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

Weekly Word

Entries in Commands (3)

Tuesday
Jan082019

Walking with the Lord in 2019

Psalm 1:1-6.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on January 6, 2019.

As we begin this New Year, we begin by praying for our walk with God.  We need His wisdom and guidance for the path ahead of us, and we need to grow in our ability to follow Him.  However, more than these things from the Lord, we need His presence in our life.  So we come to the question.  Am I walking with God as I should?  Am I following the One that He sent, the Lord Jesus Christ?  This is a question that we can ask ourselves every day.  It is that important.

The Bible presents Jesus as the perfect Son of God.  He is our example of how to walk with God the Father.  Yes, He is definitely more than an example, but He is one nonetheless, which we would do well to follow.

Our passage today compares and contrasts the one who refuses to walk with the world, and walks with God, to the one who does not.  This is not about disconnecting from society and the people around us in order to go on a spiritual journey.  Rather, it is living our life in the midst of society and the people around us by following God’s direction and not our own.  It is recognizing that my way provides no salvation for myself or this world, but His way brings life.

We need to learn to walk with the Lord.

Verse one of this psalm opens with a series of statements that use the verbs “walk, stand, and sit.”  It is clear that the psalmist is not just thinking of the simple actions in and of themselves.  He is not worried that a sinner might walk beside him on the road to Jerusalem, or that a scoffer might happen to sit by him at a wedding.  Rather, he uses these verbs as extensions of the choices that we make in our heart and in our mind, which cause us to do these things in league with certain people.

Thus, it is not about who happens to be walking next to me, but who I choose to walk with.  Similarly it is not about who happens to be standing or sitting beside me, but about those whom I choose to stand with and sit beside because I share their purpose and outlook on life.  We need to learn to choose to walk in harmony with the Lord, to walk in fellowship with Him, and to walk by His leading.

Thus we end up with a list of things that we should avoid because they take us away from the Lord.  As we look at this list, we should also note how Jesus perfectly demonstrates how to avoid them.  First, the blessed man chooses not to listen to the counsel of the wicked.  Now, the wicked are those who reject God’s Word and do what they want.  They have chosen a path that is adverse to God’s path for mankind.  Those who reject God’s path, and consequently His fellowship, have their own way of looking at things and their own “wisdom.”  Their counsel or advice is always a twisted reasoning why they should not follow the counsel of the Lord.  Their counsel is like that of the devil’s when he tempted Eve.  “Has God really said…”  The wicked can be openly hostile to God, or they may operate under the umbrella of God’s people.  Yet, their counsel always provides an exit off of the path of God’s way.  If we are to do well this year, we must learn to avoid listening to the counsel of the wicked.

Second, the blessed man chooses not to stand on the path of sinners.  “Sinners” here is a conceptual rhyme with the earlier “wicked.”  They are essentially the same with a slight difference in nuance.  Yet, the emphasis moves from their counsel to their path.  We start walking away from the Lord by first listening to their counsel, but then we find ourselves walking their same path.  The sinner’s path is not the path of the Lord.  The very definition of the word sinner is one who misses or falls short of God will.  They go a different way than the Lord.  Again, if we are to do well this year, we must not go down the path of those who reject God’s counsel and are refusing to walk with Him.

Third, the blessed man chooses not to sit in the seat of scoffers.  The image of a seat seems to be the end of a series of choices that lead to a worse and worse situation spiritually.  Having listened to false counsel, and walking down a false path, we can end up in a destination full of those who scoff, mock, and scorn those who follow God.  How sad to go from walking with God to mocking those who still do so.  If you find yourself sitting with those who mock and deride God and His Word, if you find yourself in league with such people and such attitudes, then you are in a bad place.  If we are to do well this year, we will need to avoid that mocking spirit which wants to pull us off of the path of Christ and on to a path of our own making.

Now verse 2 gives us the positive things that a blessed person embraces.  Here we see that the first is the Law of the Lord.  Now the psalmist is an Israelite living prior to the times of Christ and the Law of the Lord represented the apex of God’s Word.  God had made a covenant with Israel and given them His Law.  As Christians we are not under the Law of Moses, but rather the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:2).  The point here is not about legalism.  The Law represented God’s counsel and wisdom to Israel as to how they should run their society and show their faithfulness to Him.  For Christians today, we also need to heed God’s counsel and his wisdom in order to stay in fellowship with God and show our faithfulness to Him.  However, we have the Gospel from Jesus and His apostles.  We need to listen to the counsel that they give us.  Jesus will not lead us towards wickedness, sin, or mocking.

