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Weekly Word

Entries in Discipleship (8)

Saturday
Apr012017

Sharing Jesus Passionately

Matthew 28:16-20; Acts 1:7-8.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on March 26, 2017.

We have looked at three purposes of the people of God.  First we are to Connect to Jesus and each other in a living relationship.  If it is a living relationship then we will Grow spiritually to become more like Jesus.  Thirdly, if we are growing to be like Jesus then we will Serve one another selflessly.  This leads to the last purpose that we will look at, which is to Share Jesus passionately with those who are not connected to Him.  All of these “purposes” flow out of the first purpose and can be considered part of it.  Regardless, let’s look at this issue of sharing Jesus passionately.

There are many today who speak of a cultural arrogance of Christians.  What gives Christians the right to tell others that they do not have the truth, in any way?  For sure over the years Christians have sometimes confused spreading the Gospel with spreading a culture.  Still, the question is this.  Is it ever acceptable to teach someone else something that you believe to be truth?  It should immediately be evident that much of life could not happen without the concept of some teaching others truth.  A child that is born into the world is never left to discover truth all on its own.  They are taught what to eat, what to avoid, etc.  A person who wants to learn a profession goes to those who are already doing it, in order to learn the trade.  Once a person has grasped the collective learning to that point, then they are in a place to seek on their own what may not be understood up to now.  What I am saying is that we cannot intellectually reject the concept of telling others the truth.  We can only disagree with what they are promoting as truth.  As Christians we should not allow ourselves to fall prey to the idea that we should let others find the truth for themselves.  Those who promote such things firmly promote it as truth, which in itself is a type of hypocrisy.  No.  If you are Christian then do not apologize for believing God’s Word.  Instead, confidently take your place within the market of ideas, and share Jesus passionately.  You have as much right as the next person to speak your peace.

We will see today that there is another side to this matter.  Up to now we have been dealing with our relationship to other people.  Yet, there is also our relationship to God.  If God has given us truth that others lack, and He has told us to share it with them, then we would be rejecting His will not to share the truth with them.  Thus we would not be walking in faith, but in disobedience.

Today we will look at a passage that shares an interaction that Jesus had with his disciples after the resurrection, but before he ascended into heaven.  It serves as a transitional story from the works that Jesus did while he was on earth to the works that His Church did through his spiritual help.  If we understand anything today, I pray that we will see that we can confidently share the good news about Jesus with anyone we meet without feeling shame.

Jesus gives his disciples a mission

Though the disciples are not exactly clear what is going on, we know that Jesus is getting ready to leave earth.  He is going into the heavenly realm to stay at the right hand of the Father, until he is sent back to establish his reign over the whole earth.  This begs the question: What should his followers do while he is gone?  In this passage Jesus gives instructions for what his followers should be doing.  But, before we talk about the mission he is about to give, let’s look at the condition of the disciples.

Their understanding of who Jesus is and what he is doing had received a complete upheaval at the cross.  They are in a state of shock regarding his death, and yet another shock regarding his resurrection.  Thus Jesus is helping them to make the transition from all that they thought Jesus was to the truth about it.  In some ways they were right, but in very big areas they were also wrong.  Verse 17 shows us that though they worshipped the Lord, some still doubted.   If they are going to be able to do what Jesus is asking them to do then they are going to have to overcome their doubts and learn to worship Jesus as divine.  The same is true today.  What were these doubts they had?  Maybe they doubted that this was really Jesus because their mind just couldn’t accept it.  Maybe they doubted whether they wanted to continue to follow him.  Regardless of what their doubts were and what our doubt might be today we must face them.  Doubts are a very real part of faith.  You can’t have faith without there being some doubts over which to believe.  As we take our doubts and lay them before God in prayer, we will recognize that He has given us very real proof and evidence on which we can believe.  Ultimately doubt and faith is about whether we trust Jesus or not.  So read the Gospels over again and ask yourself if you trust the One who was willing to go to the cross for you, or the wisdom of those who have not.  Christians accept Jesus as more than a great teacher, or a great example of faithful suffering.  He is all that and yet more.  He is the One and Only unique Son of God, who is worthy of the worship of mankind.  He is unique in that he was never created, and in fact, all things that were created were created through him.  What the disciples did that day was considered blasphemy to the Jews.  They accepted the divinity of Jesus and gave worship to him.  To worship Jesus was to recognize his absolute value above all created things and equality with the Father.  Though he was truly human, he was also God.

