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Weekly Word

Entries in Peace (13)

Sunday
May072017

Walking Worthy of Our Calling

Ephesians 4:1-6 & Matthew 22:1-14.  This sermon was delivered by Pastor Marty Bonner on May 7, 2017.

We apologize that there is no audio for this sermon.

Over the last two weeks we have been talking about the wisdom of this world versus the wisdom of God.  This ended last week with the Apostle James stating that those who are truly wise should prove it by their good conduct done in meekness.  Today we are going to pick up on this concept that the wisdom of God leads to a life of good conduct done in meekness.  These are not the words that Paul uses in Ephesians 4.  However, it will become obvious that he has the same idea in mind.  What James calls “pure and undefiled” religion (James 1:27), the Apostle Paul calls “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.”

It is easy to point to religion as the problem.  But the Bible does not just offer religion.  It offers a pure and undefiled religion that is worthy of the calling to which God has called us.  Some make a better distinction by pointing to extremists within religion.  They are the true problem.  Sure, extremists can cause problems.  But it fails to recognize that even a moderate religion that is untrue is harmful to an individual and the world.  The real problem is our refusal to let God cleanse our understandings of the world around us.  In a sense, it is our refusal to be broken out of the virtual reality that the Powers of this Age have immersed us in.  People who follow Jesus are not the problem.  Rather, it is people who pretend that they are following Jesus, or at the least, who follow a pale shadow of the true Jesus and his teachings.  Let’s look at our passage.

The Call of God

Verse 1, of Ephesians 4, begins with Paul calling himself a “prisoner of the Lord.”  The main point for this distinction is to remind the Ephesians and us who is really in charge.  Paul had been arrested in Jerusalem and then he had appealed to Caesar.  This led to him being in Rome under house arrest.  It would be easy in such a situation for Paul to be so focused on Rome and its antagonism towards God’s call upon his life that he would lose sight of God’s sovereignty.  Paul wrote at least 4 New Testament letters during this time of arrest and most likely wrote many other letters that we do not have.  He is a prisoner of man, but also a prisoner in the Lord.  God had a plan through this and Paul trusted Him.  So what is this call that Paul is talking about in verse 1?

Ultimately the call is God crying out to mankind, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  (Matthew 11:28).  The call is the gracious offer of God to save us from the effects of our sin, both corporate and individual.  We are saved by grace because there is no other salvation possible, but by God, and He is not obligated to do so.  Even if we felt God had a moral obligation to try and save mankind, we have taken his grace for granted over and over again, often throwing it back in His face.  Yet, God graciously continues to offer salvation to the world.  We are saved through faith because we must believe in God and follow His directions.  It is called the Gospel of Jesus because He is the one who not only explains the plan of salvation, but also accomplishes the salvation.  The good news is that our savior has come and our salvation has been obtained. 

Paul describes this calling in verses 11-15 of this chapter.   Notice how he points to the purpose behind all that God is doing in the Church, those who have responded to His call.  The whole purpose is to help us become fully like Jesus.  As an individual the arrow of your heart needs to be towards Jesus.  However, this is not done in our own strength.  It is the Spirit of God who supplies people that He has gifted to teach.  It is the Spirit of God who has supplied us with a written account of His words, the Bible.  And, it is the Spirit of God that supplies an inner witness to our hearts of what Jesus desires of us.

This call is to anyone who will listen.  It is not limited by any race, geography, or economic status.  John 3:16 demonstrates that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  The call is to “whoever” would believe it.  Christians are called to take the good news about Jesus and His salvation to the ends of the earth.  2 Peter 3:9 makes the desire of God even clearer.  “The Lord is not slow concerning His promise, as some count slowness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”  He does not want anyone to perish and is gives a mission to those who answer His call:  Be my ambassador to extend this call to the ends of the earth.

Walking worthy of our calling

So what exactly is meant by walking worthy of our calling, which is to be made over in the image of Jesus Christ?  Verse 2 lists several character issues, and from other passages we know that this, by no means, is exhaustive.  Basically Paul is telling us that character matters.  He starts with “lowliness.”  It is a reference to our mindset.  It is a person who does not think of themselves as higher than others.  It is interesting to think that Jesus, who is Lord of the heavens and the earth, was lowly of mind.  This is highlighted in Philippians 2:5 and following.  To walk worthy of our calling is to walk with humility before God and others.  The next word is “gentleness.”  This word is sometimes translated meekness and refers to an inner disposition and calmness of spirit.  They are not just gentle on the outside, but on the inside as well.  Next is “longsuffering.”  This term regarding patience is about not quickly losing your temper, which flows into the next phrase, “bearing one another.”  Instead of losing our temper, we have a long fuse, and carry along the heavy things about each other.  It is not just about helping other people, but also putting up with their opinions and actions.  Any group that is going to stay connected has to learn to carry the imperfections of each other.  All of this is to be done “in love.”  Now Paul is not saying that a worthy walk is a perfect walk.  He is not a perfect man telling the Church to be more perfect.  Rather, it is about Christians helping each other to be perfected by the Holy Spirit.  Church is not a place of perfect people, but a place of people being perfected.  In fact, the same could be said about this life.  Quit seeking the perfect life and understand that life itself is perfecting you.  It is easy to be so worried about someone else judging us, that we forget we will be judged by God.  Don’t be deceived, God is saving you so that you can change and become like Jesus in character and action.  If you say you are answering that call then show it by living in a manner that agrees with your words.

