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Entries in Rejection (9)

Monday
Aug122019

His Own Did Not Receive Him

Mark 6:1-6.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on Sunday August 11, 2019.

In John 1:10-12, we are told that Jesus came into the world that he created, but the world did not know him.  It also says that he came to his own [people] and his own did not know him.  However, as many as received, to them he gave the right to become the children of God, to those who believe in his name.  Now, it is proper to see the story of Jesus and his Church as something that started small, but has become a large thing over time.  This may give us a misunderstanding about its popularity.  The overall testimony of Scripture is that the world has not received Jesus as a whole.  He is a rejected savior.  Even within the ranks of Christianity, there are many who will not accept Jesus as he is presented in the Scriptures.  Instead, they use him as an inspiring idea that can be a springboard for the philosophy and wisdom of man that they love.

Yes, the true story of Jesus is one of rejection.  We will see in our story today that Jesus goes to his hometown of Nazareth in order to minister there.  What he experiences there is rejection, the same rejection that God has experienced from mankind from the beginning.  Adam and Eve followed the serpent and rejected God’s wisdom, which led mankind into sin and death.  As a world, we cried out for help and a savior.  Eventually God sent Jesus, but most rejected him.  In his mercy, God has left the door of grace open for the last two millennia.  However, eventually his judgment will come.  So the question is this.  Am I ready?

Today I pray that we will all search our hearts and recognize any unbelief and resistance that we may have towards the true Jesus of the Scriptures.  I pray that we will fully embrace Jesus, the one who was rejected by men, but accepted by God the Father.

Jesus teaches in Nazareth

Though Nazareth is not stated explicitly in the text (regardless of the NLT), it is the clear intention.  Some versions say “his own country,” and others use the word “hometown.”  The word literally means “fatherland,” and can be interpreted differently depending on the scope of the context.  In this passage the scope is viewing one particular town in Israel versus all the others.  Thus, hometown would be a good interpretation.  If this word was used in the context of one nation among many then “his own country” would be a good interpretation. So, we are clearly talking about Nazareth, a village on a small hill halfway between the southern shores of the Sea of Galilee and the shores of the Mediterranean.  This is approximately 30 miles from Capernaum.

Quickly let me remind the reader that Jesus did spend most of his first two years in Bethlehem where he was born.  When King Herod sent the soldiers to kill the babies in that village, the family of Jesus escaped to Egypt and spent at most two years there and maybe only several months.  This makes Jesus somewhere between 4 years old and 2 years old when they move back to Joseph and Mary’s home in Nazareth.  Jesus grows up there and doesn’t begin his ministry until he is about 30 years old.  This gives Jesus 26-28 years of history with the people in this story, it is his hometown.

Let me also state that Luke 4:16-30 is a parallel passage (telling the same story) and it gives us much more detail about this event than Mark does.  So, I will refer to Luke’s passage quite a bit throughout this sermon.

We are told that Jesus goes to the synagogue in Nazareth on the Sabbath.  This was the gathering day, but it is tough to say how many were there that day.  Although we do not know the population of Nazareth at this time, we do know that it was not a large city.  It was a service community for the nearby provincial capital named Sepphoris.

Mark only tells us that Jesus teaches, but does not give any detail on what he said.  Luke 4 gives us some of the details here.  Either Jesus volunteers to read or he is asked to read.  They would have heard stories and rumors of the kinds of things that Jesus had been doing over in the Galilee.  Apparently they hand him the scroll of Isaiah and he opens it to the part that we call chapter 61 and he reads the opening lines.  Here is the passage:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,”

At this point Jesus hands the scroll back and sits down.  With every eye looking at him, he then states, ““Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  It seems likely that he had taught some on the passage before he sits down because it says they were astonished at his teaching and wisdom.  Of course that last statement is the clincher.  Who does Jesus think he is?

For our purposes, it is interesting to note that Jesus cuts off his quote in mid-sentence.  The verse at the end states, “To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God.”  Jesus had come to offer grace to God’s people and ultimately to the whole world.  This part of the passage wasn’t being fulfilled that day.  No, this was a day of grace and Jesus had come to offer God’s peace to whosoever would take hold of it.