Then in verse 18 Jesus preempts his instructions with an important truth.  He had been given all authority from the Father over all authorities in heaven and on earth (both the spirit world and the natural world).  This is important because the mission is going to require them to enter into the domain of earthly rulers and spiritual rulers, and promote Jesus as Lord.  This would be seen as an act of insurrection and treated as such by those same rulers.  Thus earthly rulers would challenge Christians on a very physical plane.  What gives you this authority?  In the same way wicked, spiritual rulers would resist.  They would have a better grasp on why Christians have authority to enter their areas of control.  But they would resist nonetheless.  Thus the existence of the Church becomes a means by which all authorities of earth are put on notice by the King of all kings that their time of judgment is rapidly approaching.  Our message to all the citizens of these domains is this: Flee the coming judgment on these rulers and their domains by renouncing them and join the kingdom of Jesus by pledging allegiance to him.  Christian you must understand that anyone who tells you to quit talking about Jesus, is themselves in rebellion to the highest authority of the entire cosmos.  We must not waver in the reality of who Jesus really is.  It is by his authority that we have the right to tell others the truth about their condition and situation.

So this leads us to verses 19 and 20.  These verses lay out the mission that Jesus has for his followers.  The heart of it is to disciple all nations.  So that starts with inviting people to become students of Jesus.  The emphasis of the word “nations” is meant to emphasize the individuals that comprise the nations, and not the geopolitical entities and their governments.  We are not called to Christianize all governments, but rather to “Christianize” all who want to become disciples of Jesus out of every nation that exists.  Now, I have taken time to make a rough diagram of the mission to make it easier to discuss.

Our command or imperative is to disciple all nations.  So we are to help others to become disciples of Jesus as we are.  Also, there is no biological, racial, or cultural boundary that we are limited by.  Christ has authority over all nations and thus authorizes us to make disciples from all nations.  All of this is not to be done forcefully.  All disciples must do so of their own choosing.  We are called by Jesus, “come follow me,” but not forced to do so.  Thus all Christians are volunteers in the service of Jesus. 

Now that we have the principle parts of the command, let’s look at the qualifiers.  The English version makes it look like our command is to go.  However, in the original language it is a verbal adjective that is describing the disciples.  The emphasis is not that everyone who claims to be a disciple must go to all the nations, but that the disciples are to be a “going” people.  Thus, whether we are doing our part by going across the street to our neighbor, or going to the ends of the earth, this is our collective responsibility.  Thus Christians who are not missionaries to other nations, are still “goers” because they are sharing Jesus within their own area and they help to support those that go to other nations through prayer and funds.  We cannot ever become a people who hide behind walls and wait for God to take the world away.  Rather we are called to advance into the most evil of environments and proclaim the judgment of God to those dark forces that rule them and proclaim deliverance to whosoever wants out of those kingdoms.  Christians must not be cowards who hide in fear.  Rather, we must be those who take our fears, much like our doubts, and place them before God, as we ask for courage to walk in faith.  We must have a going heart.

The next qualifying phrases refer to making disciples.  Although Matthew’s version does not explicitly mention this proclamation, Mark’s version says “go and preach the gospel.”  Thus we make disciples by first proclaiming freedom.  Then we baptize those who respond in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  In other words, we introduce them into the new community with a symbolic act that represents what is happening in their life.  They are dying to the old life and being raised up to a new life in a new kingdom.  This basically represents a person switching allegiance.  What must those spiritual powers think every time a believer is baptized in the name of Jesus?  It must be salt to their wounds as they lose another person from their grip and come one step closer to their judgment.

