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Weekly Word

Entries in Evangelism (5)

Tuesday
Apr042017

Sharing Jesus Passionately 2

1 Peter 3:14-17.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on April 2, 2017.

Today we will finish out our series on the purpose of the Church and followers of Jesus.  We have used the words: Connect, Grow, Serve, and Share.  When we share the truth about Jesus it becomes necessary to give an answer to questions that inevitably arise, and to give a defense to accusations of error.  Throughout history there have been some very eloquent answers and defenses given, and some of them can be found in the Bible.

The first Christian martyr, Stephen, gives an eloquent defense before the Sanhedrin (a Jewish court) in Acts chapter 7.  The Apostle Paul gives a defense to a Jerusalem mob in Acts 22, and a defense to the Sanhedrin in Acts 23.  Later he gives another defense before King Herod Agrippa in Acts 26.  Down through history the impassioned statements of believers and martyrs have been recorded in books like “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.”  You will notice something in all of these that I have mentioned.  They are not filled with the vindictive ramblings and railings of people who are missing their marbles.  Instead, we see very reasoned defenses of the Gospel of Jesus and their faith in it.  Though Christianity is referred to as a Faith, never think for a moment that it also means that there is no reason.  So, today we will look at this area of reasoning with people in the marketplace of Ideas.

The case for apologetics

In this passage Peter speaks about the reality that normally we are not persecuted for doing good.  But there are times when you suffer even for doing what is good.  For whatever reason, another person or king may feel threatened and then seek your harm, though it is undeserved.  In those times we need to stand our ground and share the truth of Christ without anger and striking back.  Thus we defend ourselves with the Truth.  The word apologetics is used for any line of reasoning or answering that is used to defend the faith, of Christianity in this case, against others.  It comes from the same root of the word “defense or answer” in 1 Peter 3:15.  The word actually can mean either one.  If someone is simply asking a question then you give an answer.  But if someone is seeking to demonstrate that you are in error, then you are giving a defense.  This is the area of learning to defend our faith, both in Jesus personally and in the teachings of him and his apostles.  Peter gives us a command in verse 15 to be ready to give an answer or defense.  It is a necessary part of the being a follower of Jesus.

It would be easy to have an attitude that is super spiritual.  We could state that we don’t have to defend the faith because people are either drawn by the Holy Spirit or they are not.  However, this is not the attitude the apostles and early Christians took.  Christians have been reasoning people because their Lord and Master is a reasoning being.  Also, we must not defend the faith in order to get a duty off of our plate.  We must care about whether people believe or not.  A Christian who runs into resistance should be driven to their knees in prayer.  “O God, help me to find a way.”  “Fill my mouth with Your words and anoint me with Your Spirit.” When people ask questions or bring up reasons why they don’t believe, we must seek to answer them with passion for the faith and passion for them accepting it.  Yet, it is also true that not everyone asks honest questions.  Some seek only to tear down continually, and will not listen to reason.  It is not your job to give an answer to every person on earth, but it is your job to give an answer to every person who “asks of you the reason for the hope within you.”

Peter goes on to remind them how they should answer and defend.  It should be done in a Christlike manner.  The how is just as important as the what.  In fact, we should check ourselves before we answer anyone.  Am I letting the character and person of Jesus shine through me?  We defend ourselves, but not as the world defends itself.  In fact, if we are honest, we want to defend in a worldly manner.  It takes courage and strength to restrain one’s self and be like Christ.  So what does it look like to gve an answer or defense of our faith in a Christlike manner?

Peter lists 4 things.  First, we are in a state of readiness.  Like the Boy Scout motto, “Be prepared,” we make sure that we are ready to give a reason for our faith in Jesus.  We prepare ourselves spiritually, mentally, and physically.  And yet, Jesus tells us that we need not worry about the exact words we should say.  But, we do need to spend time in the Word of God and prayerfully thinking through the issues of our day.  People will have questions and we need to prepare ourselves to answer them.

