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Weekly Word

Entries in Compassion (6)

Tuesday
Sep062016

Society under Siege: Of Nations & Borders

Acts 17:26-28.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on September 4, 2016.  Please note that this is the second part to a previous entry on Racism (August 28, 2016).

Last week we talked about racism, so today we are going to segue into the issue of nations and their borders.  Many have asked this question in one form or another, “Doesn’t Christian unity and the sovereignty of Christ demand that Christians work towards a global government that fixes all the evils of this world?”  Some picture this as a test, in which our passing will bring Christ back to pat us on the back saying, “Good job!”  So is it the job of Christians to build Utopia for Christ?  Within this idea are some who state that nations, borders, and patriotism are somehow racist things and should be abolished.

So what makes something racist anyways?  Typically for something to be racist, it has to be motivated by a sense of superiority.  So let us look at national patriotism.  It can be racist, but it can also not be racist.  It depends on the heart of the person.  If a person’s national patriotism is based on racism, it will become obvious in their treatment of other races.  If our patriotism leads us to attack others unprovoked, or to rejoice in their misfortunes and take advantage of them, then it is very likely racist and at least self-centered.  But, people can simultaneously be patriotic towards their own nation and respect the identity and patriotism of other nations.  So, tongue in cheek, let’s deal with that age old question, “Which person would Jesus deport?”

God created nations and boundaries

In Acts 17 verse 26 Paul was in Athens, Greece.  He reminds the wise men of Athens that there was One God who had made all the separate nations of the earth, from “One Blood.”  His purpose in doing so is to tie the fate of a Jew (him) and them.  His main point is that this One God is working out His will among all the nations, not just one.  Thus we are all in the same boat.  So why are there so many nations?  Where is Paul getting this idea from?  Well, he gets it from Deuteronomy 32:8-9.  Before we go there, let’s remind ourselves of Genesis 10.  Often called the Table of Nations, this is the first place we see nations in the Bible.  It is also important to note that Israel is not in this list simply because they didn’t exist yet.  Genesis moves from the account of the flood, to a list of the nations that developed after it.  It then gives the account of how these nations came about in chapter 11, The Tower of Babel.  It is here that mankind began to rebel against God’s command to multiply and fill the earth.  Instead, Nimrod led the people to build a great city and a great tower that would serve as a gate to the heavens (Babel meant “Gate of God”).  Thus Genesis 11:7 records God saying, “Come, let us go down and there confuse their languages, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”  There was a clear judgment event of which we are not given full details.  “Let us go down there” implies a visitation of sorts.  This is the backdrop to Deuteronomy 32:8-9.  Moses is pointing back to that time when God’s judgment of mankind separated it into different people who could not understand one another.  Basically Moses is explaining to Israel their place among the nations.  At Babel, God had disinherited the nations.  If they wanted to connect with the “gods” of the heavens, then God would separate them through language and boundaries.  Notice in Deuteronomy it is God who sets their boundaries.  Although some versions say that God separated them “according to the number of the children of Israel,” this is not the best reading.  The original was “sons of God.”  Space doesn’t permit going into this deeper.  But the sons of God, were a high class of spiritual beings that were present at the creation of the earth (Job 38:7).  God delegates the nations to these beings and from the list in Genesis 10 we can recognize 70 original nations.  However, Moses tells Israel that they are God’s portion or inheritance.

Let’s put this thread on hold for now.  So it was God who broke mankind up into nations and gave them set boundaries, and their preappointed times (i.e. how long they would last).  According to Romans 13:1-4, God has given each of these nations authority over what goes on within their own borders.  Of course history is littered with examples of how this authority has been abused and exercised for ignoble purposes.  Thus these nations are accountable to God for how they rule themselves and how they interact with other nations.  In that sense each nation is sovereign.  The individuals within each nation are to respect a nation’s authority, whether their own or another.  Thus we see the example of early Christians doing their best to respect the governments of the world.  The only law we see them disobeying is one that tells them to stop telling people about Jesus.  Why?  They do so because this is precisely what Jesus had commanded them to do.  So they respect the nations in so far as those nations operate within their God given authority.

Even Israel, when they were taking over Canaan, was told to respect the boundaries of other nations.  They were not just willy nilly conquering whatever they could like mindless, blood-thirsty savages.  Deuteronomy chapter 2 records several times when God warned Moses that Israel must not mess with other nations on their way to Canaan.  God had not given them those nations.  They were to respect the authority of those nations and purchase anything they wanted to use.  In fact, Israel ended up having to go many miles out of their way out of respect for nations that basically told them not to even set a foot in their territory.

