Luke 11:14-26 Jesus is the Son of Man Jesus is the Strongest Man

Luke 11:14-26

Jesus is the Son of Man

Jesus is the Strongest Man

 

All right! Let’s go ahead and turn in our Bibles to Luke chapter 11.

 

We are continuing our series, our journey through the Gospel of Luke. And in this Gospel, Jesus is continuing his travels, making his way towards Jerusalem. His followers, his disciples are travelling with him and being taught by Jesus, being trained by him, mentored in order to continue after Jesus leaves to preach the Kingdom of Heaven is here, it is at hand.

Jesus has been teaching and showing his disciples the two greatest commands; Love God and Love your Neighbor. He has shown them things that can pull them away from loving God; among which include distractedness, anxiety and troubledness over many things.

When this happens, we can often let our preconceived notions about, people, about God, about the Bible, we can let them take over and further get in the way. These preconceived notions can further separate and divide us from God and from those around us.

Jesus is going to deal with some people who have entrenched themselves in their preconceived notions in the passage we look at this morning. It is going to cause these people to ignore all indications of the truth, no matter how clearly it is presented to them.

So, lets go ahead and read this morning’s passage, Luke 11, verses 14 through 26. I encourage you all to grab your Bibles and follow along, whatever your preferred translation. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version.

Luke 11:14-26:

 

Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled. 15 But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons,” 16 while others, to test him, kept seeking from him a sign from heaven. 17 But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. 18 And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. 19 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 20 But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; 22 but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil. 23 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters

24 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25 And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. 26 Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.”

 

 

May God Bless the reading of his word…

 

So, Jesus is casting out demon, doing what he does. And in this instance, he was casting out a mute demon. This is not meaning that the demon itself could not speak, but that it caused the person it was tormenting to not be able to speak. I think its quite curious that this story about a man not being able to speak because of a demon comes right after the passage about praying and lifting our voices up to God.

 

I’m sure it’s just a coincidence…

 

Anyway, so this mute man was delivered from this demon, and he spoke. What a feeling this must have been! What emotions this guy must have had! The scriptures don’t say how long he was mute, whether from birth or not, but we know it was long enough that he was known as the mute guy. He was known not to be able to speak. And so, when he spoke and the crowd heard it, there were amazed! People marveled.

And this reaction from the crowd, this astonishment from the mute man, this bona fide miracle that all acknowledged, this is the first step in the point of why Jesus did these types of miracles. Yes, of course, there was the compassion. Jesus had a heart for those who were suffering. He had a heart for those who needed healing.

But the main reason he did the miracles and the healings and the signs and wonders that he did was to testify to his message. It was to testify to his deity. And his message was the kingdom of heaven and salvation from sin. The miracles and healings were down to show that he had the authority to make the claims he was making and the power to back them up.

 

The people saw the miracles, the healings, the casting out of demons, and they were astonished. They marveled! And then they gave credit to Satan.

 

Some attributed his power and abilities to Beelzebub. This was a name referencing the Canaanite god, Baal from the Old Testament and was often a stand in for Satan himself as well.

So, the crowd saw what Jesus was doing, casting out a demon, and they decided that, instead of seeing that this was through the Power of God, they decided that Jesus was getting his powers and abilities from Satan himself.

Isaiah 5:20 could be written about these people in the crowd, as it is written,

Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet

and sweet for bitter!

 

To see the good being done and to attribute that good to the devil instead of to God, woe, woe to them.

 

WE see another group in the crowd though too. Luke tells us that some in the crowd kept seeking signs to test him. They weren’t willing to give credit of what Jesus was doing to Satan, but neither were they ready to give the credit to God. They were the definition of neutrality that we see towards the end of this passage.

This group reminds me of an episode of MASH that I saw recently. One of the injured soldiers came in and thought he was Jesus Christ. The medics of course don’t believe him and try to get him to tell them who he really is.

He says, “What can I do to convince you?”

Their response, “Well, a miracle would be a good start…”

 

Except that even if the guy really had been Jesus, and if he had been able to do a miracle for them, they still wouldn’t believe. Jesus says this very thing of in Johns Gospel, paraphrasing here, but basically, you are not believing my words, you are not believing my signs and you are not believing what Moses said about me so long ago. You are looking for reasons and finding them to not believe.

 

Jesus of course knew the hearts and the minds and the words of all those in the crowd. And he told them, “Y’all are making no sense whatsoever…”

Why would you fight against yourself? IT makes no tactical sense. Its stupid to fight against yourself. And Satan is many things, but stupid is not one of them.

Satan is smart. He provides and communicates just enough truth wrapped up in his lies. Jesus says in Matthew 24:24 that he can lead astray even the elect. He has power, limited by God, created by God, but he does have some power to do some signs and wonders. To a point. That’s important.

Because the signs and wonders, the power that he posses and shows are not true, against the laws of nature miracles. He can only do so much. We see the magicians in Pharaoh’s court, back in Exodus 7 as an example.

Moses came in proclaiming the name of God, telling Pharoah to let the Israelites go. TO back up his claims and to show the power of God, Moses did signs and wonders. The first couple the magicians in Pharaoh’s court were able to mimic, as if they had the same power that Moses had received from God. But Gods power overwhelmed and defeated the power of the magicians and showed that any signs and wonders done in the power pf Satan are pale imitations of the true miraculous work of God.

 

Jesus then turns to the people and says, “Oh by the way, some of your own people are casting out demons as well. If I’m doing it through the devil, who are they doing it through?”

 

Jesus said, it is by the power of God that I do the things that I do. It is to confirm my words to you that the kingdom of God is here. Most of the pharisees did not believe where Jesus got his power and authority from. Though one did. IN John 3 we see Nicodemus, a pharisee, come to Jesus under the cover of darkness. Nicodemus says to Jesus in verse 1, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.

Nicodemus was able to set aside his preconceived notions and see what was really in front of him. Many in this crowd were not. The people of that day, like ours, had their own ideas of who God was and who Jesus was. Some of it was a misunderstanding of scripture. Some of it was just purely made up in their own minds. Whichever was the case, they were blinded to the truth.

They were attributing the good works of Jesus to a pagan god, to Satan, instead of to the true God. Because they were unwilling to see the good in Jesus. Because they were unwilling to believe that God would work in this way that they were not expecting.

 

This view of God, that he is Love and he wouldn’t let bad things happen. He wouldn’t punish people for messing up. He allows many paths to himself. Sin is not a big deal and there is no judgment or hell.

This view of the Bible, that it is just a book, not the inspired Word of God. That it’s a book of morals, teachings and life lessons, but holds no authority.

This view that Jesus is not God, or that he is not man. That he was not sinless. That he never died, or that he never rose from the dead. That he never spoke on numerous subjects that the Bible is crystal clear on. That he is not the Word incarnate, that he is not the Alpha and Omega, and that he is not the one who will come to judge.

These preconceived notions are what we need to overcome in order to see the truth of who Jesus Christ is and what he has said. Those things that we are born with, and we naturally hold in ourselves. In our hearts and in our minds. We all have them, and the first key is to recognize them. Because when we see Jesus at work, when we read the Bible, we will read it through the lenses of our preconceived notions.

What you look for, you will find. This is true throughout life but is especially true with the Bible. IF you decide you believe one way about a subject, then you will find validation for it in the Bible.

It could be your view on a specific sin. It could be looking for which political party you want to vote for. It could be any theological issue. What you are looking for, you will find. It doesn’t mean its right, but you will find it. That’s how our hearts and minds work. So, we need the God to raise the cover from our eyes. We need the Holy Spirit to change our hearts. We need Jesus to forgive our sins and give us eternal life. Without them, we are slaves to our preconceived notions.

 

 

Jesus then gives, kind if a parable to the crowd. We see the strong man in his home or fortress. Satan is the strong man in this example. He is the god of this world (little g). God has allowed him to have some power and some authority here for a certain amount of time.

Jesus comes into the earth as the stronger man. He destroys the strong mans kingdom and takes over as the authority in that house. We know from scripture that Jesus defeated Satan, sin and death with his death, burial and resurrection.

Paul writes in Colossians 2:13-15:

 

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities[b] and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.[c]

 

              Its not just that Jesus defeats him in a battle that they just get into, but Jesus is defeating Satan in order to win our souls. He is defeating Satan so that we may be freed from our sins by our faith in Jesus Christ.

RC Sproul writes that yes, we do have to respect and acknowledge the power that Satan has and holds in this world, but not overly so. Jesus already won. He has already shown he is the strongest man. He has already removed Satan’s attempt at a kingdom with the Kingdom of God. Its already finished and The Kingdom of God has already been established.

 

Jesus makes it clear in verse 23, there is no neutrality. You are with Jesus, or you are not. You are a citizen of the kingdom of God, or you are not. There is no dual citizenship. The scriptures make it clear that you cannot serve two masters. You are a follower of Christ or an enemy of Christ. And nothing, not your works, not your attendance, not your knowledge determines which side you are on, only the grace of God giving us faith in Christ.

 

And he who does not gather, scatters. Those who are not a part of the body of Christ, will work at dividing the body of Christ. They will create division and sow disunity among the family of God.

 

We finish this passage in verses 24-26, where Jesus shows us that we cannot do it on our own. The example that Jesus gives here, an unclean spirit, for whatever reasons, boredom, finished job, or exorcism, prayer, sheer will, leaves a body, it goes looking for a new one. But without the Holy Spirit occupying the original host, the unclean spirit just comes right back and is even stronger and does more damage.

That’s not a problem we can solve with good old American ingenuity. We can’t pull ourselves up by the bootstraps. We can’t clean up our life by sheer force of will. We need Jesus.

Jesus gives us this example using an unclean spirit, but I see it working practically in our day to day lives if we think about our habitual sins. Some are easy to leave behind when we become new creations in Christ. But others continue to pick at us, nag us, tempt us, sometimes feeling like they own us.

We can make a little bit of outer progress on our own. There are people who change, who quit addictions, we stop cheating, we change quite a bit about their lives and their behavior without turning to Christ. But if they do, they often replace one sin for another, one addiction for another and none of it helps our souls, our hearts or our eternal destination.

That’s all Jesus. He offers salvation. He offers forgiveness of sins. HE is the only way to change who we are deep down inside. The salvation and forgiveness come instantly. But he also changes our heart and our desires. Though not all those desires change instantly. Some happen over time. Some never completely change until we are face to face with God himself.

I had someone make, what I think was a brilliant point to me this week. While we are here on earth, those temptations will not be permanently eliminated completely. But as we dive into Gods Word, and our relationship with Jesus Christ, we will be more equipped to deal with those temptations. The temptations might even grow stronger as we grow in Christ. The spiritual sure get fiercer, but our equippedness will also grow stronger, therefore our ability to resist that temptation will grow stronger. And of course, we say our, as if we are the ones doing, but knowing that all the ability, equipment, desire and strength comes directly from the Holy Spirit.

 

Now, we are one in Christ. Christ and his work on the cross are what unites us. His work changes us. His work defeated Satan.  And today we are going to come to the LORDs table, we are going to celebrate communion, celebrate our unity. We are going to this with partaking of bread and juice symbolizing his body and blood and with reflection.

Now, I ask that if you are not a Christian, if you are not a follower of Jesus Christ, please just pass the elements along. There is nothing magical about it. There is nothing special about it for those who do not believe that Jesus Christ gave his broken body and his blood for the forgiveness of our sins. There will be no pressure and no judgment.

stemming from that, Communion does not save us, it does not cleanse us, it does not do anything along those lines. It has no power to keep us clean or to restore our relationship with God, only Jesus can do that. This was given to us by Jesus for the purpose of remembering. Remembering who Jesus was. Remembering what Jesus did for us. Remembering how much he loved us and remembering just how big of a deal our sin really is. It is meant to be sobering and somber, but at the same time it is meant to be a celebration.

Thirdly, we are told that we need to come and participate with the right heart. As I said, we do this in remembrance of what he gave up for us, the sacrifice he made. We do this because we remember how big of a deal our sin is, that he died on the cross for it. We need to make sure that our hearts and minds have their hearts set on what’s important and that we seek God’s forgiveness and make our relationships are right with him. In addition to a tradition becoming too important and placed above the word of God, tradition can become bad is by it losing its meaning and becoming simply a ritual. Please take some of this time to reflect on what this tradition means and to make sure that you are prepared to receive. There will never be any judgment if you choose not to participate, and just pass the plate.

Paul recounts to the church in Corinth what I now tell you as well, in 1 Corinthians 11: 23-26:

 

23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for[e] you. Do this in remembrance of me.”[f] 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

 

          We have individual cups that contains both the wafers, which symbolize Jesus’ broken body on the cross. His Death that pays the penalty for our sins. It also contains the juice, symbolizing the shed blood of Christ, which purchases our eternal life in Christ, through faith.

First, we will take the wafer together. Afterwards, we will take the juice together and we will be united together under the cross and blood of Jesus Christ. I will pray and we will come to the LORDs table.

 

 

Luke 11:1-13 Jesus is the Son of Man: Jesus Shows Us How to Pray

Luke 11:1-13

Jesus is the Son of Man

Jesus Shows Us How to Pray

 

All right, lets go ahead and turn in our Bibles to Luke chapter 11. If you do not have a Bible, or are in need of a Bible, please see me after the service and we can help with that.

So, last week we saw Jesus staying with two sisters, Mary and Martha. As he was staying there, he not only helps a teaching session with some group of people that including Mary, who sat at Jesus feet to listen to his teachings. Jesus also held a private teaching session with Martha, loving her and comforting her in her anxiety and frustration.

Jesus and his disciples continued their travelling from town to town and from village to village. Jesus was making his was way slowly but surely towards Jerusalem, where he was to fulfill his purpose. Along the way, they were preaching the arrival of the Kingdom of Heaven being here in the here and now. We have seen many signs and wonders by Jesus to confirm his deity and the truth of his claims.

As he and the disciples are travelling, Jesus is teaching the, mentoring them, preparing them for ministry after he leaves his earthly ministry. The wonderful thing for us, is that these teachings that Jesus shared with his disciples, many of them are recorded in the Gospels contain in the Bible, so we have access to them whenever we want. And this morning we see some very important and practical teachings from Jesus.

So, let’s go ahead and read this morning’s text before we dive in to the teaching. Luke chapter 11, verses 1-13. As always, Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version, but please follow along in your preferred translation. Luke 11:1-13, Luke, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit records the following:

 

Now Jesus[a] was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And he said to them, “When you pray, say:

“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread,[b]
and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”

And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence[c] he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for[d] a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

 

May God Bless the Reading of his Word.

 

Its always interesting to me when God and when the Gospel writers include or omit certain details. In this case, Jesus was in a certain place. Where that place was, was not important. What was important was that Jesus was praying. We have seen him does this often and it emphasizes to the disciples and to us, if Jesus needs to spend time in prayer, how much more do we?

So, Jesus is praying, and as was common for teachers and disciples of the time, Jesus followers wanted their teacher to teach them how to pray. Every teacher had their own style and method and pattern of prayer. The disciples mention John the Baptist and though we don’t see his prayers recorded in scripture, the disciples had heard of them and wanted to hear Jesus’ versions of prayer.

The disciples looked at Jesus as a number of things but included in that would have been seeing Jesus as their spiritual mentor. They wanted to model their spiritual life off of his. They wanted to be just like him. They wanted to learn from him. He had a robust spiritual prayer life, and they wanted the same.

They were saying to Him, “Lord, you were praying, you have such a good prayer life, your so good at praying, we want to have that same prayer life.”

 

And Jesus was a great example of a good mentor. When Jesus does show the disciples how to pray, he doesn’t give them a list of rigid instructions. He doesn’t say, “First, do this…Second, say this…” Instead, he gives example. He teaches the principles. He explains the whys and such.

 

And in verses 2-4, Jesus gives them a model of prayer. We see here a truncated version of the Lord’s prayer that we see in Jesus teach in Matthew 6:9-13, the version we all know and have memorized.

