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Entries in Instructions (2)

Tuesday
Apr162019

Jesus Offers Himself as King

Mark 11:1-11.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on April 14, 2019.

Today we are celebrating Palm Sunday and so I will skip ahead in the Gospel of Mark to the passage that deals with the Sunday before the crucifixion of Jesus.  On this day, Jesus came into Jerusalem riding on a donkey’s colt.  What is he doing?  Jesus is offering himself to them as the Son of David for whom they had waited, and of whom the prophet Zechariah had prophesied in chapter 9:9.  It is not just because he is on a donkey’s colt, but also because of the powerful things Jesus had done before this.  Their constant question to him of whether or not he was the Messiah seems to receive a clear answer in his action here.  Yes, Jesus is offering himself to them as their king and it appears as if they are receiving him.

As we walk through this story today, I want us to take two images from this.  Here we have the lowly Jesus riding on a donkey’s colt.  On the other hand, Scripture gives the picture in the book of Revelation of the Mother of Prostitutes riding on a seven-headed beast.  Who will you choose to be king?  Jesus did not come to build a beastly system in order to crush the world under his authority.  Rather, he came as a humble man, a little lamb, offering citizenship in a coming kingdom to whosoever will.  He came to offer adoption into the family of God to whosoever will.  He came to offer his hand in marriage to whosoever will.  So, what will you choose?  Will you choose citizenship in a beastly kingdom ruled by harlots, adoption into a family of wickedness, marriage to the man of sin who will one day rule the world?  As for me and my house, we will choose the Lord Jesus!

The king asks us to help

This is an important picture of the character of God.  Though He has all power and doesn’t need us, He does want us to have a part in what He is doing.  Thus, Jesus gives his disciples some instructions to go get a certain donkey at a certain place.  Now, before we get into these specific instructions from the master, it would be good to recognize another aspect of his instructions or commands.

We have general instructions from Jesus that are to all who want to follow Him at all times.  We find them in the Word of God in commands like, “Love your enemies and do good to those that hate you.”  Matthew 5:44. It is interesting that in our modern society we are beginning to redefine love and hate to the point that something that is actually loving is declared as hatred.  For example, if these things about Jesus are true then no other religion on earth, or lack thereof, can save someone.  If I truly cared about a person, I would lovingly tell that they are following a false religion that cannot save them.  No, I wouldn’t ridicule them and abuse them in anyway, but I just might end up hurting their feelings by telling them the truth regardless of the fact that it was not my intent.  Yet, such is increasingly labeled as “hate-speech.”  Regardless of all that, if you are a believer in Jesus then you have received general instructions from Christ with which you are expected to wrestle with your context in order to obey.  We constantly ask ourselves and the Lord what it means in this specific situation.  Instead of listing all possible situations and legislating what the loving thing to do is, Christ expects us to grapple with these issues ourselves and with the help of the Holy Spirit.  This often leads to times of prayer and seeking God for specific direction.

Yet, there are times when we receive specific instructions from the Lord by the Holy Spirit.  Christ is not physically on the earth to give a specific word.  The disciples that day did not ask themselves, “Is this really the will of the master?”  They knew for sure because Jesus was right in front of them.  However, we take the general command into our prayer life and seek the specific instruction of the Lord for each context.  Sometimes he speaks to us by his Spirit and sometimes he lets us struggle to work it out.  Always, he is watching over us and helping us.

Now, our flesh can interfere in this process of receiving specific instruction from the Lord.  It can try to talk us out of doing what God is asking because it doesn’t make sense to us, or will make us look silly.  On the other hand, it can also dream up things in order to stroke the ego.  We must humbly and prayerfully consider what we believe God is telling us.  We should have godly Christians around us that we are comfortable sharing the things with which we are wrestling.  In the end, we should step out in faith and trust the directions of the Lord.  We are choosing in those moments to help him in the endeavor that he is doing.

So, Jesus was planning to enter Jerusalem in a spectacular way and he gave his disciples specific instructions.  However, those instructions did not explain everything.  Have you ever noticed this about God?  He tells us enough so that we can do what He wants, but He doesn’t tell us everything.  This is a hard thing for our flesh to take.  What if they think we are stealing the colt?  What if they call for the police and take us to jail?

The answer is that Jesus always has others who belong to him that we do not know.  This is worth remembering in life.  Though Jesus had 12 disciples, everything was not on their shoulders.  Jesus had other disciples that were wrestling with following his instructions too.  They didn’t travel around with him like the 12, but they were real disciples nonetheless.  We need to trust the small part that God has given us to do and know that it will be magnified by all the many small tasks of the other disciples around us.  Some will be people that we know, but most will be people we don’t.  The key point is that the Spirit of God is able to orchestrate these things as we simply learn to trust him.  May God help us to learn always to be ready to do the work that will show the world the truth of who God is.

