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Entries in Miracles (6)

Tuesday
Oct152019

Jesus Feeds 5,000 People

We will have the audio up Tuesday around noon.

Mark 6:30-44.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner, October 13, 2019.

We pick back up in the Gospel according to Mark where we left off.  As we look at this passage, we are going to recognize that God has ministry for us to do, but He also wants us to have rest.  It is not always easy to find that balance, and no one does it perfectly. 

In our story today, the time of rest for the disciples is interrupted by the crowds who want to see Jesus.

Jesus seeks rest for his disciples

Verses 30 through 33 focus on a reunion scene with Jesus and his disciples.  In verses 7-12 of this chapter, we were told that Jesus had sent them out in pairs to go through the towns of Israel.  They were to preach that people should repent because the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand.  They also were to cast out any evil spirits, and heal those who were sick.  We are not told how long they were gone, but here we have their return, and the excitement that they had as they tell their stories to Jesus.

Meanwhile there are other people who keep coming and going who want to interact with Jesus as well.  We are told that it was so hectic that the disciples didn’t even have time to eat.

At this point, Jesus recognizes that they need to go to a place where there aren’t any people, so that he can spend some time with The Twelve.  They then get in a boat and head towards an area that Jesus has in mind where they could fellowship and rest.

There is an interesting interplay surrounding the concept of rest in the Bible.  It is clear that we physically need rest every day, and that we also need rest in others ways: emotional rest, rest from activity (even if it is ministry), and especially spiritual rest.  In this case, they needed a physical break from ministry and attending to the needs of other people.  If we are always helping others, and never taking time to get alone with God, then we will come to a point of emotional and spiritual exhaustion.  We need rest and relationship with Jesus in order to recharge.  Even just sharing with Jesus and having him encourage them would be a powerful rest or refreshing of their souls.

Ask yourself, do I take time to be refreshed by Jesus?  If we will take the time to talk with Jesus about our day and ask his help, we will find a source of power that cannot come any other way.  In fact, this helps us to understand the fourth commandment of The Ten Commandments.  In the days of Moses, it was normal to work seven days a week.  However, God tells his people to take one day off from trying to make it by their own labor and trust God to bless the other six days of labor.  It is not intended to be a harsh command, but rather a blessing from God.  Part of resting is being able to trust that God will take care of things if I take a break.  Isn’t that amazing?  The universe won’t fall apart if I take a break.  The Gospel won’t fail if I take a break. 

Yet, there is a caveat.  Our flesh can come to love taking a break.  Just as a good rest can turn into laziness and lethargy, so we can be lazy about the work of God in our lives.  We can be spiritually sleeping when it is time to work.  This is where we need to be in tune with the Holy Spirit.  If He is moving then we need to be moving.  Moreover, if He is telling us to stand still then we should do so even if there are other people telling us to move.

The crowds see Jesus and his disciples leaving and figure out where they are headed.  We are told that they ran by foot around the lake to go where they believed Jesus and the disciples were going.  No doubt, they were spreading the word as they went.  Thus, by the boat arrives, there is quite a large crowd awaiting Jesus.

At this point, it would be easy to see crowds as a bad thing.  However, these people are just desperate people who sense in Jesus something that can help them.  The group is mixed with many who just want a miracle, some who want to see the man who may be the Messiah, and others who are working as spies for the Pharisees.  Remember that the crowd is always a mixed bag, and therefore it can be a good thing or a bad thing.  The people within the crowd are not thinking about the disciples need of rest.  They are only thinking about their own desire for Jesus.

Jesus has compassion on the crowds

In our flesh, we would probably disperse the crowds with some choice words, but we are told that Jesus was moved with compassion for them.  He saw them like one who sees sheep who have no shepherd.  Their religious leaders were not feeding them the truth and the spiritual food that God had supplied.  Instead, they were being abused and used as a means to an end.  Sheep without a shepherd would have all kinds of wounds and diseases from all the harassing predators.

