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Entries in Messiah (19)

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

Monday
Oct082018

Your Personal End Times- The Millennium Part I

Various Passages.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on October 7, 2018.

Last week we established from Revelation 20 that Christ will rule with the resurrected saints over the earth for 1,000 years.  However, that passage gave us practically no description of what the millennium would look like.  This is most likely because the rest of the Bible is full of descriptions of what the millennium will entail.  Today we are going to go back into the Old Testament and fill in some of the picture of what we will experience as resurrected saints during this 1,000 year reign of Jesus Christ upon this earth.

Of course, the real question is this.  Where do you start?  It is like swimming in the ocean.  There is no way we can do justice to the multitude of passages that speak of the coming kingdom of God.  So let me briefly summarize a few passages in this light.  We could go back to Genesis 3 and see God’s promise to Eve that one of her seed would crush the serpent’s head.  The idea is that the one who deceived them and tricked them out of paradise would eventually get his from a particular human.  We could also look at Genesis 11 and 15, where God makes a covenant with Abraham.  Basically God tells Abraham that all the nations of the earth will be blessed by what God does through Abraham’s offspring.  There is also 2 Samuel 7 where God makes a covenant with David, promising that one of his offspring would sit on the throne of David forever.  There is also Psalm 2 where God states that He has anointed a king who is to rule over the whole earth.  Also, it is stated that the world will rebel against this choice and challenges people to put their trust in God’s king.  Thus we see that God has a vested interest in helping mankind against Satan, our spiritual enemy.  He has promised to bless the whole world by anointing a particular individual to be a righteous king over all the earth and crush the serpents head.  This will be a king and a kingdom that lasts forever.

However, today we are going to start in the book of Isaiah, while keeping in mind this backdrop of promises that God has made to mankind.  Here we will see that the Millennial rule of Christ is the promised hope that has been given to the saints of every century and will be established at His Second Coming.

The reign of the Messiah- Jesus

Let’s start in Isaiah 2:1-4.  Though the Old Testament does not explicitly state the name of the Messiah, we now know that it is Jesus.  Of course Jesus is an anglicized transliteration of a Latin/Greek transliteration of a name that is either Hebrew or Aramaic in form.  It would be something like Yeshua or Yoshua, but let’s not get sidetracked.  All these prophecies are pointing towards Him.  He is the one whom God has anointed King of all kings, Lord of all lords. 

In our passage Isaiah describes this coming kingdom and states that it will be a global kingdom.  The language is very clear with phrases like: “established on top of the mountains,” “exalted above the hills,” and “all nations shall flow to it.”  Mountains and hills were often used as symbolic descriptions of kingdoms and empires.  Powerful kingdoms were like mountains towering over the surrounding area, dominating it on every level.  Later in Daniel 2, God gives Nebuchadnezzar a dream in which all the kingdoms of the world are crushed and smashed to pieces by a kingdom that is sent from God.  This kingdom is described as a stone that is cut by God (without human hands) and grows to become a mountain that fills the whole earth.

Now, we are going to see throughout this study that a person can give everything in these passages a spiritual meaning and say that it is already fulfilled or still being fulfilled.  Thus a person can say that Isaiah 2 and Daniel 2 are just talking about a spiritual kingdom, which is the Church today.  Clearly the Church has spread to fill the whole earth, hasn’t it?  I would say that there is a clear spiritual fulfillment of these passages, but that does not mean they will not be physically true as well.  The same God who made humans composite beings of spirit and body, also works among us both spiritually and physically.  When Jesus says in Luke 13:28, “There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out,” he clearly envisions a day when this will happen.  The plain sense of the passage is that Abraham and the others will be just as physical as those listening to Jesus (that is, a resurrection will have occurred).  Also in Acts 1:6, the disciples ask Jesus if he will restore the kingdom to Israel at this time.  Jesus does not tell them that the kingdom is only spiritual and will never be physical again.  Rather, he tells them it is not for them “to know times and seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.”  Thus, there is going to be a day when Israel and Jerusalem will be the hub of the world and all the nations will flow to this place on earth where Jesus will be physically reigning.