I think that’s the first think for us to take away form Jesus’ teachings this morning. The length of the prayer does not affect how well or how much God the Father hears our prayers. He does not hear longer prayers any more than shorter prayers. For sure, pray as long as is needed in that specific situation, but there is no need to make it longer and to fill it with fluff words to try to make it more holy.

Now, there are a number of different acronyms and lists and different descriptions out there about what is included in making a good and complete prayer. You may have heard the acronym, ACTS. An ACTS prayer would include Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication (or asking). A-C-T-S.

RC Sproul listed some attributes of this and other prayers in scripture as Adoration, petition, confession and intercession. For this passage here this morning, the most common descriptions I read over and over were vertical and horizontal.

This means first, you pray vertically, upwards, towards God. Prayers are directed at someone, and who they are directed at matters. We don’t send our prayers and thoughts out to the universe. We don’t send prayers to people. We don’t pray to a God we don’t believe in or to any God that might hear it. We are praying to the Creator God of the Universe. We are praying to God the Father. We are praying to the one True God. And we need to make sure that we recognize that.

Now of course, this is not to legislate that every prayer we say has to include an out loud, personalized greeting to God. When something happens, sometimes, we just throw prayers out there. God still hears those and responds to those as well. They are no less valid prayers than the more formal prayers we are addressing here this morning.

After praying vertically, we then pray horizontally. We pray for the things, situations and people around us. First, we look up to Heaven, to God, then we look around us. Love God, love your neighbor. Pray to God, pray for your neighbor.

 

Jesus starts the prayer addressing God as Abba Father. Personal, individual Father. We who have been saved by the grace of God through our faith in Christ, we have been adopted into the family of God. God also tells us that we are to approach boldly the throne of grace. God is our Father, if we are children in the faith. And he wants to make sure that we know he is approachable. He wants us to know that we can go to him. Anytime, anywhere, about anything. Jesus will talk more about God as Father coming up.

Hallowed be God’s name. God’s name should always be spoken of with reverence, with awe. He is Holy Holy Holy as Isaiah declares. And so, we are to approach God boldly, as our children approach us as parents, but also humbly.

AS we approach God, as we approach our Father, we then ask for provisions. We ask for what he has already promised us. Now God will often overdeliver on those promises. What amazing that we don’t have only manna to eat each and every day, but we have a plethora of amazing foods, flavors, spices, and so much more. These are things that God knew about and put into our world and into our lives so that we could enjoy them. His promises are for our sustenance, to get us through the days. His delivery is often so much more, for our enjoyment, for our pleasure.

Jesus shows us in this model prayer that next we thank God for what he has done for us and what he is continuing to do for us. We also thank him for those very provisions and gifts that he has and will give us.

He also reminds us that what God has done for us, specifically forgiving us our sins, we are to make sure that we do to those around us. Forgiveness, like prayer, is a tricky thing to talk about sometimes.

God, of course, models forgiveness for us. Forgive us our trespasses as we then forgive those who trespass against us. Gods’ forgiveness of us is a once and for all deal. We come to faith in Christ and all our sins, past, present and future are instantly forgiven. And that’s good because we are in constant need of forgiveness.

The forgiveness we give out (and ask from others around us) is an ongoing and continual event. We need to have a continual spirit of forgiveness, always in the present tense. Our forgiveness of others and the forgiveness we ask of others is not a once and for all thing.  It reminds me of the Martin Luther quote that a believer’s entire life is one of repentance.

Jesus gives us a parable in verses 5-8 that shows a couple of things. First, persistence works. We are imperfect friends, sinners. There are times when even if our friends are asking for something that we are expected to give them, we don’t always want to do it. It can take them asking over and over. Eventually we will get up and do it.

Persistence often works. We will see this is the parable of the persistent widow and the point is don’t stop praying. Gods’ answers don’t always come quickly.  I don’t need a show of hands, but how many of us have been praying for years if not decades for certain or specific family members, friends, whoever, for them to come to know Christ. Some of you have seen results from those prayers. But it wasn’t quick or immediate.

Now, where we have to be careful with this story from Jesus is to take the parable too far. God is not annoyed with us for asking too often, or from praying too long (unless its full of hypocritical holy sounding fluff words and the like, but that’s for a different time) The parable is not that God is the friend that needs to be pestered. Instead, the point is that in opposition to how we fail to act and give as we are supposed to, God is happy and delighted to give us good gifts and to answer our prayers.

Now, persistence does not mean repeating the exact words of the prayer over and over. It does not mean ritual. It does not mean wrote repetition. It does not mean mindless repeating of a prayer we have memorized. Jesus warns against this very clearly.

Instead, we are to not give up. We are to stay faithful and steadfast. We are to trust God that he knows what he is doing and will answer our prayers. We trust in God’s definition of good and right and remember that his answer will fit into that category.

 

 

Verses 9 & 10, Jesus says, And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

 

First thing is let’s remember the context of this passage. The context is believers praying to God their father. These often get misapplied to unbelievers.

When Jesus says Seek and you shall find, this is not referring to those outside the church who are “seeking God.” Scripture makes it clear that we don’t seek God on our own.  Romans 3:10&11, Paul writes:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
no one seeks for God.

 

I came across a great quote while reading RC Sproul’s commentary and he relayed a comment by Thomas Aquinas. Sproul wrote:

Now, it may appear to us that he’s seeking after God. Thomas Aquinas answered the question this way: “The reason we think people are seeking after God when they’re not is that they are desperately and earnestly seeking for those things that only God can give them—happiness, meaning, freedom from guilt, peace—all of these benefits that accrue to those who put their faith in Christ.”

Sproul continues: From our perspective as Christians, we say, “They’re seeking the benefits that only God can give, therefore they must be seeking after God.” Aquinas said: “No, they’re not seeking after God. They want the benefits of God without God.” That’s the dilemma.

 

People who don’t yet know God, do not seek after God. God draws us to him. Once we believe, then we pursue God and to know him as much and as closely as we can. Jonathon Edwards said that seeking after God is the central pursuit of the Christian life. Jesus tells those listening during the sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6:33:  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

We also see Jesus say, knock and it will be opened to you. This of course holds allusions to Revelation 3:20, where Paul tells the church at Laodicea, Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and eat with him, and he with me

 

These verses are often used in reference to evangelism, “Jesus is knocking in your heart, so let him in and be saved.” That’s absolutely NOT what these verses are talking about. In both these cases, Jesus is talking to people who already love him and are believers.

 

But here is what I think is important to know about these verses. The way they are written is literally Keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking. So, I see the purpose of these verses as two-fold. First, of course is that God will deliver and respond to our prayers, not always how we expect of course, but our prayers will be answered.

Second, the Christian life is on of action. Our salvation and forgiveness are not by our doing anything., They are solely by the grace of God. But our life after that is one that we are continually called to, maybe that’s not the right word, but we are compelled to action. Prayer, Loving God and Loving our neighbors. Learning from the Word of God. Serving in whatever capacity God has called us to and created us for.

We finish up with verses 11-14. We are imperfect sinners, even as parents. We want to give our kids good gifts, especially if they ask. But we fail and we fail often. Hebrews has a similar passage regarding our earthly fathers and how no matter how they are, God as our Father is so much better. No matter what kind of gifts we give as a father, God gives better and greater gifts. Paul writes in Romans 8:32:  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

And we see specifically one gift. The Holy Spirit is the greatest gift. God the Father desires to give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him in Faith. How great the fathers love for us!

He has already given us these great gifts. Love, forgiveness, redemption, grace, eternal life and the like. He wants us to come to him. He wants us to talk to him, that’s what prayer is, talking to God. He wants us to get to know him. He wants us to trust him. He wants us to act like his children and to treat him like our father.

 

God, our Father is Holy, yet approachable. He is loving, yet just. He gives out perfect wrath, yet perfect mercy. He is our perfect Father. And the Son promises that the Father will give us the Holy Spirit.

Ill finish with Ezekiel 36:26&27:

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.[a

Passover Sermon Exodus 12 and Luke 22

Passover Sermon

Exodus 12 and Luke 22

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me as we open up Gods Word. This is a special week for Christians. Today, the Sunday before Easter is known as Palm Sunday. This is when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey and many bystanders laid down palm branches as a way of honoring Jesus. This would kick off the week known as Holy Week. Much of the Gospel stories take place during this week. We are going to especially focus on one of the nights of this week.

Jesus and his disciples met in an upper room on a Thursday night for a dinner celebration. The twelve that were with Jesus did not have any idea that this would be there last meal together. They had no idea that one of them was about to betray Jesus, that he would be illegally tried three times that night. They had no idea that he would die the next day and they had no idea the things that he would reveal to them that night.  This was not an overly special week to them, with one exception.  All they knew was that it was Passover, and they were there to celebrate.

If you look at your calendars, you will see that Passover started at Sundown last night. Today we will take a look at the Passover we will look at a number of different texts, but if you want to open up your Bible, we will be starting in Exodus 12, and then moving over to Luke 22. When I read the scriptures, I will be reading out of the English Standard Version, though I encourage you to read along in which ever is your preferred translation.

To know about the Passover, to see why it was a celebration and how important it was to the Jews in that time, we need to start in Exodus 12. The setting of Exodus 12 is that the people of Israel were slaves to the Egyptians. God was done with that and was ready to free his people and bring them to the land that he had promised Abram 400 years ago. So, He told Moses to go tell Pharaoh to let the Israelite go. Pharaoh would not so God sent a number of plagues on Egypt to show his power and might and Pharaoh would still not let them go.

So, God decided to send one final plague. A plague that was so harsh, so brutal, that Pharaoh would not be able to stop the Israelite s from leaving. God was going to kill all the first-born males in Egypt. This included all the first-born Egyptian sons. This included Pharaohs first born son. This even included the first-born male cattle. And this was going to so complete and so total that it would have included the first-born male Israelite s, except that God gave them a way out.

Exodus 12 lays out the way out of this plague. Starting in verse 3, God tells Moses and Aaron,

“Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers house, a lamb for the household….” V.5, “Your lamb shall be without blemish…”, and picking up in v 7 & 8, “Then they shall take some of the blood (from killing the lamb) and put it on the two door posts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it.”

OK, so God told them how to eat a very specific meal and to wipe the blood of the lamb on the doors. But it doesn’t yet tell us that God will spare the Israelite s from this plague. But God then goes on to spell it out for them and us.

Starting at the end of v11, “It is the Lord’s Passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night and I will strike all the first born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.”

God told them to sacrifice a lamb without blemish, and that the blood of that lamb would protect them from the wrath of God that would be poured out on the nation. More on that in just a little bit.

The LORD also went on to describe to the Israelites how they were to continue to celebrate this Passover celebration every year for all the future generations to learn as well.

We pick right back up in v 14, “ This day shall be for you a memorial day and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.” and later in v 25, when Moses is telling Israel what the LORD told him about Passover, he shared this with them for the future, “And when you come to the land that the LORD will give you, as he promised, you shall keep this service. And when your children say to you, “What do you mean by this service?” you shall say, “It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.” (v25-27)

God told the people that this was a joyous occasion, that he had spared them from this wrath and that they needed to celebrate it and teach their kids what had happened. Sometimes, in the church, we forget that our kids don’t know as much as we do about some of these things. We forget that they have not had the experiences that we have. In this case, the children would not have seen Gods wrath passing over the nation of Israel and sparing them. To this day, in the Jewish Passover celebration, the youngest child asks the question and the father then tells the Passover story.

I heard a quote a couple years ago. I don’t remember who it was that said it and I couldn’t find it this week, but they said, “What the first generation knows, the second generation forgets, and the third generation never knew.” What this is saying is that we need to constantly remember to teach our kids, not just church, but the gospel. This was one of Israel’s big problems throughout the Old Testament. Israel would turn to God and experience a revival, but within one or two generations, they were back to worshiping false idols and, as God puts it in numerous places, committing spiritual adultery on him.

God knows all this ahead of time and told the Israelite s that part of this yearly ritual and celebration was to pass the story on to the younger generation.

I also saw a quote recently that reminds just how smart our kids can be. It said, “As soon as we assumed that children were too stupid to figure out what the pastor was talking about, they were” Our kids are much smarter than we ever give them credit for and if we teach them and talk to them as if they are smart enough to get it, they will.

But this is also a reminder to ourselves. How many times, how often do we receive an answer to prayer, a miracle from God and we forget about it shortly after it happened? I know it happens to me all the time. And with big things even. Right after Hope and I got married, I lost my job and was out of work for 6 months. I happened to get placed in a company through a temp agency, and through circumstances that could only be brought about by God, I got hired on full time. Not only was this a job, but this was a job that paid well, and had great benefits. To be completely honest I would have taken a decent pay cut just to have had those benefits. But I would often forget how God arranged all this and I would take it for granted and I would look for other jobs and I would get frustrated there. Then something would remind me.

This is why the disciples were celebrating the Passover with Jesus on this Thursday night. To Remember. They didn’t know that the Jewish leadership was planning on arresting Jesus. Well, one did.

Luke tells is right at the beginning of Chapter 22 that the Jews were afraid of the people and that was why they were looking to put him to death. They were afraid of the people because Jerusalem was packed full of Jews traveling there to celebrate the Passover. Luke tells us earlier in his book, that the religious leaders had trouble coming up with ways to kill him because the people were hanging on every word to come out of his mouth. There was no way that all those people would stand for the arrest of Jesus. They would be whipped into a frenzy. It would become a mob mentality and there would be no predicting what would happen. So, to protect themselves, they would wait until they could encounter Jesus away from the crowds.

Even with the evil in their hearts, their preference was to not do this during Passover. They did it because the opportunity came up and they did it because they could not see who Jesus was.

Jesus revealed himself to be THE Passover Lamb. The New Testament shows us this in many places. John the Baptist saw Jesus walking towards him in John 1:29 and recognized Jesus for who and what he was. He said to himself, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.” It wasn’t just that John called him that that made it so. There were many reasons the scriptures point out. Exodus calls for the Passover lamb to be one without blemish. In 1 Peter 1:18-19, Peter says “You were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”

The lambs that were chosen for sacrifice in the Old Testament times were very purposefully to be without blemish. We are blemished, we are sinful and full of defects. We are told that “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23) In the Old Testament, we would offer blood sacrifices to atone for our sins. But that was just temporary, we could not stay perfect, no matter how hard we tried. We needed someone who was perfect, who had no sin, no blame. The only person that could accomplish this was a perfect man. The sacrificial lambs were sacrificed in place of us to pay the temporary payment of our sins. Jesus was the Lamb that was sacrificed for our sins permanently.

While the blood on the door for the Israelites signaled for Gods wrath to Passover that household, so does the blood of Jesus on our hearts signals the wrath of God to Passover us when stand before him in judgment.

The Passover ended up being the final plague on Egypt. After the death of all the firstborns, Pharaoh wanted them to get out and they left. They were now freed from slavery. In the same way, we are slaves to sin. The New Testament is very clear on this. In the same way the Passover freed the Israelites from slavery of Egypt, Jesus freed us from the slavery of sin.

Now, as I said, the Israelites were commanded to pass along the tradition and celebration of the Passover. We are no longer under the law. On the night of the last supper, Jesus replaced the Passover celebration, and the Abrahamic Covenant was fulfilled in the New Covenant. But Jesus orchestrated the Passover to be the time when he was going to be crucified. In Luke 22:15-16, Jesus tells his disciples, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”

What he is saying is that while Jesus is THE fulfillment of the Passover lamb and he secured freedom for us from Gods wrath, that freedom will not become totally seen until we are with God in Heaven.

He replaced the Passover meal with communion. Instead of eating of the Passover lamb, sacrificed and drained of blood, we are to partake in eating the bread, symbolizing the body of Christ, who was THE Passover Lamb and drink the wine which was the Blood of Jesus who was THE Passover lamb.

Instead of celebrating the freedom from slavery every year, we are to celebrate the freedom from sin and the freedom from eternal torment whenever we gather together. But that doesn’t mean that we are to forget. Hope and I enjoy celebrating Passover and Hanukah, some of the Jewish holidays. Of course, it is not required as it was previously, but, for me it helps make the Bible more real. It helps us to remember that Jesus is our Passover lamb. It helps us to remember that his blood allows Gods wrath to pass over us.