Lastly, we must recognize that God is still sovereign over the affairs of all the nations.  As Paul states in Acts 17:26, the nations have been “preappointed  times” by God.  In His wisdom He has allowed the friction and fighting between nations to change from time to time.  In fact, those original nations that are listed in Genesis 10, no longer exist by God’s decree.  Romans 13 uses the phrase that the power that are (which currently exist) have been appointed by God.  The whole theme of the book of Daniel is that the living need to know that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people (Daniel 4:17, 25, 32; 5:21).  This is important because in Daniel 7 there is a vision of the “Son of Man” approaching the Ancient of Days and receiving authority and sovereignty over all the nations.  So where are we with all this nations and borders?

The Nations have rebelled against God

As we saw back in Isaiah 24:2, in previous sermons, the nations of the world have rebelled against God.  In fact they have joined a rebellion of those spiritual beings God had put in charge over them, the sons of God.  So separation into nations was followed by further rebellion and loss of any hope of belonging to God.  Yet, God had not created Israel to be a kind of special “teacher’s pet.”  Rather, through Israel He was launching a plan to take back the nations from the devil and his angels.  The death and resurrection of Jesus is the good news that Christians have for all the nations of the world, even though they have been part of a rebellion against Him.  In fact, even Israel itself was in rebellion to God.  If it were not for Jesus, the plan would not have worked. 

So, does Christian compassion for the lost cancel out nations and borders?  Well in some ways it does, but in other ways it does not.  If we are talking about who can belong to God then nations and borders lose their significance.  People from every tribe, language, and nation on earth will belong to God.  But, that does not mean that Christians are to ignore governments and their laws.

Christian compassion does not cancel out God’s prior judgments

This seems to be the anthem of many.  A true Christian will not respect governments and their borders.  Our Christian compassion must cancel out the nation’s duty to protect its people.  Yet this mentality is not based in Scripture.  The Bible teaches us that God is not taking over the governments of the world through His Church.  Rather, He is calling people from all of these nations to identify with His rule and the Kingdom that He will bring at His second coming.

It is one thing for a Christian individual to participate in government and attempt to bring it into conformity with the righteousness of Jesus.  But the mission of the Church is not to take over governments and rule.  The problem of sin and the flesh stands in the way of any governmental system being perfected.  Even churches run into the problem that no matter how hard we try to run things by God’s Word and by His Spirit, we continually have to deal with sin and flesh cropping up.  Thus a true Christian knows that this is not the time for ruling over the world.  This is the time for ruling over our own sinful nature and bringing it in subjection to the rule of Jesus.  The judgment of all the nations has already been pronounced.  It is our job to save the Rahabs, the Ruths, and the Naaman’s of the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Another confusion that exists is the blindness to the fact that if we exercise compassion to an extreme for one, then it leads to lack of compassion for another.  Thus in an extreme attempt to be compassionate towards all “refugees,” we can lose compassion for our own citizens, or even those refugees who need the most help.  Compassion can become a trite phrase that hold as a banner over all manner of evils.  No matter what system of compassion you set up, others will abuse that system because of sin and their evil desires.  This leads us to the real problem.

We cannot live together without laws, and yet we cannot perfect this world with better or more laws.  Our founding fathers understood this.  That is why they created a small framework of laws (i.e. showing restrain, not enamored with the power of legislation, under which men must be free to live out their lives.  But we live in a day that has been seduced by the power of the State.  We see society as a wonderful Petri dish in which we can perfect our social experiments to create Utopia.  Thus we are headed to great tyranny. 

Is it wrong for nations to have immigration laws?  The Bible says nothing against a nation protecting its borders and in fact does state that a government’s proper duty is to protect its citizens from evil.  Thus having good control of one’s border can be a righteous thing.  Does any nation do this perfectly?  No.  So are Christians justified to rebel against the nation’s immigration laws simply because they think the laws are unjust or unfair?  No.  Fair and just laws are not the litmus test given to us in Scripture for righteous, civil disobedience.  Christians are told to obey the government unless it contradicts a direct command of Christ.  Thus in the name of righteousness and compassion, we can be guilty of rebelling against Christ and becoming children of lawlessness.  Yes, Christ will hold nations accountable for how they treat their own citizens and their neighboring nations, etc.  But, He still leaves room for national and individual freedom within His governance because He is not a tyrant.  Our problem is that we allow ourselves to be seduced by the power tyrant who can “fix everything.”

