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Entries in Prophecy (18)

Tuesday
Jun062017

The Promise of the Father III

Acts 2:32-39.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on June 4, 2017.

Today we remember and celebrate the momentous event, almost 2,000 years ago, in which the promise of the Holy Spirit was fulfilled in Jerusalem during the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost.  Though the Holy Spirit had been active throughout the Old Testament times, the prophets pointed forward to a time when God would pour out His Spirit upon all His people, to be with them and enable them for all of life, not just certain events. 

We should also notice that God chose a feast that celebrated the harvest as the day for pouring out His Spirit.  Thus, it pictures the great harvest of people, throughout every generation, who have become desirable to God by repenting of their sins and believing on Jesus as their savior and lord.  It also recognizes our need for the Holy Spirit in order to bring this harvest in.  When the Holy Spirit came upon those 120 disciples who were gathered in Jerusalem, they began to speak in other languages that they did not know.  However, other people who had gathered for the feast from all around the world recognized that they were praising God and speaking about His wonderful deeds.  This opens the door for a great harvest of 3,000 individuals who put their faith in Jesus that day as the Apostle Peter stood up and addressed the crowd.

The crowd was asking, “What does this mean?”  For the sake of time we will pick up half way through Peter’s answer.  Basically Peter explains that they are seeing the fulfillment of God’s promise of the Holy Spirit.

The Fulfillment of the prophecies of David

Before verse 32, Peter had quoted from Psalm 16, a Psalm of David.  In this psalm David prophesies that the Father will not leave His Holy One in the grave to decay, but instead he will be resurrected.  It is easy to read this and think that David is speaking of himself.  However, Peter makes the point that David is speaking of the Messiah who would come from His lineage.  It was Jesus who had fulfilled this prophecy.  Now it is not every day that specific prophecies are fulfilled.  People had been hearing conflicting reports from some that Jesus had been resurrected, and from others that the disciples had stolen the body while the guards were asleep.  Peter stands up and publicly declares the truth about Jesus.  He had been raised up by God from death, and the 120 who were experiencing the baptism of the Holy Spirit were all witnesses of this.  It is worth noting that there were at least 500 witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus within the early church.  Over the course of 40 days following his burial, at a variety of places, and for extended periods of time, Jesus appeared to His disciples.  This was no hallucination or a made up story.  They witnessed it with their own eyes and felt him with their own hands.  So we have human witness to the resurrection of Jesus.  We also have a heavenly witness to the veracity of these claims in the amazing events that the crowd is seeing.  These Galileans, who did not know languages from around the world, were miraculously speaking the wonders of God in the midst of Jerusalem.  Of course this is not the end of it.  The book of The Acts of the Apostles could also be called The Acts of the Holy Spirit through the Disciples of Jesus.   They would see miracles and powerful presentations of the Gospel by people who were not special by man’s determination.  This is precisely what the coming of the Holy Spirit was all about.  No longer would it be certain special people who would be used by the Spirit.  Now it would be all of God’s people, most of which were not anything spectacular by the world’s standards.

Next Peter states that this Jesus was exalted to the right hand of God.  Now the disciples did not see Jesus physically being resurrected.  But they did see him after the event.  They saw the effects of it.  In this case it is the opposite.  They had seen Jesus ascend in front of their eyes into the sky until a cloud obscured their sight.  Here they see the event, but not necessarily the effect of that ascension, which is Jesus sitting at the right hand of the Father.  However, they are taking what they have seen, and adding to it what Jesus told them and what the prophets prophesied, and then trusting that what they can’t see has happened.  In fact the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is intended to be proof that Jesus had been accepted in heaven and now had all power and authority at his disposal.  Notice that it is Jesus who has received the promise of the Holy Spirit and it is he who pours it out on his disciples.  This is important for us to recognize.  Technically all of the blessings of God are given to Jesus.  He alone has merited the favor and blessings of God.  However, Christ shares this with those who belong to Him.  Thus all the blessings of heaven are available to those who are in relationship with Jesus.

Verses 34 and 35 are quoting Psalm 110 verse 1.  Here David is speaking of his lord being seated at the right hand of God.  He is basically saying, “The LORD (The Father) said to my lord (master) sit at My right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.”  Thus Jesus is the Son of David by birth, but even David recognized the Messiah as his lord, or master, because of his divinity.  Now the verse also gives us a terminus or end point for this situation.  Jesus will be at the right had of the Father until his enemies are subdued beneath his feet.  This does not mean that God has been trying to subdue the enemies of Jesus for 2,000 years and somehow can’t quite get the job done.  What has the Father been doing for 2,000 years?  He has been offering terms of peace to the enemies of Jesus.  The grace of God made possible through the sacrifice of Jesus is offered to those who do not deserve it.  By the Holy Spirit the call goes out to the whole world, “Stop being a foe of Jesus and become a friend!”  All that said, this time of Grace will come to an end in an event referred to as “I [will] make your enemies your footstool.”  The Second Coming of Christ is the Father bringing the time of grace to an end as well as Jesus’ residence in the heavens.  At that point forward Jesus will dwell on earth with His Saints.  Today is the day of salvation, and the day of the Grace of God.  Seize it now, for the window of opportunity will not stay open forever.

