Gospel Wednesday | Mark 2

Last week we began working through the Gospel According to Mark. This week, we’ll continue by working through Mark 2.

Mark’s Gospel Account begins rather quickly and is off to the races, so to speak, recording the great things Jesus did. Chapter 1 ended with the account of Jesus taking pity on a leper, touching him, and healing him. Jesus is still telling those He ministers to to keep His identity quiet, though they rarely obey. While it is unmistakable, even at this early point in His ministry, that Jesus is the Christ, the children of Israel were not clear on what the Christ had come to accomplish. That largely due to the false doctrine of the chief priests and elders… but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let us continue reading in the second Chapter of the Gospel According to Mark.

Mark 2 (ESV)

Jesus’ fame preceded Him, such that He could not longer openly enter into a town with a mob forming. Fame is largely a thing unto itself, it doesn’t necessarily indicate that the famous one is godly (though in this case there can be no doubt of the Godliness of God the Son) nor does it indicate that the throngs of fans are gathering for the right reasons. Mark tells us that shortly after His healing ministry began, He had to spend much of His time in desolate places and entered cities discretely.

Mark 2:1-12 (ESV) | Jesus Heals a Paralytic

And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them.And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.”12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

Mark gives us specific details here of an account that must have covered hours of Jesus’ preaching. Firstly, He was preaching the Word to those gathered. The false teachers in our day, those holding healing-crusades (not in hospitals or hospices… go figure) will spend a great deal of time talking… but not preaching the Word. They’ll be preaching themselves, their experiences, their escapades, and they’ll be priming the emotional pump of the gathered people so that they can get lots of money from them. Here, Jesus is Preaching the Word… and upon seeing the faith of the men who went to great lengths to get the paralytic to Jesus… Jesus forgives the man of his sins. That is the Greatest gift we sinful, fallen creatures can receive… the forgiveness of our sin. The people there understood the gravity of His claim, though they weren’t ready to accept the claim as anything but blasphemous at the time. Jesus then heals the paralytic as a demonstration of His authority to forgive the paralytic’s sin. The Greater gift, was that of forgiveness. Notice that no one accused Jesus of blasphemy for healing… but they were worried by the Absolution pronounced by Christ. The greater gift, is that of the forgiveness of sin… for that paralytic, though healed, would still die a mortal man, and afterward face the Judgement. But having been forgiven of his sin… Praise the Lord for His Mercy and Grace.

Mark 2:13-17 (ESV) | Jesus Calls Levi

13 He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. 14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

15 And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

The scribes weren’t merely questioning Jesus’ choice of dining establishment… they were questioning Jesus’ willingness to make himself ceremonially unclean, according to the tradition of the Elders. The Pharisees added much to the Law, and demanded ceremonial washing in their home just from having been in the market, for fear of having been made unclean by the sinners in the market. Now, this Jesus is eating in the home of a sinner at the table surrounded by sinners… how is He so comfortable making with risking becoming ceremonially unclean?? Jesus makes His point abundantly clear… He didn’t come to the Earth to avoid sin… He came to heal sinners, for He is the Great Physician. Again, in Mark’s brevity there is no detailed account of what conversation took place at this meal, but I’m confident that the LORD Jesus Christ was again preaching the Word to them.

Mark 2:18-22 (ESV) | A Question About Fasting

18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 19 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 20 The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. 21 No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. 22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”

John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting according to tradition. Jesus’ disciples were not fasting, and the accusation here is that they were guilty of sin for disregarding the fast. Notice how Jesus responds by declaring Himself greater than the fast. His presence is likened to that of the Bridegroom… wedding guests don’t fast while with the Bridegroom! What we learn from the other Gospel Accounts and the Epistles (Hebrews in particular) is that the Mosaic Law was a shadow of the Perfect that was to come, that being Jesus, God the Son. Jesus assured them that once He would be taken away from them, His disciples would indeed fast. The reference to the patch and the wineskins is often taken out of context and used to justify a “god is doing something new” theology where people are encouraged to let go of tradition and orthodoxy in order to embrace whatever wind of doctrine begins to blow. That’s reckless and abominable teaching. Jesus is indicating to them that His Advent, His very Presence on this Earth as the Messiah, the Son of Man, will bring an end to the Mosaic Covenant and He will be establishing a New Covenant, one established by His Blood shed and His Body broken for us. New Wine (Christ’s Blood) in a New Wineskin (New Covenant for peoples of all Nations, Tribes, and Tongues).