Paul also brings up the issue of unity in verse 3.  This has become a buzz word over the course of the 20th century.  Yet, notice that it is a “unity of the Spirit.”  Unity is not something that leaders and Christians can engineer, or make happen.  The world and worldly churches turn to forceful mechanisms in order to “make peace.”  However, this is not a true peace.  To say, “There will be unity when you agree with us,” is not what Paul has in mind.  True, Jesus and His Apostles laid down, once and for all, the Faith that all believers should embrace.  However, the key to unity is when everyone in a church is looking to the Holy Spirit and walking in harmony with Him (i.e. walking worthy of our calling.)  Unity is something with demonstrates the level to which we are all walking in harmony with God’s Spirit.  Any other form is the wisdom of this world and not the wisdom of God.  Paul goes on for the rest of this section to emphasize that there is one Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that we have received one baptism, faith, and hope.  When we have a living connection with the Spirit of God, He creates unity, but not uniformity.  God’ signature is diversity within unity.  This is why the world can never have true peace and true unity.  They have embraced the wisdom of the Powers of this Age and not the wisdom of God.  They refuse the wisdom of Jesus and continue to create their own wisdom.  Such wisdom is fractured at its source and doomed to failure by its rejection of the Creator.

Paul does not mention the issue of being chosen by God.  But I believe it is critical to discuss at this juncture.  Throughout the Scripture we see the dual concepts of God’s call and God’s choosing, or election.  So let’s look at a parable that Jesus tells in Matthew 22:1-14 to explore what it means to be “called” versus “chosen.”

In this passage there is a call or invitation that is being sent out and there are also several categories of “unworthy” people.  Let’s first understand that Jesus is describing God’s call (as the King) for people to apart of His Kingdom celebration of the wedding of his Son (i.e. The people of God receiving Christ and coming into relationship with Him).  The servants who bear the message are the prophets of God who have been faithful throughout history to declare God’s call to the world.  The first category of “unworthy” people is those who didn’t think the invitation worth a response.  They simply didn’t respond and are apathetic to the call.  The next group is mixed, but they have one thing in common.  They are all caustic towards the call, to some degree.  If the first group is neutral, this group is negative.  Some merely ridicule the call and make light of it.  Others actively abuse the messengers, and still others actually kill some of the messengers.  Clearly this is a response that is unworthy of benefiting from the call of God.  The last group is pictured by the individual who actually comes to the wedding.  He accepts the invitation, but refuses to comply with the conditions and stipulations of the King.  It was common in those days for a King to supply mandatory garments for state functions like this.  Thus the parable implies that the man came to the event, but refused to put on the wedding garments.  He did not care for the King’s wishes, but rather only cared about what he wanted.  He liked his garments better than those supplied by the King.  This is important because Paul uses this concept of putting off and putting on clothing as a metaphor for righteous works.  Christians are called to put off the dead works of our self-righteousness and put on the living works of the righteousness of Jesus.  The man who is being expelled was called and even responded to the invitation.  But, he did not comply with the conditions and thus is not chosen.  Verse 14, “Many are called, but few are chosen.”  This is similar to the verse in Matthew 7:22-23.  Jesus said, “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness!’”  These had answered the call and even had an outward showing of righteousness.  But putting on the righteousness of Christ begins in the heart.  What makes a work a dead work versus a living work?  Two people can give money to the poor, but for one it is a dead work of self-righteousness, and for the other a living work of true righteousness.  How can that be?  It is so because one has only answered the call, but has not walked worthy of the calling.  In the end they loved their own clothing.  They clung to lawlessness towards God and created a righteousness of their own.  Ultimately, the person who is chosen is the one who responds to the call by following Jesus fully.  They do not look to a man made list of do’s and don’ts.  Rather they are daily listening to the Holy Spirit through the written word, Spirit-filled mentors, and personal prayer.  They are allowing the Spirit to undress them of their own self-righteous sin, and to be dressed in the works that are born of the Spirit of God.  Don’t be deceived.  God is saving us from the lawlessness of self-righteousness.  This world reeks of self-righteousness.  Let us not think that we can remain the same and Jesus will cover everything when we die.  No.  True faith is enabled by the Spirit of God to throw off dead works and put on the living works of the Spirit of God, which is the righteousness of Christ.