So we see the pouring out of the Holy Spirit as God enabling the disciples of Jesus to be led by and empowered by the Spirit in order to be witnesses to the world and bring in a harvest of individuals who become believers in Jesus.

The conclusion of the matter

Verse 36 concludes the matter.  The leaders and people of Israel had crucified Jesus.  Yes, the Romans were involved, but they would have never done it without the pressure put on them by the Israelite leaders.  Yet, God disagreed with this rejection.  They killed Jesus, but God raised Him up and made Him both Lord and Christ.  We need to recognize today that there are two different things: what man is doing, and what God is doing.  We want to be a part of what God is doing because it will last and we will be blessed.  This reality puts them in a position of being an adversary to God and His work.  And, though we were not there to crucify Jesus, our flesh is just as hostile to God and His work.  This world actively rejects and fights against the work of the Holy Spirit in the followers of Jesus.  We have a choice to make.  We can trust in man and throw our lot in with them, or we can trust in God and throw our lot in with Jesus.

This conclusion cuts to the heart of many of the people there that day.  They were shocked by what Peter was saying.  The Old Testament was littered with the stories of those who resisted God and were destroyed because of it.  “What shall we do?”  Even today, we often go about our lives with all kinds of reasons why we are okay.  But the Word of God in the mouth of a Spirit empowered Christian can cut through all of that and raise the question, “What can I do?”

Before we let Peter answer that question, I want to spend a few moments talking about the spiritual work of conviction.  “Cut to the heart,” is a picture of the conviction of the Holy Spirit.  He is enabling them to understand their true condition before God.  On one hand there is fear as we recognize the reality of our sin and its consequences.  However, on the other hand there is hope because only God can open our eyes to our sin, and He does so in order to lead us to salvation.  It is easy when you feel conviction to accuse the other person of condemning you.  Condemnation can occur when we tell people they are lost without the second part of the message, the hope there is in Jesus.  Conviction feels as bad as condemnation, but it offers a door of hope for us to walk through.  It cuts through all the personal and cultural baggage that keeps the truth from reaching our heart.  This is a scary moment, but it is also a wonderful moment.  Conviction is a spring of life to a person stumbling in the desert.  There is a powerful picture here.  Before the Holy Spirit, Peter tried to help Jesus by using a literal sword to hack off the ear of one of the enemies of Jesus.  There was no life and no hope in such an action.  You could even say that his actions would affect the ability of that man to hear the truth about Jesus later (he damaged his ear).  In healing the ear, Jesus is telling Peter that there is another way.  Now in this episode we see Peter helping Jesus by using the Sword of the Spirit (God’s Word) in order to cut to the heart of his enemies and leading over 3,000 of them to become his disciples.  The Spirit doesn’t just empower us.  He redirects us in a path that can actually help people.

Now let’s look at Peter’s answer to the question, “What shall we do?”  Peter tells them to repent of their sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus.    To repent is to turn away from those sins and involves agreeing with what God calls sin.  To be baptized in his name is a purposeful and public declaration of a switching of allegiance.  The effect of these actions is to have our sins remitted by God.  Now the medical community uses the word “remission” for both permanent and temporary absence of disease.  So it could be easy to think that the “remission of your sins” might only be temporary.  But the word being translated does not have a sense of it being temporary.  There is another word that is used of the Old Testament era people.  Their sins were laid aside in order to be dealt with later.  That word had a sense that the sins were completely dealt with yet.  But this word means a separation between us and our sin, which also means that there is no longer any punishment.  So being in a state of repentance, identification with Jesus, and sins removed, they are told to then receive the Holy Spirit.  Of course receive is passive and active at the same time.  Jesus is the one who actively gives us the Holy Spirit.  However, we need to look for Him and cooperate with Him.  He takes up residence within all who put their trust in Jesus.  But, He also wants to fill us completely with Himself, which will direct and empower us with spiritual gifts.  This was not just for the first century.  Peter states that it is for all whom God calls to salvation.  Jesus is still calling people to salvation today, and thus He is still pouring out the Holy Spirit upon those who res pond in faith.  Let’s not settle just to be saved and have the Spirit within us.  He is seeking to do so much more in and through us.  Take time to wait upon the Lord in prayer, each and every day, asking Him to fill your life with His Spirit.  Let Him become your direction and power.

Promise of the Father III audio

Tuesday
May302017

The Promise of the Father II

Joel 2:28-32.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on May 28, 2017.

Today we will look at another Old Testament passage in which God promised that there would come a day when His Holy Spirit would be given to His people wholesale, as they say.  Of course, Peter quotes from this passage in Acts 2:17-21, to demonstrate that the passage was indeed talking about the events of the upper room.

As we look at this passage, I pray that you will be encouraged and prompted to action.  This is not a day for taking it easy, and seeking our own desires and comfort.  This is a day when destinies can be changed, a day that is before “it's too late.”  So let’s look at the promises from God’s Word.