We forget that sometimes. If not intellectually than definitely practically. We all have things that become our practical Passover lamb, our idols, our practical saviors. For some of us, it’s that we are a good person. We think that is enough to save us. That was what mine was. For most of my life I figured I was a good enough person and that’s all that was needed. That is one that I still find myself struggling with at times.

For some of us, it’s our good works. If we do, do, do, if we help the poor, if we protest against abortion or homosexuality, the we can outweigh whatever bad we may do on the scales at the end. I’ve heard one pastor describe this as trying to wear the same set of white clothes for eighty years and trying to keep them pure and spotless. And I think that’s a good illustration, but it doesn’t go far enough. Because, even if we were to physically keep the outfit pure and spotless from our environment, we could not keep our sweat, tears, that sort of thing, just as our mind, our heart, our sinful nature has already ruined the outfit. We all have these things that come between us and Jesus.

And the Passover, and communion remind us that Jesus closes that gap. Between us and him. It is not through anything that we do, but through his blood, his love and his grace that are out white outfits stay pure and spotless.

Finally, the Passover is an intrinsically important part of our history. It’s not just world history, or Jewish history or American history. But it’s your history and it’s my history. Its believer’s history. If you are a follower of Jesus, who was Jesus?

Jesus was not a Christian, not in the sense that we understand it. He was not American; he was not white. He was not gorgeous. He was not anything like we picture. He was a plain looking, brown skinned, middle eastern Jewish man.

Most of us spend our time in the Bible in the Gospels and Paul’s letters… We might go through the Old Testament for our daily reading plan, but how often do we spend intentional, studious time in Numbers, or Deuteronomy, or Lamentations, or Joel? Joel is one of the Old Testament prophets by the way…

But what Scriptures did Jesus know? The Gospels weren’t written when he was alive. Neither were Paul’s letters. Jesus had the Old Testament. He had the writings of Moses, the first 5 books of the Old Testament. He had the historical books, starting with Joshua and going through Esther. He had the wisdom books, Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon and the like, and he had the Prophets, Isaiah through Malachi.

These are the scriptures that Jesus had, and the Jews had, and they were vital for understanding God, his story and his redemption plan. Now, most of us are not Jewish, ethnically speaking. But Once Jesus came, he followed the Old Testament, and he came as a Jew, to the Jews, and offered them salvation. Then he turned to all the rest of us and we were allowed to receive the gift of salvation as well.

For us to know Jesus better, we need to know who he was, when he grew up, what the culture was. That’s one of the things that The Old Testament does for us. Jesus celebrated the Passover, for us to know Jesus better, to have a better relationship with him, we don’t have to celebrate the Passover, but you have to understand it and why Jesus celebrated it.

My challenge to you, to me, to us, is, are you, are we utilizing all of the resources available to us to understand Jesus better, to grow closer to him.

We have our Bible, are we reading it? All of it? Or just our favorite parts? Are we only skimming it because it’s in our daily reading plan or are we actually reading it? Both Testaments?

Are we praying? This hits a couple of areas. Are we praying for those around us? In our congregation and in our family? Are we praying the list of prayer requests that come in the bulletin each week? What about prayer requests that come in Bible Studies? Or even just your everyday conversation with friends, family, coworkers, and the trials and troubles that come up in their lives. What about personal time in prayer just for you and God. Time to pray, meaning talk to him, listen to him and just be with him.

Are you talking to the people in your life that you can learn from? If you’re not sure who that might be. My phone is always on and my office door is always open. Are you reading or listening to things that bring you closer to God? This could include things on TV, music on the radio, but it includes books about Jesus, in includes sermons online, podcasts, things like that. I’m not saying you have to do all, or even any of these things. If you belong to God, you belong to God, but these are resources that you have, that can help you know Jesus Christ better, help you grow closer to him.

 

 

 

As I referenced at the beginning of the sermon this morning, this week is what is called Passion Week, or Holy Week. Today is Palm Sunday. The day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem for the last week of his life. He was there this week specifically because it was the Passover. Thursday night is when he had the Last Supper with the disciples, the Passover meal, the prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. Thursday was the night the Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus and turned him over to the Romans and Jewish leaders. He was illegally tried through the night, with false witnesses on trumped up charges, the loudest of which was blasphemy.

Friday he was beaten to within an inch of his life. The beating the Romans doled out was called the half death, because half of the prisoners who received it, died from it. He was then forced to carry his own cross and then crucified on it.

The details are horrendous, and I won’t go into them today, but there was a reason that the Passion of the Christ was Rated R. Jesus died on that cross. He died for me, he died for you, he died for all of us.

And on Sunday morning, he accomplished all he came here to do, by being raised back up from the dead by God the Father and proclaiming victory over death and sin.

This is the most important week in Jesus life. We today tend to celebrate Christmas as the most important date in Christianity. And don’t get me wrong, the birth of Jesus Christ was a monumental moment in history. It was world changing, to say the least.

But then, 30 plus years later, Jesus would have yet another, greater world changing moment. This week is designed by God to be one of reflection. Do you understand what Jesus went through this week? Do you see that what he went through allowed you and I to be passed over in our sin? That his life, and his death, were a fulfillment of the Passover, and that his resurrection made that Passover permanent? Take some time this week, think about it. Reflect on that. How serious are we about our relationship with God? And what are we doing to bring ourselves closer to him?

 

Let’s Pray

 

 

Luke 5:1-11 Jesus is the Son of Man: Jesus First Disciples

Luke 5:1-11

Jesus is the Son of Man

Jesus First Disciples

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles and turn to Luke chapter 5. As we really start to get into Jesus ministry here on earth, we get to see how people respond to him and how people today respond to him in those very same ways.

So, a brief overview of where we have been, of Jesus public ministry so far in the Gospel of Luke. We started in Nazareth where Jesus preached the Word of God, announced that he was the fulfillment of the Word and was rejected out of hand by his hometown. They wanted to kill him, and he was run out of town.

He then went down to the region around the Sea of Galilee, to the town of Capernaum. Now, they reacted exactly the opposite of how Nazareth did. They propped him up and wanted him to stay there. Jesus continued to preach the Word and seemingly because of their willingness to listen and believe, Jesus also performed many healings and cast out many demons during his time in Capernaum.

Stories about Jesus spread throughout the region and he gained many followers, people listening to his teachings and wanting to see him perform more miracles. But today is going to be the first time we see committed followers, actual disciples of Jesus the Messiah.

This morning we are going to read from Luke chapter 5, verses 1-11. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I encourage you to read along in your preferred translation, always making sure to read for your self what the Word of God says.

Luke 5:1-11, Luke based off meticulous research and firsthand eyewitness interviews and by inspiration of the Holy Spirit writes:

 

On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”[a] 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.

 

 

Now, we see that the events of this passage take place during his time around Galilee. The lake of Gennesaret is another name for the Sea of Galilee. So, this week’s events take place during the time of the events we looked at last week. We know that it for sure takes place before v 39 when Jesus went into Simon, who was Peter’s house.

And that’s the first thing we will look at this morning. We know that each of the four Gospels are not written or put together strictly chronologically. So, we ask, why did Luke put both sections of chapter 4 before the events of chapter 5, some of which take place before some of the events of Chapter 4?”

Well, I’m glad you asked. The Gospel writes in general, and Luke here specifically will often group stories together because together, they make a point, or show a truth. It emphasizes something about Jesus that the Gospel writer, inspired by the Holy Spirit wants us to see and wants us to know.  In this case, Luke is showing the two different reactions and responses to Jesus and his teachings. One rejecting him completely and one accepting and continuing to listen to and follow his teachings.

 

Now, we see that on one occasion during his time in Capernaum, there were large crowds pushing up on Jesus. They were treating him like we see today with rock stars and celebrities. The crowds were pushing up on him like he was the Beatles or Elvis, and we know, despite John Lennon’s famous claim, that He is bigger than they are.

And they were doing so for good reasons actually. These people wanted to hear the Word of God preached by him. Scriptures says that. They were by the Sea of Galilee and pushing Jesus towards the sea.

There just happened to be two boats right by where he was being pushed up against the water. Of course, we know that nothing just happens, there is no “luckily,” God is sovereign over it all and he makes all things happen. These two boats were there for a reason. And we will see that reason.

There were two fishing boats there, they were in for the day. Fishermen would take their boats out during the night, bring them back in the morning, have breakfast and then work on whatever the boats needed, including washing and mending the nets they used. That’s what Peter and his partners were doing on the beach that morning.

Jesus commandeered Peters boat and had him push off the land into the water. Here he was able to sit, which again, was the custom when teaching in those days. The water also allowed there to be much better natural acoustics, not the last time we will see this be the case in Israel in Bible times. But remember this was a big crowd coming to listen to Jesus and he just made it so that they could all hear Him.

Now, we don’t get a report on what Jesus taught that morning. Sometimes we do because that’s the point of the passage that we are reading. This mornings passage is not about what Jesus was teaching but in the responses of people to the teachings of Jesus and therefore to Jesus himself.

So, after he was done teaching for the morning, he decides to show Simon, who was Peter, something. He tells him, go over here and put your nets out. Peter is often, if we are honest with ourselves, an example of how we all react, saying things that we all want to say, or that we all think but don’t say out loud.

What he says is that there is no reason to go put the nets down over there. They had been fishing all night and it was one of those nights where they just didn’t catch anything. Peters implication is “Jesus, your great at that preaching stuff! But now you’re encroaching on my turf. I’m the fisherman, I’m the expert here.”

And we do that often with Jesus. We come Sunday and whenever else and we give that time to him and we think we are doing such a good job. Then we get to wherever we go to, our job, our family, our school, our hobbies, whatever, and we act out “ok Jesus, I’ve got this now, I don’t need your help with this.”

But, to Peters credit, he does say, “Since you say so, Ill do it.” There is still obedience there. And he does this, in the middle of the day, when fish were known to avoid the waters where the nets might be, after being up all night on the boats, tossing the nets out, dragging them back in and being frustrated at them not catching anything, he still obeys.

And what Simon finds is that, quite simply, the LORD provides. The nets that Simon threw out there caught more fish than he could handle. It was going to break the nets. He had to call for his partners to help pull the fish in.

RC Sproul says that the record catch was a “Reward for obedience, not the result of skill or technique.” He was responding to the false idea that the fish were a result of anything that Simon did. It was a bona fide miracle from   Jesus. All Him, nothing of us. So, the second boat comes over and helps with the fish, but again, there are so many that the second boat begins to sink.

Now, notice the switch that happens with Simon at this point. Luke had been referring to him as Simon. Now he is listed as Simon Peter. This switch happens when Peter acknowledges and confess Jesus as LORD.

See when that happens, when we do that, our identity changes. We see it often in the Bible. We see it in this case with Simon, would have his name changed by Jesus to Peter.           His identity is changed, and Jesus gives name to that.

Now, we don’t have our names changed in these cases, but our identity still changes.

Our identity changes from sinner to saint.

Our identity changes from goat to sheep.

Our identity changes from child of the devil to a child of God.

Our identity changes from unrighteous to clothed in His righteousness.

Our identity changes from condemned to redeemed.

 

A prerequisite for our identity changing is what we see happen with Simon Peter. He recognizes his sinfulness. He recognizes that he is unworthy. He knows that God cannot be in the presence of sin. He was astonished at this fish miracle.

Simon Peter recognized and acknowledged who Jesus was. He was LORD. This was not just some great teacher they were listening to. He was so much more than that. He was God.

CS Lewis made a famous argument that Jesus, with all He said, had only three options. He was a Liar, making it all up to fool the people. Or he could have been a lunatic, truly believing that he was who he said he was but deluded in that belief. The last option was that he was in fact who he said he was. That he was God. That he was LORD. He was either a Liar, a Lunatic or LORD.

Simon Peter recognized which one he was. And not only he, but his partners as well. We know from Marks Gospel that Simons brother Andrew was there too and a part of this. We also see Luke specify here brothers James and John, the sons of Zebedee and they have probably the best nicknames in all of the Bible, the Sons of Thunder!

Faith is often contagious. It could have stopped with Simon Peter, but all four of them responded by faith. When one person comes to faith, often more people around them will as well, sometimes friends, sometimes family, whoever.

And we see no hesitation among those who consciously recognize Jesus as God. As soon as they knew, it was time to act. It was time to follow. This also shows that there is no time to hesitate in our decision to follow Christ. Death bed conversions do happen, but if you are banking on one, then you should be worried. You can’t bank on tomorrow; you never know if you will have tomorrow. But Jesus does promise eternity. Today is the day of salvation and salvation belongs to the LORD. Don’t out it off because you may not get another chance.

Jesus makes it clear to Simon Peter what he expects from him.   He was no longer going to be catching fish, but he would now be a fisher of men. He literally says that he will catch alive men, as if to rescue them from danger. In this case from eternal danger of Hellfire and brimstone.

As Philip Ryken relates, “People often say, ‘Give a man a fish, you feed him for the day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.’ But Jesus shows us that if you teach a man to fish for men, the people he catches will live forever.”

Jesus gave them a call, a mission. He said to follow me. And they did. They dropped everything and left it all immediately. They left their businesses. They left comfort and knowledge of what tomorrow would bring. They left their livelihoods. You know I wonder if that might have had something to do with Simons mother-in-law being sick, wondering how this guy was going to take care of her daughter now that he was following this Jesus teacher guy…

Life in the church, a life of true faith is not a sectator sport. It is a life of action. It is a life of going and being fishers of men, casting our nets and letting God provide the catch. It is a life of actively pursuing God. It is a life of actively seeking to serve and obey him, of actively repenting of our sins. A life of faith is a life of action.

We see in this passage this morning the things that Jesus calls us to as disciples. He calls us to listen to his Word. He calls us t repent and grieve our sins. He calls us to tell others about Christ and who he is.
One commentator tells us about being fishers of men, writing: A fisherman never knows what he is going to catch. The catch is up to the sovereignty of God, as any fisherman can tell you.  But if a fisherman refuses to drag his net, he will never catch anything at all. The same is true in Christian evangelism. WE are called to cast a wide net by inviting our neighbors to Bible Study, bringing our friends to church, speaking to family members about spiritual things, supporting Christian broadcasting, sending out foreign missionaries, and sharing the Gospel in every way we can. This is our calling both as the church and as individual Christians.

As disciples of Christ, as disciples of Jesus, we are to show everyone we can who exactly Jesus is. He is the Messiah. He is God, the second member of the trinity. He is our savior. He is the one who died on the cross, shed his perfect blood, rose form the dead and is living and reigning right now in heaven. He is the King of Kings and the LORD of LORDs. He is the ultimate object of our love, affection and worship. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the creator of the universe.

When CS Lewis was setting out the three options, we have for our response to who Jesus claims to be, he ends it with this quote, which Ill close with us and then Ill pray. He sums up that section, writing:

You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

 

Let’s Pray.

Luke 4:14-30 Jesus is the Son of Man: Jesus rejected in Nazareth

Luke 4:14-30

Jesus is the Son of Man

Jesus rejected in Nazareth

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Luke chapter 4. As most of you know, if you do not have a Bible, or need a Bible, please see me after the service so we can get one into your hands.

So far in Luke’s Gospel, we have seen Jesus preparing for his public earthly ministry. We saw him studying. We saw him being discipled. We saw him preparing.

At the end of chapter 2, we saw Jesus study and learn Gods word, listening to the rabbis and teachers in the temple. He was being taught Gods Word and submitting himself to the teaching authorities.

In the first part of chapter 3, we saw his baptism. In this, we see that he affirmed the ministry of John the Baptist. It was also a personal declaration of Jesus faith and his affirmation of who he was, or Christ is, and who God is. Lastly in that passage, we see that Jesus had an active prayer life.

