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Entries in Christ (5)


Society under Siege: Drug Abuse

Romans 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 6:12-13; Galatians 6:6-7.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on October 16, 2016.

Although drugs have been around in one form or another throughout the history of our nation and even all of mankind, it has really been since the 1950’s that our society has become inundated with them.  Of course through the years we have made a distinction between medicinal drugs and illicit drugs.  Our purpose is not to go into that today other than to recognize that there can be a legitimate use of drugs.  Churches today are challenged by the difficulty of helping people who are stuck in drug addiction and whose lives are spiraling out of control.

Those who desire help to get out of the grip of drugs have many problems.  Some of them are the physical addictions that can occur.  Others are the mental, coping mechanisms that are unhealthy and continually turn back to the false peace of a drug.  The shame and guilt that such a person feels can push them further and further away from the very people they need around them. I believe that this onslaught of drugs in our nation is orchestrated and promoted by the evil, spiritual powers that seek to destroy the Gospel of Christ.  War is not easy.  But, if we are to help people, we cannot surrender to the temptation to either push people away because they keep turning back to drugs, or redefine what is good.  Some segments within the Church are being swayed by reasoning that overlooks the dangers of drug abuse and how people end up stuck in it.

How We Live Matters

In Romans Paul has written to the Corinthians about many ways that they are living and the morality or theology behind them.  Their theology and lives were being affected by the culture around them.  This is true of the Church in the United States of America.  Increasingly modern Christians have been surrendering certain areas by saying that they are no longer moral issues.  We determine that abortion is no longer immoral and thus encourage women in a destructive path.  We are beginning to do the same with drugs.  Many ideas are coming together to promote a theology of drugs that basically says it is not a moral issue.  This is a tactical mistake.

In chapter 12 of the letter to the Romans Paul reminds believers that their lives should be lived as a sacrifice to God.  Paul calls it a “living sacrifice” because the imagery is going from the very literal sacrifices they were used to seeing to the spiritual sacrifice of putting to death our fleshly desires for the glory of the purposes of God.  In fact, both Christians and those who do not believe live a life of dying.  The important question is, “To what am I dying?”  The Lost live a life surrendering to the desires of their flesh and their spirit/soul dies in its ability to connect with God.  Whereas the Christian surrenders to the desires of the Holy Spirit and their fleshly desires are put to death.  Of course, this is a daily thing.  So Christians are called to live life in a way that is following the Spirit of God and not the desires of our flesh.  Paul calls it our holy and acceptable sacrifice.

The term “holy” means that we are not for the common use.  Our lives have been set apart for a divine purpose and not a common purpose (i.e. what everyone else is doing).  Also, the term acceptable is often used in a negative way.  In other words, “OK, I guess that is barely good enough.”  That is not what this word means in this translation.  Our lives are not to be lived so as to be barely good enough.  Rather, the word has the meaning of that which is pleasing.  So our sacrifice is to live for God’s purposes, not our own (holy), and to offer that which is pleasing to God.  It is my contention that the Holy Spirit is not leading people to take drugs, especially recreationally, and that they promote a lifestyle that is anything but pleasing to God.

Paul also brings up the issue of conforming to this world’s way of living.  Conformity focuses on the outward shape without a true change of the nature of a person.  Thus a person who has murderous intentions in their heart can conform to the pressure of society to not act on that impulse.  However, their nature has not changed.  Conformity is temporary by nature.  Thus many people live a life of continually taking on new shapes that conform to the templates that the world gives us (like Play Dough).  So whether you take on the template of a driven business person, who doesn’t do drugs, or you take on the template of the person without a job doing drugs in mom’s attic, both are templates that this world offers in opposition to what Jesus has called us to.  So you may think you have your life in order, but many times you have conformed to the world in a different way.  Also, many people who take drugs seem to think that they are somehow breaking out of the system and going their own way.  This too is self-delusion.  Yes, we do need a better template, and Jesus can be that.  However, He is more than a template.

Paul places the word “transformation” against this conformity.  In fact, many churches have lost sight of this difference.  Transformation is a change of nature, not just outward shape.  We must be careful that our discipleship does not become focused on merely changing the shape of people’s lives.  Without an inner transformation they will only be taking on a religious template that is conformity to the world in the end.   Paul says that our transformation comes by the renewal of our mind.  This is precisely the problem.  We are told by someone that our lives should look a certain way.  But in the end we are not learning to listen to the Holy Spirit and say no to our flesh.  The Pharisees had just such a religion: all conformity and no transformation.

The renewal of our mind definitely starts with a moment of believing in Jesus and God placing a new spirit within us.  However, it continues day by day as we work each day to have our thinking renewed back to the way God intended it.  How do we do this? 