The Promise of Restoration

This chapter opens with a warning to the people of Israel of God’s judgment upon them by an army that would be coming.  In verses 12-17 there is a call to repentance.  They need to turn away from their sin and back towards the ways of the Lord.  Then verses 18-27 speak of a restoration that would happen to them.  In some ways it is presented as conditional upon their repentance.  However, in other ways, it is declared as definite for those who belong to God.  This leaves room for what actually happened in the decades following Jesus and his apostles.  Israel as a whole came under the judgment of God and saw their nation and capital destroyed by Rome.  Yet, in the midst of this, God poured out refreshing restoration upon those who put their faith in Jesus.  So this sets up the part of the chapter that we will be focusing on, vs. 28-32.

As Joel declares the restoration that will be experienced by God’s people, he prophesies that God will pour out His Holy Spirit upon His people.  Thus this pouring out of the Holy Spirit is a part of the restoration.  Sin has separated God’s people from Him.  But the work of Jesus makes way for a daily experience of the Holy Spirit for every believer.  As we said last week, the idea of the Holy Spirit coming upon people is not foreign to the Old Testament.  We find it everywhere.  However, it might be described best in this way.  In the Old Testament God’s Spirit came upon certain people, at certain times, for certain works.  But, in this passage, we are promised a time when God will give His Spirit without such restraints.

Two aspects stick out about this and the first is that there will be no distinctions.  The Holy Spirit will be poured out upon “all flesh.”  Thus we get a series of opposites that are intended to reinforce this point.  The Spirit will be poured out on sons and daughters, old men and young men, and men servants and maid servants (male and female).  Age and gender distinctions will not prohibit people from receiving the Holy Spirit.  Other places in the New Testament also add slave and free, Jew and Greek, and circumcised and uncircumcised.  The baptism of the Holy Spirit would be a common experience of all of God’s people.

The second aspect is what the effect of the Spirit will be.  Essentially Joel says that they will prophesy.  Though the Holy Spirit would be constantly present, this does not mean that they will be constantly prophesying.  Rather, God would speak through anyone at any time as He wills.  It is our job to be so in step with the Holy Spirit that we will recognize true prophecy versus the false.  Not all people will prophesy. There are other gifts of the Holy Spirit that are not mentioned here but are pointed out in the New Testament.  Joel mentions dreams and visions.  However, we should see these as two methods by which God gives His revelation to prophets.  A dream is God speaking to us through a dream while we are asleep.  A vision, on the other hand, is more like a trance.  A person is awake and yet begins to have a “day dream” that is influenced by the Spirit of God.  Other methods are mentioned in the Bible of which having an angelic visitation is seen in both Testaments.  Now it is one thing to have a dream from the Lord and quite another to recognize it and also understand it.  We must be daily communing with God in prayer and in reading His Word.  This puts us in tune with what the Spirit of God is saying and helps us to recognize when He speaks to us.  Even when God moves upon us to give a prophecy, we should not assume that we now have the right to “make this happen” out of sheer will.    It is our job to be open to the Lord.  Some people have been led astray because they feel the pressure to have “a word from the Lord” all the time.  God may not have a new word.  He may simply want us to focus on what He has already said and be faithful.  There is also a prevalent problem for people who have been involved with heavy drug use.  These can so damage our brains that we have a tendency towards weird dreams or dreams that have supernatural elements to them.  Such a person needs to exercise extreme caution and seek godly mentors who can give them unbiased advice.  As a community, God’s people need to be open to these things and not afraid of them.  Yet, we should be open to them in a mature way that recognizes that not all that feels spiritual is really from the Lord.  Those who do not have the gift of prophesy still have the Promised Holy Spirit by which they can recognize for themselves if the Spirit is indeed speaking through a particular person.

The Promised Day of the Lord

In verses 30-32 the promise of restoration and pouring out of the Spirit is counterbalanced with the promise of judgment.  Only this time the phrase “Day of the Lord” is used.  The Day of the Lord is used in the prophetic books as a technical term that points to a day when God will judge all the nations of the earth and institute His millennial kingdom.  Thus we are moving beyond a judgment upon Israel only. Joel sees a day when God will judge all nations, but before that, He will pour out His Spirit.  The Day of the Lord is always a joyful time for those who are God’s faithful servants.  But, it is a fearful day full of woe for those who are not His faithful servants.

