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Weekly Word

Entries in Disciple (6)

Tuesday
Mar262019

Is There a Doctor in the House?

Mark 2:13-17.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on March 24, 2019.

In one sense, our story today is about Jesus calling another Galilean to become one of his closest disciples, i.e. to be one of The Twelve.  However, the calling of this disciple causes a stir among the local scribes and Pharisees.  Let’s look into the passage.

Jesus calls Levi to follow him

The man that is called Levi here is also called Matthew in the Gospel according to Matthew.  Yes, these are one and the same.  The guy in our story will go on to write a record of The Gospel that has been read world-wide for 20 centuries.  Now we are told that Jesus was in the area speaking to the crowds.  They have become large enough that Jesus is using the seashore to preach to them.  In the course of this, Jesus walks by the tax office and sees a tax collector there named Levi.

Levi is an Israelite, but is collecting taxes for the Roman Government.  The way this was done was by contract bids.  Rome would give its contracts for an area to the person who promised to raise the most tax.  It was understood that the tax collector would pad this amount and that is how he would make his money.  Now, the taxes were already harsh, but they were made worse by the greedy countrymen who got rich off of the backs of their friends.  These men were seen as traitors and collaborators with Rome and thus despised as some of the worst of sinners in their society. 

This clearly does not make Levi appealing to God.  Yet, Christ sees past the greed and opportunism, and sees the person behind those actions, a person in bondage to fear and wealth.  Jesus is calling Levi away from all of that.

This is an important point because it is becoming more and more prevalent today to speak about sinners as if they really are noble people underneath the surface.  Jesus did not choose Levi because he saw a noble man who isn’t really as bad as everyone makes him out to be.  Rather, Jesus sees exactly who Levi is and in spite of that calls him to leave it behind and follow him, which we will get into here in a bit.  This is the same way that Christ comes to all of us.  In and of ourselves, we all fall short.  However, Jesus still calls us away from that failure and into himself.  He calls us to leave the old life behind and learn a new life from him.

So, what does Jesus mean exactly by the phrase, Follow me?  If we do a search in the Bible for this phrase, we will see that Jesus used this phrase with those who he was calling to eat, sleep, and live with him.  They would be his main students and also help him in the ministry.  It was a call to join the inner circle of Jesus.  Yet, later in these passages (after he had The Twelve) we see him using this phrase of all who want to be his disciples.  Mark 8:34-35 says, “Whoever desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.”  He also says in John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”  Thus, there is a metaphorical “following” of Jesus that goes beyond living with him.  The Apostles had to deal with this themselves after Jesus ascended into heaven.  They could not immediately follow him into heaven, but they could follow him by listening to the Holy Spirit whom Jesus sent to indwell them and fill them.  Similarly, today we who believe in the message about Christ chose to leave the old life behind and become students of Christ.  Christ is faithful to send the Holy Spirit into our lives and we are enabled to spiritually follow Him. 

I would also state that there is a way in which we literally follow Jesus.  When we listen to the Holy Spirit, who is one with Christ and the Father, in those moments of instruction, we are literally following Jesus because he is the one leading us.  Whether he warns us against those things that we want to do and instigates us towards those things that we don’t want to do, it is still Christ that we are following.  Thus, the believer needs to spend time each day in communion with Christ through the Holy Spirit by prayer, listening and obeying.

May we be the eyes of Jesus in this world, seeing those who are still trapped in their sin, and yet calling them to follow Jesus.  He is not ashamed to be associated with our past failures in sin.  However, he has come to lead us out of them and into the freedom that can only be obtained through him.

Jesus eats with sinners

Levi was clearly excited to be noticed by the famous teacher, Jesus, and to be called to follow him.  It seems that he is ready to leave everything behind immediately.  He then throws a party that can only be characterized as a retirement party, or going away party.  He invites all his friends and associates who all turn out to be, no shocker here, other tax collectors and sinners.  No one else wanted anything to do with him.  It is in this context that the question is posed to the disciples of Jesus.  Why does Jesus eat with these sinners and tax collectors?  Before we look at the answer, let’s look at the background for why this question is being asked in the first place.