First, we have to counter the continual barrage of antichrist ideas and lifestyles that wear down our mind by meditating on the Word of God.  In John 8:32, Jesus tells us that “…the truth shall set you free.”  The problem with lies is that no matter how good they make your life in the short term, they cannot lead to long term good.  Why?  They can’t because they refuse to deal with reality, to deal with Truth.  Daily prayer is the place where we converse with God about what His Word reveals and what His Spirit is leading us to do.  It is the daily maintenance of the transformation that God is doing in our life.  We also need the fellowship of other believers around us.  When we are surrounded by those with a worldly mentality, we will be like the frog in the kettle, slowly being boiled to death.  Fellow believers give us a sounding board that can help us when we are knocked down or coming under deception.

When our mind is renewed to think like Jesus rather than the world, our life will be transformed.  Paul says that then we will prove what is the good, perfect, and acceptable will of God.  God’s will always leads to good in the long term.  The word “perfect” has more the idea of complete or lacking nothing.  When we follow God’s will we are lacking nothing that we need.  This is important when you think about how the Devil tempted Eve into eating the fruit.  He got her to believe that God’s will wasn’t perfect (enough).  Of course the word acceptable like we already mentioned means that which is pleasing to God.  Our life and the results of our decisions become living proof to ourselves and to the people around us that God’s will is good and lacks nothing. 

So take time to scrutinize God’s Word and determine what is good and then live it out.  This will confirm that God knows what He is talking about.  Take time to pray about how to do that and for the strength to do it.  You will be a living example to others that the “sacrificial life” is truly life indeed.

So What is Wrong with Drugs?

So we come back to this question whether you ask it in regards to our society or in regards to being a Christian.  Why not just legalize all drugs?  In some ways legalization is a red-herring.  It sounds like an answer, but not really.  When drugs are “legalized” there will most likely be more laws on the books regarding their sale, distribution, and use (think in terms of “legal” alcohol).  It is legal to drive a car across town.  But don’t think for a second that legality solves all the problems of an issue.  Thus there will always be laws and legalizing drugs will not solve the problems that come with drugs.  The real question is, “What is good for a person,” and, especially for Christians, “What reflects the image of God that we see in Christ?”  Contrary to popular conception, Jesus would not be hanging out in some mother’s attic with his disciples smoking weed.  Why?

The first reason is that drugs affect the mind away from Christ.  The Spirit of God has always used His Word and the experiences in our life to transform our minds.  The life-giving method of God is to speak truth to people in the midst of their difficulties.  Drugs, however, debilitate a person’s ability to reason, and not just when you are high.  The mind-altering effects are both physical and logical.  Our life becomes fixated on the desires of our flesh rather than on the Spirit of God.  Now we need to also recognize that drugs can open our mind to spiritual experiences.  Throughout history many cultures have used drugs in order to make it easier to contact the spirit realm.  Here is the problem.  God does not use this method.  No holy prophet in the Bible ever used drugs in order to get a message from God.  This was a method used by the pagan religions with their fallen angel “gods.”  So even if you use drugs for a “spiritual” purpose, you will only connect with deceiving, lying spirits that seek to use you against Christ and His people.

Another aspect of this mind-altering effect is a false sense of euphoria.  Though a person may be able to “feel good” for a short time, it becomes a feeling that is harder and harder to achieve.  So you head down a path that destroys your ability to have a real life and allows you to have a temporary “feel good” moment in the midst of crushing pain and sorrow.  This is even worse than the picture in the movie “The Matrix.”  At least there they weren’t aware of their condition.  But, the person on drugs is continually trying to escape the increasing hell of their life.  On the flip side, God offers a person the ability to have peace and joy even in the face of the worst situations imaginable.  When Jesus went to the cross, he did not “feel good.”  But he did have clarity about what His actions would achieve.  He would be paving the way for relationships that He would have with millions in the future.  He faces the “bad feelings” of living for God in this wicked world, in order to receive the eternity of joy with new brothers and sisters.

Lastly drugs impair our ability to function.  We become less and less able to deal with life around us.  Even when a person joins up with a gang or group of like-minded friends, we may be able to get along for awhile.  But, in the end the drugs are sucking out your life like a vampire, and putting the poison of death into everything that you have.  If drugs only did this it would be reason enough to reject them.