So, the disciples go and find the colt that Jesus told them about and, sure enough, someone asks them what they think they are doing.  When they give the response that Jesus told them to give, the guys let them go.  Imagine that!  No problems.  Now why did Jesus want a donkey anyways?

The king doesn’t always do what we expect him to do

Jesus is often an enigma to us because we are so used to analyzing things with our fleshly minds and don’t fully comprehend the ways of God.  So, following him can often throw us some curve balls.  If you want to follow Jesus then you are going to be tested.  In fact, walking with Jesus tests everyone, even those that look like this Christianity is easy stuff.  The curve balls of life will test our ability to keep listening to Jesus.  On this day, Israel was being tested as a whole, but each individual person was being tested as well.  The crowds seem to be ready to accept Jesus as king.  Clearly the disciples have already accepted Jesus and are on board.  It is interesting that Mark doesn’t mention the Chief Priests, Scribes, and the Pharisees, as in the other gospels.  Most of them have made up their minds to reject Jesus and in fact have been plotting a way to execute him.

It might be helpful to analyze our response to Jesus with a logic grid.  On one axis we will mark their initial response to Jesus as Yes or No.  On the other axis we will mark their faith in Jesus at the end of their life as a Yes or No. 

Thus, we end up with 4 possible outcomes, YY, YN, NY, NN.  Those who quickly said yes to Jesus and stayed with him to the end would be those first disciples like James, John, Peter and Andrew, etc.  Judas would represent the one who said yes up front, but fell away from Jesus in the end.  The apostle Paul would represent the one who rejected Jesus at first, but then later had a change of heart and stuck with Jesus to the end.  Lastly, we have those who went to their grave, never having put their faith in Jesus at all.  What is the real difference between a YY person and a NY?  How about a YN and a NN?  We should quickly realize that it doesn’t really matter how quickly I responded to Jesus.  What really matters is where I am in the end.  In fact, there is a world of trials that happen between our initial acquaintance with Jesus and the end of our life.  Every day tests whether or not we will stay with Jesus.  The apostle Peter himself publicly denied the Lord for a time, but he was granted repentance and was restored.  Forget about what your score is along the way, and choose to follow Jesus today.

Faith is not about how perfect we look, but where we end up.  Today, if you hear his voice, don’t harden your heart, but rather say, “Speak, Lord.  Your servant is listening.”  Keep your eye upon the heavenly prize.  Keep your allegiance with Christ and trust that he will pull you through in the end, regardless of how many times you fail.  Go to war against those things within you that seek to pull you away from Jesus, and to give up in the end.

The crowds began to shout as they see what Jesus is doing.  They are ready for Jesus to raise up the fallen kingdom of David, which the prophets had promised.  They wanted the Kingdom of David, but it was too late for that.  When he gets to Jerusalem and goes to the temple it says this.  “So, when he had looked around at all things, as the hour was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.”  Jesus knew that he was going to get their late.  Why not wait until the next morning?  It is as if the “too late” here is a metaphor for the desires of the people.  He had done it on purpose.  Why?  He knew that he would ultimately be rejected by the people because he wasn’t going to do what they expected.  He really hadn’t come to late, but their hearts had given up on God and would not believe unless he jumped through all the hoops that they wanted him to jump through.  Sin was choking their hearts and blinding their eyes.  This is the same heart that is throughout the whole world today.  If there is room for God at all, we will allow him to come in and sweep our sin under the rug and bless us as if we had been righteous all along.  However, for an increasing number of people, there is no room for God in our world.  The attitude is this.  Just leave us alone and we will find Utopia ourselves.  To this attitude, believers who remain faithful to Christ represent a problem.  You may be following Christ today, but will you follow him to the end?  When people are losing their minds and thinking that sacrificing you will save humanity or mother earth, will you stick with him then?  I pray that, regardless of how many times you fall and scrape your knees spiritually, you will cling to Jesus and trust Him to pull you through.

Will you trust this king?  No, he doesn’t always make sense to us, but of all beings who have walked this planet, He is the only one who even comes close to looking like God.  Accept Him today and join the Kingdom of God.

Jesus as King audio

Wednesday
Jan142015

Ready For The Second Coming Of Jesus

Today we will be looking at Luke 12:35-48.

Leading up to this portion of Scripture, Jesus has been warning his disciples about the temptation to tie their hearts to the things of this world and miss out on the things of God.  In short they will not be ready for their personal judgment.  Here Jesus connects this to a time of Judgment that is still future; the [Second] Coming of the Son of Man.  As difficult as it was to accept, Jesus clearly taught in many places and times that he was going to leave his disciples behind and they would need to be faithful until he came back.  It was upon this coming back that he would judge the nations and give the authority of the nations unto his followers.  This idea of being ready for his coming is central to all that Jesus taught from the cross to his ascension.

