Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Claim of Jesus the Christ

(This message was preached Wed eve, July 6th, 2016 at Heritage Baptist Church: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?sermonID=76162043496)


THESIS: To show how Christ’s ministry of healing was a proof that He had the authority to forgive men. 
Good Evening!

            Tonight I would like to look at Mark 2:1-12. Please follow along as I read, “And again he entered into Capernaum after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house. 2 And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them. 3 And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four. 4 And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee. 6 But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, 7 Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only? 8 And immediately, when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts? 9 Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk? 10 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,) 11 I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house. 12 And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion.”

It’s surprisingly been 4 months since I spoke to you and so I would like to remind you of two items, the theme of Mark, To Disclose or Unveil the Suffering Servant. And the key verse for the book is Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”  

Here is a brief rundown of the themes found in the prior 7 messages of Mark:



Passage

Title

   

1

Mark 1:1-8

The Witness of John the Baptist

John the Baptist and his preparing a people for the Christ.

2

Mark 1:9-11

The Baptism of Christ

 What does his baptism mean?

3

Mark 1:12-13

The Temptation of Christ

We considered the implications of the incarnation especially as it informs us in temptation

4

Mark 1:14-20

The Call of the Christ

 We considered the call of Christ upon a man

5

Mark 1:21-28

The Authority of Christ

What is this authority! (casting out demons)

6

Mark 1:29-39

The Galilean Ministry of Christ


7

Mark 1:40-45

The Christ that Cleanses

Leprosy is cleansed






Today we will be considering the claim of Jesus the Christ. Once again we are presented with a narrative & dialog. In some ways you might say that makes expositing Mark a simpler matter than say Matthew or Luke, with their long prescriptive lessons and parables. Here we simply analyze the activity and dialog. Nothing much to see here folks – no meaty doctrine, right?! 

Ah! Don’t be deceived! We have plenty to dine on – this is the Word of God, no matter where we open it. My thesis is to show how Christ’s ministry of healing was a proof that He had the authority to forgive men their sins. In looking at the authority of Christ we also will be considering what that authority looks like and from where it comes.

Let’s take a short list of the possible themes we could explore – Forgiveness of sin. The incarnation. Christ’s Healing ministry. Faith. The authority of Christ. On and on it goes. The possibilities aren’t endless – but they are so full and rich it would feel as though they were!

Why do we read of the many miracles of Christ? What were they for? Often we say they were signs – but signs of what? Today I hope to show once again the powerful truths wrapped up in Christ’s healing ministry. His ministry in Galilee was primarily involved in miracles of healing, exorcisms of demons and teaching the Word.

Recall with me the last healing – of a leper, was really the cleansing of a leper. Remember what happened? Mark 1:44-45 read, “See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. 45 But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places: and they came to him from every quarter.” So as we read that ‘it was noised that He was in the house’ we know what is going on. The crowds we immense!



We don’t know for sure what house he was in, but it doesn’t seem too outlandish to think he was in Peter & Andrews home, since that where he was in the previous chapter. And so thick was the crowd Christ was inaccessible to those outside the house. Many would not seek a way past so many. If you are a bit like me, I tend to avoid crowds! But not these men. They had a friend in need! And the 5 of them knew – they KNEW Christ not only could heal him – but would – if only they could get to Him! Do you think of the Lord this way? Many times we think to ourselves, ‘I know the Lord can help me’ – but not knowing the Lord as we ought, we don’t pursue him fervently! Oh – be a persistent believer – knowing the Lord loves you every bit! He will heal what is broken. He cares for the broken-hearted. He’s gentle to those with tender hearts.

So they break through the roof – an amazing thing to consider – but not more amazing than what we read in verse 5, “When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.” How does one see faith?! The verse is plain enough, and I really don’t think this was a divine eye – These men broke open the roof and got their friend into Christ’s presence – because of a faith they had – a faith seen in the activities they did to get him there! James tells us that if it is true faith it will be seen (James 2:18).  

What’s amazing is that Christ – seeing their faith – doesn’t heal the man! Instead he immediately forgives him his sins! The man hadn’t even gotten a word in edgewise – there was no dialog, “What would you have me do for you?” Christ looks at the man and knows his greatest need is not physical healing.

