Messiah.  Thus the talk had preceded Christ and the people were eager to hear from Him. 

We are told that the people were astonished because he taught “as one with authority.”  It may be easy to read into these words that Jesus was cocky and arrogant.  However, the emphasis is the contrast between how Jesus taught and how the scribes taught (who were men trained in the religion of Israel).  The scribes normally taught by referring to different views of the great rabbis from the past and the present.  They basically were relaying what others had said and those great rabbis often disagreed with each other.  Though we do not have a text of this teaching, it is safe to say that Jesus did not quote any authorities to substantiate his interpretation of the text.  Jesus is “acting as if” He is the authority on the subject.  Of course, that is because He actually is.  Knowing who Jesus is, we can recognize that He is the most qualified man of all history who could give authoritative understanding on what passages of the Bible meant and what God intended us to understand from it.

Today, we need to be careful that we do not make either of two mistakes.  One, we can forget that we have received authoritative understanding on what passages of the Bible meant and why the Law of Moses was given.  These were given by the true author of the Bible, God Himself, and those who He personally trained.  Two, we can use the authority of Jesus in order to teach things that He and His apostles did not teach.  Confidence is not good if it is placed in the wrong thing, but when it is placed upon the right thing, or right person, then it is a good thing.  We can confidently proclaim the teachings of Christ and His Apostles, but we should never become arrogant and take to ourselves a confidence that sees the authority of Jesus as something that has been handed down to us.  Jesus is still the authority.  Paul Himself said in Galatians 1:8 that even if the apostles were to teach a gospel that was other than what was originally given, they should be considered cursed by God and rejected.   We must never forget this truth.

Jesus casts out an unclean spirit

At some point in the teaching of Jesus a man with an unclean spirit cries out and interrupts the meeting.  It doesn’t seem that he had been brought to the meeting in order to be delivered, but it is possible.  Sometimes a person who is demon possessed may retain their faculties most of the time.  Depending on the situation these demons will “manifest” or show their presence from time to time.  The Gadarene demoniac seems to have been under constant “manifestation.”  He was never in his right mind and people could not interact with his human psyche.  Whereas others have demonstrated varying amounts of self control with times in which the spirit takes control, or manifests.

The phrase that is used in this passage is “unclean spirit.”  What is an unclean spirit?  Unclean is another way of saying evil or bad.  It is a reference to the spiritual defilement that sin and rebellion against God brings to a being.  Therefore this spirit is sinful and in rebellion against God.  In that sense we could say that the Devil and his angels are also unclean spirits.  This would be true technically, but the phrase never seems to be used of the Devil and his angels (fallen angels).  Much speculation and dogmatic ideas have been put forth from then to now.  However, the Bible seems to equate unclean spirits with evil spirits and demons.  There are different beings within the spirit realm and there are hierarchies within the spirit real as well.  Thus we cannot be completely sure what exact “species” (for lack of a better word) demons or evil spirits are.  They may just be lower level beings that rebelled with the devil and his angels, or they may be something else.  However, we can be confident that the Bible has told us what we need to know.  We do know that demons, or unclean spirits, appear to be restless until they are able to control a human being to some varying degree.  How do they get this control over humans?  They are not “spiritual ticks” that happen to fall on people.  Rather, they are able to get control and influence through the activity of the person who has connected to the spirit through some form of spiritual arts (divination, séance, occult rituals, and basically anything promoted by these spirits to get control).  Christians should not be enticed by t he so called knowledge that spiritists of any sort promise to give to them because these spirits cannot be trusted.  They resist God and hate mankind.

At this point, I should point out that it is easy to make the mistake of seeing all mental problems as demonic, and the opposite mistake of seeing all such problems as only a physical problem of the mind.  Unclean spirits are real, but they are not the only reason why people have ailments.