The name of the Pharisee as a group came from a Hebrew word that means to make distinct, to distinguish, and to separate.  We could call them separatists, but that has a political connotation.  It would be best to think of them as the Puritans of their day.  Society had been becoming more and more sinful as people more and more ignored the law.  The Law of Moses emphasized purity throughout its statutes.  Thus, the response of these religious leaders who wanted to show their zeal for God was to dissociate from sinners.  This was even more important for religious leaders.

To analyze this further, let’s remember the situation with the leper in chapter one.  The Law stated many and various situations which would make a person unclean.  This term refers to a ceremonial distinction and is not a statement of sinfulness.  The law did not require a person to always be ceremonially clean.  It only required being ceremonially clean if you were to enter into sacred space, typically to perform a legal ritual.  You could be declared unclean if you buried one of your family members, or had sexual relations with your spouse.  These were not sin by the standard of the Law, but situations that required a purification ritual to be completed before the person could participate in a sacrifice or festival in the temple.  The Pharisees had taken this concept beyond what the Law required or intended.  They were supposed to be the “holy men” of their day and their response was to wall themselves off from anything and anyone who could affect their clean status.  No self-respecting rabbi of their day would have been caught dead at a feast of sinners and tax-collectors.  It would be like seeing someone swimming in the sewer pond.  You can’t get anymore filthy.  These guys are truly shocked.  These are not the actions of a holy man, at least according to their group, who were the experts on holiness and cleanliness.

Now, it is interesting that the question is posed to the disciples of Jesus first.  It is not clear if this is happening at the event or later, but the disciples bear the brunt of the question.  The question itself seems to have a tone of derision to it.  It is not, Why does Jesus eat with sinners, but How is it that he eats with sinners…  They are implying that the disciples have chosen poorly in the teacher that they are following and there can really be no defense.  And, of course, the disciples have no answer.

This technique is employed all the time today.  How is it that you follow a 2,000 year old religion created by people who thought the world was flat?  Of course, such a question is wrong on both counts.  They didn’t exactly think the world was flat, and they did not create a religion.  Another question that one often gets is this.  How can you follow a God who tells you not to murder, but then he murders countless numbers?  Clearly such people have trouble sticking to clear definition of terms and distinguishing between murdering the innocent and executing criminals.  Israel itself was required to execute capital punishment upon certain sins.  It is not hypocrisy to make a distinction between murder and legal execution.  It is proper definition. 

In these cases, it is best not to be bullied into a rash response.  It is Jesus who has the answers and it is to him that we must turn.  The words of Christ are filled with clarity on these issues, if we are willing to study and hear those who Christ has gifted to teach on these matters.  This is nothing more than an attempt to shame you into distancing yourself from Christ and his Apostles.

What is the answer that Jesus gives?  Jesus uses the analogy of a doctor.  No one in their right mind would berate a doctor for having a bunch of sick people in his clinic.  We might berate the doctor for not fixing any of their problems, but never for their presence in the clinic.  Do you tend to find a lot of healthy people in a hospital?  Of course not.  Notice the simplicity of this answer.  It cuts through all the accretion of intellectual crud and gets to the heart of the issue.  Now Jesus had proven his ability to heal people physically, but there is no indication that these people are physically in need of healing.  Look at the next thing Jesus says.  “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”  These men did not need physical healing, but they did need a spiritual healing from the wound of sin in their lives.  A wound that none of these religious men were willing to lift a finger to heal.  Jesus was not at Matthew’s house because he was greedy and wanted to enjoy Matthew’s food and riches.  He was not hoping to get some more rich disciples from among his friends.  In short, Jesus is there not to sin, but to teach these sinners the way out of their sin.

