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Weekly Word

Entries in Faith (50)

Wednesday
Jul102019

More Parables I

Mark 4:21-29.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on Sunday, July 07, 2019.

Today we will look at two more parables that follow on the heels of the Parable of the soils.  Both of them continue with metaphors regarding God’s Word in our life and how important it is for us to receive it, believe it, and live it out.

The parable of the Lamp under the Basket

Verses 21-25 change the metaphor from seed planted in soil to a lamp made to shine light.  Although we are not given a detailed explanation of this parable, Jesus makes several comments to enhance what he is saying.  The key is to recognize that, though the metaphor has changed, we are still talking about the purpose for the Word of God in our life.

Let’s look at the elements of this new parable and compare it to the parable of the soils.  If we were to break down the parable of the soils in light of this parable we would note that the seed corresponds to the oil in the lamp.  It is the Word of God coming into our life.  Though the oil is not mentioned, the word for lamp here refers to an oil burning lamp that would have a wick.  The purpose of shining light is mentioned and therefore implies the presence of oil in the lamp.  Sometimes you will hear people say that oil always represents the Holy Spirit.  However, the connection between the Spirit of God and His Word is inseparable, though distinct.

Next, the Lamp as a container corresponds to the soil, and is the individual who hears the Word of God.  We are sent the Word of God in order for it to do something within us and our life.

Lastly, the fruitfulness of the seed corresponds to the unhidden light of the lamp, and is the transformative effect of the Word upon the individual’s life.

The parable of the Lamp under the Basket is all about the purpose of God’s Word.  The only reason to put a lamp under a basket or bed is because you are not using it.  It cannot be lit because it would catch the basket and bed on fire.  Normally people have lamps because they intend to use them.  There would be a particular place, a lamp stand, where you would put the lamp and then light it when you need it to illuminate the room.  The point Jesus is making is this.  God made us to be a lamp through which His Word could bring light to the world that isn’t listening to Him.

Verse 22 gives a principle that is intended to explain, but sometimes misleads people.  “For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light.”  On its own, this phrase serves as a kind of cautionary proverb that warns us about our private or secret lives.  Be careful how you live in secret because it will eventually become public knowledge.  However, in this context it relates to the Word of God coming into our life so that we can be a light to the world.  Thus, the point is not so much about a hidden life of sin, but about keeping God’s Word hidden and not shining it out to the world.  Up until Jesus, the Gospel regarding the salvation of mankind, Jew and Gentile alike, had been kept hidden.  Yes, God slowly and progressively revealed the Gospel throughout the Old Testament, but it really is in a cryptic and hidden form.  With the ascension of Jesus into heaven, the Church would become the light of God to the world.  It was not time to keep the Gospel hidden.  Our whole purpose is to let God’s Word transform us so that we will illuminate the dark world around us.  Will we cooperate with God in this purpose?

It is not enough for the lamp to be filled with oil.  We can hear the whole Bible seven times and yet it must be ignited.  This represents what we talked about in the parable of the soils.  We must understand the Word, believe that it is true and for our life, we must live it out, and we must hold onto it and the fruit it produces in our life.  Faith in God’s Word is the ignition point that begins to produce light.  This ignition first transforms us internally.  Then it produces an external transformation, which also leads to proclaiming the Gospel.  In fact, in Matthew 5:16 Jesus adds this regarding these lamps.  , “Let  your light so shine before men that they may see  your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”  Notice that the light is first and foremost our good works.  Remember, good works done by and for our own merit are filthy rags, but good works done by the Holy Spirit and for Jesus are truly a light to this world.  Sharing the Gospel with people is only one good work of many that represents the light.  Let’s first live the Word, so that we have earned the right to share the Gospel.