In 1 Corinthians 6:12-13 we have a passage where Paul is responding to some statements that the Corinthians themselves had written in their letter to him.  The first statement from the Corinthians is “All things are lawful for me.”  I can only assume they are referring to the fact that they are no longer under the Law of Moses.  Thus in their mind they could do whatever they wanted as long as they called themselves Christians.  Instead of arguing about the lawfulness of what they were doing, Paul goes along with them.  Basically he says, “Yes, all things are lawful for you, but not all things are helpful (beneficial). “  He then states it again but differently.  “Yes, all things are lawful for you, but I will not be brought under the power of anything.”  So notice the two points Paul makes.  Basically he is pointing out that legality is itself a red herring.  Legality is moot for the Christian.  What is important is whether or not something is good for me (i.e. helps me be more like Jesus) and that it doesn’t enslave me.   You can argue about whether or not you are “addicted,” but being enslaved to something is not about just a physical need for something.  Drugs and the desire for their effects becomes a controlling thing in people’s lives.  You will find yourself rationalizing things that you would have never done before you started taking them.  Even if you start out trying to keep focused on God’s things, this will die off as you keep pushing away the Spirit of God.  When our police officers go into the homes of people who are trapped in a life of drugs, they witness that people are complete slaves to the drugs.  It becomes their god and they sacrifice everything (family, kids, jobs, etc…) in order to please it.

Galatians 6:6-7 says, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that will he also reap.  For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.”  If we do not follow Christ we are actively destroying our life.  I end with these verses because this is really what it is all about: not being deceived.  Can we use drugs medicinally?  Of course, we can.  However, medicine should never become a controlling and addicting thing in our life.  Medicine is not given to people because they enjoy how it makes them feel.  Rather, it is taken to help restore something that is wrong in the body.  Thus we have a system of prescriptions from doctors and controls on drugs that can be beneficial if used correctly.  I do not have time to deal with the fact that not all medicines are as good as they purport due to the desire of drug companies to make money.

Quit asking yourself what is biblically legal and start asking what will make you more like Jesus.  If we are not becoming more like Jesus then we are decaying into the destruction of our life, and perhaps even our soul.  In this way drugs are just another rabbit trail that the Devil uses to side-track us from Jesus and towards destruction.

The world has gotten good at the physical side of helping people through withdrawals and detoxification.  However, it is has little to offer for the spiritual side of a person.  Even 12 step programs can be so watered down that the spiritual truth gets pushed out.  Your child or spouse cannot be your higher power.  You need Jesus in your life.  You need to be touched by God and made alive to His Holy Spirit.  The only way to truly be free in this life is to ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins and then trust the way that He has told us to live.  This includes the apostles that He authorized to go out and teach the nations how to follow him.  Blessings.

Under seige: Drugs


The Identity of Jesus

As we have studied through the Gospel According to Luke, we have seen that Jesus had been with his disciples for a while and they have seen many amazing things: healings, exorcisms, miraculous supply of bread and meat, and a storm commanded to stop.  All of these beg the question, “Who is this guy?”

In Luke 9:18-27 we have a section where Jesus tests his disciples to see what conclusions they have made about him.  They obviously think he is worth following, but Jesus wants them to answer the question of his identity.

Jesus Wants Us To Know Him

It is easy to think of God as a being that keeps hidden and doesn’t want us to know Him.  He is invisible, which questions if He is really there, and He is seemingly silent.  Of course, the Bible contends that God has often “shown” Himself to man and often “spoken” to man.  However, He doesn’t do so all the time and especially not at the command of a person.  Yet, here we see the actions of Jesus letting us know that God really does want us to know Him.  As Francis Schaeffer has stated, He is here and He is not silent.  Like any good teacher, Jesus has let their experiences and his teachings stew within his students.  Now it is time to stir up the pot with the question we find in verse 18, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”

The word on the street was that Jesus might be John the Baptist come back to life.  Of course for those who were familiar with John’s ministry, this is ludicrous.  John actually baptized Jesus and told his followers that Jesus was the One that he was preparing them for.  He clearly proclaimed Jesus as Messiah to his followers.  Another idea was that Jesus was Elijah.  This guess comes from the book of Malachi where there is a prophecy that states Elijah will come before the Day of the Lord.  The last guess is more of a catch-all.  Jesus may be one of the other prophets come back to life.  All of these are merely speculations of those who are clearly not intimately connected to these circumstances as the disciples were.  Thus they take on the look of a conspiracy theory.  The problem with conspiracy theories is that there is no end to the speculations that can occur.  Even when there is no conspiracy, you can still make up several like a person imaginatively writing a novel.  Who can know the difference?  If a person stands up and says, that is not true because I was there.  The person with the conspiracy theory only needs to accuse them of being part of the conspiracy.  Thus we are left either paralyzed, not knowing what to believe, or grasping at ideas that have nothing to do with the truth.

Jesus next presses the point home.  “But who do you say that I am?”  This is the more important question that Jesus is leading up to.  Peter is the bold one of the group and so he speaks what is most likely the belief of all of them, except perhaps Judas. “You are the Christ of God.”  We will touch on this more in a moment.  But for now let us recognize that those who were closest to Jesus believed that he was the Messiah that they had been waiting for.  They knew the speculations of the crowd fell far short of who Jesus was.

