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Entries in Authority (10)


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


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


By What Authority

Luke 20:1-8—This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty on August 16, 2015.

Recently in SW Colorado, cleanup work being done at an old mine, accidentally released up to 3 million gallons of wastewater filled with heavy metal contaminant.  The pictures of a river turned orange from the toxic mistake went national and went into Native American Reservation land.  How did this happen?  Why were they there and under what authority?  Within our society these questions are being asked.  But there is also an underlying desire to find someone to blame and make responsible.  The company that was working there was acting under authority of the EPA, a federal government agency.  They had the proper authority to be there doing what they were doing.

Our passage today is quite concerned with authority.  But often enough, the objection of authority is raised when something bad happens or someone doesn’t like what the authority is doing.  Let’s look into this passage.

The Leaders Confront Jesus

In Luke 19:47-48 we see that the leaders of Israel were in quite a predicament.  Jesus had kicked out the merchants and was daily teaching in the temple.  This was “bad” to them.  Of course, from God’s perspective it was a good thing.   The other side of the issue is that their authority over the temple and what went on there was being usurped by Jesus.  The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people were so angry at this that they sought to destroy Him.  Yet, they were unable to do anything because all the people were very attentive to hear Him and did not see his actions as wrong.  In fact they were content with it.  This put the religious leaders in a bind.  If they exercise their authority and arrest Jesus, they run the risk of a revolt among the people they govern.  Authority can be held in check by the will of the people, for good or for bad, for a while at least.

Thus, the leaders devise a public confrontation in hopes that it would give them a legal cover for arresting Jesus.  Let’s take note that the actions of Jesus were being done in public and thus it was only proper to confront him publically.  However, it is also an attempt to intimidate Jesus and the people watching on.  It appears that much of the Sanhedrin (the ruling body of Israel) were there to confront Jesus in such a way as to regain their control. 

Their question is simply, “By what authority are you doing these things?”  Now they already have rejected Jesus as being a legitimate prophet and much less the Messiah.  Most of their objections had to do with stretched interpretations and understandings of the Law.  An example would be the charge that a godly person wouldn’t heal (i.e. work) on the Sabbath.  They believe that only they have the proper authority to do what Jesus is doing in the temple.  And yet, he is directly challenging their authority.  We should note that though the source of their authority was legitimate, their self-serving mal-practice of that authority had taken them beyond their proper authority.  As the messiah of God, Jesus had full authority to step in and reestablish proper worship.  Yes, the crowds had received Jesus in a way that suggested he was the messiah, but he had not publically stated it yet. 

Jesus refuses to answer until they answer a question that he has regarding the authority of John the Baptist.  Of course he knows that the question poses a problem for these leaders because they had been able to escape the fallout of dealing with John.  John stayed around the Jordan river far away from Jerusalem, and he was eventually imprisoned by Herod because of his public judgment of Herod’s divorce and remarriage to his brother’s wife.  On top of this, he was executed in response to a dance of the daughter of Herodias.  They had skirted around the issue of John’s authority.  By why press this point?  This is the same John who publicly went on record as saying that Jesus was the messiah.  “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” 

More Concerned With Authority Than Truth

Jesus is not playing a game.  He knows their hearts.  They are not interested in truth, but in power.  If you are truly looking for truth then God welcomes our questions and answers what we need to know.  But, if we are looking for self-justification and reject His every attempt to show us the truth, then we should not expect him to answer our every question.

Jesus highlights two possibilities: John (and thus he) have been given authority from heaven (i.e. from God) or, their authority is from men.   Even our Revolutionary war hung on this issue of authority.  By what authority did they revolt?  They appealed to God rather than their great military power and ability to convince enough men.  The result of the war became proof that God granted them that authority.  The religious leaders had ceased to look to God for the exercise of their authority and had replaced it with the politics of men. 