In verse 24 Jesus remarks that we should take care of the Word of God that we receive.  The emphasis is on hearing because most people were not readers, nor had a copy of the Scriptures.  If they were to receive God’s Word then they would have to go where it was being read, or happen upon someone who knew it and was sharing it.  Literally Jesus tells them to understand or perceive what they hear.  Don’t let it just come in one ear and out the other.   To the degree that you understand God’s Word and shine it out to the world around you, is the degree that God will give you more Word to understand.  In fact, if the lamp refuses to let the oil be ignited then God will quit sending it oil.  In fact, just as the parable of the soils had many obstacles to our faith in God’s Word so, those same obstacles stand in the way of us shining the Light of God’s Word to the world.  Just as the seed that did not grow to fruit was lost to the soil so, the oil that is not used to illuminate will be lost.  Yes, we are dealing with metaphors here and so, we should not become lost in the details of the metaphors, but instead focus on the spiritual truth they reveal.

None of us deserves the Word of God.  It really is His gracious mercy to us.  God is faithful to send His Word to those who do not deserve it.  Yet, this does not diminish the secondary truth that He will hold us accountable for the Word that we have received.  This connection between using and receiving ultimately catches up with us.  Over the long-term, how we appropriate the Word of God will affect how much more we receive.

The parable of the Growing Seed

The next parable is in verses 26-29.  We are back to the first metaphor of the seed being the Word of God.  However, here we are told that the “Kingdom of God” can be understood by this metaphor as well.  The soil can be seen as an individual, but here it is seen as a corporate thing involving all who believe. In the first century, the Kingdom of God was on the move through the new Church that Christ was building.  The people of God would take the Gospel to the ends of the earth and increase the Kingdom of God on earth, one person at a time.   Thus, the soil really represents the world as a whole.  Those who responded faithfully to the Gospel are good soil and those who do not are not good ground.

In this parable, Jesus mentions that the sower doesn’t understand how the growth occurs.  He just knows it works to sow the seed.  Similarly, we are God’s messengers through our lives and our speech.  We don’t understand completely how that works, and why one person believes and another doesn’t.  Nor do we know why one waits longer, but finally believes.  However, there are two things involved: the work of the Holy Spirit in their heart, and the response of the heart and mind of the hearer.  Will they let the birds, rocks, and thorns ruin the word in their life?  These mysteries of salvation cannot be solved.  Yet, we know that we are commanded to sow God’s Word and that it will powerfully save those who believe.

The parable ends with the emphasis that the field will be harvested when the grain has ripened.  God will not let it be lost or rot.  Yet, this metaphor is more complicated than it looks when it comes to harvesting.

In some ways, we see the idea of harvesting used to point to the act of bringing a person into the Kingdom of God.  The harvester is that servant of God who helps them to make that last step of stepping into the family of God and connecting to their brothers and sisters in the Lord.  I believe this is what Jesus meant in John 4.  In John 4:35 Jesus told his disciples, “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!..”  And then in verse 38 he told them, ““I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors.”  Jesus is clearly speaking about their work of preaching the Gospel and baptizing those who believe.  They would be harvesting those whose faith was ready to be reaped.

The apostle Paul also picks up this metaphor in 1 Corinthians 3, where he also adds the concept of the one who waters the seed.  A person is brought to salvation by the working together of those who put the word in their heart, those who come along and water that seed by continually reminding them and encouraging them, and then those who harvest them by helping them to step out in faith.  Some may object to this metaphor because cutting down grain sounds bad metaphorically.  However, those who come into the family of Christ are being separated from the world in which they have grown and are connecting to a new spiritual and life-giving source.  So, even though the analogy breaks down in some ways, it is still an apt and valuable picture.

We could also see the harvest individually in regards to the end of our life in this body.  When a believer comes to their death, their whole life has been completely lived.  The seed of God’s Word is as mature as it is going to be and they are taken into God’s barn.  The reaping here is done by God Himself as He brings us to Himself.

Yet, we noticed that the parable emphasizes the Kingdom of God as a whole, and therefore, the harvesting should be seen that way as well.  The Bible speaks of a separation, or harvest, at the end of the age (the age of the Church spreading the Gospel).  In Matthew 13 Jesus tells a similar parable about the Kingdom of Heaven and a harvest at the end of the age.  Matthew 13:39, “The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels.”  This harvest has good fruit and bad fruit that must be separated.  God only intends to keep that fruit which comes from the Word He has sown, not that fruit which comes from other “words.” 

