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Entries in Repentance (15)

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

Thursday
Jan262017

The Heart of a Righteous Person 3

We apologize, but we do not have an audio for this week.  

Psalm 51:1-9.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on January 22, 2017.

We are going to look at the first half of Psalm 51 today, as we continue talking about the heart of a righteous person.  Here we see that the heart of a righteous person deals with its sin before God.  Of course, like anyone else, our flesh tries to avoid the issue of sin because it makes us uncomfortable.  However, at the end of the day, the righteous have learned that this is precisely the area that we must face if we are going to have freedom and joy. 

A unique thing to point out about the Psalms is that some of them have musical notations and statements that are not part of the Psalm, but give us information about it.  Thus, we are told that Psalm 51 was directed to the Chief Musician, but written by David.  More than this, we are also given the situation that led to David penning this Psalm, which is really a prayer.  “A Psalm of David when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.”  I think it would be good to take a few moments and remind ourselves of this situation.

In 2 Samuel 11 we are made aware of an amazing moral failure by David.  I do not say amazing because I cannot conceive of David sinning.  Rather, I say it is amazing because David has continuously stood strong against some very strong temptations: waiting patiently to be made king, showing restraint when he could have killed Saul, and refusing to reject God out of anger in difficult times.  David had weathered decades of difficulty, trusted in the Lord, and now was King of Israel.  More than this, God had blessed him and his armies were systematically subduing all the kingdoms around him.  At this point in his life, David begins to take it easy.  We are told that he, Israel’s most successful general, decided not to go to the battlefront that spring.  Instead, he stayed home.  One evening, while walking on his rooftop (think of a flat style roof), David sees a beautiful woman bathing.  This should have stopped right there.  But, David’s flesh began to leverage his power.  He inquires who the woman is and finds out that she is Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, who is one of David’s top 30 warriors and who had been with him in the wilderness times.  Again, it should have stopped there.  But David’s flesh keeps leveraging him.  He invites her to his place and they end up sleeping together.  David had committed adultery with the wife of one of his loyal friends.   To make matters worse, Bathsheba later sends word to David that she is pregnant.  Remember that her husband has been gone to the battlefield for a while.  David tries to cover his sin by requesting Uriah to be sent to the palace.  When Uriah arrives, David questions him about how everything is going and then tells him to go home for the evening.  His plan is that Uriah will take advantage of the opportunity and sleep with his wife.  This would cover up that Bathsheba had been unfaithful and would keep any further questioning leading to David.  Yet, we find that Uriah was a righteous man.  He refuses to go home and sleep with his wife, while his buddies are sleeping on the ground away from their wives.  So Uriah sleeps at the door of the palace.  David even gets him drunk, but Uriah still will not go home.  When David realizes that Uriah is not going to cover up his sin for him, he then changes plans.  He decides to send a note to Joab, his general, to have Uriah put at the front of the battle, and then to withdraw so that he will be killed.  Even worse, David has Uriah deliver his own death sentence.  Joab complies with David’s unlawful order and so Uriah is killed.  At this point David has been able to fix his problem.  But, he hasn’t really.  God speaks to the prophet Nathan and tells him what has happened.  Nathan then confronts the king.  David is guilty of adultery, deceit, betrayal, murder, giving unlawful orders, and pretending righteousness before the people (and much more).

We must understand that God will not allow us to get away with our sins.  We may be able to do so for a long time, but eventually we will be made to face them.  Righteous people are not people who have never sinned, or at some point were able to conquer sin.  They are not exalted people who are better than the rest of us.  They are people, just like you and I, who have learned to go to war against their own sin.  They are people who do not turn to pride and arrogance when they are confronted with their sin, but instead break down in repentance.  This is a righteous person.  So Psalm 51 is David’s prayer of repentance before God when he was rebuked by the prophet Nathan.

It repents of its sin

The word repentance literally means “to turn.”  When we repent we are turning away from our sin, and the path it is leading us down, and we are turning back towards God and His paths of righteousness.  Of course, this is difficult because we have sinned.  Yet, it must be done if we want to be alive spiritually.  It is only through repentance and the mercy of God that we are freed from the tyranny of sin.

In verse 1 David asks for mercy because he knows the character of God.  He knows that God is loving, kind, steadfast and unfailing in His care for mankind.  Yes, David has blown it completely.  But he has hope that God will forgive him.  We are not just talking about feelings that God has.  God doesn’t just have merciful feelings from time to time.  But, rather, God has proven Himself to have mercy as an integral part of His character.  Now, there is a difference between asking mercy when you are forced to do so, and to ask it when you are not forced.   It is interesting that in some ways God is forcing David to face his sin; there is judgment coming upon David.  Yet, in other ways, God is giving David room to respond.  Imagine if, when one sins, a policing angel from God immediately grabbed us and brought us into the heavenly court of God and we were judged there for our sin.  Of course, everyone would immediately plead mercy.  Instead, God gives us enough warning and confrontation to cause us to fear where our sin is taking us, and yet not so much that there is no room to make it right.  I say that because sins that are done in this life must be faced and dealt with in this life.  If you wait until you are brought before the judge upon your death, it will be too late to make your peace.  Through repentance we can approach the heavenly court before hand in order to deal with our sin.  This is what we see in this Psalm.  David begs for mercy.

