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Entries in Witness (10)

Thursday
Jan122017

The Heart of a Righteous Person

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

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

They are moved to talk with God

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

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

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

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

They are moved to talk with men

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

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

They hold fast to the lessons learned

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

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

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

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

They are blessed by God

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

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

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

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

Heart of a righteous person audio

Tuesday
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

Tuesday
Sep092014

The Lord Needs Workers

Today we are going to look at Luke 10:1-11.  Here we have Jesus sending out some of his disciples to minister throughout Israel, just as he did at the beginning of chapter 9.  However, now he appoints a group beyond “The Twelve,” referred to as the Seventy.

Here we see that the need is greater than the 12 can do alone.  In fact it was and is greater than what these 70 can do.  However, we are shown the heart of God to reach the lost and his need of believers who will partner with Him to do that.

The Sending of the 70 Disciples

Now we notice that these 70 are being sent out in the same way that the 12 had been sent out earlier.  They are going in pairs and they are going to the cities of Israel.  Now, 70 is an important number.  Just as the 12 disciples correspond with the 12 tribes of Israel, so the 70 correspond with the 70 elders of Israel.  They become representative in the Kingdom of God of what the others were in the beginning of the Kingdom of Israel.  In Exodus 24 we are introduced to the 70 elders as they go with Moses and Aaron on the mountain and eat a meal before a heavenly vision of the throne of God.  We also see them again in Numbers 11 where God places a portion of the Holy Spirit upon them to help Moses in leading Israel.  Thus it is clear that Christ is using the numbers on purpose to point to the new work that God was doing through the godly remnant of Israel.

We are also told that these 70 disciples were appointed and sent by Jesus.  The word “appoint” here literally means to raise someone up to a position.  There was a large pool of believers that followed Jesus and yet he raised 70 up out of this larger group for a specific task.  They become second tier apostles or “sent ones” to minister for the Lord.

Their task focuses on preparing the way for Jesus.  Jesus would be coming to those cities and villages at some point.  The work of the 70 would wet the spiritual thirst of people for when that would happen.  Not all are called to be evangelists and pastors.  However, our interactions with others can prepare them for a visitation of the Spirit of the Lord.  Jesus no longer walks on this earth physically.  But His Spirit is moving throughout the earth in order to draw people to Jesus.  These visitations of the Spirit of God come and go.  We can cooperate with the Spirit to prepare people and to save them.  Paul refers to this as planting, watering, and harvesting.  All of these spiritual works are done by believers in Christ in cooperation with the Holy Spirit.

Jesus then points out the great need of workers in God’s Kingdom.  There are a large number of people to reach.  That doesn’t necessarily mean the majority.  Scripture is clear that the majority of the world will follow the wicked path to destruction.  But the narrow path that leads to life will be found by the minority.  Yet, this is not a set percentage.  In some places more or less will come to Christ.  We have testimonies of whole villages coming to believe in Christ and others where He is rejected.  Yet, the harvest is still large and will take a lot of workers; workers who are willing to sweat in order to bring it in.  Do we sometimes err in expecting people to harvest themselves?  It is our duty to go out and help people to come into the kingdom of God.  This is not a one moment thing.  It involves all the work that leads up to the day of harvest.  If our life is focused primarily on what we want in life, we will only give a half-hearted attempt at reaching the lost if any.  Thus Jesus points out the need for prayer.

Prayer is the place where God touches our heart.  We can’t pray for the harvest without being concerned for it.  The more we pray, the more the Lord will touch our heart.  Yes, prayer can be used to unload burdens.  But it can also be a place to pick up the burden that God has for those who are lost; the urgency to work hard to bring them in.

Instructions For Going

In verses 3 and 4, Jesus gives them instructions regarding their going.  They are to go as “lambs among wolves.”  This metaphor represents our spirit or demeanor among the lost.  We are going out into a den of wolves looking for lost sheep, and our tendency is to become like the wolves out of self-preservation.  Wolves are bloody, cruel, aggressive, and to be feared.  They will eat you up if you give them the chance.  However, lambs are peaceful, not aggressive, and definitely not feared.  They are the vulnerable ones.  What manner of spirit are we?