Could it be that in our desire to be clean of sin, we so insulate ourselves from sinners that we are no longer a threat to the devil’s hold upon them?  I believe this story underlines such a conclusion.  Yes, we must abstain from all appearance of evil, but many people see evil in things that are not evil.  Abstaining from all appearance of evil is not about the eyes of people around us, but the eyes of our Father in heaven.  Our lives cannot be controlled by what others say of us morally, but by what our Lord Jesus calls us to do.  We are called to help those who are sick with sin, whether they know it or not.  The only way that we can do that is to be open to interacting with them when we cross their path, and for the reasons of Christ, not our flesh.

Is There a Doctor Audio

Tuesday
Apr242018

When the Truth is Made Known

Matthew 10:24-26.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on April 22, 2018.

Is it possible to have joy when difficult things are happening to you?  According to Jesus in his “beatitudes” of the Sermon on the Mount, we are blessed when people revile us, persecute us, and say all manner of evil things against us falsely for Christ’s sake.  Then he goes further and tells us to rejoice and be glad for great is our reward in heaven (Matthew 5:10-11).  These are not the words of a man who was protected by privilege and position in this world.  He had grown up labeled as an illegitimate child, and then rejected and mistreated by entrenched religious leaders.  Ultimately he was headed to a cross and yet he tells us we are blessed in such cases and should rejoice and be glad.  How is such an incredible response possible?

It may be easy to dismiss this by saying that it was easy for Jesus because He was God.  But such arguments are themselves a cop-out.  How are we to know that it wasn’t actually harder for Him because He was God?  We can’t because we can only know for sure what it is like to be human.  Jesus was fully human and yet fully God.  So we should dispense with such intellectual dishonesty and recognize that Jesus expects this to be our experience in times of persecution or suffering.  How could he expect this of us?

As we look at the words of Jesus in our passage today, we will find that it is the knowledge that there will be a day when all that is hidden will be brought to light.  This is a scary thing for those who have ulterior motives.  But, for the believer, the day of revelation will be a joyous moment in which all that has been slandered against us will be cast down by Christ Himself.  Let’s look at the passage.

In this world Christians will be persecuted.

Jesus never promised us a rose garden in this life and this passage is one of many that prove it.  The apostle tells us in 2 Timothy 3:12, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” They had been warned by Jesus.  A pernicious mentality has developed among some Christians today.  It is the idea that if we were more like Jesus in faith and power, that we could fix the ills of the world and save everybody.  As wonderful as that idea is, it is not a biblical one, nor is it particularly Christian.  It is not a Christian idea because it purports to put us and the power of our faith above the Lord who bought us with His blood.  Here Jesus makes it clear that those who follow Him are going to encounter persecution in this world.

This will happen precisely because we are not greater than Him.   Jesus uses three different relationships to help us see why we will be persecuted as well.  There is the relationship of the teacher to the student, the lord to a servant, and the master of a house to the members of that household.  The student learns from the teacher in order to be like his master.  If a servant’s master is hated by the world, then so too will the servant.  Ultimately, Jesus is pointing out that if we are in relationship with him then we will experience whatever it is that he receives.  Whatever lot comes to Jesus also comes to us.  The only way to avoid it is to reject Him, or at least to minimize his lordship in your life.

In the end it was the lot of Jesus to be persecuted in this world.  Thus those who follow Him will also encounter persecution.  Sure, it will vary depending on the place and time that you live.  Jesus points out that just as they accused Him of being in league with the prince of demons, so they will accuse His disciples of being evil.    They also called him a heretic that was causing dissension.  He was labeled an insurrectionist and revolutionary.  All of these were false accusations.  

Herein lies the problem.  The above mentioned relationships between us and Jesus, and the Scriptures themselves, teach that the Spirit of God is laboring to make us more like Jesus.  Romans 8:29 says, “For those He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.”  So how can it be that Christianity can convert the whole world and create a Utopia by having the power and faith that Jesus had?  Such power and faith led to Jesus being persecuted and killed.  How can it lead us to anything new?  Yes, if Jesus so determines, it could be so.  But here he promises the opposite.  Perhaps the only way it can be is if I am not operating in the same faith and power that He did.

