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Entries in Knowledge (4)


Finding Focus after Failure

Philippians 3:7-16.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on Father’s Day, June 16, 2019.

Today, we take time to celebrate fathers; a blessing for which they did not ask.  Being a father can fill you with all kinds of moments in which we feel great success and, of course, great failure.  It is one of those things that we cannot fully appreciate until we have been put in the harness ourselves.  Of course, this applies to parenting in general.

Our passage today is not about being a father.  However, it presents a problem that is common within parenting, that of getting up from failure and moving forward.  What do you do when your greatest attempts and endeavors are found out to fall short?  What do you do when that little baby who has grown up yells at you and slams the door to their room, or storms out of the house?  Sadly, many men run from such experiences.  Our society is full of missing-in-action fathers who decided to never start in the first place (often despite the children they have helped create).

Yet, for those who bravely jump into marriage and children, the challenges can mount and overwhelm a person.  We seem to be confronted with our weaknesses and shortcomings at every turn.  It is a very intimidating situation, even a crucible of sorts. 

So, I want to use this passage where the Apostle Paul is explaining his come-to-Jesus moment.  In it we will discover the proper response to those moments when you are made aware of your failures.

Confidence in the flesh does not lead to Jesus

Paul often spoke against the religious mindset that focused upon its own religious accomplishments because this does not lead anyone to Jesus.  Oh, it leads to all manner of places, but never to Jesus.  Confidence is good if it is placed in the right thing.

Paul had been raised in a religious environment in which performance was everything.  In verses 4-6 of this chapter, Paul lists his credentials among the Jewish people.  He had been circumcised when he was 8 days old.  This was the required mark that he belonged to God.  He was also from the tribe of Benjamin, a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Thus, he was a true heir to the promises of God.  He was also a Hebrew of Hebrews, which meant that he was not one of those Hellenized Jews who adopted the Greek culture and mixed it, in varying degrees, with the culture of Israel.  He was a Pharisee, who prided themselves on exact, literal conformity to the Law.  His zeal was so great that he had been persecuting the Christians and even going to Damascus in order to seize more.  Lastly, his law keeping was blameless by the standards of his day.  Everything in Paul’s life told him that he was blameless and succeeding within his society.  Yet, the day that Jesus confronted him, he was made aware of just how greatly he had been failing God. 

Think about how we come from different subcultures within the greater USA culture.  Even Christians grow up within a subculture of the overall world-wide Christian community.  Each subculture has its own variation of what it means to be good, right, and successful.  However, those cultural trappings, whether religious or not, can blind us to our mounting failures.

Paul should have had his confidence centered upon God, but he had been taught to center it upon himself inadvertently.  On the road to Damascus, when Paul finally saw the light, he began to know just how far away from God he was, and yet also, that God still loved him.  I pray that today you may know that no matter whether you were a failure or a great success story, in regard to the subculture in which you were raised, God loves you too much to leave you alone.  He calls you to Himself through Jesus and says, “Put your trust in me.” 

Perhaps the greatest problem within Christianity throughout history has been the many men who were more confident in their ideas about Scripture than they were in the God who gave them.  On top of this is a similar problem.  Christians are often looking back to smart Christian men of the past and put more confidence in their great ideas about Scripture than in the Word itself.  Whether a group points to Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, John Calvin, or for Pentecostals, men like Charles Parham or William Seymour, or for the Assemblies of God, men like E. N. Bell and J. Roswell Flowers, it matters not what men your subculture points to and holds up as the great light to this generation.  What matters is if our confidence is truly placed upon Jesus instead of the reason of brilliant men.