Next Peter uses the word “meekness.”  This word is more about our inner demeanor than it is our outward.  It points to an inner calmness, gentleness, and humility within our spirit.  This is to be in contrast to an arrogant, brash, and spiteful demeanor.  The inward will outwardly express itself.  But a meek person can give a passionate and strong defense of the Gospel.  We see this with Stephen and Paul as I mentioned earlier.  The meek person does not approach the unbeliever with an attitude of superiority, and yet neither are they ashamed and timid about their faith.  May God fill us with His Spirit so that we can be strong and meek.

Next Peter mentions fear.  In our day and age it is not in vogue to speak of fear positively.  However, there is a place for proper fear.  Peter is referring to having a proper respect for other people and a proper reverence for the Lord Jesus.  Thus we sanctify (hallow) the Lord in our heart.  I belong to Him and He has called me for this very purpose.  I must do it, and I must do it in the way that He wants me to do it.

This leads to the fourth thing, a good conscience.  Living in harmony with the faith and the teachings of Jesus and his apostles, gives us an assurance that we are doing the right thing.  It gives us confidence before those who question us.  We have a good conscience, not because we never fail, but because even when we fail we admit them, repent of them, and reconcile with those we sin against.  When a Christian faces and deals with their sin, it keeps their conscience clean.  There is no guilt that can be held over their head in order to shut them up.  You need to realize that the devil wants to cover you in a pile of doubts, confusion, shame, and guilt.  Why? So that he can get you to shut up and not try.  Parents should take this very same thing to heart.  It is hard raising kids.  But if you quit when it gets hard, the devil will win in the life of your child.  Over the years many brilliant people, in defending Jesus and the Gospel, have left us with quite a repository of answers to give the world.

The Case for Christ

There is a movie that is coming out this weekend called The Case for Christ.  It is based off of a true story of an investigative journalist named Lee Strobel.  You may be interested in seeing the movie, but even more important you really should read the book that he wrote in 1998 by the same name.  You see, in 1979, Lee Strobel was a boozing, self-absorbed, and immoral man who was driven to be a great journalist.  He was also an atheist.  That year the conversion of his wife to Christianity rocked his world.  But he was rocked even more by what it did in the life of his wife.  He felt like he was losing his wife and yet she was becoming a better person.  The book traces his investigative interview with 13 different professionals within different professions in order to prove to his wife that Jesus and Christianity were well proven frauds.  After 21 months, in 1981, Lee was astounded that he had convinced himself that it was all true and was backed by evidence that would not only stand up in court, but more evidence than was often used to send people to prison for life.

Lee visited professionals in the areas of ancient source documents, both biblical and secular, archaeology, philosophy, psychology, theology, and even medical doctors.  Remember that Lee was an atheist who was out to prove the religion his wife was embracing was a fraud and easily proven wrong.  He thought he had an answer for every claim of Christians.  Here is a sample of how his journey went.  He felt that the 500 people who had seen Jesus at one time must have had a hallucination.  In his book he says, “I went to a psychologist friend and said if 500 people claimed to see Jesus after he died, it was just a hallucination.  He said hallucinations are an individual event.  If 500 people have the same hallucination, that’s a bigger miracle than the resurrection.”  Often skeptics who deny the reality of Scriptural events will point to alternate explanations that superficially appear to be a valid answer.  But, upon further speculation, you find that they actually make it more impossible.  Another example of this is the crossing of the Red Sea.  Often people will say that the water wasn’t very deep, perhaps ankle or knee deep.  Yet, when you think about it, this only changes the miracle to the fact that God drowned Pharaoh and his army in knee deep water.  I share this to show that there are many people and books written that answer the many questions and misunderstandings that people have towards Jesus.  However, it is just as important to share the good news about what Jesus had done for us, than to answer people’s questions about the bible.