The greatest need of every man is forgiveness of sin! Too often we look at our circumstances of life. We think ourselves poor – if we have little in the bank account, or if we make minimum wage. We think if only we had better health we could do so much more. Christ looks at us, and says our circumstances are irrelevant! Consider what we read in Rev. 3:17, “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” Samuel tells us the Lord looks at the heart (1 Sam. 16:7) – and here that translates to a need for forgiven sin!

And it is at this point in our account that we get to the theological meat. The Scribes begin questioning, "Who can forgive sins but God alone?” The Scribes rightly stated the issue in that sin, being that offense particularly against God – could only be forgiven by the party offended. But they misunderstood the truth of who Christ was, and that as the offended party actually, he could forgive sin! The judged Christ’s statement as blasphemous – because to think otherwise would be to reckon Christ to be God – an idea so untenable to their minds it was shocking – this was a man seated before them!

William Luck says, “Jesus shows in this story that the preaching of the gospel primarily relates to the forgiveness of sins. Sometimes we make the gospel all about getting to heaven, where sin will ultimately be abolished. But Jesus knew that sin paralyzes people and needs to be dealt with in this life.
[1]

Let’s think about the logistics here. How is it easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you’? Warren Wiersbe tells us, “[I]t is easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven!” because nobody can prove whether or not the forgiveness really took place. So, to back up His words, Jesus immediately healed the man and sent him home.”[2] To put it another way, G. Coleman Luck states, “Their own eyes could observe the evidence so they could then also be sure that what they could not see—forgiveness of sins—had just as truly taken place.”[3]

Recall my thesis - To show how Christ’s ministry of healing was a proof that He had the authority to forgive men. This ought to be apparent enough for you and I. However, we are accustomed to a Trinitarian Godhead. We know that Jesus is God the Son. But for those who don’t know it, here is a proof. Christ had the authority to forgive sin, because he was the anointed One. Some time ago we looked at a passage in Isaiah. I’d like to recall that for you. Isaiah 61:1-2, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; Because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to them that are bound;2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord

Do you recall under what circumstance Christ read that text? We find it in Luke 4. He was in his home town of Nazareth and the scroll of Isaiah was given him to read. He read this portion and stated, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” And the resulting uproar was so great they tried to throw Him off the cliff of the city! Why? Because his claim was ‘I am Messiah.’ He was preaching the gospel, he was opening the eyes of the blind.  

Not only did he make the claim to Messiah in Nazareth but everywhere He went it was a clear proclamation of his deity. 

In our passage today we have another clue to such a claim. We read in verse 10, “But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins” Not only in the actions – but here we have this little phrase I’d like to acquaint you with. The Son of man. It is a very significant and much debated phrase as to its theological meaning.  

Warren Wiersbe again comments, “Jesus affirmed His deity not only by forgiving the man’s sins and healing his body, but also by applying to Himself the title “Son of man”…It was definitely a messianic title (Dan. 7:13–14) and the Jews would have interpreted it that way. Jesus used this title about eighty times in the Gospels.”
[4]

Let’s look at the Daniel passage briefly, “I saw in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. 14 And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.” I think Wiersbe is right on target about this being Messianic.  

 
The phrase is used in Ezekiel more frequently than any other place in the Scripture – and it is God’s title for the prophet himself. According to God, Ezekiel is a Son of man.  