Revelation 14 also emphasizes this fact, but describes it in the terms of two different harvests.  The first harvest is described as a grain harvest.  It is the harvesting of the people of God.  The second harvest is described as a grape harvest.  It is the harvesting of the wicked.  They will be gathered together and tossed into the winepress.  This imagery is that of the wrath of God coming upon the whole earth for its rebellion against God.  Ultimately, the book of Revelation reveals that God is bringing us to a new heavens and a new earth in which nothing wicked will be allowed to enter.

May God help us to see the importance of both sides of this.  We must proclaim the Gospel to people and speak it as much as we can.  Whether we are planting seeds, watering them, or harvesting new believers, is not our concern.  Rather, our concern is that we are faithful at doing our part.  However, we must also be a transformed person.  We must believe God’s Word and cooperate with its transforming power, so that the world can see the fruit of God’s Word.  Yes, none of us do this without error.  However, we have an advocate with the Father.  If we will be faithful to respond to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, repent of our falling short, and stir up our faith in God’s Word, then He will shine his light through us into the world!

More Parables I audio

Tuesday
Jun042019

Joining the Family of Jesus

Mark 3:31-35.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on Sunday, June 02, 2019.

One of the great themes of Scripture is the family of God.  Some like to use this phrase to refer to all humans.  However, the Bible makes a distinction between natural biology and spiritual life.  Thus, not all humans are a part of God’s spiritual family according to the Bible.  We see this in John 1:12-13.

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become the children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

This biblical concept of becoming a child of God should not be confused with the many mythologies of the ancient world.  In these we often see particular gods coming down to earth and physically sire an offspring that were referred to as demi-gods.  This idea is diametrically opposed to the testimony of Scripture because it focuses on the flesh and sees the perfection of the flesh as the answer.  Thus, Zeus is actually copulating with a human maiden and she is actually birthing a child that is half human and half god.  These demi-gods would be faster, stronger, smarter, etc. than normal humans.

Yet, the Bible speaks of a spiritual birth that must take place in order for us to become a part of God’s family.  Birth in this case is a metaphor that is used of a person who received revelation from God and faith is conceived in their heart and mind.  They put their trust in God, namely in the One whom He sent, Jesus.  When this happens, the Holy Spirit takes up residence within that person and makes them spiritually alive and alert to His presence.  This is what it means to become a child of God.  We are not stronger or faster than normal humans.  Rather, we are in connection with the God of heaven and are being led by His Holy Spirit to become like Jesus, who is the exact representation of God the Father.

I pray that you are a part of the family of God, but today we are going to spend some time discovering just what that means.

The family of Jesus struggled with his ministry

It is no secret that the family of Jesus had trouble with him.  When he began his ministry, he had multitudes continually surrounding him and imposing on his time.  In fact, it was to the point that Mark says that Jesus had difficulty just eating bread (Mark 3:20).  Also, he was not being received well by the religious experts, who increasingly made their disapproval evident.  In our passage today we find Mary and her sons showing up to talk to Jesus.  However, before we get into this, we should remember the previous episode in this same chapter, verse 21.

There we are told that “his own people” came to take hold of him because they thought he was out of his mind.  When we compare that event with the one in verses 31-35, we see that the latter passage is far more specific on just who is involved.  “His own people” is very general, but clearly could involve any of his family, relatives, friends, and neighbors from the Nazareth area.  Mark has gone out of his way to put two similar events within 10 verses of each other.  Events in which those, who were close to him as he grew up, tried to take him back home.  It happened more than once and involved various subsets of the groups I mentioned above.

In our passage today, it merely states that they show up while Jesus is teaching and send word that he should quit and come out to them.  This time it is not as explicit as saying they think he has lost his mind.  However, they are clearly antagonistic to what Jesus is doing.  Why not wait until he is done?  Why interrupt him in front of a large crowd who want to hear what he is saying?  It is because they do not respect what he is doing.

Let’s look at the brothers of Jesus first.  It is worth noting that they are not full brothers because Jesus is not the offspring of Joseph and Mary as they are.  Yes, I am aware that some groups teach that Mary had no kids, but this flies in the face of the text and requires special pleading for the normal interpretation of these familial words.  In John 7:5 we are told that his brothers did not believe in him.  On top of this, none of the brothers of Jesus are mentioned among the disciples of Jesus until after the resurrection of Jesus.  So, it is no shocker that they arrive and were most likely also a part of the earlier group in verse 21.  They also think that Jesus has lost his mind and needs to settle down and be a good Israelite.