Mark 2:23-28 (ESV) | Jesus Is Lord of the Sabbath

23 One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 26 how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” 27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

Praise the Lord. In a short chapter, Mark has demonstrated Christ’s Authority to Forgive Sin, His identity as the Messiah, the Bridegroom, and His Lordship even over the Sabbath.

Until Next Week

Next week we’ll be working through chapter 3. This will not be an exhaustive study, we’ll only be scratching the surface of the text, but we will work through the text each week. I pray it serves you even if only by prompting you to read the text and skip my comments.

Jude 1:24-25 (ESV) | Doxology

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Amen, indeed.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Gospel Wednesday | Mark 1

Welcome to our first Gospel Wednesday of 2016.

We’ll be starting the year off by working through the Gospel according to Mark. With only 16 Chapters, the Gospel according to Mark is the shortest of the Gospels and we’ll probably work through it in roughly as many weeks. As we work through the text, please remember that I’m merely a lay person with no formal seminary training. I’m open to Biblical discussion and even disagreement on interpretation, particularly in the application of the text. I will avoid making arguments based on extra biblical materials and ask that you do the same. If what we discuss here conflicts with your church’s doctrine in any way, I encourage you to take the discussion to your pastors and elders, that is the purpose of their office and calling.

Summary of the Gospel According to Mark

Before we begin in the first chapter of the Gospel According to Mark, I recommend reading through the summary of the book put together by the folks at BibleStudyTools.com. I’d like to quote some of the sections from their page here:

Author

Although there is no direct internal evidence of authorship, it was the unanimous testimony of the early church that this Gospel was written by John Mark (“John, also called Mark,” Ac 12:12,25; 15:37). The most important evidence comes from Papias (c. a.d. 140), who quotes an even earlier source as saying: (1) Mark was a close associate of Peter, from whom he received the tradition of the things said and done by the Lord; (2) this tradition did not come to Mark as a finished, sequential account of the life of our Lord, but as the preaching of Peter — preaching directed to the needs of the early Christian communities; (3) Mark accurately preserved this material. The conclusion drawn from this tradition is that the Gospel of Mark largely consists of the preaching of Peter arranged and shaped by Mark (see note on Ac 10:37).

Occasion and Purpose

Since Mark’s Gospel is traditionally associated with Rome, it may have been occasioned by the persecutions of the Roman church in the period c. a.d. 64-67. The famous fire of Rome in 64 — probably set by Nero himself but blamed on Christians — resulted in widespread persecution. Even martyrdom was not unknown among Roman believers. Mark may be writing to prepare his readers for such suffering by placing before them the life of our Lord. There are many references, both explicit and veiled, to suffering and discipleship throughout his Gospel (see 1:12-13; 3:22,30; 8:34-38; 10:30,33-34,45; 13:8-13).

Special Characteristics

Mark’s Gospel is a simple, succinct, unadorned, yet vivid account of Jesus’ ministry, emphasizing more what Jesus did than what he said. Mark moves quickly from one episode in Jesus’ life and ministry to another, often using the adverb “immediately” (see note on1:12). The book as a whole is characterized as “The beginning of the gospel” (1:1). The life, death and resurrection of Christ comprise the “beginning,” of which the apostolic preaching in Acts is the continuation.

(Read More)

Mark 1 (ESV)

The Gospel According to Mark does not recount the birth of Jesus Christ. Matthew and Luke cover His birth and John summarizes the significance of the incarnation of the Christ, the Son of God in human flesh. Mark’s account begins by introducing us to John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Messiah.

Mark 1:1-8 (ESV) | John the Baptist Prepares the Way

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,

“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
    who will prepare your way,
the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
    ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
    make his paths straight,’”

John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

The baptism of John was the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. It is important to recognize that this was indeed a real baptism for what it was… repentance for the forgiveness of sins. But this baptism is lesser than the Baptism we know in Christ, for even John said that the Christ will baptize with the Holy Spirit. We see this play out later in Acts.

Acts 18:24-26 (ESV) | Apollos Speaks Boldly in Ephesus
Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.

Acts 19:1-5 (ESV) | Paul in Ephesus
And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

I point this out to demonstrate that what John was doing was proper and necessary, but it was superseded by baptism in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Let’s continue in Mark.