Knowing Jesus is more important than the things we lose

Paul recognized that everything for which he had been working fell short of God.  He would rather know Jesus than have the greatest Jewish resume among his people.  Thus, he had to let go of certain things in order to know Jesus.  He had come to that moment of realization (my great works have fallen short), and chose to go after Christ rather than doubling down on his life’s work.  He let go of his standing and reputation within the religious community.  He let go of his potential within the leadership of Israel.  However, verse 9 also points out that he had let go of the righteousness of his own attempts to satisfy the Law of Moses, in order to obtain a righteousness that is from God through faith in Jesus.  The righteousness of faith in Jesus is diametrically opposed to the self-righteousness obtained by keeping the law.  Paul points to this as the great problem for Israel in Romans 10:2-3 where he says, “I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.  For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.”

To know Jesus is more than to know information about him.  Yes, we want to learn about who Jesus was, what he did, and what he taught.  However, the words used for “knowledge,” and “know,” in this passage, include a knowledge that comes through a relationship with someone.  Paul doesn’t just want to go to school and learn about Jesus.  He wants to do life with Jesus.  His life would now be about learning who Jesus is through a personal relationship with him.

So, how do you have a relationship with Jesus?  You do so by faith.  You pray, you believe, you trust, you succeed, you fail, you repent, you keep your eyes upon Jesus.  I pray that today you will be struck with this desire to know Christ and not settle for anything less.

However, to really know Jesus, you must also get to know those major aspects of his life.  Paul wanted to experience and to learn about that same power that raised Christ from the dead.  He wanted that power operating in his life.  He also wanted to experience and to learn about the sufferings that Christ submitted himself to go through, even to the point of laying his life down for others.  Paul wanted his death to conform to that kind of death that Jesus had, which was a noble and godly one.  Ultimately Paul wanted to experience the Resurrection from the Dead himself, which is promised by Jesus to all believers.  There is coming a day when he will give the command and all the righteous saints of history will receive glorified, immortal bodies.

What do I do when I haven’t arrived yet

Fatherhood is a constant reminder that we haven’t arrived yet, and I’m not talking about the kids in the back seat droning, “Are we there yet?”  It is easy to get the wind knocked out of your sails when you are faced with your own failures.  In fact, it is easy to get angry, even filled with rage, as life constantly reminds us of how short we fall.  Yet, just as Christ was calling Paul to a different life that was not filled with hatred, anger, and rage, so Christ is calling us to let go of our failures and follow him.

Paul clearly says in verse 12 that he had not attained the list of the facets of knowing Jesus.  In fact, because the Resurrection is on the list, he still hasn’t attained that whole list even today.  Unless Jesus returns in our lifetime, all of us will close our eyes in death, realizing that we hadn’t attained it all yet.  But, God will not fail us.  He has set a time in which all of these things will be attained by all of the saints of all time together.  All of us will simultaneously enter into our full inheritance on the Day of Resurrection.  Wow!  What a day that will be.

Paul could have run away from his failures and away from Jesus.  Instead, he ran towards Christ.  Jesus is the “author and finisher of our faith.”  Yes, we are to cooperate with the Holy Spirit and work hard for our Lord, but we always remember that he will bring us through and finish us.  Yes, I haven’t arrived yet, but Jesus will get me there, just as he will get you there too.

Paul points out that he had to forget those things that were behind him.  We can learn lessons from our past, but we must not allow ourselves to become stuck in our past and frozen.  Paul had much guilt and shame behind him.  Yet, Jesus had forgiven him.  Have you ever noticed that we can still hold failures over our own head, even though Jesus says that he forgives us?  Faith is letting go and trusting Jesus.  Yes, you fell short.  Leave it behind you and move towards Jesus who promises to forgive you.

In fact, Paul was pressing forward to the things that Christ had set before him and us.  We first press towards those things that Jesus has for each of us in this life.  We don’t know what that will involve and everybody’s story is unique.  Yet, as we approach the end of our life, we must again press forward to those things that lie in our resurrected future.  Our greatest prize is that which we enter into at the Resurrection of the Dead.  All of us have to learn to get up and go to work.  This is what Paul is expressing.  He had to get up and get to work finding out just who this Jesus was.  Jesus is calling to each of us today.  “Come and get to know me!”