However, the mention of Mary in this group may be more puzzling.  By the way, the Gospel’s silence regarding Joseph throughout the ministry and execution of Jesus is usually taken to mean that he has passed away at some point.  This idea is further supported by the words of Jesus to his disciple John, telling her to take care of his mother as a son (i.e. in his place).  This would not be needed if Joseph were still alive.

So, Mary, who saw and heard the angel Gabriel, who said “Let it be to me according to your word,” this very same Mary is in the unbelieving group demanding Jesus to come out and speak to them.  Most likely, she has been convinced and persuaded by her younger sons, and the pressure of her family and neighbors.  Still, even Mary is lending her familial relationship to this cause of having an intervention with Jesus.  In the best of intentions, they believe that they are stepping in for the good of Jesus, but in the worst of motivations, they are most likely afraid of what people are saying, and most likely some jealously on his brother’s behalf, among many other emotions.  Flatly stated, even Mary struggled with what Jesus was doing.  I am not painting her out to be a complete unbeliever, but we see her struggling much the same way John the Baptist struggled as he pined away in prison.  Was I wrong about Jesus?  Did I misunderstand?

All that to say, these intervention groups in verses 21 and 31 come trying to do the righteous thing.  Yet, there is a sea of unrighteous things going on under the surface.  It is easy to cover impure motivations with a thin veneer of righteousness.  In fact, we see it everyday within our own society: at work, in politics, in business, in families, etc.

By the way, I should make a few parenthetical statements about Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Over the centuries, an increasing devotion to Mary has led to all manner of unbiblical teachings about her.  Contrary to what some teach, we have no reason to believe that Mary was “immaculately conceived.”  This idea is that God kept her from being contaminated with the sin-nature during her birth.  This is so that she would not pass it on to Jesus.  Of course, this doesn’t make sense, since God could have done so to Jesus if it was needed. However, Mary herself declares that she has needed a Savior, i.e. had a sinful nature that needed saving, in the Magnificat of Luke 1.  There she states, “My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior!”  Of course, in our passage today, her faith is wavering and she is helping to be an obstacle to the ministry of Jesus.

Another thing that some teach about Mary is that she was a perpetual virgin.  The straight-forward teaching of Scripture is that she and Joseph came together sexually after the birth of Jesus.  She birthed at least 3 sons and 2 daughters, most likely more.  These all would have been at most ½ siblings to Jesus (Scripture gives no clue to the degree that God may or may not have used the genetic material of Mary’s ovum).

Lastly, it has become popular to teach and speak of Mary as the Co-Redemptrix of the world along with Jesus.  This is illogical because it confuses the clear biblical message that Jesus alone is the Redeemer of the world.  Yes, Mary plays a critical part in God’s plan of salvation, but it is Jesus alone who does the work of redeeming mankind.  Thus, Mary should be respected as a godly woman who was willing to do the will of God even though He asked her to do a difficult thing.  She should be honored, but not revered as a quasi-divine being.  In fact, we should recall the words of Simeon the prophet in Luke 2:34, who spoke to her in the temple.  “Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother, ‘Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (Yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts  may be revealed.’”  This is exactly what we are seeing in our passage today.  Their hearts are being laid bare so that they can make a real decision and not one that is masked by a veneer of goodness.  No matter how critically we have been used by God in the past, we must work to remain open and sensitive to the Holy Spirit and what He is doing today.

Jesus defines his true family

This event gives an opportunity for Jesus to define what it really means to be in such a close relationship with him that he would consider you his brother or sister.  Jesus is apparently in a house of some kind and it is full of people listening to him teach.  At some point, word comes to him that his mother and brothers are outside and they want him to come out to them.

As I said earlier, they are not there to receive his teaching and learn.  They are not there on a mission from God.  They are there on their own terms and for their own purposes, which happen to be contrary to the will of God the Father.  Jesus is doing exactly what he knows the Father wants him to do.  This sets up a chance for Jesus to teach on what is important when it comes to family, from God’s perspective.