We should also note that Isaiah contrasts the acceptable year of the Lord (or the year of his favor) with the day of his vengeance.   All throughout Scripture, it emphasizes the grace of God lasting a long time and the wrath or vengeance of God being short.  Ultimately God is far more gracious than his is wrathful.  In fact, the wrath is proportionally very small.  The world has had almost 2,000 years of God’s grace and withholding of the judgment of the nations.  During this time, he has offered peace to all people.  We must not take God’s grace for granted.  He gives us grace because he is good and he offers it for a long time because he is good, but eventually he will judge because he is good.

The astonishment of the people is expressed in a series of questions.  Where did he get this wisdom to teach and this ability to do powerful works (healing, exorcisms, etc.)?  Isn’t this the carpenter who is the son of Mary?  (Note:  It is here that we are told that Jesus definitely learned Joseph’s trade and had practiced it until he was 30 and began to minister).  They also mention his brothers (they would be half-brothers) James, Joses, Judas, and Simon.  Plus, it mentions “sisters” plural, so we know that there are at least two of them.  To me, this passage throws a wet blanket on the idea that Jesus did miracles throughout his childhood.  They are astonished at what they hear about him.  Behind all of these questions is the idea that Jesus is just another person from Nazareth.  He seems too common to be something as great as the Messiah.

We are told that they are “offended” by Jesus (end of verse 3).  This does not mean that Jesus was being insensitive and hurt their feelings.  The word means to be made to stumble.  This is meant metaphorically.  God had sent Jesus for Israel and the whole world to embrace as the Messiah, Lord and Savior.  Yet, they are rejecting this decree because they can’t conceive of this local boy becoming something great.  They are caused to stumble by their own stubbornness and unwillingness to accept what Jesus was.  We can see this same principle when a person changes from a bad life, and yet, people continue to hold their past against them.  God has given them the thing, for which they have been praying, but it doesn’t fit their preconceived notions and so they stumble over him.  He is the stumbling stone. 

He is rejected by his hometown

In Mark we have a proverb that Jesus quotes.  However, Luke adds another proverb previous to it.  Jesus sees their incredulous looks and responds by saying, “Surely you will say this proverb to me, ‘Physician, heal yourself.  Whatever you have done in Capernaum, do here in your hometown.’”  This may sound like people were open to believing, but it is not coming from such a place.  Rather, it is coming from a skeptical, unbelieving attitude.  Instead of saying that they believe and want to be healed, it is more like “show us what you got.”

Jesus then reminds them that a prophet generally is not honored in his own town, among his relatives, and in his own home.  No doubt the brothers of Jesus were there that day.  They were probably in their 20’s and late teens.  We know that they were just as resistant to this new, older brother of theirs as the towns people were.  Luke adds some further dialogue.  Jesus reminds them that there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah the prophet, but he was sent to a widow in Zarephath of Sidon in Lebanon.  He also reminds them that there were many lepers in Israel during the days of Elisha the prophet, and yet only Namaan the Syrian general was cleansed.  Both examples beg the question.  Why were these gentiles healed and not the Israelites?  His implication is that the problem back then is the same problem now.  In the days of Elijah and Elisha, the wicked king Ahab and his wicked queen Jezebel were leading the people to worship the foreign god Baal.  People had quit believing in Yahweh, the God of Israel.    They refused to worship and serve the God of Israel and so they went after idols of their own making and the gods of the nations around them.  Nazareth was going to miss out, not because God didn’t care and didn’t provide, but because they would not believe and receive Jesus as God’s answer for them.

We are then told by Mark that Jesus was unable to do miracles, other than healing a couple of sick people because of their unbelief.  This statement is made after the fact and is a general statement, so it is unclear when Jesus healed these people.  It doesn’t seem likely that a whole bunch of sick people came forward to be healed, but when Jesus prayed for them, only two were healed.  More likely, Jesus offered to heal people and only two came forward.  The key is that they do not believe as a whole.  This unbelief is not because there is no evidence, but rather it is in the face of the evidence.  They do not believe because they will not believe.  They cannot accept Jesus as Lord and Savior because they are too familiar with him.

Others today refuse to believe in Jesus because he is too gracious, or some because he is not gracious enough.  Some do not believe because he does not stroke their ego in the way that they believe it should be.  Some resist because he came in an age that was not nearly as enlightened as our age.  There are many more besides these.  Let me challenge you today.  Unbelief is powerful, but it is also easily conquered when we see the flimsy nature of the objections that we make and the things about Jesus that cause us to stumble.  Jesus is a challenge from God, a stumbling block to our flesh.  Will I let go of my pride and believe, or will I stumble?