Paul ends this section with a reminder of our thinking, which he had been addressing back in chapter 2.  The mind of a person who keeps doubling down on their own accomplishments is not the mind of Christ.  Christ trusted the Father instead of trusting what he could do in the flesh.  He submitted to the cross and was rewarded with the highest honor of the entire universe.  The mind that is never too great to simply do what the Father asks us to do.  Failure is part of who we are as humans, but in Jesus it is not the final word.  If we will humble ourselves and press forward towards him, then Jesus will bring us to victory!

Finding Focus audio


Faults of the Evil Generation III

Today we are in Luke 11:45-54.  We have been looking at a section where Jesus reveals several things that were problems in his day.  Yet, he classified his generation as an evil one.  Previously we looked at two things that Jesus rebuked them for: their spiritual eyesight had been damaged, and their sin had caused them to focus on their outward life to the expense of their inner life.

These two rebukes set up a situation in which a lawyer, who is offended at what Jesus said, receives 4 more rapid fire rebukes from our Lord.  In each of these rebukes we need to be faithful to compare ourselves to the actions described and ask God to reveal to us if we have similar things we are neglecting, or how we can deal with those things better.

Offended by Correction

Although Jesus does not say this, it is important to see that the lawyer begins at a place of being insulted by the rebukes of Jesus.  Now we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t bristle at correction.  No one likes to be told they are wrong and need to change.  This tendency rears its head early on in our lives and, if not dealt with, will continue to control our reactions on into our adult life.  Those who are given over to wickedness especially do not like correction.  Even God himself is unable to correct them without them getting their feelings hurt.  This is an important point.  No one loves you more than God.  If He corrects you, He does so with the best intentions and purest motivations.  He is trying to save you from the bad results of your choices.  If we should accept hard things from anyone then God should be at the top of the list.  In Christ, God Himself had come down to correct His people because they were destroying themselves individually and as a nation.

Yet, the leaders and the people as a whole were offended or insulted by Jesus.  The word “reproach” in verse 45 (NKJV) literally means an injury or public insult.  Our attachment to our sin will take what is intended to help us and is offered in sincere love as an insult.  In other words it is received as an action of hate.  Was Jesus a hater?  Of course not, but he is received so by those who hate what he has to say.  Yet, if you desire to put to death the wicked deeds of your heart (as true godly people desire) you will make good use of rebukes that even come from those of ill-will.  Think of David when he was fleeing Jerusalem because one of his sons was leading a coup against him.  David was the true king and it is truly evil for his son to usurp the throne from him.  However, David knew that he had his own sins too.  He had committed adultery with Bathsheba and created tensions between the families of his wives.  As he leaves Jerusalem there is a man named Shimei who was a relative of the previous King, Saul.  Shimei was running along the road cursing David and saying that God was paying David back for usurping the throne from Saul.  This, of course, was a pack of lies.  The man is speaking out of the bitterness and jealousy of his own heart.  Yet, David receives what he says and “spits out the bones.”  David knew that even though the man was not right in what he said, God really was rebuking David for his true sins.  Thus the wicked will receive rebukes from no one.  But a righteous man is able to hear the voice of the Lord even through the voice of the wicked.  Lord help us to be careful how we respond to rebuke.

Ultimately this man is trying to justify himself.  Thus, he deflects his own wickedness and accuses Jesus of wrong.  This technique is abundantly practiced in our society.  Whether in politics or religion, we use the failings and sins of the other person to justify ourselves.  We will even use the appearance of sin and accuse others of ulterior motives so that we can discount their message and promote our own.  The godly do not do such things.  The godly person trusts in God as their justifier.  They do not need to hide their faults, nor do they argue with others through character assassination.  Without arrogance and in repentance, we must stand before God and trust in his justification whether society accepts it or not.