It is clear from this passage that the unclean spirit is afraid of Jesus.  This is notable because it was not common for demons to show any fear in the presence of people, quite the opposite.  Thus, this is astounding to the people watching.  The spirit is afraid and Jesus is not.  By following the text, we can see some of the fears of the spirit.  First, it wants to be left alone.  If fears that Jesus is going to interfere with its control on this human (and for good reason).  It also asks if Jesus has come “to destroy us.”  Since there is no sense that multiple spirits are involved, this seems to be the same fear that the legion of demons in the Gadarene demoniac.  The unclean, demonic spirits know that there is coming a time when they will be evicted from this earth and put in the Lake of Fire.  Thus, they are afraid of that coming destruction.  Third, it is afraid because it knows exactly who Jesus is.  It refers to Jesus as “The Holy One of God.”  It is a phrase that refers to God’s Anointed One who is beside Him in the heavens, but would come to earth one day. 

At this point, Jesus commands the spirit to be silent and to come out of the man.  We do not want to make a big deal out of the fact that the demon calls Jesus the Holy One of God because the spirit is a tainted witness.  He can’t be trusted either way.  The testimony about Jesus is an important theme in the Gospels.  They emphasize that the Father and the Spirit witnessed or testified that Jesus was the Messiah.  They also emphasize that John the Baptist, the greatest prophet of that time, had testified that Jesus was the Messiah.  Then lastly, we have the testimony of the words that Jesus spoke, the life He lived, and the powerful miracles He did.  Jesus had very strong testimony from far better sources than to let demons give testimony.  Demons are liars and as such, you cannot know when to trust what they say and when it is a lie.  If we believe Jesus is God because a demon says so, then we are on shaky ground.

In the exorcism that occurs we do not see Jesus doing any rituals or reciting a mantra, as were common in those days.  He simply commands the unclean spirit to come out of the man.  The power of Jesus is not in ritual knowledge and magical arts.  Rather, His power is in the authority of who He is and the position that He holds.  Jesus has a position that is above all beings on earth or in Heaven, save the Father.  Though this spirit had “legally” gained entry to this human, Jesus had come to set the man free.  Thus, one command from Him was enough to send the demon packing.  Even in cases where one has consciously and willingly chosen things that ail them, there is hope that Jesus will set them free.  Many people today are stuck in things that they know they chose, but Jesus has come to offer us freedom.

We are told that the unclean spirit leaves with a convulsion and a cry.  This seems to be one last fit of resistance and protest from the demon at having to leave.  Of course, the real challenge is to remain free of the spirit.  The man’s life needs to change, if he is not to fall prey to another or the same unclean spirit.

The people watching this are amazed at how easily Jesus does this.  They are flabbergasted that he could make an unclean spirit leave with a simple command.  No rabbi had demonstrated such power in all their experience. 

As believers today, Christ has given us power over the enemy as well.  Yet, we must remember the lesson of the seven sons of Sceva in Acts 19.  They attempted to cast out a demon by saying, “We cast you out by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.”  The spirit then responded, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?”  The authority that Jesus gives to us is not some special power that we hold in and of ourselves.  It is always His authority.  By their own testimony, the sons of Sceva did not really know Jesus.  When we really know Jesus and have a relationship with Him, then and only then should we confidently stand in opposition to such unclean spirits when they manifest.

Praise God that we need not fear any evil spirits no matter what station they hold on the other side.  It is our relationship with the All-Powerful One that protects us and gives us strength.  I pray today that you will not so easily scoff at the power of Jesus as mere tricks in an age when people were ignorant.  If Jesus were too walk into our mental institutions today and with a mere command give someone their sound mind, who would we rely upon to give an accurate description of what happened, Jesus or the psychiatrists who are often unable to do anything with schizophrenia?    Again, I am not saying all mental illness is demonic.  However, I am saying that regardless the problem, whether they need healing or freedom from an unclean spirit, Jesus has the power to set us free!

