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Entries in Disciples (3)

Tuesday
Feb192019

Jesus Begins to Minister

Mark 1:14-20.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on February 17, 2019.

Last week, we saw Jesus preparing to minister to the people of Israel.  In the passage before us today, he begins. 

The preaching of Jesus

The first thing that we see is not miracles and wondrous signs.  Rather, we see Jesus proclaiming or preaching to the people.  Mark focuses on the natural transition point of John the Baptist being imprisoned as when Jesus entered Galilee to minister.

It is important to recognize that throughout the Bible we see that people generally resist a true prophet of the Lord who comes speaking the truth of God.  This general resistance can be overcome.  However, we should recognize its prevalence.  An underlying theme throughout all of this is that God’s Word/Voice cannot be silenced.  If one is imprisoned then another will speak forth.  If one is killed then another will take their place.  It is not just a secular thing.  This world, both secular and religious, often operates in a way to try and silence what the Spirit of God is doing through those who listen to Him.  It hates the fact that they march to the beat of a different drummer.  It hates the message that there is something wrong with it.  It hates the message that people need to turn back to the ways of God because they already feel that they have the truth.  This silencing is sometimes with brute force, imprisonments, and violence.  However, it is sometimes with propaganda, narrative-control, disinformation, and manipulative and seductive memes.

In whatever way this world tries to marginalize the true work of the Spirit of God, it cannot stop what the Spirit is doing.  Those imprisoned just preach to their captives and demonstrate the value of God.  Those who are killed are replaced by others who may be even more powerful than they.  God’s Word cannot be silenced because it is empowered by God Himself.  In another way we can say that it cannot be silenced because it represents real reality, which no one can run from very long without running smack into its stubborn existence.

We must understand this about Christianity.  It is not the institutional trappings that Christ is promoting.  Though it may look like the world is winning, we must understand that we are on the side of the God of the universe.  He will not fail, and I must do my part, whatever it may come to be.  John the Baptist probably did not envision imprisonment and later death (Mark 6), but that is what was asked of Him by the Lord.

Thus the preaching of Jesus comes on the heels of one of the greatest preachers/prophets that Israel had seen in a long time.  Now let’s look at what this preaching proclaimed.

Jesus proclaimed the good news of the Kingdom of God.  All of the Gospels emphasize several things about the teaching of Jesus.  At its core, He was proclaiming the good news that the Kingdom of God was drawing close.  This had been the hope of Israel for over 1400 years, obtaining more and more information from God’s prophets regarding what that would look like along the way.  For the previous 500 years they had specifically suffered under the imperial rule of the kingdoms of Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome, which still ruled over them in the days of Jesus.  The faithful still waited and hoped for God’s Anointed man (Messiah is the Hebrew word for Anointed One) who would judge the nations and rule over the world from Jerusalem.  When would this wait ever end?  John the Baptist had shocked the nation with his insistence that he was a forerunner to the Messiah.  He told them to prepare themselves for the coming of the Lord.  Thus Jesus tells them the good news that the Kingdom was drawing close.  The long wait was coming to an end!

In fact, Jesus uses a phrase that the time was fulfilled or completed.  God had determined a particular time in history for the Anointed One to come forth.  Their long wait was done and the transition time was upon them.  Of course, things did not go the direction they all hoped it would go.  We now know that there are two phases to this Kingdom’s arrival on earth.  The first phase focused on spiritually changing those who would be its citizens.  It is a time of invitation and grace.  In this phase Christ rules from heaven over the hearts of those who believe in Him as the number of believers/citizens increases.  The second phase, which will occur at the Second Coming of Christ, is taking up of political control of the earth and removing the wicked leadership of the nations (which will only grow worse and worse).  This is often referred to as the Day of the Lord and as the Judgment of the Nations by the God of heaven.

Believers today live in this strange period where the Kingdom of God is now, but also not yet.  Though we may long for the coming of Christ and His rule upon the earth, we are still in the day of God’s invitation and grace to the people of this world.  Anyone, who so desires, can become a part of God’s Kingdom.  Thus it is important for current believers to keep their hands on the plow and keep working to share the invitation while there is still time.

Like any kingdom, the king has rules as to how one becomes a citizen.  Yes, any who so desired could come forward, but they were called upon to repent and believe in the gospel.  The need for a person to repent literally means to change your mind, or your way of thinking.  In so many personal ways, each person of that day was following the dictates of their own heart and mind.  Some in complete rejection of God’s Word and others with a partial rejection (sound familiar?).  The Spirit of God calls us to change the way that we are thinking, but also in a specific way.  Another metaphor that is used of repentance is turning.  We, who have turned away from God’s Ways into other ways of our own choosing, need to turn back to God in our hearts and minds, and follow His ways.