They Enforce Duties Hypocritically

In verse 46 Jesus points out that the Lawyers were not as innocent as this man wanted to believe.  Now, there needs to be leaders and people who are able to instruct us in what our duties to society are.  But how this is done is critical.  These guys not only loaded up the people with a huge amount of regulations, but also enforced them hypocritically.  Now a heavy amount of duties is bad enough.  The picture here is like that of loading up a donkey or some such animal.  Each animal has a maximum that they can carry without detriment to the animal.  These lawyers tended to load up people with a heavy amount of laws and regulations.  Take note that God gave Israel laws.  But the rabbis and lawyers had added a great amount of added regulations.  Now it is bad enough to have a heavy load to carry.  But, it would be easier to take if the person who is doing the loading is also carrying the same size load.  Yet, these lawyers, when they made the case against others were very strict.  But when it comes to them, they don’t even lift up one finger to do the regulations.  This hypocrisy makes the heavy weight even heavier. 

God did not do this.  In fact, in Christ, God comes down and carries the burden for us and even takes upon himself most of the burden.  To the point that he could say, “Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest…My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  We see this same dynamic among our own leaders.  They pass all manner of laws to lay upon the citizens, but don’t have to lift a finger to carry the same burden.  They use all manner of loopholes, justifications, and flat out exemptions only for themselves.  This hypocritical enforcement causes the nation as a whole to groan under the weight of such heavy regulations.  If they break the law there is generally much mercy and grace.  But if an average person breaks the law, they are legalistically and harshly penalized.

Of course this is used as a means of control and manipulation by those in power.  When people are harassed and fearful of punishment, they are more easily subdued to tasks they did not ask for and directions in which they do not want to go.  God’s purpose in giving mankind commands and knowledge about life is not to imprison and control.  Rather, He only gives commands that will set us free from the prison of our own sinful flesh, and the tyranny of our own sinful desires.

They Reject the Prophets God Sends

In verses 47-51 Jesus points out their rejection of the prophets.  This is not just a problem that Israel had.  It has been a problem throughout every generation that we tend to hate those whom God uses to call us to account.  The majority rejects the narrow path of God’s Way and embraces the wide path of destruction.  Sure in some nations at some points in time a majority may choose God.  But these times are few and far between when compared to all the other nations and points in time.

Jesus points out that their tendency to make great shrines to the prophets was itself evidence that they rejected them.  How?  The problem is not so much the graves.  But think of it this way.  The only prophets they honored were dead ones.  Do you see the hypocrisy in that?  A dead prophet is not around to point out your sin and neither can he point out your twisting of his words.  Thus it is always safe to honor a prophet after he is dead.  But their fathers put those prophets to death, they hated them so bad.  Why turn the grave into a shrine?  They would honor a prophet by dressing up his tomb and yet not give honor to the message he stood for by living out its corrections.  Even now they were rejecting Jesus who was the Prophet of prophets, and the exact image of God.  His message was without error and the perfect brilliance of God’s Truth.  There could be no excuse to reject Him and still claim it was for God’s sake.  In fact all the prophets who were killed before were pointing to Jesus.  Thus the tombs themselves become a hypocritical cover and self-justification.

Yet, Jesus states that God will call their bluff.  They claim to love the prophets, yet God will send them prophets and apostles.  They will not only reject Jesus, but also the apostles and prophets that are sent to them by Jesus.  It is a mercy of God that He always calls our bluff.  He loves us too much to let us deceive ourselves and not call us out.  Just as God called their bluff, so he will call ours.  If we refuse to receive the Truth when it comes then the very thing that was sent to help us will become irrefutable evidence against us.  Thus we demonstrate what side we are on (the godly or the wicked) by our actions.