The next part of making disciples is to teach them all that Jesus commanded.  Part of what Jesus taught was that his apostles would be enabled by the Holy Spirit to lay down the whole truth for the Church of Christ (John 16:12-13).  He didn’t have time to lay everything out for them.  But He would lead them by the Holy Spirit.  Thus the Bible speaks of the foundation of Christ and his Apostles.  The truth must be taught to these new believers so that they too can become teachers and disciplers.

Of course I have continued the diagram to include what Jesus says about himself.  Notice the parallel.  In a sense he says, “This is what you are supposed to be doing, and this is what I will do.”  He promises to be with his disciples always, even to the end of the age.  Thus the promise is not just for the first century and the first disciples.  It is in force as long as is given to the Church to proclaim the gospel and as many generations.  So how is Jesus with us?  Acts chapter 1:7-8 helps us to understand this.

In this passage the disciples wanted to know what would happen to Israel as a nation at this time.  But Jesus tells them to wait for an event in which the Holy Spirit of God would come upon the disciples of Jesus and help them to be the witnesses and teachers that they were called to be.  So, it is through the Holy Spirit that Jesus is with us.  In fact, in some places the Holy Spirit is actually called the Spirit of Christ.  Why?  He is called that because He is not acting on His own, but leading only in the direction that the Son of God desires.  So what is this age that Jesus refers to and when will it end?  The best way to describe it is to see it as a time of God’s gracious offer of citizenship in His coming kingdom to whosoever will.  Of course Satan fights hard to blind people to the truth and even to pull people back away from Christ.  He will never give up until he is completely removed by God (see Revelation 20:10).  Take time today first to pray for the help of the Holy Spirit.  You were never meant to do this alone.  Thus we have the Holy Spirit and we have a community of others who are in communion with the Holy Spirit.  Second, ask God for focus on how to be a witness of His love and His truth.  Ask Him for help to speak the truth in love and with passion.  Yes, you must become convinced that these things are true before you can worship Jesus and serve Him in this purpose of telling the whole world.  This Age of Grace has a point in which it will end.  We are not told a date or number of years.  We are simply told to be faithful.  May God help His Church to be awake and alert in these perilous times.

Sharing Jesus audio

Thursday
Oct062016

Society under Siege: Social Activism

Mt. 28:18-20; John 13:1-8.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on October 2, 2016.

What is social activism?  It is the tactic of creating social upheaval, and thereby pressuring the government into changing laws and policies.  Ultimately it is about changing society.  The idea of manipulating the people of a nation for political purposes has been around for ages.  However, in the last 2 centuries the fine tuning of changing society has led to books like the anti-Semitic, propaganda text in pre-revolution Russia called “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”  Another book would be “Rules for Radicals” by Saul Alinsky.  We have reached a point where multiple, competing agencies are trying to manipulate society to their own ends.  In the midst of this environment large parts of the Church have been seduced to employ this same tactic in order to achieve a “godly” purpose.  Is this what Jesus wants?  Is it our job to force society to adopt and live by the truth of God?

No godly person ever used this tactic

Technically this first point is made by the absence of Scripture.  I must give credit to the late Dave Hunt who made this point back in the 1980’s.  The absence of godly people organizing a community to cause social upheaval and the approval of God should be glaringly obvious.

We do see many cases of civil disobedience.   So let’s look at some of them.  In Exodus 1:15 and following we have the Pharaoh of Egypt telling two midwives to kill any Hebrew boys who are born.  These midwives were Hebrew themselves and in good conscience could not kill these baby boys.  Thus they lied to Pharaoh.  They basically claimed that the Hebrew women had their babies too quickly for the midwives to intervene.  Notice that in this case there is no organizing of a large group to create social upheaval.  These women aren’t even operating to change the laws of Egypt.  They simply refuse to kill the baby boys out of deference to the commands and nature of the One True God.

