Thursday, September 15, 2016

The kingdom of God is in your midst!

Luke 17:20-30

When we pray and consider the Lord's Prayer we often do not think about, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt. 6:10)

Yet in a very real sense this one calls to mind the very subject which the Pharisees were asking about (Luke 17:20).  They asked when it would come – but his answer is not simple – for the kingdom is manifold. In the Lord's Prayer we pray “on Earth as it is in heaven” so it is clear that the Kingdom spans many dimensions, and that what we see of the Kingdom on earth, is not what we see of the Kingdom in heaven.  The Kingdom of God in Heaven may be seen in Isaiah's call to the ministry in Isa. 6:1-7, or in John's description of heaven in Rev. 4:2-11, Paul's comments in Col 3:1-7, and Ezekiel's comments in Eze. 28:24-26.

Christ answer is for Earth and yet such is not of earth – for the kingdom of God is Heavenly and not essentially earthly.  What does the Kingdom of God on Earth look like today?  Look at the way Christ speaks to Nicodemas in John 3:1-8.  Unless one is born again, it cannot even be seen! But it's effects are seen. Nevertheless - it is a real kingdom and when it has been brought into it's fullness on earth it may indeed be seen.  But for now, the Pharisees were misguided in their attempt to 'see' or recognize the Kingdom now, apart from the Spirit.

There is another matter to consider.  To use earthly means (i.e. political power) to achieve Heavenly ends is misguided at best, malevolent at worst (A government which thinks it is doing moral good for its people, forces its will on them all the more.).  This is a great error, which is seen in groups such as the AFA and the Moral Majority.  Perhaps with good intent they use pragmatic means to achieve heavenly results... This can never be!   

Christ's answer is that those earthly signs which preceded his kingdom are sudden, bright, and powerfully effective. No earthly political uprising – even a coup, is like the Kingdom of God!!

And until we get that thought out of our heads, we will suffer bad thinking that somehow this or that earthly power is the Enemy – or the Savior.  The Savior already completed his work; it is finished (John 19:30). Have you availed to the blood of the lamb for your sins? There, I say, is the kingdom of God. Today it is in converted lives. But make no mistake – when the fullness of time came God sent forth his son born of a woman, born under the law (Gal 4:4), and he will send him once again in power with his mighty angels. (2 Thes. 1:7) Will you be part of His kingdom while in this earthly world of sin? If not now you will not be counted as part of the Kingdom then.

May the Lord grant us understanding and an entrance to the kingdom while it is still day (II Cor. 6:1-2) for night is coming (Heb. 3:12-14)…

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Conversion of a Sinner

(This message was preached Wed eve, September 7th, 2016 at Heritage Baptist Church: )

THESIS: To describe a real sinners’ conversion and use that description to help the church to identify the people and places they should be working in evangelistically.

Good Evening!
Tonight I would like to look at Mark 2:13-17.  Please follow along as I read, “And he went forth again by the sea side; and all the multitude resorted unto him, and he taught them. And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alpheus sitting at the receipt of custom, and said unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him. And it came to pass, that as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him. And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

I would like take you on a journey of conversion.  The conversion of a man known as Levi.  The first thing I’d like you to consider is the most foundational part of a man – his name.  The name Levi means ‘attached’ and while that is not so helpful on its own, when we understand Levi was the name given by Leah, the unloved wife of Jacob, when she named her 3rd born(Gen. 30:34), we see some significance! “Oh! Now my husband will love me!”  The fact that Alpheus called his son Levi, indicated his Jewish heritage.  Levi was a Jew.  The name Levi – Attached, has an even more profound Jewish connection when we recall that it was the tribe of Levi which was given over to the Priestly duties – the Levites.  Even the term attached would seem to indicate that this tribe was particularly set apart to the duties and service of the Lord.
As I like to do, especially with these Gospel accounts, I look at the other accounts of Levi’s calling, and we find those accounts in Luke 5:27-32, and Matthew 9:9-13.  We find something quite interesting when we read Matthews account of this.  Please listen carefully as I read Matt. 9:9, “And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him.”   Did you note the name change?  In Mark and Luke we see this person called Levi, but in Matthew, he is called Matthew. This is that disciple.  You might not realize why such a reference is made, so I’d like to read to you MacArthur’s note on the title to the book in his study Bible.  He states, “Matthew, meaning ‘gift of the Lord’ was the other name of Levi. (Matt. 9:9), the tax collector who left everything to follow Christ (Luke 5:27-8). Matthew was one of the 12 apostles. In his own list of the 12, he explicitly calls himself a tax collector (Matt. 10:3). Nowhere else in Scripture is the name Matthew associated with “tax collector”; the other evangelists always employ his former name, Levi, when speaking of his sinful past.”  Why do we see the evangelists hiding Matthew’s identity this way?  And what benefit is there to Matthew in revealing to us who he was, even to the identity of his past occupation?  The answer is in the conversion of a sinner. 