Verse 4 makes it clear that it will involve a judgment of the nations.  Of course, we saw this in Revelation 19 and chapter 20.  However, Jesus does not just judge the nations.  He also judges between them.  Think of all the disputes that have built up through the years between many different ethnic groups.  Those who miraculously survive the Great Tribulation and the Second Coming of Christ will come before Christ.  There he will separate the sheep from the goats.  Those who are allowed to come into the millennial kingdom will also have long standing disputes with other settled by Jesus.  In fact, it is said that he will rebuke many nations.  Often our bloody feuds with others are nothing but pride masquerading as piety.  Jesus will put an end to these disputes.

He will be so effective that we are told that there will be no more war.  The nations of the world will “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks, nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”  It is clear that the United Nations will not stop war in its present condition.  It also beggars belief that it could be reformed in any way that would get rid of war.  However, God promises that Messiah will be able to cause war to cease, and not just for a few years.  The only hope for a world that rejects the One Anointed by God is to put a “superman” in power who will represent the greatest wisdom of man.    Whether this is some kind of artificial intelligence or a combined link with “ascended masters,” we cannot know.  Yet, that really is the only path forward for a world in rebellion that refuses to repent.  This man who will supposedly have all the answers will pretend to want peace, but in the end the God of heaven describes him as a beast.  Mankind cannot force peace upon the world.  Only the Spirit of God can bring it.  I find it interesting that the United Nations has a sculpture given to it by Russia in which a naked man is hammering a sword into a plowshare.  It seems to give tribute to the Bible, but in truth it represents a humanistic rebellion.  Yes, mankind has no problem with the goal of no war.  However, they will attempt to accomplish it through humanist means, not divine.  Thus the naked man represents the Greek ideal of mankind doing in the flesh the wisdom of its mind.

It is also easy to get stuck on the terminology used.  Yes, we do not typically use swords anymore (or not nearly as much).  However, the point is clear.  During the millennium mankind will recycle all the weapons of war (tanks, missiles, guns, etc.) and use them to make farming equipment.

The wisdom of Jesus the Messiah

Next let’s go to Isaiah 11:1-2, 6-9.  Here we see the wisdom of the Messiah on display.  In verses 1-2 the image of a menorah (the seven-branched candlestick in the temple) is brought to mind.  The seven lights were a picture of God’s complete wisdom giving complete light to the world.  Each of these seven lights is given a name which makes even clearer that the source of the light (knowledge/truth) is the Spirit of God Himself.  No matter how wise mankind becomes or how great an artificial intelligence we create, when we cast off God’s word and forge a path of our own, we have become fools and our path is folly.  Jesus was and will be successful because He operates from a wisdom that has its source in God.  Notice that verses 3-4 highlight his judgment.  He will not judge by the sight of his eyes or the hearing of his ears.  No one will be able to manipulate him, and he does not have an ulterior motive.  Rather, He judges with righteousness and equity, which is bad news for the wicked and great news for the righteous.

In verses 6-9 we are told that the animal kingdom will no longer be deadly either.  Just as humans were not created to kill one another, so animals were not originally made to destroy one another.  When sin entered the world, it brought a curse and drastic changes to the world itself.  Scripture tells us that the whole of creation groans in expectation for the manifestation of the Sons of God.  The wisdom of Christ will turn back the effects of sin and the curse.  Isaiah gives a list of things that we would not leave alone together in this world because one of them would kill the other: a wolf with a lamb, a leopard with a young goat, a calf with a young lion, a child near a cobra’s hole, or sticking its hand in a viper’s den.  All of these things would strike fear into the owner or parent’s heart.  Yet, they will lie down in peace together.  Their nature will have been changed.  How Jesus will accomplish this is not described, but it seems that, if these things were a judgment of God upon wicked mankind, such judgments are simply being lifted by God Himself.  We are also told that the lion will eat hay like an ox.  Whether such is possible in today’s conditions is irrelevant.  The whole point is that the nature of things is going to change.  The statement may be just as much about the hay itself as it is about the lion.