Regardless, notice how verse 25 is worded, “It is enough...”. Jesus puts it in a statement form.  But we should ask it as a question.  Is it enough for me to simply be like Jesus?  Clearly it is enough from God’s perspective because Jesus states it so.  But is it enough for me?  Charles Spurgeon, an English Baptist preacher, said, “God was slandered in paradise, and Christ on Calvary.  How can we expect to escape?”

It is each thing that Jesus was not that draw our hearts away from Him and towards the world; away from the relationships of Teacher-student, Lord-servant, Master of the house-household member.  We are drawn either completely away from Christ, or we are deluded with the fanciful notion that we can have Christ and the world as our teachers.  Friend, recognize today that Jesus really is enough for you.  However, your flesh will not think so, and the world around you will not tell you so.  When the Christian Corrie Ten Boom came out of the German concentration camp of WWII, she had a message for the world.  “There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”  He is enough.

In some ways modern society has become “more righteous” than God Himself.  It makes accusations of conspiracy, and rejects biblical ethics and morality.  Don’t listen to those voices that seduce you with becoming greater than Jesus, whether from within Christian circles or from the world.  When Jesus is enough for us, then we will know the peace and rest that God has for our souls and the joy of His Holy Spirit in times of difficulty.

There is a day in which all will be revealed.

In verse 26 Jesus reminds us of a principle that is as sure as any law of physics.  The hidden things will come to light.  This is both a warning and an encouragement.  It is a warning for those who would conceal evil, and an encouragement to those who are falsely accused of such.  All things that are done leave evidence behind.  Even when a person is framed by planted evidence, there will always be some evidence that it was planted, whether we are able to recapture it or not (God can recapture it).  Truth has a way of coming out in the end, precisely because it is real.  So it will be in eternity as all that has truly happened comes to the surface and God gives His judgments based upon reality, truth.

Jesus was not like the secret societies of our days.  He did not teach one thing in public and another to his top 3 disciples.  Sure they received more than the crowds, but Jesus was not publicly worshipping Yahweh, while privately promoting Beelzebub.  The false slander of the religious authorities came from an attempt to hold to two irreconcilable positions: Jesus was doing incontrovertible miracles, and yet He cannot be the Messiah.  Jesus was silent at His trial precisely because He had said and done everything out in the open.  If they were still going to pretend He was evil, what could he say to overturn their minds?  Christians reject those who use secret society techniques, who promote one thing to the masses and another to the inner elite.  This is the way of Satan, not Jesus.  The longer you are with Christ the more you recognize that His teachings do not become different as you draw closer to Him.  Rather, it is you who becomes different, and the teachings of Christ become deeper than we ever imagined.  This is what Corrie Ten Boom found in the depths of an earthly hell:  Jesus was still with her and His love had not abandoned her, even though she was in a place destitute of love and faithfulness.  So as the disciples of Jesus, we have nothing to hide, even though the world accuses us of hypocrisy, conspiracy, and idiocy (granted such do exist under the tent of Christianity).

Jesus tells his disciples not to fear those who make such unfounded accusations because the truth will come to light in some way.  It might not come soon enough to keep me from being nailed to a tree, but it will come nonetheless.  

There is a strength that can be derived from trusting the vindication of God Himself in your life.  Think of it.  God is your defense attorney and therefore you can’t lose.  But when I am my own defense attorney and I am constantly fearful at what others think about me, then I will become trapped by my own double-mindedness.  Draw strength from God’s promised rectification and wait for His timing.  

In fact, worry and fear of what others think or say sidetracks us from the mission of Christ.  Instead we pick up a futile mission of our own.  We will never please all of the people all of the time, in fact not even a majority.  Think of it.  If I am working at “reforming my public image,” it puts me at odds with the Holy Spirit’s work of making me to look like Jesus.  How proud we must be to remake our image so as to avoid what Jesus marched purposefully towards.  The only choices that God gives to us is to embrace the image of Jesus and the persecution that goes along with it, or choose an image that the world will accept and avoid it.  It is not our job to reform our image, but rather, in every way to yield to the Spirit’s call to become more and more like Jesus.