Power of Jesus Audio

Tuesday
Feb062018

Speaking the Truth to Power

1 Kings 21:17-26.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on February 4, 2018.

Speaking the truth to power is a catch phrase that has come into use from the 1940’s to the 1950’s.  However, it is a concept that has been around since the dawn of governance itself.  Historically, it has been understood that speaking truth to power is a very, dangerous business.  Yet, it is also historically true that many attempts to “speak truth to power” have had other powers working behind the scenes and pushing the events. 

In the Bible, we find a group of individuals called prophets.  Though there are false prophets, the true prophets are not being manipulated by other powers who want to seize power through them, and neither are they being funded and given ideas by them.  Instead, they receive their marching orders from God. Of course throughout history many have used the pretense of a word from God to manipulate individuals and governments.  The biblical prophet was one who proved themselves to be true, by their life actions, and by the things they revealed (did they prove to be true of come to past at some point).  Sometimes they would do miracles or give amazing signs, but often the only sign they gave was that they spoke the truth.  That’s the thing about truth.  No matter how long it is lied about and manipulated, it is a stubborn thing that no amount of curtains, smoke and mirrors can hide it forever.  The truth will eventually come forth.

God confronts Ahab through the prophet

Several times in this book of Scripture, 1 Kings, we have seen Ahab confronted by Elijah, or other prophets, about his failure to follow the God of Israel.  But this event follows on the heels of a great abuse of power.  On one hand kings and rulers make decisions that can mean life or death for thousands of their subjects, like when they decide to go to war.  Now war can be for a good cause, such as defense of your nation, or an ally that is threatened.  But just as wicked as going to war for greedy purposes, is using your power to have an innocent man who is one of your citizens framed and killed, and then to take his property as the spoils of war.

Now we can recognize government as necessary, only so far as it protects us from tyranny.  In fact this is the true origins of government.  Anarchy theoretically means all are completely free.  You have 100% freedom.  Yet, there are people who use their freedom to forcefully take your stuff, or make you their slave.  So groups will cede a portion of their freedom in order to create a coalition, government, which can ensure that the rest will be protected as they go about their business.  Thus you may not have 100% freedom, but you are safer.  This is all theoretically fine.  However, governments sometimes become the source of tyranny to their own citizens.  In such cases there must be those who are bold enough to stand up and call it to account.  Similarly, in ancient Israel, God spoke through prophets to rebuke kings and call them back to a proper authority.  Of course, those kings generally ignored the true prophets and followed the false ones.

In verses 17-19, we find God’s displeasure with the way Ahab and his wife Jezebel had framed Naboth, and then had him killed, just to take a vineyard that Ahab wanted.  As Ahab travels down to Jezereel in order to take possession, the word of the Lord comes to Elijah.  Yes, God could have spoken directly to Ahab if He wanted.  But recognize that Ahab has proven to particularly resistant to God’s word.  Also, the way God does it here (i.e. through another person) Ahab is forced to face the message in a very outward and accountable way.  On top of this the message will live on regardless of Ahab’s choice.  It is done out in the open so that all of Israel and we who read it today can understand God’s displeasure with the abuse of power and with wickedness in general.

God tells Elijah exactly where he can find Ahab and then tells him to ask Ahab this question.  Have you murdered and taken possession?  The question is rhetorical.  It emphasizes the boldness of Ahab and Jezebel’s actions.  It is a risky thing to draw attention to yourself by taking possession of the property of the very man that you had murdered.  Yet, Ahab is fine with doing both.  It is a sign of the degree to which Ahab and Jezebel’s use of power has become immoral and malicious.  Really the question is this.  How dare you be so brazen in your sin?  Sin has a way of making people bolder and bolder in their sinful actions.  It may not lead to murder, as it did in this case.  The person who lives selfishly and for their own flesh will find themselves becoming worse and worse, and ever harder towards repentance.