Several other cases are seen in the book of Daniel.  The three Hebrew boys refuse to bow down to an image when commanded to do so by the king.  Under threat of death they make the statement that they believed God would save them.  But if not, they still wouldn’t bow down to the idol.  Daniel himself faced a law that commanded the citizens to pray to no one but the king for a period of time.  Daniel refused to obey this law and prayed to the God of Heaven anyway.  Notice that none of them create riots and marches.  They make no attempts to change the laws of the land.  Rather, they obey the dictates of their conscience, regardless of what might happen to them.

Lastly, we see the same thing with the Apostles Peter and John.  They had been preaching about Jesus, when the Sanhedrin commands them to stop. Of course they make the statement that if they have to choose between obeying man or God, they would choose to obey God.

All of these examples are all about individual conscience before God.  The godly of every generation have not necessarily obeyed all the laws of mankind (basically the evil ones).  However, they are not leading protests and social upheaval in order to change society.  They are simply trying to please God over man.  So what should godly people be doing in our culture today?

Our mission is people not societies

This leads us to our first text.  In Matthew 28 we see Jesus explaining that he had been given power and authority over all nations and all heavenly principalities.  With this authority he could have commanded anything.  Yet, he does not give us the mission of taking over the nations of the world.  This may be what Islam teaches.  It may be what communism teaches, but it is not what Christ taught.

Instead he sends his disciples to all the nations in order to preach the Gospel of Jesus and disciple the individuals that respond to it.  We must never forget that our main aim is to disciple those who become Christians.  Our goal is not to take over the governments of this world and neither is it to build crystal cathedrals.  Rather we are called to build people.

So if we get caught up in trying to change or “save” societies we can be in danger of losing the individuals that we were sent to reach in the first place.  What do I mean by that?  When the church focuses on society and trying to change or perfect it, then our focus looks for those tools and things that “work” to change society.  When we focus upon the system instead of the people, then people will end up getting crushed.  The mistake is not just in trying to perfect society.  Even our churches can be guilty of trying to build little perfect societies within our church walls.  Evangelism typically ceases to be about discipling a new believer to become more like Jesus, and becomes about forcing an individual to fit into our system.  “Be a good cog.”  This path is dehumanizing, uncaring, and anti-Christ.  There are multiple generations of people who have been crushed by Churches and Christians who are more concerned about a perfect system (i.e. don’t rock the boat) then they are about following and obeying Jesus.  So what would Jesus do if he were here today?

Jesus shows us the way

In John 13:1-8 we see Jesus the night before he is crucified.  It is clear from his actions here that Jesus would not be rioting in the streets and leading a revolution against the government.  It is also clear that he would not be using millions of dollars to subvert the political process.

In these verses we see that Jesus knew that society had it out for him.  He knew that things were only going to get worse politically.  Instead of throwing a temper tantrum and using his power to force change in society, Jesus accepted the reality on the ground and focused on what really mattered.  Is it possible that we could learn to accept the reality that this world will give us difficulty if we want to follow God?  And, can we accept the reality that it will not give us justice?  If a nation dissolves and reforms, or is taken over by another nations, it is not the end of the world.  How many nations today have taken the place of others before them?  Most of the nations fit this parameter.  Now weigh this against the reality that if an individual goes into eternity lost, it is the end of their world.