But we see Jesus using this title nearly as much in the gospels and applying it to himself. In Ezekiel it is used 93 times for the prophet. In the Gospels 85 times. The emphasis is on humanity. Ezekiel was a prophet during the Exile, and he preached chiefly against Judah, Jerusalem, and Tyre. He also preached about the temple both as it was and as it will be in the future. He was God’s mouthpiece to humanity. He illustrated in very human ways the displeasure of God to the people.  
When Jesus applied the title to himself, it was to emphasize many of the same things. He was clearly showing his distinct ministry as a man to humanity. He was plainly a Prophet – he was God’s mouthpiece to men. Yet He was also demonstrating that he could represent men – And he went further than Ezekiel. Whereas Ezekiel preached and did as the Lord commanded – He still had limitations on his understanding. In the sermon on dry bones he is asked, “Can these bones live again, and he defers to the Lord – Only you know, oh Lord (Ezekiel 37:3). He goes only as far as that. But Christ time and time again, takes his humanity and extends to it a measure of deity. Look at the following examples:
  • Matt 12:8 For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.
  • Matt 16:13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Cesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
  • Matt 16:27-8 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels: and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.
Here we see Him ascribe the title the son of Man to himself after which we read of his being transfigured before them. The son of Man is transfigured. Think about this – Could God be transfigured? Perhaps this is a trick question, but I have to say no – God cannot be transfigured into what he already is, divine. But the son of Man can be – because his divine nature is veiled in flesh. And as the hymnwriter says, “veiled in flesh, the Godhead see, Hail the incarnate Deity” Only the son of Man could be transfigured – we might say – revealed, as to his divine nature. And remember Marks theme, but to unveil the suffering servant! We read in John 1:14, “And the Word was made 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.”
  • Matt 17:9 And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.
As they descended down the mount we see him apply to himself the phrase the son of Man – but this time he makes reference to his resurrection from the dead?! What – the son of Man is to die? How can this be? Let’s look into this further. Please turn to John 12:23-34. I’ll read verses 23 – 34:
Briefly noted:
Vs. 23 – The son of Man will be glorified. 
Vs. 24 – 26 Metaphors of how he is to be glorified, in death! 
Vs. 27 – 30 A voice from heaven, the testimony of the Almighty 
Vs. 31 – 33 Judgement for the devil.
Vs. 34 – Who is this son of Man?! 
Verse 34 again, “The people answered him, We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lift up? who is this Son of man?” Who is this Son of man indeed! They could understand his teaching that He would die – men die, but not if he was the Messiah – which He was plainly claiming, and which the Father was testifying to!
Lorraine Boettner, in his Studies in Theology quotes the Reverend Leonard Verduin of the Christian Reformed Church in his discussion of the son of Man. It very much helped me to sort out the usage of the term by Christ. “Now by common consent names are chosen to draw attention to that which is unique to the bearer. A boy with red hair will likely be called ‘Red’ or ‘Sandy.’ If he is unusually tall he will soon be called ‘Slim,” etc. Men are not named for that which is common but for that which is unique, uncommon. And in the mind of the eternal Son of God His own uniqueness lay not in his Deity – that He had in common with the Father and the Spirit. With them he shared His ubiquity, His eternity, His omniscience, etc. But the prospect of incarnation was His and His alone. Therein lay His uniqueness in the divine economy. Is it any wonder that in the heavenly society the name ‘Son of Man’ was invented and applied to this prospective visitor to earth and earth-men?”[5]
 

In Acts we read in the testimony of Stephen, of the son of Man who is standing at the right hand of God! This man! Clearly a man, but also clearly more than a man. But know this – He is a man, and that means he can be our man. He avails day and night on our behalf! Aren’t you blessed to know that man of Calvary – He can stand in your place on judgment day?! He bridges the gap from sinful humanity to holy God!

This man, the son of Man. Do you know him? That’s a good question to consider. But don’t only ask do I know him. Ask also – does he know me? Have you been introduced to this man? Make your hope in how he knows you. Be in the Word, be among God’s people. Learn of this man who died for the sins of his people. Call upon Him since He indeed cares for you!

Folks do you get this? We have a man, our advocate. He is seated at the right hand of the Father. He knows what it is to be weak. He knows what it is to be tired, to be hungry. He knows what real temptation is – in that He was tempted in all ways, yet without sin. He withstood the tempter, whereas we too often give in.

This man, who knows us better than we know ourselves, is our representative before the Father. Could we find a better one? Who could be our defense attorney better than the son of Man! He is the one with authority to not only heal a man, but represent us rightly before God, and still forgive us our sin! Does this comfort you? Are you not relieved? Are you able to breathe easier? Other men may try and help you, but they fail whereas Christ abides forever!

Look at the deliberate way he used the same phrase later in Mark 14:62, when answering the High priest under oath at his trial, “Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”

Do you see the close reference to the Daniel passage earlier read? Here we see a messianic reference – the right hand of power and a reference to the second coming. In His use of this phase it should be apparent the reference is to the authority He had, as Son of man, the anointed One, to not only heal, but also to forgive sin.