Lastly, a death sentence is given to Ahab from God.  Just as Naboth was taken outside the city, killed, and dogs licked his blood from the ground, so too Ahab will have a similar fate.  Even more than that, it will happen in the same place Naboth was killed.  We call this poetic justice.  It is not always given in life, but there are times win the punishment fits the crime perfectly.  What Ahab gave to others, he will receive back.  Ahab has crossed a line.  Though God could have struck Ahab dead at that moment, He doesn’t do that.  Ahab is given a warning so that he can repent and adjust his life.  Yes, God knows that Ahab will not repent.  Yet, God is still gracious to give him warning and time to change.  Ahab has no excuse in eternity.

In verse 20 the scene jumps.  Apparently Elijah has left his place and found Ahab at Naboth’s vineyard or close to there.  Ahab refers to Elijah as his enemy.  A person should always take care whom we label as enemy.  We can make the mistake of treating someone as an enemy when they don’t deserve it.  Elijah was not Ahab’s enemy, as if he was trying to usurp the throne or get him killed.  The only thing Elijah is guilty of is obeying God.  Can you imagine how many times Elijah must have thought to himself, “Why doesn’t God just remove Ahab somehow?  Why does God keep giving him grace?  He doesn’t deserve it.”  Yet, each time God told Elijah to go speak to Ahab, Elijah did so faithfully.  Some people you call your enemy could be better friends then you know.  In fact the opposite is true as well.  Some people you call your friends are actually your enemy.  Ahab’s problem is not his inability to discern those who mean him harm versus good.  Ahab’s problem is that he has “sold himself to do evil.”  We will come back to this phrase since it is used again in verse 25.

At this point Elijah continues to share more judgments from God that are coming.  It seems the writer is using a literary device where God’s word to Elijah and Elijah’s word to Ahab are to be understood as the whole conversation of God to Elijah, as well as Elijah to Ahab.  So Ahab knows that God has decreed his death, but there is more.

Elijah tells Ahab that calamity (a generic terms for something bad) will cause the death of every male descendant of Ahab.  This would be the end of his dynasty, which had started with his father, Omri.  In some pretty choice words, Elijah describes that when this calamity strikes every male descendant will be executed whether free or slave, and whether in the city or in the field.  The reference to the house of Jeroboam and Baasha is a term that was understood as dynasty in this context.  These were the two previous dynasties that had been destroyed for similar reasons.  So Ahab is put on notice, your dynasty is next.  In all of these cases God had warned the kings that their kingdoms were in jeopardy and would end in the death of all of their descendants who could lay claim to the throne.

Lastly, Elijah reveals that Jezebel is also going to die.  Here fate is similar, but with one twist.  Jezebel is going to be eaten by the dogs.  Such a humiliating death basically means that either no one cares to bury her or they are commanded not to.  Jezebel will die in the territory of Jezreel and be eaten by dogs.  These prophecies will prove true down the road.

A summary of Ahab’s life

In verses 25 through 26, the writer gives a summary of Ahab’s life.  He hasn’t died yet (that will take place in the next chapter). However, we are given the phrase again that no one sold themselves to do evil like Ahab (at least up to that point).  It is a curious phrase because Ahab is king and therefore the freest person in Israel.  To whom or to what did he sell himself?  We could say that he sold himself to Baal.  Ahab clearly served Baal with much of his life even though he should have served the God of Israel.  This would be true.  However, in light of the New Testament, I think there is a more precise answer.  Ahab had sold himself to sin.  In Romans 6:16 Paul says, “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?”  Sin tempts us with pleasure or some other form of payment by which we sell our souls into slavery.  We are left in bondage to sin, living a life of trying to please the desires of our flesh.  This is similar to the story of God confronting Cain before he killed his brother Abel.  There God told Cain that sin crouched at the door and sought to master him.  God’s advice was for Cain to master sin, in the sense of bringing it under control.  When we serve our own fleshly desires, we become slaves to sin, and as our master, it drives us to destruction.  However when we know the truth about sin and its awful destruction, we can turn to God and repent.  Believers recognize that they have been purchased with the blood of Jesus off of the auction block of sin.  Even though God has purchased us, He is a good master who leads us to freedom, sonship, and eternal life.