Sometimes God does bring the truth to light in the present.  We will taste some vindication in this life in various ways.  However, our hope goes beyond this.  Few are ever completely vindicated in this life.  Even Jesus has billions who reject His words.  But a day of vindication is coming.  God’s defense of Jesus and those who are following Him never rests.  He will have the final word.

This final vindication will be brought to light when the Lord Jesus comes to reign upon the earth.  As it was in the days of Jesus, so it is today.  Often those who paint the devil on others are most manipulated by the devil themselves.  Jesus and His apostles warned us against judging too quickly, and at the wrong time.  Thus some things, like the hidden motivations of a person’s heart, have to be left up to God.

Humility is a part of following Jesus, and it teaches us to trust in the judgments of God that will be revealed at Christ’s Second Coming.  Romans 8:18-21 says, “For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.  For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the Sons of God.  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willfully, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.”  So just who are the children of God and what is their revealing?  He is speaking of Christians and the day of resurrection when we will stand beside Christ in glorified bodies.  It will be clear on that day just who chose wickedness and who chose truth.  It won’t matter what any person thinks, or even if billions of followers shout your praises.  What matters is the judgment of God Himself.  Thus in 1 Corinthians 4:5 we are told, “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts.  Then each one’s praise will come from God.”  Instead of fearing what people think, we can rejoice in knowing already what God thinks.  In fact the life of a believer, is constantly having fellowship with God by His Spirit.  Instead of worrying about what others think, we only worry about what God thinks.  Thus the adage is true, “You don’t want the wrong people to like you.”

Let’s put our trust in the Lord and grow in living out His righteousness.  This is enough for us, regardless of what the world around us might falsely say about us.  We are in good company, for such they did to the prophets of old and especially our Lord Jesus.  If we suffer with Him then we shall be glorified with Him!

Truth Made Known Audio

Friday
Feb192016

Jesus Warns His Disciples

Although the disciples are arguing over which of them should be considered the greatest, in truth they are all about to do something quite the opposite of greatness.  They are about to fail in their trust of Jesus.  Yes, they had successfully followed Jesus so far.  However, in the next 24 hours they would flee from Jesus and hide, broken and fearful.  It is this universal rejection of Jesus by enemies and friends that ought to help us understand why the Lord does not accept good works, but instead will only accept faith.  He is not looking for those who are “great” neither as the world defines it nor as his followers define it.  Instead he is looking for those who will believe in his greatness regardless of the circumstances and to the end of their life.  Even this, the disciples all fail.  Yet, the Lord isn’t looking for a faith that has never fallen, but one that has been through storms, ups and downs, and yet returns to him.  The Lord is warning us in this passage to quit looking at our greatness and pay attention to the battle that is waging all around us.

Satan Has Asked To Test Them

In the next 24 hours Jesus will be arrested, run through a bogus trial, and publicly executed.  Jesus knows this and is speaking in order to prepare them for their own failures.  The disciples do not understand the gravity of what is happening, but the Lord does.  It is here that we need to remind ourselves that our strength is not in what we are, but in what the Lord is building in us.  We need to remind ourselves that even in our failures (perhaps especially so) the Lord is building up our faith in him.  Satan is moving to attack Jesus and destroy all that he is trying to do.  Yet, notice that Jesus reveals that Satan has asked to do this.  Who is he asking?  Although Jesus doesn’t say, it is apparent he means the Father.  Satan must ask permission to test God’s people.  This is revealed in the first two chapters of the book of Job.  Why would God allow such tests?  He does so to prove that our faith is genuine.  So what about the times people fail?  Even this can take a faith that is either disingenuous or weak and help it to be rebuilt on a proper foundation.  No matter how difficult we are tested, we are not at the mercy of the Devil.  If God is allowing you to go through a trial, He will bring you out the other side, and there is a way for you to be stronger.  It is in letting go of you and clinging to him through faith.

Satan has asked to sift them like wheat.  This metaphor is used to picture the process of testing their faith.  When wheat is sifted it is first beat and pounded in order to break apart the hard shell that surrounds it.  This chaff is then removed in one way or another.  Here a mesh of sorts would be used that would allow the small pieces of chaff to fall through, but the good wheat would stay on top.  Humans sift wheat in order to make its cooking and eating a better experience.  However, the Devil has a different purpose in mind.