There is an ancient tradition of those who stand for God’s ways and those who rebel against them.  Even in the first family we find Cain being filled with hatred for his brother simply because God accepted Abel’s sacrifice and not his.  Cain kills Abel.  Jesus uses this first jealous murder and the death of the prophet Zechariah as book-ends to a long history of godly men being put to death by wicked ones.  This Zechariah seems to be the prophet referred to in 2 Chronicles 24.  Joash had become king at a young age.  So the High Priest Jehoida had taken him under his wing and taught him all the ways of God.  The Bible says that Joash was a good king all the days of Jehoida.  But then one day Jehoida died.  Then Joash’s heart was turned away from the ways of God and idol worship became prevalent in the land once again.  Zechariah was the son of Jehoida.  He stood up and confronted the king and the people with their sin.  Joash commanded the son of his mentor to be put to death.  How tragic for a man to be so good for so long and then in the end choose the side of wickedness.  We might ask ourselves which side we are on?  God has been faithful to send his prophets and ministers throughout the land.  Where you attend church says a lot about which side you are on.  The prophets were always killed by self-righteous religious people and that will be true in the future as well.  Be careful how quick you are to reject those who come in the name of the Lord.  Take time to compare it to what the Bible says.  Pray for God to cleanse your heart and reveal those things you need to deal with.

They Obstruct the Way of God

In verses 52-54, Jesus points out their tendency to block people from the truth.  It is bad enough to refuse the truth of God.  However, such people often attempt to obstruct those who are trying to follow God.  Thus Jesus uses the picture of a key.  A key is necessary to open a locked door.  Now there are two ways to take this word picture.  First, Jesus could be talking about the key that opens our ability to receive knowledge or enter into it.  According to Solomon, the fear of the Lord is the beginning (key) of wisdom.  Without it we will never enter into God’s wisdom and knowledge.  Humility, repentance, and a desire to change will open for us the door to wisdom and knowledge from God.  When I know that, on my own, I am the fool and God is the wise sage, I am then enabled to hear Him.

Another way to take this picture is to see knowledge itself as the key.  In Matthew 25 Jesus accuses the Lawyers of shutting up the way to heaven.  Thus the knowledge which God gives opens the door to heaven (dwelling with God).  Yet, the rabbis and lawyers had corrupted the knowledge of God by misrepresenting it and misinterpreting it to the people.  They had twisted the key of knowledge so badly that it people were hampered in getting close to God.  In fact, most people will abandon a key that does not fit or turn a lock anymore.  Our own sins lock us out of relationship with God.  But in His Word He has given us the knowledge to unlock that barrier.  Ultimately Jesus and what he has done is the key that removes that barrier.  Yet, we must believe on him and can only do that through understanding all God said to point us to Jesus.

The religious leaders had become like a mad dog that stands on the porch and won’t let anyone go through the door.  They wouldn’t go in and stood in the way of others getting in.  Yet in his mercy God sent prophets and lastly Jesus so that those who were being blocked could get around such dogs.  Well the last verses point out that the lawyers could not receive these rebukes either.  They are angered and began to verbally attack Jesus and when the opportune time had come they physically attacked him and killed him; offended by correction.  God help us to not follow such outwardly religious and inwardly wicked people.  Take care how you listen and to whom you give most of your time.  You will be accountable before God for the choices you make.  For even though wicked men may have stood in your way, God in His mercy has been faithful to offer you the Truth in many irrefutable ways.  So get into God’s Word for yourself and honestly seek what He is saying.


The True Jesus: Jesus Teaches About John

Today we will look at Luke 7:24-28.  Jesus had sent a message back to John (who was in prison) telling him to not lose faith.  John clearly was struggling with what he believed should be and what was happening.  After John’s disciples leave to give him the message, Jesus teaches about the greatness of John because it was important for people to understand who he was and how integral he was to God’s plan.  Yet, at the end Jesus gives us a strange twist.  Let’s check it out.

Why Were People Drawn To John

In verse 24 Jesus asks the people why they went out into the barren places to listen to John.  He does so by asking a rhetorical question, of which the answer is obvious.  Did they go out to see a “reed shaken by the wind?”  This word picture is of a person who is easily moved by circumstances and the opinions of man (i.e. the winds of the time).  Though the reed may look substantial, it grows in marshy areas or along rivers, lakes and streams.  Thus it can be easily uprooted.  Clearly, this was not a picture of John the Baptist.  People were drawn to John because he was a sincere, steadfast, passionate, God-pleaser.  John stood strong even against Herod Antipas and his sins because he wanted to please God.