It is interesting that Jesus forbids them to proclaim this publically.  Why wouldn’t Jesus want to be publically proclaimed as Messiah?  Doesn’t he want people to know who he is?  Yes he does.  But he is not running for the office of Messiah.  He is not trying to get elected to a position.  The Messiah or Christ was not chosen by people, but chosen by God.  So the people needed to come to this conclusion on their own, rather than pressured by Jesus or by his disciples.  Also, Jesus knew that if he proclaimed himself Messiah, the religious leaders would quickly arrest him and have him killed.  So this delay gives him more time to minister throughout Israel and let people see for themselves who he was.  Jesus relied more upon the Spirit of God speaking to people’s heart about who he was then him telling them.  This would be more authentic and not manipulated.  We must notice that after his death and resurrection, Jesus commands his disciples to now proclaim publically who he was.  Of course He would be absent having ascended into heaven.  Yet, the Holy Spirit would be working in the hearts of people to help them receive it.  Why some receive the witness of the Holy Spirit and others reject it is a mystery that we may never completely understand.

Who Is He?

So who is Jesus?  Peter declared him to be the Christ (Greek) or Messiah (Hebrew) of God.  These terms literally mean “Anointed One.”  They point to the prophecies in the Bible of a man who would be chosen by God and anointed with power by Him in order to restore righteousness within the government, society, and individuals.  This Anointed One would also put down those in rebellion against the God of heaven.  This wasn’t just within Israel.  God’s Anointed One would bring salvation and Judgment to the Gentiles as well and thus would become King over all the earth.  Now the other gospels record this as well.  However, they also reveal that Peter’s answer was longer than Luke records.

In Matthew 16:16 Peter also says that Jesus is the “Son of the Living God.”  Now there is no conspiracy here.  Maybe Luke’s source only remembered the first part.  These testimonies of what Peter said do not conflict.  One is just longer than the other, or more detailed.  So Peter also saw that Jesus was not just a man.  He saw him as divine.  He is called son because his body was the miraculous creation of the Spirit of God within Mary.  She conceived without ever being with a man.  This is just as impossible as it is for dirt to come together and form Adam.  Both are direct creations of God.  So Jesus as a man is the direct creation of God or the Son of God.  Of course, in His divinity he is not created.  John makes this clear in his Gospel- John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  He goes on to declare that the Word became flesh in the person of Jesus.  So he is more than a man chosen by God and anointed by him.  But even more, he is a man inhabited by the Word, and second person of the Triune God.

Jesus clearly commends Peter for this answer.  He was correct.  However, he was missing a critical component to the identity of Jesus.  Yes, he is all those amazing things.  The type of person that we would all want on our team and yet look at the response of Jesus in Luke 9:22.  Jesus was also the one destined to be rejected.  In the way of the “Suffering Servant” of Isaiah, Jesus was also supposed to be rejected (You may want to read Isaiah 52-53 for further background on this.)  He would suffer many things at the hands of the elders and then he would be put to death.  Like a cornerstone that had been perfectly shaped and sent to the builders, Jesus presented himself to Israel and the leaders rejected him.  “We will not build with this stone,” they say back to God.  Yet, God would vindicate Jesus by raising him up on the 3rd day.

Will You Follow This Man?

This third part of his identity is important.  Everyone wants to embrace Jesus on the first two points.  But who wants a hero who not only is killed, but asks you to pick up a cross and follow him?  It seems foolish to many.  Jesus knew that if he didn’t bring this up now they would have trouble receiving it later.  So he spends some time walking them through the issues of what it means to believe in him and to follow him as a disciple in verses 23-27.

In verse 23 he points out that to follow him will require denying your own desires.  The cross is an implement of death.  Thus dying would be a critical part of following Jesus.  I don’t have time to flesh this out completely.  Let’s just say, we may not always be put to death physically for following Jesus.  However, at every point that my flesh and this world tempt me to leave Jesus, I must die to that desire to leave him in order to stay with Jesus.  Whom will you choose?  When you madly lust after someone to whom you are not married and it pulls you to commit sexual sin, whom do you choose, Jesus or sin?  When Jesus says, “Forgive,” but your heart says, “No way,” whom will you follow?  When you are told that you need to follow a 21st century Jesus, i.e. the new and improved Jesus who is not so offensive, whom will you follow, Jesus or Jesus+? 