Evangelism Explosion and the  Way of the Master

Sharing with people their need for salvation and the grace of Jesus can be intimidating for many.  There are individuals who are gifted with the ability and desire to talk to everyone.  But most people have to work at it to share Christ with others.  In 1962 Dr. D. James Kennedy, senior pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, came out with an evangelism tool called Evangelism Explosion.  It is famous for the leading question, “Suppose that you were to die today and stand before god and he were to say to you, ‘Why should I let you into my heaven?’  What would you say?”  Of course it involved a set of Scripture verses to share with people once they gave their answer.

Another tool that is more recent comes from pastor Ray Comfort with WayofTheMaster.com.  He uses some of the 10 commandments (lying, stealing, taking God’s name in vain, adultery) and uses them to show people that they are guilty before God by their own admission.  If they stood before God they would have no defense.  Then he explains how Jesus was making a way for them to be set free from their sin and guilt.  All they need to do is confess their sins, believe in their heart that Jesus paid the price for their sins, and then put their trust in Him and His teachings. 

As good as these attempts to systematize sharing the gospel are, we must recognize that this is a spiritual endeavor.  No one will be rationalized into the kingdom of God.  However, that is not to say that reasoning is not important.  We are both mental and spiritual.  Thus we must engage people’s minds.  Yet, a key component cannot be overlooked, the spiritual sense of our sin and the amazing grace of Jesus.  In the words of Herod Agrippa to the Apostle Paul, many people hear a great presentation of the Gospel and yet say, “You almost persuade me to be a Christian.”  When you hear this, don’t get discouraged and give up.  Don’t hang your head down and feel like you have disappointed God.  Whether noncommittal or even resistant, it is not our job to save people, but to give them a reason for the hope within us.  In fact, very few get saved the first time they hear the gospel.  It is often over the course of time and many explanations of the gospel that people come to faith in Christ.  So hang in there and be faithful to the mission.  The words that God will say to us on that day are “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  Let’s focus on being good and faithful to the mission that Jesus has given us to share the gospel with those who are not believers in Him.

Sharing Jesus 2 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

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
May212013

The Holy Spirit Empowers Us

Today is Pentecost Sunday.  For the Church of Jesus it is sort of like our birthday.  So this will be a perfect day to finish our series on the Work of the Holy Spirit.  We are going to see today that He is the source of power that God wants us to rely upon in this life.

Pentecost Is A Feast Of The Lord

Under the Old Covenant with Israel, God had commanded them to celebrate 7 feasts.  They are sometimes referred to as the Feasts of Israel.  But it is technically more correct to call them the feasts of the Lord.  Pentecost is feast number four in this list if you start at the beginning of the year.

1. Passover

2. Unleavened Bread

3. First Fruits

4. Weeks (Pentecost)

5. Trumpets

6. Day of Atonement

7. Tabernacles (Booths)

The first three Feasts happened several weeks into Spring and thus were called the Spring feasts.  They would happen in rapid succession together.  Pentecost usually is considered a part of the Spring feasts.  However, there is a clear separation of 50 days between it and the first 3 feasts.  Originally the feast was called the feast of weeks because you would count off 7 weeks and then on the next day the feast would begin.  As the Greek language became dominate, the Greek term for 50 (i.e. Pentecost) was used.  Of course with the New Testament being written in Greek, the term stuck.

The last three Feasts similarly happen in rapid succession at the beginning of Fall.  These are the Fall Feasts.  So, the Feast of Pentecost was conspicuous in its separation between the other two groups of Feasts.

Jesus revealed to his disciples that these feasts had prophetic significance.  In fact, each time Israel had celebrated them in the way prescribed by the Lord, they were acting out a prophecy of things to come.  The first 3 Feasts point to the first coming of Christ.  The last three point to the 2nd Coming of Christ.  So what was Pentecost?  Well let’s walk through them.

Passover spoke of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross so that the angel of death (our punishment) would “Passover” us.

Unleavened Bread spoke of who Jesus was.  He was the bread from heaven that had no corrupting influence of sin within him (leaven or yeast) , which was provide by God the Father.  The disciples of Jesus spiritually “fed” upon who he was.