It doesn’t matter into what family you were biologically born.  It could be the most spiritual family on the planet, or it could be the most heathen family on the planet.  This is not what connect you to God, nor is it what keeps you from connecting from God.  Some very wicked people grew up in Christian homes, and some very godly people have come from homes that were wicked and often so dysfunctional that the term home should not be used.  Thus, this saw cuts both ways.  The spiritual state of my biological mom and dad does not guarantee me a ticket, nor does it disqualify me.

This means that something besides physical birth has to happen in order for me to become a child of God.  Kids raised up in Christian homes have to come to Christ for themselves, at some point.  Parents can often lose sight of this fact.  We can be so focused on making them outwardly conform that we forget that works without faith are dead.  The Scriptures say, “For by grace you have been saved, through faith; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” 

Jesus is not being insensitive to his family.  They are the ones being insensitive to the call of God on his life.  Jesus is not teaching us to blow off our biological family and do whatever we want.  Rather, he is challenging us to place the work of God in our life above the desires and purposes of our biological family.  The best-case scenario is to have our biological family pulling together with us for God’s purposes.  In this sense our biological family is also our spiritual family.  The reality is that this is easier said than done.  Thus, we must desire to be spiritually born into the family of Christ.  Jesus takes advantage of this situation to define for us what puts a person in his spiritual family.

Whoever does the will of the Father is a part of the family of Jesus.  What do I mean by that?  Jesus points to the crowds who are sitting around him listening to the words of God and declares that they are an example of spiritual family.  God wanted all of Israel to listen to Jesus, but many didn’t.  These ones who were there that day were there because they believed that Jesus was the Messiah, or at least a prophet sent from God and worthy of their devotion and attention.  His biological family is there that day for the wrong reasons.  They aren’t the devil, but neither are they supporting what God is doing through him.  Times like these require getting on your knees in prayer and asking God to sift your heart and help you to see any impure motives that might be in your heart.

When you think about it, it is relatively simple for the devil to convince good Israelites, and good Christians, to do his bidding, if they do not guard their hearts and remain sensitive to the Holy Spirit.  He just comes as an angel of light doing what is right, but his every word is a lie.  In fact, Jesus explains this clearly in John 6:28-29.

Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”  Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”

Jesus is the One whom the Father has sent to the world.  It is not believing in the sense of intellectually believing that he exists, but rather believing that he really is the Son of God who was sent into the world to save us.  It is believing in the sense that we pick up our cross and follow him, first as a disciple or student, and second as one who has been sent to the world around them, to draw them to him.  Yet, true belief is not just an inner disposition.

True faith always makes an external difference.  It is the Father’s will that all people everywhere repent of their sins and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.  If we have true faith in Jesus then it will produce works of righteousness that come from the leading of the Holy Spirit, rather than a conformity to culture (religious or secular).  No matter how Christian the culture of America was in the past, no one was ever saved by conforming to the Christian culture.  In fact, even a Christian culture finds itself fighting against the will of God, just as the religious culture of Israel did in the days of Jesus.

Make sure that you are not just coasting along in a Christian Family or a Christian subculture, and yet not truly believing in Jesus as your savior and lord. On the other hand, make sure that you are not remaining in sin and pushing Jesus away because the people around you won’t understand, or you are afraid of how they will react.  The Holy Spirit is working every day to convict people of their sin and the judgment that looms over them.  Yet, He also convicts them of the righteousness of Jesus that can save them from that sin and judgment.  He is really all that we need.  If everyone forsakes you and ridicules you; if the comfortable Christians around you think that you have lost your mind and need an intervention; regardless of all these things, look to Jesus and the Word of God, and ask the Holy Spirit to lead you in the will of God.  It is His will that you be a part of His family today!

Family of Jesus audio

Tuesday
Mar192019

Obstacles to Reaching Jesus

Mark 2:1-12.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on March 17, 2019.

Although we will look at a story where Jesus heals somebody, this story is not so much about healing as it begs the question, What is our greatest need?  It positions a physical healing opposite the forgiveness of sins and questions if we would work so hard to be rid of our sins as we would to be rid of sickness or disease.