The summary of Ahab’s life is also marked by the fact that he was stirred up or instigated by his wife, Jezebel.  This is not meant to justify Ahab in any way.  He is guilty.  Neither should we see this as a female or male thing.  Men are just as capable at instigating women towards evil as Jezebel was.  However, her boldness enabled him to do far worse than he would have done on his own.  This can be true of a spouse or any one that we become close friends with.  Our choices of companionship are extremely critical to our life.  Friends you can walk away from.  But, if you marry someone who stirs you towards evil, what can you do?  You can keep your eyes on Christ and serve him over the top of those instigations and the passions of your own flesh.

This summary ends with the recognition that he worshiped idols in the way that the Amorites did, whom God had cast out before Israel.  The Amorites practiced idolatry, human sacrifices and sexual perversion.  Ahab did not understand or take seriously the inheritance that he had received.  Others were removed so that I could have this place.  That should make me wonder if I could be removed.  Ahab didn’t think about what God thought.  He only thought about what he wanted, as if all of Israel belonged to him by his own power. 

We will all be held accountable for our actions and choices in this life.  What will the summary of my life, or your life, be?  We are not talking about accomplishments, but rather a spiritual summary.  What am I serving, and by what or by whom and I stirred up?  To what am I being stirred?  May God help us to be stirred up by the Holy Spirit to serve the God of heaven and earth.  May we also do our part to stir each other up towards the things of God rather than the things of the flesh.  In this we find that the most critical power that I must speak truth to is my own flesh.  May God help us to be bold.

Truth to Power audio

Saturday
Apr012017

Sharing Jesus Passionately

Matthew 28:16-20; Acts 1:7-8.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on March 26, 2017.

We have looked at three purposes of the people of God.  First we are to Connect to Jesus and each other in a living relationship.  If it is a living relationship then we will Grow spiritually to become more like Jesus.  Thirdly, if we are growing to be like Jesus then we will Serve one another selflessly.  This leads to the last purpose that we will look at, which is to Share Jesus passionately with those who are not connected to Him.  All of these “purposes” flow out of the first purpose and can be considered part of it.  Regardless, let’s look at this issue of sharing Jesus passionately.

There are many today who speak of a cultural arrogance of Christians.  What gives Christians the right to tell others that they do not have the truth, in any way?  For sure over the years Christians have sometimes confused spreading the Gospel with spreading a culture.  Still, the question is this.  Is it ever acceptable to teach someone else something that you believe to be truth?  It should immediately be evident that much of life could not happen without the concept of some teaching others truth.  A child that is born into the world is never left to discover truth all on its own.  They are taught what to eat, what to avoid, etc.  A person who wants to learn a profession goes to those who are already doing it, in order to learn the trade.  Once a person has grasped the collective learning to that point, then they are in a place to seek on their own what may not be understood up to now.  What I am saying is that we cannot intellectually reject the concept of telling others the truth.  We can only disagree with what they are promoting as truth.  As Christians we should not allow ourselves to fall prey to the idea that we should let others find the truth for themselves.  Those who promote such things firmly promote it as truth, which in itself is a type of hypocrisy.  No.  If you are Christian then do not apologize for believing God’s Word.  Instead, confidently take your place within the market of ideas, and share Jesus passionately.  You have as much right as the next person to speak your peace.

We will see today that there is another side to this matter.  Up to now we have been dealing with our relationship to other people.  Yet, there is also our relationship to God.  If God has given us truth that others lack, and He has told us to share it with them, then we would be rejecting His will not to share the truth with them.  Thus we would not be walking in faith, but in disobedience.

Today we will look at a passage that shares an interaction that Jesus had with his disciples after the resurrection, but before he ascended into heaven.  It serves as a transitional story from the works that Jesus did while he was on earth to the works that His Church did through his spiritual help.  If we understand anything today, I pray that we will see that we can confidently share the good news about Jesus with anyone we meet without feeling shame.