Mark ends the story here with Jesus leaving and going to other villages to teach, but Luke tells us more.  There we find that the people became so filled with wrath that they rose up to push Jesus out of the city and off a cliff next to the town.  They were going to kill him, but it wasn’t the time.  We are simply told that Jesus passed through the middle of them and went his own way.  Were they paralyzed by the power of God in him?  Or, did he hide himself from them by the same power?  We are not told.  It is bad enough not to believe in Jesus.  This is much worse.  They are actively rejecting him and trying to remove him from before them.  You cannot run from Jesus.  God has set him before the whole world and demands a verdict from us.  Will you embrace him and live, or will you reject him and die?  I pray that you will choose life with me!

His Own audio

Tuesday
Aug252015

The Stone That Is Rejected

Luke 20:9-19.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on August 23, 2015.

The materials that are used in a building project are a critical factor.  If they are not of good quality they can affect the looks, durability, and especially the safety of the structure.  This is important because God has been building a structure Himself.  However, this structure is not made of wood or stones.  It is made out of people who put their faith in Jesus.  Yet, much like stones, they are being cut, shaped and placed next to other believers.  This structure becomes a living temple, both as individuals and as a group, in which the Spirit of God dwells.  Today we are going to see that our Lord, Jesus, is a critical stone in this structure.  If we are thinking of a rectangular building then Jesus is the critical foundation stone.  If we are thinking of a pyramid shape then he is the critical capstone.  Another critical stone in architecture can be seen in the keystone of an arch.  The center stone becomes the one thing that holds all the others up.  God has made Jesus the most critical part of this structure we can refer to as the Kingdom of God.  He is that one thing that holds all the others up.  When we reject the authority of Jesus, like the religious leaders of his day did, we do so to our own folly.  They were more interested in asserting and defending their own authority than to recognize the authority that God had given Jesus.

The Parable Of The Vineyard

In Luke 20 we are in the last week leading up to the cross.  Jesus is in the temple compound teaching daily.  The religious leaders have challenged the authority of Jesus to kick out the merchants.  Though Jesus turned them away with his own challenge regarding the authority of John the Baptist, in verse 9-19 he turns to the people and shares a parable that is intended to be heard by those leaders.

In this parable there is a vineyard that is owned by a certain man.  Jesus is clearly using Isaiah 5:1-7 as a background to this parable.  In that passage God tells Isaiah that Israel is like a vineyard that God planted to grow good grapes.  Yet, it kept producing wild grapes.  Thus the vineyard is not so much Israel as a national entity, but rather, the kingdom of God’s people who had been drawn together under His leading.  God’s purpose in drawing the children of Jacob into this kingdom was to bring forth good fruit.

In the story the vineyard is put in the charge of certain vinedressers, we will get to them in a bit.  At harvest time the owner would send servants to check on the fruitfulness of the vineyard and to bring back a sample of the fruit.  But these servants were beat and turned away by the vinedressers.  So who are these servants?  The servants are the prophets that God periodically sent to Israel to both check on the fruit and to instruct them on how to be more fruitful.  In 2 Chronicles 36:15-16 it is recorded, “And the Lord God of their fathers sent warnings to them by His messengers, rising up early and sending them, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place.  But they mocked the messengers of god, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, till there was no remedy.”  This testimony of how Israel rejected the prophets when they spoke is sad.  Notice that God uses the phrase, “rising up early,” of Himself.  It means that He was faithful and diligent to do a good job of trying to help them be fruitful.  This phrase is used by Jeremiah (the prophet that prophesied during the destruction of Jerusalem) 7 different times.  Although this parable only mentions the servants being beaten, we know from the Old Testament that many of them were put to death as well.

Finally the owner, God, reaches an impasse.  “What shall I do?”  We see here the perplexity and difficulty that God has with trying to help mankind.  No matter how faithful and diligent He is, we tend to reject Him and go after others.  So the owner determines to send his beloved son.  Surely they will respect the owner’s son.  Of course the Beloved Son is none other than Jesus.  Here we see that Jesus the Messiah is much more than another prophet (i.e. servant of God).  He is prophet, priest, and king.  He is the one ruler from whom all proper authority finds its authenticity.  Clearly the parable shows that this is a last resort option of the owner, God.