I could have entitled this as, “Obstacles to being Healed,” but that is not the true emphasis of the story.  Jesus is asking us to think about why we might come to Him and what really is our greatest need.  If we see Jesus only as a means to an end, then He simply becomes a gumball machine from which we get our gumball and then walk away.  However, Jesus has not left this option open to us.  Even being free of sins can become a means to an end if we are only seeking to assuage our guilt and avoid judgment.  We need more than physical healing and we need more than spiritual forgiveness of sins. 

Ultimately, we need a relationship with Jesus, who is the Lord of all those things and more.  Jesus is not a means to an end.  He is the end or goal for which we must desire and strive.

He had a physical obstacle

We do not know how long this man has been paralyzed nor how he came to be in that condition.  However, it would pose a problem to finding Jesus and asking for a healer.  At least the leper in the previous story could track down Jesus and catch Him on the road, but this man is debilitated to the point that he cannot do this. 

Yet, this man has friends who are willing to help him.  It is important in life that we have people who care about us enough that they will help us when we need them.  Of course, we too should be a friend back towards them, but friendship should not be about an equation of help. 

In this life it is easy to let differences and hurts lead us into isolation from the world, but we still need others.  We need others because we are not enough by ourselves and God desires others to help us.  He created us to be social creatures who work together for the good.  No one person has all the gifts, regardless of how talented they may be.  Eventually they will need others around them.  It is true that there are some people from whom we may be better off dissociating ourselves.  Yet, hurt can cause us to dissociate from people who don’t deserve it and to our own detriment. 

Still, no number of friends can replace Jesus in your life.  Thus, the best kind of friends are those who will help you to come to Jesus for all the needs in your life, not just healing.   Four friends determined to carry their paralyzed friend to Jesus so that he could be healed.

The crowds around Jesus were too large

When the paralyzed man and his friends get to Jesus, there is a problem.  There are too many people surrounding Jesus and they cannot get close enough to ask for help.  We are going to see later in the story that not all of these people are believers in Jesus.  These crowds are themselves a physical barrier, and yet they can also be psychological barrier to people who do not like crowds.  Some people are not interested in Churches and crowds of Christians.  Yet, they still need Jesus. 

In His humanity Jesus was often surrounded by crowds, but in His divinity, He is always accessible to those who will reach out to Him in faith, whether by themselves are with the help of a friend.  Don’t just limit yourself to inviting people to Church to hear the Gospel.  Learn to share Christ with people one on one, or in smaller groups of friends.

Notice that these friends are not easily daunted.  They don’t quit just because they run into an obstacle and it gets hard.  Instead, they devise a way around the obstacle, which involved tearing through the roof and lowering the man down in front of Jesus by ropes.  Their faith or belief that Jesus would heal the man stirred up a determination within them that wouldn’t quit.

Sometimes, whether individually or as a group, we can lose heart because we run into barriers.  If getting people to Jesus was easy then they would already be with Him.  No, this is a difficult job that is full of obstacles.  Am I determined to help my friends get to Jesus?  Of course, in our lives today the answer will not be tearing a whole in a roof.  However, may God help us to see the true barriers that keep our friends and family at a distance from Jesus.  Let’s continue reading at verse 5.

The man is a sinner

This story takes a turn with the response of Jesus.  Here is a man on his sick bed, lowered down by ropes in front of Him.  Yet, Jesus chooses to tell the man that his sins are forgiven.  This is important because it changes the story.  To the man and his friends, his greatest need was to have his paralysis healed.  To Jesus, the man’s greatest need was to be free from his sins.

Now, it is easy to let this story become cluttered with the intellectual trappings of healing.  We are not told if the paralysis was due to his sin.  So, we should be careful of making this about the need to have your sins forgiven before you are healed.  Jesus will go on to heal the man, but not because he now has his sins forgiven.  Jesus himself states that he healed the man to prove to them that He had power to forgive sins on earth.

There are many things that we need in life, some of which we only think we need.  However, they all pale next to the need to have our sins forgiven.  Our sins separate us from God and cause us to be guilty before Him.  We do not deserve His grace or His benefits.  We only deserve His wrath and judgment.