Do you believe that God’s heart is moved with compassion when he looks upon the crowds of this world?  Sure, crowds can be capable of quite evil things.  It was a crowd that day that chanted, “Crucify him!”  Even the mobs of rioting youth, that we see in our cities, are only lost people who are hopeless in a world that sees them as a means to an end.  I do not want to romanticize the crowd in any way.  It can be a dangerous tool in the hands of evil people and the devil.  Yet, it is filled with people who don’t know their right hand from their left spiritually.  Otherwise, why would they be standing in a crowd?  May we first understand God’s compassion for us, so that we can then see His compassion for others, not because they are good or even doing good, but because often they are just sheep without a good shepherd.

We are told that Jesus takes time to teach them many things.  Probably it was something like the Sermon on the Mount.  We are not told of any healing, but that may only be due to their location in a remote place.  Sick people are not often able to travel to remote places.  However, the teaching of Christ is far more important than the healing of Christ.  A person may be healed and yet never learn from Christ what they need for spiritual life.  Make sure in your own life that you are not failing the accusation that Satan made against Job.  He accused Job of only serving God because God blessed him materially and protected him. 

At some point, the disciples recognize that they should send the people away, so that they will have enough time to go into the villages around there in order to find food for the night.  Yet, Jesus tells the disciples to give the people something to eat.  Believe it or not, God does care about your material needs.  He does supply for us both physically and spiritually.  Our problem is that we often neglect the spiritual in pursuit of material things, and this highlights the folly of our understanding.  It is better to lack material things and have God then to have material things and yet lack God.  Without God, no amount of provisions and possessions can satisfy and protect us.  However, with God, I can be destitute in the desert and still be filled by His provision.  Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

Jesus miraculously feeds the people

It is clear that Jesus has decided to do a miracle.  Just as Israel wandered in the desert and God miraculously fed them with Manna, so Jesus would miraculously provide bread for multitudes in a deserted place.  Yet, he does so by asking his disciples to feed the people, knowing full well that this is beyond their ability.

The disciples complain that the request is unreasonable.  Do you expect us to go into the villages and buy up food for everybody?  Now, a denarion was equivalent to a day’s wage for the average laborer.  So, 200 denarii would be just over half a year’s income.  Most likely they were not carrying 200 denarii along with them.  Their point is that Jesus is asking them to do something that is ludicrous.  Have you ever felt yourself in this place?

Jesus then tells the disciples to check their inventory of food items.  They only have 5 loaves of bread and 2 small fish.  Instead of saying, “Wow, that is not nearly enough!” Jesus moves forward like they are going to feed all of these people with this small amount.  The people are instructed to sit down in groups to make it easier to serve and thus we are told that there were groups of 50 and groups of 100. 

Have you ever neglected to serve others for God because you could only see what you were lacking?  Yet, Jesus instructs them to take the five loaves and 2 fish and proceed to feed the multitude.  What is the worst that can happen here?  They would feed a couple of people and there would be no more food.  Why not just step out in faith and obey the Lord?

Now, the point of this story is not about how we can get a miracle when we want.  Rather, it is about how to change your mindset from one that can only see what you can’t do to one that is faithful to respond to the Lord with what little you have.

Before they serve, Jesus takes the bread and the fish, and he blesses them.  This is clearly a prayer of blessing over the food, which most likely involves thanks to God for His provision.  This is important because it shows to the disciples and to the crowd just who actually be serving this crowd of people.  Without the blessing of God, the disciples and their small amount of food are not at all enough, but with God it is enough.  Yes, it will be the hands and feet of the disciples that bring the food to the people, but it is God who will be providing the increase and the blessing.

Now, the blessing is not solely about the amount.  It is even more about the strength that we gain from it.  What will I do with this strength that God has given me?  Will I use it to do the works of God, or will I use it for my own fleshly ends?  As we eat the bread of heaven, we should then use that strength for the purposes of God and not just for ourselves.  The disciples probably felt pretty sheepish (pun intended) as Jesus broke the food into pieces and gave it to them to hand out.

Yet, as they obeyed, God supernaturally added to what they lacked.  The mechanics of how God supplied so much food from such little amount is not explained, most likely because no one knew how it happened.  It just did!  As one person received and passed on to the other, there continued to be more to pass on.  The same God who can form man from the dust of the earth and breathe the breath of life into him is able to cause bread and fish to appear as well. 

We are told two things to help us see the magnitude of this miracle.  First, there are actually 12 baskets of leftovers when they are done.  There is probably 12 because Jesus is reminding the tribes of Israel that God has not forgotten them.  There shouldn’t even have been enough to feed The Twelve, much less the crowds.