Now it is easy for modern man and even modern theologians to state that Jesus and his disciples were just mistaken.  That is, Jesus taught and they thought that he was coming back in their life time.  First of all, let me point out that Jesus continually referred to a long delay that would tempt his followers to quit looking for his coming.  Also, second of all, if you had to put together important principles for people of the last 2,000 years, how would you go about it?  In other words, did the message, “Be ready for my coming,” have no meaning or affect upon previous generations?  It is clear from history that those believers who expected Christ to come back lived very different lives from those who created theological explanations as to why Jesus wasn’t literally coming back (i.e. they spiritualized the statement and treated it as a metaphor).  Even though we do not know the day nor hour of his coming, we are told even commanded to be ready.  So what does that look like?

Waiting Servants and The Lord’s Instructions

Jesus gives a parable (a true-to-life story that pictures spiritual truth) to help us understand what it means to be ready.  The parable is that of servants waiting for their master to come back from a wedding feast.  Now Jesus told several such parables and the emphases and particulars often change.  In some places we are the virgins awaiting the bridegroom to take us to the feast.  In others we are invited to the wedding by the Father of the bride.  Here we are the servants waiting for the master to come back from “the wedding” (we are not told whose and it seems to be irrelevant for the point Jesus is making).  Each of these different parables have their spiritual significance.  In fact in Revelation 19 we are told that a wedding feast for Christ and his bride is thrown right before Christ comes back to judge the nations.  So what is expected of these servants in this parable and how does that relate to us?  Let’s look at the instructions of Jesus.

First, they are to have their waists girded or tied up (like a belt).  In the culture of that day long robe type clothing was what they wore.  If one had work to do they would pull up the robe and tie it around their waist so that it would not slow them down and get in the way.  Thus, this is about being ready to work.  If you showed up on a muddy construction site in dress shoes and slacks, everyone knows you are not going to be any help in the labor that needs done.  So believers today can ready themselves for Christ’s coming by “being dressed for work” and all hindrances tied up or put aside.  This idea of being ready for service for this parable is a present readiness for service at his coming.  Yet Jesus and his apostles also challenged believers to be ready to do the work of the Father for everyday.  Jesus told his parents, “didn’t you know I must be about my Father’s business?”  Also, in 2 Timothy 4:2 Paul tells the young minister Timothy, “Preach the Word!  Be ready in season and out of season….”  What does it mean to be ready in season and out of season?  It is a way of saying be always ready (in this case to proclaim the gospel and teachings of Christ).  Thus the believer has two layers of readiness.  We must tie up any activity of our life that might trip us up and hinder us from serving Christ; particularly sins of the flesh.  Instead of living life as “fully” as we can, the believer restrains themselves and looks to the Spirit of Christ for direction rather than to the Spirit of this Age of consumerism, materialism, and sensualism.  Are you ready for service every day?  Whether or not Jesus comes back today, it makes a huge difference in the life of a disciple if they are ready for service because the Holy Spirit will impact a lost world through such a person.

Next we are told to have our lights burning.  On one hand this part of the parable is about our ability to see.  Without light it is impossible to serve at night.  This is a dark world and yet, Christ has given us the light of Truth.  Like a light to a dark room, the Truth of Christ enables us to understand the “room” of this world and our life.  Yet, the light of God’s Word is not just to help us see so that we can choose what we want to do.  Rather, it helps us to see and it directs us in what we should be doing.  Thus the person who has their lights burning is a disciple that is living by God’s Truth and his instructions.  Now notice, a lamp can be lit or unlit.  God’s Word is light.  But if it is not believed and lived out by a person (the lamp) other humans will never see the light.  Thus a burning lamp requires being filled with oil (the Spirit of Christ), having our wicks trimmed (pruning off sin and its destructive effects), and the continual maintenance of that initial God-given spark of life.  Is your life readied for the return of your master?  Do you have your lamps burning or has the flame gone out?  Another parable (The 10 Virgins) warns us that if we don’t get our lamps working today, we will be caught unaware and unready.  We need to realize that our enemy the devil will seek to distract us from our proper service.  Once he has us distracted he will move quickly to extinguish our lamp.  We need to be the kind of waiting servants that are not just sleeping until the master returns.  Rather we are continually monitoring and preparing our life for his return.