The statement of forgiveness in verse 5 is connected to the statement of Jesus in verse 10.  Jesus has the power (both authority and capability) to forgive sins.  As believers we can assist our Lord in helping people to be free from their sins.  This is their greatest need, whether they understand it or not.  What does it profit a man to be healed in this life, but not have their sins forgiven?  Yes, you would think that it would always be good to have both, but one is immensely more important than the other.

There was an unbelieving, religious community there

It is important to recognize that not all who surround Jesus, then and today, truly believe in Him.  You either believe or you don’t.  However, there is a tendency within us as humans to give up faith while attempting to keep remnants of religion.  It can be a security blanket, sentimentality, or even crass opportunism.  Without faith in Jesus, religion is dead and cannot help us, but with faith, religion can be pure and full of life. 

These religious unbelievers think that Jesus is blaspheming because only God can forgive sins.  However, they willfully forget that God had set up a whole system of priests whose job it was to perform rituals through which they could declare that people’s sin was now forgiven.  This delegation of forgiving was not blasphemy.  It was merely obeying what God had sent them to do.  They just weren’t used to seeing this outside of the temple compound and the priests.  Surely, Jesus must be blaspheming.  Yet, the priests over the centuries had been pointing people to the Lamb of God that would one day come in order to take away our sins, once and for all.  Jesus stood as the ultimate High Priest and declares that this man is forgiven.

This leads to a challenge from Jesus.  He asks them which is easier to say to the paralyzed man, Your sins are forgiven, or Arise, take up your bed and walk?  “Your sins are forgiven” is easier in the sense that it can’t be verified.  How can you know it actually happened?  It is not like you get a certificate in the mail stating that God has forgiven your sins.  Yet, “take up your bed and walk” is easier in the sense of actually doing it. 

Do we really understand that healing people is easier for God then forgiving their sins?  Healing is so easy that humans themselves are figuring out ways to get the cells and DNA to do what they are supposed to do in some situations.  I doubt we will ever get to a place where we have conquered all disease.  However, no man on earth has any power to forgive someone’s sin outside of Christ.  The obstacles to being set free from sin are legion: We can be paralyzed to even try and come to Jesus, We can fight with and reject those friends who try to bring us to Him, We can give up when we run into obstacles that make it hard, and We can even believe that our sins are too great to be forgiven.

I pray that today you will see the truth of this passage.  Sin is our biggest issue, and not just getting rid of it.  Sin itself is a barrier to the relationship that God intended for us to have with Him.  There is nothing more important in life than to have Christ declare over us that our sins are forgiven.  If you do not know Christ or you have friends that do not know Christ, I pray that you will not let any of the obstacles of this life and your own heart keep you from coming to Christ.  He will receive you with open arms if you will turn from your sins and run to Him.

Obstacles Audio

Wednesday
Jan022019

The Fruit of Faith

Romans 15:13.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on December 30, 2018.

Today we will finish our series looking at the issue of faith. 

Ultimately faith is not intended to be a dull and drab hardship that grinds all the fun out of life.  God does want us to enjoy and rejoice in trusting Him.  In our passage today we will see how trusting God fills us with wonderful things that make life enjoyable and can fill us with peace.

God fills us with Joy

In Romans 15, verse 13 seems to be a prayer that Paul is praying for the believers in Rome.  The first thing he prays for them is joy.  He prays that it will come to them “in believing.”  This direct connection helps us to see that faith is a prerequisite to having joy or peace.

These things are given by God and yet they are also the natural outgrowth of faith in God.  When we have become convinced that God can be trusted and the things that He has promised will come to past, it ignites a whole host of things within our heart of which joy is one.

This joy is a rejoicing happiness that one can experience even in the face of great difficulty.  Sometimes it rides on the surface, but at its heart it is deep-seated bedrock that no volume of turbulent water in this life can wash away.  It is a joy that comes not from the things of this world, but from the knowledge that “I am my beloved’s and He is mine!” (Song of Songs 6:3).  Regardless of what I experience this relationship with Jesus cannot be touched by it.