Lastly, there is confusion between individual responsibility and a government’s responsibility before God.  Yes, nations should be compassionate in their governance.  But compassion for others is a command for individuals, not governments.  We can have compassion for potential immigrants and refugees without rebelling against our country’s laws.  If you don’t like them, then work to get them changed in Congress in the proper way and proper spirit.  We can also advocate for getting supplies and safe havens in their originating countries (or ones nearby).  In all things we need to have a humility that recognizes our greatest need is Jesus, not more power in the hands of a smaller group of people.

Nations Borders Audio

Tuesday
May052015

A Heart For That Which Is Lost-Part II

Luke 15:11-32

Last week we saw two quick parables about God’s heart for those who are lost from Him.  The images then were a lost sheep and a lost coin.  Today our image is going to be a son who is often called the prodigal son, which refers to the fact that he “wastes” his inheritance.  But in reality this parable should be called the parable of the lost son because the emphasis of all three of these parables is that something is lost and needs to be found. 

If you are skeptical of Christianity and the message of the Bible, I would ask you to at least hear out this one message.  In this story Jesus gives us a glimpse into God’s heart for all of mankind.

A Son Is Lost

In verses 11-16 we see the story of a young man who is tired of being in his father’s house.  It is a common story for a young man to chafe under the roof of his parents, and even m ore common is man’s chafing under the administration of God, our Father in heaven.  Throughout this story the actions are illustrating spiritual realities between God and man.

In the story the young man commits a series of very insulting actions toward his father.  First, he asks for his inheritance early.  This action would come across as wishing that your father were dead.  I would rather have the stuff my father is going to give me than to have him.  Now it is not uncommon for an inheritance to be divvied out early, but it would always be at the direction of the father.  Thus the second insult is regarding the father’s wisdom as to when the inheritance should be handed out.  So how is it that we take hold of our inheritance from God before the proper time in order to do with it as we wish?  When we ignore God’s instructions regarding what we have (our body, wealth, time, health, etc…) and then do with it whatever we wish, we are doing the same thing to God that this young man did to his father.

So the young man liquidates his inheritance and goes off to a far country.  This is the third insult.  The son separates himself as far as he can from his father and family.  All by itself it would not be an insult.  But in the context of the actions of the young man it becomes another expression of rejection.  There had already been a separation between the father and son emotionally, but now a large distance is put between them as a barrier to ever fixing this relational problem.  This is true of us with God as well.  We not only neglect relationship with God, but we often put up large barriers that keep God at a distance.  The places and people we hang out and the places we never go, often become shackles that keep us from ever connecting with God.

Although the son doesn’t realize it, the maturity of the Father’s life and decisions is part of what bothers him.  The son wants to live life more.  He doesn’t want to be restricted in his activities and unhampered by the boring things that his father has given him to do.  However, the very inheritance that he takes is the product of his father’s wisdom and maturity.  It is the blood, sweat, and tears of his father put in monetary form.  In the spiritual sense, the temptations of this life call us to cast off the boundaries that God has placed on us and to “enjoy life.”  We want to eat, drink, and be merry at the expense of the work that God has given us to do.  This is an immature mentality that does not produce good things.  Rather it squanders good things.  This lost son is known as the prodigal son because his immature decision making wastes every good thing that he ever had in his life starting with his father and family.  Those who take this path walk away from God and yet take all that he ever supplied for them.  Instead of walking in wisdom they squander all the good that God has given until it is both wasted and ruined.  You will eventually squander all that you have: money, body, mind; and you will be left with nothing to show for it in the end, nothing but spiritual emptiness that is. So the young man became penniless through living the fast and furious, high-life.

Of course this would be the exact wrong time for a severe famine to strike the area, but that is exactly what happens.  Although we often pray for God to help us escape difficult times and difficult things, they have often been the very grace of God to bring people to the point where they can see their need of Him.  As long as he had money and was spending it, the young man never lacked for people to party with him.  But now that he is broke and difficult, economic times have struck, he is alone and in great need.  The young man is so desperate that he takes a job that every Jew hearing this story would have cringed at: feeding pigs.  Spiritually, we can often let desperate times push us into worse and worse decisions, until we end up in a mess that is near impossible for us to fix.  It appears to me that Satan uses these things to herd lost people into prisons of their own making.  Even if they get to a point where they would want to return to their father, they have burnt so many bridges behind them that they won’t be able to make it back.