Last week, in chapter 4, we see Jesus being tempted. We see him living a holy, sanctified life, what would be evidence of conversion in our lives. We see the Holy Spirit helping him resist temptation. We see more evidence of his active prayer life. We see him accurately and rightly using his knowledge of the Word of God. And we see him practicing various spiritual disciplines, fasting and the like.

All of this prepares him for his public ministry. All types of ministry, preaching, teaching, leading, serving, and so much more, all of them take at least some kind of preparation. It takes prayer, it takes knowing the Word of God, it takes living a holy and changed life. It takes these things to prepare a person to serve in the way that God has designed us for.

But one of the things that we are going to see Jesus show us here, is that, even with all the preparation in the world, even with all the Bible Knowledge, even with all that, as written in 1 Corinthians 13, if we have all knowledge, but have not love, we are nothing.

And so that brings us to out text for the evening, Luke chapter 4, verses 14 through 30. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please grab your preferred translation and follow along in the text, reading for yourself what Gods Word says. Luke 4:14-30, Luke, inspired by the Holy Spirit writes:

And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. 15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.

16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” 23 And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘“Physician, heal yourself.” What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’” 24 And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. 25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, 26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers[a] in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, he went away.

 

 

Thus, ends the reading of Gods Holy Word.

 

We start with Jesus travelling once again. He went to the Jordan, for his baptism, he went out into the wilderness and now he is back from the Galilee region. He went back home. Home to Nazareth. But before he went home, we see that he had already done some stuff. His ministry had already started. There were reports coming in, even to Nazareth about some of the stuff that Jesus had been doing.

Its interesting. The Gospels, all four of them. They are not written in chronological order. And all the authors choose different events in Jesus life that were important to share, that speak to what they are showing us about Jesus.

There are books called the Harmonies of the Gospels, and they try to align all the Gospels in chronological order within themselves, but also show how the Gospels line up with each other.

Luke skips the events of John 3 and 4, and the most of Matthew 3 & 4, which most theologians agree took place before this event in Luke 4. Jesus has established his name in the region, Luke, remember he is inspired by the Holy Spirit when writing this, doesn’t not feel the need to spend time on those events. He sums up in verses 14 and 15, that reports about him went out and that he had already been teaching in many synagogues.

And now Jesus comes back home. He comes back to his hometown. He comes back to his home synagogue, his home church essentially. As an aside, not the main point, but a valid point I believe, is to look at what this says about Jesus and his commitment to regular, public worship. They didn’t have churches then, they had synagogues. They didn’t meet on Sunday Mornings, they met on Saturday. But they did meet to worship God and to learn about his Word.

Jesus made sure that he attended this worship on a regular basis. There was no thought that since he was, you know, God, that he could worship God on his own, that he didn’t need fellowship or community. We have made this point with a few other things too, but if even Jesus, the Son of God himself, the Word incarnate, if even he needed regular worship and teaching and preaching, how much more do we?

Now, the Bible does not give us much regarding the order of the worship service in synagogues. What we know comes from outside sources, rabbis’ writings from this time and from this little bit of Luke. There was no set, weekly preacher. Often, if there were visiting rabbis from out of town, they would be asked to teach in the synagogue.

There would be singing, or reciting of some psalms, then the teacher would open up the scroll, would stand out of respect for Gods Word and would read a passage from what we call the Old Testament. He would then sit, and he would exposit the Word of God.

And that’s what Jesus did. He stood up and read from the scroll, finding, without chapters and verses, exactly the passages he was looking for. Even more impressive, if you took our Bibliology class, we know that Hebrew was written much differently than what we are used to reading. First, they did not write the vowels, just the consonants. Second, they didn’t write spaces in between the words, so it would look to   a non-Hebrew reader like a random string of letters.

All these things put together and we see that Jesus was intimately familiar with Gods Word, able to find the exact passages he was looking for and find them easily.

Jesus was very specific about choosing these verses as well. He read from Isaiah 61:1 & 2, and Isaiah 58:6. Why dd he pick these verses? Philip Ryken tells us: Luke recorded this sermon because of all the things that he wanted us to know for sure, the most important is the good news of salvation in Christ. And what better way for us to hear than from the Saviors own lips?

          Some call this passage, the Gospel according to Jesus. All that is wrong with this world, all that is broken, all that is because of sin will be restored and will be fixed. Those under bondage will be set free. Those who are blind will see. The poor will receive good news. This has a lesser, more immediate context of the physical and earthly. However, the fuller meaning of this is, of course, the spiritual, the heavenly and the eternal.

Jesus came to bring the good news of salvation. The poor that are mentioned here are the same words and the same meaning as the poor in Spirit in Matthews recount of the Sermon on the Mount. He came to show love, compassion and inclusion of the seeming outcasts of that time, to show that the Kingdom of heaven is open to many who would not be otherwise assumed.

Jesus announced the year of the LORDS favor, the jubilee of jubilees. Its interesting that Jesus didn’t read the last half of Isaiah 61:2 which mentions the day of vengeance of the LORD. Jesus rolls up the scroll and tells the congregation that the scripture he read is fulfilled that day with their hearing.

The day of vengeance was not fulfilled that day, but the season of the LORDs favor was fulfilled that day, fulfilled through Jesus. The day of evidence is not until Jesus comes back. But now, today, this very day, the blind are able to see, the captives are being set free and salvation is brought by Christ.

He says it is through their hearing that this is fulfilled. Jesus came and offered salvation by grace through faith in him. We know that Faith comes by hearing, Hearing by the Word of God.

Jesus says that it is now fulfilled. Jesus is the fulfillment of all prophecy. He is the fulfillment of all signs, and types and shadows. He is the fulfillment of all promises and blessings. And we see that TODAY it is fulfilled. The blessings and the promises of God have started to be fulfilled and they are already accomplished, though we will not see the completion and the ultimate fulfillment of that until the Day of the LORD.

This is called the already and the not yet. Jesus speaks through the Gospels, of the Kingdom of Heaven in the present tense. Jesus is currently reigning in on his throne. We are currently being saved and glorified and sanctified. The Kingdom has already started to manifest itself here on earth, starting with Jesus first coming. IT will be finally and completely and perfectly and totally fulfilled and renewed and transformed when Jesus comes a second time. So, the Kingdom of God is already here and, at the same time, not yet here.

Jesus reads these scriptures to the congregation and we see that they spoke well of him and marveled at his teaching. Then they started asking, “Wait a minute, isn’t this Josephs boy?” They remember seeing him playing around the neighborhood. They remember him learning in the synagogue. They remember him working with Joseph in his carpentry business.

There seems to be a recognition that Jesus was a good teacher and a nice guy, but we certainly weren’t God, like he was insinuating with his sermon. By the way, he was doing a lot more than insinuating there.

 

You know, we see this a lot today. We hear it a lot. Some of us have even said it before, maybe not that long ago.

“Prove it.”

“Show me.”

“If God would just show himself, then Id believe.”

No. No you wouldn’t. How do I know? Because he did. And we see this morning how they responded. They didn’t believe Jesus when he was standing right in front of them. He even said, you didn’t believe me, why would you believe Moses?

He then goes and shows us a couple of examples from the Old Testament about those who didn’t demand signs or wonders or proof but believed by faith.

We are not going to read the whole stories, but the first one Jesus mentioned is from 1 Kings 17. In the middle of a three-and-a-half-year famine and drought, Elijah came upon a gentile woman in Sidon. She had just enough flour and oil for a single loaf of bread for her and her son. In fact, she said, I’m going to make this loaf and then we will sit down to die. Elijah tells her to bring him some too. She responded by faith and did bring him some, and the flour and oil she had lasted here throughout the rest of the famine.

Next Jesus tells a story from 2 Kings chapter 5. The Syrian king came down with a case of leprosy. He tried everything, from every god he could think of, but eventually sent for Elijah. He told him to dip himself in the Jordan river 7 times and then he would be healed. Now, he definitely fought back on this. He didn’t want to do it. But eventually he did, without and signs or wonders ahead of time. He responded out of faith that he didn’t fully have yet; it was still developing.

Jesus was telling them two things. First, that salvation comes by faith. It does not come through ancestry, or heritage, or any ability to see, or being a prisoner or a freeman, or a king or a widow, or anything else but faith alone. And second, this is Old Testament evidence, that salvation for Gentiles, that Gentiles being brought into the fold of the people of God was not a Plan B. Gods plan for salvation was always that both Gentiles and Jews would be saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

The Nazarites in the synagogue did NOT appreciate this. It says they were full of wrath and fuming at what Jesus had to say. It seems that they didn’t even let Jesus finish the service. They were going to kill him.

See Jesus offended them in one of the deepest ways. He told them; they were not worthy. They were not good enough on their own to earn salvation. I love how Kent Hughes describes this. He writes: The fine citizens of Nazareth had heard enough. It was bad enough to be told that they were poor and blind and captive and oppressed, but now to be told they were less spiritual and less wise than the Gentiles, both Naaman and the widow, was just too much!”

 

          Jesus cut through their religious façade, through their outer moral shell. These would have been the people in church every Sunday. These would have been those who knew their Bible, inside and out. These would have been the church leaders and prominent members of the church community. But they were still spiritually blind. They were still captives to sin. And Paul writes in Romans 8:7 that the mind that is set on the flesh hostile to God. That’s what we are seeing here in Nazareth.

The congregants. Who knew Jesus, had grown up with him, who watched him grow up and who spoke well of him and marveled at his words, they back up Jesus to a cliff and were going to kill him.

Somehow Jesus escaped. Some say it was because he was so ordinary, that he couldn’t be picked out of the crowd. I believe this was a supernatural event. We know that this was not his time, and this was not the place that He was supposed to die. And so, somehow, he slipped through the crowd and escaped this attempt on his life.

It was not Gods will. It was not Gods plan for Jesus to die there in Nazareth. The plan was and always would be for Jesus to be tried and crucified by Pontius Pilate and the Jewish religious leaders. The plan was for him to be buried for three days and to rise up from the dead. The plan was exactly what happened. Paul recounts that in 1 Corinthians 15. That’s what happened and that’s what scriptures said was going to happen. That was what Jesus came to do and that’s what Jesus accomplished.

This is the last time we have Jesus recorded as being in Nazareth. Sometimes we are called to stay home when we want to go, sometimes we are called to go when we want to stay. But we are not going to get into that, that’s for next week.

The key takeaway for this passage in Luke is that the Grace of God needed by all and it is open for all who know that they need it. We can’t repent, we can’t believe, we can’t receive Gods grace unless we realize we need it. We are blind and cannot see without God opening our eyes.

Hebrews 11:6 says: And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him

I think of who I was when I read thins like this. Before Christ, I was a good guy, a nice guy, moral and standup. I believe that God existed. I believe that Jesus was the Son of God. I believed that the Bible was true, but I had never read the Bible, so I didn’t know what it said. I didn’t know what it meant to believe that Jesus was the Son of God. I did not have saving faith.

Then I started going to church. I started hearing the things the preacher was saying. It didn’t track with what I thought I knew. I realized I had to start reading the Bible and seeing what I claimed I believed in, what it truly had to say. It was then that I realized that I was in need of Gods grace. My morals, my being a good guy were worthless. I was blind. I was oppressed. I was captive. But Jesus came to set me free.

We all were and still are sinners in need of Gods grace. The quicker we stop trusting in ourselves and start to realize who we really are. The quicker we realize how needy we truly are before God, the quicker we can respond to his call.

 

I want to leave you this morning with a story I read this week.

 

A large prestigious British church had three mission churches under its care. In the first Sunday of each new year all the members of the mission churches would come to the parent church for a combined Communion Service. IN those mission churches, located in the slums of a major city, were some outstanding cases of conversions—thieves, burglars, and others. But all knelt as brothers and sisters’ side by side at the communion rail.

          On one such occasion the pastor saw a former burglar kneeling beside a judge of the Supreme Court of England- the very judge who had sent him to jail where he had served 7 years. After his release this burglar had been converted and became a Christian worker.

          After the service, the judge was walking out with the pastor and said to him, “Did you notice who was kneeling beside me at the communion rail this morning?” The two walked along in silence for a few more moments, and then the judge said, “What a miracle of Grace.” The pastor nodded in agreement. “A marvelous miracle of grace indeed.” The judge then inquired, “But to whom do you refer?”  “The former convict,” the pastor answered. The judge said, “I was not referring to him. I was thinking of myself.” The minister, surprised, replied, “You were thinking of yourself? I do not understand.”

          “You see,” the judge went on, “it is not surprising that the burglar received Gods grace when he left jail. He had nothing but a history of crime behind him, and when he understood Jesus could be his savior, he knew there was salvation and hope and joy for him. And he knew how much he needed that help. But look at me- I was taught from earliest infancy to live as a gentleman, that my word was to be my bond, that I was to say my prayers, go to church, take communion and so on. I went to Oxford, obtained my degree, was called to the bar, and eventually became a judge. I was sure I was all I needed to be, though in fact I too was a sinner. Pastor, it was Gods grace that drew me. It was God’s grace that opened my heart to receive Christ. I’m the greater miracle!”

          All who bow to him, acknowledging their need and hopelessness, receive eternal life. Miracles of Grace! (From Kent Hughes)

 

Let us all see our need for Gods grace and what a miracle indeed it is that he opened our eyes to him and poured his grace out on us.

Let’s Pray.

Village Missions Sunday Focus on Rural Missions Ephesians 4:11-16

Village Missions Sunday

Focus on Rural Missions

Ephesians 4:11-16

 

 

Good Morning! SO. Go ahead and grab your Bibles with me this morning and turn to Ephesians chapter 4. We are going to be taking a break this morning from our series through the Gospel of Luke to look at Gods design for the local church and what our role in that is and what role Village Missions plays in it as well.

Who here had heard the name Village Missions? Who here has a general idea of who they are and what they do? Who here knows exactly who they are and what they do? Village Missions mission statement is that they exist to produce spiritually vital churches in Rural North America.

The text I want us to read this morning will show us what it means to become a spiritually vital church in our community. So, we are going to read from Ephesians chapter 4, verses 11-16. Grab your Bibles, follow along with me. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version though more important than which translation you read along with, is that you do in fact read for yourself what the Word of God says.

Paul, writing to the church in Ephesus, inspired by the Holy Spirit writes:

And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by waves and carried about by every doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

 

          May God Bless the Reading of his Holy Word.

 

The first thing I see in this passage is that God has given us all the things we need, people, gifts, each other, to grow the local church into a spiritually vital church. A lot of people think that it’s just the pastor’s job to grow and build the church.

But we see that has given the church more than just the pastor. As the pastor, I have very specific purposes and very specific things that God has called me to, and I will be held accountable for. But it is not solely my responsibility to grow and build the church. It is all of our responsibility.

The church is what and who helps the church grow. I have been around when new people have come to a church. Sometimes they are there for a day, sometimes they are around for a couple weeks, sometimes a couple months, but they leave because of someone or someone’s in the church.

At one church, we had many families start to come into the church, young families with kids. Exactly what the church said they wanted. Only the inner influencers at that church chased away every single family that came through the doors. Families didn’t dress or live the way they were supposed to. Kids didn’t sit down, shut up and stand quietly off to the side. The church actively, though likely unknowingly, stopped that church from growing.

The other option is that people come in those church doors and the people in the church help them stay. Bring them in, welcome them. Make them feel like the church is happy for them to be here. Help them to hear the Gospel and to grow in maturity of Jesus Christ.

That is the responsibility of each and everyone of us in this room. One of the things that Ephesians 4 makes clear, both in our passage this morning and back in verses 3-6 is that the unity of his church is absolutely vital to the church being spiritually vital.

Unity. Its one of the things that we have talked about and prayed for for the entire 2 ½ plus years I have been here. Unity is something that we are continually striving to get better at. We are a community Church. We are not a specific denomination. We hold the Bible up as our standard. With that, people from all different theological backgrounds and no theological backgrounds.  We are not going to agree on all the different details, and we don’t have to. You hear me say it often, but it bears repeating often. Unity is not uniformity.