Now let’s go to Isaiah 35:1-7.  Here we see descriptions of the desert places blooming with life.  Again, we could spiritualize this whole passage to be a blooming of a spiritual desert.  When Jesus came to Israel, it was spiritually a desert, but he caused it to bloom with spiritual life.  The gospel has the ability to bring life into the most spiritually dead of lives.  Again, this would be true, but there is also a natural aspect to this as well.  Through his knowledge and divine power we will see the curse upon Adam turned back.  There will be an increase in the fertility of the earth and an increase in places where water will “burst forth in the wilderness.”  Amos 9:13 says it this way, “’Behold the days are coming,’ says the Lord, ‘when the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; the mountains shall drip with sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it.”  Many skeptics have scoffed over the years at the idea of Israel being a “land flowing with milk and honey.”  However, it looks like it does because the land is under a curse, much like the whole earth is under a curse.  In that day, the curse on the land and on the earth will be lifted and we will know fruitfulness as we have never known.

Verses 3 through 6 speak to the condition of mankind that has struggled under the heavy load of disease and poverty.  These things will become a memory as Messiah heals.  Some think that this only points to the miracles that Jesus did when he walked on the earth in the past.  However, the miracles he did then were so that we could recognize that he really is the Messiah.  When he comes again, he will have just as much healing power as he did before. 

Just think that the saints of every age will be resurrected so that they can participate in this exciting period of humanity’s existence.  I will close our time today by giving a reminder.  This is just a small part of the plan and hope that God has put before us.  We will take some more time next week to keep looking at this amazing period called the millennial reign of Christ.  However, even then what can we say about the New Heavens and the New Earth that lay beyond it?  Christians are to be those who live today in the light of this coming kingdom because its king is already living in our hearts.  Is Christ living within you by the Holy Spirit of God?  Turn from any wickedness, turn towards Christ, and put your trust in Him.  Then you will be blessed by God with all these things.

Millennium part 1 audio

Monday
Apr102017

When God Calls Our Bluff

Luke 19:37-40.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on April 9, 2017.

Today is Palm Sunday.  In and of itself it looks like a good day in the life of Jesus, at least on the surface.  But as we did deeper into what is really going on here, we see that ultimately it is a very sad day that reveals exactly why the crucifixion and the resurrection are necessary components to the salvation of a human being.

The calling of someone’s bluff comes from gambling at poker.  Instead of only waiting until you have a good hand to bet large, a person will learn to play a more difficult game of pretense.  I may pretend I have a bad hand or pretend I have a good hand.  It makes it more difficult for others to tell if I am really bluffing.  Now, between humans, this simply comes down to who is best at bluffing.  However, you can always be wrong when you call someone’s bluff.  If you call you must be ready to pay the price if you are wrong.  At this point let’s switch to the topic at hand.

If God calls our bluff, there is no question.  He knows our thoughts and our heart better than we do.  Thus, for God the risk is not calling our bluff.  The risk is to let us continue pretending that we have a good hand when in reality we are living in a land of our own imagination.  People who try to live in reality based upon imaginary things and pretense ultimately will find their dream world turn into a nightmare as everything they think is good proves not to be so.  The point today is that God loves us too much to let us keep bluffing.  In reality this is exactly what Jesus is doing that day all those years ago.  Let’s look at the passage.

Jesus Presents Himself as Messiah and King

The larger context tells us that there is a Passover festival at hand in Jerusalem.  Many people are coming to Jerusalem to celebrate.  So, we find Jesus making his way to Jerusalem.  However, there are some unique things that he does.  He purposefully comes in such a way that the religious people of Israel will know that he is presenting himself as the Messiah.