Another way in which this picture of the shaken reed can be understood is to read 1 Kings 14.  In that passage the prophet uses a shaken, bruised reed as a picture of how God would come upon Israel.  He would knock Israel down, and scatter it to the winds.  Thus the bruised reed is a picture of Judgment.  John was clearly a righteous man and not under judgment.  In fact you could say John is himself a dried reed in the hand of God to chastise Israel in order to draw some to repentance.  This was very different from the religious leaders of the day and drew people to him.  John seemed to be authentic and he was.  John’s passionate stand against the sins of Israel from the least to the greatest in the land culminated in his imprisonment and eventual beheading.  This gave people hope that the Messiah truly was about to come.

Next Jesus asks if they went out to John in order to see a man dressed in soft clothing.  This question is pretty much a joke.  Anyone who had seen John would laugh at the idea of him in soft clothing.  John was the ultimate picture of self-denial.  This was in stark contrast with the political and religious leaders of the day.  He is pictured as living in the wilderness on locusts and wild honey (i.e. living off the land), wearing camel hair cloak, and a leather belt.  He didn’t just abstain from luxuries.  He abstained from even the normal pleasures of life.  This again increased his authenticity in the eyes of the people.  John was not seeking to “fleece the sheep” for his own benefit.

The next question in verse 26 begins to hone in on the truth.  Did you go to see a prophet?  Definitely the answer is yes.  John was a true prophet of God.  The people went out to John recognized this about him.  But John was more than a prophet of God.  What the people couldn’t see is that John was the fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy in Malachi 3.  God had promised to send a Forerunner to the Messiah whose job would be to herald the Messiah’s coming and help people be prepared for Him. 

Even more, Jesus points to John as the greatest of the prophets up to that point.  Does that mean John was greater than Moses and Elijah?  Yes it does.  However, “greater” likely does not point to greater in faithfulness or love of God.  Rather John is greater in function or position.  John ministers in the presence of the Messiah.  He also successfully turns hearts from sin towards the Messiah.  Lastly he gets to witness the beginning of the promised Kingdom of God.  These are things that Moses and Elijah would have loved to have seen.  In this regard, John’s experience parallels that of Moses.  Just like Moses teaches the people to follow God and leads them to the Promised Land, but doesn’t get to go in, so John the Baptist teaches and leads the people to Jesus and His promised Kingdom.  However, John is to be executed and not allowed to enter the coming Church.  He could have been an excellent Apostle.  However, it was not the calling God had given him.  This of course leads us to the issue of the Kingdom of God.  Wasn’t Israel already a part of the Kingdom of God?  How could it be coming or at hand?

The Kingdom of God

If you study the Scriptures, you will see that Israel is part of God’s Kingdom.  Many places He is called their King.  However, both in experience and through the prophets, the people were promised a greater stage of that Kingdom.  Not a Kingdom ruled by men who variously fell short of God’s righteousness, but by God’s Anointed (Christ) who would perfectly rule the people and expand the Kingdom over the whole earth.  When Jesus came He initiated this Kingdom of God.  Since then Christians have been the citizens of the Kingdom of Jesus and Jesus is the King.  This rule in the hearts of men has gone to the ends of the earth.  However, this is not the completion of all promised.  It is now a natural people ruled by a spiritual kingdom that does not have an earthly headquarters, nor an earthly ruler.  But that is coming.  Thus the Kingdom of God was both present and future.

John was preparing people’s hearts to enter into this new stage of the kingdom of God.  He called them to repentance and spiritual cleansing, and to faith in Jesus.  They would be able to hear and respond to the Messiah’s call, “Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  The Good News of the Work of Jesus is that everyone is invited to join the Kingdom that had come about by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  Thus John has a tremendously glorious position within the Kingdom of God.