Hear that. WE don’t all have to believe all the same things. We don’t all have to live the same life. We don’t have to look a certain look. We have to believe and be united in one thing. And that is Jesus Christ. We have one core set of beliefs that classify us as Christians.

We are saved by the grace of God alone. That grace is poured out through a gift of God called faith. And it is through that faith alone in the one and only Jesus Christ alone, fully man, fully God, lived a perfect, sinless life, died a death in our place to pay the penalty for our sins, through that faith that Jesus Christ reconciles us to God the father and grants us eternal forgiveness and eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven. We believe that this is revealed only through the Word of God alone, that Word given to us by the scriptures that are combined into what we have and is known as the Bible. None of this is or can be deserved by us. It is done for the glory of God alone and by the glory and holiness of God alone.

We believe that core group of beliefs and everything else is secondary. We believe those core beliefs and we can rightfully call ourselves Christians. We believe those core beliefs and we are united as a church family and as the chosen children of God. We are united in our standing before God. Justified by faith. Justified through Christs perfect righteousness. In united in that we are all disciples of Christ.

You know, I use that word “disciples,” very purposely. New Village Missions Executive Director John Adams asks this question; “Do you think like Jesus, respond like Jesus, trust God like Jesus does?”

We are disciples of Jesus Christ. This is a lifelong goal and a lifelong process. God is always offering opportunities for us to grow. But we can’t do it alone. We were never meant to do it alone.

Paul makes it clear in Ephesians that the church is to be “No Christian Left Behind.” WE build up the body until we ALL attain the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

          Christ is our standard. We cannot and will not meet that standard here in this lifetime. But we work towards and we desire for that progress. The Holy Spirit works in us and if we are truly Gods children, we will see continual growth and maturing over our lifetime. And we will see it together. And of course, it won’t be like a rocket, a straight line moving up, instead our sanctification is more like the stock market. It will have us and downs. We will rise and we will fall. But over time, we will always see it trending towards that maturity and that unity in the faith.

We work together, walking with each other from the beginning of our walk with Christ. We don’t start immediately mature. I know when I became a Christian, I knew very little of the Bible. Most of us are in the same boat. And because we don’t have that anchor in place, that foundation set of the Word of God, we are susceptible to false teachings. We are susceptible to passion and persuasive abilities to deceive. We are susceptible to those who would play off our emotions and take us down the wrong path.

We already have a natural human tendency to believe what we already agree with. We already have a natural human tendency to believe what we want to believe instead of what’s true.  We see this all the time. Do you have a bible teacher, a pastor online, or an author that you really like? Be careful, because we tend to put blinders on to what they teach and ignore if they say something unbiblical. Worse yet, if they start sound and go down the path and end up completely unbiblical, we ignore the problems with the new teaching and when confronted with it, we point to the older, more solid stuff. My point is this; if there is anyone that you let teach you or influence you and you cannot find anything that you disagree with them on, you just made them an idol.

Focus on the Bible. In context. Focus on learning and knowing his Word. That’s how we get to know Jesus. John Adams makes the point that The Better you know Christ and the more entrusted every area of life to his will, the less likely you will be deceived. Know and Trust his Word. BE sensitive to the conviction of the Holy Spirit but be cautious. Only Jesus had a 100% true belief system. We only get a diminishing percentage of error.

The more we know Gods Word, the more we can speak the truth to others. But we have all been on both the giving and receiving end of speaking truth in a very unloving way. We unfortunately see it too often. I see it around here more often than I would like. I have also been guilty of it myself more often than I would like. We don’t always realize we are doing this when we do it though, so I want to say that if I have spoken truth to you or spoken anything for that matter, in an unloving way, I am sorry.

Paul here is talking about more than just the words that come out of our mouth though. The word used for truth here is a verb. It basically means that we are to be truthing in love. Our Words, our actions, our attitude even when we are speechless, our whole lifestyle, living out truth and love. Again, I know we can all agree that God gives us plenty of opportunities to improve in this area and to build unity.

If we have truth without love, we have hurt feelings, anger, and so much more. If we have so called love without truth, we have pretty lies. We give false hope. We see this in some many portrayals of Christianity in our culture. Christians are often only portrayed one of two ways.

First is that bigoted, close minded, hate filled protestor that says that everyone except them is going to hell. Now, they have some truth in that, in regard to we need to repent of our sins when we come to Christ. Rejecting Christ and embracing our sins will unfortunately lead us down the road to eternity in Hell. The other portrayal is those who claim that none of that matters and that every one gets to go to heaven or as long as you’re a nice person, you get to go to heaven, or that all religions lead to the same path towards heaven. They have what looks like love, but there is no truth there. Jesus makes the claim, the true claim, that He is the way, the truth and the life, and the only way to the Father is through him. You can’t have it both ways.

Truthing in love can and will be hard. But that what God calls his church to and it’s a sign of that spiritual maturity. And Paul is showing us what Gog has called his church to look like.

Discipleship.

Truthing in Love.

Unity in Christ

Growing in Maturity.

Using our gifts to build up the saints and to do the work of Gods Kingdom.

 

Gifts that Christ has given the church. Pastors and teachers to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. You. You are the saints. You are here to do the work of the ministry. To walk and grow with each other. Make Bangor Community Church a spiritually vital church. You determine what this church looks like, how it acts, how it is seen in the community.

If you are here because God called you here, then you have a vital role to play in this church. If you are here because God called, you here you are responsible to use your gifts for the betterment of the church. You play a vital role in making this a spiritually vital church in our rural community.

First, and I’m not talking chronologically, but first, we make ourselves and our church family more spiritually mature. We walk together and grow to act more and more Christlike. We gather together and we worship together.

I said it recently and Ill say it again this week. A common anthem over the past 6 months with COVID and the church shutdowns and what not, the anthem is that the church is not the building, it’s the people. And that’s true but its not the whole truth. The word that is used for church in the New Testament means gathering. So more accurately, the church is the gathering of Gods people.

We gather to preach the Gospel. We learn and teach and study the Word of God. WE preach the Word.

 

The second thing we do. We love the people. We look out from this church; we look out from the building and we look at the community around us. We look at our family and our friends. We look at our co workers and all those we know that don’t know Christ.

Each and every one of us is responsible for showing and more importantly, telling those we know about the good news of the Gospel. Each and every one of us is responsible for praying for our friends, neighbors, loved ones, the Bible even says we are all responsible for praying for our enemies and those who don’t like as well. We are to love the People.

 

You know, one of the mottos that I fell in love with from Village Missions, and I cling to this, and use this as one of my guides. They say our job as Village Missionaries is to Preach the Word and Love the People. That’s what I just described.

Someone asked this week, “IF we don’t Bangor, who will?” There is so much truth in that question. Most rural communities are forgotten places. Most rural communities the non-hyperbolic answer is that outside of their own community, literally no one will be praying for them.

This one of the benefits to Village Missions. Its an organization, a web of churches in rural communities that can and do pray for each other. And they make it so easy to pray for each other. In our bulletin each week, we include the Village Missionaries of the week. The give a brief description of their field and then give a few brief prayer requests. They include in their communications, Stories from the Field. These are actual stories sent in by Village Missionaries about the work that God is doing on those fields. This way you can see how to pray and see the answer to those prayers.

Their quarterly Newsletter called Country Matters gets sent out as well, highlighting Village Missionaries and the mission. This most recent one talks about the retirement of Executive Director Brian Wechsler and the new Director, John Adams.

AS you all walk in the front, you will see the work in progress map I’ve got going on. That is a map of all the Village Missions fields throughout the country. These are rural or formerly rural in a few cases, rural communities that are all connected. They pray for each other. They know and share the unique challenges that come with rural ministry. They know the struggles and the blessings. The know the opportunities and the joys of seeing friends and family come to know the LORD and the heartache of seeing families destroyed, communities torn apart and disunity in the church.

IF you wonder if there is anyone outside of Bangor praying for us. There is. 230 communities throughout North America. 230 communities that Village missions serves plus numerous others that receive the Village Missions material. All praying for Bangor Community Church and this community.

Praying for the saints for each and everyone of us to build up the body of Gods church. Remember, Paul tells the Ephesians, no family member left behind, until we all attain the unity of the faith.

We sow the see of the Gospel. We go out and make disciples. We preach the Word and Love the People. We do that and God grows his church. In the book of Acts, it says that God added to his church daily.

IF we do Gods work, if we use the gifts that God gave us to use for the building up of the body of Christ, our local church, Bangor Community Church, will grow into a spiritually vital, spiritually healthy church.

And Gods church, the universal church will grow in numbers. God will bring the increase. We sow the seeds and he bring the growth. Numerically, that may or may not our local church. But we know that his church will increase, his people will come to know him and that the gates of hell will not prevail against His church.

After I pray, I’ve got a few Village Missions videos to play, maybe take 10 minutes total.

Let’s Pray.

 

 

 

Luke 1:5-25 Jesus is the Son of Man: Gabriel prophecies the birth of John the Baptist

Luke 1:5-25

Jesus is the Son of Man:

Gabriel prophecies the birth of John the Baptist

 

Good Moring! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to the book of Luke. If you do not have or own a Bible, we would be happy to give you one as our gift to you.

Last time I was up here, we were introduced to Doctor Luke and his Gospel. We saw who Luke was, when he wrote this Gospel and why he wrote it. One of the things we learned about Luke is that he is a storyteller. He was a researcher. He was a historian and he was an investigator.

And in that, one of the things that makes Luke’s Gospel different is that he does go into more details and shares more stories and more of the stories than the other Gospels. We see that here in, basically all of Luke chapter 1, stories from before the birth of Christ.

Here, in his research and investigations, Luke recognizes that John the Baptist was vital, it was integral to the whole story of Jesus Christ. The story of the life and ministry of Jesus Christs starts with the birth and life of John the Baptist.

After the book of Malachi, after his prophecies, there was 400 years of silence from God. No prophecies, no nothing. Israel was waiting. It was a dark time. And though Jesus Christ would be the dawn, the light breaking through the darkness, John the Baptist was the one who told us, let us know that the light was coming.

And today, Luke is going to introduce the parents of John and show how the hand of God started moving again after waiting 400 years. In chapter 1 here, Luke would compare and contrast the coming of and the birth of Jesus Christ and John the Baptist.

And he sees that this story is important to tell to Theophilus because he wants to show him that God is in control. He is sovereign and he ordains the timing of the births of those in this world. As one commentator points out, these are not just coincidences that God uses to achieve his plans, but he ordains and orchestrates and orders it all according to his will.

So, let’s go ahead and read this mornings passage, Luke chapter 1, verses 5-25. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please grab your Bibles and follow along in your translation. Reading the Word for yourself is so very important. Luke 1:5-25, Luke, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit writes:

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah,[a] of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.

Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

18 And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 19 And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” 21 And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22 And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. 23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”

 

May God Bless the Reading of his Holy Word.

Luke starts with some details that help add gravity and authenticity to his writings. In the day of Herod, King of Judah. That’s when this story takes place. This Herod, which is a title more than it is a name, ruled from 37 BC to 4 BC. He was under the Roman government, but he was nominally the King of the Jews. He was in authority over Judah at this time. We are going to hear more about him in the coming weeks as well.

In those days, a man named Zechariah was a priest. There were many, many priests in those days. The Old Testament divides up the priests into 24 divisions. Each division had many priests. I’ve seen numbers up to 8000 priests each. They would take turns and each division would serve at the temple for two, one-week periods each year. During that week, they would draw lots to see each day which priest would enter the holiest part of the temple, light incense and pray, one in the morning and one in the evening. Most priests would not have the opportunity to be picked for this job even once in their lifetime.

Zechariah was married to a woman named Elizabeth, also of the priestly line of Aaron, considered a double blessing in those days. They were both righteous and blameless in their walk with the LORD. This is of course, not the same as being sinless, but meaning that they were godly and upright, they were walking with the LORD.

So, we know that it was not because of something that they had done that God struck them childless. Children in those days were regarded as “Gods reward for faithful service.” And so, Zechariah and Elizabeth would have been looked at, whispered about, even gossiped about in their town. They look like they are living right, but God won’t give them a child so they must be sinning somehow…

As we see with Jobs friends as well, this is poor theology and poor assumptions. God chooses, not we earn. They were barren, like we often we see throughout scriptures. Abraham and Sarah. Hannah, whose prayer we heard this morning. So many more, and not barren as a punishment, but barren so Gods miraculous power could be shown and observed. They were not barren because they sinned, but barren to bring glory to God.

This is a very real struggle that so many couples deal with on a daily basis today. Knowing that God is in control can help, but it doesn’t fully take away the pain, the disappointment. If this is something you have struggled with, please don’t misunderstand me and think that is what I am saying. But Zechariah and Elizabeth did show that you can have that pain and disappointment and still be content with and faithful to the LORD.

And as we are going to see, they never stopped praying either. IF there is something you have been praying for and its been years, or longer, don’t stop praying. I’m not telling you that God definitively say Yes to the prayer, but throughout scripture we see God tell us to keep praying. No matter what, don’t stop praying. God will answer. It may be Yes; it may be No, or it may be Later. But he will answer.

 

Zechariah went for one of his weeks of service to the Temple in Jerusalem. This time God cause the lot to fall his way and Zechariah was chosen for one of, if not the greatest honor of his life. Definitely the greatest honor of his professional life. He was chosen to enter the temple and light the incense and pray. The rest of the priests waited outside and prayed while the priest was inside.

While Zechariah was inside, after he lit the incense and while he was praying, he got the surprise of his life. Gabriel, whom we just saw as we went through Daniel, had appeared and was standing in front of him. For those who are further interested, Kent Hughes, in his commentary on Luke, looks into the parallels of Gabriel and his appearances in both Luke and Daniel.

I want us to notice how Zechariah reacted upon seeing Gabriel. Fear. Awe. These are the appropriate responses to an encounter with an angel. This is what we see in Daniel. This is what we see here with Zechariah. This is what we see throughout scripture. And that’s how it should be. Angels are heavenly beings who serve and reflect the glory of God. The Glory of God is so great that it cannot help but cause us to fall down in awe and fear.

Gabriel tells him, do not be afraid Your prayers have been heard! What prayers is he referring to? Well, there are three options. First, it could be referring to the prayer that Zechariah and Elizabeth have been praying for years. The prayer for a baby, for a child. Or it was the prayer that Zechariah, as priest was likely praying in there, the prayer for Israel, for renewal, for restoration, for deliverance, for God to start speaking again, for the coming Messiah.

Both of those would be answered right here, leading me ( and many theologians) to believe that Zechariah was praying for both of those things there inside the holiest part of the temple and that Gabriel was referring to both of those prayers.

He tells Zechariah that he is going to have a boy, a son. Finally, a child! His name will be John. We get deeper into the life and ministry of John here in a few weeks. But Zechariah is to rejoice and be glad! John will play a major role in Gods plans. He will lead the way for the coming messiah. Gabriel tells Zechariah that John will be great before the LORD. God chose John for a very specific mission, for a very specific purpose, just like He has for each and every one of us. And John would not disappoint.

Gabriel told Zechariah that John was not to drink wine or strong drinks. This leads many commentators to believe that John was a Nazarite. This was the vow or the lifestyle or whatever that Samson had in Judges as well. Like John, an angel told Samson’s parents before birth that he would be born and be held to these standards. However, Samson was told clearly and along with no wine or strong drink, it was spelled out that he could not cut his hair or touch any dead bodies. We don’t see that with John, so while he very well may have been held to the Nazarite vow, we have no actual scriptural evidence for that.

Gabriel continues and says something quite remarkable and even more so for that time. John would be filled with the Holy Spirit even within the womb. John is the only person in scripture that we see this with. And he is the first person to receive the Holy Spirit in the New Testament manner. By the way, this is a great pro-life passage, as it shows Johns personhood in the womb, it shows him named, and it shows him holy spirit filled and already known by God.