Second, we are told that there were about 5,000 men in the crowd.  This was a typical way of counting crowds in those days.  This means with women and children there were more than that.  Now, we get a sense of what the disciples were thinking as they approached the crowds with the little food that they had.

Jesus is called the bread of heaven who is sent down from heaven to feed the souls of men.  Here the people are miraculously fed natural bread and natural fish, but the true needs of the people are much deeper and much greater than this.  It would be a tragedy to feed people’s bellies and yet leave them destitute of the truth of salvation.  Jesus cared for both.  We must learn to care for people’s natural needs, but not lose sight of their spiritual needs, and our spiritual needs.  We must quit looking at what little we have and simply pray this prayer.  “Lord, bless this little that I have so that it may accomplish the work that you intend it to do.”  May we learn to quickly say, “Yes!” to our Lord’s command to serve (even when we are tired), and trust Him to provide the increase.  Do you believe that little is much when God is in it?

You might be interested in meditating on the lyrics of the old song found here: https://hymnary.org/text/in_the_harvest_field_now_ripened.

Jesus Feeds audio

Tuesday
Mar202018

The Fire of God's Judgment II

2 Kings 2:1-15.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on March 18, 2018.

Last week we saw how the fire of God was a symbol of the judgment of the wicked, that is, when they are found to be lacking before God.  This week we will see that the fire of God can also be seen as a judgment of the righteous, in that they are found to be acceptable to God.

This amazing story of Elijah’s ascension into heaven may raise the hackles of all cynics and skeptics.  However, it is in the Scripture for a reason.  It challenges our understanding of what is possible, but it also teaches us the ultimate purpose of God.  Though mankind knew that each person would one day die and go into the grave, in the persons of Enoch and Elijah, the righteous are given the hope, even the understanding, that the grave is not their final destiny.  God is able to take whom He will into the heavens with Him.  It is in the examples of Enoch and Elijah that we see that God does not intend the righteous to share the same fate as the wicked, even though our experience tells us that they all end up in the same place.  God will do what is necessary in order to lift the righteous into His presence.  

Let me encourage you today.  Even though our Heavenly Father is a consuming fire, we need not fear Him if we are walking in faith in His Son, Jesus.  The same power that takes the wicked down in judgment is the power that will lift you up into the presence of God, according to His judgment.

Elijah’s last mission

We are told right off the bat that Elijah is going to be taken into heaven in a whirlwind.  So if you pictured Elijah riding in the fiery chariot, you will see later that this is not the case.  This is to be Elijah’s last mission and as he follows the instructions of the Lord, he is led to the place where he will leave this world.

It is clear that it has become common knowledge that Elijah is to be taken by God, at least among the prophets and those who served them.  Either Elijah has made God’s plan known to the other prophets or it was another prophet who public ally prophesied that Elijah would be taken on a particular day.  Nevertheless, we see the “sons of the prophets” warning Elisha of what is about to occur.

Who are these “sons of the prophets?”  This is metaphorical language, which speaks of a person (like Elisha was to Elijah) who serves a prophet.  In some cases this would function much like we see with Jesus and his disciples.  They followed him around, lived with him, and learned from him.  It was often done in the hopes that eventually they would become like their masters, i.e. prophets.  The proven, elder prophet would be training those who came to them.  In Elijah’s case there is only one servant, but it is clear from this passage that some of these groups were quite large with 50 people mentioned at Jericho.  Now we do see a resurgence of the idea of a “school of prophets” today.  People will take classes and learn how to be a prophet.  We do need to be careful with this idea.  Not everyone who served the prophets became prophets themselves.  A person could not call themselves to be a prophet by just showing up.  To be a prophet was made clear by the fact that God was clearly speaking to them and through them.  Thus it might seem cool to be a prophet, but going to a school or hanging out with a prophet does not necessarily make you one.  This is up to God.  Even then, even those with the calling of becoming a prophet, and who will become people of great faith, need to learn and grow in the area of hearing God and representing Him.  