The two terms, Messiah and Christ, have come to us from the first century.  Messiah is a Hebrew term that means “anointed one.”  Throughout Israel’s history God had progressively revealed to them that He would eventually send His Anointed One who would be King of Israel and would restore Israel and the even the world to righteousness.  He himself would be perfectly righteous.  Some passages to back this up are: Psalm 2, 1 Samuel 2:10, and Daniel 9:25.   During the time of David it was revealed that the Messiah would be of the line of David.  So they had a promise of a coming savior who would fix all that was wrong with Israel and take over the whole world.  So, if Jesus is presenting himself as Messiah, we might ask the question, “Why didn’t he do it?”  It has been said that Jesus came the first time to fix only our spiritual problem and that his Second Coming will be about fixing our natural and geo-political problems.  Though there is some truth to this, it is a gross simplification.  To fix a person’s unbelief and sin, is to transform their life in the natural.  Thus those who believed in Jesus and followed His ways discovered a transformed natural life, as well as a supernatural one.  Let’s look at the Second Coming.  Though Jesus will clearly remove the wicked kings and armies of this world and take over politically, it is also clear that he deals with our spiritual enemy, the devil.   By the time of Jesus, the Greek language was as prevalent in the near east as English is throughout the world today.  Thus the word Christ was used as a synonym for the Hebrew term Messiah.  It too meant an anointed one.

Throughout his ministry Jesus had asked people to keep the fact that he was the messiah under wraps.  He wasn’t ready to announce himself yet.  But on this day he is ready.  Before we look at how they would know that is what he is doing, let’s look at the timing issue first.  Throughout their history Israel had waited for the messiah.  Definitely since the prophet Isaiah who spoke of him throughout his book, but especially Isaiah 53.  That would be over 700 years.  But they had also been waiting since David and his many prophecies 950 years earlier.  In some ways we can even go back to Abraham and God’s promises to him, or Eve and God’s promise that one of her seed would crush the serpent’s head.  It is hard to keep positive about a promise that takes so long to keep.  God’s timing is clearly not our timing.  How many generations had been born, heard the promise, hoped in it, and then died without seeing it?  Of course no one person had to wait over a 1,000 or even 2,000 years.  Yet, intellectually they would recognize that it has been a long time.  This would raise the question, is it really going to happen?  Doubts, and even cynicism, easily creep in.  This is typically handled one of two ways.  We either outwardly reject it and live openly without that hope, or, we keep the doubt internal.  We keep up the bluff that we believe in order to get the best out of the system that such belief has built up.  So when Jesus presents himself that day, there are people in different categories.  There are some who have held out hope against all odds that the Messiah would still come someday even though it had been so long.  There were others who only pretended that they believed the Messiah would come.  They actually lived their lives based on other hopes.  Then there are those who had outwardly given up in believing.  The life of Jesus had stirred all of these different groups.  His miracles and powerful words shook them to the core.

I point all this out because we are in the same boat today.  We have been waiting for the Second Coming of Christ coming on 2,000 years.  In 2 Peter 3:3-4, the apostle warns us, “Knowing this first, that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming?  For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning.’”  These same categories exist in our churches and across this world.  In our humanity and in our sinfulness we want, and even demand, God to do it now!  We want Him to operate on our timetable.  Since God has not cooperated, we cast Him aside and seek to make ourselves God: observing all things (omnipresent), knowing everything (omniscient), doing anything (omnipotent), and living as long as we want (immortal).  So the question today is this, do you trust God’s timing even though it has been so long?  Are you willing to wait, or are you only pretending to be waiting for Him.  One day He will call our bluff and Jesus will present himself to our surprise.  On that day the hidden hand that we really have will be laid on the table for all to see.  Don’t cast away the promise of God and forge your own way.  The siren call of the modern world and its technology is that we no longer need a God.  We can become the gods that we have always wanted.  The problem is that there really is a God and He really has asked us to wait for Him.  Future us will slam into that reality at light speed, just as Israel and Rome did all those years ago.