 

You know, I was reading a lot this week about Zechariah and I’m also reflecting on the words and behaviors and attitudes of many Christians online and in real life as we ramp up another election season and in one of the sermons on Luke that I read I saw this line. “Sometimes, Gods people, they talk to much and the wait to little.” Zechariah absolutely should have heeded this. LORD knows I need to heed this at times!  I exhort each of you to look in yourselves and see if this is something that you need to work on as well. Is it true, is it edifying, is it holy and pure? No? Then don’t say it.

Zechariah says what he says though. How can this be? I’m old! Like really old! And so is my wife! Like Really old! He disbelieved the Supernatural power of God. He did not believe that God could do for he and his wife what he did for Abraham and Sarah. What he did for Hannah, what he does every day for countless couple.

I appreciate what the commentator pointed out, however, what we all need to remember and that’s grace for Zechariah and grace for those around us who say stupid things, who spout off, who dont think before they speak. We know that this event was preceded by and followed by a lifetime of walking with God, being blameless and upright. This was a slip. It was a stupid, fleeting moment and this moment should not define Zechariahs life and define who he was. Just like Peters three denials of Christ, this is a moment in their lives where the sanctification hits a snag, it happens to all of us. If you say it doesn’t, your lying.

Of course, as we see, to say that there should be grace does not mean that there will not be consequences and repercussions. Gabriel responds to Zechariah, telling him who he is and that he is speaking for God right now.  How dare Zechariah question him!

We know that there are right ways and wrong ways to question God. Examples such as Mary and Job were just fine in how they ask questions of God. Examples such as Sarah and Zechariah show how not to respond when God promises to do the impossible.

John Piper reminds us that its not wrong to want evidence, but it is wrong to demand signs beyond what a humble and open heart would require. Mary asked, “How can this be? She was asking for an explanation because she couldn’t understand. Zechariah asked, how can I know this? He was asking for evidence because he couldn’t believe. I believe That’s the difference.

And the consequence for not believing the words of God was that John would now be silent, he would now be mute until after John is born. John spoke when he shouldn’t have and said what he shouldn’t have, and this was the repercussions.

Now, while all this was going on, the other priests were outside waiting for Zechariah to come out and lead the closing prayer. But when he came out, he obviously couldn’t. All he could do was motion around and it was clear to the other priests that Zechariah had seen a vision. Once the week was over, and this division of priests were done with their service, Zechariah went home.

Elizabeth became pregnant and she kept away from everyone and everywhere for 5 months. After waiting that long to have a child, she was soaking up every possible moment, sensation and experience she could. And she may have been afraid to tell people because she wasn’t sure if her body would be able to keep the baby. Remember Zachariah couldn’t tell her what the angel said, so she didn’t have the promise that he was given.  As she prayed, she says that the LORD took away her reproach.

No one would be able to look down on them and wonder what hidden sin was in the lives of Zechariah and Elizabeth. No more whispers or glances. They were redeemed. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you have done, where you are from, God gives life where there otherwise would be no life. He did it by putting a baby in Elizabeth’s womb and he does it every time someone responds to him in faith, he brings them out of spiritual and everlasting death and in to spiritual and everlasting life.

God does that for us. He takes away our reproach, our shame. He takes our unrighteousness and replaces it with the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Perfect God and Perfect man. John comes to tell of him, to make smooth the way of the LORD. To prepare Gods people to know God. Christ came to save sinners.

God gives salvation freely by his own grace which he pours out on us by the faith that he gives us in his Son, Jesus Christ. He gives it freely to those who respond to his calling and who do so by faith.

However momentary, Zechariah, when given the answer to his prayers, when faced with the miraculous and the supernatural, lacked faith. Don’t follow his example. Faith is the vehicle that God uses to pour out his saving grace. Jesus says in John 6:29, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” The one being sent, of course, is Jesus Christ.

I will close this sermon with an exhortation, in the words of Philip Graham Ryken, who closes his commentary on this passage with these words:

This is what God always wants from us: faith. He wants us to take him at his word. So whatever God says, believe it! He has said that Jesus died and rose again, so believe in the crucifixion and the resurrection. He has said that he will forgive anyone who comes to him trusting in Jesus; so, if you are a sinner, believe in Jesus and know that your sins are forgiven. God has said that he will never leave you or forsake you; so whatever troubles you are facing, believe that God will help you to the very end. He has also said that Jesus is coming again to judge the world. If this is what God has said, then we need to get ready by turning away from sin and trusting in Jesus.

 

Amen! Let’s Pray!

 

Daniel 9, pt 1 God of All Nations: A Model Prayer

Daniel 9, pt 1

God of All Nations

A Model Prayer

 

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me, if you would and turn to Daniel chapter 9. If you do not have a Bible, please feel free to grab one from the back table as our gift to you.

Daniel chapter 9 is an important chapter. It is a chapter that it is almost impossible to read without bringing preconceived ideas and assumptions into it. The last 4-8 verses are some of the most complicated, debated and unclear verses in all the Bible. No matter where you fall in what those last few verses mean, most commentators agree that these are amongst the most complex verses.

And yet, before those verses, we have an amazing number of verses. The first 19 verses of this chapter get almost no recognition or love. They often get passed over or ignored in favor of those last few, but they are full of rich, deep, theological and encouraging content.

So, we are going to make sure that we don’t pass over them or ignore them, but see what Daniel and God have for us to hear. So, we will start with Daniel chapter 9, verses 1 & 2. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version. I greatly encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation. Daniel chapter 9, verses 1 & 2, Daniel records:

In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans— in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.

 

May God Bless the Reading of His Word.

 

So, we remember that the first 6 chapters of Daniel were a history of him and some friends in exile in Babylon, a history that spanned close to 70 years. As we started the second half of the book, we have gone back In time to revisit or visit for the first time, chunks of that 70 years where Daniel had a vision form God, or a dream, or an appearance by an angel. And we are going through and looking at those sections.

So today, with chapter 9, we pick up at the same time as Daniel chapter 6. We are in the first year of King Darius’ rule in Babylon, the first year of the rule of the Meads and Persians. And Daniel is going to lay out a prayer that should be the envy of all of us and that we should all strive to emulate. That prayer is likely where we will spend the most time, but that prayer is not where we start, and it won’t be where we end. It is however what sets the context for everything else we talk about.

One of the first things we see here, other than the date, is that Daniel reads scripture. That shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, but it may be a surprise to know what he considered scripture.

Jeremiah was a prophet who ministered from 626 BC till 587 BC. As a frame of reference, David was brought from Jerusalem to Babylon in 605 BC and the Babylon fell to the Meads and Persians in 539 BC, which is when this is taking place.

And so, Jeremiah was not long established in Jewish history as a prophet of God. Instead, he was much closer to a contemporary of Daniel. We have already established throughout this series that Daniel had the Holy Spirit working in and through him. HE was real. And the phrase used today is Real Recognizes Real.

Daniel recognized that Jeremiahs prophecies were truly a word from God. They were scripture. Those who are going to be a part of scripture often can recognize scripture as it is being written.

We saw this in the New Testament as well. In 2 Peter 3:16, Peter says that Paul’s writings are scripture as well. The internal testimony of Scripture is one of our biggest reasons to trust what the scriptures say and to know that they are in fact, God breathed and inerrant.

So, Daniel recognized Jeremiah as a prophet, oh ya! Who was speaking the Word of God. And he saw in Jeremiahs writings that Jerusalem would be desolate for 70 years.

There are two specific texts in Jeremiah that speak to this. Ill read both of them to you. First is Jeremiah 25:11 & 12, which reads:  This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. 12 Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, declares the Lord, making the land an everlasting waste.

 

And then the context for one of them most famous bible verses, Jeremiah 29:10, in which God declares:  “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.

 

Now, we remember that often times, the dates and numbers of prophecies are not meant to be taken completely literally. Sometimes they are round numbers, close to actual numbers, sometimes the are symbolic based on what the numbers represent. And sometimes it’s a combination of all of the above.

If the 70 years of exile started in 605, when Daniel was taken of out Jerusalem and brought into Babylon, (there’s no consensus that this IS when it starts, btw,) then Daniel would have been reading this text and praying the prayer we are about to look at in 539, then 66 years would have already passed. And the point of that is that Daniel new that the point where God was going to restore Jerusalem was somewhat close at hand.

He knew what God had promised. He knew it was going to happen. He knew a general timeframe. There was no doubt. And he would have started to see some of those promises begin to be fulfilled. The Babylonians were defeated. The time was nigh.

One of the common troubles, or temptations that we face as Christians is trying to maintain the balance of knowing and acknowledging that God is completely sovereign and his will will be done no matter what and that tendency and temptation to use that as an excuse or reason to not act.

But we see and hopefully have experienced that reading Gods Word will prompt us to prayer. Seeing Gods promises should prompt us to pray. Yes, even praying for him to fulfill the very promises that we know he will fulfill. As we see those promises start to be fulfilled, as Daniel did, that should not prompt us to relax our prayers, but should increase our urgency to pray.

And so, next we will look at Daniels prayer. This is, in all likelihood, not the prayer that we see that Daniel prayed in Daniel chapter 6. But this was in that same time frame, the first year of King Darius, and it was likely the same type of prayer, maybe the same subject content.

Daniels prayer is recorded in Daniel 9:3-19:

 Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. To us, O Lord, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him 10 and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice. And the curse and oath that are written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against him. 12 He has confirmed his words, which he spoke against us and against our rulers who ruled us,[a] by bringing upon us a great calamity. For under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what has been done against Jerusalem. 13 As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us; yet we have not entreated the favor of the Lord our God, turning from our iniquities and gaining insight by your truth. 14 Therefore the Lord has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us, for the Lord our God is righteous in all the works that he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice. 15 And now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day, we have sinned, we have done wickedly.

16 “O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy hill, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become a byword among all who are around us. 17 Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord,[b] make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. 18 O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. 19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.”

 

 

What a prayer! Gods foreknowledge and his predestination, other words for his complete sovereignty are shown by Daniel throughout this prayer. And though God has everything already figured out and determined, Daniel doesn’t sit back, instead he devotes himself to prayer. One commentator says it that Gods sovereign purposes should spark us to act, in both prayer and action. I love how Sinclair Ferguson notes that our prayers in this situation should often sound like kids talking to their parents, continually reminding the parents of what they never forgot, “You promised!”

 

 

Daniel turns his face to the LORD, and he seeks him by prayer. He pleads with the LORD. We are reminded by the prayers in the Bible, that prayers are us talking to God, prayer is not God talking to us. Hebrews 1:1 reminds us that there is only one way that God talks to us today and that is through his Word, the testimony of Jesus Christ who is the Word. This prayer from Daniel is him seeking and glorifying God.

All true prayer should first and foremost seek to magnify God and to humble oneself. That last part is one of the reasons why we see fasting, and sackcloth and ashes are so intertwined with prayer in the scriptures. They are partly to humble us as we go before God. Another part of that is that fasting eliminates distractions and helps us to focus on God much more clearly. It reminds us that our dependence is on God and nothing else.

Daniel has four parts to this prayer. And that’s not saying that all of our prayers need to follow this preset formula or anything like that, but its good to see some of the parts of biblical prayers so that we can utilize them on our own personal prayer life.

These four parts include worship, confession of sin, both individual and corporate, the justice of God and the judgment of sin, and finally, a plea for Gods mercy on our sin.

Prayer needs to start always with confession. Again, this is not referring to a legalistic format that prayer needs to take, but at our heart prayer needs to have as its basis two things. First, we need to recognize Gods, “Godness.” And second, we need to see the covenantal nature of our relationship with God.

When we see these two things in reality, we must see the true nature of our sins. Daniel says, we have sinned, we have done wrong, we have acted wickedly, we have rebelled, we have turned aside from your commands. All different ways of saying the same thing. We sinned.

But God is a perfect and holy God. God has not sinned. He has only loved. He has given us his commands and he has shown us His ways. And in response to him, we have all sinned and only sinned always. Daniel says, we have not listened to your prophets, we have not listened your Word. We have not listened to what you have already told us.

In verse 7, Daniel compares Gods righteousness with our own righteousness. We should be ashamed of our sin. Our sins, the sins of our past are directly responsible for present and our troubles. We are responsible for the consequences of our sins.           Judah and Israel were in exile, Judah here in Babylon, punished because of their sin and turning their back on God and His Word.

 

And yet, just like salvation belongs to the LORD, so do mercy and forgiveness belong to the LORD. We have rebelled, no. We need to call it what it is. We have sinned. All of us. And so, because we have sinned, we are in need of Gods mercy and forgiveness.

Verse 11 reminds us that ALL Israel transgressed, or sinned. Just as Paul tells us in Romans 3, that ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. WE all have sinned, and we have all made the conscious choice to sin. And we have all suppressed that truth in our unrighteousness.

Gods wrath and justice are poured out on those who deserve it. Those who have sinned against the Holy God. None of us are worthy of mercy and forgiveness. None of us are innocent. We will revisit that later on.

 

One of the things that Daniel does here that I think is a good habit to get into, is praying scripture back to God. We confirm his word and help us to remember what he has already told us.

 

It is important to remember that it is not our suffering that grants us favor with God. The previously mentioned fasting and sackcloth and ashes do not grant us favor with God or make us more holy. Israel and Judah’s exile and the troubles they were going through in said exile did not grant them favor with God.

What does grant us favor with God is God himself. When we repent of our sins and believe in the truth of Gods Word, meaning the witness of his Son Jesus Christ) that is a gift from God as Paul tells us in Ephesians 2. Gods grace poured out and delivered through faith in Christ.

So, suffering does not grant us favor with God, but suffering does often lead us to the recognition that we need Gods grace and forgiveness and we need to repent. We look around at our lives, at our actions, at our hearts, and at the people and the world around us and we see sin. We see the consequences, the brokenness of our lives and of this world and we see the need to repent and put our trust and faith in someone bigger, greater and stronger than ourselves.

 

In verse 14, Daniel prays what just might be the key verse in all the Bible. He says “the Lord our God is righteous in all the works that he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice” If you take nothing else away from my sermon this morning, remember that verse. It is the basis of everything.

 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness

 

In verses 16-19, as Daniel gets to the end of what we see recorded of his prayer, we see that Daniel is praying for justified wrath and justice that he is pouring out on those who deserve it, he is praying that God turns that into mercy. He is praying for the liberation of and the return to Jerusalem. He has already been told that it will happen.

Verse 18 Daniel again clarifies that we petition, or ask these things of God, not because we are owed anything or because we have earned anything, it is not of our righteousness. No, it is Gods righteousness. IT is Gods Mercy. It is Gods grace and his holy character, his promises that we base our petitions to Him on.

In verse 19, we see the key point that all things are done to Gods glory. Daniel prays that all of Gods actions, Him hearing us, Him seeing everything, Him forgiving, all of it, Do it LORD because of and for your glory.

Sinclair Ferguson tells us that “Daniels ultimate motive for prayer was the glory of God because it was his great motive for living. Daniel clearly saw the need of the people. His praying was clearly people oriented, but it was God centered. The bottom line of his heart cry was “Save your people, LORD, for your own sake,”

That’s where we are going to leave off this morning, looking at Daniels prayer to God. Next week we will look at Gods response to Daniels prayer. Again, a complicated and confusing section. We wont all agree, but we will all love each other and unite under the cross of Jesus Christ.

Israel’s exile would end, but their rebellious heart would continue. All of our rebellious hearts continued. It is only the Holy Spirit rewriting our hearts, Jesus Christ making us a new creation that wipes our slate clean and allows us to be reconciled to God. For now, even as our hearts have been renewed, we still live in this world as exiles, just as Daniel was an exile in Babylon. The day will come when our exile will end. We will get to go home, and we will get to live and serve in the true and eternal kingdom, the kingdom of God.

We get to do that because of the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Let’s Pray

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He condescended from Heaven, still God, was born a man, a human baby and lived the perfect, sinless life that we needed to and were unable to live. HE paid the penalty, paid the wages for our sins so that we could be reconciled to God. He paid that penalty with his life. In an act of pure, perfect love, Romans 5:8 says:  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

This act of pure love goes beyond natural human understanding. Hymnwriter Charles Wesley wrote, Amazing love! how can it be, That Thou, my God, should die for me?