After reasoning among themselves, they claimed to not know the source of John’s authority.  If these men were interested in truth they would answer the question of Jesus.  But instead they are playing games.  If you are logically trapped then you should question the suppositions that you started with.  Instead, this only makes them angrier.  They refuse to answer because if they say heaven then John’s declaration of Jesus must be accepted by them.  But if they say men, then the people would stone them for blasphemy.  It is interesting that, as leaders, they have no end of judgments upon all activities, especially those of Jesus.  But suddenly they claim ignorance.  “I don’t recall.”  “It’s above my pay grade.”

These kinds of insincere, game-playing answers do not impress God and His judgment will be poured out on those who retreat into such childishness.

So Jesus leaves them with no answer because they do not want to believe anyways.  The time for Jesus to die is close, but not yet.  He is not afraid to, rather, they deserve none.  What was obvious to the crowds of people listening to him was unable to be seen by the leaders because they had retreated into justifications of themselves and resulting condemnations of Jesus.

God loves the lost and has worked hard to give answers to a world that claims to seek truth.  That doesn’t mean every answer under the sun has been answered.  However, what more can he say?  Today is the day to face truth and make a decision.  What will you do with Jesus?  When we approach Jesus with intellectual honesty we will find Him to be a fountain of refreshing truth.  But when we approach him with prejudice and arrogance, we will find him strangely silent.

By What Authority audio


Ready For The Second Coming Of Jesus

Today we will be looking at Luke 12:35-48.

Leading up to this portion of Scripture, Jesus has been warning his disciples about the temptation to tie their hearts to the things of this world and miss out on the things of God.  In short they will not be ready for their personal judgment.  Here Jesus connects this to a time of Judgment that is still future; the [Second] Coming of the Son of Man.  As difficult as it was to accept, Jesus clearly taught in many places and times that he was going to leave his disciples behind and they would need to be faithful until he came back.  It was upon this coming back that he would judge the nations and give the authority of the nations unto his followers.  This idea of being ready for his coming is central to all that Jesus taught from the cross to his ascension.

Now it is easy for modern man and even modern theologians to state that Jesus and his disciples were just mistaken.  That is, Jesus taught and they thought that he was coming back in their life time.  First of all, let me point out that Jesus continually referred to a long delay that would tempt his followers to quit looking for his coming.  Also, second of all, if you had to put together important principles for people of the last 2,000 years, how would you go about it?  In other words, did the message, “Be ready for my coming,” have no meaning or affect upon previous generations?  It is clear from history that those believers who expected Christ to come back lived very different lives from those who created theological explanations as to why Jesus wasn’t literally coming back (i.e. they spiritualized the statement and treated it as a metaphor).  Even though we do not know the day nor hour of his coming, we are told even commanded to be ready.  So what does that look like?

Waiting Servants and The Lord’s Instructions

Jesus gives a parable (a true-to-life story that pictures spiritual truth) to help us understand what it means to be ready.  The parable is that of servants waiting for their master to come back from a wedding feast.  Now Jesus told several such parables and the emphases and particulars often change.  In some places we are the virgins awaiting the bridegroom to take us to the feast.  In others we are invited to the wedding by the Father of the bride.  Here we are the servants waiting for the master to come back from “the wedding” (we are not told whose and it seems to be irrelevant for the point Jesus is making).  Each of these different parables have their spiritual significance.  In fact in Revelation 19 we are told that a wedding feast for Christ and his bride is thrown right before Christ comes back to judge the nations.  So what is expected of these servants in this parable and how does that relate to us?  Let’s look at the instructions of Jesus.