Now let’s deal with the vinedressers.  They are the leaders of Israel who have been given authority over the vineyard, but for the purpose of growing good grapes.  Yet, they have abused their authority.  Instead of pruning, irrigating, and fertilizing the vineyard, they had used it for their own purposes and for their own promotion.  So in the parable the vinedressers do not respect the owner’s son.  Instead they conspire to kill him in order to keep the vineyard for themselves.  Regardless of how they thought they would get away with it, this clearly demonstrates that Jesus knew they would kill him.  They rejected his authority and even more would seek to remove him.  In John 7:7 Jesus says to his brothers, “The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify of it that its works are evil.”  Though the religious leaders would justify their rejection of Jesus through pious and noble justifications, Jesus makes it clear the real reason they were rejecting him.  He exposed their wickedness.

Though the vinedressers have had their way with the servants of the owners and now with His Beloved Son, they will not get away with it.  What will God do?  God will judge Israel’s leaders and put the vineyard in the hands of others.  His purpose is not just to create a people, but to create a people who bear good fruit.  The religious leaders were content to just be a people.  But they didn’t fear God enough to recognize that it wasn’t good enough to just bear His Name.  They had to produce righteousness that was worthy of the character of God.  Yes, Israel as a nation is going to be destroyed, and in so doing, the political and religious leaders of Israel will lose their place in the vineyard.  Yet, there is still some good clusters of grapes (the faithful remnant).  The faithful believers who attached themselves to Jesus and who will produce good fruit, are plucked up and sent into the nations as a new group called the Church.  They are put under new vinedressers:  Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, and Pastors and Teachers.  Let me just pause to give warning to those of this age who are in positions of religious authority.  You have a duty before the owner of these people to exercise your authority in such a way as to increase the fruit of righteousness.  Just as God judged the religious leaders in Israel, so He will judge those who abuse their authority in His Church.  Do not be deceived, God will not be mocked for long until His judgment comes to bear on wicked leaders.

The Judgment Of The Priests And Elders

In Matthew’s account of this interaction (Mt. 21:43) it is clear that Jesus makes the parable very explicit.  He flat out states, “Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.”  Of course the religious leaders do not like this and respond with great incredulity and raging anger.  This categorical rejection of the idea that God would remove them from leadership and put others in charge shows that they are not interested in the proofs of the authority of Jesus.  They cannot even conceive of the idea that God would judge them.  In a sense they see this as blasphemy.  Be careful that you do not confuse statements against your actions as the same as statements against God.  In so doing you can blind yourself to the merciful attempts of God to turn you away from a wicked path.  Even today the idea that God might hold pastors and leaders of the Church accountable through judgment and removal is unthinkable to many.  In many places throughout the Church in the USA we are producing wild grapes and slapping a “God approves” sticker on it.  But this is folly. 

Jesus reminds the leaders of Psalm 118.  Now this is the same Psalm from which the people were quoting when they cried, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.  Hosannna!”  It is a messianic Psalm that is very interesting to read.  The same Psalm that blesses the coming of the messiah states, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.”  Jesus asks them what could it mean, but that the leaders would actually reject the very messiah that God was making the central stone in His work.  The Psalm also warns those who would stand against God’s plans.  They will be destroyed if they insist on standing against Him.  We can often be very blind to things in God’s Word because we can’t conceive of their possibility.  How we ought to humble ourselves and have enough respect of God to recognize that we have a place in His kingdom only by His grace.  If we eat up His grace and use it to produce sour grapes, will this be acceptable?  Of course, not.  God forgive us of using grace as a license for immorality and a license for using the Church for our own purposes.  The messiah was and still is today a stone that is rejected not just by the world, but also by many within the Church itself.