Before he performed this act, Jesus told us to remember this and to celebrate it as often as we get together. We do this in a monthly basis, we celebrate communion as a church family.

We remember and we follow the commands of Jesus that he gave his disciples during the Last Supper.

Matthew records this in Matthew 26, verses 26-29, where he writes: Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the[c] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

We do this in remembrance of Him. Paul speaks about communion in 1 Corinthians 11 and before we get into it, I have one thing to share that Paul tells us, first, communion is for believers. It is in remembrance for what he has done for us. It is us obey his commands by our faith in him. Communion itself does not save. It does not forgive sins; it does not impart righteousness or cleanse your soul. If you are not a follower of Christ, we just ask that you pass the elements along and then, if you have any questions or want to take that step, you can talk to myself or one of the deacons after the service.

 

Now, we are going to do things a little bit different this morning, due to taking some precautions. We have individual cups that contains both the wafers, which symbolize Jesus’ broken body on the cross. His Death that pays the penalty for our sins. It also contains the juice, symbolizing the shed blood of Christ, which purchases our eternal life in Christ, through faith.

First, we will take the wafer together. Afterwards, we will take the juice together and we will be united together under the cross and blood of Jesus Christ. I will pray and we will come to the LORDs table.

 

Daniel 8 God of All Nations: Knowing the Future in Advance

Daniel 8
God of All Nations
Knowing the Future in Advance

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Daniel Chapter 8. As usual, if you do not own a bible or do not have a bible, please grab one from our table in the back as our gift to you.
This morning we are looking at Daniels second vision as recorded in his book. This vision is going to be different from the first in that this is going to much more historical, more specific and have a more speck and given interpretation.
Because this is going to be more focused on what, for us, is contained in the past, and it may seem to have less practical application. But it was all taking place in the future for Daniel and so we will see two major points that we can take from today. These two points are two major points that we have been looking at over the past number of weeks. There is not anything new in these two points that we haven’t been seeing.
First, God knows the future. He reveals the future in many instances in the Bible, one of the reasons He reveals the future is to show that He is indeed God. And God knows the future because he determines the future. And that leads to our second point. God is in control of all Nations. This is why we have named this sermon series “God of All Nations.” God is not just the God of Israel. He is not the God of only those who believe in Him. He is the God of everyone, everything and every nation. He is behind the rise and the fall of all nations. He orchestrates the rise and fall of all nations until, His Kingdom will be the only Kingdom left and will reign forever.
But back to the first point for a moment. God often in the scriptures “predicts” or prophecies the future, or he unveils specific details of the future that will come to pass in history hundreds or sometimes thousands of years in the advance.
He does this with the Israelite Exile that Daniel is in the midst of here in the book of Daniel. He does this with the birth of Christ. He does this with the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. And what we will see this morning, he does it with the Greek empire and Alexander the great and another ruler, a type, or foreshadowing of the antichrist.
This vision is going to take a look at this morning in chapter 8 will fill in some of the gaps that were left in the 2 and 3 kingdoms of last chapters vision.

So, let’s go ahead and read the first part of Daniel chapter 8, we will look at the vison first, verses 1-14. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please follow along in your preferred translation. Daniel 8:1-14, Daniel records:

In the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar a vision appeared to me, Daniel, after that which appeared to me at the first. 2 And I saw in the vision; and when I saw, I was in Susa the citadel, which is in the province of Elam. And I saw in the vision, and I was at the Ulai canal. 3 I raised my eyes and saw, and behold, a ram standing on the bank of the canal. It had two horns, and both horns were high, but one was higher than the other, and the higher one came up last. 4 I saw the ram charging westward and northward and southward. No beast could stand before him, and there was no one who could rescue from his power. He did as he pleased and became great.
5 As I was considering, behold, a male goat came from the west across the face of the whole earth, without touching the ground. And the goat had a conspicuous horn between his eyes. 6 He came to the ram with the two horns, which I had seen standing on the bank of the canal, and he ran at him in his powerful wrath. 7 I saw him come close to the ram, and he was enraged against him and struck the ram and broke his two horns. And the ram had no power to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground and trampled on him. And there was no one who could rescue the ram from his power. 8 Then the goat became exceedingly great, but when he was strong, the great horn was broken, and instead of it there came up four conspicuous horns toward the four winds of heaven.
9 Out of one of them came a little horn, which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the glorious land. 10 It grew great, even to the host of heaven. And some of the host and some[a] of the stars it threw down to the ground and trampled on them. 11 It became great, even as great as the Prince of the host. And the regular burnt offering was taken away from him, and the place of his sanctuary was overthrown. 12 And a host will be given over to it together with the regular burnt offering because of transgression,[b] and it will throw truth to the ground, and it will act and prosper. 13 Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to the one who spoke, “For how long is the vision concerning the regular burnt offering, the transgression that makes desolate, and the giving over of the sanctuary and host to be trampled underfoot?” 14 And he said to me,[c] “For 2,300 evenings and mornings. Then the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state.”

May God Bless the Reading of his Holy and inspired Word.

So, we are moving around in time again, as we pick up 2 years after the vision in chapter 7, before the events of chapter 5 take place. Remember that unless it is specified otherwise, rarely do the events of the Bible take place chronologically. We can get ourselves into trouble when we read through certain sections and try to take them chronologically. The other keynote is that Chapter 8, starting with this vision, is where Daniel switches back to Hebrew from Aramaic. There are some ideas as to why, though no consensus, but on surface level investigation, it seems to have to do with whether Daniel is addressing Israel or the nations as a whole.

Now, onto to the vision itself. Daniel saw himself, not aside some general sea, as he did before, but in a very specific location. This helps show that the vision is not in general about the future, but about specific events to come.
Daniel saw two animals. The first was a ram with two horns, the second horn being bigger than the other. This, we will find out, represents the Meado-Persian empire that was conquered Babylon and that Daniel was serving at the end of the historical section of the book. This was the empire symbolized by the bear in the vision in chapter 7.
One of the things we see with the two horns is that the horn that came second was bigger and stronger. Historically, this is quite accurate for the Meads and the Persians. The Persians came along second but were much bigger and much stronger than the other part of the alliance. This is also possibly alluded to in the bear where it says that he was raised up on one side.
The Meads and the Persians would come from the east and they would be all powerful. None, not even the all-powerful Babylon could end up standing against the powerful Ram with two horns.
Then, we see a goat coming from the west. He is not touching the ground, a reference to his great speed and striking power. Out of the goat was a great horn, representing a great leader. And they demolished the Ram with two horns.
In reality, this big horn would become Alexander the Great, whom he mentioned briefly last week. He became exceedingly great and he conquered the know world at the time. He only ruled for 10 years, dying young. And it only took him 4 years to crush the great and mighty Persian empire. But His empire did not last long. The Great horn was broken, to be replaced by four little horns. Out of one of those 4 horns, a little horn grew that is what much of our focus will be on this morning.
This horn, out of the four horns that had come up would be an evil and powerful, a cunning and ungodly ruler. He would wag ware on God and terrorize the Jews. WE will get into more specifics in a little bit, but he would deface and make unclean the Temple and he would put an end to the sacrifices for 2300 days.
Now, there is a lot of unknows about this number, including whether its literal or symbolic. There are no exact matchups in terms of time frames and dates matching, that we know of. Iain Duguid suggests that is a significant but limited period of suffering. I concluded that it is either symbolic or God has not revealed to us the exact fulfillment.
We see in verse 12 that it will be because of transgression that this ruler will be able to do the things that he does. Some see this as the ruler himself is transgressing by doing what he is doing. More likely this is the transgressions of Gods people that cause him to raise up this ruler and allow him to do his evil, for a time.
So, a lot of what we see here, a lot of the details that Daniel sees we will touch on after we read the next section, the interpretation of this vision, verses 15-27. Daniel continues:
When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I sought to understand it. And behold, there stood before me one having the appearance of a man. 16 And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai, and it called, “Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.” 17 So he came near where I stood. And when he came, I was frightened and fell on my face. But he said to me, “Understand, O son of man, that the vision is for the time of the end.”
18 And when he had spoken to me, I fell into a deep sleep with my face to the ground. But he touched me and made me stand up. 19 He said, “Behold, I will make known to you what shall be at the latter end of the indignation, for it refers to the appointed time of the end. 20 As for the ram that you saw with the two horns, these are the kings of Media and Persia. 21 And the goat[d] is the king of Greece. And the great horn between his eyes is the first king. 22 As for the horn that was broken, in place of which four others arose, four kingdoms shall arise from his[e] nation, but not with his power. 23 And at the latter end of their kingdom, when the transgressors have reached their limit, a king of bold face, one who understands riddles, shall arise. 24 His power shall be great—but not by his own power; and he shall cause fearful destruction and shall succeed in what he does, and destroy mighty men and the people who are the saints. 25 By his cunning he shall make deceit prosper under his hand, and in his own mind he shall become great. Without warning he shall destroy many. And he shall even rise up against the Prince of princes, and he shall be broken—but by no human hand. 26 The vision of the evenings and the mornings that has been told is true, but seal up the vision, for it refers to many days from now.”
27 And I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for some days. Then I rose and went about the king’s business, but I was appalled by the vision and did not understand it.

All right, so we see again that Daniel doesn’t understand what he just saw! Now, yes, he understands some of it, and he will understand the big points. But this should be a big neon sign reminder that most often, WE WON’T UNDERSTAND PROPHECY AHEAD OF TIME! Please, let’s all remember that.

But the arch angel Gabriel comes along. Gabriel, who is only named here in Daniel and in Luke chapter 1, is going to interpret this vison for Daniel.
First, when is this vision for? Verse 17 tells us this is for the time of the end. This means the end of a time. This does not mean the end of time or the “end times.” This is the end of the time that is prophesied about in this chapter.
The Bible has a lot to say about the end times and the end of time. But just because it says a lot about that doesn’t mean that we should think that everything is about then. What happens is that Christians often end up looking like kids on a long car ride, continually asking God, “Are we there yet?” We will get there, there is no question about that, but we are not there yet, and only God knows when we will be.
This vision is not looking a few thousand years into the future. It is looking a few hundred years into the future. This vision is looking to the end of the Greek empire and the reign of Antiochus IV and there should be no less amazement at that just because the timing is different.
Gabriel identifies the ram with two horns as the Meads and Persians as we already looked at a few moments ago. Then he identifies the Goat as Greece. It has the great horn, which breaks. Then four horns grow out of it. Four kingdoms come out of the Greek kingdom.
The Greek kingdom is divided between 4 of Alexanders generals, Cassander, Lysimachus, Seleucus and Ptolemy. It is out of the Seleucid line that this other little horn will grow. None of these will be as powerful as the first, as Alexanders rule.
But at the end of the time of the Greek empire a King arises who would become a type, a foreshadowing of the antichrist. Antiochus IV, also referred to as Antiochus Epiphanes (given to himself, which means The Illustrious God) would rise up and become king. His power and his authority would not be his own we see in scripture.
Sam Storms comments on this, saying, “is an allusion either to God’s providential role in putting him in place or a reference to Satan’s energizing presence in his oppressive rule.”
It could also be both. Either way, he gets a glimpse of the spiritual warfare going throughout history. Satan was using this ruler to wage war on the people of God, and through them God himself. God ultimately is on control of all these things and allowed it to happen for a season and for a purpose.
The Jewish people have faced a lot of persecution over the years. When the persecution under Antiochus took place, it was by far the worst they had seen yet. I mentioned earlier that he ended the sacrifices in the temple for 2300 days. HE replaced the high priest with one of his own and then later had the real one assassinated. He ordered all ceremonial observances of Yahweh forbidden. He murdered and butchered untold thousands of Jewish men, women and children, many mighty men and saints.
In December of 167 BC, he performed what we would come to know as the Abomination of Desolation. He erected an altar to Zeus on the sacrificial altar in the Temple of God and sacrificed a pig on top of it.
He was God in his own eyes. But when you go against God, there is only one outcome. You will lose. 3 years after desecrating the temple, Antiochus would die. He was not killed by man. He did not die in battle. He died, tradition tells us, from some sort of combination of a physical malady and mental issues.
More detailed, but non inspired by God, non-scriptural, accounts of Antiochus’ reign can be found in 1 & 2 Maccabees. This is the time and the events that led to the creation of Hanukah. As the Jews, led by Judah Maccabee fought back against the persecution from Antiochus, they were able to reclaim the temple and 3 years to the day after the desecration, the temple was rededicated with a new altar for burnt offerings. At the rededication, as they lit the menorah, there was only enough oil to keep the candles burning for 1 day. Through Gods grace and miraculous intervention, it burned for 8 days while they found a new supply of oil.

As Gabriel finished up the interpretation of the vision, he told Daniel to seal it up, for it refers to many days from now. Duguid points out that to sela up is not to keep it a secret, but instead Daniel is to keep it safe during turbulent and troublesome times.
And this vision does take place many days from then. The time that Daniel received this vision was somewhere in the 550 BC range. Alexander the Great reigned and conquered from 333-323 BC. Antiochus IV ruled from roughly 171 BC till his death in 163.
Daniel obviously would not live to see the fulfillment of these visions and prophecies. Daniel, as we all are, are in time. We are a part of time. We go along in our lives in a chronological time flow and we can’t do anything in regard to that. God however is outside of time.
He created time. He is in the future, he is with us here today and he is with Adam in the Garden of Eden, and everywhere and every time in between, all at the same time. Time is more like a movie film, the actual film itself, spread out in front of him where he can see all the scenes all at once. So, these prophecies and visions where he “predicts” events hundreds and thousands of years in advance should not surprise us. It isn’t surprising him after all.

In the last verse if the chapter, we see that Daniel was sick over what he saw in these visions and that he didn’t fully understand it. Remember this is the guy who understood and interpreted two dreams by Nebuchadnezzar and the Handwriting on the wall (though that event would not have happened yet when Daniel got this vision). My point is that if anyone would understand this vision, we would expect Daniel to. Again, we are not going to understand all of or even much of the prophecies that we are looking at in Gods Word.

But Daniel wasn’t going to harp on and get down on himself based on what he saw. He had work to do. He had his life to live. He had to get up and continue on about the Kings business. I love the dual meaning here. First, Daniel was working in service of the King of Babylon, who was Belshazzar. That was his job and he had served three kings up till this point with at least one more to come. But this also alludes to out going about Gods business. He is our King and we serve him above all and any others.
God has put us here and now for a reason. For such a time as this, as Esther is told. One commentator says that to go about the business of our king is to “serve the culture with all the Ability that God gave us.”
And this is my big takeaway from Daniel chapter 8. We learn and we read, and we see these things going on around us and going to happen in the future and much of it is terrible and terrifying. And the end result will be glorious and will be worth it all. As Paul says in Romans 8:18, For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. And those are super important things because they will help answer the big question. What does that mean for us here and today?

Sinclair Ferguson says this: Daniels attitude illustrates an important biblical principle: In view of what the future holds, we must live holy lives now. He caught a glimpse of realities that would take place centuries later. These events were shadows of the last conflict between the kingdom of Christ and the kingdoms of this world.
He continues: How then shall we live? Passage after passage gives the same answer: Do the Kings business, walk in obedience, live in holiness, purify yourselves as He is pure.