Thus, we are told that Jesus loved them to the very end.  Can we choose to love people to the very end of our earthly life?  I know that this passage is about Jesus with his closest disciples.  Yet, one of them has surrendered to the devil and is about to betray him.  Jesus even loved Judas to the very end.  On top of this, it is impossible to see Jesus hanging on the cross and not recognize that he loved the world and paid the price for whosoever would believe.  If we sacrifice caring for individuals in order to build the perfect society (whether in the church or in the nation) then we are being foolish.  The Church was not established to create a perfect society.  It was established to provide a family for those who would respond to the call to believe on Jesus.  We are to be a family of imperfect people who have been redeemed and are being saved by Jesus.
Jesus said that the Truth will set you free.  Radicals like to talk about speaking truth to power.  But the truth is they are always heavy on power and light on truth.  Their methods look nothing like Jesus.  Jesus spoke truth into people’s lives.  He combated the lies of the enemy that held them spiritually captive with the love of God’s truth.  “Yes, if you remain in your sins you will die in them.  But, if you turn from your sins and believe me, then you will live eternally.”  Now this does not save everyone, but it is the only door to hope.  The only way to do what Jesus did is by getting down in the nitty gritty of a person’s life.  It takes time and investment to determine the lies a person has believed and counteract them with the truth of God’s word.  It isn’t a quick, easy, perfect process.

The problem with a pragmatic approach is that it rarely asks, “Should we do this.”  Yes, we could go to war against progressives and try to take our nation back for Jesus.  But should we?  At least should that be our focus?  If there is going to be another Spiritual Awakening in America, it will first start because Christians repent of being side-tracked and actually start following Jesus.  Even then, it will be because of the move of God.  It is He who raises up nations and He who puts nations down.  Let us start demonstrating such humility before God that even Jesus himself exercised.   He humbled himself and used his authority and power to accomplish what God asked.  If we will do this then we will hear from the Father the same words He says to His Son.  “Come, sit at my feet until I make your enemies your footstool.”  When Jesus comes back he will take up the governments of the world and hand them over to his saints.  Until then we must humble ourselves and focus on sharing the Gospel, and discipling those who respond in repentance.  Some tools may be powerful.  But at what cost do we use them?  Our country will be torn apart by these competing, social powers unless God has mercy on us.

Social Activism audio

Wednesday
Jul152015

The Test of Freedom

July 5, 2015--Luke 18:31-34

This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner.  The following is only a summary of it.  Please click the audio link at the end of the article to listen to it.

This weekend we are celebrating 239 years since our declaration of independence from King George of the British Empire in A.D. 1776.  Looking back, we can see how that freedom has been tested in many different ways over the centuries.  First it was tested by the War of Independence itself.  Once that test had been passed we were tested on whether or not we could govern ourselves.  This gave rise to the constitution in 1789.  Of course other tests involved the Civil War in the 1800's, our rise as a global economic power since WWII, and throughout the last 70 years the test of our spiritual and moral fortitude.  Freedom is not a right we can demand.  It is a condition we can enjoy, but will always be tested.  Our founding fathers believed that it was the right of all men to be free simply because they are created by God and He intends them to be free.  Do we still believe that?

The story of the Bible is one of the enslavement of men and God’s consequent work to free men from it.  It is not God who enslaves us.  We are enslaved by our own sins to do the will of the devil.  Jesus in John 8:36 tells us, “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  We also see in the Bible, 2 Cor 3:17, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”  Whether or not America will pass the tests of today and remain free, every believer in Jesus needs to recognize that, regardless of society, they can remain free as individuals who have embraced Jesus, the only true source of freedom.

Jesus frees us to trust God

In Luke 18:31-34 we see that the disciples did not really understand the plan and purposes of God in Jesus.  In retrospect we can see it is all about freedom, but for them it looked like Jesus was refusing to free them.  The interaction of Jesus with the rich man earlier in this chapter is ultimately about a man enslaved by trust in his wealth, rather than God.  Thus Jesus calls this man to embrace freedom and let go of his slavery. Of course he walks away sad because he is not sure he wants to be free from what enslaves him.  He would rather have both.  I want to have my cake and eat it too.  However, freedom often requires us to choose what we want more.

The call to freedom comes from Jesus to whoever will listen.  Leave everything else behind and follow me.  Peter recognizes that they had done that in verse 28. The disciples had successfully navigated the test that the rich man failed (at least in this moment).  Jesus of course recognized that what Peter says is true.  In fact the things they have lost have been replaced with something that is more and yet different, as Pastor Nick shared with us last week.  Though they left their families and jobs behind, Jesus had made them part of a new family with a new job.  They had trusted God and wanted Him more than their previous lives.

