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Weekly Word

Entries in Sabbath (6)

Tuesday
Oct112016

Society under Siege: Neo-Pagan Green Movement

Genesis 1:27-28; 2:15; Mark 2:23-28.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on October 9, 2016. 

Our modern era is often presented as a very scientific, technologically advanced, and non-religious.  However, what is often missed is that there are many streams of spirituality that are thriving within this society besides Christianity.  A few of which are: Wiccans, Neo-Pagans, the New Age Movement, mediums and channelers, many Hindu/Buddhism influenced groups, Extraterrestrial groups.  Many of them have a view of history that sees a spiritual evolutionary leap coming ahead for mankind.  What is interesting about these groups is that they are tied in to a common view of the spiritual realm, which is the same view as the ancient pagan religions, and that is an All-Is-One spirituality.  Today, I am using the term Neo-Pagan in a very broad description to cover this resurgence of the old spiritual world view.

Our society is not getting less spiritual and becoming atheistic.  On the contrary society is only pushing certain spiritual ideas aside and grabbing onto others.  In this environment, the Christian world view has been put in the bull’s-eye of many of these groups.  Sometimes this is seen in an open clash of ideas.  But, other times it is hidden in the background slowly chipping away at the foundations of our society that are built upon a Christian world view.  We see this in the rise of environmentalist groups that have a neo-pagan world view.  They are actually a mixture of some very good ideas with a very bad world view.  These groups see the earth as a quasi-sentient consciousness that we need to be in harmony with along with the rest of the cosmos.  This should concern Christians because God reveals to us in the Bible that mankind is not headed towards a scientific atheism.  Rather, we are actually headed to a society that will worship a particular man as a god and surrender the control of the nations to him.

Man Should Care for the Earth

In Genesis 1:27-28 and 2:15 we find that God put mankind on the earth with a purpose, and part of that purpose was for mankind to care for the earth.  Let’s look at the descriptions that God uses in telling Adam what this purpose was.  At first He tells us to be fruitful.  At first look that could just be a metaphor for “multiplying.”  However, in light of what the rest of Scripture says about fruitfulness (especially Jesus), we should recognize that this fruitfulness goes beyond the population of humanity.  God made mankind to be fruitful in other ways as well: mentally, occupationally, and spiritually.  Man should express and live out the life-giving image of God.

God also tells mankind to fill the earth.  Thus the Garden of Eden was not just a fabulous prison.  God’s plan was for mankind to fill the whole earth.  That doesn’t mean we have to keep going until there is 1 person for every square foot of land.  But, neither does it support the idea that mankind shouldn’t touch most of the earth and the population should remain under 500 million, which is what many of the elites of the earth believe.

Another term that is used is that mankind should “subdue” the earth and “rule/take dominion” over the all of its creatures.  The term subdue is the idea of bringing something under your control.  Of course this has a negative connotation if you are talking about subduing a person.  But in this case we are talking about a planet that is in a wild condition.  The whole earth was not a paradise, only a portion.  God creates the earth in a wild state that has all the raw materials for mankind’s purpose, but would need to be brought under control.  In its wild state it would not be fully useful.  The Garden would then be a kind of template for mankind to expand as they multiplied.

We are not told to subdue the animals, but rather to rule over them.  Again, ruling itself can seem negative.  But the truth is that the real problem lies in how one rules and not that they do at all.  Our rule of the creatures should reflect the image of God and respect that they ultimately belong to Him.  Thus we should be good stewards of the earth and its creatures, just as God is good.

Lastly Adam is told to work and tend the Garden.  This fixed up area would be expanded and the fruitfulness was to be good for both man and creatures.  The work would then involve watching over the threats against the garden’s fruitfulness and the eventual expansion of it.  Notice that the Bible does not present the Earth as some kind of sacred space that mankind should not touch.  Yet, neither does it present the Earth as man’s to do with as he wishes without any accountability to the Creator.  We are to care for the earth and make it fruitful.

Although the Christian has a strong foundation for being staunchly concerned with the environment and keeping it fruitful, we arrive at it from a very different world view than these Neo-pagan, green groups.  To them mankind must make a spiritual connection to the Earth and the spiritual forces of the cosmos.  Although they would look at many things as evil, that is only a remnant of Christian thinking.  In truth, the Neo-pagan world view doesn’t believe in evil, only imbalance of actions.  Thus mankind is out of balance and needs to be brought back into balance.  If that takes actions that Christians would describe as evil, then so be it.  They would deny any existence of fallen spiritual beings that are deceiving mankind and even promote a seductive desire to connect with the enlightened spirits who have gone before us.  It is here that we see the insidious twisting of biblical truth.  Movies like Avatar use a false dichotomy to promote this new spiritualism.  So your two choices are a capitalistic, greedy company that destroys everything in order to get a rare, non-earth metal called Unobtainum on the one hand and an indigenous culture that lives in harmony with the planet and its creatures by plugging into them with a kind of mental, spiritual connection on the other hand.  Believing in right and wrong, that will be ultimately judged by the personal Creator who is both within and beyond that creation, is anathema to these groups.  Now let’s finish this study by looking at a passage in the Gospel of Mark concerning the Sabbath day.