We should also note that it says that we should delight in God’s Word.  This represents an emotional response to the grace that God gives when He gives us His Word, His wisdom.  If we are to do well this year, we will need to delight in receiving God’s Word and then follow it.

Secondly, we should embrace meditating upon God’s commands.  It is not enough to merely hear God’s Word.  We are told to meditate upon what He says.  This is an inner dialogue that we can have with God in which we contemplate His Word, how it applies to us, and what obstacles we need to overcome.  The focus is to fill our minds with the understanding of God’s counsel and commands.  This involves recognizing and casting aside those understandings and counsels that are adverse to Christ.  If we do not take time to meditate about our choices in this life, we will fall far short of walking with the Lord.  If we are to do well this year, we will need to set aside time each day to meditate about the path in front of us, and prayerfully ask God to help us see His path.

In verse 3 we see the effect of the path that we walk upon our life.  Those who walk with the Lord become fruitful and beneficial to others.  This image of a fruit tree may somewhat conflict with the imagery of walking with the Lord.  However the difference in imagery helps to further explain what is intended for us to see.  The one who is walking with the Lord is simultaneously a tree in this world.  The rivers of water point to the need for trees to have water.  Without it there can be no growth.  God and His Word is our source of water.  When we are connected to God as our water source then we will become fruitful. 

Now the whole point of a fruit tree is to provide something for others.  Apple trees do not eat their own apples.  Our growth is not about getting all sorts of stuff to feed ourselves.  The one who follows God’s path becomes like a tree laden with fruit and all who come upon them can find good sustenance from them.  What kind of fruit am I in the life of those around me?  If we are to do well this year then we must turn our roots towards the waters of life, and not the stagnant waters of this world.  Then we will be fruitful and beneficial to those whom God has put in our life.

 Walking with the Lord also makes one to prosper.  “Whatever he does shall prosper.”  With so many teachers talking about prosperity, it would be good to pause and remind ourselves of what prosperity is and what it is not.  For many it only means to be financially wealthy and physically healthy.  However, in pursuing these things we can often be feeding the lusts of our own flesh.  We can promote greed, selfishness, lack of discipline, and idolatry as we try to prosper.  We cannot serve God and wealth!

Instead, the New Testament emphasizes spiritual prosperity above material prosperity (I did not say instead of).    It is not that God will not take care of our material needs, but that our flesh gets too attached to material prosperity at the expense of spiritual prosperity.  Thus we are called to be thankful and content with whatever material things God supplies, be it little or much.  We are to be other-focused and become spiritually beneficial to people around us, and, as the Lord directs and supplies, materially beneficial to them as well.  Ultimately we worship God and serve Him, rather than dollar signs and looking good in front of other people.  If we are to truly be prosperous this year, then we will need to break down the idol in our hearts that wants to be rich and satisfy all the desires of our heart.  Then we will truly prosper.

Verse 4 reminds us that if we don’t walk with the Lord the effects will be negative.  The ungodly will not be like a tree that has plenty of water and bears good fruit.  Though the psalmist could have stuck with the tree imagery and said that they produce poisonous fruit, he doesn’t.  We switch to another metaphor, that of wheat.  The wheat metaphor makes it clear.  The ungodly will perish.

Wheat has a hard shell that must be broken off of it in order to get to the useful food beneath.  The broken remnants of these shells are called chaff.  It was common to crush the wheat and then throw it into the air.  The wind would blow the light and insubstantial chaff away, but leave the heavier, good wheat behind.

This metaphor can be taken two ways.  First, all the trials and difficulties of this world have the effect of separating us into two categories.  We are either wheat that will be gathered into God’s barn, or we are chaff that the wind of God will blow away.

Second, we can also recognize a further truth that all the trials and difficulties of our life are testing and breaking the chaff off of us.  If we will allow Him, God will use those pains and hurts to break off the hard shell around our heart and remove it far from us.  We can become that which is good and the bad part will be blown away by the wind of God.  Though this image doesn’t bring up the sense of God’s love for His people and His desire to be loved by them, its lesson is still important.  God is always working to remove the bad and protect the good.  If we are to do well this year then we must learn to cooperate with this work in our life.  Quit worrying about those who reject God.  Even if they seem to prosper and seem to be so substantial in this world, the day will come when the wind of God will blow them away and they will perish.  Don’t seek to be like them, rather seek to tell them about God’s love for them.