I’d like to finish with what John Gill has to say on the matter, “As there is an emphasis…on the phrase, the son of man, suggesting, that his being so was no contradiction to his deity, nor any hindrance to the exertion of his power; so there is another on those words, upon earth; intimating, that though he was upon earth, in a very low estate, in a state of humiliation, yet he had the same power to forgive sin as in heaven; his humbling himself in human nature did not strip him of his perfections, power, and prerogative as God: and if he had power on earth to forgive sin, there can be no room to doubt of it now he is in heaven
[6] What a blessing! We have a man – the son of Man!




[1] William F. Luck Sr., Mark: A Manual of Evangelism, 2011

[2] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 115.

[3] Sr. G. Coleman Luck, Luke: The Gospel of the Son of Man (Moody Press, 1970), 54.

[4] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 116.

[5] Loraine Boettner, Studies in Theology (The Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Company, 2005), 157.

[6] John Gill, An Exposition of the New Testament, vol. 1, The Baptist Commentary Series (London: Mathews and Leigh, 1809), 388–389.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Hating my father?


Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:25-27)

A very challenging passage indeed where one is told to hate those we instinctively love?!  Yet such is not quite what it seems. What is it to hate...
your father,
your mother,
your wife,
your children,
your siblings,
your own life?

Any one of these might be answered slightly differently, but taken together – in light of the last (to hate one's own life), it carries a more broadened understanding of the term. Paul in Ephesians 5:29 tells us something revealing, “For no one ever hated his own flesh but nourishes and cherishes it just as the Lord does the church

Without getting into the minutiae of Paul's argument we can gather at least this much, to hate one's own body is antithetical to our nature. Jesus sums up his reference to hate in the phrase “one's own life” because it is one's life we naturally care for first. In Paul's illustration, speaking of the marriage of man and wife, such a natural love of self is powerfully changed to a love for one's wife which illustrates itself by Christ and the church (or ought to!)

So Christ is asking us, ‘Are we prepared to give up even life for his sake?’ Then you can be my disciple. Paul is really saying the same thing.  As Christ was willing to give up his life for the church so a man must give up everything for his wife.

And whoever does not bear his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”

We've considered hating one's own self as a requirement for discipleship. This hatred is a giving up everything for the Lord, even including one's own life because he loves his Lord.

Now we ask, “What is bearing my cross for the Lord? What is being a disciple?” The term disciple simply means a learner, a student. Therefore a student of Christ studies... Christ!  No rocket science here! Such an act, if one takes it seriously however, is actually a cross bearing - for Christ is no mere prophet – but the God-man – yes indeed a man, but the God-man, deity in the flesh.

Such a Subject of study cannot ever be exhaustively known by finite man. It will take everything one has. You will sacrifice the whole of your being to get to know Him. And when you begin to grasp the smallest part of him, at once you will see the job is beyond every faculty of your mind and strength. You will give up everything to know him but a very little, and yet it will bring the greatest of blessings! Yet it is a blessing which cannot be appreciated by others who have not given it all as you have. Therefore the very act of getting close to Him separates you from father and mother, brother and sister, son and daughter – from all who will not invest such as you must. It is like Moses when he had been up the mountain – he was feared by all for his face glowed because he had become a student, a follower of the Most High (Ex. 34:35). On the human side it is a lonely study, for few give up as needed to know Him. Yet to those who do, Life, even Abundant Life!

Oh, Lord - help me drive out all that which separates me from You that I may know You and the fellowship of Your suffering, yes even Philippians 3:10, “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Mercy of our Loving Lord!


“Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, 36 and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. 38 If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! 39 But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Luke 12:35-40)
Preparation seems to be the key thought here. We are to be expectantly waiting for our Lord's return. And not simply in expectation, but ready to go, a workman who is not ashamed at his coming. Will the Master find you eagerly preparing and looking for him, or will he find you unprepared and careless?  Prove what sort of disciple you are!

Prove yourselves therefore to be men and women of God who are not only ready when he comes, but able to be set to a task in the regeneration, and faithful to complete it.

Another portion of scripture has come to mind in 2nd Peter chapter 3. This passage is eschatological and also speaks of those who consider the Lord's delay as license to blaspheme and sin.

Are you growing weary in well-doing? Do you sometimes think your portion in this life is too great to bear? Is bitterness over our Lord's patience getting the best of you?

When Peter asked if this parable was for all or just for the disciples, Christ answer was, in a sense, Be patient in your work and faithful to the end for bitterness can creep in. The answer is found and Peter’s comments in 2nd Peter 3:9 when we see the great patience of our Lord with us, and remember His kindness to us, we can be patient in the work, even if the work be hard and the day be long. We serve a loving God.