But it is not just God’s timing that bothers us.  It is also the way in which He does it.  There are parts of the plan that Israel liked (getting rid of the bad guys and ruling over the whole earth).  But clearly there were other parts that they didn’t like.  Jesus comes down the Mt. of Olives to the city of Jerusalem riding on the colt of a donkey as prophesied in Zechariah 9.  But, this gives a far different picture of God’s Anointed King than our flesh would like to dream up.  He does not come as the proud, flamboyant hero that our flesh desires.  Instead, he comes as the humble, peaceful, unpretentious leader who is not drunk on their own authority.  He did not have a sword, nor an army behind him, at least in the natural.  He came not to pat the people on the back and say good job.  But, instead he comes to save them from their sins, and those powers that used their sins to hold them in bondage.  He was not after geo-political boundaries that day, but rather to break down the boundaries and walls that they had built around their hearts (that we build around ours even today).  The heart of the matter is this, we want a leader who will not demand our hearts change, but rather will change the world around us.  We want things to change without us having to change.  Of course this is impossible.  Even progressives who say similar things, but in order to increase our faith in the intellectual elite that will lead us into the New Age of Mankind, do not recognize that the only change that matters is the one that must happen in our sinful and rebellious heart.  No.  Mankind cannot fix itself because to do so is to refuse to change in the one area that it must (in hearts and minds).  Thus our own hearts set us up for the betrayal of leaders who promise heaven and yet deliver hell, who look like Jesus but in the end they are a devil.  Jesus did not fit the profile that the religious leaders had in their mind.  All their lives they had said that they loved God and wanted His Messiah.  And yet, Jesus was the fulfillment of all of this.  God called their bluff and many of them were found wanting.

The History of the Church

There are two aspects to the history of the Church.  On one hand it may seem that it is no different from Israel and that God’s plan didn’t work.  Definitely, the Church as an institution of people is like Israel because it is made of people.  Yet, on the other hand, in the midst of it all, we do see people who believed God and refused to only honor Him with their lips.  They were not bluffing.  Just as Israel had her prophets and believers within the midst of many unbelievers, so too is the Church.  When the hard call came to them in their day and age, they rejected what the world was offering and followed Jesus.  Thus the early apostles did not create little kingdoms over which they all reigned as popes.  Instead, they each sacrificed their lives to give the Truth of Jesus the Christ to the world.  The reformers in Europe refused to shut up and obey man, but instead lost everything in order to follow Jesus.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer said of Martin Luther that he thought he had left everything behind to enter the monastery.  But what he found in the monastery was that there was one more thing he needed to let go of, his pious, proud self-will.  Thus Luther had to leave this in the monastery and go back into the world, all the while being called a heretic and blasphemer by those who held the reins of power.  None of these people were perfect, only Jesus is perfect.  But they understood that to follow Jesus is to let go of everything that comes between us and him.  It is ours to simply say yes to his timing and to his way.  Yes, it will often be inconvenient and difficult.  But it always leads us away from destruction and towards life.

What is it that Jesus is calling us to do today?  Yes, in general, we are to be faithful to His Word and promote Jesus as savior and Lord.  But what is he specifically saying to you about your life.  Every time we read God’s Word, His Holy Spirit works in our hearts to call our bluff, or at least to get us to resist turning towards it.  He calls us to be real.  So what were the responses on that day?  There really are only two that are possible.

The Response to Jesus

Let us not kid ourselves.  Jesus was clearly presenting himself as God’s Messiah (The Anointed One) who was the rightful King of Israel.  As this gauntlet is thrown down those who believed that he was Messiah began to rejoice.  His ways had confused them because he wouldn’t do anything that looked like he was going to take over.  So on this day his followers are ecstatic because they think they know what will happen next.  Finally, he is ready to do what we have asked him to do.  Though they are in for a rude awakening as to what is next, it is still important to recognize their response to Jesus.  They quote from Psalm 118, which was a psalm predicting a coming Anointed King who would save Israel.  They believed in Jesus, and thus believed God who had sent Him.

All that said, even when we initially respond correctly, our faith is always going to be challenged.  Today when he rides down the hill on a donkey their faith is strong.  But what about later when he hangs on a cross and is buried, will they still believe?  When he is resurrected and yet ascends into heaven without fixing everything, will they still believe?  If we really trust God and His Anointed One, Jesus, then it is our duty to follow and accept that His way is perfect and mine is not.  You see even then their hearts were still their greatest enemies.  Would they be led astray by their wicked hearts?  Thus the reality is this, those who believe will do the actions of faith.  Their heart and their mind will protest a thousand times and yet, at the end of the day, they will choose to trust God over their own heart and mind.  We will be tested on this time and time again throughout our life, not because God is trying to disqualify us, but because He is perfecting us.  He is making us to be like Jesus, if we will let Him.