Everything Needs Rest

In Mark 2:23-28 the word Sabbath literally means rest.  The most well known application of this was the one day of the week that Israel was supposed to refrain from working.  On that day they would enjoy rest and worship God.  Now, I am not preparing to teach that we should be following the Law of Moses.  However, we can gain wisdom from God’s commands in the past.  In this passage Jesus deals with a legalistic view of the Sabbath that existed in Israel at the time.  They had developed many nit picking laws of what you could or couldn’t do.  So the Pharisees accused the disciples of Jesus of  “harvesting” when they were simply walking through some fields and picked some heads off of the grain to eat.

Notice that Jesus does not quibble with their expanded definition of harvesting.  Rather he points out the true intention of the Sabbath Law or the spirit of the law.  The Pharisees had turned the day into a dictatorial overlord that the people had to satisfy at any cost.  It was man who must always yield and not the law regardless of the consequences.  Jesus points to the reality that God gave the law of Rest for the benefit of the people.  It was created in order to help us not put restrictions on us.  Thus we can learn the wisdom that it is not good for man to drive himself 24/7/365.  Physically he would breakdown, and spiritually he would see himself as his own source and go down a bad path.

Now this was also true for the land that they used to grow crops.  It needed a break as well.  Thus they were told to not work the land one year out of every seven.  They were to let the land rest.  If they would do this then God would bless them and their land would continue to be fruitful.  Thus God qualifies man’s subduing of the earth in order to make it fruitful, by also teaching us that it needs rest as we do.  When you couple this with man’s other purpose to image God in how he fulfills his purpose, you have two powerful restraints that God gives to the greed and wickedness that can infect that purpose.  In fact, isn’t this the sense of the modern business world?  There is practically no concept of rest and “this is enough.”  This driven, ungodly desire to keep squeezing more out of everything is not how we were designed to thrive.  This is partly why many turn back to the ancient pagan ideas of spirituality.  They know that there has to be something better than this perversion that we see today.  We were created to be in relationship with our Creator, and when we aren’t a vacuum is created in our hearts that haunts us until we try to fill it with something.

So what should we do?  In some ways technology and our increase in knowledge can either destroy us or help us.  We can do powerful things, more quickly than ever before.  However, it should be done in a way that honors God as the Creator and the Earth as His creation.  The leaders of the world today do not and will not honor the Creator.  Thus they will only use these tools to honor themselves, and the spiritual power that many of them are connecting to through the occult, and other spiritualistic means.  The baseline of this tragic choice is that the ancient pagan world view devalued mankind.  Christianity teaches that God has given mankind a great value and we must seek His help to fully realize it.  However, Neo-paganism devalues mankind to a place as just one of many animals that is causing the world to be out of balance.  This is why a baby seal garners more compassion than a baby in the womb.  The idea that the Earth would be better off if humans were eradicated, or at least subdued by the enlightened ones, comes from this world view.  We are in the middle of falling into the greatest slavery that mankind has ever known. How about you?  Have you found the rest that God has designed for you to have?  Are you growing to be like Him?  Are you fruitful in every way?  Turn back to the Creator and learn to rest in Him so that we can truly enjoy all that God has given to us to enjoy.

neo-pagan Audio

Tuesday
May032016

The Death and Burial of Jesus

Luke 23:44-56.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on May 1, 2016.

More than any other man, the death of Jesus has impacted the whole world.  In fact, it impacted even the heavens.  His death brings condemnation to the fallen angels and the wicked of the world that join with them in rebellion against God.  However, it also pays the price of our sins so that those who believe in Jesus can be saved from their judgment.  Thus Jesus told us that everything the Old Testament prophesied had to come to pass, even his own death.  It is easy to want to avoid the horrible aspect of the cross.  However, we must hear it and face the horror of what our own sin does.  My sin breathes death and destruction into my life and the life of those around me.  But, worse than that, my sin cost Jesus his life.  It is at the cross that we see the true horror of what we choose when we cast God’s way aside.  Praise God that the blood of Jesus breathes eternal life into those who entrust him with their lives and their spirits.