Repentance is always needed in our lives because we live in a world and a body that continually questions and rejects the ways of the Lord. Christians are not those who repented long ago, but are those who continue to be a repentant people.

So it begins with repentance, but then it moves to faith.  They needed to believe what Jesus was telling them.  Even though Mark emphasizes believing in the good news, Jesus Himself is the good news!  To believe in the Gospel is to believe in Jesus.  God had joined mankind in order to lift us up out of the horrible fate we were plunging towards.  Thus to believe in the Gospel is to believe that God has not abandoned us, and instead He has stepped into the muck and mire with us in order to save us.  This is good news indeed, for who can stop the Lord Almighty!

The disciples of Jesus

In verse 16 Jesus begins to call certain people to follow Him everywhere.  The term disciple is not used here, but they were called to learn from, be students of, Jesus.  In the New Testament, Jesus called 12 disciples to a special task.  They would become his apostles, sent-ones, who would go to the nations and lay the foundation for His Church.  They actually lived and ate with Jesus as they helped Him in His ministry.  Many other people were students and believers of Jesus.  However, they did not live with Jesus day to day.  So we should recognize that even though the outward form may be somewhat different, all of these disciples had one thing in common.  They were now following and listening to Jesus as their master and teacher.

Let’s explore the passage.  Notice that Jesus stands on the shore and calls 2 fishermen to follow him here, and then 2 more fishermen to follow Him there.  These would be the core of the 12 disciples: Peter and Andrew, James and John.  Though Jesus is no longer physically on the earth, he still approaches people through his disciples and calls people to believe upon Him and to follow Him.  None of us today pack up our bags and follow a physical Jesus to Jesus-ville.  However, we do these things spiritually.  To follow Jesus is to quit listening to those things you did before and to start listening to His Words and those of His Apostles.  It is to follow them.  It is to reject the mindset of this world that marginalizes Christ and His teachings, or even hijacks His teachings and twists them to other ends.  To follow Jesus is to have a spiritual journey every day where the Spirit of God leads us, much as Jesus led The Twelve 2,000 years ago.  We must ask ourselves this question each day.  Who am I following?  Am I following a favorite religious leader or philosopher?  Or am I following Jesus and the Spirit of God?

 The second thing about being a disciple of Jesus is that they were called to draw others to Christ.  These men had lived their lives catching fish and thus Jesus uses their life experience as a metaphor for what He was calling them to do.  They would fish for people.  Ultimately their lives would become about drawing people to Christ.

As in any analogy, fishing is a crude one.  God does not use tricks to hook people and drag them to shore in order to eat them.  Thus the metaphor is intended only so far.  God will work with people to live with and speak into the lives of others in order to draw them to Christ, to join His Kingdom.  Part of God’s call on your life is to be a light to the world around you.  You are to be a drawing influence through your life and the worlds you speak.  However, we are not to be drawing people to ourselves, but rather to Christ.

We are told that they dropped their nets and left their father in order to follow Jesus.  This recognizes the sacrifice that is made by all who follow Jesus.  Not every disciple was called to physically leave their families behind in order to follow Jesus.  However, we are all called to spiritually leave our old life behind and the attachments it has made upon us.  If I was a business man before I met Christ, He may call me to become a missionary or a pastor and I would literally leave that life behind.  However, He may simply call me to quit being the old business man that I was and to become a new creation in Christ who runs a business in a whole new way.  Regardless, the point is that if we are truly listening to and following the leadership of Christ, we will leave the old life behind.  I cannot hold on to the old way of living and survive.  I will either be pulled in two, or I will let go of one and cling to the other.  What am I clinging to today?

Let me close by recognizing just who Jesus chose to follow Him.  He was not in Jerusalem picking the top rabbis of the day.  He wasn’t even picking those Pharisees who would even one day believe on Him.  He was in the rural back country of Israel.  He was picking from among the lowly of society.  I do not mean they were lowly in a moral way, though we are all sinners.  1 Corinthians 1:26-29 says it this way, “Consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.  But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”

We must quit looking at ourselves and our lives, becoming discouraged, and letting the enemy draw us away from Christ.  Rather we must rejoice that God loves to use the weak and lowly because then it is clear that it is His power working in us and not our own!  Yes, a rich man can be saved and even a powerful politician.  However, they will have to die to their riches and to their power before they can become a disciple of Christ.  Drop your nets (that which hold you back) and follow Jesus today!