If he was so loving to you, even in your hatred of him (Rom 5:6-10), to save you, we ought to be the same to others. Peter tells us the same, in this way, “What manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.  14 Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; 15 and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation.” (2 Peter 3:11b - 15a)
Finally consider the justice of our God. He sees through the hypocrite (v.46), his punishment is meted out fairly – to some more deserving of it more stripes, to others deserving but not aware they had crossed the line, few stripes. Even think on this: Because our God is just (by definition) His Son died on the cross, the just for the unjust (1st Peter 3:18).

The net result this transaction is God can appear to justly ‘bend’ the rules. Not that he does not fairly apply it, but the letter of the law may demand many stripes yet the party may receive a few. How can a just God do so and still be just?
Read Psalm 85.
All our sin – covered forgiven in Christ.
All His wrath – Removed and turned toward Christ


This is all in verse 2-3.  The golden verses on this Psalm are 10-13. 

10     Mercy and truth have met together;
Righteousness and peace have kissed.
11     Truth shall spring out of the earth,
And righteousness shall look down from heaven.
12     Yes, the Lord will give what is good;
And our land will yield its increase.
13     Righteousness will go before Him,
And shall make His footsteps our pathway.

God can indeed be merciful to us, and justly, because His Son met the demand of the law.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Riches toward God


13 Then one from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

14 But He said to him, “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” 15 And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”

16 Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. 17 And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ 18 So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” ’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’

21 “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:13-21)[1]

In the occasion of a man calling out to Christ about his dispute with his brother this is Christ's response and it is rich with meaning.
Verse 21 struck me, in light of the truth that one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.  It reads, ‘
So is he who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God’ – A fool...
Oh, how often we find ourselves in the way of a fool!

And what made him a fool?
It's what he planned to do which was bad. Verse 19 says, ‘
And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” 

Here we see the motive and at first glance it is not so evil. He didn't plan on taking his wealth and burdening others over it. He only looked at it, and considered it his. He made his plans in exclusion of God. He failed to acknowledge Him to whom he owed it all. In the very first verse we see him described as, 'a certain rich man'.  His pattern was established, God had blessed him with fertile ground and many fertile growing seasons, yet he did not pay God even a passing compliment.

What could he have done?

He could have given his wealth and been rich toward God as the Rich Young Ruler was told to do (Luke 18:18-23). This does not mean that to give it all away is some automatic work to get you in the door.

Salvation is not measured in money. Rather, what a man does do with his wealth is a measure of his love for God. Does he do anything for the kingdom?  

Salvation is a gift of God, often it is said to be free, but it is not really free. It took the very Son of God to become the Son of man, keeping the law we broke by living in perfect harmony with it, and taking our punishment by dying on the cross. By all this we are saved. So salvation is not free but it is freely offered to all though most (being dead in their sins) will not come. This rich man never gave a second thought to the God Who blessed him with years of perfect crops.

The measure of our love toward our God is this: How freely do you offer forgiveness to those who have wronged you? How loosely do you hold on to the blessings he gave to you? And this is how love, God's love, is shown to a lost world.

How are you doing? Feeling stingy with that which God freely gave you?
Consider that, and consider the cross. It is easy to be generous to others when we see how generous He has been to us. It is far easier to forgive others their petty faults when you look at what your sin did to the Savior on Calvary.

Amen




[1] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Lk 12:13–21.

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Way of Love

The fear of man or the fear of God?  Such is the subject of Christ's teaching in Luke,

“And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.  But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!

“Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Luke 12:4-7)

Why is it that we so little fear Him and so readily fear men? I think because we see quite readily the threat of a man and God's merciful way we often misinterpret as a forbearance of Eternity.

We think, “He is eternal – he knows we are but dust (Psa. 113:14) – so he won't punish but will bear up with us.” But is that true?

We forget that even in his great mercy he does not overlook sin forever. We forget that his forbearance is tied to his having poured out wrath upon his Son for us. And somehow we think Christ's sacrifice will cover for, or account for, the sin of all men – even those who never repent.

That is the problem. And how do we overcome such thinking?