Jesus also sends these 70 without material provisions.  They are not to concern themselves with their material needs.  Rather, they are to depend upon God to provide.  Notice that it is clear that Jesus intends for their material needs to be met by those who receive the gospel from them.  We will talk more about being content with what is provided in the next point.  But, here the emphasis is upon trusting God.  This is not an endeavor that we can accomplish in our flesh.  We need the Lord to supply both our material needs and spiritual accomplishment.

He also tells them to “Greet no one.”  The concern here is to be one who is focused upon a specific task.  They are official representatives of the Kingdom of God.  The temptation to get distracted when responding to the task given is still with us today.  Many people who have started to go for the Lord have gotten distracted from the main purpose of reaching the lost.  In fact, some have gone so far as to be entangled in the cares of this world to the point of ship wrecking their faith.  We must keep a single eye upon this work.

Instructions For Ministering

Verses 5-11 detail the instructions for what to do when they reach the cities.  They are to approach the people of these cities as a giver of peace.  In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus had said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the Sons of God.”  Peace is a hallmark of God.  Where God’s Spirit is there will be peace.  Thus the ambassadors of Jesus are to be peaceful within their selves and to be givers of peace.  Yet, not all desire peace. There are wolves they will meet.  We must not have a fake peace that is quickly thrown aside when others reject us.  The peace of Christ went all the way to the cross.  Is your “peace” a mile wide and an inch thick?  Is it easily pierced and dissipated as the morning fog?  Jesus says that if your peace is rejected it will return to you.  By the act of rejection your peace is “thrown back in your face.”  They reject both words and actions.  Yet, it is our duty to “take our peace back” and move on in peace.

Jesus also points out their attitude towards what would be provided by those who received them.  They would be uniquely susceptible to certain temptations because they were taking no provisions with them.  Jesus tells them to receive whatever they are given.  In other words, don’t be picky.  Our concern must never be how great the provision is, whether in quantity or quality.  Our concern must only be upon the work of the Lord.  In truth, such provisions are given to God anyways.  The people who would bless them are doing so out of thankfulness for the work that God is doing through these “sent ones.”

Jesus also warns against moving from house to house.  This was a method of getting everyone’s best.  You stay at a house until they are no longer treating you royally and then you move to another home.  This is a fleshly motivation that is not to be followed.

Yet, the laborer is worthy of his hire.  When we labor to bring spiritual blessings to people it is only natural that they minister to our material needs.  I don’t need an expensive car and a multi-million dollar home.  But I do have need of shelter, clothing and food.  To have your eyes opened to the truth of your lost condition and yet the grace that God has for you is an amazing thing.  You are receiving the eternal effect of salvation.  Consider that in contrast to the temporary effect of a morsel of food.  Is this fraught with temptations and pitfalls?  You better believe it.  There are pitfalls for both the minister and the one being ministered to.  So Jesus warns them and us.

Ultimately they were to minister to those who received them, wherever that was at.  They were to heal the sick and to cast out demons.  They were to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.  It has come near to you.  Enter in by faith in Jesus Christ.

Even though some places would reject them, they were to focus on leaving behind a good witness.  The symbolic act of shaking the dust off of their feet was a way of saying, “I did my job and I leave this dirt as evidence that I was here.”  It is also a way of saying, “I will not let your rejection of Christ and scoffing of his ways cling to me.”  This symbolic act is a witness against them if they go into eternity without repenting.  Leaving is inevitable.  But what we do will either help them to salvation or condemn them.  They will be without excuse.

Let me close by encouraging us to respond to this mission that Christ shows us.  This mission to reach those who are lost with the Gospel has many temptations.  But if we listen to Christ we can do a job that he will rejoice in.  So that we may hear one day, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Lord Needs Workers audio

Tuesday
Jul222014

The Identity of Jesus II

On the heels of Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Messiah and the Son of the Living God, we have this event where three of the disciples actually see the divine glory of the Son of God shining through the humanity of Jesus.  It is one thing to believe that Jesus is divine, it is quite another to see what these men saw that day.  The apostle John refers to this when he says in John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”  The glory of Christ’s wisdom, healings, exorcisms, and control over nature come to its apex in this visual demonstration of the power of Christ called the Transfiguration.  Let’s look at the passage in Luke 9:28-36.