Perhaps the saddest line of this whole parable is this, “and no one gave him anything.”  Of course they didn’t owe him anything and times were difficult for everyone.  But when a person is in dire need and has nothing to eat, it is easy for those who have no connections to them to ignore it.  And, those who may have partied for you in the past tend to separate from you.   You might wonder why they do it, in that moment.  But it is the kind of decision that immaturity makes.  The destitute person has nothing to offer.  Only a mature and wise person will help such a one, and this young man had separated himself from such people.  It is here that the real truth hammers into the head of this lost son.  He had embraced the cold decision to separate from his father for the fires of passion in a far country.  But now that he has burned out in rapid form he is on the receiving end of others doing the same to him.  They too embrace the cold decision to leave him destitute for the sake of warming and feeding themselves.  Without God this world quickly becomes a cold hard place where people tend to connect with you only as long as they are getting something out of you.  Yet, in the end their care for you does not go beneath the surface.  Many have taken the path of the immediate decision for their own passions, only to find that no one cares for them in this place they have ended up.

A Son Repents

In verses 17-19 the story takes another turn.  The son repents of what he has done.  Now the word repent in this passage literally means to change your mind.  It is also associated with another word that means to regret something after the fact.  Thus repentance is not just an intellectual change of mind, but an emotional one as well.  Another concept that comes out is that of turning.  The young man has been going in a direction that is taking him farther, and farther away from his father.  But here we see him sorrowfully changing his mind.  Filled with remorse and regret he begins to turn away from those previous decisions and actions and begins to turn back towards his father.  He no longer sees hope further down the road of his way, but rather looks back to his father as the only hope for him now.  Have you reached that point regarding your Father in heaven?  This is true repentance on display for us to see.  When we truly repent we turn away from our decisions and actions in disgust and turn towards God in hope.

It is at this point that the young man comes to his senses, or as the passage says, “he came to himself.”  Until now he couldn’t see himself for what he really was.  He was blinded by his desire and his ignorance.  But now he sees his true condition.  But, the truth can set us free, if we will recognize it and embrace it.  It is not easy to embrace truth.  Much like embracing a cactus, it pierces our skin and causes pain.  Yet, unlike embracing a cactus, the truth can lead us in the direction of hope, wisdom, freedom and especially love.  The rebukes of life are those effects of our poor choices and the added problem of adverse circumstances that we didn’t cause.  This perfect storm mixes together and binds us to a miserable state.  But the question is, do we really see ourselves in that moment, or do we ignore it and press on the same old way?  Like a person banging their head against the wall, we can persist in the same direction in the face of evidence that it is destroying us.  Only the Spirit of God can truly help a lost person to come to their senses and mercifully He works on each person.  However, even then, when those glimpses come, we can choose to ignore it.  The Bible calls this hardening your heart.  When does a heart become so hard that nothing, not even Truth, can break through?  This is something that cannot be answered, but must be recognized.

In this moment of seeing the truth, the young man recognizes that the only path out is to humble himself and return to his father.  This is a plan born out of desperation and yet also the understanding that his father is different than those who surround him now.  Perhaps I can go back and be a slave in my father’s house.  He knows he doesn’t deserve even that, yet, it is worth a shot.  The worst that can happen is that he will be rejected and in the same condition he is in now.  These two key points are necessary to true repentance: humbling and returning.  When we can strip ourselves of all the ways of thinking, reasons, philosophies, and lusts that led us away from God in the first place, then we are able to come back to Him for help.

The young man also comes back without demand and with an attitude of unworthiness.  If we approach God with demands then we are not truly repentant.  The person who repents takes full responsibility for their choices and the effects of them.  They are asking for help rather than demanding it.  At times they are hoping against hope for help, that’s how desperate they are.  Do not be so quick to pump up the self-esteem of a person who is coming to Christ.  Yes, God loves them and yes, He will definitely restore them to the status of a son.  But it will have been over the top of my sin.  When we diminish our sin we are at the same time diminishing the greatness of God’s love and mercy towards us.  If my sin was no big deal then God’s grace is not a big deal.  If I only owe a penny to my friend, it is no big deal when he says to forget about paying it back.  But if I owed him $100,000 and he forgave the loan, I would be indebted to him immensely.

