Tag Cloud
: Sorrow : Mothers 1 Peter Abandonment Abomination of Desolation Abortion Abuse Accounting Activism Affection Affliction Afterlife America Angels Anger Apologetics Apostasy Armor of God Ascension Ashamed Atonement Authority Babylon Bad Baptism Betrayal Bible Blasphemy Blessing Blessings Blindness Boasting Body of Christ Bondage Borders Born Again Bridegroom Calling Capital Punishment Celebration Character Children Children of God Chosen Christ Christian Life Christians Christmas Church Civil Disobedience Cleansing Comfort Commands Communion Community Comparison Compassion Complacency Complaining Conception Condemnation Conduct Conflict Conformity Confrontation Confusion Connection Conscience Consequences Contentment Conviction Cornerstone Correction Cost Counsel Courage Covenant Creation Creator Cross Crowns Crucifixion Culture Curse Darkness David Day of the Lord Death Deception Defense Delegation Demon Possession Demons Denial Dependency Design Desolation Destruction Devil Direction Disaster Discernment Disciple Disciples Discipleship Discipline Discontentment Discouragement Disease Disgrace Disputes Distraction Diversity Divine Division Doctrine Double Fulfillment Doubt Drought Drugs Duties Duty Earth Earthly Earthquakes Easter Edom Education Elders Elect Emmaus Emotions Employment Encouragement End Times Enemies Enemy Environmentalism Equality Equipped Eternal Evangelism Evil Evolution Exaltation Exalted Exclusion Excuses Exorcism Expectations Eyes Failure Fairness Faith Faithful Faithful Servant Faithfulness False Christs False Doctrine False Religion False Religions Family Famine Fasting Father Fathers Favoritism Fear Fear of the Lord Feasts Fellowship Finances Fire First Coming Flesh Flock Folly Foolishness Foreigner Foreknown Forgiveness Fornication Forsaken Foundation Freedom Friends Friendship Fruit Fruitfulness Future Gentiles George Wood Giving Glory God God’s Word Godliness Godly Good Good Shepherd Good Works Gospel Gospels Government Grace Gratitude Great Commission Greatness Grief Growth Guilt Hardship Harvest Healing Heart Heaven Heavenly Hedonism Hell Herod Hidden Holy Holy Spirit Homosexuality Honor Hope Hopelessness Humility Husband Hypocrisy Ignorance Image Immanuel Immigration Impossibility Incarnation Indulgences Inheritance Injustice Inner Battle Instructions Insults Integrity Intercession Israel Jerusalem Jesus Jewish Temple John the Baptist Joy Judas Judgment Judgments Justice Justification Justify Key Keys Kindness King Kingdom Kingdom of God Kingdom of Heaven Knowledge Lamp Law Lawlessness Leader Leaders Leadership Leftism Legalism Leprosy Lies Life Light Like-minded Lord Lost Love Loyalty Lust Lusts Luxury Malachi Manipulation Marriage Martyrdom Martyrs Mary Materialism Maturity Meditation Men Mentoring Mercy Messiah Millennium Mind Mind of Christ Ministry Miracle Miracles Mission Mocking Money Mothers Mystery Nations Natural Gifts Naturalism Nature Near-Far Fulfillment Necessities New Covenant New Man Obedience Obstacles Obstructions Offense Old Man Old Nature Old Testament One Mind Outcast Pagan Pain Palm Sunday Parable Parables Paranormal Parenting Passion Passover Patience Patriotism Peace Pentecost People of God Perfect Persecution Perseverance Persistence Personal Testimonies Perspective Perversion Pestilence Peter Pharisees Piety Pilate Politics Poor Position Possession Possessions Posture Power Praise Prayer Preaching Preparation Pride Priority Privilege Prodigal Promise Proof Prophecy Prophet Prophets Protection Protestant Reformation Proverbs Provision Punishment Purgatory Purpose Questions Racism Reason Rebellion Rebuke Reconciliation Redeemer Redemption Refuge Regeneration Rejection Rejoicing Relationship Relationships Reliability Religion Remember Remnant Renewal Repentance Reputation Resolve Rest Restoration Resurrection Revelation Revenge Revival Reward Rich Riches Righteous Righteousness Rights Riot Rivalry Robbery Roman Catholic Church Rule Sabbath Sacred Sacrifice Saint Salvation Sanctification Satan Savior Schemes Science Scripture Seasons Second Coming Secret Seed Seek Self Self Control Self-centered Self-Control Selfish Ambition Self-Righteous Servant Servant-Leadership Serve Service Serving Sexual Immorality Sexual Sin Sexuality Shame Share Sharing Shepherd Sickness Signs Signs and Wonders Simplicity Sin Sincerity Singing Singleness Sinners Slavery Sober Society Sojourner Sojourners Son Son of God Sons of God Soul Source Sovereignty Speech Spirit Spirit Realm Spirits Spiritual Spiritual Battle Spiritual Gifts Spiritual Growth Spiritual Rulers Spiritual Warfare Stewardship Stress Strife Stumbling Block Submission Suffering Supernatural Supper Surrender Syncretism Tags: Patience Taxes Teaching Tears Technology Temple Temptation Temptations Terminal Illness Test Testimony Testing Tests Thankfulness Thanksgiving The Curse The Day of The Lord The End The Fall The Holy Spirit The Law The Way The Word The World Theology Time of Visitation Times of the Gentiles Tithing Tongues Tradition Transfiguration Transformation Traps Treachery Treasure Tree Trial Trials Tribulation Trifles Trinity Triumphal Trouble Trust Truth Uncertainty Unity Unpardonable Sin Utopia Value Vigilance Vindication Virtue Virtues Volunteer Warning Warnings Wars Watching Water Baptism Wicked Wickedness Widows Wife Wineskins Wisdom Witness Women Word of God Word of the Lord Works World World View Worry Worship Worth Wrath Yahweh Yeast Zion