The True Glory of Jesus

It is somewhat difficult to comprehend exactly what it is to say that Jesus is both human and divine.  Of course the disciples came to the fuller understanding of just who Jesus was over time.  But they clearly proclaimed him as fully man and yet fully God.

What did this exactly look like?  Well in some ways Jesus looked and acted like a normal human.  He walked to places he wanted to get to.  He got hungry and tired.  He grew up like any other kid from an infant to an adult.  The utter humanity of Jesus made it hard for those who knew him from Nazareth to accept him as Messiah and Son of God.  His humanity was real and it clothed or cloaked the divine being that resided within.  Yet, he did amazing things that could not be explained as human whether then or now.  Jesus healed people on command and not just the trickery of lengthening someone’s leg.  He traveled the country side healing everyone who was brought to him.  He also commanded demons to leave possessed individuals and they came to their right mind.  He showed amazing command over nature, whether in multiplying the bread and the fish to feed the multitudes or commanding the storm to stop and it obeyed.  All of these things begged the question, “What sort of man is this?” 

Yet, this event becomes the apex of events, up to this point, that helped the disciples to see Jesus as more than a man.  Here the glory of Christ as the Son of God is allowed to shine through his humanity.  Our passage today describes several things regarding this glorious event.  First, the face of Jesus is “altered.”  In Matthew and Mark the greek word used is literally “metamorphosed” and means to change form.  Between these two words we see that the face of Jesus changed and yet it remained a face.  It was just different.  Another point is that his robe became brilliant white and actually cast light from Jesus.  If you picture how the mantle of a gas lamp glows you probably have the right picture.

I think it is important to recognize that in this instance Christ does not get rid of his humanity in order for his glory to be seen.  Rather, he allows his true glory to shine through his humanity.  Even today, Christ retains a glorified body that allows his divine glory to shine through.  The only difference is that this glorified body cannot die and does not grow old.  Luke mentions this in relation to the second coming of Christ in chapter 21:27, “They will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”  John glimpsed this again when Jesus appeared to him on Patmos in Revelation 1.  Sometimes we are tempted to think that we will not be glorious until we die and get rid of this body.  The truth is that the human body was designed to allow the glory of Christ to shine through it.  God is saving us both in body and in spirit.  Yes, greater glory lies ahead for us.  But God wants to “shine” through us gloriously today.

Now another component of this episode is that Moses and Elijah appear and speak with Jesus.  Of course the disciples would not know their identity at first and thus they are called men and then identified.  Why?  Some have pointed out that Moses and Elijah represent the Law and the Prophets.  Both of which pointed to the coming work of Jesus, the messiah.  Another thought is that Moses represents those who have died and are carried to glory (see Jude).  Whereas, Elijah represents those who are caught up and carried into glory.  Notice that Elijah and Moses are glorious as well.  They are probably shining as well because of their faith in Christ.  He has shared his glory with them.  Now this is a promise that is held out to believers throughout the Bible.  Daniel 12:3 says that, “those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.”  Yet, their main reason for being there is to speak with Jesus regarding the work of dying on the cross that Christ still had ahead of him.  Most likely this is an even that is revelatory for the disciples, but encouraging for the humanity of Jesus.  Now at verse 32 we sort of transition to the disciples.  So let’s look at their side of this.

The Disciples Witnessed His Glory

Clearly Jesus intended for these 3 (Peter, James, and John) to witness this spectacular event.  Later John would emphasize this in 1 John 1:2, “the Life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal Life which was with the Father and was manifested to us.”  Of course he is talking about Jesus.