Mark 1:9-11 (ESV) | The Baptism of Jesus

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Here we have the Trinity displayed in the text. Jesus fresh out of the water, the Spirit descending on Jesus like a dove and the Voice of God the Father. Modalism refuted. Jesus had nothing to repent of. No sin. No need to repent. So why the baptism? For our sake. We need repentance and the forgiveness of sin, and we are joined with Him in baptism. Not just His baptism, but into His death and resurrection, too. The beauty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that by faith we are joined with Christ, in His baptism, sealed by the Holy Spirit and declared righteous before God the Father because of the Righteousness of His Son, Jesus.

Matthew 3:13-17 (ESV) | The Baptism of Jesus
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

1 Peter 3:18-22 (ESV) For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

Praise the LORD for His Grace and Forgiveness. As we continue in Mark, let us remember that the Life and Ministry of Jesus is to be taken as a whole, for He IS the Messiah, not just someone who did Messianic things or taught Messianic principles. That is not to say that we cannot look at the smaller events in light of the whole, but we dare not rip a singular event out of the greater context and build a theology around it… As John wrote in his gospel account, Jesus is the Word made flesh.

Mark 1:12-13 (ESV) | The Temptation of Jesus

12 The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.

It is so encouraging to me to know that while He committed no sin in any way, He is familiar with temptation and weakness. We serve a God who knows and understands.

Mark 1:14-15 (ESV) | Jesus Begins His Ministry

14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

Even in Mark’s brevity, we see clearly both Law and Gospel in Christ’s preaching. Repent and believe in the Gospel.

Mark 1:16-20 (ESV) | Jesus Calls the First Disciples

16 Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men. 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.

Jesus calls His people to Him. The Holy Spirit that has been poured out on those who believe and are baptized now draws men unto Jesus through the preached Word. The multitudes that gathered throughout His earthly ministry was fickle… eventually calling for His crucifixion. Jesus preached to the crowds and performed many signs and wonders in fulfillment of prophecy, but He wasn’t playing to them. The Church, the Body of Christ is not called to play to the crowds.

Mark 1:21-28 (ESV) | Jesus Heals a Man with an Unclean Spirit

21 And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. 22 And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. 23 And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24 “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit,convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.

From the beginning, we see that Jesus is different in every imaginable way. Mark’s Gospel makes it intellectually dishonest to limit Jesus as a merely a “good teacher”. He has Authority… Divine Authority.

Mark 1:29-34 (ESV) | Jesus Heals Many

29 And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. 31 And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

32 That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

There is good reason why Jesus didn’t permit the demons to speak. For they were not speaking to confess Jesus as the Messiah of God; rather, they sought to derail His ministry. Israel was looking for a Messiah who would establish an earthly ministry, they were waiting for the next King David who would establish an earthly kingdom. Jesus came to do much, much more and far greater… He came to heal us from our sin and eternal judgement.

Mark 1:35-39 (ESV) | Jesus Preaches in Galilee

35 And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, 37 and they found him and said to him,“Everyone is looking for you.” 38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out. 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.

It is sad that our modern-day evangelicalism down-plays the preaching ministry. Jesus preached. He also performed signs and wonders that served as a testimony to Who He Is… we’ve been called to preach the Word.

Mark 1:40-45 (ESV) | Jesus Cleanses a Leper

40 And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, 44 and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” 45 But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.

We serve a God who takes pity on our brokenness. He forgives our weakness and heals us by taking upon Himself our sins, our iniquities, our transgressions.

Until Next Week

Next week we’ll be working through chapter 2. This will not be an exhaustive study, we’ll only be scratching the surface of the text, but we will work through the text each week. I pray it serves you even if only by prompting you to read the text and skip my comments.

Jude 1:24-25 (ESV) | Doxology

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Amen, indeed.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

DiM | “Real” by Nichole Nordeman

disapproveToday we are doing a Christmas Edition of “Discernment in Music” (DiM), here at Faithful Stewardship (2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (ESV)). I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I’d be addressing CCM radio stations’ treatment of the Gospel during this Christmas season, but I got distracted by this song so we’ll push that discussing back a bit.

December 3, 2015. Today we’ll be taking a look at a contemporary Christmas song by Nichole Nordeman called “Real”. This song is beautifully sung… and poetically written. It stands apart from most of the holiday sugar-pop that plays in shopping malls and diners… this song attempts to look beyond the commercialism and the hype to the “real meaning of Christmas”. How does it fare? I find myself in a quandary, on the one hand we need a lot more serious Christmas songs; on the other hand, we need Christmas songs that proclaim the Truth, not some fanciful re-envisioned version of history shaped to tug on our heart-strings.