Thursday
Jan122017

The Heart of a Righteous Person

Psalm 4:1-8.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on January 08, 2017.

I want to look at this Psalm today in order to hear the heart of those righteous individuals who have gone before us.  It is easy to look at our modern technology and think that those believers before us have nothing to teach us.  However, this is a foolish idea.  If you take time to read about the righteous men and women of the Bible, you will find yourself being filled with encouragement, sometimes.  On the other hand, you may also find yourself being discouraged because you feel that you don’t measure up to them.  We can feel disqualified because we are not as good as they were.  Let me just take a moment to remind you that throughout the Bible we are shown the physical, emotional, and spiritual weaknesses of those who were called righteous.  They were not perfect individuals.  In fact, they sometimes failed God and disobeyed Him, only to have God’s discipline teach them wisdom.  They were just like you and I in their hearts.  But they learned that God could be trusted despite how difficult their situations became.  As we read this Psalm, I pray our hearts will be encouraged by what we hear.

They are moved to talk with God

Modern though likes to say that prayer was a part of our evolution.  When we were knuckle-dragging, cave-people, we were ignorant and afraid of the elements surrounding us.  Thus natural selection elevated those who developed a belief in a higher power.  This made them bolder and fearless.  To those who are so persuaded, a belief and praying to God is no longer necessary.  Our technology is quickly conquering the world around us.  We are now the higher power for which we have always longed.  Of course the Bible directly contradicts such modern conjectures.  We were not created in ignorance and insecurity.  Mankind began in a special relationship with the Creator Himself.  God taught the first pair to tend a garden that He had prepared for them.  Thus man was not at the mercy of the elements originally.  It was a result of their sin and the fractured relationship with the Creator that led man to a scary, fearful place.  Though this relationship has been adversely affected, we are still able to connect with the Creator through prayer because we were designed for communication with Him from the beginning.  Thus this psalm began as a prayer of David to the One who created us.

In verse 1 David asks the Lord to hear his cry.  He is clearly in a desperate situation, and desperate situations have a way of forcing us to get real with God.  A righteous person will not be content to go through a mere ritual of religion.  When push comes to push, they will cry out to God with a passion that is not generally present when things are going easy.  In Isaiah 64:7, the prophet complains that there is “no one who calls on Your name, who stirs himself up to take hold of You.”  Notice Isaiah’s desperation.  He feels alone.  He is calling on God’s name and stirring himself up to take hold of God.  This is a picture of holding on to God and not letting go until He answers you.  I pray that you are not content with just going through the motions.  I pray that you have learned the importance of stirring yourself up and passionately interacting with God like David is doing here.  Don’t settle for a dead faith and dead religion.  God reveals Himself to those who take hold of Him and don’t let go.

We also see in verse 1 that David prays to “the God of my righteousness.”  He recognizes that God is the source of his righteousness.  Of course, everyone thinks they are righteous.  Sometimes people use religion to justify their wicked deeds (name a religion, people have used them all).  Other times people use intellectual justifications that rely upon faulty logic.  David had been taught the Word of God, and had done his best to live by it.  It is to this One who has revealed the Way that the Israelites should live that David is appealing.  Of course our relationship with God has received far more revelation since then.  God has revealed The Way that all peoples on the earth should live.  The righteous are not those who appear to do all the right things.  The righteous are those who know that God is the source of their righteousness.  Without Him we would be trapped in ignorance.  Without Him we would still be trapped by our sins.  It is God who enables us to do and be anything that can be called good.

David has a present need, but he says, “You have relieved me in my distress.”  During present perils, it is easy to lose hope.  However, the righteous will remember past mercies to themselves and to others.  That memory becomes proof of future help.  God helps those who trust Him.  The Bible is filled with testimonies of God’s mercy to those who trusted Him.  If we discount God’s mercy in their lives and in our own then we are not being fair to God.  God has done too much for us to doubt Him.  Yes, your flesh does want Him to do more or something greater, but that is like a kid demanding ice cream and claiming their parents haven’t given them enough.  It is an immature and childish accusation.  In fact, the death and resurrection of Jesus is the ultimate act of mercy that should shake any doubt to its core.  Our future is sure, even though our present shouts that it is not.  This is the blessing of the righteous.