Weekly Word

Entries in Blessing (8)

Friday
Mar102017

Serving Selflessly

John 13:1-17.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on March 5, 2017. 

As we continue talking about the purpose that Jesus has for His people and His Church, we have adopted the phrase, “Connecting people to the Abundant Life found in Jesus.”  So our purpose begins with connecting to Jesus and His people, and then moves to growing spiritually to be like Jesus.  Part of spiritual growth is being used by God to serve other believers and in a manner that is not for selfish reasons.  One thing you may notice is that each of these is simply an extension of the initial connection to Jesus.  So it may be better to think of them as facets of the main purpose of coming into relationship with God. 

In our passage today, we will look at a very critical act that Jesus did on the night that he was going to be betrayed.  In this act of service, Jesus removes all doubt as to what God is saying to those who want to be his disciples.  In essence God is asking us to prove our love for Him by serving His people, our brothers and sisters.  Because of our Christian background, Americans often speak of politicians and social leaders as public servants.  However, it is clear that most are not serving for the sake of the public.  They are more concerned with their own station in life and honor among men, than they are about what will really serve the people.  Today’s passage will show the heart of service.  Next week we will look at the practical side of what it means to serve.

The love of Jesus caused him to serve

This story of how Jesus washed the feet of his disciples is a powerful one that is intended to challenge those who would want to follow him.  But, before we look at the act itself, let’s look at the context in which this service takes place.  Verse 1 emphasizes that Jesus knew it was his time.  He was about to leave the disciples, and they would have to go on without his physical presence.  This makes his action here critical because it represents what is most important to him.  Verse 2 also tells us that Jesus knew that the betrayal was already in motion.  His arrest was only hours away and by noon the next day he would be executed.  These were his last moments of physical freedom.  Lastly, verse 3 points out that Jesus knew that everything was in his hands.  Now in Matthew 28:18 Jesus says, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.”  This means that Jesus was not a victim as he went to the cross, but a victor.  Not only did he have authority over those who thought they had authority over him, but it was in his hands what to do.  Yes, Jesus came for the purpose of dying on the cross, being resurrected and leading many sons to righteousness.  However, his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, just moments after this event, makes it clear that he had a choice.  Jesus asks for the cup to be taken from him and yet, surrenders to the will of the Father.  What we see here is that though the Spirit of Christ was unified with the will of the Father, the flesh body was shrinking back from the cross.  The Father would not force His Son to do this.  It had to be the choice of Jesus and not just in his invulnerable, past existence.  In the moment of weak flesh he had to choose freely to save mankind.  Imagine if all authority and choice was given to you today.  What would your choice be?  In this situation Jesus chose to wash his disciple’s feet and to go to the cross for mankind.  This is a powerful statement.