Jesus gives his disciples a mission

Though the disciples are not exactly clear what is going on, we know that Jesus is getting ready to leave earth.  He is going into the heavenly realm to stay at the right hand of the Father, until he is sent back to establish his reign over the whole earth.  This begs the question: What should his followers do while he is gone?  In this passage Jesus gives instructions for what his followers should be doing.  But, before we talk about the mission he is about to give, let’s look at the condition of the disciples.

Their understanding of who Jesus is and what he is doing had received a complete upheaval at the cross.  They are in a state of shock regarding his death, and yet another shock regarding his resurrection.  Thus Jesus is helping them to make the transition from all that they thought Jesus was to the truth about it.  In some ways they were right, but in very big areas they were also wrong.  Verse 17 shows us that though they worshipped the Lord, some still doubted.   If they are going to be able to do what Jesus is asking them to do then they are going to have to overcome their doubts and learn to worship Jesus as divine.  The same is true today.  What were these doubts they had?  Maybe they doubted that this was really Jesus because their mind just couldn’t accept it.  Maybe they doubted whether they wanted to continue to follow him.  Regardless of what their doubts were and what our doubt might be today we must face them.  Doubts are a very real part of faith.  You can’t have faith without there being some doubts over which to believe.  As we take our doubts and lay them before God in prayer, we will recognize that He has given us very real proof and evidence on which we can believe.  Ultimately doubt and faith is about whether we trust Jesus or not.  So read the Gospels over again and ask yourself if you trust the One who was willing to go to the cross for you, or the wisdom of those who have not.  Christians accept Jesus as more than a great teacher, or a great example of faithful suffering.  He is all that and yet more.  He is the One and Only unique Son of God, who is worthy of the worship of mankind.  He is unique in that he was never created, and in fact, all things that were created were created through him.  What the disciples did that day was considered blasphemy to the Jews.  They accepted the divinity of Jesus and gave worship to him.  To worship Jesus was to recognize his absolute value above all created things and equality with the Father.  Though he was truly human, he was also God.

Then in verse 18 Jesus preempts his instructions with an important truth.  He had been given all authority from the Father over all authorities in heaven and on earth (both the spirit world and the natural world).  This is important because the mission is going to require them to enter into the domain of earthly rulers and spiritual rulers, and promote Jesus as Lord.  This would be seen as an act of insurrection and treated as such by those same rulers.  Thus earthly rulers would challenge Christians on a very physical plane.  What gives you this authority?  In the same way wicked, spiritual rulers would resist.  They would have a better grasp on why Christians have authority to enter their areas of control.  But they would resist nonetheless.  Thus the existence of the Church becomes a means by which all authorities of earth are put on notice by the King of all kings that their time of judgment is rapidly approaching.  Our message to all the citizens of these domains is this: Flee the coming judgment on these rulers and their domains by renouncing them and join the kingdom of Jesus by pledging allegiance to him.  Christian you must understand that anyone who tells you to quit talking about Jesus, is themselves in rebellion to the highest authority of the entire cosmos.  We must not waver in the reality of who Jesus really is.  It is by his authority that we have the right to tell others the truth about their condition and situation.

So this leads us to verses 19 and 20.  These verses lay out the mission that Jesus has for his followers.  The heart of it is to disciple all nations.  So that starts with inviting people to become students of Jesus.  The emphasis of the word “nations” is meant to emphasize the individuals that comprise the nations, and not the geopolitical entities and their governments.  We are not called to Christianize all governments, but rather to “Christianize” all who want to become disciples of Jesus out of every nation that exists.  Now, I have taken time to make a rough diagram of the mission to make it easier to discuss.

Our command or imperative is to disciple all nations.  So we are to help others to become disciples of Jesus as we are.  Also, there is no biological, racial, or cultural boundary that we are limited by.  Christ has authority over all nations and thus authorizes us to make disciples from all nations.  All of this is not to be done forcefully.  All disciples must do so of their own choosing.  We are called by Jesus, “come follow me,” but not forced to do so.  Thus all Christians are volunteers in the service of Jesus. 