The Second response is simply to not believe.  Those who did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah resisted and did the actions of unbelief.  Thus the religious leaders rebuke Jesus and tell him to rebuke his disciples.  Resisting can be open and heavy or hidden and slight.  Regardless it is of the same ilk, unbelief.  We are no different today.  We must all come to Jesus as both savior and Lord.  Yes, we want saved but we can’t dictate the terms of our salvation.  We must follow him, not because he is headed in the direction that we desire or does what we desire.  We must follow him because he is the Truth, and the Way, and the Life.  We must follow him because he is the only Righteous One.  Become a follower of Jesus today by walking away from the life that your flesh wants to create, whether religious or not, and letting him who alone has the words of life lead you forward no matter what that may look like.

When God calls your bluff audio

Tuesday
Apr262016

Mocking the Messiah

Luke 23:35-43.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on April 24, 2016.

At the lowest point in his life, Jesus is hanging on the cross while people gather around him and mock him.  I am reminded of Psalm 1:1 where it says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of mockers.”  The Psalm goes on to state that the wicked, sinners, and mockers would be blown away like the chaff.  But the righteous man will endure like a tree planted by a river.  In every age we are tempted to join this group that mocks the way of the Lord.  We do not need to look at places in the Middle East to find it because we have it here in our own country.  All around the world, Jesus and his followers are ridiculed and mocked by one group or another.  It is important for believers to restrain themselves and not respond in kind.  Rather, we must learn to live out the love of Christ in the face of those who do not understand because this is their only hope.

Most People Mocked Jesus

The crucifixion of Jesus was the darkest day in the history of Israel.  We can think about Joseph and how he was treated by his brothers; that was a dark day.  We can think about the making of the golden calf at the foot of Mt. Sinai; that was a dark day.  How about their refusal to enter into the promise land?  That was a dark day.  Their rebellious kings and eventual destruction by Assyria and Babylon were also dark days.  But all through those times was the hope that Messiah would come some day and fix everything.  Thus the murder of Messiah becomes the darkest day of all. 

In the midst of this, the Gospels portray the people, leaders, soldiers, and one of the criminals as mockers.  Now it is bad enough to be unjustly executed, but to have people mocking you makes it even worse.  The Bible warns believers against the act of mocking others (as noted in Psalm 1).  To mock someone is to scorn and ridicule them.  Typically it employs things like taunts, mimicry, and making jokes of someone’s situation.  Even when a person is suffering justly, it is generally bad form to mock them and sets us up for a fall of our own.  Mocking seeks to pull a person down, and then when they are down it seeks to pile on top of them.  When we participate in mocking, we do not realize the manner of spirit that we are aligning ourselves with.  Mocking does not lead anyone to repentance.  It does not stir up life.  Rather it leads to destruction and takes delight in it.

Luke reveals first that the leaders mocked Jesus for his ability to deliver.  He was known as a great deliverer because of his healings and exorcisms.  He had saved people physically, mentally, and spiritually through his actions and teachings.  Thus thousands touted the amazing deliverer known as Jesus.  Yet, the leaders throw this back into his face.  If you are such a deliverer, let’s see you deliver yourself from this!  Mockers often demonstrate logic and reason.  However, it is always used for a wicked purpose.  Instead of asking Jesus why he doesn’t save himself, they use the fact that he doesn’t against him.  We now know that if Jesus saved himself he would be simultaneously condemning us.  Perhaps we should recognize that the ultimate truth that lies behind all of our questions to God, is that somehow it would bring more harm to us than good.  When we say, “God, why don’t you do (whatever it is you want),” somehow it is because he is bringing something better to us.  This is where faith in our loving Father in Heaven becomes critical.  Why doesn’t God deal with all the evil in the world?  It is because he is giving room for them to repent.