It is interesting that this happens during a time of prayer.  Like the Garden of Gethsemane on the night he was betrayed, Jesus asks these three to spend time with him in prayer.  It is clear that they are not used to spending time in prayer as they have trouble staying awake.  Yet, they are awakened by the sudden appearance of the glory of Christ accompanied by two saints.  Now sleep is used in the bible as a metaphor for spiritual sluggishness and lack of alertness.  Thus prayer is continually connected to those who are awake and alert.  Perhaps this is a prophetic picture of Christ’s 2nd Coming.  Christ himself asked the question of whether or not he would find faith when he returned.  If the time was not shortened even the very elect would not be saved.  This idea that even faithful Christians would struggle with sleepiness in the last days leading up to Christ’s 2nd coming, is seen in the parable of the 10 virgins.  Yes, 5 were ready and 5 were not, but all of them were asleep.  It was the sudden announcement of the bridegroom’s presence that awakened them.  I believe that God helps us in the weaknesses of our flesh.  Just as Jesus put up with the disciples weakness in the flesh, so he knows our weakness as well.  Yet, the Spirit of the Lord will always be faithful to wake us up so that we do not miss out on the glory of Christ.

One of the important things about this event is that Jesus had previously told his disciples that some of them would see Him coming in his Kingdom before they died.  Here these 3 disciples are given a glimpse of what it will be like when the Son of Man returns with his holy ones, both angels and saints.  This glimpse is so powerful that Peter thinks it is happening for good.  But it wasn’t time yet for the Kingdom of God to be fully instituted here on earth.  I say not fully, because Jesus did start the Kingdom of God here on earth.  However, it is a spiritual kingdom in which Christ rules by his Spirit in the hearts of believers.  It is not a kingdom that is run by men and rules over the peoples of the earth.  Yet, the day is coming that Christ will return and complete the Kingdom of God on earth.  Peter’s desire to build three shelters for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, demonstrates what he thinks is happening.  They are here to stay and Jesus is ready to reveal his true glory to all the world.  Yet, the physical kingdom is to be delayed.  A time of spiritual harvest must happen first; a time where people are called by the Spirit of God to embrace the spiritual leadership of Jesus Christ in their lives.   As Peter is in the middle of announcing his plan for Jesus and the others, an ominous cloud not only comes over them, but is low enough that they “enter it.”  I believe that this is intended to be connected to the pillar of cloud that led Israel in the desert.  It only settled on the tabernacle and represented the presence of God.  A change is being seen here as Christ allows his disciples to enter into the cloud of God’s presence with him.  The voice of the Father once again announces to those who have ears to hear that Jesus is His beloved son and that they are to listen to him!  I am sure that Peter meant well, but these words are too cutting to miss.  Our flesh is always quick to try and jump in and do for God what we think He needs.  However, God instructs us to knock it off and just listen to Jesus.  He is the commander and the One with the plan.  We are to follow him and not what we envision for him.   Today, there are too many great leaders that are jumping in and telling the group what they need to do for Jesus without first asking the question, “What is Jesus telling us to do?”  It is easy to point to the general instructions of the Lord and then say that the details are up to us.  There is some truth in this.  However, like Joshua sending troops against Ai, we ought to stop from time to time and ask God if there is something that we are missing before we rush ahead.  Peter had a good intention, but rotten timing.  Satan is looking for such people who have good intentions but are not submitted to the leadership of Jesus.  They are easily received by others and easily manipulated by him.

Let me close by encouraging us to quit looking at our failures and weakness in the flesh and using that as an excuse for hanging back.  You were designed to shine forth the glory of Christ.  In this flesh we are not going to glow physically (unless it serves God’s purposes to do so).  But the glory of who Christ is and his wisdom can be seen in us if we will daily lay our flesh at his feet and ask for his help.  God is not surprised that we are weak and fleshly.  Christ came precisely because of this.  Thus let us throw off the excuses and fears and choose to follow him in every area of our life.  Instead of second guessing Jesus and his apostles, let us throw off those things that are hindering us and make the choice to surrender to his leadership.  It is he who is the cornerstone and it is he who set the apostles about him as a foundation for us today.  Quit these false distinctions that try to distinguish between things Paul said and what Jesus said.  These apostles were speaking at the direction of Christ and the Spirit of Christ.  When we reject them we are ultimately rejecting the Christ who commissioned and sent them.  Don’t be deceived.  God is not mocked.  He will not receive those who through clever sophistry develop arguments to redefine their sin as righteousness.  That is not the path of glory, but rather the path of destruction.  Let the glory of Christ shine through you today!

Identity Jesus II audio