Yet, Jesus strangely says that those who are the least in the coming kingdom of God will be greater than John.  This amazing point begs the question of how the least in the Church can be greater than John.  Our experience would beg to differ with Christ.  But again this is not about devotion or faithfulness.  It is about position.  Let’s look at the ways those who entered the Kingdom of Christ received something greater.

First, we have a greater knowledge of Christ than John.  John understood better than all up to him who the Messiah was.  But he didn’t know everything.  That is why we see him doubting in prison.  Jesus encouraged John, but He shared His teachings and prophecies with His disciples.  John did not have this.  The Holy Spirit even led the Apostles into further truth than Christ taught them because they weren’t ready for it yet.  See John 16:12.

Second, we have a greater position before God.  John participates in the transition, but never gets to participate in the life and joy of the Church.  Like I said earlier, he is like Moses in this way.  Longing to enter in and yet having to be content with the position and calling God has given you.  John the Baptist still lived under the Tutor of the Law of Moses.  However, we have become the adult sons and daughters of God, no longer under the teacher.  We are able to work alongside the Father in the freedom of love rather than under the restriction of Law.

Lastly, our privileges are greater than John’s.  John did have the Spirit in His life, but he never got to see the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all God’s people.  He didn’t get to see that in operation within the Church community.  We have been given spiritual gifts that John did not get to see.  Even the fellowship of believers within a community was foreign to all that John experienced (an outcast living in the desert).  I could go on but I think you can see the point I am making.

Let me close this by saying that God isn’t done yet.  You have been given something in Christ that the prophets of the Old Testament would have longed to have seen and experienced.  You are blessed beyond belief.  What a privilege we have been given by God.  Am I thankful?  Do I treat my Christianity lightly?  Or, do I despise it and think it is worthless?  I am amazed when I see videos of people witnessing on the streets of our cities and they run into people who say they are Christians, but they don’t live any different from the world.  They are enamored with the world over the top of Jesus and His kingdom.  The apostle John warned us not to love the world or the things of the world because they are all passing away.  Do you know that the kingdom of God is on the verge of an even greater stage?  In fact it could be said that in the millennial kingdom the least will be greater than the greatest of the Church today.  God is not done yet.  He will complete all that He said he would.  Why throw all that away for some trinkets that are going to be destroyed tomorrow?  Are you living far below your position and privileges in Christ?  Maybe we need to hear John’s words one more time.  Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!

Jesus Teaches about John Audio


The Keys to the Kingdom

No one knows who invented the first lock and key.  But it stands to reason that the necessity of protecting valuables mothered its invention not long after sin entered the world.  The oldest discovered locking mechanism is 4,000 years old and was found in Nineveh.  It is similar to other locks found in Egypt within that same time.  The Bible also makes mention of locks in the book of Judges, which isn’t long after this period.

In Matthew 16 Jesus uses this imagery to speak about the Kingdom of Heaven.  It is a place and dominion that you need a “key” in order to join.  We don’t generally think of heaven as being a place that is locked.  But Jesus here reveals that he is giving his disciples “keys” that would unlock its gates to specific people.

Do I Know Who Jesus Is?

Jesus had asked his disciples who people were saying that he was in verse 13.  Of course they gave several answers.  Then in verse15 Jesus makes it personal.  Who do you say that I am?  The question is directed to all the disciples.  They had been with him for a while now and Jesus checks to see what they have come to understand about who he is.  Peter is the one who steps forward and answers for the group.  Obviously he risks “getting it wrong.”  However, this time, Peter nails the answer in verse 16.  The first part of his answer is that Jesus is the Christ.  Now Christ is a transliteration of a Greek word, not a translation.  The translation would be Anointed.  So Peter declares that Jesus is The Anointed One.  Now what is he talking about?  In the Old Testament the first group we see being anointed (having oil smeared on or poured over) was the priests.  Aaron and his sons were anointed for the ministry they were going to perform.  It was a picture of the presence of God’s Spirit to empower them for the holy function they were called to do.  Later the same was done for those who were to be King of Israel.  Thus only those called to an important and holy job on God’s behalf were anointed.  This idea of anointing was later given a connection to another concept of a Messiah or Savior that would rise up to save Israel and the World.  We see this in Psalm 2.  In this Psalm God’s Anointed One becomes a specific title.  The messiah would be God’s Anointed One who would be given the kingdoms of the earth.  Thus Peter recognizes Jesus as this Messiah/Anointed One for whom the world had been waiting.