Now we see Elijah going from town to town.  In each town he tries to get Elisha to stay there while he goes on.  Now this could be seen as Elijah wanting privacy in this intimate time of his life.  However, it is more than likely that Elijah is testing Elisha, in order to see if he will stay the course.  It is important in life to do more than just want to do something.  We must also learn to follow through.  Of course, it is important what your target is, and Elisha desires a good thing: to be with Elijah when he is taken by the Lord.  Sometimes God does not give us what we want immediately to see if we will persist.

When Elijah and Elisha get to the Jordan River, we are told that 50 sons of the prophets are watching in the distance.  At this point, Elijah performs an amazing miracle, he strikes the river with his rolled up mantle and it parts in two that he and Elisha can walk through on the ground.  Why would God instruct Elijah to do this?  It is not like they couldn’t cross at the fords.  One thing to see here is that it will give credence to the fantastic story that Elisha will tell when he gets back.  Second of all, it will demonstrate that the power of God that was with Elijah has not left.  It is now with Elisha.  But more on that later.  

Suffice it to say that this miracle of parting the waters is a signature act of God.  The Jordan River was parted three times: by Joshua, by Elijah here, and as we will soon read by Elisha.  We also see in the Bible that Moses parted the Red Sea so that all of Israel could escape from the armies of Pharaoh.  Why all this parting of water?  It harkens back to the creation account where we are told that God separates the waters of the heavens from the waters of the earth.  It is a way of God saying, “I’m here!”

On the other side of the Jordan, Elijah asks Elisha what last thing he can do for him before he leaves.  Here Elisha asks for a double-portion of Elijah’s spirit.  Many teachers have made a big deal about Elisha performing exactly twice as many miracles as Elijah.  That may be true.  However, Elisha is not asking to do twice as many miracles or to be twice as powerful as Elijah.  A double-portion is terminology that goes with matters of inheritance.  Elijah is about to be taken from the earth.  Typically one would put their affairs in order and have a will to bequeath all their effects to their inheritors.  In Israel the estate would be divided between the sons in a way where the eldest would receive two portions compared to the other brothers.  For example, if there were three sons then the estate would be divided into 4 parts.  The eldest would get two (50%) and each of the other brothers would get 1 part (25%).  This was a picture of the blessing of God upon the eldest who would now be taking the place of the family patriarch.  Elisha is not worried about getting a material inheritance because Elijah did not amass any estate in this life.  What Elisha wants is a spiritual inheritance, and is essentially asking to take Elijah’s place, or to be used by God in the same way.  IT is interesting that God has given His Spirit to all who put their faith in Jesus Christ.  As Elisha looked to Elijah, the man of God, and hoped to have the same Spirit, so we must learn to look to Jesus and ask the Father that the Spirit of Christ would rest upon us and empower us for what we need in order to face this life.  May we become the spiritual inheritors of Christ.  In fact, in Christ we can all inherit a “double-portion” of His Spirit.

At some point as they are talking, a fiery chariot with fiery horses speeds between the two, separating them.  Then Elijah is caught up by a whirlwind that supposedly is in the wake of the chariot.  What Elisha actually saw is not told to us, we simply have his description of what it looked like.  Regardless, we see Elijah ascending into heaven in a fiery whirlwind.  This is not quite as grand and majestic as the ascension of Jesus in Acts 1.  But it is amazing, nonetheless.

I mentioned in the opening that Elijah and Enoch are unique in the Old Testament in that it is not said that they died, and that they do not go into the grave, but up towards heaven.  In fact Hebrews 11:5 tells us that Enoch did not see death.  This raises all sorts of questions.  Is it possible for a material being to be in heaven?  Isn’t it supposed to be a place for spirits only?  Well, Jesus has a material body and He is seated at the right hand of God.  I know that his is a glorified body, but I want us to see that there is much we do not understand about the physics of the material world and the spiritual world.  Because these two men of the Old Testament do not see death, and Malachi prophesies that Elijah will return before the coming of the Messiah, some have speculated that perhaps they are the two witnesses of Revelation 11.  We don’t have time to go into this today.  However, I would just say that it is clear that we are leaving the strong foundation of biblical witness and crawling out on the thin limb of speculation or opinion, at this point.  Regardless, of the full extent of its implications, the ascension of Elijah gives the righteous the hope that we too shall dwell with God by His mighty power.