Jesus says that this rock will trip people up and grind others to powder.  This alludes to Isaiah chapter 8.  There we are told that the cornerstone of God (Jesus the messiah) would be a rock of offense.  The rock is first and foremost a stone of stumbling.  It is intended to cause those who are oblivious to their sin and looming judgment to trip over it.  Though they may injure themselves in the fall, they can at least now have their eyes opened and repent.  They can come to trust the ways of Jesus and not their own.  However, those who reject even this mercy will be ground into powder in a final judgment of God.  We see this in Daniel chapter 2 where the image that represents the kingdoms of this world is struck by the rock of God.  It grinds the kingdoms of this world to powder and fills the whole earth.  Let us recognize that God loves us too much to let us blindly walk in wickedness.  He is faithful to trip us up and try to get our attention.  But eventually judgment will fall on those who reject His attempts to get us to turn from our wicked ways and turn towards the truth of His Beloved Son.

There was no repentance in the souls of the religious leaders of that day.  Yes, there were a few like Nicodemus.  But, most of them hated what Jesus was, a blinding light exposing their wickedness.  They will go on to fulfill the words of the parable even while rejecting the truth of it.  The book of Revelation mentions 4 times that the people did not repent in the face of the increasing outpouring of God’s wrath.  God’s judgment always comes in birth pangs.  They are increasing in pain and closer together.  This is to give us fair warning and plenty of time to change.  Do you not see the birth pangs all around us today?  God has been faithful to send his servants and yet our nation has beat them and sent them away.  God has been faithful to give us warnings militarily, economically, and even in our weather.  But we still refuse to repent as a nation.  Friend, please recognize that this world has a sin problem.  Even when the truth is staring us in the face, we not only refuse to see it, but we also try to kill it out of anger and hatred.  The only way to save yourself from the coming judgment is to flee in faith to Jesus Christ.  Give your life to trusting Him and learning from Him how to please God.

stone rejected audio

Tuesday
Jun092015

The Kingdom of God

June 7, 2015-Luke 17:20-37

Today we have a portion of Scripture that deals with the Kingdom of God.  In the book of Daniel it was prophesied that God would establish a kingdom that would smash all the empires of this world into bits and fill the whole earth.  This promise and many others like it seemed to be a pipe dream to many in the first century.  The big question would be, “When is it really going to come?”  Even today, we have that same sense with the second coming of Jesus.  It is easy to let the question of “when” turn into cynicism that it is never going to happen.  In this passage Jesus gives us a key understanding to aid the believer’s faith and hope.  In essence he reveals that we are already participating in the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom of God is Already Here

Jesus is approached by the Pharisees regarding the question of when the Kingdom of God would come.  They knew that the prophets promised an anointed leader from God who would judge the nations of the world and lead Israel into a Kingdom of God.  This raising up of Israel under the banner of the Messiah was what a believer at that time was looking towards. Here is a man whom many are saying is the Messiah, and who has amazed them with his understanding of Scripture.  Thus they want to know what he thinks about the Kingdom.  The answer Jesus gives to the Pharisees is to basically tell them that the Kingdom of God is not a visible kingdom. 

They had defined God’s kingdom within a very narrow sense:  the messiah coming, judgment of the nations, and Israel raised to rule over the earth.  This had kept them from recognizing the very, real, but invisible, rule of God that existed already.  They were looking for signs that such things were about to happen.  The truth is, no matter how amazing Jesus was, there was no sign that he was going to judge the nations and rule over the world from Jerusalem.  Jesus tells them that the coming of the kingdom is not something that can be observed with the eyes.  Sure if you know what you are looking for you can recognize the Kingdom of God.  But this is precisely what their problem was.  The Kingdom of God is not like the kingdoms of this world.  It does not have a capital city with well defined borders, palaces and armies that can be seen in this world.  This is not the same as saying that God doesn’t have a real kingdom.  No, His kingdom is very real, but you won’t observe it with your eyes.

He then explains that the Kingdom of God is within the hearts of faithful believers.  The kingdom was already present in the lives of those who trusted God and followed Him.  Now it would be easy to see this as only referring to those who believed on Jesus.  However, I think his point is broader than that.  Even those prophets, who never saw Jesus, still believed on the promises of God and lived lives surrendered to the rule and authority of God.  They had experienced His kingdom within their hearts and had expressed it into the world they lived.  We see this same dynamic in the Lord’s Prayer.  Notice that it begins with recognition of God’s rule in heaven and praying for it to be the same on earth.  Such a prayer is surrendering one’s self to be a vehicle of it.  “Lord, rule in me first; so that your rule may be seen in this earth.”  The faithful have always prayed for and lived out the rule of God.  In that way they have always experienced the Kingdom of God.  Now this is not a denial that there will never be a day when there is an observable kingdom that rules over the nations of the earth.  Rather, it is the correcting of an error that sets us up for disappointment and unbelief.  If we always live as if God’s promised kingdom is way out there somewhere, we will grow weary.  But if we live every day knowing that God’s Kingdom is ruling within me and being expressed into my life, then I am only awaiting the next phase of that Kingdom.  If we see now as lacking, we will miss the experience of the very, real Kingdom of God in the now.  In fact we may miss out on the future Kingdom experience because our faith and hope gives out.  Recognizing God’s kingdom now readies us and strengthens us for his coming.  I am experiencing more than a down payment now.  I am experiencing the heart of what is to come, even though it isn’t obvious to the untrained eye.

