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Entries in Discipleship (9)

Monday
Jul172017

Water Baptism

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

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

It is the command of Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

The meaning of water baptism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Water Baptism audio

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