Also, he prays that God would fill them with this joy.  There are many carnal joys of this life that can “fill” us for a time, but they are transient and not long lasting.  However, the joy that comes from believing in Christ is one that truly fills.  However, we can be drawn away from this joy if we get our focus off of Christ.  Yet, when we draw our eyes back to Jesus, we once again connect with that deep-seated joy that He has given us, and will constantly supply as we trust Him.  He desires joy for us, but not as a command.  Rather it is a constant supply that He pours into our lives as we trust Him, a supply that never runs dry.

God fills us with Peace

Now let’s look at the other thing that Paul prays for them.  He prays that they would be filled with peace.  This too is connected to believing in Jesus.  It is the fruit of a life that is trusting Christ.

There are several things that we should notice in regard to this chapter.  First, in verse 33 Paul refers to God as “the God of Peace.”  He does a similar thing in verse 5 calling Him “the God of patience and comfort.”  The point is not just that God has these things that He can give us, though we can start there.  God has abundant stores of peace, patience, and comfort.  However, these are also the natural experience of His being.  God is full of patience and not frustrated with how long things are taking.  God is full of comfort and not inconsolable towards the world today.  God is also at peace and not in turmoil at any time.

We in our flesh are not as impressed with God’s patience, comfort, and peace.  We often holler at God to do something right now!  However, if we trust Him, He will take from what is His and give to us without measure and without end.  Let us turn to Him for these things in our lives every day rather than turning to the things of this world to give us peace.

When your peace comes from God then nothing can really take away your peace.  You may be convinced to quit drawing peace from God, but it is always there.  1 Peter 1:6-9 says, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love.  Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.”

The next time you sense that you are lacking peace take time to remember that it is connected to your faith in Jesus.  Go back to the fundamentals and trust the Lord.

We receive them in Hope

Though Paul could have listed hope as a third thing that we are receiving (that is it is also a fruit of faith, a fruit of the Spirit), he instead lists it as a condition in which we receive joy and peace.  If we have no hope then our joy and peace is greatly diminished if not extinguished.  Thus hope is critical to our joy and peace in life.

As we saw earlier with peace and comfort, so we see here.  God is called the God of Hope.  Again, He doesn’t just have hope in a bag for you.  He is filled with hope Himself.  Do you ever think that it could be possible that God has had his hopes crushed and is stuck in despair?  Of course He isn’t.  He is God!  Yet, when it comes to ourselves we often forget this.  God is He who cares for you, and the One who cares for you is still full of hope.  He knows that the future holds wonderful things for those who trust Him.  Yes, He is the God of hope and, even more so, He is our God!  As we hope in Him He pours joy and peace into our hearts.

Paul also prays that these things would “abound” to them.  This means that it will be given in an abundant measure.  The word means to overly fill, to have plenty of leftovers.  Thus we need to allow faith to ignite hope in our hearts.  In fact, faith is to the mind what hope is to the heart.  I understand that faith involves the heart as well, but faith at its heart is recognition of facts.  It believes the truths about Christ.  Hope also involves the mind and looks forward to factual things that God has promised, but at its core it is a response of the heart agreeing with the mind.  Yes, He will come through for us!  As we trust in God, He fills us with hope for today and for tomorrow.

Paul also describes this as being done by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Fruit cannot grow without some energy source and thus God Himself is the author and finisher of our faith.  It is He who is working in you by the power of His Holy Spirit to fill you with faith, hope, joy, love, and peace (the list goes on).  Sometimes we allow our experiences to pull us off of the path that we should be walking with the Holy Spirit.  We can go off on our own tangents and end up wondering why we don’t have those things anymore.  Rather, we must return back to the place where the Holy Spirit is waiting for us and continue walking with Him.  Let Christ be your source of strength and power by the work of His Spirit within you.

Ultimately this whole verse is a prayer for believers, and not just those from Rome.  We too must add our prayers to Paul’s.  Take time to pray for the Lord to strengthen your faith and hope in Him.  Ask Him to fill you with His joy and peace to overflowing, so that you might live a victorious life in this world.  Also, do not let the world define for you what a victorious life is.  We dare not look to the world and our circumstances in it to give us the faith, hope, joy and peace that we need.  Rather we must wholly trust Jesus and Him alone.

The Fruit of Faith audio