He intends to prove that they are nothing but chaff.  He is going to pound and beat their faith through the circumstances ahead and he believes that they will all turn out like Judas.  He is going to keep at it until he wins or you die.  We see this in the book of Job.  After failing to get Job to quit trusting God, Satan complains that Job is only serving God because God has protected him physically.  “Skin for skin,” Satan accusingly says to God.  He goes on to declare, “But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and flesh, and he will curse you to your face.”  He hates faith.  He wants nothing to be left for the Lord at the end of this testing.  He comes for nothing but to steal, kill, and destroy our faith.  This warning is not just for Job or Peter and the disciples.  It is for all who will try to follow Jesus.  If Satan thinks there is a chance that you have true faith in Jesus, He is going to come after you one way or another to try and destroy it.  “Be sober; be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.”  1 Peter 5:8-9 (NKJV).  You do have chaff in your life.  But, you are not all chaff.  The Lord will bring you through all your times of testing and reward your faithfulness, if you keep turning back to him.

Jesus Has Prayed To Help Their Faith

Jesus has told Peter that Satan has asked to test them all.  But then Jesus tells Peter what he has asked for them.  As opposed to Satan, Jesus is not asking the Father to test us.  Instead, he is asking in prayer for our souls to endure all the tests that Satan brings our way.  He is asking that we will not fail even though we may have times of falling.

In this passage Jesus specifically tells Peter that he has prayed for him.  However, in John 17:9-11 we see that Jesus has and will pray for all of his disciples, including us.  Yet, here he zeros in on Peter.  Why?  Most likely because Peter has been the most vociferous in defending his own greatness.  Let me emphasize that this is speculation.  But, one cannot avoid the clear rebuke that is given to all the disciples, but especially to Peter.  Yes, Satan has asked for Peter by name so that he can test him.  But, Jesus has prayed for Peter by name.  We may not have Satan personally trying to test us (remember he is not omnipresent).  However, we do have evil spirits that are in league with him and do his bidding.    More than this, Jesus Christ is able to pray for every single one of His disciples, even now interceding on your behalf before the Father.  He is praying for your faith to endure.  As it says in Hebrews 7:25, “Therefore, He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”

Clearly Peter’s faith is going to fail, but it will be for only a short time.  Jesus is not praying that our faith will be an invincible, superman-like faith that never even blinks.  I am not saying that Jesus could care less if we fail.  Yet, he knows that we will all have our times of doubt and fear in this flesh.  In fact, it will be in his failure that Peter learns to trust in the power of God rather than in the power of Peter.  We cannot give mere lip service to this.  We are made stronger when we listen to the words of Jesus and repel the attacks on our faith.  However, we are also made stronger when after failure, we humbly cast ourselves on the mercy of the Lord.  Jesus lets Peter know he will fail.  But then gives him the task of strengthening his brothers when he returns (back in faith).  Jesus know that Peter will return and even has a job for him.  The word “return” is connected to repentance and conversion.  Peter will turn from the Lord out of doubt during the crucifixion.  But he will also return to him in faith after the resurrection.  His brothers are going to go through the same tragic failure.  They will need to encourage each other.  Not make comparisons among them in order to determine who is greatest.  We need to help each other overcome the world by strengthening each other’s faith in Jesus.  Our times of failing the Lord and returning to him can be helpful to others.  Do not hide your failures in shame.  Rather, boldly declare to others that the Lord brought you through your failures.  Peter’s pride still resists what Jesus is trying to teach us all, and most likely so does mine.

Verses 33-34, puts the period on this lesson.  Peter tries one last attempt to declare how great his faith is.  Perhaps here we see why Jesus focuses on Peter.  His flesh is truly great.  But it is not that kind of greatness Jesus is seeking.  Peter has to quit clinging to the greatness that he wants to see in himself, and surrender to the greatness that the Lord wants to make in him.  None of the disciples wanted to follow a messiah who was going to be crucified.  They did not want to be the inner circle of a messiah who left the earth.  They did not want to be men who would travel the world teaching people to believe in a crucified Lord.  But this is his call.