Jesus Ministers audio

Tuesday
Mar012016

Living by Faith

Luke 22:35-38.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on February 21, 2016.

Throughout the history of the Church the idea of “living by faith” has taken on several different forms.  For some it became the idea that we should never prepare for or save up for anything.  They attempt to obtain a radical trust in Jesus and His provision alone.  The opposite view sees it as only affecting the spiritual issue of salvation.  Thus they trust Jesus to save their souls, and yet do not look for any “provision” from God in their life.  I believe that the truth lies in between these two extremes.  We should trust God for both spiritual and material needs.  However, we also work hard, save up, and prepare for the inevitabilities that lie ahead.  As we look at today’s passage, we will get a better feel for this area.

The Sending Out Of The Twelve

In Luke 9 Jesus had sent the 12 into the towns and cities of Israel.  He had given them authority to heal diseases and cast out demons, while proclaiming the kingdom of God.

Part of the reasoning for this is that they would prepare the people to hear Jesus later.  In a sense they were pre-evangelizing the area.  There are different aspects to sharing the Gospel with people.  Sometimes it is brand new to them and can be symbolized by casting a seed into their minds and hearts.  Sometimes they have run into this before and our interaction with them can be symbolized by watering seed that already exists.  Lastly, we may come into the life of a person who has had seed planted and watered.  Their seeds have grown to the point of maturity and can now be harvested.  We should always bear in mind these ideas when we are sharing the Gospel.  We intersect with a life that is in motion and has a past.  However God chooses to use us, we must give our all without being discouraged by what we do or don’t see.  Be faithful.  The work is greater than any one attempt to evangelize.

Of course, it was also an opportunity to strengthen the faith of the disciples and to prepare them for their future.  Jesus told them to take no money, provisions, or extra clothes.  They were to depend solely upon what was provided by those who accepted them.  Of course God is ultimately the supply in all of our lives, but we are not usually commanded to do what Jesus told them to do.  This was clearly a part of their training and yet was also beneficial to the ministry.  After reminding them of their previous ministry He asks them if they lacked anything.  Their answer to the Lord is an emphatic, “We lacked nothing, Lord.”  It is important to recognize that we serve a God who is able to provide and, when He does, He often does so through people.

They Had Entered A Turning-Point

This time, Jesus is going to give them a command that is different than before, and it hinges on the phrase, “But now…”  The circumstances are going to be very different in the future than they were.  Before Jesus was a novelty that many people were interested in, and his disciples shared in that popularity.  Also they were only going to the cities of Israel.  Everyone there understood the Bible and God to some degree.  In a sense it was a best case scenario for ministry.  In the future they are not going to be in places that would be relatively easy.

In fact, the biggest issue ahead is that Jesus will no longer be with them physically.  He says, “The things concerning me have an end.”  That is there is a purpose in mind and it is that He must die on the cross.  It was not the Father’s will to continue things as they were before, and it was not his will to restore things to how they were after the resurrection.  They would be the main ministers now.  There would be no Jesus coming behind them. 

The earlier time was only preparatory for the Great Commission that would go beyond Israel to all the nations of the world.  This world would be dark and difficult.  In 1 Corinthians 4:11-13 Paul says, 11 To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. 12 And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; 13 being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now.  Before they lacked nothing, but in the future they are going to experience great lack in material things, yet not in the spiritual.  This brings us to a real challenge with faith.  Faith is not about getting what you think you need by declaring it.  Sure God tells us to ask and promises to provide for us.  But the disciples were headed into new peaks of faith that would require a person to trust God regardless of how good it looked like He was providing.  Sure, you have faith in God when you are blessed.  But, what about when you are hanging on a cross and feeling forsaken by God, do you have faith then?  I am not saying we will all end in such a situation.  However, it is our faith that overcomes the world, not our blessing.

Living by faith is not about how much or how little you have.  Before, he made them take nothing.  But having faith in God is about more than proving you trust him by having no provisions.  In Christ if you have nothing to start with, or you are fully supplied, you will need to have the same faith to accomplish what God is sending you to do.  Many a ministry that has been fully supplied has been ruined through trusting riches and fearing their loss.  However, many have never attempted ministry because they feel they have nothing to start it.  Do not look at what you have but rather look at what God is telling you to do and trust him.  The supply in this sense becomes irrelevant in regards to faith.  Use what you have, but never let it be what you trust in.

Why Did He Want Them To Have Swords?