Jesus Dies On The Cross

Of course it is no shock that Jesus dies on the cross.  We have heard this for centuries.  Rather, it is what Jesus says and does while he is on the cross that is shocking and critical for us to pay close attention.

Luke points to two ominous signs and wonders that happened while Jesus was being crucified.  First darkness comes over the land from noon until 3:00 PM.  Jesus had been on the cross from some time after 9:00 AM.  The darkness itself would be spooky and cannot be explained by an eclipse.  The time of the lunar cycle is wrong (a full moon), and it lasts far too long to be a solar eclipse.  I am not saying that it is a completely supernatural darkness.  I am saying that something is going on that we do not know.  If you picture the average person watching this controversial execution, you would have to recognize that they would be somewhat freaked out at such a heavenly disturbance.  When the “lights go out,” we are easily scared.  Darkness is a symbol of evil.  This event would fill the average person with dread.  “Have we done the wrong thing?  Is God angry?”  Of course the power of spiritual darkness is exactly what Jesus had come to shatter.  God promises in his word that weeping may last through the night, but joy will come in the morning.

The second ominous sign is seen in an earthquake that tears the temple curtain in half.  Luke does not mention the earthquake, but we are told of this by the other Gospel authors.  Most likely the tearing of the temple curtain is caused by the earthquake.  What would this symbolize?  The curtain veiled the Holiest place where the Ark of the Covenant and the presence of God were.  It was pictured as his throne room.  Only the High Priest could go past this curtain and then only once a year.  God’s holiness could only be approached by one man, once a year.  This veil represents access to God.  God was beginning to remove the obstacles that kept mankind from approaching his throne for mercy and grace.  It represents an end to the old system.  The way to the Father has been once and for all opened up by Jesus.

It is important to recognize that most supernatural wonders in the Bible are not amazing solely because the event can’t be explained.  Earthquakes happen all the time, and they had seen the sky go dark before (however, probably not as often).  Rather, it is the coincidence of these wonders with the words of God’s prophets.  Thus it is not amazing that an infestation of frogs comes out of the Nile.  Rather, it is amazing that it happens at the warning of Moses.  The same is true with a darkness that came upon the land of Egypt as Moses challenged Pharaoh, “Let my people go!”  Thus it is ominous that the leaders are claiming that Jesus is a deceiver.  But, when he is being killed the sky is darkened and an earthquake hits the city.  A person experiencing all of this could not help but be scared by all the strange things that were happening.  “What have we done?”

Luke then tells us of the last statement of Jesus on the cross.  “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”  Before I deal with this, let me just say that John’s Gospel records another thing Jesus said right before he died, “It is finished!”    This phrase was used in the culture of that day to describe a bill that had been paid off.  It was equivalent to saying, “Paid in full.”  Thus, the work of paying for the sins of mankind had been completed by Jesus.  There was no more to be done, but die.  Thus, Jesus gives this final statement of committing his spirit to the Father.  It should be noted that these same words are recorded in Psalm 31, where David depicts his own dire straits and yet, his hope in God’s salvation.  Similar to his statement, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” Jesus draws our attention to a Psalm that helps us to understand what he is feeling and what is going on.  Even though Psalm 22 and Psalm 31 are not penned by Jesus, but rather by David, Jesus directs our attention to them.  Thus these Psalms take on deeper meaning when they are read in light of the predicament of Jesus.  Jesus was being attacked on every side, but he still trusted in the Father.  Perhaps that is why Jesus uses the term “My God” when he speaks of feeling forsaken, and why he uses the term “Father” when he stops trying to stay alive.  Yes, he felt abandoned, but at the end of the day, he trusted his father.  This statement is a statement of complete trust.  He puts his spirit into the hands of the Father to do with what he will.  So, every person who wants to follow Jesus is challenged to learn to trust the Father in the same way that Jesus did, completely and over the top of the feelings of our flesh.

Next Luke records some of the reactions of those who witnessed the crucifixion.  He tells us of a Roman centurion who is supervising the execution of Jesus.  He is amazed at how Jesus died and declares that he must have truly been a righteous man.  In Matthew and Mark we are told that the centurion also declared that surely Jesus was the Son of God.  This hardened soldier who had watched many men die, recognizes something different about Jesus and the ominous signs attending his death.  In it he is convinced that Jesus was innocent and the Son of God.