First, they are to have their waists girded or tied up (like a belt).  In the culture of that day long robe type clothing was what they wore.  If one had work to do they would pull up the robe and tie it around their waist so that it would not slow them down and get in the way.  Thus, this is about being ready to work.  If you showed up on a muddy construction site in dress shoes and slacks, everyone knows you are not going to be any help in the labor that needs done.  So believers today can ready themselves for Christ’s coming by “being dressed for work” and all hindrances tied up or put aside.  This idea of being ready for service for this parable is a present readiness for service at his coming.  Yet Jesus and his apostles also challenged believers to be ready to do the work of the Father for everyday.  Jesus told his parents, “didn’t you know I must be about my Father’s business?”  Also, in 2 Timothy 4:2 Paul tells the young minister Timothy, “Preach the Word!  Be ready in season and out of season….”  What does it mean to be ready in season and out of season?  It is a way of saying be always ready (in this case to proclaim the gospel and teachings of Christ).  Thus the believer has two layers of readiness.  We must tie up any activity of our life that might trip us up and hinder us from serving Christ; particularly sins of the flesh.  Instead of living life as “fully” as we can, the believer restrains themselves and looks to the Spirit of Christ for direction rather than to the Spirit of this Age of consumerism, materialism, and sensualism.  Are you ready for service every day?  Whether or not Jesus comes back today, it makes a huge difference in the life of a disciple if they are ready for service because the Holy Spirit will impact a lost world through such a person.

Next we are told to have our lights burning.  On one hand this part of the parable is about our ability to see.  Without light it is impossible to serve at night.  This is a dark world and yet, Christ has given us the light of Truth.  Like a light to a dark room, the Truth of Christ enables us to understand the “room” of this world and our life.  Yet, the light of God’s Word is not just to help us see so that we can choose what we want to do.  Rather, it helps us to see and it directs us in what we should be doing.  Thus the person who has their lights burning is a disciple that is living by God’s Truth and his instructions.  Now notice, a lamp can be lit or unlit.  God’s Word is light.  But if it is not believed and lived out by a person (the lamp) other humans will never see the light.  Thus a burning lamp requires being filled with oil (the Spirit of Christ), having our wicks trimmed (pruning off sin and its destructive effects), and the continual maintenance of that initial God-given spark of life.  Is your life readied for the return of your master?  Do you have your lamps burning or has the flame gone out?  Another parable (The 10 Virgins) warns us that if we don’t get our lamps working today, we will be caught unaware and unready.  We need to realize that our enemy the devil will seek to distract us from our proper service.  Once he has us distracted he will move quickly to extinguish our lamp.  We need to be the kind of waiting servants that are not just sleeping until the master returns.  Rather we are continually monitoring and preparing our life for his return.

This leads us to the third instruction: we are to be watching for his coming.  The life of a believer needs to be one of expecting the Lord to come at any moment.  This will affect our perspective and our attitude.  Some may be tempted to withdraw from society and retreat into a well-stocked bunker.  However, this would actually be disobedience to the directions of the Holy Spirit.  We are to be busy with His business today and ready for His business of tomorrow.  Those who truly expect the coming of Jesus will be more careful how they live.  But when we doubt his coming or think it will never “really” come (literally), we will tend to walk in the flesh, never really getting around to service and hindered on every hand in making any preparations.  Notice that the passage speaks of Jesus coming in the second or third watch.  The first watch is the easiest to remain vigilant.  It requires less effort to remain alert and often others are still awake.  Similarly, the last watch of the night (4th watch) is easier as well.  You have gotten good sleep and are merely waking a bit early to be vigilant.  But the 2nd and 3rd watch are the hours that are late at night and early in the morning so from 9PM to 3AM.  The main point is that he will come at a time when it is not easy to stay vigilant.  In fact he says that his disciples would not think it would be the time.  “Surely, he won’t come now it’s after midnight.”  We are to be prepared especially in those times when we don’t think he would come.  Thus this is an always expecting him attitude.  This should not make us “no earthly good.” Rather, it should make us all the more busy about our Father’s work so that nothing will be undone when he comes.  The enemy seeks to steal the treasure of God’s truth that has been given too you.  If you do not watch, he will steal the very things that make for your faith.  Guard your heart.