A Father And Son Are Reunited

In verses 20-32 we have the fun part of the story.  The son goes back and is received by his father.  It is interesting that the father runs out to meet his son.  It is as if to say that if we will take steps back towards God, He will come out to meet us and bring us all the way back home.  God is looking for any movement in our life back towards Him.  He isn’t waiting for us to prove ourselves.  Rather, He runs to us quickly in order to help us come all the way.

It is also important to notice the compassion of the father.  God has a great deal of compassion for sinners who repent and turn back towards Him.  Of course, He had compassion before, but it was internal.  The lost person’s heart is separated from God and wants nothing from Him.  But, when the lost heart turns back towards God, His compassion can now flow towards them.  Now that the son’s heart has changed, God can act in a way that would not have been received before.  If the father had showed up while the son was partying he would not have been received.  If he had shown up too soon, when the son was working as a feeder of pigs, the son might have willfully stayed there eating pig slop.  But at just the right time, the father runs out to his son.  This is God’s way with us.

Next the Father throws a celebration for his son.  God doesn’t just bring us back into the home.  He celebrates.  We cannot fathom the heights to which the heart of God ascends when a sinner repents, or I should say when we repent.  We should ponder long the reality of what is being shown here.  God does not just require repentance; He throws a party when we do it.

The father also blesses his son as if he was a favorite son.  He gives him the best robe, a ring, and sandals (and most likely a bath).  This is a picture of the lavish love that God pours out upon those who turn to Him.  He will not hear of us serving only as a slave.  He will not leave us in our filthy stained condition.  But, rather, He will lavish upon us those things that we do not deserve.  Believers have the privilege to delight in the robe of the righteousness of Christ, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  We can walk in the authority of His favored Son, Jesus.  We also have a future with the Father that we had thrown away.

It is at this moment that the beautiful story hits a snag.  The older brother is offended.  He hears what is going on and refuses to go into the celebration.  He begins to separate himself from the path of his father’s choice.  Up to now he has followed his father’s wisdom, but this is too much.  At that moment, he too becomes a son who is in jeopardy of becoming a lost son.  Whether he goes off to a far country or not, he does not want to join with his father.  His complaint that he never got to celebrate with his friends is flimsy.  First of all the lost brother most likely doesn’t have any “friends” at the celebration, only the father and his servants.  Second of all, the celebration is offset by the grieving that went on before.  Imagine that the celebration is like 100 happy points all in one day.  The older son can only see that he never got 100 happy points all in one day.  This isn’t fair is it?  The reality is that the day the younger son left the father experienced something like a 1,000,000 sad points.  Every day since his leaving the father had grieved with sadness over the loss of his son.  Now the 100 happy points seem small.  Now let’s continue with these happy points.  Imagine that one normal day with his elder son was like 10 happy points.  How many days had they dwelt together with no real sad points to think of and 10 happy points racking up: 10 per day, 70 per week, 300 per month, 3,652 per year.  It is so easy to discount the happiness of “normal.”   It may not be a festival celebration, but the simple meals that we have together, day after day, are not a drudgery when we love each other.

Ultimately being lost is a matter of the heart.  We have all been lost children of God.  His heart yearned for the return of each of us.  He has planned a great celebration and feast for those who return to Him.  In all of this we see God’s heart for each person who has been found and for those who are still out there squandering their inheritance.  When you first get saved you are the younger brother.  But over time our hearts can become entitled and we can become derisive towards those who turn back to God after us.  Beware of such a heart because it is a lost heart as well.

The Lost Son audio

Tuesday
Jul082014

The Lord Our Provider

We have many needs in life.  However, if we are not careful, our life can become a version of seeing how many plates we can keep spinning.  In such cases we are driven to keep an innumerable amount of desires satisfied.  Of course, it is never enough.  If I only had more skill at this then I could be like so and so.  Have you ever stopped to think that this most likely is not God’s plan for us?  Scripture clearly states that God does not want man to worry about how his needs will be supplied.  As long as God is with us, we can trust in Him.