Jesus then adds in verse 24 the issue of self-preservation.  Sometimes we refuse to die to sin because we lust so strongly for it.  However, other times we refuse to die because we are afraid to die.  Though Jesus doesn’t use the word courage here, I am going to apply it.  It will take courage to follow Jesus.  Self preservation may save your body, but it can get you spiritually killed.  Matthew 10:28 “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  But, rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”  If I save my body, I have only done so for a few years.  Even if my actions of walking away from Jesus gains me 40, 50, or 60 more years, then I will stand before God and give account for having walked away from Jesus.  Such small amount of years in this body will seem so trivial in light of eternity.  It takes courage to face both physical death and emotionally dying to those sins that seek to pull us away from Jesus.  Jesus knew his disciples would need such courage.  We must give up the goal and direction of our life for Christ.  Notice in verse 24 the words, “for me.”  We are not called to just whimsically give up things or even totally deny ourselves any pleasures.  But, precisely where following Jesus clashes with my desires or society’s desires that is where I need to die.  You cannot hold on to two conflicting desires.  You will either follow Jesus or, like Judas, pretend you are following him, or you will merely walk away from him.

In verse 25 Jesus moves it up another notch.  Before, he dealt with self preservation, which only gains one’s physical life.  But here he posits being able to gain the whole world.  Being on top of the heap financially, musically, religiously, politically, in business, or among your friends, can all be temptations that pull us away from Christ.  All of these things can take your soul to hell if you let them pull you away from the directives of Jesus.  Jesus is not against accomplishments.  In fact there are great people who have chosen to follow Jesus.  But how many sell out Christ because they think it will help them get what they want?  Countless millions.  Whatever you do, do it as unto the Lord because without him our accomplishments are hollow and will not be worth it in the end.  We have to hold accomplishments in this world very lightly.   We have to be ready to let them go in order to follow Christ.  We have to guard our hearts so that they are not riddled with lusts that will keep up from Jesus.

Lastly, it requires refusing to be ashamed of Jesus before this world.  If we refuse to stand with Jesus before men, then He will refuse to stand for us before His Father.  When Jesus is crucified the disciples figuratively throw down their crosses and run.  They are scared.  Peter even denies Jesus to a young servant girl, he is so afraid.  Yet, this verse is not about a onetime thing.  After the resurrection the Spirit of God filled these men and enabled them to give the good witness and stand with Jesus even to the point of physical death.  They stood with Christ in the end and that is what matters. 

Today there are many, in the Church, who are ashamed of Christ and the Words in the Bible.  They may not say so, but they demonstrate it when they try to redefine Jesus and reinterpret the Bible.  They thus build a different Jesus, an idol.  What say you?  Are you going to follow the modern golden calves being created across this world?  Or, will you follow this man who is Chosen by God, Anointed with power to save and Judge, and is rejected by the majority of this world?


The Triumphal Entry

Today we are going to pause in our study of the Gospel of Luke and look at what is called the Triumphal Entry of Jesus in Luke 19:28-44.  It is called the Triumphal Entry because Jesus is celebrated and declared to be the Messiah as He comes to Jerusalem in the week before He is killed.  In some ways it is oddly named because in 3-4 days the crowds will be crying out, “Crucify him!”  I guess it all comes down to what you call a “triumph.”  This day is not a triumph from the perspective of Jesus and heaven.  It is actually a tragic failure because the people are only fair weather friends who will largely reject Him when He embraces going to the cross.  This is not the kind of savior they were seeking.  Thus from heaven’s perspective the Triumphal entry would be either His resurrection day or we could fast-forward to the Second Coming in Revelation 19 and point to it as His true triumphal entry.  Let’s look at the story.

Jesus Heads For Jerusalem

Jesus often went to Jerusalem, but this time is unique.  Jesus heads to Jerusalem for the last time in order to offer himself up as the Lamb of God for the sins of Israel and for the whole world.  Up till now it was not His time.  But now it is.  Up till now He could not be touched by the authorities, but now they will succeed in taking Him and killing Him.  This passage says that Jesus “went on ahead” up to Jerusalem.  This is intended to mean that Jesus led His disciples, not that He left them.  Rather, He is not hiding among the herd of disciples to protect himself.  Instead, He is out front leading the way. It was He that would bear the blow in the days ahead not them.  He is the one who is our shield and strength.  If He lets anything touch us, it is because it cannot truly hurt us; that is if we keep our eyes upon Him.

Loosing Of The Colt

When they reach two small villages on the east side of the Mount of Olives, Jesus gives His disciples some instructions.  He wants a young donkey who has never been ridden to be His transportation to rest of the way.  This is not because He is tired.  Jesus is doing these things on purpose in order to teach us.  Let’s look deeper.