Jesus puts the death nail in Peter’s pride by declaring that he will deny Christ within the next few hours.  Reality versus fantasy.  Perhaps you too cling to a fantasy that somehow you are different.  Let it go.  Hear the warning of the Lord.  Today the Gospel is being tested in our society and Jesus along with it.  Our Lord and His way of living is being crucified publicly by our culture and many others around the world.  Some are falling away from the Lord.  Others retreat from the real Jesus and create a fake Jesus so that they can feel strong in their faith.  However, our strength is not in our inability to fall.  Our strength is in the mercy and grace of our Lord.  We can repent and turn to him and he will receive us.  This is the type of Lord that we serve, and this is what we must hold out to a lost and dying world.

Jesus Warns His Disciples audio

Tuesday
Feb092016

True Leadership

Luke 22:24-30.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty on February 7, 2016. 

We have been looking at the Passover Supper that Jesus shared with his disciples on the night he was betrayed.  Each of the disciples was destined to have a critical role in the work of Jesus moving forward.  Yet, this brought great temptation with it.  They renewed an old favorite pastime of squabbling among themselves about who was the greatest disciple.  This argument gives rise to great insight from Jesus into what makes a great leader.

Who is the greatest disciple?

It is common in any group to have a clash of inflated evaluations of self and the disciples were not immune.  Verse 24 brings this out.  Of course, self-evaluations are always there and are not wrong necessarily.  However, Jesus taught that judgments should not be according to appearance, but rather should be righteous (John 7:24).  Clearly the disciples failed on this evening.  Yet, they become an example of what we should not do.  Take joy in the fact that, even when you fail, you can provide an example to yourself and others.

The word translated as dispute is a bit unclear.  The word that is translated here means more than just a dispute and the strife that goes with it.  It is literally a “love of disputes” that is referred to.  Thus this was not just a difference of opinion, but a love of arguing with each other.  Sometimes when you argue with someone you realize that either you or they fall into the trap of arguing for arguments sake.  You may use logic for your point but then refuse that same logic from the other side, which is both illogical and hypocritical.  Such love of dispute is not anchored in a love of God, or a love of righteousness and truth.  It is anchored in contention itself.  Conflict can become a habit that mimics addiction.  However, Christians are called to be peacemakers, not lovers of strife.  Their question of which of them is the greatest stirs up a spirit of arguing within the group.

Jesus steps in and uses the situation to teach about true leadership.  Notice the word “considered.”  They are all concerned on how they are considered by the others.  They each think the others should consider them the greatest.  Jesus points this out as a problem.  They are thinking like the world about power and position.  He reminds them that in the world the rulers exercise dominion and rule over the people.  The people in turn often admire them and give flattering titles like “benefactor” to them.  Thus in the world leaders are often seeking the admiration of the crowd and the titles that they may give in consideration of them.  People will often take pride in an oppressive leader if they think the leader is benefiting the status of the nation within the world.

Greatness is defined by Jesus

Our knee-jerk answer to the question of which of them was the greatest might be to exclaim, “None of you are great!  Only Jesus is great!”  Yet, take notice that this is not how Jesus responded.  None of them are claiming to be greater than Jesus.  They are only thinking among themselves, and Jesus gives them an honest explanation of what greatness is in God’s eyes, rather than men’s.  So who do you want to “consider” you great, God or people?

Christian leadership must not seek privileges nor to be served by others.  Jesus points out that in the systems of this world the older ones obtain privileges the higher they move up in leadership.  To become like the younger is not to use the system for these privileges.  In fact it is to be as one who has none.  One of the problems with our government today is the many privileges that they have legislated for themselves.  This is also seen in the way that great leaders of this world are served by lesser leaders.  To move up in leadership is to have more servants at your beck and call.  This creates a kind of sycophantic system in which younger leaders serve greater leaders in flattery and unhealthy ways in order to obtain position and privilege.  Think of how corrupt religious and secular institutions can become through this dynamic.  Even in the sciences there is a system in which the younger plebes do research and write papers in order to please the older ones who hold the power of their advancement.  In a perfect world this would not be a problem.  But, welcome to Earth.