Elisha begins his new ministry

As Elijah is taken up into heaven, we see the shock and amazement of Elisha as he cries out, “My father, my father, the chariot and the horsemen of Israel.”  Father here is a metaphorical term of endearment that is the complement to “son of the prophet.”  This spiritual chariot and horsemen convinced Elisha that the real defenses and protection of Israel came from God Himself.  In 2 Kings 2:6, Elisha and his servant Gehazi will be surrounded by the king of Syria.  We are told that Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.”  Then the Lord opened the servants eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.  We must never look to the things of this world as our true defenses and help.  It is God’s spiritual defense and help that is our true source.

Elijah’s mantle had fallen to the ground as he was snatched up.  A mantle was often designed in such a way that was indicative of both the profession a person had, and the individual themselves.  Thus Elisha taking up the mantle of Elijah is symbolic of him stepping into the shoes of Elijah.  God would now work powerfully through Elisha as He had with Elijah.  This is how it has always been in God’s kingdom.  Those who have gone before must train and disciple those who are coming behind.  At some point the older generation passes on and the younger generation must step into their shoes, and carry on the work of the Lord.  Not all are called to be prophets as Elijah and Elisha were.  However, there is a calling on our life which asks us to pick up a mantle that has been left behind.  We must learn to bravely pick up the mantle of what God calls us to do, not because we are confident in ourselves, but because we trust the God who is calling us.

As Elisha comes back to the Jordan River, he cries out, “Where is the God of Elijah?”  In the mouth of a foreign warlord, this would be seen as a mocking question.  But in Elisha’s mouth it is simply asking, “God are you still with us and in particular me?”  It is also important for the sons of the prophets who see Elisha coming back.  The question, and God’s response will highlight in their mind that God is with Elisha like He was with Elijah.  Did they ever get a show that day.  When Elisha strikes the river, it parts again (twice in one day).  They witness that the spirit of Elijah was on Elisha.  That spirit is the Holy Spirit of God.  May God help us to see what He is calling us to do.  In a way we are all prophets.  We have been given a message from God to share with all those around us who do not know it.  We must learn to trust Him to give us direction and empower us to do it.  Thus each day is a new day to rise up and ask, “God are you still with me?  Help me to walk with you today as long as I have time left on this earth.”

God's Judgement II audio

Tuesday
Dec152015

Lessons of Christmas- The Miracle of it All

John 1:1-3, 14.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on December 13, 2015.

The modern, scientific world basically rejects the idea of miracles.  Unless one is a strong Christian and a scientist, miracles sound like the antithesis of sound reasoning.  However, much of this is a matter of semantics.  The common argument against miracles will go something like this. Miracles are against the laws of science and cannot be duplicated upon demand.  Therefore they are mythical, whether through insincerity or not.

So what do Christians mean by the word miracle?  Well, we do not mean the “miracles” of nature, like a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly.  As amazing as many of the processes of nature are, they are not technical miracles.  Scientists can observe and test to determine the underlying fundamental principles that enable metamorphosis.  In fact all over the world metamorphosis is happening all the time.  There are two main concepts behind the words that are often translated as miracle.  The first has to do with the observation of something amazing.  It is a memorable thing that sticks out among the stuff that naturally occurs.  Another word has the concept of being a sign.  This memorable thing points to something about God and the world. 

This leads us to three main parts to defining a miracle.  First, it is something for which God is immediately responsible.  Everything of nature follows certain laws and operations (physics) that God hardwired into the creation.  Thus he is technically responsible for all actions of nature, but this is a secondary responsibility.  In a miracle, something happens that would not have happened if God had let nature run its normal course.  The red sea parting or Jesus walking on water were not things that would have happened naturally.  There is a supernatural source to the happening of this event.  Second, though the event has a supernatural cause, this does not mean that it breaks scientific laws.  Miracles are not magic.  Rather, God Himself introduces power and laws that are generally above our understanding of physics.  Even if we could completely understand the physics of our world, we can’t completely understand God and how He interacts with it.  Thus miracles would always be beyond mankind’s ability to comprehend.  Plus God does not intend to give miracles in order to extend our knowledge of physics.  He doesn’t owe us an explanation.  Third, miracles always occur in a religious context.  They are given to God’s people, or to substantiate God’s Word.  Thus the struggle between Moses and Pharaoh is accompanied with miraculous signs in order to help Pharaoh see the truth about God and His people.