The psalm ends with the warning that the ungodly will not stand in the Day of Judgment.  We will all one day stand and give account to the God of heaven, specifically Jesus Christ.  In that day those who have walked with Him will be blessed and enabled to stand, but those who have rejected His ways, mocked and derided them, will recognize their folly too late.  Don’t be such a person and don’t make such mistakes.  In fact, be a tree of life that when such a person crosses your path, you have enough power of Christ within you to get their attention.  If we are to do well this year, then we need Christ to help us offer something helpful to the lost world around us.

May this year be a year in which you walk with the Lord and are truly blessed.

Walking with the Lord audio

Monday
Jul172017

Water Baptism

Matthew 28:18-20; Romans 6:1-12.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on July 16, 2017.

Today we are preparing to have a water baptismal service as we celebrate the new life that God has given to believers.  There is a part of us that may wonder about the value of such an enactment, and whether or not we should continue doing it.  So today, I want to take some time to establish both its importance and significance in the life of a new believer.

It is the command of Jesus

In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus not only gives his disciples a command, but he also emphasizes it by declaring his authority up front.  All authority, in heaven and on earth, had been given to him.  This is important because it establishes his authority to tell his disciples what to do, and it establishes his authority to send them to all the other nations in order to make new disciples.  He even states that this dynamic in which He spiritually is with them in this task, will continue until the end of the age.  So let’s break down the command or commission that Jesus gives to his followers.

The main thing in this command is to make new disciples.  They would do this by telling other people about the person, teachings, miracles, and work of Jesus and then extending to them the offer of Christ to become his disciple.  Thus it is the command of Christ that those who are already disciples are tasked with the mission of working to bring in new disciples.  Those who believe in Jesus and respond positively are to be those who are “discipled.”  Jesus mentions three other aspects of this task that are given to qualify or describe what that will look like and entail.

The first he mentions in verse 19 is going.  This mission requires us to go, whether it is across the street, the city, the state, the nation, or the world.  Not every disciple will do all of these things.  As God leads us, some may go to other nations, and many will be focusing on their homes and neighborhoods.  Regardless it is our task as a group to reach the ends of the earth with the offer of salvation and becoming Christ’s disciple.

The second aspect is that of baptism.  But I am going to come back to that since it is the main focus of today’s sermon.  The third aspect is teaching.  We make disciples by teaching people the commands of Jesus and His apostles.  Thus we have the Bible, which is the record of this teaching, and we have the influence of those who became disciples before us and are tasked with teaching us today.  Being a disciple of Christ is not about having a title, but about learning the ways of Jesus.

Now let’s go back to water baptism.  Jesus tells his disciples to baptize those who become new disciples.  Notice that as a command this is a matter of obedience upon those who are making disciples, but it also implies the obedience of those who are becoming new disciples.  There is really no way around the fact that Jesus commands us to baptize new believers and thus commands new believers to allow themselves to be baptized.  To ignore this would be to reject being a disciple of Jesus.  So with its necessity clearly established, let’s go to Romans chapter 6 in order to further flesh out what water baptism is and why Jesus commands us to do it.

The meaning of water baptism

Romans chapter 6 is not about water baptism per se.  It is actually about the conflict that can occur in people’s understanding of the grace of God.  So Paul deals with the person who would take the truth that God’s grace becomes greater in order to overcome our sin, and posits that a Christian should sin all the more in order to make God’s grace even greater.  This is a perverted sense of “glorifying God.”  If a person comes to believe that grace means that they should or could continue to sin then they are deceiving themselves and not paying attention to the Gospel that they received.  In verse2 Paul categorically rejects such an idea and goes on to use their experience of being baptized in water, when they first became a Christian, as his case for why they too should reject it.

In verse 3 Paul first points out that water baptism symbolizes being placed in Christ.  Thus the whole event of water baptism speaks of a person coming to Jesus and being place in Him.  They now have a place within the community of disciples, and an inheritance in Jesus.  The Holy Spirit has taken the person, made them spiritually alive, and connected them to Jesus.  We now belong to Him.  Another word we could use here is identification.  This identification with Jesus is important because it speaks to the Christian community that this person belongs to Christ and is a fellow brother or sister.  It also speaks to the world that this person is a believer in Jesus.  But even beyond this, it speaks to the spiritual powers and principalities that have held mankind and the nations in bondage under their deceptive lies.  It says to them that this person is under the authority and protection of Jesus.  “Hands off!”