Matthew was a tax collector.  The AV uses the word publican which is more descriptive to the kind of tax collector he was. Quoting the United Nations of Roma Victrix website, “Taxes were assessed…on entire communities rather than on individuals…Tax farmers (Publicani) were used to collect these taxes from the provincials. Rome, in eliminating its own burden for this process, would put the collection of taxes up for auction every few years. The Publicani would bid for the right to collect in particular regions, and pay the state in advance of this collection. (The terms were typically 5 years) These payments were, in effect, loans to the state and Rome was required to pay interest back to the Publicani…In the end, the collectors would keep anything in excess of what they bid plus the interest due from the treasury; with the risk being that they might not collect as much as they originally bid.”  

 J Dwight Pentecost quotes Shepard in describing the two kinds of tax collector, “The Gabbai, collected regular real estate taxes and income tax and the poll tax; the Mockhes, the duty on imports, exports, toll on roads, bridges, the harbor, the town tax, and a great multiplicity of other variable taxes on an unlimited variety of things, admitting of much abuse...”   Now that we have defined the 2 chief types of tax collectors, the Gabbai and the Mockhes – what type do you suppose Matthew was?  Again, let me quote Shepard, “The taxes in Judea were levied by publicans, who were Jews, and therefore hated the more, as direct officials of the heathen Roman power. Levi occupied the detestable position of a publican of the worst type – a little Mockhes, who himself stood in the Roman custom-house on the highway connecting Damascus and Ptolemais, and by the sea where all boats plied between the domains of Antipas and Philip.” 

I looked extensively at the road maps and I came to the conclusion that Matthew was in a pretty plumb position.  His ‘receipt of custom’ we might call a toll booth was indeed located off the coast of the Sea of Galilee on a major highway.  This highway had interchanges to the Kings highway (which linked Egypt & Syria, including Damascus), as well as the road to Jerusalem and the Way of the Sea – referring to the Mediterranean.  He was in a very traveled place and with the road travel, and the sea trade – he had plenty of business! 

Why did Luke & Mark use Matthew’s old name Levi when describing the account?  I’ll tell you why – shame.  The type of man Matthew had once been – was so completely degraded, they couldn’t in good conscience recognize him for the man he once was, so they used his old name, Levi.  Quoting Shepard one final time, “According to Rabbinism there was no hope for a man like Levi. He was excluded from all religious fellowship.  His money was considered tainted and defiled anyone who accepted it. He could not serve as a witness.”   And why then does Matthew not hide his own name – but in 2 distinct places, Matthew 9:9, and later in Matthew 10:3 clearly identify himself as the tax collector?  That is the question we’ll answer.

First of all consider the way Matthew responded to Christ’s command, “Follow Me.”  Mark tells us only that he arose and followed him. Luke adds to this that, “And he left all, rose up, and followed him.”  Think about all the types of taxes he had to exact – the duty on imports, exports, toll on roads, bridges, the harbor, and the town tax – each with their own rates and all the bookkeeping involved.  Since the publican had paid upfront the taxes to Rome – for a 5 year period, he had to keep track of all his activities, so that first of all he would not lose money, and so that he might represent to Rome the actual taxes being taken (in the case that the burden he had previously paid was too great). 

And he left all, rose up and followed him.  You know we say we ought to count the cost – even Christ said the same.  Yet it's only 3 small words – he left all. How much did he take with him?  None of it.  Would you make a 5 year investment and leave all?  We are not told how far into the term Matthew was – but no matter how far – he left all.  And this made a huge splash in the community.  Luke tells us, “And Levi made him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them”  Think about the conversations at that feast!  Matthew’s friends were publicans, like he was.  They knew what the cost was – and as good friends they surely tried to get him to reconsider this foolishness.  In addition, some of them surely had thought to themselves – What would be so compelling as to cause a man to cast away everything? 

What indeed!  When a man comes to Christ it changes everything!  This man Matthew had rose up left all and followed him.  He left his bookkeeping records.  He left his booth. He left the money collected.  He left it all!  But someone might say, couldn’t he have at least kept some of the money for the ministry of the Lord, after all, wasn’t he following Christ?  Couldn’t it have been put to good use?