After this Luke turns to the crowd.  They are shocked and beat their breasts as they return to the city [beating the breast was a common sign of mourning].  Whether they are repentant or not will be proven by what they do later.  At least in this moment, a window is opened in their heart that something very bad has just happened.  There are times when God breaks open our crusted eyes and we recognize that our life is going the wrong direction.  We may beat our breast as we go to our house, but that is not what will change us or justify us before God.  It is not enough to be shocked into awareness by what God does.  We must go on to repent of our sin and put our trust in His way.  Otherwise, the moment will be lost and we will go on down the same path of sin.

Lastly, Luke tells us that some of the acquaintances of Jesus stood at a distance.  We have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating.  Those who were closest to Jesus before the cross were not the ones to take a stand with Jesus.  Rather it was a man who had been a criminal and another man who had been a Roman soldier.  Thus the words of Simeon that Mary was given back in Luke 2:34-35, while Jesus was only a baby, echo in our ears. “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against.  (Yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

This brings us to perhaps the greatest sign of all.  Jesus himself, who demonstrated no wickedness and did not curse those executing him, is a sign of the love of God.  As he hangs on a cross, bloodied and torn, he is a sign to mankind that God is willing to die in order that we might live.

Jesus Is Buried In A Tomb

It is nearing the Sabbath.  The Jewish day did not begin at midnight, but rather at the beginning of evening.  There was not much time to take the bodies down and dispatch of them.  So what would be done with the body of Jesus?  Criminals were usually tossed aside and left for the birds to pick clean.  Yet, Luke tells us that a member of the Sanhedrin, named Joseph of Arimathea, goes to Pilate and asks for the body.  This is a man who is similar to Nicodemus in John 3.  They were both members of the high council and secret followers of Jesus.  Though they objected to the decision to push for the execution of Jesus, they were careful to keep their distance, until now.  We are told that Joseph was a good and just man who was waiting for the Kingdom of God.  This was supposed to be the description of all the religious leaders and one that they would all lay claim to.  However, is was only true of a few.  Too often, while we are waiting for God and his plan, our hearts can become hard and we can forge our own way.  This is true whether you are a believer in Jesus or not.  Am I really waiting for the promises of Jesus?  Or, have I become busy forging my own way.  What Jesus was doing threatened all that the Pharisees had built up.  Thus they put him to death in order to protect that which they could not keep.  This seems to be the situation today.  Many religious people cling to things that they have built and in the scramble to keep those things they can destroy the very faith in God that they claim to have.  Beware, waiting on God is not easy nor is it for the faint of heart.

Joseph and Nicodemus prepared the body and put it in a fresh tomb that was nearby.  This was a tomb that had been cut out of the rock.  It was not normal to bury a criminal, but Jesus was not a criminal.  The reference to the Preparation day has to do with the Sabbath.  God had commanded Israel not to work on the Sabbath, even to prepare a meal.  Thus, the day before became a day of preparing extra food and the things that would be need for the next day.  As the body of Jesus is put into the tomb we can hear his words from John 12:24, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.”  They go forth weeping as they sow the seed of the body of Jesus, but they will doubtless come again rejoicing as God raises up a harvest from this act.  There are many times in life that doing the right thing (obeying God’s Word) seems to kill the hopes that we have.  In those moments we can be like Joseph and Nicodemus putting into a sealed tomb all that we have lost.  Yet, put your trust in God.  He will not leave you nor forsake you.

Lastly, Luke records that they rested because it was the Sabbath.  Yes, on the surface this is just a part of the details.  However, it sets up an interesting picture.  The work of Jesus on the cross, and the work of his disciples to put him in the tomb, ends with them resting on the Sabbath.  Whether Luke does so purposefully or not, this parallels the Genesis 1 account.  When God finishes creation he enters into a time of rest.  So, Jesus finishes creating our salvation and enters into a time of rest.  Even after his resurrection this time of rest continues.  He ascends into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father.  It pictures Jesus as beginning a new creation by his own death and resurrection, and providing for his people a new place of rest.  Today, we can experience the spiritual side of this new creation and also enter into a spiritual rest.  We are not called to a life of slavery to commands in order to be saved.  Rather we are set free by the grace of God so that we can live for him out of love and not threat.  Even this spiritual life affects our natural life from day to day.  However, we must recognize that all things on earth and in the heavens are destined to be recreated.  Thus we have a picture of the followers of Jesus resting from their labors and living a life of worship to him as they wait for what he has promised to do for them.  This is what it means to be a Christian today. We rest in the grace of Jesus, and live a life of worship to him, as we wait for his Second Coming.  Let us run the race with all our hearts in such a way.

Death and Burial Audio

Tuesday
Mar102015

Invitation to a Supper

Today we will be looking at Luke 14:1-14.