So we two things that are coincident and previous to the Day of the Lord: the pouring out of the Holy Spirit and Signs and Wonders both in heaven and on earth.  The amazing or jaw dropping events would make it clear that God is keeping His promises.  Now the signs in the heavens, or celestial signs, are not a reference to astrology.  There is no sense that the sun, moon, or stars can affect mankind’s destiny or God’s actions.  Rather, God uses them to clue humans into the fact that He is doing what He said He would.  Thus they are attention getters that point us to God.  In this passage it mentions the sun being turned into darkness and the moon into blood.  Some have pointed out that this is more than likely speaking of a solar eclipse (dark sun) and a lunar eclipse (some can be blood red).  Now the historical testimony from the disciples of Jesus, and secular, non-Christian sources such as Josephus, tell us about weird things happening in the sky and on the earth.    Several things worth noting are the strange star that the Magi of the East recognized as pointing to the Messianic King of Israel being born.  Also, when Jesus was on the cross there was a darkness that lasted far longer than the longest solar eclipse (around 8 minutes).  We are also told of an earthly wonder of the earthquake during the death of Jesus.  This earthquake struck Jerusalem and tore the 4” thick curtain that was in the temple from top to bottom.  All these things are intended to get the attention of people who are thinking that things are “business as usual.”  They cause you to stop and think twice about what God is actually doing.  To those who would not listen to Jesus and his disciples, some might be persuaded by such signs.  The writings of John in The Revelation seem to point to more signs in the heaven and on earth that will occur before and during the Second Coming of Jesus.

Now in one sense the Day of the Lord cannot be avoided.  It will come upon the earth and all the nations at a particular time that God has set, but not revealed to us.  However, we can avoid the Day of the Lord as individuals if we put our faith in Jesus and follow Him.  Though it is a “Great and Terrifying” day to those who are under God’s judgment, those who have cried out to God will be saved from it (vs. 32).  For about 2,000 years God has been saving those who hear the bad news of judgment and the good news of Jesus, and then cry out to Him.  The fate of the repentant will be deliverance.  Thus the passage ends with a promise of deliverance for God’s people who are described as, “those who call on the name of the Lord,” and “the remnant whom the Lord calls.”

It is instructive to look at what Israel went through in the first century AD.  God had been faithful to send His Word to them over a long period of time.  This culminated with an outpouring of amazing grace in the person of Jesus and His apostles.  This powerful witness was then followed by judgment in which the wicked and their governments were removed.  But the saints were left unscathed by God’s judgment.  So we will see this same process globally.  When Israel was judged by God, He then sent His people to all the nations of the earth to proclaim the truth.  This mighty witness by God’s people will one day come to an end as God pours out His judgment on the whole earth, not just Israel.  If you are a believer, you are a part of this powerful witness that God is giving to the nations.  The long period of grace is in order for people to have time to respond and large groups of the world to respond.  But, the Day of the Lord is rapidly approaching.  Each day we are one step closer.  So Christian, we must be about our Father’s business rather than feeding our flesh with all that it desires, if we are to hear “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  To those who are not Christians, recognize that God desires to give you the good promise of His Holy Spirit daily in your life.  Don’t reject God’s offer of His love and presence in your life.  Instead, put your faith in Jesus and come follow Him!

Promise of the Father II audio

Tuesday
Apr182017

Jesus, The Suffering Servant

Isaiah 53:1-12.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on Resurrection Sunday, April 16, 2017.

The death and the resurrection of Jesus is one of the most substantiated facts from ancient history.  So generally it is not because of the facts that people reject its veracity.  On one hand it seems impossible to our minds, especially in this modern age.  On the other hand, if it is true, then I would have to admit that I am a sinner and guilty before a holy and just God.  Thus this moral claim upon a person’s life is not always acceptable. 

Written about 700 years before the life of Jesus, our passage today is mid-stream in a series of visions and revelations that God gave to Isaiah.  The truth that Isaiah reveals was and still remains a shocking thing regarding the Messiah.  The Messiah was to be the Anointed One that God would send to save Israel and eventually the whole world.  Israel had been waiting for this heaven sent savior and had given lip service to the promise since at least 700 years before Isaiah.  Thus Isaiah makes several things clear:

  • God would be faithful to send the Messiah.
  • But Israel would not be faithful to receive Him.

The story doesn’t end there because God always has the last word.  Thus the unjust death of Jesus becomes the means by which we can be saved from our sins, and even more, that we can become the children of God.  Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Yes, Jesus would be rejected.  But our Lord’s acceptance of this rejection becomes the very demonstration of God’s love for us.  He cares even for the sinner, and makes a way back to Him for those who will yield to the graceful drawing of the actions of His Son and the work of His Holy Spirit.  So let’s look at this passage in Isaiah 53, where we see God’s Anointed One coming forth as the Suffering Servant.

His Life, vs. 1-4

Isaiah starts out verse 1 with the question, “Who has believed our report?”  This question is somewhat rhetorical. The rejection of Jesus makes sense when we see it on the backdrop of the lives of the prophets who predicted his coming.  They were generally rejected during their lives and many times killed by the leaders of Israel.  Later, after their word proved to be true, they honored them as prophets and kept their words.  This highlights a strange tension within us as humans.  We want a word from God, but we tend not to like what we hear.  So there has been an ever-present conundrum that God is faithful to speak and reveal Himself to mankind, but our flesh tends to push back against what He has to say.  There is a sense of frustration in Isaiah as he opens up this passage.  He has an unbelievable revelation to make clear to His people.  Yes, the Messiah would come, but we will mistreat Him and put Him to death.  Jesus came as the final word of God before Judgment Day.  Christians carry on this tradition of speaking this final word to the rest of the nations.  Here we too see a somewhat stormy welcome.  So let’s face the reality that our natural self doesn’t want to believe the message of Jesus.  We need to have our eyes and ears opened spiritually before we can see who Jesus really is.