Jesus Will Leave and then Come Back

In verse 22 Jesus turns towards his disciples and gives further understanding.  The Pharisees needed to quit looking ahead and enter into the Kingdom of God as it was then.  But the disciples were the ones who were entering into and experiencing the Kingdom of God through Jesus.  They could rightly look ahead, but needed understanding.  Part of that understanding was that Jesus was going to go away for a while and then later come back.  He says to them that the day will come when they will long for just one of the days of the son of man.  This future longing will not be satisfied, “you will not see it.”  This passage is an important balance to those who say that Jesus and his disciples expected him to come back in their lifetimes.  Here, Jesus points out a future longing that will not be satisfied.

He goes on to point out that in the midst of this longing for him to be physically with them, people would speculate about his coming.  “He is here, or He is there!”  In other passages this speculation is connected with false prophets, false teachers, and even false christs.  Matthew 24:23-24 says, “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it.  For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.”  People are never more vulnerable to shams and cons than when they want something badly.  This longing that should be in the heart of true believers will be plied upon by deceivers.  Jesus warns us not to trust any who claims to be the Christ, know when he is coming, or where he is.  There are many such examples today.  Those who point to some Christ figure who is already here but hasn’t shown himself yet, are charlatans.  Jesus points this out by telling us that his coming will be as obvious as lightning in the sky.  The coming of Christ will be no secret or invisible coming.  There is no time where he is on earth waiting for mankind to be ready for his revelation.  No. He will be revealed at his coming in an obvious and glorious way.

Yet, before he leaves, he must suffer rejection.  This is a small line in the context of the future coming kingdom.  But he speaks of the work of salvation on the cross and his victory over death in the resurrection.  The messiah must be rejected by this world and leave.  Thus the believers hope is place in the return of the rejected King.

The World Will Not Be Ready For His Coming

Starting in verse 26, Jesus gives two examples from the Old Testament to inform us.  The first has to do with Noah and the global judgment that came at that time.  Noah lived in a society that had been warned of God’s coming judgment, but had rejected it.  They had plunged headlong into a path of rebellion against God and His Word.  By Noah’s day, most people scoffed at the idea of a judgment.  Yet, God had given Noah specific instructions on how to avoid the coming judgment.  This is a picture of how God is dealing with this generation.  He will give the world plenty of warning and He will faithfully give instruction on how to avoid the coming judgment.  But only a few will take advantage and be saved.  The world will not be ready as a whole for the coming of Christ.  Instead it will be focused on enjoying life rather than escaping judgment.  The things Jesus mentions are not necessarily wrong.  The emphasis is not on the moral nature of the actions.  The emphasis is on the lack of wisdom.  They continue on with life in the midst of judgment being poured out on the earth.  A wise man looks ahead and prepares for the future.  The ancient world perished, not for lack of knowledge, but for lack of faith in God’s warning.  The cares of this world had pulled their hearts away from Him and choked out any faith.  They lived for the kingdom of man rather than the kingdom of God.  The believed only in the kingdom of man and held out no hope for the kingdom of God.

Next we are reminded of Lot.  The people of Sodom and Gomorrah had done the same thing.  Lot had continually warned them against the wicked things they were doing.  They pretty much had told him to shut his mouth.  Yet, on the day that Lot left Sodom, the judgment of God rained down upon them and they were caught off guard.  Again, this happens, not for lack of knowledge.  They just didn’t believe.