God has called us for here and now and he has promised that he is coming, and he has won. But he has warned us that our focus should be on Him and today.
The other question I ask as I read this chapter is What was the purpose and reason for God sharing this vision he had given to Daniel?
Sone, I believe is to show the true nature of good vs evil. We see this vision, including some of the behind the scenes parts so that we would take spiritual warfare seriously. We remember that Paul writes that our battle is not with flesh and blood, but powers and principalities. Sinclair Ferguson says that this vision gives insight to the nature and causes of the conflict. We see the true nature of evil and how far it will go to try to win. As one theologian says, evil Finds attractive what is offensive to God precisely because it is offensive to God.
The other thing I think we see here is the consistent pattern of opposition that comes against the work of God. We see Antiochus trying to eliminate the sacrifices made to God. And he did for a stretch. We see that Satan was doing everything he could to eliminate the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
We see the desecration of the Temple of God by Antiochus. Today, we look around and what do we see, desecration of the temple in every sense of the word. Our bodies, giving in to every lust, ever temptation, every desire. Houses of God slandering the character of God, dismissing his word, deceiving and preaching as true what is false and evil. And Jesus Christ himself, dismissed as a fairy tale, as a good moral teacher instead of God, instead of the Messiah and the savior that he is.
We see lastly, the weakness of even the greatest and strongest of men. None can do anything, none can rule anything, none can live, without God. We have seen throughout this book that Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar and Darius all ruled their kingdoms because God allowed them too and set them up to rule. We see today the rule and reign of Alexander the Great and Antiochus Epiphanes are allowed, determined and set up by God, well ahead of time.
This isn’t just our physical lives either. Spiritually we are born dead into sin. Spiritually we are born dead and will remain dead unless and until God intervenes. And our God is a good and loving God who of course knew this ahead of time and God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit put into effect their rescue plan. The Messiah coming and redeeming us. Saving us by Gods grace, from the wrath of God. His blood shed, the penalty of sin, paid. Death defeated. We are then saved by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.
And that salvation is what allows us to live the life that God has called us to live as we wait on the coming of Christ. We focus on and find our fulfillment, not in waiting, but in doing what God has called us to do, serve him and his kingdom. To use our gifts for his glory and the glory if the kingdom. To love our neighbors as our selves and to spread the good news of the Gospel.
Todd Friel has a Christian radio program called Wretched Radio and I’m going to steal his sign off call this morning before praying. Every day at the end of his show, without fail, you hear him say, Now, Go Serve Your King!
Let’s Pray

Daniel 5:1-31 God of All Nations: The Night Babylon Fell

Daniel 5:1-31

God of All Nations

The Night Babylon Fell

 

Good Morning Bangor Community Church! Please turn with me in your Bibles to Daniel chapter 5. As you are turning there, as you have all hopefully heard, this is my last week of online only sermons. We are opening back up, next Sunday, June 7 at our regular time of 10 Am. Finally, we get to come back together and worship the LORD together as a church family.

But in the meantime, Daniel chapter 5. The era of Nebuchadnezzar, Ol Nebby, is over. We start off here seeing his grandson, Belshazzar is in charge. And we are going to see the continuation of the main theme that we see in this book, That God is sovereign.

He controls kingdoms. He raises up rulers and he tears them down. Romans 13 tells us that all rulers in government were put there specifically and purposefully by God. Nebuchadnezzar was not unique. God has his hand in the reign of all rulers and kingdoms.

And we don’t know the eternal destination of Nebuchadnezzar. I myself am doubtful that he trusted in the God of Daniel, the one True God and his God. But he was teachable. And he did acknowledge Gods power and sovereignty. We look today at someone who was not teachable.

This chapter takes place, we know, in 539 BC. Historically we know this because 539 is the year that the Babylonian empire fell to the Meads and Persians. The city was, in all likelihood, already under siege at the point this chapter takes place, making the decisions made by Belshazzar all the more curious.

So, before we go any further, we will go ahead and read the first section of the Daniel chapter 5, verses 1-9. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I do encourage you to grab your own Bible, in your preferred translation and follow along as we read Gods Holy Word.

Daniel chapter 5:1-9, Daniel records:

 

King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand.

Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father[a] had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. Then they brought in the golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.

Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together. The king called loudly to bring in the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers. The king declared[b] to the wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing, and shows me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around his neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.” Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or make known to the king the interpretation. Then King Belshazzar was greatly alarmed, and his color changed, and his lords were perplexed.

May God Bless the Reading of his Word.

 

The first thing we see, in the midst of the Persian siege against the last stronghold of the Babylonian empire, is that Belshazzar throws a massive feast, a great party. WE see in him shades of the rich young ruler in Luke chapter 12. Nothing else matters to him expect his riches, his persona, what others think of him. Belshazzar is going to be the perfect epitome of when Jesus warns us, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”

And he does sell his soul, while blinding himself to the reality around him. His city was falling. His empire was crumbling, and he was eating, drinking and being merry. And that was not enough for him either.

In verse 2, Belshazzar decided to take his rebellion against the Most High God up another notch. He called for the golden vessels that were taken, by Nebby from the temple in Jerusalem and he called for them to be brought to him as drinking vessels.

They were symbols of the Jewish religion and they were symbols of God himself. And anyone that thinks that Belshazzar didn’t know what he was doing, Paul tells us in Romans 1,  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.

          This act by Belshazzar, using these vessels as regular china, getting drunk out of them, and toasting and praising a variety of false gods, this was the ultimate act of sacrilege, of disrespect and of blasphemy. This is the kind of thing that you would expect God to act against. This is the kind of thing that you want to step a few steps away from him because you just know God is going to smite him with a lightning bolt any second know.

 

 

And God does act. In a way we might not have expected. In a way that is so uniquely Him. A human hand appears and writes on the wall in front of everyone. Belshazzar has failed the test. He has, as we will see coming up, weighed in the balance and found wanting. As Iain DuGuid points out, the Babylonian gods failed here too.

HE writes:

Belshazzar praised his gods of wood and stone and gold and silver, ascribing to them glory and honor, yet his gods couldn’t keep the LORD’s messenger from disturbing the peace of his feast. Nor could they keep him safe from the Medes and the Persians. It may have seemed to the Babylonians that when they defeated Judah and destroyed the temple, they were thereby triumphing over Israel’s god as well. However, as the book of Daniel unfolded, it became clear that the reality was that Israel’s God could effectively defend the honor of his sacred vessels and the lives of his faithful servants, while Babylon’s gods were impotent.

 

Belshazzar did not know what the words said that were written on the wall, but he knew that his gods did not do it. He knew that they were judgment against him. We see how scared he became. His color and his face changed. Some of the original language seems to imply that he lost control of his bodily functions. He was shaking. Because he knew that it was a judgment against him, he needed to know the exact meaning of what was written.

And this was as close as he came to channeling Nebuchadnezzar. We something happens and scares you, who you gonna call? Chaldeans! Wisemen! Enchanters! Astrologers! Ghostbusters! Oh, wait…

Anyway, they came quickly, and they were, once again, offered high status and riches, possibly even becoming the third in line for the throne, to the one who could interpret these words for the Belshazzar.

Now, this part is completely just my imagination, but this is how I picture this playing out. Between the fact that the city was under siege and the fact that Belshazzar was not being as brutal and was not as respected as Belshazzar, the wisemen may not have taken him too seriously. I picture responding something like, “Sorry, don’t know, can’t help.” Maybe sounding bored with the whole situation. That’s probably not how it happened, but that’s how it played out in my imagination.

 

 

However, they responded, it reinforced his fear, as we see again, his color changing, he was shaking and showing all signs of being afraid. What is he going to do now?

We will continue with verses 10-16:

 

The queen,[c] because of the words of the king and his lords, came into the banqueting hall, and the queen declared, “O king, live forever! Let not your thoughts alarm you or your color change. 11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods.[d] In the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him, and King Nebuchadnezzar, your father—your father the king—made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers, 12 because an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.”

Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king answered and said to Daniel, “You are that Daniel, one of the exiles of Judah, whom the king my father brought from Judah. 14 I have heard of you that the spirit of the gods[e] is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you. 15 Now the wise men, the enchanters, have been brought in before me to read this writing and make known to me its interpretation, but they could not show the interpretation of the matter. 16 But I have heard that you can give interpretations and solve problems. Now if you can read the writing and make known to me its interpretation, you shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around your neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.”

 

 

So, right when Belshazzar is at his wits end and doesn’t know what to do, the Queen comes in. Now, we know that this is not Belshazzar’s wife. WE saw in verses 2 & 3 that the wives and concubines were there at the feast as well. This would have been the Queen Mother, a woman of High power, high standing and with authority in the kingdom. I speculate that this was likely either Belshazzar’s mom, or his grandmother, who would have been Nebuchadnezzar’s wife.

She is quick to compare and contrast Belshazzar with Nebuchadnezzar and not in a positive light on Belshazzar either. She quickly reminds him of what he would have already known. See, there’s this guy, named Daniel… or Belteshazzar if you prefer, and he is the spirits of the holy gods. He kind of has a history with interpreting messages from the Most High God. Why Don’t you give him a call…?

 

We see that Daniels reputation preceded him. He would have been in his 70s or 80s at this point. He epitomized what Paul would later put down as one of the requirements for an elder in 1 Timothy 3:7, where” he must be thought well of by outsiders.” We are going to see that Daniel not only has a good reputation going into this, but he is going to live up to it as well. That should be a challenge to each of us. Do outsiders and those that are around us think well of us? And do they have good reason to? Do we live up to that view they have to us?

Belshazzar brought Daniel in and kind of gave a combination of flattery and skepticism when he welcomed him. Or maybe it was skepticism trying to masquerade as flattery. I’ve heard this about you…If you prove it, I will give you riches, power and status. He offered Daniel the same rewards he offered to the wisemen before him.

 

 

Daniel responds and interprets the writing on the wall in our last section, verses 17-31:

Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another. Nevertheless, I will read the writing to the king and make known to him the interpretation. 18 O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father kingship and greatness and glory and majesty. 19 And because of the greatness that he gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. Whom he would, he killed, and whom he would, he kept alive; whom he would, he raised up, and whom he would, he humbled. 20 But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down from his kingly throne, and his glory was taken from him. 21 He was driven from among the children of mankind, and his mind was made like that of a beast, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. He was fed grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will. 22 And you his son,[f] Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, 23 but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.

24 “Then from his presence the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed. 25 And this is the writing that was inscribed: Mene, Mene, Tekel, and Parsin. 26 This is the interpretation of the matter: Mene, God has numbered[g] the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; 27 Tekel, you have been weighed[h] in the balances and found wanting; 28 Peres, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”[i]

29 Then Belshazzar gave the command, and Daniel was clothed with purple, a chain of gold was put around his neck, and a proclamation was made about him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.

30 That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. 31 [j] And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.

Maybe I’m reading onto this, but it seems that Daniel has no use for Belshazzar. He says, keep your gifts and keep your rewards. I don’t want them. But I will interpret what’s going on here.

Now, Daniel has accepted the rewards that Nebby, for example, has offered to him. And yet, he dismissed what Belshazzar is offering. We have lots of theories, but no for sure answers.

Was the difference the person offering.

Was the difference the scenario? That Daniel knew Babylon was falling?

Was it to show that the gifts of God, the gifts of the Holy Spirit cannot be bought? We see this with Simon the magician in Acts chapter 8 as well.

I suspect that the first is the biggest factor here. There doesn’t seem to be much honor within Belshazzar and there doesn’t seem to be much respect for him from the people around him. This is a big difference between how people treated and respected Nebuchadnezzar and how they did with Belshazzar.

As we have seen in the last number of chapters, Nebuchadnezzar was not a perfect man. Not even close. He had to learn lessons the hard way. He had to learn the hard way who God was. He had to learn the hard way about Gods sovereignty, his power. He had to learn the hard way that God was the Most High God. He was humbled severely as we saw last chapter, and this was a man a King who had, from man’s perspective, a lot to be proud of.

Daniel says, You, Belshazzar, on the other hand, you already should have known. You already should have remembered the lessons that Ol Nebby had to learn the hard way. You have not humbled yourself and there is nothing for you to be proud of. And tonight, tonight was the last straw.

The words written on the wall are Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin. Literally, numbered, numbered, weighed, divided.

 

Mene; God has decided to bring your kingdom to an end. God has numbered the days of every kingdom that raises up in this world both in the past and in the future. God has numbered the days of the Babylonian kingdom and those numbered days are over.

 

Tekel; You have been weighed in the balance and you have been found wanting. You don’t measure up. All those things that you thought would balance the cosmic scales, they don’t add up to a hill of beans in Gods eyes.

Belshazzar and so many of us, we trust in ourselves. We have an elevated sense of self worth and pride. We think that we are good enough to rebel against and thumb our nose at the Most High and holy God and to get away with it. We think that Gods holiness demands nothing of us. That we can live it up today, that we can do whatever we want, that we can do our own thing, pull ourselves up by the bootstraps, that we can do it all ourselves.

We think if we do enough good, be nice to enough people, live moral enough lives, protest against bad things, follow the rules of society, give to enough charities, that we can outweigh the sin in our lives on those cosmic scales. And there is no truth to any of that. It is a lie that sends people to hell.

 

 

Parsin; Your kingdom is divided. It is now out of your hands. It is being given to the Meads and Persians. God decides who is in control and he decides who takes over and who gains power and who loses power. God decided that it is time for the Medo Persian empire to rise and tonight is that night.

 

Well, none of that, obviously was what Belshazzar wanted to hear. But he knew, he could tell Daniel was telling him the truth. He gave the rewards that he promised to Daniel, whether he wanted them or not.

That very night Belshazzar died at the hands of the Meads and Persians. Babylon fell. Gods words were proven true. Darius the Mead, whom we will look at next chapter takes over.

Now, If Belshazzar had praised and trusted in the True God instead of his Babylonian gods, he likely would not have died that night. Now, don’t get me wrong, God does not play the Quid Pro Quo game. He does not give because he got. We don’t earn anything. We do not work enough to earn anything. But God does take care of and have mercy on those who believe in him, who trust him and him alone and who offer their full praise up to him and him alone.

God showed mercy to Nebuchadnezzar. He gave no mercy to Belshazzar. And his reason is simply because he said so. OF course, there’s more to it than that, but there doesn’t need to be more than that. God knows what he is doing and why and he is in control of all of it.

God shows the ultimate mercy on those who trust in him and his Son Jesus Christ. Many stories in the Old Testament point towards Jesus with the people we see. Daniel is of course one of them. Moses, Joseph, David, so many more have attributes that are partials of the ones that Jesus has in perfection. But we also see Jesus clearly in the opposites of some of the people we see, including Belshazzar.

Iain Duguid lays out Belshazzar as an anti-type of Jesus. Writing:

 

In contrast to the Kingdom of Belshazzar, which is weighed in the balance and found insubstantial and wanting to be divided among the enemies, there is the kingdom which God has established in Jesus Christ. Ironically, Jesus had none of the outward glitz and glitter for which the world clamors so loudly. He had virtually no possessions and relatively few followers. He had no outward beauty or majesty to commend him, appearing on earth as a humble carpenter, not as a mighty emperor. Jesus never had the resources to throw a star-studded party for a thousand of his closest friends, though he did brighten up a banquet that he attended by turning water into rich wine. His kingdom is not of this world.

          Yet when Jesus life was weighed in gods balance, it was found to be perfect and complete, able to satisfy fully the demands of Gods holiness, not just for himself but for all those who come to God through him. His great banquet awaits us in the future, at the end of time; on that day, in place of Belshazzar’s nobles, there will be thousands of Christs saints in attendance upon him- all those who have washed their robes and made them clean in the blood of the Lamb. At that banquet there will be no place for our pride or for toasting our achievements: rather, every single person who is there will confess freely that they have been saved by God’s grace and purified by God’s mercy. On that day, there will be no unseemly interruptions of the banquet: God’s rule will be established forever and ever. His kingdom will not be divided and given to his enemies: on the contrary, it is formed of a people who are made one in Christ.

 

Powerful and encouraging words of the reality to come. IF you don’t know Jesus Christ, if you have not repented of your sins and believed the Gospel, if you are trusting in your goodness instead of Christs perfect righteousness, now is the time to turn to him and to move from eternal death to eternal life. Salvation belongs to the LORD and today is the day of salvation.

If you do know Christ, if you are washed by His blood, if you have submitted your life to His Word, His commands and His will, if you have been brought from spiritual death to spiritual life, then rejoice, that banquet that Duguid mentioned is waiting for us, as one in Christ, as one family in Christ, co heirs of the eternal kingdom of heaven where God will be praised and worship for all of perfect eternity.

 

Let’s Pray.