In verse 2 Isaiah uses the image of a tender plant growing out of a hardened desert.  This spiritual imagery shows Israel to be a place devoid of any moisture.  Typically it is strong, prickly plants that can endure in such harsh environments.  However, the Messiah would be like a tender plant.  Somehow it miraculously grows in this harsh environment.  He is not what they expected.  He was humble, gentle, and not on the warpath against Rome.  Or, at least, he wasn’t in the way they expected.  Even today we must recognize that Jesus is not what most people are looking for.  We want something that changes the world and its systems they way that we want it, rather than a humble, gentle Jesus.

Isaiah goes on to point out that the Messiah would be without physical attractiveness.  One of the weaknesses of mankind is that we are easily drawn by that which is outwardly extraordinary.  We want to be on the team of the powerful athlete, the savvy business person, or the beautiful and glamorous of this world.  This is not meant to be a slam against those who find themselves to be powerful and beautiful externally.  Rather, it is a recognition of how easily we are seduced by that which is beautiful on the outside, and yet, a world of horrors on the inside.    We are often seduced by that which is strong and powerful on the outside, and yet, filled with every weakness imaginable on the inside.  So don’t get Isaiah wrong.  Jesus is strong and beautiful, powerful and desirable.  But these were all internal virtues.   God was not sending a Greek demi-god to wow the crowds and win them over through external, fleshly means.  God refuses to seduce mankind, or deceive mankind into following Him.  He presents the Messiah in a way that stands all the hopes of our flesh on their head, and forces us to turn away from them.  Of course, Satan and the world that he controls has no problem manipulating us in these ways.

Then Isaiah says that the Messiah would be a man of sorrow from whom we hide.  Jesus technically held the rights to the throne of Israel and the throne of heaven, and yet, he would live a life of sorrows.  He would know the sorrow of a leader trying to help his people, who refuse to be helped.  He would know the sorrow of a teacher trying to teach students, who refuse to be taught.  He would know the sorrow of a rich man whose wealth and power could not fix the problem.  He would know the sorrow of the poor man who has nowhere to lay his head.  He would know the sorrow of an innocent man unjustly maligned by people with wicked intentions.  When someone is being executed, you tend to keep your distance from them.  Thus when Jesus is seized and crucified, all those who claimed to follow Him hid their faces from Him.  The cross and the resurrected savior that God offers us can only appeal to our souls.  No one gets excited about picking up a cross and following Jesus.  If we are to do so, it will be because our inner man is made aware who He is.

Lastly in this section, Isaiah points out that the Messiah would look more like God is against Him rather than for Him.  To those who rejected Him, the death of Jesus would serve as proof that God was not on his side.  They believed that they were being used of God to strike this blaspheming heretic down.  There is no way that God would allow the Messiah to be killed.  However, not only in Isaiah 53, but many other places like Daniel 9:26, we are told that the Messiah would be executed.  And so, the sign of the cross and what happened on it, the picture of Jesus as he goes into the grave, each of these are abhorrent to our flesh and something that we will seek to avoid at all costs.  Yet, verse 4 also has a change to it.  Yes, he is a man of sorrows.  But, he is bearing “our” grief, and carrying “our” sorrows.  If you have ever felt like God doesn’t understand your grief and sorrow, you only have to look to Jesus and quickly you will see that He more than understands it.  He has done more than just join us in our grief and sorrow.  Even more, he dove headlong into it, and that is what scares us about Jesus.  Our flesh does not want to follow Him, but our spirit knows that he is the only way.

His Death, vs. 5-9

In verse 5 Isaiah moves to talk about the death of this Suffering Servant that God would send.  Verses 4-6 have two sides to them.  First is the aspect that this is happening because of our sins.  He is wounded because of our transgressions, and bruised because of our iniquities.  The Lord has laid on Him all of our iniquities.  In our pride we are tempted to reject such a message.  But if we think that we have been good enough, or that somehow we should be acceptable to God on our own merits, then recognize just who it is you are arguing with (i.e. God).  Can you really win an argument with Him?  Are you not just holding up a pretense to Him in hopes that He won’t see through it?  We only need to read the words of Jesus in the New Testament in order to recognize that even the best of us fall short, and that we are sinners in the end.  We want to redefine sin so that we can tell ourselves that we are good.  But that kind of logical magic will not work when we stand before our Maker.

The second side to verses 4-6 is that his death is for our benefit.  Yes, it is because of our sins, but it is also for taking our sins away from us.  Yes, he is wounded for our sins, but so that we may be healed from their wound.  This word “healed” in verse 5 applies to both physical and spiritual things.  It is a healing of everything that is wrong with us.  Yes, in the garden, a spiritual entity (the devil) tricked our ancestors into rebellion against God, and so has inflicted the wound of sin upon all mankind.  But, in Jesus God has provided for the healing of our lives, both between each other, and with Him.  God would rather do what Jesus did than let us die with an eternal wound.  He has provided for your healing in every way.