This is how it will be when Jesus returns.  God will pull out the righteous and rain down judgment upon a world that would rather serve its own kingdom rather than His.  Jesus refers to it as a day of the son of man being revealed.  His true glory and righteous judgment will be unveiled and made known to the world.  This is the same word that is the title of the book of Revelation.  A world that scoffs at a quaint idea of Jesus will get a rude awakening on that day, only too late. 

Starting in verse 31, Jesus gives several warnings to us as disciples, so that we will not experience the judgment of God.  He warns against attachment to the things of this world.  Our desire to save and hold on to the things of this world will jeopardize our salvation.  He then tells us to remember Lot’s wife.  She had done exactly this.  Even though she had the information on how to be saved, and even though she was in the middle of being physically saved from the judgment, her heart was still connected to Sodom.  Salvation is not about geography or biology, it is a matter of the heart.

Thus the day of Christ’s coming will be a day of separation.  It will separate the righteous from the wicked so that judgment will only fall upon the wicked.  Jesus gives several scenarios in which he reiterates that one person will be taken but another left.  Two people will be in bed, or two women grinding their grain, or two men in the field.  The point in these issues is not the ratio, but rather it is about the separation.  Many who are close in every respect will find that they are left while others are taken.

At this point the disciples as the question, “Where, Lord?”  In all likelihood they are wondering where the ones will be taken to.  However the answer of Jesus is clearly in reference to the judgment of the wicked.  So that poses the question to us, “Are the wicked those who are taken or are they the ones left?”  I believe that the two illustrations of Noah and Lot, which are the context of this statement, give us the answer.  In each case the righteous are taken out of the way so that the judgment coming will be upon the wicked.  It is also clear in Revelation that the judgments of God are poured out on the whole earth.  Thus the wicked would still be on the earth.  Jesus seems to disregard the concern for where the righteous are going to be taken and focuses upon where the judgment will fall.  Like a decaying body laying out in a field will be surrounded by the eagles that seek its flesh, so the wicked all across the world will find themselves unable to escape the circling judgment of God.

Friend, have you made sure that you will escape this judgment?  The only way of escape is to put your trust in Jesus and turn towards him as you leave your sins behind.  Make sure that your salvation is sure today.

Kingdom of God Audio

Tuesday
Sep162014

Consequences: Rejecting the Gospel

Today we will be looking at Luke 10:12-16.  Here Jesus points out the consequences of rejecting the Gospel.  In some ways we are a generation in rebellion against this principle of cause and effect.  We like it when it allows us to create new technology.  But we do not like it when it gets in the way of our sin.  Sin always has destructive consequences in your life, of which the ultimate one is eternal judgment.

Jesus had just finished telling his disciples how to deal with rejection.  They were to shake the dust off of their feet as evidence against that city and those people.  They had heard the gospel.  Now Jesus turns to speak to those cities regarding the consequences.  Do you recognize that our decisions and choices in life have many consequences, and that some of those may be eternal?  Yes, some choices are about small matters and have minimal consequences.  But, rejecting the gospel of Jesus has eternal consequences.  Thus Jesus warns them of the coming Day of Judgment.  Jesus uses a term translated as “woe.”  It is more a cry than it is a word.  It is used to simulate the cry that comes from a person who is receiving punishment or judgment.  Woe is coming upon this world, and woe to those who refuse to hear the truth.

The Greater Witness

Jesus points out that some people have receive a greater witness of the Truth of God than others.  Greater here can mean in content.  Some had received a testimony of the law and yet others had received the greater testimony of the Gospel.  Although the Gospel is in the Law it is there in seed form.  In the gospel we see those seeds as full grown and flourishing plants.  However, some have received greater witness in the sense of the person and power displayed.  Sodom did have a witness of righteousness in the person of Lot.  However, Lot did not do any miracles that we know of.  Yet, the people of Capernaum had Jesus and his disciples who came healing all who came to them and casting out any demons.  Thus Jesus says in verse 15 that Capernaum was “exalted to the heavens.”  Of all Israel this city had received the greatest portion of Christ’s ministry, not because they deserved it more, but because that is just how things happened.  Jesus stayed in the north because it was not his time yet and Jerusalem was too hostile towards him.  His own town did not really want him around either.  Thus the cities of the Sea of Galilee received a greater portion of God’s grace to that age.