The soldiers also mocked the Kingship of Jesus.  They made great fun of the fact that they were crucifying the King of Israel.  What kind of king let’s himself be killed?  The kings of this world will sacrifice their whole army before they let themselves be taken, but not Jesus.  To soldiers, this was a foolish king.  Even the giving of the sour wine to quench his thirst seems to be done in a mocking way.  Perhaps they did so as if they were servants serving the king his wine.  Either way, they make it clear with their mocking tone that they do not respect such a king.

Lastly, with one of the criminals the mocker is really only concerned about himself.  “If you are the Christ, save yourself and us.”  The emphasis should be placed on the “us.”  This criminal could care less about Jesus.  He mocks only because it makes him feel better about himself.  Jesus represents one of those goody-two-shoes that he despises.  This taunt betrays the fact that he only cares about himself.  Even if Jesus did deliver himself, why would he save this criminal?  He clearly is not a follower of Jesus.  Mocking is tempting because it gives the person a quick fix for feeling better about themselves.  Yet, at the same time it increases their judgment before God.

But Some Believed On Jesus

One of the criminals did not mock Jesus.  In fact the mocking of the other criminal sparks a rebuke from him.  Perhaps this was a mercy of the Father to his Son.  Jesus is doing this to save people and yet he is surrounded by mocking.  Yet, in the midst of this, a man declares his faith in Jesus.  Yes, the disciples would also believe in Jesus.  But only this criminal publically declared faith in Jesus that day.  Of course, he had nothing to lose and everything to gain.  Perhaps that is our problem; we often have too much to lose.

Notice that the criminal mentions the fear of the Lord.  Up to this point neither criminal had feared God enough to follow his plans.  It wasn’t until he was nailed to a cross and dying next to the righteous Jesus that this criminal began to fear God.  He had avoided it all his life, but now he couldn’t.  Within hours he would leave this life and stand before the Creator.  This scared him.  We are told that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  Until a person recognizes that they are going to be judged by God for how they lived this life, they do not operate out of true wisdom.  Have we become far too quick to mock and ridicule one another?  Even in the church we can play the mocker when we think we can get away with it.  Is this because we don’t think God will do anything about it, in this life or the next?  We should beware.  Such actions and thoughts are foolish.  We will have to give account for them before the Lord.  If you want to be blessed then avoid the decision chair of the mockers.

In Jesus both religious and secular mankind demonstrate their judgment of God.  They sit in the mockers chair and judge God as if they are the measure of justice.  Just as the world was unjustly punishing Jesus, so the world makes judgments against God and his followers.  These judgments are unjust and untrue.  The second criminal petitions Jesus for grace in the face of death.  He cries for help from the only one who appears to be able to do anything for him.  He has a great judgment hanging over his head and he deserves it.  The way he words his appeal asks for grace and makes a statement of faith.  “When you come into your kingdom, remember me.”  Death bed salvations may not sit well with our sense of justice.  However, when you weigh it against the fact that we all deserve death for our sins, it doesn’t matter.  What truly matters is that a person gets out of the seat of the mockers and prostrates themselves before God.  Have you done this?

The gracious words of Jesus to the sinner are “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”  Paradise is the word that is connected to the Garden of Eden in Genesis.  Of course that Paradise is gone.  However the book of Revelation points us to another Paradise in Revelation 2:7.  “To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the Tree of Life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”  Jesus is essentially saying that the Garden of Eden is not missing, it is with the Father, and it will come back to earth some day.  Those who overcome the temptation to join the mockers of this world will enjoy it with Jesus and the Father.  What we see the criminal doing here is called repentance.  Instead of continuing down the same old path, he turns his back on his mocking lifestyle and turns to Jesus in faith.  Repentance turns from the way of sin and towards the path of righteousness that Jesus shows us.  Such a person will always receive the mercy and love of God as its reward.  Let’s be a people who shun the chair of mockers and humble ourselves before one another and our Lord.

Mocking Messiah audio