Another problem is that we can focus only on material needs and neglect the even more important spiritual needs.  We need spiritual sustenance and healing as well as physical.  As we look at Luke 9:10-17, we find Jesus ministering to both the physical and spiritual needs of the people.  In this passage the feeding of the 5,000 teaches us that we need not grumble about what we lack because God will always provide.

Jesus Has Compassion For Us

Luke’s account is brief compared to the other gospels.  In both Matthew and Mark we are told that Jesus was “moved with compassion.”  This is a hallmark of Christ.  He is deeply touched with what it means to be human and have need.  Though it may seem strange, the teaching that God took on a human nature makes sense in the light of compassion.  He can identify with our situation and cares for us.

In fact the reason Jesus had gone out into this uninhabited area was in order to be alone with his disciples.  They had been going throughout Israel ministering with Jesus and had just returned to him.  Jesus knew that they needed some time alone with him in order to be the receiving ones.  Humans were not designed to only be givers.  We are to also be receiving from God and from that supply giving to others.  So it is not just the crowds that need Jesus, but also his faithful workers.

Even Jesus himself later sends his disciples across the lake while he prays on the mountain alone.  This sets up a powerful understanding.  We all need to receive from God as individuals in a quiet secret place of our own.  From that place we can be an encouragement to our close friends and family.  This part is a two way street.  I am giving to them, but they are also giving to me.  The third layer is the one of the crowd.  These are people who have no relationship with us at all.  However, Jesus had compassion for them as well.  Notice how we often want to choose one over the other.  Jesus kept them all in balance because he truly did care for each one.  Sometimes we can let the sheer numbers of the crowd and the never ending need drown out our care for them.  The opposite is true as well.  Some people care more for the crowds than they do for those closest to them.  May God help us to love Him, our friends and family, and the unknown people around us.

These people were imposing on Jesus and his disciples.  But he had compassion on them.  Many of them would only follow him if he was doing miracles.  They would never enter his Church after his resurrection.  Some of them would stand in Jerusalem shouting, “Crucify Him!”  Yet, he had compassion.  As he ministered to Judas, knowing that he would betray him, so we must listen to the heart beat of how Jesus operated.  Jesus began teaching the people and healing those who needed healed.

Jesus Wants His Disciples To Have Compassion

As it approaches evening, the disciples come to Jesus with a practical concern.  He needs to tell the people to leave if they are going to find lodging and food for the night.  The area they were in was uninhabited.  But, Jesus turns this problem back on them.  “You give them something to eat.”  Jesus is not a dummy.  He understands that there is not enough food around.  He is testing them.  Another word for testing is “training.”  These disciples need to learn to operate from the same compassion and trust in God that Jesus had.

It starts with choosing to be a giver.  It is easy to always send people on their way and never ask the question, “Does God want me to give to them?”  Being a giver has nothing to do with how much you have to give, but with how much you care for the other person.  Even when we have much to give, we can operate from a “mentality of lack.”  People need Truth and Love even more than they need food and clothing.  We always have something to give.  Like Peter at the temple we can say, “Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee.”  Quit looking at what you don’t have as an excuse for your lack of compassion.  Rather, give what you can material or spiritual out of compassion.  Our heavenly Father is a great giver.  Look at all that He has provided on earth and throughout the universe.  To become like Him is to become a giver.  So make that choice.  You will find that when you become a giver, your out-of-control consumption is restrained.  Your mentality will not be about how little you have, but how much you can give.

Which points out, we shouldn’t worry about what we have to give.  Whatever it is, it is enough.  It is enough to help the other person.  You are not God and He doesn’t expect you to meet all of their needs.  We spend too much time bemoaning what we don’t have.  In truth we can actually rejoice in the little that we have.  Why?  We can rejoice because God’s supply will be easier to see.  Paul saw this when he said, “when I am weak then I am strong.”  He knew that his weakness would make God’s strength all the more obvious, which would then strengthen his faith and the faith of others.  When we are strong we delude ourselves into thinking it is all us.  When in truth God is even then helping us.

We need to also give in both material and spiritual things.  Different people tend to go one way or the other.  We either give $5.00 to someone and go on our way, or we hand them a Bible tract and go on our way.  I am not saying that either of these is wrong.  The real question is about our motivation.  God, how can I help this person?  Sometimes we need to stop giving people money and help them in other ways.  This takes true care and the wisdom of God.  Jesus was able to do both.  He fed the people food, but also taught them about the Kingdom of God.  Sometimes people do not realize that they have great spiritual need.  They may despise your attempts to minister to them spiritually.  Compassion should not be given because the recipient is so thankful.  It should be given because it is the right thing to do.