Consider our worth and the cost of our sin.  This is what we learn in Verse 6-7.  We see it in Christ’s death on the cross.  He did not die for mere birds – and his death was not only to show our worth, but also the horrible malignity of sin as it was so bad in us that it necessitated Christ’s death to reconcile us with God. Both ideas are true.

I think the answer of the Scriptures is that love covers a multitude of sins – and we see that most vividly in the cross.  But it does so in our lives as well. 

·        Perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:17-18).  Though our love for others is flawed - His love works through us, his children, so we must find our hope in His ability, not ours. Then we must love them with all our might!

·        Love never fails (1 Cor. 13:8). Keep this truth in your heart, and be motivated by it - to do and say good things to all whom we encounter.

·        Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  (Rom. 8:37) It is His love for us, shown in the Cross (Rom. 5:8) which effectuates the conquering.

·        And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” (1 Pet. 4:8) A most wonderful promise!

·        God is love (1 John 4:7-8). We often think of the Great Commission (Mat 28:18-19) as evangelism only.  Yet as we communicate Him to those around us, that is to say as we teach who God is, Love incarnate – Christ on the Cross, we are reminded that His commandments, which we are to obey, are not hard and difficult.  They teach us more of who He is, and how we are to love. 

Let me simply quote John to close this devotional.

Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot, also loves him who is begotten of Him.  By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.  For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.  For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.  Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:1-5)


Monday, March 21, 2016

Appearances & Realities: Impossibilities?

And as He spoke, a certain Pharisee asked Him to dine with him. So He went in and sat down to eat.  When the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that He had not first washed before dinner.

Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness.  Foolish ones! Did not He who made the outside make the inside also?  But rather give alms of such things as you have; then indeed all things are clean to you.

“But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. (Luke 11:37-42)
 
He didn't ceremonially wash before dinner.

That was the charge, or would have been, had they opened their mouths first. But Christ was using this as a teaching moment.

The expectation was that all could see him wash. Not that the washing was effective. Who is to say he was not clean. He was of course. What goes in the body does not make a man unclean (Matt 15:11).  It is the heart of a man which needs daily cleansing.  There a man finds a spring of filth (Jer. 17:9).

Yet here in this passage we see it is only the outside of a person which the Pharisees were concerned in. External cleansing may be helpful but if it does not reflect the reality within – it is worthless.

Remember how Christ washed the disciple’s feet. In John 13:2-10 we read of the washing of the disciple’s feet by Christ. In that account Peter objected to Christ washing his feet like a common servant. Yet this outward washing metaphorically represented the cleansing of sin in the lives of people. Peter, hearing Christ's explanation that if He did not wash Peter’s feet, he will have no part with him, says to Christ, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.” (vs. 9)

It isn’t that one only needs cleansing one time for sin (salvation), but we must come daily to him for confession, lest we develop a hardening of the heart toward the Lord. So the daily ritual washing of the hands in Luke 11 was not wrong per se, but the understanding one has of its purpose and intent is what is important.  

The Pharisees had left the purpose in favor of the outward act. In doing so, they led the people to seek outward conformity to an external standard as a way to measure their faith toward God. The external evidence is not without meaning and is valuable, but it derives its value from the spiritual realities behind it. If we fail to recognize this, then we will fail in understanding our God's love and actions for us. Furthermore to place a greater value upon the outward actions then the inward reality we become idolaters –for we trust in the act more than the Lord whose love and action give the act substance. Only then are we able to seek God rightly.
But rather give alms of such things as you have; then indeed all things are clean to you. (41)
2 alternative translations:
Literally – Rather give alms of what is inside; then indeed
MacArthur – Rather give that which is within as your alms; then indeed
As you can see what we are to give is the internal worship – much like David expressed Psalm 51:15-17:

O Lord, open my lips,
And my mouth shall show forth Your praise.
For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;
You do not delight in burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise.


“But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. (42)
On the one side the Pharisee or the Legalistic Fundamentalist.

On the other side the New Evangelical, or the Antinomian.

Who is it who is right?

Christ says both parties are missing something huge. Can anyone do all which is required of them? Clearly in our passage we are to do all the law, even to tithing of mint and herb; yet in Micah 6:8 we read that we must not neglect other matters:

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?

There is only one means to do all this. It is in the power and strength of the blood of Christ. In ourselves we have nothing, but in Christ we can do all things; Love, Mercy, and even Law.

Amen

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