The sheep imagery in verses 6 and 7 is important because Jesus is the Lamb of God who is being offered as a sacrifice for our sins (vs. 10).  But, he does so without protest.  In a world that rages against the authorities and demands justice, as we dictate, before God, there is Jesus.  This tender lamb is not just being sacrificed against his will and over the top of his bleating protest.  Rather, in a surreal manner, he unflinchingly takes the bitter pill and puts his faith in this plan of salvation.  He is not silent because he is broken and knows it will do no good to protest, like some kind of Hebrew Socrates standing before the men of Athens.  Rather, he is silent because this is his plan and his heart.  This is why he came down from heaven and took on flesh, to do this for us, to save us.  He is not sitting aloof in the heavens, untouched by the things that ail us.  Instead, he has come down and done for us what we cannot do for ourselves.  This is the Savior that God offers to the world, and to you.

In case it wasn’t clear yet, vs. 8 slams the point home.  He would be cut off, or executed.  It is shocking enough that he would suffer, but that he would also be executed is unthinkable.  As I said earlier this is an unbelievable story to our flesh.  But it is the Truth.  Not only would he be humiliated with death, but he would unjustly be associated with the wicked and the rich in his death (vs. 9).  He would be treated as a criminal.  Even though he is without sin, he is crucified between two thieves.  He ends up buried in the tomb of a rich man who was a secret follower of Jesus.  Yet, he is no criminal.  He is crucified because he testified that their deeds were evil and unacceptable to God.  He did not have great wealth in this life and yet he ends up in the tomb of a rich man.  Yes who ever said life was fair?  But in the end we would not want it to be fair.  If life were fair then we would all be held accountable for our sins and punished.  Yet, Jesus steps forward and pays the price for our sins and willingly associates himself with those sinners who will simply repent and put their faith in Him.  This isn’t fair, but, it is love.

His Glory, vs. 10-12

Praise God that the death of Jesus is not the end of the story.  This is what Resurrection Sunday is all about.  It is the reversal of the most heinous event in history.  The savior of the world is killed, but God overrules the wicked and their plots against him.  And, yet, even the glory of Jesus is something we don’t always understand.

The words in verse 10 seem horrific, “it pleased the LORD to bruise Him.”  However, we must understand that both Father and Son are in agreement and unified in this plan.  Thus, just as it pleased the Father to bruise, so it pleased the Son to be bruised.  It is pleasing because of what it will accomplish and not for the sake of bruising and death alone.  The age of animal sacrifice comes to an end with God’s sacrifice of his own perfect lamb, His Son, for our sakes.  Thus the glory of Jesus is that he becomes that One who fully pleased the Father, the perfect Son.

Verse 10 also says that these things will prosper in His hands.  Thus it is the glory of Jesus to prosper over the top of all that is done to him and done against him.  They can kill him, but he will be resurrected.  They can reject him, but God will accept him.  They can put him with the criminals and even in Hades, but God will raise him up to sit at the right hand of the throne of God.  They can use their authority to punish him, but God will take their authority from them and give it to Jesus, who waits for the day when he will be sent back to earth in order to remove the powers of wickedness, both natural and spiritual.  Yes, Jesus is enjoying the glory of prosperity and it is only going to increase.  The question is, “Will you join him in that glory?”  Or, will you side with the wicked against him?

Verse 11 shows that it will be to the glory of Jesus that he will justify many through his knowledge.  No one else understood how to save Israel and even the whole world, but Jesus.  The beautiful truth is that though I am not righteous, I can be justified.  And, though I am a sinner, I can be made righteous by what Jesus did all those years ago.  All I need to do is to confess my sins and repent of them.  Then I must turn towards Jesus and put my faith in him, not just that he died, but also in the words he spoke.  He must become both savior and Lord of our life.  Jesus wants to share his glory with whosoever will.  Won’t you surrender to his call today?  “Come follow me!”

Jesus, Suffering Servant audio

Tuesday
Nov102015

Jesus Reveals The Future- Part VI

Luke 21:29-38.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on November 08, 2015.

Today we will finish this chapter and return to the events of the last days of Jesus leading up to the crucifixion.  I plan to pause our study through Luke for the next 2 months and then pick it back up next year.

Having finished his revelation of the things that are in the future, Jesus ends with some final instructions regarding how that should affect their minds and lives.  It is important to recognize the difference between receiving information from the Lord and having that rightly impact our lives.  We must not only hear the Word, but we must also recognize the imperatives that the Spirit of our Lord is pressing to us.