Now that we have the principle parts of the command, let’s look at the qualifiers.  The English version makes it look like our command is to go.  However, in the original language it is a verbal adjective that is describing the disciples.  The emphasis is not that everyone who claims to be a disciple must go to all the nations, but that the disciples are to be a “going” people.  Thus, whether we are doing our part by going across the street to our neighbor, or going to the ends of the earth, this is our collective responsibility.  Thus Christians who are not missionaries to other nations, are still “goers” because they are sharing Jesus within their own area and they help to support those that go to other nations through prayer and funds.  We cannot ever become a people who hide behind walls and wait for God to take the world away.  Rather we are called to advance into the most evil of environments and proclaim the judgment of God to those dark forces that rule them and proclaim deliverance to whosoever wants out of those kingdoms.  Christians must not be cowards who hide in fear.  Rather, we must be those who take our fears, much like our doubts, and place them before God, as we ask for courage to walk in faith.  We must have a going heart.

The next qualifying phrases refer to making disciples.  Although Matthew’s version does not explicitly mention this proclamation, Mark’s version says “go and preach the gospel.”  Thus we make disciples by first proclaiming freedom.  Then we baptize those who respond in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  In other words, we introduce them into the new community with a symbolic act that represents what is happening in their life.  They are dying to the old life and being raised up to a new life in a new kingdom.  This basically represents a person switching allegiance.  What must those spiritual powers think every time a believer is baptized in the name of Jesus?  It must be salt to their wounds as they lose another person from their grip and come one step closer to their judgment.

The next part of making disciples is to teach them all that Jesus commanded.  Part of what Jesus taught was that his apostles would be enabled by the Holy Spirit to lay down the whole truth for the Church of Christ (John 16:12-13).  He didn’t have time to lay everything out for them.  But He would lead them by the Holy Spirit.  Thus the Bible speaks of the foundation of Christ and his Apostles.  The truth must be taught to these new believers so that they too can become teachers and disciplers.

Of course I have continued the diagram to include what Jesus says about himself.  Notice the parallel.  In a sense he says, “This is what you are supposed to be doing, and this is what I will do.”  He promises to be with his disciples always, even to the end of the age.  Thus the promise is not just for the first century and the first disciples.  It is in force as long as is given to the Church to proclaim the gospel and as many generations.  So how is Jesus with us?  Acts chapter 1:7-8 helps us to understand this.

In this passage the disciples wanted to know what would happen to Israel as a nation at this time.  But Jesus tells them to wait for an event in which the Holy Spirit of God would come upon the disciples of Jesus and help them to be the witnesses and teachers that they were called to be.  So, it is through the Holy Spirit that Jesus is with us.  In fact, in some places the Holy Spirit is actually called the Spirit of Christ.  Why?  He is called that because He is not acting on His own, but leading only in the direction that the Son of God desires.  So what is this age that Jesus refers to and when will it end?  The best way to describe it is to see it as a time of God’s gracious offer of citizenship in His coming kingdom to whosoever will.  Of course Satan fights hard to blind people to the truth and even to pull people back away from Christ.  He will never give up until he is completely removed by God (see Revelation 20:10).  Take time today first to pray for the help of the Holy Spirit.  You were never meant to do this alone.  Thus we have the Holy Spirit and we have a community of others who are in communion with the Holy Spirit.  Second, ask God for focus on how to be a witness of His love and His truth.  Ask Him for help to speak the truth in love and with passion.  Yes, you must become convinced that these things are true before you can worship Jesus and serve Him in this purpose of telling the whole world.  This Age of Grace has a point in which it will end.  We are not told a date or number of years.  We are simply told to be faithful.  May God help His Church to be awake and alert in these perilous times.

Sharing Jesus audio