They are moved to talk with men

Now let’s look at verses 2 and 3.  It is easy to disconnect and go silent towards those who reject God and His Ways.  However, the righteous are moved to talk with the wicked as well.  Sure there may come a time when there is nothing more to be said.  But that does not discount that something must be said.  The unbelieving need a proper witness to the truth by those who do believe.  Part of that witness is to question the actions of the unrighteous.  David asks, “How long…”  It is partly a plea to repent and turn back to God.  However, it is also a warning.  How long will God allow you to get away with your rejection of Him and doing your own thing without His judgment?  Just as today is the day of salvation, so today is the day to proclaim the salvation of the Lord.  It is too easy to say nothing to people and pretend that we are okay.  But, the righteous through the ages have not been silent to those around them, at least at first.   David proclaims that the ungodly turn “my glory into shame.”  They were doing so by slandering any good thing that David had done.  We see the same thing done to Jesus and the early Christians.  But David may have also meant that they were shaming God by what they were doing to David.  In Psalm 3:3 David calls God, “my Glory.”  Either way, it is true that we shame God when we unjustly attack one another.  David recognizes that the ungodly seek after idols.  They have quit seeking God and given up on any help from Him.  Instead they turn to false answers, false truths.  If they are not caused to reconsider how can they then be saved?  They simply can’t.

David then turns to remind the ungodly of the faithfulness of the Lord.  He puts the point to them.  What side do you want to be on?  God is going to answer me, and in so doing you will be dealt with (of course, unless you repent).  Christians must be a prophetic voice to the world around us that God has set the godly apart for himself.  He will answer them when they call.  Why would you not want to be a part of such a group?  Yet, those who resist God and even take their stand against Him and His people are fighting a losing battle.  There are many today who reject the Bible and the Creator.  They work to diminish their affect upon this nation and world.  No matter how successful the ungodly appear, God is on the side of the godly and will answer their cries.  He is going to come in judgment against the wicked and for the righteous.

They hold fast to the lessons learned

In verses 4 and 5 David rehearses within himself, and now shares with others who are struggling with keeping the faith, those things that had been handed down by the righteous of ages past.  It is important to keep walking the right path even when we are waiting upon God to hear our prayer and answer us.  Thus David says, “Be angry and sin not.”  When you are mistreated it is natural to become angry.  Anger is a powerful motivator to do something.  Much like a reservoir of water behind a dam, the passion of our anger can break forth like an uncontrollable wave of water from a collapsing dam, or it can be released in controlled form through the proper channel of a spill gate.   Notice that it is not a sin to be angry.  It is what we do with anger that often is sin.  Thus anger is dangerous.  If it is not properly controlled and funneled into proper channels of action, it becomes destructive sin.  These words are repeated in Ephesians 4:26, and Paul adds the admonishment, “Do not let the sun go down on your wrath.”  The word translated “wrath” is talking about the ways in which anger turns into sin.  It starts internally with irritation, bitterness, exasperation, and vengefulness.  It then leads to the external action of sin.  Yes, there is much to be angry about in this world because there is much sin.  However, the believer must restrain themselves from the affect that anger can have on their fleshly heart, and funnel it into passionate prayer before God and a passionate witness before the ungodly.  That witness is both vocal and non-vocal, through the life of righteousness to which we faithfully cling.  We must walk the walk in the face of all threats against us, whether they come from others, or within ourselves.

David next reminds himself to Meditate.  The righteous build a habit of meditating on their life before God in private.  This is not the eastern form of meditation where one is trying to clear their mind of everything.  That kind of meditation only opens you up to spiritual deception.  Biblical meditation is to bring the issues of our life before God, think about what the Scriptures say, and to think about what God would have us do.  It lays all that before Him and asks for His Spirit’s leading.  All of this happens within our heart when we are alone.  Of course, this can be alone in the sense that it happens in your mind when no one is intruding.  However, David refers to his bed.  We need to seek out times alone, so that we can meditate before the Lord and grow in understanding.  Jesus often sought out times alone to pray before the Lord.

David then remembers, “Offer the sacrifices of righteousness.”  The righteous always continue in the religious service that God has asked of them and yet do not allow it to become only a form.  They refuse just to go through the motions without a real life of trust and faith backing it up.  Thus many times to do the right thing is itself a sacrifice.  Our flesh doesn’t want to do it, but we die to the desires of our flesh and live out the righteousness of God.  This is the sacrifice that is pleasing to God.

Lastly, David says, “Put your trust in the Lord.”  Ultimately the godly throughout history teach us that the only wise thing we can do is to put our trust in the Lord, even when it seems like He is silent.  It must be done even when it seems like He is letting the ungodly win.  We need each of these lessons in our life today.  It may not seem like much, and the devil will tell you it is not enough.  But, he knows that a person who does these things will become impervious to his assaults, and will ruin his work in the lives of others.