Blessing for Faithful Servants; Punishment for the Unfaithful

Now Jesus speaks to the blessing that belongs to those who faithfully execute his will and heed his warnings.  Jesus says in verse 37 that when the master comes he will gird himself and serve his faithful servants.  There is a certain beauty to this promise.  We gird ourselves to serve him today and he promises to gird himself and serve us when he comes.  That doesn’t mean he hasn’t already served us and is not serving us today.  The very nature of our God is service.  Christ served us by laying his life down at the cross to pay the price for our sins.  Christ is serving us by giving the Holy Spirit to those who believe upon him and intercedes for us daily.  Christ, however, is going to serve believers in that day he returns.  He will put down the scoffers and mockers who have persecuted the faithful and he will give all authority into the hands of his saints.  You might notice that Jesus acted this out on the night of his betrayal.  He makes them to sit at a meal, picks up a towel and washes their feet.  Who are we that he would be mindful of us to serve us in such a way?  That is the eternal mystery.  The God of heaven rejects the proud and great of this world and stoops down to serve the outcasts and the off scouring of the earth.

In verse 41 Peter asks a question because he is confused that it would be possible for one of them to not be ready for their lord.  But instead of answering Peter Jesus plows on in pressing the point.  Jesus points out two adjectives that he is looking for in his disciples: Faithful and Wise.  In this case they really are facets of the same thing.  The wise servant is not one who has figured out many great ways to serve the master.  Rather, he is the one who is faithful to the instructions that the master gave.  The master will make such a servant ruler over all that he has.  This scope of authority and its future expansion is a clear indication that God has rewards and duties for us in the age to come.  If we are faithful with God’s things in this life then in the age to come he will give us things that will be ours to do with what we want.  Yes, the usurpers have taken over the earth and exercise the authority thereof, but Christ will come and remove them.  This will be a day in which his followers are given greater authority.  Thus the blessing is being served by Christ himself and being given greater authority.  Yet, now we turn to the unfaithful.

In verse 45-48 we see those who cease following the instructions because of the delay of Christ’s return.  We can see all around us the evidence for why Christ would warn about such things.  These unfaithful servants don’t quit.  Rather they begin to abuse the other servants and their place or position within the house of Christ.  Next to this is the temptation to eat and drink to drunkenness.  Thus the unfaithful servant uses the master’s things to satisfy the desires of their flesh (i.e. partying with the master’s supplies).  As drunkenness is to drink so gluttony is to food.  This person is no longer prepared for service, a lit lamp, and expectant of Christ’s return.  They have overturned such an agenda and live to please their own flesh.  Their heart is tied to the things of the world at the expense of the things of Christ.

Thus Jesus says that his coming will surprise them.  They will not only think he is coming but they will be “unaware.”  Awareness is crucial in everything that we do in life.  This person is dulled to the very things Christ wants them to be perceptive.  No matter how faithful we are, if we stop being faithful we are in jeopardy.  We don’t say a person ran a good race because they the first quarter of it well.  If they quit and walk off the track they did not run a good race.  I could prepare for and expect Christ’s coming for 50 years.  But if I give up and start living for my flesh, I then put myself in jeopardy.  The “party it up” life desensitizes us to the purposes and times of God.

Yet, being surprised is the easy aspect to this.  They will also be appropriately punished.  In fact the “cut him in two” is a clear statement of execution.  The unfaithful servant will be given the portion of the unbelievers (aka the enemies of the master).  Thus they are clearly eternally lost.  Now, I need to bring this to a close.  It is clear that Jesus points out the perfect judgment that will be exercised.  Those who know better what they should be doing will be held more accountable and receive a worse punishment.  God is a perfect judge and that can give us relief on one hand and cause for concern on the other.  Do I want to be an unfaithful servant who is punished or a faithful servant who is blessed?  Faithfulness to these commands is what will make the difference.  Maranatha!

Be Ready Audio