This Event Parallels Israel In The Wilderness

When you step back from this story, you realize that is practically a reenactment of Israel and Moses in the wilderness.  First, we have a people who go out to meet with God in the wilderness.  In the Exodus it was Israel leaving Egypt to follow Moses.  Here it is people who are hungry for God leaving the society of Israel behind to follow the Messiah.  In both cases it is a remnant of all the people in the land who follow God.  Today, the Church is the remnant of the tribes, tongues, and nations of the earth that have been called out of the world system in order to meet with God.

The second point is that God provides bread and meat for them.  In the exodus, they began to complain and God miraculously provided manna and quail as well as water.  Jesus of course takes 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish and feeds over 5,000 with it.  In fact in this case it is the Messiah who does the miracle.  Whereas Moses only told the people what God would do.  Even today, the material needs of God’s people are met by Him.  He promised that if we would put His Kingdom first, then He would provide our material needs.

The third point is that God provided Truth and Instruction for them.  Moses is known as the lawgiver because God gave his laws to Israel through him.  Here, Jesus instructs the people in the new society they are to become a part of, the kingdom of God.  It is easy to settle for bread and meat and to not care about the spiritual.  God is not content to just meet our material needs.  As Christians we can be guilty of being part of the religious crowd, but not really letting the teaching of Christ change our life.  Here is a question for you.  Do you interpret the Bible in the lens of what you want and feel?  Or, do you interpret your feelings and wants in the lens of Scripture?  Don’t be foolish and twist God’s Truth to fit what you want.  We are the ones who need to repent, not God.

In some of the other gospels we are told that the people continued to follow Jesus in the days after this great miracle, hoping for more bread and fish.  Yet, he rebuked them and said they needed to work as hard for spiritual food as they did for food for their stomach.  Thus commendation is for those who trust the Lord, not those who saw a miracle.  In days of the Exodus, all the people saw great miracles, but they perished in the desert because they did not have faith in God.  Faith turns away from grumbling and towards thanksgiving.  Faith turns away from complaining and towards rejoicing.  Faith turns away from disobedience and towards obedience.  Faith does not focus on our lack, but rejoices in His faithful supply.  The Lord is our provider and He has not failed us yet!

Lord our Provider Audio

Wednesday
Mar192014

The True Jesus: Authority Over Death

Last week we saw how Jesus had authority over a terminal sickness.  The next section in Luke 7:11-17, shows that even if someone dies, Jesus still has authority over even death.

The story takes place about 12 miles up into the hills from the Sea of Galilee near Nazareth at the city of Nain.  Jesus and his disciples had left Capernaum and walked up to this city.  They were also followed by a large crowd that wanted to see what Jesus would do and hear what He would teach.

His Authority Over Death

As Jesus, disciples, and crowd approach the town of Nain, they are met by a funeral procession coming out of the city.  This tragic scene would be sad enough.  But, we are told that the situation gets worse.  The woman was a widow.  So she had already dealt with a tragedy of losing her husband.  Now she has the increased tragedy of losing her son and having to bury him.  Yet, even worse, this was her only son.  That means the woman would also be worrying about how she is going to live.  Who will take care of her?  Like Naomi in the book of Ruth, she has suffered great bitterness and yet we do not know if this woman has a Ruth like Naomi did.

It is in this moment that we are told that Jesus had compassion on the woman.  Now compassion is sometimes referring to the act of helping someone without regard to the emotions behind it.  But, here it is describing an inner emotion of love and pity that Jesus feels towards her.  This emotion leads Him to decide to do an act of compassion.  Jesus was not an unfeeling being that mysteriously did miracles.  Rather, he had compassion upon those who were bound by sin and sickness.  You might recall that when Jesus hears that Lazarus, His friend, had died that He wept.  So Jesus tells the woman to not weep.  Weeping and grieving is normal and God is not against it.   However, Jesus is about to turn her weeping into Joy.  He is giving her hope.  When the miracle worker says don’t cry, you begin to hope that He means He is going to help you.