The setting of our passage today is a Sabbath meal to which Jesus has been invited by a high-ranking Pharisee in Israel.  This is going to give rise to several teachings by Jesus that we will look at over the next several weeks.  This supper will give rise to the wonderful truth that God is inviting us to participate in a marriage supper that He is preparing for His Son.  However, in this case, God allows us to participate in our own invitation.  He in a sense invites everyone who will believe upon His Son, what he taught, what he foretold, and what he accomplished.  Thus only those who properly respond to the open invitation are allowed in to the meal.  In fact, we could say that the presence of Jesus within Israel was technically a wedding feast that went horribly awry.

Legalism Binds Us

As we look at the passage we are at the meal where Jesus sits with a ruling Pharisee and all the others he has invited.  Now the problem with the Pharisees was that they were very legalistic.  They focused upon the letter of the law to the exclusion of the spirit of the Law.  When we are focused upon the letter of the law we really want to know what we can get away with and what we can’t.  It is not about wanting to please God, but rather about wanting to please self without getting in trouble.  However, when we ask ourselves why God gave a certain law, we are drawn into His heart and purposes.  Legalism tends to bind us to things that actually run counter to the purposes and the heart of God.  In fact several are on display at this meal.

First, legalism bound them to looking at each other wrongly.  It says in verse one that they watched him closely.  Now it is not wrong to watch our brother if we are doing it in a humble way that serves him.  We would normally call this “watching out” for our brother.  But legalism binds us to watching our brother for the sole purpose of finding fault.  God wants us to watch each other’s back rather than become nit-pickers.  Most legalists have forgotten that they not only were sinners but are still sinners in need of God’s grace.  Yet, there is one caution here.  It is common today to believe that anyone who points out a problem in our life is being mean-spirited and a legalist.  This is not true.  A true brother will not only watch his brother’s back, but also warn him about pitfalls in front of him.  The legalist does this because they take joy in putting you down a peg or too (i.e. raising themselves).  But the true brother does this because they don’t want to see you killed.  Even then, a true brother realizes that they are not their brother’s Lord.  They will remain humble and stand beside you not over you.

Legalism also binds us to misunderstandings about God’s purposes.  It just happens that a man who has dropsy (a condition where the body is swollen with fluid) is sat across from Jesus on the Sabbath.  Now we know why they were watching him like a hawk.  This meal was a set-up in order to find fault with Jesus.   You see, the Pharisees had developed an interpretation of the Sabbath laws that saw healing as a form of work.  I’ve talked about this in greater depth before.  They saw the Sabbath primarily as a restriction upon us.  Thus it was a bleak and difficult day in which we couldn’t enjoy a lot of good things.  However, God did not give the Sabbath to restrict man.  The word Sabbath means rest.  God wanted his people to quit being driven seven days a week as if they had no hope in God.  The Sabbath was supposed to be a day of rest and “smelling the roses.”  It was a day to gather with friends and family, and give glory to God for His great benefits.  It was about declaring God as our ultimate source rather than our own hand.  Thus God’s purpose was not to prevent us or restrict us from helping each other when one was sick or in need.  But, the Pharisees couldn’t see this.

Legalism also binds us to treating one another as less than human (in fact, less than animal).  After Jesus boldly heals the man of his condition and sends him away, he then challenges them.  If they had a donkey or ox fall into a pit on the Sabbath, every one of them would “work” to pull it out.  But they wouldn’t do a similar thing for this man.  Whenever you see people being treated as animals or especially less than animals, you know that the enemy of mankind has been at work twisting the minds of those involved.  Today we have become a people who will obsess over the death of certain animals and yet not blink an eye at the murder of countless unborn babies.  This dehumanizing of groups is the mode of operation of the devil and those who listen to him.

Humble Yourself Before God And Man

They had been watching him like a hawk.  However, Jesus had been watching them and gives a parable to point out a fault with those who were seated with him at the table: pride and self-exaltation.  He warns those who are invited to a meal not to try and sit in the highest place.  No doubt there had been much jockeying going on before the meal.  Self-promotion and ambition are powerful traits that enable us to succeed in many things.  However, they lead us to promote ourselves beyond what God has given to us.  It knows no bounds and will often come in conflict with God.  Clearly our attempts to curry favor with the rulers and those with power in this life can reap benefits.  But in the end this mentality leads us into gross sin.  One more honorable than us may have been invited and we will be asked to move down to a lesser seat.  Now that would be a humiliating moment that most of them would seek to avoid at all cost.  Jesus is “the one more honorable.”  Even though the host of that meal may have not recognized Jesus, God the Father does.  Ultimately he is the one having a great supper.  Jesus is the groom who has come to the wedding feast of his bride.  Yet, the Pharisees and their followers wanted to sit in the seat that belonged to Him.  Now that was fine and all before he came.  Someone had to lead.  Yet, now that he arrived, they should have been stumbling over themselves to give the seat to him.  Even worse they seek to put him to death so that their seat will never be threatened again.  When you walk in pride you ultimately offend those with greater honor than you.  In the end you will receive the fruit of pride, destruction.