Instructions From The Lord

Jesus starts his instructions with a parable regarding vigilance.  Several times he commands us to watch, look, and see the things that are happening around us and within us.  Thus earlier he commanded his disciples not to fear and not to be deceived.  Both involve the things that we may or may not see.  The people of God are called to be a vigilant people as opposed to those who are spiritually sleeping, drunk, or dead.  The first thing he points them to watch for involves all the signs and events that he has prophesied.  It is not enough for us just to know that he believed these things were coming.  We need to be a people who watch for these things.  On one hand we watch for the things that fit the descriptions that Jesus gave.  But on the other hand we make distinctions based upon what he said.  Thus we know that some things were going to happen in the first century, other things were going to be indicative of the whole age of Gentile domination, and then some things would be indicative of the end of this age and the Second Coming of Jesus.  Part of our watching is coming to a better understanding of what Jesus was saying.

Jesus gives a parable of budding trees.  It mentions a fig tree but then adds “and all the trees.”  Sometimes a fig tree is used as a metaphor for Israel.  However, in this passage it is a picture of all the things Jesus prophesied (some of them having to do with Israel).  When a tree begins to bud then we know that summer is near.  Although we may think this a no-brainer, there is a subtle point being made.  We have dates on the calendar such as June 21 and September 21 (depending on the year) in which we declare the beginning of summer and its end.  However, our experience with this period of time called summer is not always the same.  Sometimes it comes late and sometimes it comes early.  Trees have a relationship with the earth and sun that is different than us.  They are more sensitive to the things that can go undetected by us.  Thus a tree buds when it has a certain amount of energy and nutrients from the soil and sun.  We can make educated guesses at when that will be, but nothing can take the place of seeing the trees and plants responding.  Thus the difference between computer models and real life cause and effect cannot be made clearer.  Those who watch the world and make their guesses as to when the times of the Gentiles will end and the Second Coming will occur have often demonstrated the inability we have as humans to sense spiritual things clearly.  The signs and events that Jesus has revealed are intended to be like buds on a tree.  They help us know that the Kingdom of God and the Second Coming is near, or not.  Clearly, Jesus is not referring to the spiritual aspect of the Kingdom of God that the disciples had already entered into.  Rather, He is pointing forward to the Millennial Age when Messiah will remove the wicked of the earth, depose its wicked kings, and hand the kingdom over to the saints.  What has happened spiritually will come into being politically at the Second Coming.

Next Jesus makes a statement that “this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place.”  If this was the only information we had, it would seem that Jesus is pointing to the disciples and saying this generation (the one that exists now).  But when we look at the same account in Matthew 24 it is worded a bit differently.  “When you see all these things, know that it is near-at the doors!  Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.”  Here the generation being referred to is a generation that will see “all these things” in the future.  So here is the rub.  If all the events of Luke 21 happened in the first century then they were the generation Jesus was talking about.  However, I have made the case in the last 5 sermons that not everything happened.    In fact, the genius in how this prophecy is written can be seen in how the people of every generation will still operate with a characteristic of vigilance and it would do them in good stead.  Thus the first century believers saw many of these things and were prepared to avoid the wrath of God poured out on the nation of Israel and the city of Jerusalem.

Yet, there are still some things that have not happened.  Matthew 24:15 mentions an Abomination of Desolation that did not occur in the first century.  There are some creative attempts at connecting this with events at the 70 AD destruction of Jerusalem, but they are forced at best.  Matthew 24:14 mentions the Gospel being preached in “all the world.”  This also would not be the natural understanding of what happened before 70 AD.  Yes the Gospel spread greatly into the Roman world.  But the universal need of the Gospel requires a spread throughout all the nations literally.  Notice that it says all things that are written would be fulfilled (vs. 22).  This sets up many passages, such as Zechariah 14, that were clearly not fulfilled in the 70 AD destruction.  The times of the Gentiles ending and the Second Coming of Jesus did not happen in 70 AD.  Again, there are some creative attempts to say that Jesus came back spiritually.  But that is not what this prophecy predicts.  Lastly, we have not seen a convergence of the sun and moon darkened with stars falling to the earth.  See last week’s sermon for more on this.

Up to verse 34 Jesus is talking about our vigilance regarding the things in the heavens and on the earth.  But at verse 34 he begins talking about our vigilance regarding ourselves.  Believers must be watchers of their own souls as much as they are watchers of the times around them.  The word translated “take heed” in the NKJV has the idea of turning your mind and inspection upon yourself.  Thus we talk about introspection.  There are many temptations and fears that can sidetrack a believer from following Jesus.  If a person is not careful and does not watch themselves they will fall into sin and into its consequences.  If left unattended, these things can even jeopardize the soul of a disciple of Christ.  We only need to think of Judas to recognize this.  Jesus warned Peter, James, and John, when he asked them to pray with him on the night he was betrayed, that they needed to “watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.  The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41).  The love of God and the blood of Christ do not absolve the believer from vigilance over their soul.