Many skeptics have read these verses and accused Jesus of trying to steal the donkey.  Is this theft or something else?  Why doesn’t Jesus just ask for the donkey first?  What you have to understand is that Jesus is acting out a prophecy in order to teach Israel something about His Messiahship.  Thus this is not theft, but symbolism.  In fact Jesus knew they would be asked why they were taking the colt.  He is going to act out a prophecy that would not only speak to all the people of Jerusalem, but would also declare truth to the rebellious, spiritual forces that were holding mankind captive.

In Zechariah 9:9 there is a specific prophecy that tells Israel that her King (the Messiah) would come to her having justice and salvation, humbly riding on a donkey.  In this sense Jesus was purposefully fulfilling this prophecy.  Now some accuse Jesus of doing this with all of the prophecies in the Old Testament.  However, many of the prophecies had to do with His birth and lineage.  Thus most of the prophecies about Jesus were not ones He could plot to fulfill.  So this accusation is unfounded.  By purposefully fulfilling this prophecy, Jesus was, without a doubt, declaring His kingship over Israel.  He was ready to go public.  Yet, this prophecy emphasizes that the mode of operation (MO) of the Messiah would be justice, salvation, and a humble king riding on a humble beast.  This can be contrasted with the 2nd Coming of Christ in Revelation 19, where He comes back gloriously and riding on a white horse, with the armies of heaven at His back.

The symbolism in this section is critical.  The donkey represents not the strong leaders and kings of Israel.  But the simple people of Israel.  Jesus had come to set free the people who had been tied up (brought into bondage) by the leaders of Israel.  Thus Jesus does not need to ask permission to untie the people because they are His by right.  Notice however the objection.  The religious leaders objected to the person, teaching, and ministry of Jesus.  They did not want the people free.  They enjoyed the privileged place they had and the benefits they received from having the people in bondage.  Also, the dark forces of the spirit world also objected to any freeing of people.

The answer that is given is that “the Lord has need of him.”  Why did God come down to save simple people out from under the great elite of this world?  Why did God, over the top of natural and spiritual objections, set free the lowly of this world from the powerful?  It is because He has need of us….of you.  The next time you are tempted to put yourself down as nothing, remember that He has need of you.  God doesn’t need the pomp, pride, and power of man.  What He needs is man to humble himself.  Here is the King of Israel, but He offers himself in humility.  If I am to be your king it is going to be a humble administration.  Rejoice today that the Lord has need of you.  He wants your companionship.  He wants your love.  He wants your willing heart.  He wants you!  What a precious thing that we should remind ourselves during times of doubt.

Lastly notice that Jesus is carried by the colt.  In the New Testament we are told that clothing often symbolizes righteous works.  The disciples cover the colt with their outer garments as a picture of how Jesus would use them to teach the humble believers how to take the righteousness of Christ upon themselves, so that they could then become “bearers” of Jesus wherever they go.  Now Christ is the one directing the colt.  Thus we are to live clothed in the righteousness of Jesus (versus our own ideas of righteousness) directed by our Lord.  So Jesus “rides” upon us to the work that He wants to do through us and with us, as we submit to the teachings of Jesus and His apostles.

The Celebration of Jesus

Now it is the Passover week, which would have lots of travelers on the road to Jerusalem. So as Jesus and His disciples crest the Mount of Olives they begin to head down into the valley between it and the Temple Mount.  It is then that the people begin to notice that Jesus is coming into Jerusalem on a donkey.  They break out into celebration because many had come to believe that He must be the messiah.  They get the message that He is sending.  The King is coming!

They then throw their outer garments onto the road for Christ to ride over.  This honoring of Jesus is simultaneously a humbling of yourself (and your own righteousness).  They are rolling out the red carpet for Christ.  If you are going to receive Jesus as your king, then you are going to have to lay down your righteousness and seek to be clothed with His righteousness alone. 

They people also use the words of Psalm 118 as their celebratory cry, “Save us!  Save us!  Blessed is the One who comes in the Name of the Lord!”  It would be worth your while to meditate on that Psalm this week.  It was understood to be speaking of the Messiah.  By the way, you may notice that in Psalm 118, the next thing after this cry for salvation are these words:  “Bind the sacrifice to the altar with cords.”  What cords bound Jesus to the cross?  Was it not the ties of His love for us, for you?

The Rebuke

Now all of this is being seen by Satan’s spiritual powers and the leaders of Israel who had come under their influence.  They do not like what they are seeing.  Thus the Pharisees and lawyers begin to object to Jesus.  Remember that this is the very thing that the symbolism of the objection to untying the colt was pointing to.  Jesus has come to untie the people from their sins and the wicked do not like it.  Why?  They do so because they want to keep the people in bondage.  They have worked too hard to have it all lost.  Know this, that the elite men and the spiritual forces of this world have a vested interest in keeping mankind bound in sin and under their authority.  But, Christ has set us free from all that.  Thus we live in an age of great deception.  Many Christians are being deceived to the truth of Christ that would really set them free and give them different leaders.  Thus Jesus is told to rebuke His disciples and keep them from proclaiming Him as Messiah.