They are blessed by God

The psalm ends with recognition that the ungodly are often cynical about such a witness from the righteous.  “Who will show us anything good,” is actually a challenge.  The ungodly have been tempted into following the logic and the thing that brings them something they desire.  They have become enslaved by their fleshly desires.  This is a sad way to be.  Only God’s grace can break through such cynicism.  So, David recognizes that the righteous will continue to look to God.  The phrase, “the light of your countenance,” is an allusion to the priestly blessing in Numbers 6:24-26.  There it says, “The LORD lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.”  This is a picture that God not only is aware, but He is looking upon us and His face is shining with good-will towards us, rather than a dark and stormy face of judgment.

This leads to the recognition that God gives gladness and joy to the righteous.  His truth tempers our immaturity and folly.  It fills us with the joy of knowing that God is more powerful and wise than anything that stands against us.  Thus, we cannot lose.  He is going to answer at the proper time.  So what makes you glad?  Is it bumper crops, which is basically economic increase?  If your joy is based on such temporary things, then you will be increasingly saddened and driven to leave God’s ways behind and forge your own path of success.  But, if you make relationship with God your joy, then you will never lack its presence in your heart, even when you are in the valley of the shadow of death.

Thus David talks about how the righteous are given peace and sleep in God’s safety.  God is our protector.  Why should we fear?  David says that he can sleep at night because God is what gives him peace and safety.  Though the world around us rages, we can be at peace as long as God is pleased.  Similarly, if the whole world is singing our praises, we dare not be at peace if God is unpleased with our life. 

The word translated “alone” in the last verse makes it sound like God is the only thing that makes David safe.  That is true of course.  But the word might better be translated in this way.  “In solitude, You, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”  This reference to solitude is a reference to God’s place of safety, or refuge.  We always have such a place internally within our mind and heart.  We can enter into this refuge and commune with the Lord even in the presence of our enemies.  However, such a place of refuge is also literal at times.  David fled into the wilderness from Saul and there God gave him a refuge, and a place of solitude in which he was safe from Saul’s threats.  During that time God spoke to David and encouraged him, while David waited for God’s promises to come true.  God periodically gives us breaks from the onslaught of the battle in order to comfort and encourage us.  This is the blessing that the righteous have from the Lord.  May we live faithfully for Him to the end of our lives!

Heart of a righteous person audio

Tuesday
Aug022016

The Song of Salvation

Isaiah 26:1-15.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on July 31, 2016.

We have been looking at the joy that will erupt from the people who are alive after the Second Coming of Jesus.  In chapter 25 we saw that all people will be gathered to the Jerusalem area and will celebrate with a feast before the Lord.  Thus chapter 26 continues in this context.  A song breaks out in which the people praise God for His salvation.

Singing for the City of the Righteous

If this passage is not taken in context, it would be easy to think this is only speaking of Jewish people.  But notice verse one focuses on the place, “in the land of Judah.”  This is a song that will be sung by all the people of God and the survivors of the wrath of God.  What is the object of this song?  They recognize the strength of their city as opposed to the cities of man, especially the City of Confusion (chapter 24), which represent and rules over them all.  Throughout history the righteous have often been walked over by the dominions of this world.  Even now the Church does not have a nation or capitol on this earth.  Thus when Jesus comes back the celebration is over the fact that finally our King is here and His dominion is one that is stronger than all those of mankind.

We can think of this city as literal in that Jesus will rule from a literal Jerusalem during the Millennial Kingdom.  Yet the earthly Jerusalem is only a shadow or symbol pointing the New Jerusalem that will come down out of heaven at the end of the Millennium.  Even then, the wording of the song goes beyond a focus on a physical city.  Notice that walls and bulwarks of this city are salvation that God appoints.  Thus the righteous recognize that no matter what our walls and defenses look like in the natural and in comparison with the defenses of this world, our city is strong and our walls impervious because it is the Lord Himself who has appointed us to salvation.  Thus after the cities of this world are turned to rubble, the righteous rejoice in the City of God.  There is another thing to notice.  In light of the New Testament, this passage becomes even more amazing because the term for salvation is yeshua.  Literally it could be read, “God will appoint Yeshua (Jesus) for walls and bulwarks (i.e. as its defenses).  Is this not what we have now?  Jesus is our defense.  No matter what the mighty of this world do and how often they take advantage of us, their defenses will fall and ours will stand in the end.