The story of Jesus’ Birth is real. There were witnesses. We have the history recorded in Scripture. You don’t have to imagine the facts, you just have to read and believe them. There are cases where our imagination can help us understand the facts, but our imagination doesn’t get to rewrite them. If you are caught up in the false spirit of Christmas, and this song helped wake you up, Praise the Lord… but don’t stop there… read the real account, recorded in Luke 1-2 & Matthew 1-2.

Nichole Nordeman VEVO Video

“A Walk One Winter Night” by Al Andrews

I shared the second video because it was credited as the inspiration for Nichole Nordeman’s song “Real”. It shouldn’t come as any surprise to my readers, that I object to the premise of this song. I find it odd, even frustrating, that a song purporting to correct the listener’s misconceptions of Mary, or the night of Jesus’ birth would be inspired by a work of fiction, itself also containing some misconceptions of the manger, the “inn”, and those who were present on that night. Do we really need to turn to works of fiction to realize the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Is that where we are as a Church today? For the vast majority of Western Evangelicalism… the answer is “yes”. Pulpits are replaced by performance stages, and Pastors no longer preach the Word of God, they preach their own ideas, their own fantasies, their own fiction… and people flock to them, because their fiction is so “relevant” to them, so “real”. We’ve traded what is REAL for what we want to hear. 

Lyrics (via MetroLyrics)

Real

Frozen statues in the cold
Washed in moonlight, blue and gold
Mary’s babe in plastic hay
Quiet wonder on her face
Mary you look so serene
Far too pretty, much too clean
We might think we know you well
But what stories would you tell?
Of all the dirt and dust and shame
Everybody burning labour pain

And as I turn to walk away
I hear you say
I am real
Don’t turn me into memory or myth
Let me be real
And I’ll show you what it means to love like this
To be real

Shepherds bending to the ground
Bethlehem is safe and sound
Joseph you look brave and true
Do we know what it was like to be you
How many sleepless nights awake
Found you desperate and afraid

And as I turn to walk away
I hear you say
I am real
Don’t turn me into memory or myth
Let me be real
And I’ll show you what it means to love like this
To love like you don’t even care about the hurry and the hustle
Like you are unaware December comes with so much trouble
‘Cause you believe a baby came, not in paintings or in plays
But every minute, every hour, every day
To be real, real

You are real, real

Show us what it means to love like this
To be real
To be real

More than a memory
More than a story
Real

Read more: Nichole Nordeman – Real Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Discussion

Both the book and the song it inspired engage in mystical fiction. Statues don’t talk and Mary and Joseph are not speaking to anyone today, much less for direct revelation. Evangelicalism is awash in mysticism today, so I feel it necessary to point this fact out explicitly.

Once we get past the feel-good revelation of, “hey, this isn’t just a holiday with lawn decorations, this is about a real story that took place”… the songs lyrics have some troubling elements. Why is Mary begging to be real to the observer? Mary is begging to be real to the observer in exchange for her demonstrating to the observer what it means to love like this. So, Mary wants to be real so that she can demonstrate her love. Mary is pointing to Mary? No. Mary would be pointing to Jesus. We don’t need Mary as an intermediary to Jesus. Mary isn’t the point of the story, Jesus is.

There are some details in the song that are good and even interesting to ponder, like what it must have been like for Mary and Joseph to have been visited by the shepherds, and their story of seeing the angelic host. I’m sure Mary and Joseph had many a sleepless night, as with any first-time parents in the first century.

Conclusion

The key to not letting the Gospel fade into memory or myth, is to have it preached from the Word of God on a regular basis. Faith comes by hearing the word of Christ, not by having your heartstrings plucked by some work of fiction. Preach the Word, be ready in season and out of season. Jesus took on the form of man for one reason, to live a life we couldn’t live and pay a price we couldn’t pay so that we can have a forgiveness we don’t deserve.  That’s the Grace of God found only in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 (ESV)

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Gospel Wednesday | Jeremiah 33

GWLast week, we looked at the story of Joseph and his life foreshadows the first advent of Jesus Christ. We shared an hour-long audio teaching from Pr Chris Rosebrough via Fighting for the Faith, so if you haven’t yet listened to that I encourage you to set aside some time to listen (Link). The week prior, we looked at how the story of Noah also points forward to our salvation in Jesus Christ. This week, we find ourselves within the Advent season, 4 weeks to when the Church celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. The local CCM radio channel is already playing a full set of Christmas music. We’ll discuss some concerns with that in tomorrow’s post. In this season of Advent, I think it is important that we not simply jump straight to the virgin birth and the gold, frankincense and myrrh without first understanding our need for a Savior. Throughout the year, we review a lot of music and internet memes that confuse Law and Gospel, or simply skip over the Law to present a different gospel than what is found in God’s Word.