The second part of Peter’s statement is that Jesus was the Son of God.  Now in a physical sense we can understand Jesus being called the Son of God because he was directly created by God in Mary’s womb.  Jesus was miraculously born by a virgin girl through the power of God.  Just as God directly shaped Adam and breathed the spirit of life into him, so God directly creates the matter that would become the man Jesus.

Yet, Jesus was the Son of God in an even deeper way.  The apostle John brings this out in the first chapter of his gospel.  In regard to his humanity, Jesus came into being just over 2,000 years ago.  But in regard to his spirit, he had existed from before the creation.  In fact he was in essence not only with God the Father, but he and the Father were together One God.  Yes, this does bring up the mysterious Trinity that can be a mind bender.  But this is what the disciples came to know about Jesus.  He and the Father were two and yet One.  To see the Son was to see the Father.  Both Son and Father have eternally been One with the Holy Spirit.  Jesus was the only, True God-Man that has ever existed.  All others have been pretenders and fakes.

The Key of  The Knowledge of Who Jesus Is

Jesus points to Peter’s statement as important.  First it was not given to them by a man.  It was God himself who had revealed this to the disciples.  How did God do that?  He did it by first sending his Son, Jesus, who performed miracles and spoke the words of the Father.  He confirmed this by the Scriptures that had been given before hand.  The disciples could recognize the God of the Scriptures in what Jesus said.  The third thing is the inner witness of the Holy Spirit.  When push came to shove, something within the disciples testified that Jesus had the “Words of Life.”

In verse 18 Jesus then begins to talk about the Church he was going to build.  The Church would be built upon the truth of who Jesus is.  This truth is an immovable rock that is like a mountain in comparison to the small rock that Peter was.  But all of these individual rocks making their confessions of the Great Rock of Jesus and his true identity would build a group that even Hell itself could not stand up against.  I know that some try to make Peter himself the foundation of the Church but this seems to fly in the face of the language that is being used.  Yes, Peter is a part of the foundation of Jesus and His apostles, but that is it.  This knowledge of the identity of Jesus is a key that opens the way into the Kingdom of Heaven.  Thus the main task of the leaders of the Church is to use the Key of Knowledge to open the door to those who will receive it in faith.  However, this knowledge also repels some, just as it did in days of Jesus.  In like manner today, the truth of who Jesus is repels some and because they refuse to receive it, acts like a lock that both keeps them out of the Kingdom and stuck in their lost condition.  They are bound in a prison of their own making as they refuse to receive the truth.  So all who follow Christ and proclaim the truth of who he is have this key that both looses and binds those to whom they proclaim it.

Now the word “keys” is plural.  So it stands to reason that there are other keys and we will talk about those in the weeks to come.  But this key is critical and cannot be left out.

Here are some practical thoughts for those who have put their faith in Jesus.  People who have not heard the truth about who Jesus is are bound in a prison and kept back from his Life.  They are bound by a principle of death that comes from the effects of sin.  Only those with the keys to Life can help them.  God has given you a powerful key to life in the truth about who Jesus is.  Are you sharing it?  We must first see the plight of the lost before we will be motivated to help them.  What was it like for you before you became a believer?  May God start by reminding us of our own past, but also continue the teaching by opening our eyes to the pain, hurt, and death that is in the lives of people around us who do not know him.

Keys to the Kingdom audio