When we look at the descriptions regarding this service, two poignant phrases stick out.  The first is at the end of verse 1, “He loved them to the end.”  This was an act of teaching, but it was also an act of love.  It was a divine, supreme act of love that would help them to better understand the cross and God’s will for them in the months and years ahead.  Service cannot be just an act.  It truly must be fueled by and informed by the love of God.  Too often we allow our service to become an identifying thing that we do, and lose sight of love for the people we are serving.  Another aspect to recognize is how John builds up to this act.  He stipulates all the things Jesus knew and how it was all in his hands, which lead up to the climax of “then he arose from supper, laid aside his garments, took a towel and girded himself.”  The statement itself would be anticlimactic to anyone who was looking to Jesus as Messiah.  I believe John intends this statement and the actions of Jesus to be shocking.  It is easy for us to miss this because we have grown up in a society that takes this for granted.    We must understand that the love of God is far more radical and shocking than we can ever completely understand.  Jesus hanging on the cross was the exact opposite picture anyone expected to see of the savior of the world.  Let’s face it; even now we do not completely understand the love of God and the depths to which it leads him to go in order to serve mankind.  So, when I try to follow Jesus and serve others, I will find myself needing to grow in the ability to love at such a shocking level.

We are challenged by the service of Jesus

Peter often becomes the vehicle through which we get to see ourselves.  So in verses 6-8, the shocking actions of Jesus bother Peter.  He balks at what Jesus is doing and had earlier rebuked Jesus for saying that he would be executed.  This is the very nature of even the most loyal disciple.  Our hearts are challenged and even made afraid by what Jesus does and calls us to do.

So what is at the heart of this issue?  Perhaps it is our pride.  Peter’s pride in his station as a close disciple to the Messiah of Israel (maybe even #1 disciple), shrinks back from this menial service that Jesus does.  Jesus is supposed to be the greatest and highest person in all of Israel.  But here he takes on a task that only the lowest servant would perform.  This is unthinkable to him because of his pride.  Leaders, beware of followers who tell you that certain things are beneath you.  They are not being led by the wisdom of God, but the fear of prideful flesh.  Peter was so proud of being there that he forgot to wash his own feet.  His joy of being in the presence of Jesus had overwhelmed his self-awareness that his feet were filthy.  This is such a powerful picture of our desire to follow Jesus.  We get so caught up in the wonder of it all that we can miss areas of our life that need cleaned up.  Even so, if Jesus wanted their feet cleaned, he should command one of them to do it, right?  In Peter’s mind the lowest of them all should be the one washing feet, not Jesus (and most likely not him).  This is precisely why Jesus had to wash their feet.  He had to break their pride.  But he doesn’t do it like the leaders of this world do it.  The leaders of this world command you to do the most menial tasks until your pride is wore down.  But Jesus does the menial task himself and then asks them to love one another as he has loved them.  He leads the way, and not as one who does so once and never humbles himself again.  The cross shows us that all of the life of Jesus was one long humbling of the highest being in the universe.  Can we not see that God has no pride?  We must see our own shrinkage from service and its foreign mindset in Peter’s actions.  We must also ask the Lord to transform our mind and heart in this area.

Another point I would like to make about Peter’s refusal is that it is God who defines how we need to be served.  Peter does not want to let Jesus feet.  When others serve us we are often uncomfortable.  We tend to want to control how it is done.  We can be guilty of trying to tell God exactly how He should do things.  But the reality is that we don’t have a clue what we need and what He should be doing.  The Church has struggled over this question, “What do people really need.”  Especially in America, we have developed two different approaches over the years.  The first is called the “Pie in the Sky” Gospel.  This approach says that people really only need their spirit’s saved and the flesh is immaterial.  Thus, people who preached to the homeless would promise that in heaven you will have all the things you didn’t on earth.  Instead of helping materially they only helped spiritually.  The cynicism of the people being served led to some Christians then going to the other extreme.  This led to what is called the “Social Gospel.”  They tended to focus so much on the physical needs of the poor at the expense of the spiritual message of Jesus.  It almost becomes a badge of nobility to feed a poor man and not tell him the gospel, so that you are not manipulating them.  Yet, Jesus does both within hours.  He washes their feet, a very physical service, and then dies on the cross for their sins, a very spiritual service.  In truth we need both.  Yes, we could accuse Jesus of trying to manipulate us by dying on a cross.  But in the end it is a reality that we have to deal with.  Was Jesus manipulating or loving?  When we serve, we must be aware of the physical nature of those we serve and yet the spiritual side.  Not all will receive what you do and may even cast aspersions on your motives.  Nevertheless, it is not wise to let those being served to dictate how we serve them.  We serve people because God loves them and it is He who directs us on how they need served.