There is a day coming when the host, God, is going to manifest to the world that Jesus is the one more honorable- the One to Whom the seat of power belongs.  God will render a decision.  Sometimes He settles things in this life.  But do not be deceived, He will settle it in the Age to come.  Our proper place will be established and woe to the person who has kicked against his proper place.  Instead, be humble in this life and let God promote you, so that at the judgment you will have nothing to fear.

Bless Those Who Cannot Bless You Back

Jesus then turns to rebuke the ruling Pharisee who was hosting the meal.  The previous fault focused on what we shouldn’t do, but this fault is couched in terms that encourage us to what we should do.  When you have a meal don’t invite those who can pay you back in some way (social prestige, invite you over to their place, business contacts, etc.).  It is spiritually smarter to invite people who cannot help you back in any way.  Bless people with a mean who cannot bless you back.  Instead of worrying about our position and using our good to increase that position, we should use those good to bless others, period.  Which raises a question, who do we tend to bless?  Eating with others is a social act which strengthens our bonds together and so we tend to invite friends and family.  Jesus warns us to beware this tendency.  Now we shouldn’t be legalistic with this statement.  Yes, we should obey Jesus.  But it is not his purpose to rebuke a family from eating together.  Rather, this is a special meal the Pharisee is throwing.  Jesus is not making a law that we can never invite friends over.  Rather, he is giving us wisdom about how we should live in light of the judgment that is coming.  Whom are you seeking to be blessed by?  If you seek to be blessed by people then all you do will be corrupted by it.  However, if you seek to be blessed by God, then you will learn to be a blessing to others especially when you get nothing out of it in this world.

Jesus mentions that he should invite the poor, maimed, lame and blind.  There are two levels to this instruction.  Believers are called to help those who are less fortunate in one way or another.  In Galatians 2:9-10 Paul recognizes that the “Pillars” of the church instructed him to remember the poor, “the very thing which [Paul] also was eager to do.”  In doing so, God becomes our reward.  Yet, this also has a spiritual parallel.  Jesus has come to heal those who are spiritually poor, maimed, lame, and blind.  Too often we are trying to reach the rich and famous of the world to join our church at the expense of those who do not appeal to us.  This comes from the spirit of pride and self-ambition.  But when we are humble before God and our fellow man, we serve regardless of the station of another.

Ask yourself the question, “Am I seeking to be blessed by men or God?”  Men can reward you, but they can also make you pay.  But God has a reward for those who live this life in service to Him.  To serve Him is to serve one another in His name.  The humble person knows that the only sure reward and the only sure position is that which God gives.  All else is simply grasping after the wind, here today and gone tomorrow.  Are you able to say with Job, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord!”? 

 

Invitation to supper audio

Tuesday
Feb102015

You are Loosed

Today we will look at Luke 13:10-17.

In this passage we have a remarkable healing performed by Jesus and yet, we also have a remarkable objection that is made at the same time.  Over the last 2,000 years precious little has changed.  The Gospel of Christ is still making an impact upon this old world and yet, many make illogical and hypocritical attacks against the work of Christ.  As a Christian, we need to be confident in our connection to that man who walked this planet 2 millennia ago.  We need to recognize that our faith exists today because of the work and message of Jesus.  We are part of the work of God.  That said, we also need to remain humble in the realization that we can allow a wayward heart to disconnect us from the work of God and the True Jesus Christ.  This very dynamic will be on display in today’s passage.

A Woman Is Set Free

We see that Jesus was teaching in a synagogue.  We are told the location.  As Jesus taught he saw a woman who had an obvious physical condition.  We will talk about that more in a minute.  However, I must state that Jesus knows both the obvious conditions and the conditions that are not obvious; those ones that remain oblivious to others.  You need to see that Jesus knows your true condition, he has compassion for you, and he has the answer.

Now the condition of the woman is one in which she was bent over in half and could not straighten her back.  It sounds somewhat different than scoliosis, but some debilitating disease had racked her body into a painful shape for the past 18 years.  Just pause for a moment and imagine this happening to you and lasting for 18 years. 