But remember how the Publicani were viewed in the eyes of the religious – even their money was tainted. This man wanted nothing to do with his old life – but still we haven’t answered the question, if Matthew wanted to leave it all behind, why does he identify himself in Matthew 9:9 and 10:3 as the tax collector, the publican? 

And publicans weren’t the only parties present.  Bill Luck tells us what Mark means when it states that sinners were present. “These are people about whom the stigma of sin seemed to adhere. Perhaps they were prostitutes like Mary Magdalene or political terrorists like Simon the Zealot. They were recognizably ‘disinherited’

And what about that name change anyway?  Why doesn’t he go by Levi if he plainly wanted to be remembered as a former publican?  You know that Mark references Matthew as an apostle in Mark 3:18.  Yet when referencing his sinful past he uses his other name, Levi.  So Mark knew of Matthews other name and used it in chapter 3 verse 18.  Evidence shows that Luke knew as well (Luke 6:14).  As a matter of fact the name Levi, only shows up 4 times in all 4 gospel accounts; once in our passage in Mark, twice in the parallel passage in Luke, and one other time in Luke referring to another man entirely. 

Dr. MacArthur tells us in his introductory remarks on the gospel of Matthew, this was “evidence of humility on Matthew’s part.”   One thing he didn’t turn away from – the history of his past.  He knew what he was, and he never forgot that he was a sinner saved by Grace! When the sinner is converted he may shrink from the effects his sin takes upon his fellow believers, but he still takes ownership of his sin. A true believer confesses to God the same way that the publican did when he beat his chest and cried, God be merciful to me, a sinner! (Luke 18:13) 
One of the blessings of the Bible software I sometimes use to help me prepare for preaching, is the inclusion of sermons others have preached on the same passage for which I am preparing.  Inevitably, Spurgeon has something to say on the passage!  The sermon that popped up this time was actually more topical in nature, and he had 4 texts as his basis.

The sermon is #1345, and titled, For Whom is the Gospel Meant? I was blessed by it and commend it to you.  His topic being slightly different than mine, it was a blessing, but most of his insight didn’t ‘fit’ with my theme, the conversion of a sinner.  But I did find this comment which was truly fitting to my theme.

This is Spurgeon, "And what are the commands of the gospel? Repent. But who repents save a sinner? Believe. But believing is not according to the law – the law speaks only of doing. Believing has to do with sinners and with the method of salvation by Grace."

When Matthew left all he did a complete 180 turning from all he once trusted in – His revenue, and the money he had to gain from his post. He even repudiated the past by abandoning to his hurt the entire bid he had purchased on that booth.  There was no refund coming from the Romans.  Matthew was soundly converted.

And as I suggested earlier this act had a profound effect on the community.  I want you to turn in your Bibles to Luke 19.  I’ll read the account of another tax collector, Zacchaeus. Luke 19:1-10, “And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus – who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” 

First of all let me note to you the passage of time.  When Matthew was converted it was in Capernaum, during Jesus’ earliest Galilean ministry.  The scene in Luke 19 is literally weeks or possibly days before the Triumphal entry and Passion Week.   Probably 18 to 24 months have passed since Matthew left all and followed Christ.  And we read in Luke 19 that Zacchaeus sought to see Jesus.  He certainly had time to think about the reports of one of his own walking away from it all!  Who was this persuasive teacher Jesus?  Some are calling him the Messiah?!  I need to see who this one is.  But he couldn’t – he was too short. Does he let that get in the way?  Not on your life! If Matthew could walk away from possibly 4-5 years of profit at the receipt of custom – this Jesus was someone to see.  Zacchaeus was a chief of the publicani, a rich man.  Indeed!  If Matthew was well to do, consider the wealth of Zacchaeus!   So he put himself in the way – he made every effort to see this Jesus.  And he was not disappointed!  We read of the evidences of his conversion in his standing proclamation to the Lord. 

You see folks, true conversion forces men to consider their ways.  How many other of Matthew’s fellow publicans also left all, if any, we are not told.  But we know this – there was a splash in the community of the publicans, and it absolutely reached the ears of Zacchaeus who lived some 86 miles away.  Matthew’s great feast left many publicans talking for a long time and set Zacchaeus to think about his ways.  You know, by the way, Zacchaeus’ name means ‘pure’ and I can imagine that for some time he wondered about his name and how his lifestyle didn’t fit with a man called Pure. He was a contradiction in terms if any man ever was!  And the Lord opened his heart to repent and believe!

Verse 17 of our passage tells us what Jesus had to say to the charge of eating and drinking with sinners, “They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

And do you know what folks - we are his ambassadors.  We read such in 2nd Corinthians 5:17-20, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are past away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.” 