Verse 2 refers to the gates of the city.  These gates are most likely fully realized in the gates of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21:27.  “But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.”  Gates protect access.  The wicked cannot live in this city, but the righteous are allowed access.  So who is this “righteous nation which keeps the Truth?”  It is not natural Israel.  Rather Isaiah is seeing a nation of people who have been called together out of all the nations of the earth.  Thus Peter exhorted the believers, “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9).  It is a nation of God’s own making.  They are not righteous because of their biology or geography.  They are righteous because they have been made so by God Himself.  The Truth that they keep is the revelation of God: Jesus is our salvation and there is no other.  This call for the gates to open up and allow the righteous nation to come in is parallel with Psalm 24.  There the call for the gates to open up is to allow the King of Glory to enter.  “Who is this King of Glory?  The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.”  It is Jesus.

Verse 3 points out the inner reality of those who are the righteous.  They have the perfect peace of God because of what goes on inside of them rather than what they are or do on the outside.  Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  Perfect peace is that peace which has been given by God, rather than men.  When I was a kid we sang a song in which the lyrics said, “I’ve got something the world can’t give and the world can’t take it away.”  The righteous refuse to take the offers of this world and instead hang onto God in trust.  This inner trust or faith is rewarded by God with peace, both now and ultimately at His Second Coming.  Isaiah says that their “mind is stayed on You.”  The word “stayed” has the sense of leaning upon something or resting upon/within something.  Thus the righteous have refused to lean upon anything but Jesus.  They look nowhere else for their defenses, but Jesus.  Thus they will “trust in the Lord forever.”  In the face of that which tries to separate us from the Lord, we trust in the Lord.  Why?  We trust now in the light of that day of joy which lies ahead, rather than in the light of the nations and the powerful of this world.  Verse 4 ends with a phrase translated “everlasting strength.”  Literally, the Lord is an Everlasting Rock.  This picture of an unassailable place like Masada is in mind.  In this world, even the most unassailable rocks can be taken (as the Romans eventually did to the Jews there).  But the Lord is a rock everlasting.  None can climb these defenses.  The Rock is also the picture of a firm foundation that will hold up anything built upon it in the Day of Shaking.  God is an impregnable refuge for those who trust in Him.

In verses 5-6 we are reminded of the character of God.  The City of the Righteous will continue where the City of the Wicked is cast down.  It is part of God’s nature that He brings down the high and mighty who trust in themselves and lays them down in the dust.  This picture of total humiliation and defeat is exactly what Isaiah has described in chapter 24.  So why would anyone ever put their trust in the high and mighty of this world, whether spiritual or material?  Why trust in occult knowledge gained through rebellious spirits?  Why trust in politicians, artists, or even technology of man?  All these things are destined to be cast into the dust.  But the City of the Righteous will not be cast down, because it has been humble all along.  The rubble of the destruction is so complete that it becomes like the gravel that is used to make a road.  Thus the poor and the needy will tread over the rubble of the high and mighty kingdoms.  So which city does your heart dwell in?  The city doomed for destruction, or the City of the Righteous?

The Dependency of the Righteous

Whether the song continues in verses 7-15 or not, the theme does change.  Isaiah turns to the inner life of the Righteous.  They depend upon God and Him alone.  In verse 7 we see that they walk the straight path of the Lord.  In other words they walk a path that is measured against the Lord Himself- the Most Upright One.  The word translated “upright” is a word that draws its meaning from the context.  An upright road would be straight and level.  An upright building would be plumb or square.  Thus an upright person is a person who walks straight and stands upright.  In all of this the key is that the Lord is the “Straight One.”  It is He who judges our path and helps to make it even.  God will teach us His ways and straighten out our path if we will depend upon Him more than our own reasoning.  A person’s ways always seem right to them, unless they depend upon God’s direction more than their own.

In verse 8 we see that the righteous have waited for the Lord because He is the desire of their soul.  Notice that Isaiah sees the righteous waiting for the Lord on His path.  When we walk the way of the Lord it does not guarantee instant connection.  Many have “tried” the ways of the Lord and walked away.  However, those who wait for Him will find Him.  The ways of the Lord test us, melt us down, and temper us, until we are as we should be.  So what makes a righteous person wait?  They wait because they are not solely interested in getting something else out of God.  Too often we are trying to get something else from God because our soul desires something other than Him.  This is exactly what an idol is.  All things must be laid at His feet as we wait for Him to reveal Himself to us.  The righteous always wait for God. 