Now at Christmas we have several miracles among which some are: the virgin birth and the angelic visitations.  However the greatest miracle of all time is the incarnation.  Just when it looked like mankind was doomed to failure and destruction under the wrath of God, God becomes a man.  This was a cosmic game-changer.

The Word Became Flesh

In chapter one of the gospel of John Old Testament wording and imagery is used throughout in order to connect it with Jesus.  He starts out by referencing something called “The Word.”  This is an allusion back to Genesis 1, where God is seen speaking things into existence.  “And God said, let there be…”  The Word is the purpose, logic and reasoning of God coming from within Him and going out from Him.  John begins to define this Word in a way that makes clear it is not just words and it is not just a force.  As we walk through the first two verses, John establishes the preexistence of Jesus in a sequential manner.

First, he establishes that The Word existed at the beginning of creation.  “In the beginning” is the title of the Book of Genesis in Hebrew.  In Genesis 1:1, The Word existed already.  Second, The Word was in relationship with God the Father, “with God.”  It didn’t just exist.  It existed in relationship with God.  Third, we are told that The Word was divine.  It may appear that he is just equating them.  But he is clearly distinguishing two that are both God (and divine).  In verse two this is restated.  Lastly, John states that The Word was the agent or means of creation.  The Father speaks and the Word goes forth to accomplish it (in verse 14 & 18 it is clear the word is a personality).  What is not made clear in Genesis 1 is being revealed here in John 1.  Thus John describes two distinct persons existing together and yet God.  Later in verse 14 and 18 he defines this further as God the Father, and the Only Begotten Son.  All created things were made through Jesus in his divine capacity.  The Son is not a created person, but a reality that had been kept secret until the incarnation.

Thus the birth of Jesus is more than a man that God chooses to use.  Rather, it is the eternal Word and divine Son stepping into the world and taking on the additional nature of humanity.  This all happens when Satan had all but captivated all the nations of the world, Israel included.  The knowledge of God was all but extinguished either by outright rejection, or by perversion.  Thus in verse 14, John says that The Word became flesh and dwelled among us.  The word “dwelled” is the same word used for the tabernacle in the wilderness with Moses.  God has always tried to teach us that He longs to dwell with us.  It is as if God waits until the last seconds to bring out His secret weapon.  He is going to suit up on our side.  It is a miracle because mankind couldn’t have done it.  No matter how hard we try, we will never be able to produce God, much less make ourselves Gods.  The more we try the less like God we will become.  It is a miracle because it can’t be explained by mere natural means.  Yes, Jesus could have been just a baby, but then what about the miracles he did as a man?  If you reject those, what do you do with his prophecies about Jerusalem and the rest of the world?  If you reject that what do you do with the resurrection?  And, if you refuse to believe that then you are open to what God is trying to show you.  This is all history and yet it can’t be explained with the natural.  Also, it is a miracle because it fulfilled all that God prophesied and underscored all He had been trying to teach.  What if God was one of us?  Well in Jesus He has become one of us.  He has become our champion.  He has stepped in between us and our enemy the devil.

He Humbled Himself

In some ways it goes without saying.  But the point is too important to skip over. The humility of this miracle is mind-boggling.  The divine becomes human and the immortal becomes mortal.  This miracle of God taking on the nature of a man is unexplainable.  These are things that only the designer of creation and mankind could fully comprehend.  However, that is not what is important.  The “how” is incredible, but it is the “why” that truly blows your mind.  While we are busy trying to become gods, God a long time ago became one of us.  This humility is explained in Philippians 2:5-8.  Jesus was not just moving to a lower station.  He is choosing to embrace those who had lost and deserved to die.  He is identifying with that which was crushed and captivated by the devil.  He would rather hang out with the losers than with the winners.  Why?

In Philippians 2 we are told that Jesus did not consider his prior state, being God, as something to be gripped tightly.  His nature is such that He is not clambering to be on top, but is the one to choose lowly things.  He voluntarily cooperates with the limitations of being a man, who is also under the law of Moses.  The phrase sometimes translated as “made himself of no reputation,” would be better translated “he emptied himself.”  It is not clear what exactly he emptied himself of.  He doesn’t cease to be God, but he does cease to operate as only God.  He takes on limitations and chooses to suffer pain, hunger, rejection, and death.  He submits not just to death, but to death on a cross, which was a social shame and excruciating.  He obeyed the will of the Father to the point of death on a cross.  Part of the miracle of the incarnation is the depths to which God is willing to lower himself in order to lift us up.  Jesus reveals to us that it is those who lose according to this world who are desired by God.  We are always looking at what is possible and how to get ahead and move up.  But Jesus is God’s word to mankind, “Let me defeat your enemy for you.”