Yet something else needed to happen.  Jesus is not just a way of looking at the world and living life. He had to do a real work of freeing us from the guilt and judgment of our sins.  Thus Jesus takes the 12 aside in order to remind them where he was headed, that is the cross. Our sins keep us from freedom by leading us off the path of trusting God’s way.  No matter how much we want to be with God the desires of our flesh continually pull us away from God and separate us from Him.  They also keep us from freedom by the guilt and judgment that stands in the way of getting back on God’s path.  Jesus is not just our great example.  He is that and much more.  He is also our Sin Remover; our Punishment Surrogate; our Willing Scapegoat.  He sacrificed himself for our freedom.  Thus, it is one thing to embrace Jesus as a means of having a wonderful life.  It is quite another to follow Him through the cross and to the other side.

To stay free is to keep trusting God

Once having been given freedom it is important to hold on to it.  Your flesh, the world, & the devil fight against that freedom.  The only way to retain freedom is to keep trusting God.  "He who endures until the end shall be saved."  The endurance here is not about human strength, but about faith.  If we hold our faith in God and His Son, Jesus, we will remain in His freedom.

Our faith is never more tested than when we have to walk a difficult path and endure the hostility of sinners.  Jesus takes time to point them to the hostilities and difficulties that lie ahead.  This is the 3rd time Luke records Jesus telling them about the difficult death ahead of him. Yes, we are tested in just taking hold of the call to freedom.  But we are also tested in the holding on to it. Difficult paths can cause us to shrink away from freedom and retreat back into the slavery of self-life.  Jesus warned his disciples that to follow him, they would need to pick up their own cross. Difficult times lay ahead.  In fact he would be mocked, insulted, spit upon, scourged, and killed. They would not stand by him in his darkest hour, which would become a guilt and shame hanging over their head.  These things would test them severely.  What are we willing to endure in order to retain freedom as an individual?  As a nation?  The Israelites of the first century A.D. had a choice to make.  They could cling to the hope of national freedom of Israel, or they could let go of it and obtain the freedom that no dictator or terrorist can take away; freedom in Jesus.  Is there a hope for freedom of America in the days ahead?  As long as there is a God there is hope.  However, even nations can cross lines that bring about the judgment of God.  Yet, even if this nation is without hope of turning back, we as individuals must stand with Joshua and say, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."  We cannot lose the greater in trying to keep the lesser.  Perhaps the time has come for American Christians to make a choice.  Is your love for this country greater than your love for Jesus?  It is easy to conflate the two.

So how can one remain free when faced with such choices?  Ultimately freedom was won by the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf.  In a similar manner, the natural freedom of our nation was won by the sacrifice of men and women who put their lives on the line. This principle cannot be avoided: freedom is only maintained by sacrifice.  As Christians we follow a Lord who sacrificed earthly glory in order to give us true freedom.  So how can I put my life on the line for this nation?  Yes we can join militaries and police forces and fight against evil.  But even that finds a dead end when whole nations embrace wickedness and reject God.  The way of the cross has never been about saving the body of a man or the body politic of a nation.  Jesus and his disciples are our model.  They did not shrink back because the path was difficult.  Rather, they pushed ahead even to the point of laying down their lives as fishermen and Israelites.  They did this for themselves but also for the sake of those who would follow behind them.  They wanted others to be free.

When you trust God it does not mean the path will be easy.  But God has always aided His people against the forces of tyranny.  Even when those forces seem invincible.  He has pledged to free the world from this age of the darkness of man’s rebellion and the tyranny that forever chases us like a howling wolf.  We must trust that.  We must pick up our cross and follow Him.  Let’s be the light in this dark and perverse generation so that some may believe and find freedom.