This is contrasted with the wicked at the end of verse 9.  They learn righteousness when God judges the earth.  Even more than that, when God gives grace and favor, the wicked do not learn anything.  They simply take advantage of it and the righteous, and attribute it all to their own greatness.  Given a wonderful society and good people, they will still choose wickedness (a crooked path).  This is not to say that people cannot change.  The wicked here are not just those who sin at any time.  But rather those who have rejected God’s ways and will never turn back.  Verse 11 goes further and describes that the wicked don’t even recognize God when His hand is raised for judgment.  They will not recognize until they are actually being crushed under the weight of His falling judgment.  We all have a decision to make in the now.  Either we let our hearts be broken and turn to the Lord, or we march stubbornly on, only to have our life broken in judgment.

Thus in verse 12 we see that the Lord brings peace to the righteous.  No matter what the present looks like, the Lord will establish peace for the righteous.  Their ending point is secure because of Him, not themselves.  Even our accomplishments of righteousness have been done by God who is working through us.  His Word and His Spirit, working and moving upon us enable faith and action.

In verses 13-14, we see that even after being chastised, the righteous are blessed.  Just as Israel had been chastised by the Lord many times, we also find ourselves under the Lord’s rebuke from time to time.  No matter how many nations had ruled over Israel, they still belonged to the Lord.  Thus our destiny is sure even when God is disciplining us.  Those whom He uses may fall into the dust to never be raised up again, be the righteous will be raised up by God Himself.  Proverbs 24:16, “A righteous man may fall seven times and rise again, but the wicked shall fall by calamity.”  Thus Israel, who would later find their nation broken and cast to the winds, will find that Jesus has increased the number of the people of God and has expanded the borders of the True Israel of God.  That is, Both Jew and Gentile will be drawn into one people that will be far greater than all the ancient land of Israel.  This is the destiny of those who put their trust on God and depend upon Him alone.

Song of Salvation audio

Tuesday
Jun072016

The Resurrection Confirmed

Luke 24:33-43.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on June 5, 2016.

The early confusion of the resurrection will be put to rest by the end of that first day, at least for the close disciples of Jesus.  When you sift through the gospel accounts it is clear that there are at least 5 separate appearances on Sunday that start with appearances to individuals and smaller groups, and then culminates in an appearance to the larger group of His closest disciples.  These can be listed as an appearance to the women, an appearance to Mary Magdalene, an appearance to Peter, an appearance to Cleopas and another on the road to Emmaus, and lastly an appearance to the whole group.  Although we might wonder why Jesus is operating in such fashion, the flow of the day is one that helps them to process their doubts and come to grips with the shocking truth: Jesus is alive!

Throughout history there have been many attempts to discount these many appearances.  Several things stick out in contradiction to such attempts.  First, these are not mere sightings.  They are extensive and interactive dialogues.  Secondly, it is not a single time that can be chalked up to “group hypnosis.”  They happen to many different sizes of groups at different times.  We have at least 12 such interactions within 40 days recorded in the gospels.  Lastly, the disciples went from hiding in fear of their lives to boldly proclaiming that Jesus was alive.  Many of them did so to the point of death, and all without recanting.  It is important for the believer to recognize that God has given us many facts in order that we might put our full trust in Jesus.  He is the Lord of Life and the Conqueror of Death.

Sharing The Good News

We pick the story up again in verse 33.  Here Cleopas and his friend realize that Jesus is alive.  This news is too good and amazing to keep to themselves or let go to the next day.  Thus they go back to Jerusalem to tell The Eleven.  It is important to point out that the term “The Eleven” (as opposed to The Twelve) is a reference to this time between the death of Judas and the replacement of him with Matthias 50 days later.  It is more a statement of which disciples are being talked about then it is the exact number that were present.  Thus Luke here speaks of The Eleven, but we know from John 20 that Thomas is not present.  It is a simple way to avoid the whole discussion of “which disciples are we talking about?”

Though they have news to share, it is the Jerusalem disciples that we hear from first.  They make a statement of fact to Cleopas and his friend, “The Lord is risen indeed!”  They have become convinced by all the evidence they had received that Jesus was alive.  The word “indeed” in verse 34 is used to emphasize the reality of something as opposed to that which is only a conjecture, or worse a pretense.  To them it was no longer a crazy idea, or far-fetched possibility, it was a reality that had been proven to them.

This is then followed up by the disciples from Emmaus sharing their story of meeting Jesus.  Thus we have a kind of sharing of notes and mutual fellowship of those who have witnessed an unbelievable thing.  This sharing of what we have witnessed is a time honored tradition within the Church.  Historically it has been called “to testify” or giving a “testimony.”  You are basically giving witness to what you have experienced in Jesus.  Of course these disciples are sharing a physical appearance of Jesus.  We only share our spiritual experiences that we have had in the Lord.  But the function is just as important nonetheless.  This should never be a situation of one-upmanship, so that we can feel superior to one another.  This only leads to fabrication and pretense.  Rather, this is intended to validate the experiences of one another.  We must not allow ourselves to be separated to the point that we quit comparing notes and sharing our testimony with one another.  It is a powerful benefit that God has given us.