This leads us to the third instruction: we are to be watching for his coming.  The life of a believer needs to be one of expecting the Lord to come at any moment.  This will affect our perspective and our attitude.  Some may be tempted to withdraw from society and retreat into a well-stocked bunker.  However, this would actually be disobedience to the directions of the Holy Spirit.  We are to be busy with His business today and ready for His business of tomorrow.  Those who truly expect the coming of Jesus will be more careful how they live.  But when we doubt his coming or think it will never “really” come (literally), we will tend to walk in the flesh, never really getting around to service and hindered on every hand in making any preparations.  Notice that the passage speaks of Jesus coming in the second or third watch.  The first watch is the easiest to remain vigilant.  It requires less effort to remain alert and often others are still awake.  Similarly, the last watch of the night (4th watch) is easier as well.  You have gotten good sleep and are merely waking a bit early to be vigilant.  But the 2nd and 3rd watch are the hours that are late at night and early in the morning so from 9PM to 3AM.  The main point is that he will come at a time when it is not easy to stay vigilant.  In fact he says that his disciples would not think it would be the time.  “Surely, he won’t come now it’s after midnight.”  We are to be prepared especially in those times when we don’t think he would come.  Thus this is an always expecting him attitude.  This should not make us “no earthly good.” Rather, it should make us all the more busy about our Father’s work so that nothing will be undone when he comes.  The enemy seeks to steal the treasure of God’s truth that has been given too you.  If you do not watch, he will steal the very things that make for your faith.  Guard your heart.

Blessing for Faithful Servants; Punishment for the Unfaithful

Now Jesus speaks to the blessing that belongs to those who faithfully execute his will and heed his warnings.  Jesus says in verse 37 that when the master comes he will gird himself and serve his faithful servants.  There is a certain beauty to this promise.  We gird ourselves to serve him today and he promises to gird himself and serve us when he comes.  That doesn’t mean he hasn’t already served us and is not serving us today.  The very nature of our God is service.  Christ served us by laying his life down at the cross to pay the price for our sins.  Christ is serving us by giving the Holy Spirit to those who believe upon him and intercedes for us daily.  Christ, however, is going to serve believers in that day he returns.  He will put down the scoffers and mockers who have persecuted the faithful and he will give all authority into the hands of his saints.  You might notice that Jesus acted this out on the night of his betrayal.  He makes them to sit at a meal, picks up a towel and washes their feet.  Who are we that he would be mindful of us to serve us in such a way?  That is the eternal mystery.  The God of heaven rejects the proud and great of this world and stoops down to serve the outcasts and the off scouring of the earth.

In verse 41 Peter asks a question because he is confused that it would be possible for one of them to not be ready for their lord.  But instead of answering Peter Jesus plows on in pressing the point.  Jesus points out two adjectives that he is looking for in his disciples: Faithful and Wise.  In this case they really are facets of the same thing.  The wise servant is not one who has figured out many great ways to serve the master.  Rather, he is the one who is faithful to the instructions that the master gave.  The master will make such a servant ruler over all that he has.  This scope of authority and its future expansion is a clear indication that God has rewards and duties for us in the age to come.  If we are faithful with God’s things in this life then in the age to come he will give us things that will be ours to do with what we want.  Yes, the usurpers have taken over the earth and exercise the authority thereof, but Christ will come and remove them.  This will be a day in which his followers are given greater authority.  Thus the blessing is being served by Christ himself and being given greater authority.  Yet, now we turn to the unfaithful.

In verse 45-48 we see those who cease following the instructions because of the delay of Christ’s return.  We can see all around us the evidence for why Christ would warn about such things.  These unfaithful servants don’t quit.  Rather they begin to abuse the other servants and their place or position within the house of Christ.  Next to this is the temptation to eat and drink to drunkenness.  Thus the unfaithful servant uses the master’s things to satisfy the desires of their flesh (i.e. partying with the master’s supplies).  As drunkenness is to drink so gluttony is to food.  This person is no longer prepared for service, a lit lamp, and expectant of Christ’s return.  They have overturned such an agenda and live to please their own flesh.  Their heart is tied to the things of the world at the expense of the things of Christ.

Thus Jesus says that his coming will surprise them.  They will not only think he is coming but they will be “unaware.”  Awareness is crucial in everything that we do in life.  This person is dulled to the very things Christ wants them to be perceptive.  No matter how faithful we are, if we stop being faithful we are in jeopardy.  We don’t say a person ran a good race because they the first quarter of it well.  If they quit and walk off the track they did not run a good race.  I could prepare for and expect Christ’s coming for 50 years.  But if I give up and start living for my flesh, I then put myself in jeopardy.  The “party it up” life desensitizes us to the purposes and times of God.

Yet, being surprised is the easy aspect to this.  They will also be appropriately punished.  In fact the “cut him in two” is a clear statement of execution.  The unfaithful servant will be given the portion of the unbelievers (aka the enemies of the master).  Thus they are clearly eternally lost.  Now, I need to bring this to a close.  It is clear that Jesus points out the perfect judgment that will be exercised.  Those who know better what they should be doing will be held more accountable and receive a worse punishment.  God is a perfect judge and that can give us relief on one hand and cause for concern on the other.  Do I want to be an unfaithful servant who is punished or a faithful servant who is blessed?  Faithfulness to these commands is what will make the difference.  Maranatha!

Be Ready Audio