The issue with the swords at the end of this passage has been a difficulty through the ages.  Why would Jesus tell them to get swords?  He is famous for being peaceful.  The word for “sword” here is in reference to a large knife or small sword.  Though it could be used in battle, it would be a very common thing for travelers to use for protection against animals and robbers, as well as a practical tool for cutting.  So why does Jesus want them to get these short swords?

Some have pointed to the Scripture that Jesus quotes, “He was numbered with the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:12).  When Jesus is arrested, the presence of the swords, and the cutting off of the servant’s ear, would help to fulfill this Scripture.  Yet, Jesus was arrested and crucified for blasphemy.  He is crucified with a thief and a murderer.  How much more would need to be done to fulfill this prophecy?  If you look up the Isaiah 53 passage, you will notice that the quote follows the statement in Isaiah that the messiah would pour out his soul unto death.  I think that Jesus quotes this verse to point out that things are changing and not why they need swords.  Jesus is seen as a criminal and thus will be executed.  This will change things for them.

Another answer has been to say that they will need them as they journey on the Great Commission for protection from animals and robbers.  This seems to fit the passage better.  It would be another item of provision when going on a journey through wilderness areas.  Paul’s list in 2 Corinthians 11 gives us a feel for what they encountered in their travels.  “23 Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. 24 From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.”  The swords could come in handy on such perilous journeys.  However, this still doesn’t quite fit to some.  We never see stories of the disciples using swords later.

Living By Faith Audio

Tuesday
Sep092014

The Lord Needs Workers

Today we are going to look at Luke 10:1-11.  Here we have Jesus sending out some of his disciples to minister throughout Israel, just as he did at the beginning of chapter 9.  However, now he appoints a group beyond “The Twelve,” referred to as the Seventy.

Here we see that the need is greater than the 12 can do alone.  In fact it was and is greater than what these 70 can do.  However, we are shown the heart of God to reach the lost and his need of believers who will partner with Him to do that.

The Sending of the 70 Disciples

Now we notice that these 70 are being sent out in the same way that the 12 had been sent out earlier.  They are going in pairs and they are going to the cities of Israel.  Now, 70 is an important number.  Just as the 12 disciples correspond with the 12 tribes of Israel, so the 70 correspond with the 70 elders of Israel.  They become representative in the Kingdom of God of what the others were in the beginning of the Kingdom of Israel.  In Exodus 24 we are introduced to the 70 elders as they go with Moses and Aaron on the mountain and eat a meal before a heavenly vision of the throne of God.  We also see them again in Numbers 11 where God places a portion of the Holy Spirit upon them to help Moses in leading Israel.  Thus it is clear that Christ is using the numbers on purpose to point to the new work that God was doing through the godly remnant of Israel.

We are also told that these 70 disciples were appointed and sent by Jesus.  The word “appoint” here literally means to raise someone up to a position.  There was a large pool of believers that followed Jesus and yet he raised 70 up out of this larger group for a specific task.  They become second tier apostles or “sent ones” to minister for the Lord.

Their task focuses on preparing the way for Jesus.  Jesus would be coming to those cities and villages at some point.  The work of the 70 would wet the spiritual thirst of people for when that would happen.  Not all are called to be evangelists and pastors.  However, our interactions with others can prepare them for a visitation of the Spirit of the Lord.  Jesus no longer walks on this earth physically.  But His Spirit is moving throughout the earth in order to draw people to Jesus.  These visitations of the Spirit of God come and go.  We can cooperate with the Spirit to prepare people and to save them.  Paul refers to this as planting, watering, and harvesting.  All of these spiritual works are done by believers in Christ in cooperation with the Holy Spirit.

Jesus then points out the great need of workers in God’s Kingdom.  There are a large number of people to reach.  That doesn’t necessarily mean the majority.  Scripture is clear that the majority of the world will follow the wicked path to destruction.  But the narrow path that leads to life will be found by the minority.  Yet, this is not a set percentage.  In some places more or less will come to Christ.  We have testimonies of whole villages coming to believe in Christ and others where He is rejected.  Yet, the harvest is still large and will take a lot of workers; workers who are willing to sweat in order to bring it in.  Do we sometimes err in expecting people to harvest themselves?  It is our duty to go out and help people to come into the kingdom of God.  This is not a one moment thing.  It involves all the work that leads up to the day of harvest.  If our life is focused primarily on what we want in life, we will only give a half-hearted attempt at reaching the lost if any.  Thus Jesus points out the need for prayer.