 The Prophet Jeremiah

Jeremiah was a great Prophet of the LORD who lived through a truly dark time in the history of Israel. Let’s look at the introduction to his book:

Jeremiah 1:1-12 (ESV)

The words of Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, one of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, to whom the word of the Lord came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign. It came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, and until the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah, the son of Josiah, king of Judah, until the captivity of Jerusalem in the fifth month.

The Call of Jeremiah

Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.

Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” But the Lord said to me,

“Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’;
for to all to whom I send you, you shall go,
and whatever I command you, you shall speak.
Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,
declares the Lord.”

Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me,

Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.
10 See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to break down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.

11 And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?” And I said, “I see an almond branch.” 12 Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.”

Wow. This is quite the calling. It is no wonder that today’s false-prophets and false anointed ones (false christs) make reading themselves into Jeremiah such a common practice. We’re not going to do that here. God is speaking to His Prophet, whom He formed, consecrated, and appointed before he was born. Notice that Jeremiah is appointed Prophet to the Nations, not just to Israel. This is important to hold onto, because as he prophesies of the coming Messiah, the prophetic word is not just for Israel, but for the Nations.

A Blessing to the Nations

We see this in the Promise given to Abraham.

Genesis 17:1-8 (ESV) | Abraham and the Covenant of Circumcision

17 When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.”Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”

Abraham and the nation of Israel would then serve as God’s chosen people, or primary agent of the Promise of God, but the Promise would be to the nations (plural). Shortly after this covenant, we see a conversation within the Godhead regarding this Promise to Abraham just before He tells Abraham of the judgement that is coming to Sodom and Gomorrah.

Genesis 18:17-19 (ESV)

17 The Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, 18 seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19 For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”

God’s Wrath and Grace

Through all of Israel’s unbelief and transgressions, God preserved her, rescued her, time and time again. Fast-forward to Jeremiah’s time, the northern kingdom of Israel had been scattered by the Assyrians. God sends Jeremiah to prophecy against the remaining kingdom of Judah for her sins and transgressions, but she does not repent. God then uses the king of Babylon to punish Judah, destroying the city of Jerusalem and taking most of its inhabitants (except the very poor) into Babylonian exile for 70 years. Jeremiah isn’t taken to Babylon, but Daniel and Ezekiel were. Jeremiah is imprisoned by the king of Judah for prophesying of the coming judgement against Judah at the hands of Babylon. That’s a high-altitude flyover of Jeremiah, but let us look at the word of the LORD to Jeremiah in Jeremiah 32 that will set up our main text.

Jeremiah 32:26-35 (ESV)

26 The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 27 Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me? 28 Therefore, thus says the Lord: Behold, I am giving this city into the hands of the Chaldeans and into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he shall capture it.29 The Chaldeans who are fighting against this city shall come and set this city on fire and burn it,with the houses on whose roofs offerings have been made to Baal and drink offerings have been poured out to other gods, to provoke me to anger. 30 For the children of Israel and the children of Judah have done nothing but evil in my sight from their youth. The children of Israel have done nothing but provoke me to anger by the work of their hands, declares the Lord. 31 This city has aroused my anger and wrath, from the day it was built to this day, so that I will remove it from my sight 32 because of all the evil of the children of Israel and the children of Judah that they did to provoke me to anger—their kings and their officials, their priests and their prophets, the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 33 They have turned to me their back and not their face. And though I have taught them persistently, they have not listened to receive instruction. 34 They set up their abominations in the house that is called by my name, to defile it. 35 They built the high places of Baal in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.

Notice the language here of total sin, total depravity, from their youth, from the day the city was built. They have done nothing but evil. God isn’t only speaking of Judah, but of all of mankind. Romans 1 and 2 follow after this pattern of declaring everyone unrighteous for having forsaken the Creator, and refusing to worship Him as God. Worse, they’ve taken to worshiping false gods and doing what is evil. Similarly, we are born dead in our sins and trespasses, and God’s grace delays the judgement so that we might listen and receive instruction and turn our faces toward Him…. but we don’t… and we can’t on our own. Judgement is coming, but we serve a God who Saves. But God doesn’t save by making the Law go away or by refusing to judge; rather, He carries His remnant through the judgment, as God carried Noah and his family through the global flood in the Ark, and how God placed Joseph in a position to save all of Israel… a position that began with being sold into slavery and wrongful imprisonment.