Paul also points out that water baptism symbolizes joining Jesus in His death to this world and being raised to live a new life to God.  Before I came to Jesus I lived my life all for myself and this world.  But now I am following Jesus, both in His death and in His life.  I now live my life for Him and the glory of God the Father. 

Verses 5-12 give us a clearer picture of what Paul is saying in verses 3 and 4. Notice that in verse 12 Paul ends with a conclusion that we should all come to believe:  I must not let sin reign in my mortal body in order to obey its lusts.  The believer may fall into sin, but they should never think that this is what Jesus wants them to do.  We are called to the daily battle against sin and our fleshly desires, not so that we can be saved (under law), but because we have been saved (under grace).

In verses 5-12 Paul hits upon two different aspects of the symbolism within water baptism, one is present and the other is future.

The present aspect of water baptism is mainly spiritual and points to a spiritual transformation that is happening in my life.  It does not point to a physical death, but rather a spiritual one.  I had been a part of the rebellion against the Heavenly Father, but now I am at peace with Him.  So the old me is dying, but the new me (made alive by the Spirit) is living for God.  The old life dies the new lives.  In fact notice that verse 11 says that we are to “reckon” or “consider” ourselves to be dead to sin.  Thus, the Christian will still sense the old nature’s sensitivity to sin.  But by the Holy Spirit, we put that old nature to death and live out the righteousness of God.  The Christian can say “No,” to sin because of the power of the Holy Spirit in their life.  This new spiritual leadership is fueled by the Holy Spirit, but also carried out by the believer.

The future aspect of water baptism is mainly physical and points to a physical transformation that will happen in my life.  It is prophetic in that it declares what God will do in our life.  You see, Jesus had always lived “dead to sin” and alive to God, while he was on earth.  However, at a point in time, He died physically and then was physically resurrected.  Yes, the resurrection body is called a spiritual body elsewhere, but that is because it is different from the earthly bodies we are used to here.  Thus my baptism not only says to the heavens that I am going to live for Christ today, but that I no longer fear my physical death.  I know that just as Jesus physically died and was resurrected, so too will I be resurrected from the dead in order to live a new life with Jesus in the New Heavens and the New Earth.  Thus Jesus devises a ritual that reminds the believer of their future destiny, but also reminds Satan and his angels of theirs.  We are the overcomers of the world and water baptism shouts that to the cosmos.

If you are a believer today, take time to remember that day in which you were water baptized.  Remind yourself of the new life that you can live today because of the enabling presence of the Spirit of God.  But also remind yourself of the future life that God has for us in the age to come.  May God fill us with boldness to walk in the authority of Jesus and share the good news with others, so that they too may participate in this amazing statement to all that this one belongs to Jesus!

Water Baptism audio

Tuesday
Jun022015

Gratitude

May 31, 2015- Luke 17:11-19

At this point Jesus turns south to head towards Jerusalem by going between Galilee and Samaria.  It is here that he enters an unnamed village and encounters 10 lepers.  Today’s passage gives us a lesson in gratitude or thankfulness.  Neglecting to give thanks where thanks is due is a poor habit that causes our character to deteriorate.  In fact, ingratitude tends to spoil the good things that we have.  It is very common for a person to care for a new vehicle with great detail.  However, as the car gets older our care for it can deteriorate.  It is easier to drive it around without washing it etc…  This ability to diminish in vigor towards the things we ought to do can affect even those who start out very thankful.  Now there are ten people in our story who receive an amazing gift of healing from a horrible disease, and yet only one of them glorifies God and gives thanks to Jesus.  Let’s look at that.

The Hopeless Condition

In verses 11-14 we see the encounter Jesus has with ten lepers.  To be a leper was to be in a very hopeless situation.  Though the Law of Moses has very clear instructions on how a leper could be declared clean by the priest, nothing is said on what to do to get clean.  The truth is that it was extremely rare for a person who had leprosy to get better.  It was practically a death sentence to see its beginning stages on one’s skin.  Nothing could be done medically for these people and their body would slowly deteriorate and waste away.

However, that is only the physical side.  There was also a social stigma.  It was required for lepers to be separated from the rest of the village or city.  Thus a leper is one who has had to break off close contact with family and friends and becomes an outcast.  This type of social quarantine is a very heavy burden for a person to carry because God has made us with an innate drive to socialize on some level.