Prayer is the place where God touches our heart.  We can’t pray for the harvest without being concerned for it.  The more we pray, the more the Lord will touch our heart.  Yes, prayer can be used to unload burdens.  But it can also be a place to pick up the burden that God has for those who are lost; the urgency to work hard to bring them in.

Instructions For Going

In verses 3 and 4, Jesus gives them instructions regarding their going.  They are to go as “lambs among wolves.”  This metaphor represents our spirit or demeanor among the lost.  We are going out into a den of wolves looking for lost sheep, and our tendency is to become like the wolves out of self-preservation.  Wolves are bloody, cruel, aggressive, and to be feared.  They will eat you up if you give them the chance.  However, lambs are peaceful, not aggressive, and definitely not feared.  They are the vulnerable ones.  What manner of spirit are we?

Jesus also sends these 70 without material provisions.  They are not to concern themselves with their material needs.  Rather, they are to depend upon God to provide.  Notice that it is clear that Jesus intends for their material needs to be met by those who receive the gospel from them.  We will talk more about being content with what is provided in the next point.  But, here the emphasis is upon trusting God.  This is not an endeavor that we can accomplish in our flesh.  We need the Lord to supply both our material needs and spiritual accomplishment.

He also tells them to “Greet no one.”  The concern here is to be one who is focused upon a specific task.  They are official representatives of the Kingdom of God.  The temptation to get distracted when responding to the task given is still with us today.  Many people who have started to go for the Lord have gotten distracted from the main purpose of reaching the lost.  In fact, some have gone so far as to be entangled in the cares of this world to the point of ship wrecking their faith.  We must keep a single eye upon this work.

Instructions For Ministering

Verses 5-11 detail the instructions for what to do when they reach the cities.  They are to approach the people of these cities as a giver of peace.  In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus had said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the Sons of God.”  Peace is a hallmark of God.  Where God’s Spirit is there will be peace.  Thus the ambassadors of Jesus are to be peaceful within their selves and to be givers of peace.  Yet, not all desire peace. There are wolves they will meet.  We must not have a fake peace that is quickly thrown aside when others reject us.  The peace of Christ went all the way to the cross.  Is your “peace” a mile wide and an inch thick?  Is it easily pierced and dissipated as the morning fog?  Jesus says that if your peace is rejected it will return to you.  By the act of rejection your peace is “thrown back in your face.”  They reject both words and actions.  Yet, it is our duty to “take our peace back” and move on in peace.

Jesus also points out their attitude towards what would be provided by those who received them.  They would be uniquely susceptible to certain temptations because they were taking no provisions with them.  Jesus tells them to receive whatever they are given.  In other words, don’t be picky.  Our concern must never be how great the provision is, whether in quantity or quality.  Our concern must only be upon the work of the Lord.  In truth, such provisions are given to God anyways.  The people who would bless them are doing so out of thankfulness for the work that God is doing through these “sent ones.”

Jesus also warns against moving from house to house.  This was a method of getting everyone’s best.  You stay at a house until they are no longer treating you royally and then you move to another home.  This is a fleshly motivation that is not to be followed.

Yet, the laborer is worthy of his hire.  When we labor to bring spiritual blessings to people it is only natural that they minister to our material needs.  I don’t need an expensive car and a multi-million dollar home.  But I do have need of shelter, clothing and food.  To have your eyes opened to the truth of your lost condition and yet the grace that God has for you is an amazing thing.  You are receiving the eternal effect of salvation.  Consider that in contrast to the temporary effect of a morsel of food.  Is this fraught with temptations and pitfalls?  You better believe it.  There are pitfalls for both the minister and the one being ministered to.  So Jesus warns them and us.

Ultimately they were to minister to those who received them, wherever that was at.  They were to heal the sick and to cast out demons.  They were to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.  It has come near to you.  Enter in by faith in Jesus Christ.

Even though some places would reject them, they were to focus on leaving behind a good witness.  The symbolic act of shaking the dust off of their feet was a way of saying, “I did my job and I leave this dirt as evidence that I was here.”  It is also a way of saying, “I will not let your rejection of Christ and scoffing of his ways cling to me.”  This symbolic act is a witness against them if they go into eternity without repenting.  Leaving is inevitable.  But what we do will either help them to salvation or condemn them.  They will be without excuse.

Let me close by encouraging us to respond to this mission that Christ shows us.  This mission to reach those who are lost with the Gospel has many temptations.  But if we listen to Christ we can do a job that he will rejoice in.  So that we may hear one day, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Lord Needs Workers audio