In verse 9 and following the scene comes to a conclusion with Jesus explaining why he did what he did.  In verse 14 the word “ought” should slam into the pit of our stomach like a ton of bricks.  It comes from a word that has the idea of owing a debt that you are obligated to pay back.  Thus, it came to be used for social and moral obligations.  If the master did this lowly service, then by definition his disciples are obligated to keep themselves beneath him in station.  To not lower myself is more than an act of rebellion, but even an act of rejection.   In this act of service and the cross that follows, Jesus forever undercuts the protest, “You couldn’t expect me to do that!”  No, such a statement is hollow when you recognize the wisdom of Jesus.  We are precisely obligated to serve one another because our Lord and master served us.  But our obligation is not just on a moral level.  We say that we love God, but in this moment God shows the very depths of his heart.  He is not trying to be on top, and is not filled with pride.  He is willing to lower himself to the lowest place and serve.  So, the question then is, “Having received such a glimpse into the depths of His heart, do you still love Him?”  Christians are those who have discovered the shocking truth about the God who created all things and have chosen to follow him.  How can we not but serve?

Then in verse 17 Jesus slams the point home.  Blessed are you if you know these things and do them.  Today you have been made aware of these things.  Now, what are you going to do with them?  This is not just about washing feet.  It was a need within their immediate context.  What are the needs in our context?  What ways can I serve others for God?  In fact, it would be good for me to spend some time in prayer asking the Lord to give me His thinking on this subject.  Service is the key to blessing.

One of our problems in the Western world is that we make service sound noble.  I am not saying that it isn’t noble in some ways.  However, it is also humiliating and hard on our flesh in other ways.  Service by its very nature is not a noble thing, but it is a God thing.  Jesus washing the dirty, stinky feet of his disciples was not fun.  But it was necessary for them.  Similarly, trying to love another person and serve them can be some of the most difficult times of your life, and yet God asks us to do it.  Yes, it is noble, but the nobility is not what we feel when we truly start serving others.  We can tell young men of the noble act of dying so that other may be free.  But, when they are in the trenches and their friends are dying around them, it will feel like anything but nobility.  No, service that is not self-serving (a.k.a. I am getting noticed and good press) will try your soul like a furnace.  But in the end you will come forth like pure gold refined in the fire seven times.

Serving Selflessly audio

Thursday
Jan122017

The Heart of a Righteous Person

Psalm 4:1-8.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on January 08, 2017.

I want to look at this Psalm today in order to hear the heart of those righteous individuals who have gone before us.  It is easy to look at our modern technology and think that those believers before us have nothing to teach us.  However, this is a foolish idea.  If you take time to read about the righteous men and women of the Bible, you will find yourself being filled with encouragement, sometimes.  On the other hand, you may also find yourself being discouraged because you feel that you don’t measure up to them.  We can feel disqualified because we are not as good as they were.  Let me just take a moment to remind you that throughout the Bible we are shown the physical, emotional, and spiritual weaknesses of those who were called righteous.  They were not perfect individuals.  In fact, they sometimes failed God and disobeyed Him, only to have God’s discipline teach them wisdom.  They were just like you and I in their hearts.  But they learned that God could be trusted despite how difficult their situations became.  As we read this Psalm, I pray our hearts will be encouraged by what we hear.

They are moved to talk with God

Modern though likes to say that prayer was a part of our evolution.  When we were knuckle-dragging, cave-people, we were ignorant and afraid of the elements surrounding us.  Thus natural selection elevated those who developed a belief in a higher power.  This made them bolder and fearless.  To those who are so persuaded, a belief and praying to God is no longer necessary.  Our technology is quickly conquering the world around us.  We are now the higher power for which we have always longed.  Of course the Bible directly contradicts such modern conjectures.  We were not created in ignorance and insecurity.  Mankind began in a special relationship with the Creator Himself.  God taught the first pair to tend a garden that He had prepared for them.  Thus man was not at the mercy of the elements originally.  It was a result of their sin and the fractured relationship with the Creator that led man to a scary, fearful place.  Though this relationship has been adversely affected, we are still able to connect with the Creator through prayer because we were designed for communication with Him from the beginning.  Thus this psalm began as a prayer of David to the One who created us.