Next Jesus steps up to the open coffin and simply speaks to the dead corpse.  This resurrection scene demonstrates the power of Jesus.  He does not require great build up and multiple attempts.  When you contrast this simple action to Elisha’s resurrection of the young boy in 2 Kings 4, you see the tremendous command that Jesus has over death.  This is not to put down Elisha, but rather to lift up the Truth about Jesus.  Jesus simply commands the young man to rise up.  This amazing power of speaking a word and flesh coming to life is parallel with God in the creation of Adam.  There he forms the man and then breathes life into the form.  The words of Jesus cause life to enter this dead body and further more heals the original problem that led to a death in the first place.  Thus God not only has the power to create, but also to recreate. 

Like the resurrection of Lazarus, this young man is brought back to life in a mortal body.  He is not immortal like Jesus was after his resurrection, but rather, restored to normal life.  He will eventually grow old and die of something else and at that point Jesus won’t be there.  The power of this story is not the hope that we can escape death if we have enough faith.  God does not show up in miraculous power in most of the sorrows of our life.  Even this woman could wonder where Jesus was when her husband died.  Yet, we see here that despite all of that Jesus does care.  God does care about the sorrow of mankind.  Part of the work of Jesus is to give man the evidence he needs to believe that God will overcome all those sorrows, even death.

In John 11 Jesus promises that a greater day of Resurrection is coming on the Last Day of this Age.  This is a day when Christ will command all the righteous to be raised from the dead and have eternal, spiritual bodies.  They are called spiritual because they are created by the Spirit of God.  But don’t be confused.  They are material bodies.

The apostles also pointed to this great promise as the Great Hope of all believers:  that we will be resurrected by Christ on the last day.  It is what makes all our sacrifices and difficulties in this life bearable.  Paul gives the most description of this event in 1 Corinthians 15 if you want to understand it more.  Let me just list some of these apostolic encouragements.  “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.”  1 Thessalonians 4:13-14.  “For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” 1 Corinthians 15:21-22. 

The People Are Amazed

There is a part of us all that longs to have been there or to see something as dramatic as this.  But the reality is that our faith is not made better or worse for having not seen it.  Many in the Bible who saw the miraculous went on to not believe God.  Thus God gives us evidence, but don’t fool yourself that it isn’t real just because you didn’t see it.

It says that fear came upon them.  In general this is a fear of realizing that this is no mere man.  Who is he?  What is he?  Yet, it also points to a fear of the Lord because the people began to give the glory and honor of this event to God.  His power and ability was so far beyond them that they were humbled in reverence and respect.  This was not a man to be trifled with.

They glorified God.  To whom do we give glory of all the amazing things that are happening in our day?  Don’t we glorify ourselves?  Even our technology is made possible by the glories of God’s creative genius.  Yet, we do not praise Him for His wisdom.  Instead we laugh at such quaint notions as a God, and praise ourselves.  The generation that doesn’t stand in awe at the greatness of God expressed through His creation, brings judgment upon itself.

They also declared Jesus a true prophet and a visitation from God.  Prophet is meant here in that most of the prophets did miracles to help the nation believe that what they said was from God.  But the emphasis was on the fact that they spoke for God.  Through this resurrection the people of Nain recognize Jesus as a prophet.  One who is truly sent by God to speak to His people and direct them.  However, we are warned in Scripture not to accept miracles as proof of the Truth.  So how do we know?  First the miraculous gets our attention.  Next we take the teaching of the “prophet” and we compare it to the teachings of the Bible.  If they do not match then we don’t listen to the prophet because they are not from God.  Lastly, if they predict something and it doesn’t come to pass then we know for sure that they are not a true prophet.  Was the teaching of Jesus true to the Old Testament?  The New Testament makes the case that He was the ultimate prophet of God.

Lastly, the “visitation from God” is a reference to the fact that God doesn’t always seem to be active in our life.  From time to time, however, He shows up.  These visitations can be good or bad, it depends on us.  Israel had been suffering under one empire after another and were longing for deliverance from God.  It seemed like He was not showing up.  They longed for a visitation of deliverance.  However, if we are not living right and crucify the deliverer when He shows up, then we are going to have a visitation of judgment.  The good news is that Jesus took the Judgment of God upon Himself so that those who put their faith in Him could avoid it.  That truly is amazing.  The amazing grace of God can be ours by picking up our cross (the things we have to die to) and following Jesus in faith.  God promises us eternal life in glorified bodies, but in His time.  Can you trust Him?  Turn to Jesus today.

Authority Over Death Audio