Jesus points out that our hearts can become weighed down with sin.  The picture is of a person who is overly burdened and cannot follow where the Lord is leading.  Hebrews 12:1 touches on this same concept, “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”  Whether we think of the analogy of an animal that is so loaded down they can’t move, or of a runner in a race who is wearing boots and heavy clothing, both instances demonstrate that we will not be able to do what Jesus wants us to do, or go where he wants us to go.  Jesus mentions two specific sins and a general category.  They are: carousing, drunkenness, and the cares of this life.  The word translated as “carousing” is a reference to the state of mind of a person when they are drinking alcohol.  It involves both the giddy feeling of euphoria and the attending horrible pain of a hangover.  In both cases the mind of the person is messed up and not focused on Jesus.  In the first all inhibitions and ability to work well are overwhelmed by a false sense of well-being.  This false well-being takes the place of seeking our well-being in Christ.  Thus it is a form of idolatry.  In the second situation our mind is filled with pain and suffering to the point it is unable to deal with anything else that the Lord may have for us.  This cycle of drinking to feel good and then not feeling good has sidetracked many a person from being a faithful servant of the Lord.  The second sin translated “drunkenness” goes hand in hand with carousing.  It is a clear reference to the person who drinks too much alcohol and becomes intoxicated.  Believers are not commanded to be teetotalers, but they are commanded not to be drunk.  Both of these issues can be seen as spiritual metaphors.  The lusts of our flesh can become the directors of our pursuit of well-being.  The consequential cycle of dramatic highs and crashes, shipwrecks the faith of people in the way of Christ.  This leads us to the general category of the cares of this life.  Jesus referred to this in the parable of the soils.  He warned that the cares and worries of this life can suck up all the moisture and nutrition of our life and choke out the Word of God.  Thus a person does not grow in becoming like Christ and instead grow in becoming like the world.  All of these are like weights on our heart and must be jettisoned in order to follow Jesus.  It might be better said that the Christian life is one of learning to prune the things we need in order to continue following Christ.  This is a process that will not end as long as we are in this flesh.

The consequence of dilatoriness in the battle against the lusts of the flesh can lead to being caught unaware by the Day of the Lord.  Now the problem here is not that a person has sinned.  But that they have quit watching over their soul and have become like one of the drunkards.  Just because you have the label of Christian does not mean that your heart is really following after Jesus.   Several parables that the Lord told refer to servants who doubt that the master is coming back and begin to take advantage of their position in his “house.”  They end up receiving the same judgment as those who were his enemies and never a part of his house.  The Lord is coming back to judge the wicked of this world who reject him as Lord.  Yet, he will also judge the wicked servants of his house who have rejected him in their hearts.  Thus Jesus uses the picture of a snare or trap in verse 35.  The world and “Christians” who are following their flesh will be surprised at the coming of Jesus.  They will both be caught up in the judgments and wrath of the Lamb of God.  All traps have bait that the thing being trapped wants.  In this case both those who never follow Christ and those who only pretend to do so are trapped by the lusts of their own mind and body.  God has warned us for millennia that those who go after the lusts of the flesh will reap destruction.  Thus we begin to understand another side of the distress and perplexity experienced by those who see the wrath of God coming upon the earth.  They are trapped by their desire to do it any way but the way of Jesus.  The world is headed into a trap that it will not escape.  Do not listen to the songs of the singing sirens.  They call mankind to take hold of its “evolution” and become the gods it was destined to become.  This will lead to inescapable judgment and destruction.

Finally Jesus tells us to pray for ourselves.  Technically watching and praying are concepts that are tied together in the Scripture.  They are two sides of the same coin.  Yes we ought to pray for one another.  But a prayer life begins with a person who sees the assault of sin upon their own heart and has established a communion with Jesus regarding what is seen there.  Only then are we able to rightly pray and intercede for others.  A prayer of introspection concerns itself with being ready for the Lord’s return.  Regardless whether he comes back or we die, we know that we will have a day of accounting and this should be a daily concern of our prayers.  In fact, Jesus uses the phrase “counted worthy to escape…”  This is not talking about meriting our own salvation.  Only those who are clothed in the righteousness of Christ are worthy.  However, our response of faith to Jesus must demonstrate works that are worthy of true repentance.  In other words, “Don’t be deceived.  God is not mocked.  Whatever a man sows that will he also reap.”  If we sow to our flesh we are going to reap destruction.  But if we follow the Spirit of Christ and sow to it, we will find life.  Our pretense will not be over looked by him who can see all things of the mind and heart.  Thus we want to be able to stand before Christ as an accepted servant, rather than to fall as an unworthy servant who is cast out into utter darkness.  Many who think they should be accepted will be rejected in that day.  It is no mystery.  Christ has made these things abundantly clear.

Let me end by reminding us that God does not intend His wrath to be poured out on His people.  1 Thessalonians 5:9 says, “God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord, Jesus Christ.”  Also, Revelation 11:18 says, “The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, and those who fear Your name, small and great, and should destroy those who destroy the earth.”  Like He has often done, and like He did in 70 AD, the Lord pulls out the righteous before He brings down His wrath.  Thus He will do in the last days.  At some point Jesus will rapture His bride before He pours out the wrath of God upon a world that hates him.  Today is the day to choose what side you will be on.

 

Jesus Reveals Future VI Audio