Jesus points out that if they didn’t cry out then the rocks would.  Know this:  God will be praised.  The question is will you be a part of it?  The rocks will praise me.  This is a common theme throughout the prophets.  In Isaiah 55 we see the trees clapping their hands and the mountains will break forth before Him.  This reveals that the natural world will glorify God by doing what it was made to do.  But man is different.  Man has an ability to choose something other than what he was made for.

Jesus Weeps

Like He wept over the death of Lazarus, so Jesus weeps over Jerusalem as He looks out over it and its people.  Jesus weeps because He knows what is coming, what didn’t have to be.  He was there and could stop it, if they would allow.  But sadly they would not.  Yes today they rejoice, but shortly they will change their mind when He chooses a path that is contrary to what their flesh and heart desire.

Jesus says that only if they knew where their peace comes from.  Even today Israel and most of the world do not know where their peace comes from.  Only God can give us peace.  No amount of ambassadors, great sounding words, powerful militaries, and amazing leaders can give us peace.  No amount of cool movies, seductive actors, amusements, or wealth can give us peace.  Everything we plunge after only takes us further away from what would give us peace—Jesus.  The world as a whole rejects the offer of peace from God because it thinks it can create its own peace.  This is why God weeps.  He knows that this is a pipe dream that leads to the slavery of mankind and ends up in the destruction of mankind.

Jesus says that the significance and understanding of these things would be hidden from the eyes of Israel. The apostle Paul picks this theme up in Romans 11:25.  He states that this blindness of Israel to the messiah would not last forever.  Also in 2 Corinthians 3, he states that the blindness of Israel was like a veil over the eyes.  Yet, the good news is that though God may blind us because of our unbelief and wickedness, He will have mercy.  He will bring us back around again to see once again what we refused to believe before.

Lastly Jesus refers to this as the time of Israel’s visitation.  Israel was in bondage to the “Beast” kingdom of Rome.  They had cried out for deliverance for years.  Now, in Jesus, God was visiting them, in order to deliver them.  Their cry had not failed to reach God.  Though God has a different time schedule than us, He does hear our cries.  He is hurting over our injustices, and wounding of each other.  He weeps over the bondage that we continue under and longs to come and offer Himself to us.  In Jesus that day has come.  For the last 2,000 years God has been carried around by lowly Christians who offer to them the peace of Christ.  But there is a day of visitation coming; a day when it will be critical that we have eyes to see the truth.  The antichrist will come forth offering a false peace that leads to destruction, but the true Christ will come forth offering a true peace that leads to life.  Choose Jesus today!

The Triumphal Entry mp3


Understanding the Gospel II

Last week we talked about the importance of understanding the Gospel leading up to salvation.  Today we will talk about the importance of understanding the Gospel after salvation.  The Law teaches us that we will never approach God through it.  It begs the question “Is there another way?”  The answer is yes there is only one way and His name is Jesus.  What does the life of a Christian look like?  Or, what should it look like?  Two common mistakes happen in the lives of believers.  We either see Jesus as a new and improved “Law” that we need to keep, or, we see Jesus as the reason why we don’t need to do anything.

In Colossians 3:1-11, Paul lays out the proper understanding for believers to have.  When we truly understand the horrible predicament we were in and the awesome love that Christ showed for us at the cross, our lives will be impacted in very practical ways.  Let’s look at the first 4 verses of Colossians 3.

Seek The Higher Things

You might read chapter two to get a better feel for Paul’s point here.  It is clear that some of the Colossians were caught up in a legalistic asceticism, which basically focused on what you couldn’t eat, touch, or handle.  To them Christianity was still the Law, but under new management.  Paul’s argument at first sounds like he is saying there are no more rules.  But the truth is that they are looking at all the wrong things.  They are focused upon things of this world that are consumed and then gone.  He tells them to turn their focus and aim at a higher thing.  This is very different then saying, “Do anything you want because it doesn’t matter anymore.”  Paul is turning their attention up towards Christ.

When he uses the “If” conditional, he is not implying that some of them were not saved.  Rather he is emphasizing the logic of where our focus should be.  This logic was not only taught to them but also illustrated in their water baptism.  Colossians 2:12 says, “You were buried with him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith by the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.”  Water baptism symbolizes my death to sin and this world and my new life with Christ.  If Christ is my new life, why is my focus on everything but Him?