We are also told that the underlying cause to this condition is a “spirit of infirmity.”  Now this is an interesting statement.  First, it clearly points out spiritual activity as the source or cause of the problem.  It is easy in our modern age to scoff and declare that we know it wasn’t a spirit, but rather a virus of some sort.  However, the Bible does not treat sickness as some evil magic by the spirits.  It is only in some cases that we are told either demonic possession or spiritual activity was at work.  Many other cases do not mention or imply any spiritual activity.  If the God of heaven, who is Spirit, could cause matter to come into being at his command, is it not possible that spirits can affect the physical in one way or another?  This is the revelation of the Bible; some physical things have an underlying spiritual cause.  It is also interesting that it does not say the woman is possessed.  There is no interaction with the “spirit” and neither is there an exorcism.  She is not told after the healing, “Go and sin no more…or something worse may come upon you.”  Is she suffering the same way that Job had suffered?  Yes, demonic possession can manifest itself through physical disease.  But, Job was not possessed.  In his case we are told that Satan caused all the problems, even the physical boils.  So some spiritual activity is not so much about possession as it is about oppression.  I think that is the case with this woman.  For whatever reason, God has allowed a spirit to oppress her for the last 18 years.  Now not all sickness is caused by spirits.  However, regardless of the cause, believers are instructed to do the same thing.  We are to gather together and pray in faith for healing; even to the point of calling together the elders of the church and praying over one another.

Here we see that Jesus calls this woman out of the crowd in order to set her free from this affliction.  I have to think that the woman hoped Jesus could heal her that day and yet we see no evidence that she asked.  Rather, Jesus initiates this moment.  It is a joyous thing to know that we serve a God who is an initiator.  In fact, many fail to recognize that He is waiting for a response from them to what He has done in the person of Jesus Christ and the wave of disciples that have come from him.  No matter your need Jesus sees your situation and he has taken the initiative to provide for your healing.  He can set you free physically, emotionally, relationally, and most important spiritually.  Like this woman, we can become bound up by things that we need to be free from; both seen and unseen.  God desires freedom for you.  He did not create you to be bound up by such things.  2 Corinthians 3:17 states, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.”

Jesus touches the woman and says, “You are loosed.”  Her immediate ability to straighten up requires a bit of meditation.  This is huge.  Eighteen years of pain and suffering came to an end in an instant at the Word and Touch of Jesus.  This leads the woman to glorify God.  He is the proper object of our rejoicing.  Too much glorifying of man is going on among the body of Christ.  If God uses someone to help you in one way or another, give Him the glory.  Yes, we can give thanks to a person.  However, we can fall into idolatry when we give to a person what we really should give to God alone.  No man can heal in and of themselves.  They can only trust God and become a channel of His power and grace.  Our tendency to glorify the person is not good and leads to all manner of evil.

An Objection Is Made

In verse 14 we see that the ruler of the synagogue does not like what he is seeing.  It is ironic here that the straightening of a woman who was literally bent, leads to the ruler becoming bent out of shape metaphorically.  He becomes indignant over this situation.  You can tell a lot about a person by what they get angry over.  However, it would behoove us to pay attention to what makes us get mad.  Often we get mad about things we shouldn’t and sit complacently by near things we should be mad at.  When you get mad over little things, or over things that are actually good, it is a red flag that you need to recognize.  Otherwise, our anger will go unchecked and lead us into sin.

The objection he makes is that she is being healed on a Sabbath day in which there was not supposed to be any work done.  His argument is that healing is work.  Now this is a rather flimsy argument.  People could still breathe, speak, and touch one another on the Sabbath.  However, because a woman is able to stand straight at the word and touch of Jesus, it suddenly becomes “work.”  This is clearly a very strained interpretation of what the Old Testament required for the Sabbath observance.  In fact, if we were to call healing work, we might ask ourselves, “Who is really doing the work?”  Healing is the work of God by His Spirit.  Since He created the Sabbath, He is the one who defines “work” and what it is not.  Even then, God is not a slave to the Sabbath.  He is able to do what He wants on a day of rest that he made for humans.  Notice his argument.  There are 6 other days on which you can come and be healed.  So don’t come on the Sabbath.  It seems incredulous that this is his argument in light of the shocking healing that occurred—as if healing were actually happening on those other 6 days.  It is sad that instead of being amazed at the wonder of God’s miracle, he is stretching himself out to make an objection.  When our heart is not right we often “stretch” to make ludicrous objections to God and whomever He is working through.