Yet, all peoples will be held accountable for that witness that they did receive.  These cities are being used to represent those who lived within them.  Jesus is not just warning cities, but in actuality, those individuals who lived within them.  Though some have received more witness and some less, all had received enough to believe.  In the Gospel of John Jesus had said, “My sheep hear my voice.”  Those who are hungry for truth will drink of it when it is given, regardless of the amount.  This Day of Accountability comes in two ways.  Sodom had received a judgment from God in which the whole city was destroyed and disappeared from the face of the earth.  This represents an extreme judgment while one is alive upon the earth.  They are not always this extreme.  But, we often experience God’s judgment against sin throughout our lives in various ways.  Yet, Jesus speaks of a judgment upon Sodom that is future.  Here he refers to The Final Judgment that takes place at the end of this age.  It is a judgment that is after our death and has eternal consequences.  Jesus says that it will be more tolerable for Sodom at the Final Judgment than it will be for Capernaum.  How could this be?  It will be this way because Capernaum had received far more than Sodom and yet would still ultimately reject Christ.

Think of each of these ancient cities.  Sodom, Tyre and Sidon were all Gentile cities that had received clear and overwhelming judgments from God.  Each of them had received some witness of the truth, whether through the lives of the righteous, or warnings from prophets.  It was easy for Israel to look down upon these cities as wicked and doomed by God’s judgment.  But they couldn’t see the same problem within themselves.  Just like Sodom, Capernaum would be brought down to hades, or the grave.  Not only will the inhabitants die, but the city will be completely destroyed too. 

So what is a “more tolerable” judgment?  Jesus is not saying that they will get off without judgment.  The inhabitants of both Sodom and Capernaum will suffer judgment.  But those who had the greater witness will receive a greater judgment.  There are several verses within the New Testament that mention different degrees of punishment in hell.  We are given no details which has lead to the imagination of men to write books like Dante’s “Inferno.”  But, recognize that lesser punishment is no great hope.  It is the greater punishment that is meant to be a warning to Capernaum, Chorazin, and Bethsaida.  Though the degrees of punishment are not detailed they are presented as a matter of fact.  Here is one of them.  Luke 12:47-48.

“And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.  But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few.  For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.”

Thus, the key is to take full advantage of the truth and witness that God gives you.  No one will be held accountable for what they didn’t receive.  Sometimes we have the tendency to expect God to “prove” himself to us.  I will not believe unless God does such and such exactly to my specifications.  Be careful of such an attitude.  God has revealed himself to you in a way for which you will be accountable.  You can miss the blessing of that witness because it is not “great” enough.

Rejecting His Disciples Is Rejecting Jesus

Jesus ends this with the statement that his disciples represent him.  He has appointed and sent them.  Down through the ages this teaching has been passed down.  To reject these teachers was to reject Christ himself.  Now it is clear that not all who claim to represent Christ actually do.  They represent their own selfish motivations.  Yet, this is not an excuse to reject those who really do represent Christ.  We are fooling ourselves if we say that no one represents Jesus.  This is a warning to both Churches and to those who judge them.  It is a warning to both Christians and those who despise them.  We will be held accountable for what God has given us.  Lastly, Jesus is equated with the Father.  To reject Jesus is to reject God the Father.  Many say they serve God, but refuse to accept Jesus.  This is tragic because the Father sent Jesus.  Jesus is his plan.  He wants you to know that and is working to reveal that truth to you.  There is no other way.  Don’t use your devotion to God as a means of cloaking your rejection of Jesus because to reject Jesus is actually rejecting the Father himself.

Final Thoughts

America has received a great quantity and quality of God’s witness compared to many other places.  Will we not go through difficult things in this life and in the Final Judgment because of this?  Don’t harden your heart because you don’t think it is great enough.  In fact, many from places that have received far less witness are pressing into the Kingdom of God ahead of Americans.  We most certainly have judgments coming within this life at every level: individual, city, state, and the nation as a whole.  Unless we repent and turn in faith to Jesus it is unavoidable.  The warning signs are all around us and in fact we are already knee deep in it.  Yet, even now, if we will turn from our wicked ways and turn towards Jesus we can be saved.

God loves us and will be faithful to give us enough in order to believe.  Great miracles are no guarantee of faith.  Many have perished and gone on to judgment in spite of amazing miraculous things.  Look at the grace and truth He is pouring out to you even now and believe.

Consequences audio