He Came Full Of Grace And Truth

In verse 14, John describes what they saw when the incarnation came into the world to dwell among men.  “We beheld his glory.”  Of course John had seen the transfiguration of Jesus when he had been transformed into a glowing being.  But he is speaking of more than that.  Here he is referencing the whole experience of dwelling with Jesus.  His glory was constantly being revealed for those who had eyes to see it.

It was especially displayed in that he was full of grace and truth.  God shows compassion to those who are captivated by sin and whose lives have been devoured by the devil.  He comes like a gift from heaven to heal, set people free from demons, and speak words of truth that cut through all the confused and deceived wisdom of mankind.  Even more amazing, He does so regardless of the fact that we do not deserve it.

Rather, we deserved him to come into the world full of wrath and judgment.  The miracle of Christmas is that instead of flaming judgment raining down from heaven, we are given aid against our enemy and victory over him.  This is not the story of underdogs overcoming at the end and winning.  This is the story of mankind losing the battle to the devil and his angels.  And, yet, God chooses to have a celebration with the losers and despises the “winners.”

Have you lost in life?  God is calling you to stop trying to win the game of this life and come into relationship with Him.  Are you winning in this life?  Beware that you are not caught up in the judgment that God is going to pour out on the devil, his angels, and all those who have joined his rebellion against God’s Son.  Choose this day, whom you will serve.

Christmas: Miracle audio

Tuesday
Oct222013

Becoming A Disciple Of Jesus

We continue our discovery of the True Jesus in the Gospel according to Luke.  In chapter 4 we saw how Jesus was initially rejected by those from his hometown and yet sought out by those who were in the region of the Sea of Galilee.  It is clear that Luke is not giving a strict chronology, although his Gospel does follow the pattern of the birth of Jesus, the ministry of Jesus, and the death of Jesus.  Within this ministry section we find Luke giving detail but also skipping around chronologically.  In chapter 5 Luke gives us insight into the calling of some of the disciples to not just be those who believed him, but to also follow him wherever he went.

Hearing the Word of God

In verses 1-3 we see that Jesus had gone down to the Lake of Gennesaret.  This is just another name for the Sea of Galilee, which is also called Lake Tiberias.  They are most likely near Bethsaida where Peter lived, however the exact location is not stated.  What is stated is that Jesus was there to share the Word of God.  Jesus was popular and soon an unorganized crowd had developed around him as he shared God’s Word.  This is an important part of understanding what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.  It starts with a desire to hear the Word of God and then coming to Jesus to receive it.  He is the ultimate Light of the World that stands above all the prophets of the Old Testament.  To be a disciple is to be one who sees Jesus as the one who has the Word of God.

As it gets crowded on the beach we are told that some fishermen are nearby.  We know that there has been interaction between Jesus, Andrew, and Peter in the past due to John’s gospel.  So Jesus most likely chose this spot and this time on purpose.  He just happens to be preaching when Peter and his partners are cleaning and mending their nets after a long night of fishing.  Notice that Jesus asks Peter for help.  Perhaps if we were there we would think that it was unspiritual or rude of these fishermen to clean their nets while Jesus is teaching.  But Jesus sees an opportunity here.  He asks Peter to lend him his boat so that he can preach from it.  That would solve the practical problem of the difficulty of the crowd to hear and see Jesus.  This is typical of God.  Though he can do all things, He wants us to join Him in what He is doing.