Test of Freedom Audio

Tuesday
Jan272015

Discerning The Times

Today we will be looking at Luke 12:54-59.

In the 1960's Bob Dylan came out with his single "The Times They Are A Changin'."  In it he warns people, politicians, and parents that things are changing and if you stand in the road you will get ran over.  It is interesting that at the end of the song he warns that those who are leading the change today will be the ones standing in the way in the future.  In fact he refers to this constant changing as a curse.  Whether he is tying back to the biblical account of the Fall of Man or he simply describes it as it is, the curse is that things do not stay the same and you either get on board or get left behind. 

Up to this point in Luke 12, Jesus has been mainly addressing his disciples.  But, here He addresses the multitudes.  The disciples needed to be ready for the work he gives them, the persecution they would endure and the return of Jesus.  However, the multitudes needed to make a choice whether to become disciples or not.  In a word Jesus challenges them to get off the fence because the times they were a changin'.

Good At Recognizing The Weather

In verses 54-56 Jesus points out their ability to recognize what the weather will be based upon the signs they see in the sky.  Of course, he doesn't care about their forecasting ability.  Rather he is pointing out how studious and quick to recognize things that had to do with weather.  This will be in contrast to their laziness at recognizing the times.

Israel's weather was impacted by a large body of water, the Mediterranean Sea, to the West and a desert to the South.  Thus when they saw clouds over the water it was a sign that rain was on the way.  Similarly when the prevailing winds came from the South, there would be hot weather.  These were a "rule of thumb" in regard to weather.  Now it would be good for us to stop and ask ourselves this question.  What things do I pay particular attention to and recognize, and what do I not?  What subtle changes in the world around me do I pay steadfast attention to and quickly move in activity because of them?  Is it the weather, financial matters, politics, economics, popular culture, the latest movies?  We need to recognize that the amount of time we spend paying attention to these things will be "exhibit A" when we stand before God and give account regarding this issue of understanding what God is doing.  If you have the attitude that it is too hard to discern what God is doing, or you could care less, then know that you will be left without excuse when you stand before Him.

Bad At Recognizing The Times

Jesus is talking about something greater than what Bob Dylan sang about.  You see Dylan's song has a spiritual side to it, but the wave of change he is talking about are those that are man generated and purposed.  Although we would recognize the Devil has a part to play in them, they are the hopes and dreams of the people at the time and manipulated by the inter-dimensional spirit being we call Satan.  But Jesus is referring to the times of God's dealing with the nation of Israel, in this case.  Over the top of all the turbulent sea of man's projects and changes is the more powerful and unstoppable purposes and seasons of God's purpose.  It is this that the multitudes were missing.

The term "times" comes from a word that has the sense of "seasons."  Thus it is not about sequence as much as it is about the designed time for an activity, whether it be the season of planting and harvesting, or the season of war and peace.  Again, man pursues his seasons, but God's dealings with men have "seasons" as well.  He appoints a certain amount of time to accomplish certain things.  Thus the "seasons" of men and the "Seasons" of God are often at odds with one another.  In these situations it does not matter if all the world are united to do what they want, God's purpose will overrule theirs.  Of course men are free to operate as they will.  However, it is always within the parameters of what God is doing.  The prophets of the Old Testament had warned the people of Israel that a Season of Change was coming.  The Anointed One of God would come and judge the nations and restore righteousness to Israel and the Earth.  Even John the Baptist warned people, "repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand."  People needed to prepare their lives and ready themselves for the One who would put down the wicked and exalt the righteous.

Yet, the multitudes of Israel had become hypocrites in general.  The word means to be a stage player or actor (i.e. a pretender).  What were they pretending and why?  First they were pretending to want God's Messiah to come.  They were pretending to want the righteousness of God to be established on the Earth.  How can I say that? I'm not saying it.  Rather, this is the judgment of Jesus over them.  They drew near God with their lips and gave "lip service" to His prophecies and teachings.  However, in their hearts they did not repent of their own wickedness.  They never thought through the reality of what a righteous king would mean in a wicked land.  Their hearts were far from God.