In verse 1 David asks the Lord to hear his cry.  He is clearly in a desperate situation, and desperate situations have a way of forcing us to get real with God.  A righteous person will not be content to go through a mere ritual of religion.  When push comes to push, they will cry out to God with a passion that is not generally present when things are going easy.  In Isaiah 64:7, the prophet complains that there is “no one who calls on Your name, who stirs himself up to take hold of You.”  Notice Isaiah’s desperation.  He feels alone.  He is calling on God’s name and stirring himself up to take hold of God.  This is a picture of holding on to God and not letting go until He answers you.  I pray that you are not content with just going through the motions.  I pray that you have learned the importance of stirring yourself up and passionately interacting with God like David is doing here.  Don’t settle for a dead faith and dead religion.  God reveals Himself to those who take hold of Him and don’t let go.

We also see in verse 1 that David prays to “the God of my righteousness.”  He recognizes that God is the source of his righteousness.  Of course, everyone thinks they are righteous.  Sometimes people use religion to justify their wicked deeds (name a religion, people have used them all).  Other times people use intellectual justifications that rely upon faulty logic.  David had been taught the Word of God, and had done his best to live by it.  It is to this One who has revealed the Way that the Israelites should live that David is appealing.  Of course our relationship with God has received far more revelation since then.  God has revealed The Way that all peoples on the earth should live.  The righteous are not those who appear to do all the right things.  The righteous are those who know that God is the source of their righteousness.  Without Him we would be trapped in ignorance.  Without Him we would still be trapped by our sins.  It is God who enables us to do and be anything that can be called good.

David has a present need, but he says, “You have relieved me in my distress.”  During present perils, it is easy to lose hope.  However, the righteous will remember past mercies to themselves and to others.  That memory becomes proof of future help.  God helps those who trust Him.  The Bible is filled with testimonies of God’s mercy to those who trusted Him.  If we discount God’s mercy in their lives and in our own then we are not being fair to God.  God has done too much for us to doubt Him.  Yes, your flesh does want Him to do more or something greater, but that is like a kid demanding ice cream and claiming their parents haven’t given them enough.  It is an immature and childish accusation.  In fact, the death and resurrection of Jesus is the ultimate act of mercy that should shake any doubt to its core.  Our future is sure, even though our present shouts that it is not.  This is the blessing of the righteous.

They are moved to talk with men

Now let’s look at verses 2 and 3.  It is easy to disconnect and go silent towards those who reject God and His Ways.  However, the righteous are moved to talk with the wicked as well.  Sure there may come a time when there is nothing more to be said.  But that does not discount that something must be said.  The unbelieving need a proper witness to the truth by those who do believe.  Part of that witness is to question the actions of the unrighteous.  David asks, “How long…”  It is partly a plea to repent and turn back to God.  However, it is also a warning.  How long will God allow you to get away with your rejection of Him and doing your own thing without His judgment?  Just as today is the day of salvation, so today is the day to proclaim the salvation of the Lord.  It is too easy to say nothing to people and pretend that we are okay.  But, the righteous through the ages have not been silent to those around them, at least at first.   David proclaims that the ungodly turn “my glory into shame.”  They were doing so by slandering any good thing that David had done.  We see the same thing done to Jesus and the early Christians.  But David may have also meant that they were shaming God by what they were doing to David.  In Psalm 3:3 David calls God, “my Glory.”  Either way, it is true that we shame God when we unjustly attack one another.  David recognizes that the ungodly seek after idols.  They have quit seeking God and given up on any help from Him.  Instead they turn to false answers, false truths.  If they are not caused to reconsider how can they then be saved?  They simply can’t.

David then turns to remind the ungodly of the faithfulness of the Lord.  He puts the point to them.  What side do you want to be on?  God is going to answer me, and in so doing you will be dealt with (of course, unless you repent).  Christians must be a prophetic voice to the world around us that God has set the godly apart for himself.  He will answer them when they call.  Why would you not want to be a part of such a group?  Yet, those who resist God and even take their stand against Him and His people are fighting a losing battle.  There are many today who reject the Bible and the Creator.  They work to diminish their affect upon this nation and world.  No matter how successful the ungodly appear, God is on the side of the godly and will answer their cries.  He is going to come in judgment against the wicked and for the righteous.