We might also notice the passive-aggressive style the man employs.  Instead of rebuking Jesus, he stands up and rebukes the crowd.  This underhanded way of slamming Jesus without facing Him is not of God.  The passive-aggressive person has developed a bad habit of trying to make others feel like they are the problem.  They will throw a fit over things that are innocent or irrelevant simply because it isn’t how they wanted it to be.  But Jesus knew exactly how to deal with such a man; he takes him head on and unmasks his sin.

The Answer of Jesus To The Objection

How many years had such leaders ruled over the people of God without a rebuke from Him?  Throughout the Old Testament we are told that God had been faithful to send prophets to rebuke leaders and false prophets.  This would relieve the oppression that godly people would feel underneath of ungodly leaders.  Yet, until John the Baptist, Israel had gone 400 years without a prophet from God to publically check such leaders.  As difficult as it may be in such times, we need to learn to trust God and His seasons.  He works with groups and even individuals in seasons.  Today was a day of freedom for this synagogue.  Whether for spiritual things or for the material things of this world, God can be trust to deal with all things in His time.  Though I may suffer, I can suffer in a way that brings glory and honor to him.  Then I will be ready to participate in the day when he turns my sorrow into joy.  Another thing to remember is that it is important for us to be praying for His intervention.  This is part of growing to understand our need for God’s pure and yet merciful judgment. 

Jesus gives the decision of God against the leadership of this man.  He had probably made similar bully statements over the years.  And yet, this day, God rebukes him.  Jesus tells the man that he is a hypocrite.  He and those leaders throughout Israel who thought like him were steeped in hypocrisy.  Please remember that objections to what Jesus has done are generally masking hypocrisy in the heart of the objector.  Their rejection of Jesus, both his Words and his Deeds, come from a life of pretense.  We will either repent of our tendency towards pretense, or we will press on and reject Christ.  This man was a part of the people who had said they would follow the God of Moses and do everything that He commanded.  This man would say so, and yet here he rejects the very God who he pledged to follow.  How does this happen?  Is it possible today to reject what Jesus is doing all in the name of standing for Jesus?  How many leaders today are teaching people to ignore God’s Word and elevating a modern system of theology over the top of the Truth of God?  How many “Christians” will be led to make objections to True Christianity because they have been following a pretend Christ (or pretending to follow the true Christ)?  God will not let us remain so forever.  He will eventually bring the polarizing truth of His judgment.  In that day we will make our last choice of whose side we will be on; his or our own.

Jesus goes on to flesh out the man’s hypocrisy.  He points to the reality that animals needed to be and were watered on the Sabbath.  If it is permissible to break the Sabbath in order to minister to the physical needs of an animal, how much more is it permissible to minister to the needs of this woman who has been in need for 18 years?  More than that Jesus refers to her as a “daughter of Abraham.”  She is a believer and has a place in the promise of Abraham, but her brother objects to her being set free?  Now it is interesting today that many people have the same heart.  They have more compassion for an animal being killed than for a human baby being ripped out of the womb.  How insensitive have we become to the gross degree to which our ethical decisions display our hypocrisy?  May we wake up before it is too late and repent of such ways of thinking and return to the ways of God.

Now Jesus makes another point.  The way that he words the phrase in the original language emphasizes that the Sabbath is exactly the day on which she should be set free, and not on the others.  It is the most proper time.  This woman, who has had no rest from her suffering, while others around her were able to enjoy the Rest of God, needs rest.  Who will give it to her?  This life has a certain weariness to it.  It is a place of work and toil in the midst of difficulty and suffering.  Yet, in the midst of it, God wants to give us rest.  In some ways our life is a metaphor for these things.  Each day our bodies rest at night in order to be refreshed for the next day.  And yet, eventually we all come to the day of death in which our bodies rest forever.  Yet, this speaks to an eternal refreshing that God has for us.  Similarly, God refreshes us throughout this life in our spiritual walk.  Though we be weary we can find rest and refreshment in Him.  However, it is in the Resurrection and the Age to come that we will find our ultimate rest and refreshment. 

Let us hold fast to these things in faith.  Let us not grow weary in doing the good work that God has given us to do.  Let us not be bullied by the objections and commands of those who are hypocritical.  Rather, let us follow Jesus.  It is He who is making all things new.  The crowd that day was divided into those who were indignant at Jesus and those who rejoiced.  God is doing a good work today.  Many in this world are indignant at it.  But we can rejoice with Him in all that He is doing.  Those who are indignant will be put to shame, but those who rejoice will enter into His rest and be completely restored and healed.  The Truth of God will be made evident in That Day and the logic of those who stand against God will be clearly exposed and judged.  How respond to Christ and His work reveals much about our heart.

 

Loosed audio