This failure was not for lack of instruction.  They had plenty of instruction and plenty of warning.  Yet, they had spent more energy on understanding the things of temporary impact than on the things of eternal impact.  Even today, here in America, we are swimming in a sea of instruction concerning the times and seasons of God.  We have been warned over and over again that the Righteous Jesus is coming back.  Am I giving lip service to such things without giving proper attention to such a serious matter?  Am I spending all my time on understanding the technology, politics, and culture of my day so that I can succeed, but ignoring God's seasons?  What will it profit a man to succeed in this temporary Age and yet fail in keeping his soul for eternity?

Do you recognize the times that we live in?  This is the Age or Season of God's grace.  Instead of judging the nations, God called a remnant out of Israel (the Church) and commissioned them to make known His terms of peace with the nations of the world.  This season of opportunity has been going for the last two millennia.  Our judgment is sealed but the offer of peace is still on the table.  This season has been compared to a crop.  There is a time of planting, a time of letting it grow, and eventually there is a harvest.  The Church Age is coming to a close.  I do not offer dates only warnings.  The Harvest of the earth is nearly complete and then the judgment will come.  Are you ready?  If you do not take time to understand these thing then you will not be ready and will perish in the judgment that is coming.

Bad At Recognizing Our Personal "Times"

In verses 57-59, Jesus focuses not so much on the greater "seasons" of God's dealing with Israel, but on God's dealing with each individual.  His dealing with you as an individual has seasons as well.  "Why even of yourselves do you not judge what is right?"  God is faithful to make sure that his Truth is being revealed to us.  He works to bring us to a knowledge of the truth, to bring us to faith, and then to transform us.  Those who continue to resist this work until it is too late will be judged.  Thus the multitudes were interested in hearing Jesus, but they needed to pay better attention to the spiritual implications of their life.

The people of Israel were about to face judgment as a nation.  This means that all the individuals of that nation were facing judgment as well.  The handwriting was on the wall and the Romans had only increased their stranglehold upon the nation of Israel.  The political and religious leaders had only grown more and more ungodly.  Many rebel groups kept forming, being stomped out, and forming again.  Such dangerous times teach a person to make sure that they have right standing with God.  When the world around you is going to hell in a hand basket, you had better know that you belong to God.

This instruction, about being taken before the magistrate and seeking terms before the judgment, seems to be a metaphor for the coming judgment by God.  They were about to be judged nationally and personally. Yet, notice that Jesus is advising them to do everything they can to settle out of court.  The practicality of settling out of court is seen in different ways.  Some settle out of court because it will be cheaper in the long run.  Others settle out of court because the offended party has the choice to have mercy on us.  But the magistrates must carry out the law and give us the penalty due.  

It is here that we see the offer of salvation in Jesus being compared to "settling out of court."  Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden.  In this sense we are not just burdened with the sins of others.  We are also burdened with the overhanging judgment of our own sins.  But the words, "Repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved!"  A simple changing of your minds and putting of your trust upon Jesus can change everything.

When Israel was in the desert, they lived as nomads in tents.  They had no permanent home.  When the cloud of the presence of God lifted off of the Tabernacle, it was time to pack up camp and leave.  When it stopped it was time to unpack and set up residence.  This is a picture of what the Christian life is supposed to be like.  This is not our home.  Our home is when we dwell with Jesus.  Until then, we follow Him throughout this wilderness.  When he packs up to move we do to.  In some ways the "church" has become too enamored with building permanent institutions in a time in which we are to be quick to move with God.  Those very things we build become an entanglement to our heart when God asks us to leave them be and come follow Him.  We have to be careful that we are not hanging on to things that God is leaving behind, nor chasing things that have nothing to do with where He is headed.  Such things cloud our judgment and steal our time away from the more pressing eternal matters of God's purposes.

 

Discerning the Times audio