They hold fast to the lessons learned

In verses 4 and 5 David rehearses within himself, and now shares with others who are struggling with keeping the faith, those things that had been handed down by the righteous of ages past.  It is important to keep walking the right path even when we are waiting upon God to hear our prayer and answer us.  Thus David says, “Be angry and sin not.”  When you are mistreated it is natural to become angry.  Anger is a powerful motivator to do something.  Much like a reservoir of water behind a dam, the passion of our anger can break forth like an uncontrollable wave of water from a collapsing dam, or it can be released in controlled form through the proper channel of a spill gate.   Notice that it is not a sin to be angry.  It is what we do with anger that often is sin.  Thus anger is dangerous.  If it is not properly controlled and funneled into proper channels of action, it becomes destructive sin.  These words are repeated in Ephesians 4:26, and Paul adds the admonishment, “Do not let the sun go down on your wrath.”  The word translated “wrath” is talking about the ways in which anger turns into sin.  It starts internally with irritation, bitterness, exasperation, and vengefulness.  It then leads to the external action of sin.  Yes, there is much to be angry about in this world because there is much sin.  However, the believer must restrain themselves from the affect that anger can have on their fleshly heart, and funnel it into passionate prayer before God and a passionate witness before the ungodly.  That witness is both vocal and non-vocal, through the life of righteousness to which we faithfully cling.  We must walk the walk in the face of all threats against us, whether they come from others, or within ourselves.

David next reminds himself to Meditate.  The righteous build a habit of meditating on their life before God in private.  This is not the eastern form of meditation where one is trying to clear their mind of everything.  That kind of meditation only opens you up to spiritual deception.  Biblical meditation is to bring the issues of our life before God, think about what the Scriptures say, and to think about what God would have us do.  It lays all that before Him and asks for His Spirit’s leading.  All of this happens within our heart when we are alone.  Of course, this can be alone in the sense that it happens in your mind when no one is intruding.  However, David refers to his bed.  We need to seek out times alone, so that we can meditate before the Lord and grow in understanding.  Jesus often sought out times alone to pray before the Lord.

David then remembers, “Offer the sacrifices of righteousness.”  The righteous always continue in the religious service that God has asked of them and yet do not allow it to become only a form.  They refuse just to go through the motions without a real life of trust and faith backing it up.  Thus many times to do the right thing is itself a sacrifice.  Our flesh doesn’t want to do it, but we die to the desires of our flesh and live out the righteousness of God.  This is the sacrifice that is pleasing to God.

Lastly, David says, “Put your trust in the Lord.”  Ultimately the godly throughout history teach us that the only wise thing we can do is to put our trust in the Lord, even when it seems like He is silent.  It must be done even when it seems like He is letting the ungodly win.  We need each of these lessons in our life today.  It may not seem like much, and the devil will tell you it is not enough.  But, he knows that a person who does these things will become impervious to his assaults, and will ruin his work in the lives of others.

They are blessed by God

The psalm ends with recognition that the ungodly are often cynical about such a witness from the righteous.  “Who will show us anything good,” is actually a challenge.  The ungodly have been tempted into following the logic and the thing that brings them something they desire.  They have become enslaved by their fleshly desires.  This is a sad way to be.  Only God’s grace can break through such cynicism.  So, David recognizes that the righteous will continue to look to God.  The phrase, “the light of your countenance,” is an allusion to the priestly blessing in Numbers 6:24-26.  There it says, “The LORD lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.”  This is a picture that God not only is aware, but He is looking upon us and His face is shining with good-will towards us, rather than a dark and stormy face of judgment.

This leads to the recognition that God gives gladness and joy to the righteous.  His truth tempers our immaturity and folly.  It fills us with the joy of knowing that God is more powerful and wise than anything that stands against us.  Thus, we cannot lose.  He is going to answer at the proper time.  So what makes you glad?  Is it bumper crops, which is basically economic increase?  If your joy is based on such temporary things, then you will be increasingly saddened and driven to leave God’s ways behind and forge your own path of success.  But, if you make relationship with God your joy, then you will never lack its presence in your heart, even when you are in the valley of the shadow of death.

Thus David talks about how the righteous are given peace and sleep in God’s safety.  God is our protector.  Why should we fear?  David says that he can sleep at night because God is what gives him peace and safety.  Though the world around us rages, we can be at peace as long as God is pleased.  Similarly, if the whole world is singing our praises, we dare not be at peace if God is unpleased with our life. 