Thus lepers would often end up in small groups far enough from cities to be separate, but close enough to be able to receive any gracious help from the righteous.  These small “outcast communities” were better than nothing.  Yet, the hopeless condition of each person and the approaching doom of death was a constant shadow over it.

In some ways leprosy is a picture of the sin nature that riddles our human nature.  In this sense we are all spiritually lepers.  It cannot be fixed or healed by anything this world holds.  Only God can help us.  Yet, it is also a picture of the Church of Christ in its sense of being an outcast society.  Yes, from God’s perspective we are the called out ones and that is special.  But from the world’s perspective we are the outcast ones to which it says, “Good riddance!”  We can look at leprosy as a metaphor for being ostracized for one reason or another and learn a lot here.  In Hebrews 13:12-13 it says, “Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate.  Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach.”  Jesus presents himself as the rejected one and offers us a place within his community of outcast ones.

So we have a physical problem, a social problem and lastly we have a theological problem.  Notice that the lepers stand afar off and lift up their voices to Jesus.  That is because they were under requirement by the Law of Moses and the traditions to not come close to a clean person.  Now this pictures the condition of all mankind.  We are spiritual lepers who dare not come close to a pure God.  Legally we are doomed (“the soul who sins will die”).  Yet, in Jesus, God not only comes close to the lepers (see Luke 5 where Jesus touches one), but He actually makes himself worse than the lepers and requires them to join Him by faith in an even deeper level of being outcast.  Though the Law walls us off from God and we are relegated to crying for mercy from afar off, the grace of God has brought Jesus to our side of the Law as he joins us in our hopeless condition.  The marvelous truth is that Jesus is the Lord of life and no condition can remain hopeless when he is there.  Yet, the spiritual healing of a believer in Jesus is seen by the world as a social disease more and more in this world.  At its core, the gospel calls the world to embrace a difficult situation in order to be healed.

The Strange Command

Jesus gives the lepers a strange command and, before we get in to its specifics, I want to show how what he does is so much like how God operates.  In the desert there was a time where the children of Israel were harassed by snakes that were biting a lot of the people.  God told Moses to make a bronze snake and lift it up on a pole.  He was then to instruct those who were bitten to make their way to this thing and simply look upon it in order to be healed.  We are not told that anyone refused to do so.  However, we must admit it was a strange command.  Similarly the Bible tells of a Syrian general named Naaman who happened to be a leper.  His skill as a general had spared him a life of poverty, but it could not completely remove the stigma of the disease he had and its destruction on his flesh.  A young Israelite tells Naaman that there is a prophet in Israel who could heal him.  Thus Naaman travels to Israel and is told to dip 7 times in the Jordan River.  Naaman is offended at being told to dip in the muddy Jordan 7 times and heads home.  It is then that a servant challenges him to at least do it.  Though it didn’t make sense it was actually quite easy to do.  Why not?  God often gives strange commands to test whether or not we trust Him.  What is interesting is that they are often easy to do, but on the other hand they are intellectually and emotionally hard.  Now when I call these strange commands, I will point out that God does not give commands that are contrary to His nature.  Yet, they are often contrary to our logic and require us to trust Him, i.e. exercise faith.

So here, Jesus tells them to show themselves to the priests even though they are still lepers.  Now the only reason for a leper to do this would be because they saw some signs that they were getting better.  Yet, these men are being told to do so without any signs they are better.  They simply must take the word of Jesus for it.  Now His word is pretty heavy because he has proven he can heal.  This call for faith or trust balances two outcomes.  If I trust Him and He fails then I will be humiliated and crushed.  But, if I trust Him and He heals me then I will be free of this cursed condition.  Even today the call of Christ is one that calls us to follow Him by faith, believing that he will do the spiritual work of cleansing us from our sins and healing our hearts (that he will make us to be like him).  You may feel that it isn’t working and are tempted to quit following him.  I would challenge you to listen to this story today and here what the Spirit is saying to you, “Trust me.”  If you will continue to walk in the path that Jesus is on and do the things that he has told you to do, you will find that he will give powerful healing to you in every way.