The present location of Christ should help to draw our heart and affections toward God.  We long to be with Him, but he is not here.  However, we can fellowship with Him by the Spirit.  The focus should be up towards Christ is now.  Think about it this way.  Jesus did not come to Earth because he wanted to enjoy the “Local Color.”  He came to Earth because of the heart of His Father.  God desired eternal fellowship with men.  Thus the earthly endeavors of Jesus were from a heavenly reason.

Now some have said, Christians are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.  This may be true of some, however the opposite can be stated.  Many people are so earthly minded that they are no heavenly good.  Think of the Pharisees.  On the surface they were all about God’s business.  But, in truth, they really weren’t.  Their political machinations were very much about themselves and things on this earth, not God and his heavenly purposes.  Believer should impact this world from the directive of heaven.  Anything short of this will fail to bring lasting impact.  Now let’s look at verses 5-8.

Cut Off The Lower Things

After telling them to seek the higher things of Christ and the heart of the Father in heaven, Paul then tells them to put to death or cut off the “lower things.”  When you read his list of these “lower things,” it is clear that he is not just talking about anything that has to do with the natural world here on earth.  Rather, he is talking about motivations of this life that are not of God (the higher), but are of our flesh (the lower).  Let me give an example.  A family is not in and of itself a higher or lower thing.  It just is.  However, the motivations behind my interactions with that family are of a higher or lower quality.  Even the giving of money to a charity can be done for base, lowly (read that fleshly) reasons.

These lowly motivations are not just “on the earth.”  It literally could be read that they are “centered upon” the earth.  They are lowly because these motivations are solely focused upon earthly reasons and ends without regard for The Maker of all things.

Another reason why they should cut off these lower things is because they are the very reason that God’s wrath is going to be poured out upon all the earth.  We must not fool ourselves.  The judgment of God is coming upon the earth, and precisely because of our sin.

Abortions, homosexuality, adultery, war, destruction of the earth, pride, atheism, false pretence, theft, anger...(the list is practically infinite), not only are sins against each other but they fly in the face of God.  Why would I continue to embrace what God has pledged to destroy?  Each true believer must seriously ask themselves this question and remember Lot’s wife.  Lot’s wife did not perish because no one loved her.  She perished because even when she knew it was being destroyed, she loved the things of this world.

Now in some ways, what Paul is saying sounds like regulations again.  Seek this, kill that.  But let’s recognize that the difference is in the word Relationship.  Regulations do not care about God and His heart.  It is not about a relationship other than slave to master.  However, God has called us into the relationship of a child with a father, or a wife with her husband.  In each case we will focus on certain actions and get rid of others, but, for very different reasons: the reasons of love.  Love embraces things and gives up others for the sake of relationship.  Christ is not coming to simply destroy those who eat pork or worship on the wrong day.  He is coming to destroy those who have rejected relationship with Him and have turned towards hurting others.  In the end, sin always hurts our self and others.

Without such a relationship with Jesus, we are powerless to follow Christ.  That is why Paul said in Colossians 2:23 [following man-made regulations] have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.  Many people who are strong at controlling the outward appearance of their flesh will find that God is not pleased.  (Do you remember the instructions Jesus gave about lust in our mind and heart and how it is the same as adultery in the flesh before God?)  When you understand the impact of that statement you will realize quickly how powerless you are without Jesus.

Put Off The Old Man Put On The New Man

In Colossians 3:9-10 Paul changes the metaphor of higher and lower and uses “old man,” “new man,” and getting dressed.  Here the new man seeks the higher things of Christ, whereas, the old man lived for the lower things.  Thus if you are going to follow Christ you need to strip off that old man and its lower motivations and put on the new man which is motivated by Christ himself.  If I truly turn from my old life towards a new life in Christ it will make an impact in my life.  This “clothing” is not merely new and better rules, but rather, a new focus, attitude, and source of power.

Paul says that the new man is renewed by knowledge.  Specifically, this is the knowledge that we have been given by Christ.  It is the Word of God and our knowledge of the true Gospel and God’s real judgments.  This will enable us to be renewed into the image of Jesus who is our pattern.  This is where our focus should be; the desire to be like Jesus, not because we will then be saved, but because he has saved us, out of love.

Final Thoughts

Our flesh does not want truth in this area.  Even when we turn to Christ our “Old Man” remains hostile to the things of God.  Just try to pray every morning before you go about your day and you will see how true this is.  Our flesh will either be unbalanced towards legalistic regulations of pride or it will be unbalanced towards “sloppy agape.” 

The truth has more tension in it then either of these two extremes.  Following Christ is filled with tensions that we are tempted to relieve in all the wrong ways.  Don’t run from the tension.  Rather relieve the tension by turning to God in prayer for strength and surrendering to His grace for peace.


Understnding Gospel II Audio