First Fruits points to the resurrection of Jesus.  Not only was he resurrected, but also several Old Testament saints.  They were the first fruits that recognized the later full harvest that would come in and be resurrected to God.

Pentecost was also connected to the harvest.  It was a celebration of the summer harvest and points to the Church being filled with the Power of the Spirit to be a witness to the world.  The last 2,000 years have been a Spirit-empowered harvest time.  Trumpets, Atonement, and Tabernacles all point to the coming of Jesus to be King over the earth.  There will be separation and judgment to the wicked and atonement and grace for righteous.  Those who are worthy will be allowed to dwell with Jesus forever in new resurrected bodies.  Thus we will “tabernacle” (dwell) with him, never to be separated.

All of the first four feasts had their prophetic fulfillment exactly on that day.  Thus we can see the reason for the separation between Pentecost and the other two sets.  Though it would begin shortly after Christ’s fulfillment of the first 3, it would initiate a long period of time in which the Harvest was gathered.  Now don’t get depressed that we are only on feast 4.  When the next three happen they will also happen in rapid succession.  Will they also happen exactly on the feast days?  I guess we will have to wait and see.  It would fit the pattern, but there is no such statement in Scripture.

At Pentecost The Holy Spirit Came To

This brings us to the Feast of Pentecost that happened 50 days after the Passover in which Jesus was sacrificed.  This was the day that the Promised Spirit of God was to be poured out upon the Church.  Now the Holy Spirit had been active in their lives already.  It was the Spirit that had drawn each of them to the Lord and convinced them that He was the Christ.  But this day is the day in which the Holy Spirit came to officially take His place among believers.  He was the Other Helper that Jesus had promised them.  Only this Helper was not limited to a human body.

He also came to supply them with power.  Clearly not all believers had the same scope and level of power in the things they did.  Even Luke records that the Lord did unusual miracles through Paul and Peter.  But all of them were empowered for the ministry and work to which they had been called.  Thus the majority of them were empowered for the “Normal Life.”  You know what I mean: growing up, getting married, giving yourself to a task that helps your fellow-man (AKA a job), raising kids, being a light to the world, and passing the Truth to the next generation.  Do we need God’s power for such tasks?  Isn’t that rhetorical?  Be careful of being dissatisfied with the task that God has given you.  By definition there are few apostles, but many believers.  Paul would start a church but then leave it in the hands of capable leaders who would lead Spirit-filled believers.  We can despise the day of “small things” when we have an inordinate desire for “something better.”  In Jesus there is nothing better than Normal (as defined by God not the world). 

However, we should never let satisfaction be about the mere physical satisfaction of life.  That kind of satisfaction will lead to laziness, drunkenness, spiritual sleep, and even spiritual death.  Thus we should be about our Father’s business: point out Jesus to a lost world.

Lastly the Holy Spirit came to lead them in being a witness to the world of Jesus.  When we think of the picture of a harvest, we see the workers and master as people.  But the truth is that even the wheat being harvested is made up of lost people.  No farmer asks wheat if they would like to be harvested.  You don’t see a guy out in front of a combine trying to convince the alfalfa to just surrender to what he is about to do.  People are more than wheat.  Yet, in the end they must believe and surrender themselves to a process by which they are bundled together with other believers (local churches).  Then, in the midst of that, they are drawn into the Master’s house. 

Final Thoughts

Pentecost is not about strange languages, although God does manifest himself through speaking in tongues.  Pentecost is mainly about harvest.  The Spirit of the Lord takes believers and fills them with His power to be His harvesters on this earth.  He first gives us power to be a follower of Christ.  He also gives us power to open our mouths and speak the words and deeds of Jesus to others.  Lastly He gives us power “to do” like Jesus did, that is to live a Spirit-led and Spirit-empowered life.

Don’t let the pleasures of life cause you to be absent from the Lord’s harvest field.  He is looking for workers.  Won’t you go and labor for Him today?

 

The HS Empowers Audio