The word translated “alone” in the last verse makes it sound like God is the only thing that makes David safe.  That is true of course.  But the word might better be translated in this way.  “In solitude, You, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”  This reference to solitude is a reference to God’s place of safety, or refuge.  We always have such a place internally within our mind and heart.  We can enter into this refuge and commune with the Lord even in the presence of our enemies.  However, such a place of refuge is also literal at times.  David fled into the wilderness from Saul and there God gave him a refuge, and a place of solitude in which he was safe from Saul’s threats.  During that time God spoke to David and encouraged him, while David waited for God’s promises to come true.  God periodically gives us breaks from the onslaught of the battle in order to comfort and encourage us.  This is the blessing that the righteous have from the Lord.  May we live faithfully for Him to the end of our lives!

Heart of a righteous person audio

Tuesday
Mar102015

Invitation to a Supper

Today we will be looking at Luke 14:1-14.

The setting of our passage today is a Sabbath meal to which Jesus has been invited by a high-ranking Pharisee in Israel.  This is going to give rise to several teachings by Jesus that we will look at over the next several weeks.  This supper will give rise to the wonderful truth that God is inviting us to participate in a marriage supper that He is preparing for His Son.  However, in this case, God allows us to participate in our own invitation.  He in a sense invites everyone who will believe upon His Son, what he taught, what he foretold, and what he accomplished.  Thus only those who properly respond to the open invitation are allowed in to the meal.  In fact, we could say that the presence of Jesus within Israel was technically a wedding feast that went horribly awry.

Legalism Binds Us

As we look at the passage we are at the meal where Jesus sits with a ruling Pharisee and all the others he has invited.  Now the problem with the Pharisees was that they were very legalistic.  They focused upon the letter of the law to the exclusion of the spirit of the Law.  When we are focused upon the letter of the law we really want to know what we can get away with and what we can’t.  It is not about wanting to please God, but rather about wanting to please self without getting in trouble.  However, when we ask ourselves why God gave a certain law, we are drawn into His heart and purposes.  Legalism tends to bind us to things that actually run counter to the purposes and the heart of God.  In fact several are on display at this meal.

First, legalism bound them to looking at each other wrongly.  It says in verse one that they watched him closely.  Now it is not wrong to watch our brother if we are doing it in a humble way that serves him.  We would normally call this “watching out” for our brother.  But legalism binds us to watching our brother for the sole purpose of finding fault.  God wants us to watch each other’s back rather than become nit-pickers.  Most legalists have forgotten that they not only were sinners but are still sinners in need of God’s grace.  Yet, there is one caution here.  It is common today to believe that anyone who points out a problem in our life is being mean-spirited and a legalist.  This is not true.  A true brother will not only watch his brother’s back, but also warn him about pitfalls in front of him.  The legalist does this because they take joy in putting you down a peg or too (i.e. raising themselves).  But the true brother does this because they don’t want to see you killed.  Even then, a true brother realizes that they are not their brother’s Lord.  They will remain humble and stand beside you not over you.

Legalism also binds us to misunderstandings about God’s purposes.  It just happens that a man who has dropsy (a condition where the body is swollen with fluid) is sat across from Jesus on the Sabbath.  Now we know why they were watching him like a hawk.  This meal was a set-up in order to find fault with Jesus.   You see, the Pharisees had developed an interpretation of the Sabbath laws that saw healing as a form of work.  I’ve talked about this in greater depth before.  They saw the Sabbath primarily as a restriction upon us.  Thus it was a bleak and difficult day in which we couldn’t enjoy a lot of good things.  However, God did not give the Sabbath to restrict man.  The word Sabbath means rest.  God wanted his people to quit being driven seven days a week as if they had no hope in God.  The Sabbath was supposed to be a day of rest and “smelling the roses.”  It was a day to gather with friends and family, and give glory to God for His great benefits.  It was about declaring God as our ultimate source rather than our own hand.  Thus God’s purpose was not to prevent us or restrict us from helping each other when one was sick or in need.  But, the Pharisees couldn’t see this.

Legalism also binds us to treating one another as less than human (in fact, less than animal).  After Jesus boldly heals the man of his condition and sends him away, he then challenges them.  If they had a donkey or ox fall into a pit on the Sabbath, every one of them would “work” to pull it out.  But they wouldn’t do a similar thing for this man.  Whenever you see people being treated as animals or especially less than animals, you know that the enemy of mankind has been at work twisting the minds of those involved.  Today we have become a people who will obsess over the death of certain animals and yet not blink an eye at the murder of countless unborn babies.  This dehumanizing of groups is the mode of operation of the devil and those who listen to him.