How does the Lord respond to this?  “Not so among you!”  It is sad to see how often we have tossed such words aside in the heat of the moment in order to obtain what our flesh desires, greatness.  Whether in local churches, within denominational structures, or among the body of Christ as a whole, we have continued to transgress this command and to our own detriment.

Yet, Jesus then points to himself.  The example that Jesus gave of servant-leadership is contrary to the way of the world.  It would be interesting to know exactly when the foot-washing of the disciples occurred.  Even so, it works the same whether he had already done it or did it right after these words.  As Jesus washes their feet, he takes a lowly position that would be given to the lowest plebe in any worldly system.  All of the disciples would have stated strongly that Jesus was the greatest among them.  Thus Jesus highlights the inner dissonance that exists.  They know that he is the greatest and yet they continue to follow the world’s ways in order to obtain their own greatness.  The greatest leader in God’s eye is the one who will come down off their throne and serve those under them.  The world serves for the privileges and the accolades of men to the expense of pleasing God.  The disciples of Jesus must not follow that model.  The believer must reject privilege and use the position and power to serve those “under” their authority.  Even then, the service must be done not to please those you help, but instead God.  Of course Jesus was within 24 hours of his ultimate service.  He would become the substitute for the punishment of their sin.  If Jesus led to please his disciples, he would have never gone to the cross.  They didn’t want a crucified leader.  They wanted Jesus to walk into Jerusalem and take over.  They wanted the fame of the world, not the hatred.

The rewards of following Jesus

In verses 28-30 Jesus changes his tone.  Though he has verbally stripped them of any appearance of being great disciples, he transitions to what they have done that he thinks is truly great.  On top of that he tells them they will be rewarded for it.  Many had left Jesus over the course of the last months.  The crowds had quit following after him.  Even Judas was in the middle of leaving him.  The disciples themselves would scatter in unbelief of what would happen to Jesus the next day.  Even today, followers of Jesus are being challenged.  Will we leave Jesus in order to give allegiance to something else?  Or, perhaps we will simply redefine Jesus and thus serve “another” Jesus, a Jesus of our own making and in our own image?  These men had remained with Jesus through his trials.  The word has the sense of a trial that is intended to prove the genuineness of something.  Jesus was enduring a test to prove whether he truly was the Anointed Son of God.  His teachings and way of living life was undergoing a test.  And, as he is being tested, so those who are learning his way are to be tested.  Jesus was joyous to have these men in all their weakness and frailty, who had nevertheless stuck with him.  “Who else has the words of Life, Lord?”  The truth of Christ and his way is undergoing a test in this generation.  Will we stand by Jesus unwavering, or will we betray him?  Will we learn to seek his approval, or will we seek the consideration of each other, striving to be seen as great?  His testing is our testing.  So, learn to trust the master.  His way leads to life.

Verses 29-30 are interesting.  In a sense Jesus speaks of two kingdoms: one that he is giving to his disciples and one that they will join him in later.  The way they lead in the kingdom that he gives them will be rewarded in the Lord’s kingdom later.  He will not be present as they lead the Church after his ascension.  Thus their faithful service in the first century to lay down a foundation for the Church to be built upon would be rewarded in the coming millennial kingdom.  If we will listen to the commands of our Lord then we will find sure reward later.  Do not worry about the level of your authority and strive to get higher and higher.  Whatever authority comes your way in life, use it to honor Jesus and not yourself.  Use it to serve those under you in a way that will cause the Lord to think you are great.  At times that may make people under your influence to think less of you.  But that must not matter to us.

Do not embrace worldly thinking in any part of your life, much less within the Church.  It is high time that we drop the ways of the world and adopt the ways of the master, our Lord Jesus.

Leadership audio