He also acknowledges his sin, verse 3.  Yes, he had tried to hide for a while.  But in the end we find David humbling himself and acknowledging that he has sinned.  In fact, this is the reason he can hope that God will have mercy; because he acknowledges his sin.  God loves to give mercy, but He will not do so if a person refuses to acknowledge their sin.  It is through these actions of acknowledging sin and asking for mercy that God forgives and we are declared to be righteous by God.

It desires its relationship with God to be fixed

In verses 4-9 David moves from trying to be freed from his sin, to asking for his relationship with God to be made right.  You see it is good to repent out of fear of God’s punishment.  But it is even better to also want our relationship with Him healed.  David did not want to go through life without God’s presence in his life, and God’s approval upon him.  So how can this be fixed?

Though David is king of Israel, he still has a higher King over him, and that is God.  In verse 4 David says, “Against you, and you only, have I sinned.”  To our ears it sounds like David is minimizing what he did to others, like they don’t matter in some way.  What David actually is doing is recognizing that his sin was actually worse.  In other words, when he sinned against Bathsheba by inviting her to the palace and seducing her, he was even more sinning against God.  When he sinned against his friend Uriah by sleeping with his wife, it was if he had slept with God’s wife.  David is recognizing what we often fail to do when we sin against each other.  The next time you are tempted to yell at someone and mistreat them, ask yourself, “What if this was Jesus?”  It is easier to tell ourselves that what we are doing is not that big of a deal, or that the person we are sinning against is an even worse sinner than we are.  But in truth all sin is not just against each other, but even more, it is against God.  Let me make the point another way.  In Matthew 25 Jesus stated that when we help the hungry, poor, and naked, he treats it as if we did it unto him.  If this is true for the righteous things that we do, what about the unrighteous things we do?  When we mistreat one another, does not Jesus see it as if we did it unto him?  God is our judge and we will one day stand before Him to give account for our sins.  How could David ever be seen as righteous before God after what he had just done (not just to Uriah, but to God)?  How can a righteous judge forgive our sins without being seen as wicked himself?  He can do so because Jesus paid the price for the sins of “whosoever would believe on him” at the cross.  But the wicked who refuse to humble themselves, confess their sin, and ask for mercy, will receive none.

The real problem is not the outward things.  The real problem is what giving into sin has done to our heart and mind.  We have been twisted inside and only God can heal our heart and mind.  The real battle against sin must be fought in these areas of our life.  We can’t fix our own wicked heart.  We need God’s help.  Thus in verse 6 David recognizes that he needs God’s help and that God will give it (“You will make me to know wisdom”).  Only God can bring the light of His Truth into our minds that have been darkened by sin.  Nathan’s rebuke was a gift from God to David.  God was revealing to David that he would not be allowed to get away with this sin.  The whole Bible is filled with God’s wisdom for the hearts and minds that have been darkened by sin.  But we will have to humble ourselves to receive it.  We will have to let go of the sensual, earthly, demonic wisdom that led us into sin in the first place. 

Also notice that David talks about being cleansed.  Verse 2 says, “Wash me thoroughly…cleanse me from my sin.”  Verse 7 says, “Purge me…wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.”  This is a metaphor of dirt.  Sin is to our heart what dirt is to a clean garment.  It defiles our heart and mind with a layer of filth that will only become harder and harder to clean the longer we wait.  Thus the mind of a sexual addict, cannot just say, “I won’t do it again,” because their mind has been defiled.  There has to be an inner cleansing that is done as we repent before God and come into relationship with Him.  No mere words can accomplish this.  Only the Spirit of God can come into a heart and cleanse it from all unrighteousness.  When we have a clean relationship with God and there are no layers of sin between our heart and His, then we can know the joy and gladness that verse 8 is talking about.  David had lost his joy and gladness.  He knew that he was destroying his relationship with God and defiling his soul.  But he had been trapped by his lusts and bound in chains by his sin.  Only God could cleanse his heart.

Lastly, as we take the initiative to “deal” with our sin, God will deal with the part of our sin that we can’t.  I can confess my sins and ask for forgiveness.  But only God can remove them from me as far as the east is from the west.  Only God can throw my sins into the sea of forgetfulness and refuse to let them be brought against me in His courts.  In fact, David asks that they be “blotted out.”  This is the picture of the heavenly books that record the actions of every person.  Yes, our actions and even our thoughts are recorded in the books of heaven.  David knew that he had a lot of bad stuff recorded on those pages.  He begs that God would blot out his sins.  Again, the only way God can legally do this is if someone pays the price for them, and that is precisely what Jesus did at the cross.  God can acquit us.  Also, once the price of a crime has been paid for we cannot be tried for it again.  We will pick this up more next week as we look at the 2nd half of this psalm.

Hopefully this walk through David’s heart has encouraged you to not run from God and try to hide your sin.  All our attempts at hiding our sin is like Adam and Eve trying to hide their nakedness from God with fig-leaves.  The fig leaves will not last; they are only a temporary fix.  Also, the very wearing of them signals to God that we have sinned.  Quit dealing with sin your way.  Quit hiding it, and pretending that it is not that bad.  It will destroy you and any relationship you could have with God.  In the end you will stand before the judge and be found lacking, unless, of course, you humble yourself and cry out to God for mercy.  Let’s be a people who are clean before God by dealing with our sin this week.

Tuesday
Apr262016

Mocking the Messiah

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

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

Most People Mocked Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

But Some Believed On Jesus

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

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

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

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

Mocking Messiah audio

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