Humble Yourself Before God And Man

They had been watching him like a hawk.  However, Jesus had been watching them and gives a parable to point out a fault with those who were seated with him at the table: pride and self-exaltation.  He warns those who are invited to a meal not to try and sit in the highest place.  No doubt there had been much jockeying going on before the meal.  Self-promotion and ambition are powerful traits that enable us to succeed in many things.  However, they lead us to promote ourselves beyond what God has given to us.  It knows no bounds and will often come in conflict with God.  Clearly our attempts to curry favor with the rulers and those with power in this life can reap benefits.  But in the end this mentality leads us into gross sin.  One more honorable than us may have been invited and we will be asked to move down to a lesser seat.  Now that would be a humiliating moment that most of them would seek to avoid at all cost.  Jesus is “the one more honorable.”  Even though the host of that meal may have not recognized Jesus, God the Father does.  Ultimately he is the one having a great supper.  Jesus is the groom who has come to the wedding feast of his bride.  Yet, the Pharisees and their followers wanted to sit in the seat that belonged to Him.  Now that was fine and all before he came.  Someone had to lead.  Yet, now that he arrived, they should have been stumbling over themselves to give the seat to him.  Even worse they seek to put him to death so that their seat will never be threatened again.  When you walk in pride you ultimately offend those with greater honor than you.  In the end you will receive the fruit of pride, destruction.

There is a day coming when the host, God, is going to manifest to the world that Jesus is the one more honorable- the One to Whom the seat of power belongs.  God will render a decision.  Sometimes He settles things in this life.  But do not be deceived, He will settle it in the Age to come.  Our proper place will be established and woe to the person who has kicked against his proper place.  Instead, be humble in this life and let God promote you, so that at the judgment you will have nothing to fear.

Bless Those Who Cannot Bless You Back

Jesus then turns to rebuke the ruling Pharisee who was hosting the meal.  The previous fault focused on what we shouldn’t do, but this fault is couched in terms that encourage us to what we should do.  When you have a meal don’t invite those who can pay you back in some way (social prestige, invite you over to their place, business contacts, etc.).  It is spiritually smarter to invite people who cannot help you back in any way.  Bless people with a mean who cannot bless you back.  Instead of worrying about our position and using our good to increase that position, we should use those good to bless others, period.  Which raises a question, who do we tend to bless?  Eating with others is a social act which strengthens our bonds together and so we tend to invite friends and family.  Jesus warns us to beware this tendency.  Now we shouldn’t be legalistic with this statement.  Yes, we should obey Jesus.  But it is not his purpose to rebuke a family from eating together.  Rather, this is a special meal the Pharisee is throwing.  Jesus is not making a law that we can never invite friends over.  Rather, he is giving us wisdom about how we should live in light of the judgment that is coming.  Whom are you seeking to be blessed by?  If you seek to be blessed by people then all you do will be corrupted by it.  However, if you seek to be blessed by God, then you will learn to be a blessing to others especially when you get nothing out of it in this world.

Jesus mentions that he should invite the poor, maimed, lame and blind.  There are two levels to this instruction.  Believers are called to help those who are less fortunate in one way or another.  In Galatians 2:9-10 Paul recognizes that the “Pillars” of the church instructed him to remember the poor, “the very thing which [Paul] also was eager to do.”  In doing so, God becomes our reward.  Yet, this also has a spiritual parallel.  Jesus has come to heal those who are spiritually poor, maimed, lame, and blind.  Too often we are trying to reach the rich and famous of the world to join our church at the expense of those who do not appeal to us.  This comes from the spirit of pride and self-ambition.  But when we are humble before God and our fellow man, we serve regardless of the station of another.

Ask yourself the question, “Am I seeking to be blessed by men or God?”  Men can reward you, but they can also make you pay.  But God has a reward for those who live this life in service to Him.  To serve Him is to serve one another in His name.  The humble person knows that the only sure reward and the only sure position is that which God gives.  All else is simply grasping after the wind, here today and gone tomorrow.  Are you able to say with Job, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord!”? 

 

Invitation to supper audio

Wednesday
Jan142015

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