Matthew witnessed to his friends of his new life in Christ.  And Zacchaeus, hearing of the witness was persuaded to listen to Christ.  He then also testified publically to the change Christ wrought in his heart.

What about you?  Are you prepared to share the changes Christ made in your life with others?  Remember the way you were before Christ.  This is important.

Have you compassion for the lost?  Or are you simply offended when they curse?  Do you look past their obvious sin to look at them as one for whom Christ died? Remember what you were like before Christ, and that should help you see them in a better light.  You were no better than them – indeed there but for the grace of God you might be worse!

Aren’t you glad the grace of God was shared with you?  In the Sermon on the Mount one of the Beatitudes is ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’.  Folks – the mark of true disciples is that we are peacemakers – we have the ministry of reconciliation!  I’m not speaking of the spiritual gift of evangelism – I’m simply tugging at your hearts.  We all have the responsibility to share the work Christ did in our lives.   

Dr. Bill Luck has a challenge for us which I’d like to read to you, “As evangelists we are not permitted to “profile.” Matthew was an easy mark. There are many such today. They are the liberal Democrats in DuPage County, Illinois. They are the illegal immigrants in Arizona. They are the Tea Partiers in Washington DC. They are the AIDS patients in the Bible Belt. They are the Palestinians in Israel. They are the Jews in Iran. They are the ex-con in any town. And the question is, are you able to see beyond the social limits of a man and see a potential citizen of the Kingdom of God – a potential co-laboring evangelist?”  

Matthew’s testimony reached the ears of his fellow tax collector, Zacchaeus – 86 miles away!  And the fruit was nearly 2 years later.  Yet think what a joy it was for Matthew to see his brother in crime, become a brother in Christ!   

This alone ought to encourage us!  I’d like to close by reading a familiar hymn about the conversion of a sinner – and I ask you to think back on your own conversion – and pray this week – that you will not sit passively by waiting for a ‘sinner’ to cross your path – but go and share the blessing which was once shared with you!

When I saw the cleansing fountain Open wide for all my sin,
I obeyed the Spirit’s wooing, When He said, “Wilt thou be clean?”

Though the way seems straight and narrow, All I claimed was swept away;
My ambitions, plans and wishes, At my feet in ashes lay.

Then God’s fire upon the altar Of my heart was set aflame;
I shall never cease to praise Him Glory, glory to His name!

Bless├Ęd be the name of Jesus! I’m so glad He took me in;
He’s forgiven my transgressions, He has cleansed my heart from sin.

RefrainI will praise Him! I will praise Him! Praise the Lamb for sinners slain;
Give Him glory, all ye people, For His blood can wash away each stain.

Do you believe it? Go!  Share your testimony people!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Love the Lord - He is your sure defense!

Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.  And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.
(Luke 17:3-4)

One of the cross-references I read this morning was Psalm 119:164-5:

Seven times a day I praise You,
Because of Your righteous judgments.

Great peace have those who love Your law,
And nothing causes them to stumble.

The Cross-reference was in a note on Luke 17:4 in MacArthur’s study bible. It is an amazing thing, the Word of God!  The note only referred me to verse 164, Seven times a day I praise You, Because of Your righteous judgments. But I read further and was blessed!  Let me explain.

Here in Luke 17 is a teaching on temptations (snares or stumbling blocks).  And in verse 165 of Psalm 119 the remedy for such temptation is given! Those who love and meditate on God’s law – His standards and judgements – they will never be moved!  Temptation is powerless over him because truly his love of Him, which includes everything about Him – His attributes, His ways, His judgements – keeps him!  He finds the temptations without power – because they are just empty next to the Lord of all!  We read in Psalm 37:4,

               Delight yourself also in the Lord,
               And He shall give you the desires of your heart.

As we consider Him, nothing in this world has any pull – no sparkle, no shine, nothing attractive at all.  But He becomes our delight and all temptations are like cheap trinkets sold in the market for tourists – nothing but junk!

Lord, may I esteem you so much that all this worlds wares be just so much junk in my sight – for Your glory, Amen.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Claim of Jesus the Christ

(This message was preached Wed eve, July 6th, 2016 at Heritage Baptist Church:

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:





Mark 1:1-8

The Witness of John the Baptist

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


Mark 1:9-11

The Baptism of Christ

 What does his baptism mean?


Mark 1:12-13

The Temptation of Christ

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


Mark 1:14-20

The Call of the Christ

 We considered the call of Christ upon a man


Mark 1:21-28

The Authority of Christ

What is this authority! (casting out demons)


Mark 1:29-39

The Galilean Ministry of Christ


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.

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.”

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.

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