At this point I would ask you what the goal of preaching is.  Why is Jesus preaching to these people?  Simply put they need Truth.  The goal of preaching is for the salvation of its hearers.  Yes, not all believe and are saved.  But without the Truth no one could be saved from not just problems in their life, but primarily the bondage of sin.  The Apostle Paul demonstrates this in Romans 10:13-15.  He starts with the Truth: All who call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.  He then asks this question.  How can we get people to call on the Lord?  Answer: they first have to believe that the Lord can help them.  How can they believe?  They have to hear the Truth about Who Jesus is, there own predicament, and what he has done about it.  How can they hear?  Someone has to preach the Truth to them.  Who will preach?  God must give His Truth to someone and send them.  Thus God sends us to preach so that others can hear the Truth, believe in their heart, call upon the Lord and be saved.  Every disciple is the result of that process.

Listening To His Directions

In verses 4-7, Jesus has finished preaching.  However, he now has some personal business for Peter and Andrew.  This part of the story ends with them catching more fish than they could imagine, enough nearly to sink two boats.  Is Jesus just paying them back for helping him?  We could think of this passage as Jesus showing that you can’t out give God.  But I don’t think that is what is going on here.  In fact, there is no indication that Peter and Andrew materially benefit from this catch.  It seems more that Jesus is giving them a personal lesson of just what he can do.

Now it all starts with some simple directions from Jesus.  Go out into the deep and cast out your nets.  Jesus doesn’t ask something difficult, nor is it something illogical.  However, it isn’t the sense or logic that they would have employed.  This is a big obstacle to being a disciple of Jesus.  He will ask us to do things that we wouldn’t.  We have all kinds of reasons why we shouldn’t do it.  We have all kind of feelings that are opposed to doing it (whatever it is).  Other obstacles that can keep us from being true disciples of Jesus are lust, pride, fear, and many others.  Disciples don’t just hear the Word of God from Jesus.  They also listen and obey.  Peter is tired.  He has fished out that whole area.  Why is this carpenter from the hills down here telling me to go back to work when I’m done for the day?  Yet, he responds with surrender.  “I don’t want to, but nevertheless because you ask it I will do it.”  He could have missed out that day.  But he had heard and seen too much of Jesus to not listen to this man.

Now Jesus isn’t just about miracles.  In fact they are actually secondary to why he came to earth.  Miracles are to reinforce the message.  So let me insert an end-times warning at this point.  The Scriptures tell us that the antichrist and false prophet will do lying signs and wonders.  People will be astonished at the power they have.  However, the problem will be that their message is not the message of the True Jesus.  We don’t receive Jesus just because he did miracles.  But we do so because only he has the words of life, the Words of God.  Miracles can help us to surrender our flesh when we know he is right.  But never let it push you to surrender the Truth when the Bible shows someone is wrong.

Understanding The Truth About Jesus And Me

Now verses 8-11 teach us something about being a disciple.  Somewhere in the middle of that great miraculous catch of fish, somewhere in the midst of pulling in nets, signaling the other boat, wrestling all the fish into the boat and struggling to get to shore…somewhere in the middle of all that Peter understands something.  Peter saw himself for what he truly was in contrast with Jesus.  The shame and guilt of his own sin becomes so obvious and hideous to Peter that he begs the Lord to leave him.  Even as the light dawns on Peter, the flesh and the devil are working overtime to keep him in the dark.  Pushing Jesus away because he is so righteous and we are not, is a mistake.  All disciples enter by the narrow gate of understanding this problem.  He is good and I am not.

With great tenderness, as only he can do, Jesus tells Peter to not be afraid.  Don’t let your fears rob you of being my disciple, Peter.  Leave your fears behind and come follow me.  Yes, I am holy, but I am also love.  I don’t love your sins, but I am committed to transforming you if you will enter into relationship with me.  You must understand that your fears will cause you to separate from the very thing you need.  A true disciple of Jesus has to learn to wrestle with fears and lay them at the feet of Jesus.

In fact let me close with this picture.  The Bible tells us that marriage is a picture of Jesus and his disciples, his Church, his bride.  If marriage is a picture of that relationship then we should look at that original marriage of Adam and Eve.  The Bible says that this is why a man will leave his family and cleave to his wife.  All successful marriages learn the lessons of how to leave others behind and cleave to one another.  Forsaking all and following him, Peter became, not just a hearer of Jesus, but a true disciple.

O friend, make sure today that you aren’t chasing Jesus to get something out of Him.  These guys actually walked away from what Jesus supplied that day in order to have a closer relationship with Jesus.  Be a true disciple of the true Jesus today.

 

Becoming a Disciple audio