Jesus Provides Proofs To The Larger Group

This situation has led to a much larger group being all in one place.  Ten of The Eleven, plus the two from Emmaus, plus at least 5 other women would give us at least 17 disciples and possibly more.  This is to be the core group that gives witness to the Resurrection.

At this point Jesus suddenly stands up within the group and reveals himself to them all.

Notice his first words, “Peace to You.”  Though they had deserted him in fear, Jesus desires for them and for us to have peace.  He doesn’t just want them to “Fear not!”  But in a positive way he has peace for them.  No matter how you feel, you need to understand this about God.  He wants you to have peace, tranquility, and rest in your spirit.  His death was not a matter to separate us from him, but to connect us to him in a living and loving relationship.  Yes, my sins were the reason he went to the cross.  But he is not holding that over us.  In fact, it is clear from the account that Jesus had told them to meet him in Galilee. The appearances of this day, no doubt, serve to help them confidently know that he is alive and to help them have the faith to travel to Galilee.

Although he had appeared to many of them by now, the overall group is surprised and terrified at his new appearance.  The issue is not about his resurrection, but about the state that he is in.  Is he a spirit or ghost?  Or does he have a real body?  The momentary responses of our flesh to events that happen in our life can catch us by surprise and even fill our hearts with terror.  But the Lord Jesus wants to help our troubled hearts to come to a place of peace.  Jesus describes their inner turmoil as “doubts” in their hearts.  These doubts are surfacing in the well of their hearts, like a boiling pot.  There is a war between belief and doubt regarding what exactly is going on.  Yet, the end of this process is to bring peace to the doubts and strength to the faith.

Knowing their doubts and fears, Jesus begins to allay them.  His presence is itself a proof.  But here Jesus adds a further proof.  He has them look at his hands and feet, as well as touch them.  Although Luke does not explain what they saw, it is clear that it has to do with the wounds of the crucifixion.  Remember that in John 20, Jesus has Thomas also touch his side (the place that the spear entered and pierced his heart).  It seems unlikely that the wounds are still dry and bloody.  Most likely there are scars that give clear evidence to his crucifixion.  This gives rise to the nature of the resurrection body.  Why would he have scars?  Clearly they could have been completely healed.  Yet, the glorified body of Christ still bears the marks of his victory at the cross.  Jesus has them do this so that they can be assured that it really is the same guy who was nailed to the cross and killed.  Also, so that they can know that he is not just a spirit.  Rather, he has a physical body (though as a glorified body it has some differences, 1 Cor. 15).  John would later write in 1 John 1:1-2, That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of Life, the life was manifested, and we have seen and bear witness and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us—.”  To John it was important that people understand that they were not telling fables or hearsay.  They had seen Jesus, heard Jesus, and touched Jesus.  They gave clear witness of a very real event.

It is not that the disciples don’t believe, but that they do not believe to the point of joy, verse 41.  There is a restrained and shocked sobriety over them at this point.  So Jesus continues to prove himself to them by eating food.  The disciples doubt his physicality because they saw him die.  It was too hard to wrap their heads around it all.  This leads to one of the first heresies to crop up in the early Church.  Later groups would deny the physicality of Jesus, not just after the resurrection, but also during his life.  To them the material world was evil, and the spiritual holy.  How could a holy being take on evil flesh?  Of course these preconceived ideas were wrong.  This is typically called “Docetism” from a Greek word that means “to seem.”  They believe that Jesus only seemed to have a body during his ministry and only appeared to be crucified.  The truth is that there are holy and evil spirit beings and there are holy and evil material beings.  Christ is that one perfect and holy spirit that took on a human body and nature, yet without sin.  Thus John also wrote in 1 John 4:2-3, “By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God.  And this is the spirit of Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.”  Luke and the apostles went to great lengths to establish the reality and physicality of the resurrected Jesus.

Of course, today our problem is not with a physical Jesus.  In the modern world we are more likely to embrace his humanity, but deny his divinity.  Jesus did not rise from the dead as a most powerful spirit that was putting on a show for humans, nor did the disciples make up the story in order to cover the death of Jesus, the man.  Though we too may have our doubts and fears about exactly what the Apostles witnessed, we must deal with the evidence laid out before us.  Jesus is bodily alive.  He has the ability to go between the spirit realm and the material world.  He is coming back at a future date to judge the world, and elevate his followers.  Which side will you be on?  That is the question.

 

Resurrection Confirmed audio