Thus all ten of the lepers decide to go and show themselves to the priest.  They have nothing to lose and everything to gain.  We are told that they are healed as they go.  Although we are not told how far they went, it was close enough for one to come back and still find Jesus at the village.  I like to think that it was close enough to return and far enough away to be an inconvenience.  Can you imagine their journey?  First is the question, “Are we going to be healed?”  Then the doubts would come, “What if we get there and are still lepers?  Why did he tell us to do this?”  However, when they realize they are healed, I bet it was a Hallelujah moment.   Suddenly they know they can go back to their families and perhaps embrace a child they haven’t been able to touch or see for years.  Every fiber of their being wants to get back to a normal life and yet, what about Jesus.  Can I put my anticipated joys on hold long enough to go back and thank the one who made this possible?  Ours is not a geographical journey.  However, we are on our way to the celestial city to present ourselves to God.  We do this because we have believed what Jesus has told us to do.  Along the road of this life the mysterious power of Christ is working to bring healing to us in every way.  In fact Christ promises to make us every bit whole and complete.  Yet, it doesn’t happen the second we believe.  It happens as we go in faith following the command of Christ.  The joyful truth is that when we stand before the Father in heaven we will be completely clean!  Praise God.

Only One Was Grateful

Gratitude, thankfulness, probably all were thankful at some level.  Yet, only one took the trouble to come to Jesus and show it.  It is not enough to say that we have gratitude in our hearts.  True gratitude seeks opportunity to show itself to the One to whom we are grateful.

Now there is a difference between being happy for grace and being thankful to Jesus for giving it.  The difference is where our primary focus is.  Sometimes we find ourselves being happier for what we have received than we are thankful to God for giving it.  In that way we can be guilty of taking God’s gifts without regard for Him as the giver.  Which is greater, the giver or the gift?  We know the answer, but our life often shows a different answer.

Only one leper took the extra time to glorify God.  Maybe some others thought about going back to give thanks, but this man was the only one who actually did it.  It is sad how despicable our lust for good things can become when we see just how much we can become like an animal feasting on the carcass of Gods gifts.  Instead of taking the time to restrain our flesh and give thanks to God and glorify him for his gifts and then cooking a meal to enjoy, we can leap upon those gifts and suck them dry of any life they have in them.  In the passage the man first glorifies God and then thanks Jesus.  These two things are coupled together.  Thankfulness is between me and God and should be expressed often.  But glorification is between me and you.  It is our testimony of what God has done for us and how great He is.  Take time to Glorify God by declaring what He has done in your life and take time to express thanks to those through whom God has done them.  Though it may seem like wasted time, it is not.  It is time spent keeping our eyes upon the higher and more important things (relationship with God and his people).  It is time delivering our soul from the tyranny of the lust of our flesh for the lower gifts that God can and does give.  In fact it is a means of delivering ourselves from the sin of idolatry.  The good thing that God gives today can become an idol in my life that comes between me and Him.  In the day that we let God’s gifts become idols to us, they also become worthless to us.

A side note to this story is that the thankful leper was a Samaritan, which implies most of the others, if not all, were Judeans.  This Samaritan was even further away from God than the Judeans.  Of all the lepers this Samaritan would deserve it least and yet he is the one who returns.  In Luke 7 Jesus explained this dynamic before Simon the Pharisee, when a woman who was a sinner washed and anointed his feet.  He told Simon a story to illustrate this principle: The one who is forgiven much loves much, but the one who is forgiven little loves little.  Perhaps the Judeans felt they deserved a healing.  Perhaps a part of them was saying, “It’s about time!”  Yet the truth is that all of us are equally undeserving of the grace of God.  If we truly understood our sin we would know that God has given us far more than we ever deserved and could have hoped for.  We would run to him, tossing aside the gifts, in order to wash his feet with our tears and wipe it dry with our head.  The things of this world like different races, stations in life, etc. that make us think we are more deserving are a lie.  We are all the least deserving.  Until we see that we will be ungrateful or at best give it sparingly.  It will ruin our gifts like a cancer that goes untreated if we do not turn around and give God the glory with all our heart.

Jesus then tells the thankful ex-leper this, “Your faith has made you well.”  Now in the context all of the lepers had faith enough to obey Jesus.  Now it is important to remember that the word that is often translated as “heal” can also mean “save,” depending on the context.  It literally means to be safe or saved, whether from injury, disease, or sin, character deficiency, and emotional sickness.  Clearly Jesus means more than that the man’s faith had physically healed him.  Something more would happen in this man’s life than those who were ungrateful.  He would find a spiritual healing as well.  It is a tragedy to be physically healed and yet not be spiritually healed.  Have you settled for lesser things?  Let us all be quick to be more thankful that Jesus is in our lives than all the gifts he could ever give.

Gratitude audio