Jeremiah 32:36-44 (ESV) | They Shall Be My People; I Will Be Their God

36 “Now therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning this city of which you say, ‘It is given into the hand of the king of Babylon by sword, by famine, and by pestilence’: 37 Behold, I will gather them from all the countries to which I drove them in my anger and my wrath and in great indignation. I will bring them back to this place, and I will make them dwell in safety.38 And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.39 I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them.40 I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. 41 I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.

42 “For thus says the Lord: Just as I have brought all this great disaster upon this people, so I will bring upon them all the good that I promise them. 43 Fields shall be bought in this land of which you are saying, ‘It is a desolation, without man or beast; it is given into the hand of the Chaldeans.’ 44 Fields shall be bought for money, and deeds shall be signed and sealed and witnessed, in the land of Benjamin, in the places about Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, in the cities of the hill country, in the cities of the Shephelah, and in the cities of the Negeb; for I will restore their fortunes, declares the Lord.”

Amen. Judgment is coming, for it is due. His wrath must be satisfied, for He is a Just and Holy God. But He will also preserve His people, for He is Gracious and Merciful. He will gather them, He will give them one Way, and will make an Everlasting Covenant. God isn’t just talking about the end of the Babylonian exile… He’s talking about the New Covenant of the Blood of Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God.

Jeremiah 33:1-16 (ESV) | The Lord Promises Peace

33 The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah a second time, while he was still shut up in the court of the guard: “Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to establish it—the Lord is his name: Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the houses of this city and the houses of the kings of Judah that were torn down to make a defense against the siege mounds and against the sword: They are coming into fight against the Chaldeans and to fill them with the dead bodies of men whom I shall strike down in my anger and my wrath, for I have hidden my face from this city because of all their evil. Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of prosperity and security. I will restore the fortunes of Judah and the fortunes of Israel, and rebuild them as they were at first.I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me.And this city shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and a glory before all the nations of the earth who shall hear of all the good that I do for them. They shall fear and tremble because of all the good and all the prosperity I provide for it.

10 “Thus says the Lord: In this place of which you say, ‘It is a waste without man or beast,’ in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are desolate, without man or inhabitant or beast, there shall be heard again 11 the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voices of those who sing, as they bring thank offerings to the house of the Lord:

“‘Give thanks to the Lord of hosts,
    for the Lord is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever!’

For I will restore the fortunes of the land as at first, says the Lord.

12 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: In this place that is waste, without man or beast, and in all of its cities, there shall again be habitations of shepherds resting their flocks. 13 In the cities of the hill country, in the cities of the Shephelah, and in the cities of the Negeb, in the land of Benjamin, the places about Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, flocks shall again pass under the hands of the one who counts them, says the Lord.

The Lord‘s Eternal Covenant with David

14 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

Again, while the promise of the LORD here to Israel and Judah had an immediate (well, after the exile) fulfillment, God’s Wording is goes beyond the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem and the Temple… God is pointing to His Son, Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Branch of David. The Way the Truth and the Life who will take away the sin of the world. The chief priests and elders of Jesus’ day were looking for a temporal fulfillment of this prophecy. Their messiah was going to turn Israel into a once great nation where none, not Rome or any other nation would dare come against them. But that is not the Promise we’ve received… for we are looking for the consolation of all of Creation, that which has been subjected to futility as a direct result of the sin of Adam. When God talks about healing the land, we should see healing in a salvific sense… a redemption of the good creation that was in the beginning, before sin entered creation. The New Heaven, the New Earth, with a New Jerusalem.

Revelation 21:22-23 (ESV)

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.

Until Next Week

As Christmas approaches, please resist the urge to skip over the Truth of our desperate need for a savior, and our complicity in tempting the Wrath of God. We deserve judgement, we have since the fall. We are born into it, and we perpetuate it in sinful flesh. But Praise be to our God and Father for sending us His Only Begotten Son, Jesus. Repent and be forgiven in Jesus’ Name.

Philippians 2:1-11 (ESV) | Christ’s Example of Humility

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

DiM | “Be One” by Natalie Grant

Today is “Discernment in Music” (DiM) day here at Faithful Stewardship (2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (ESV)).

December 01, 2015. Today we’ll be taking a look at “Be One” by Natalie Grant which currently sits at #15 on the 20theCountdownMagazine.

While we kept this song in the “middle ground” today, it could just as easily have earned a disapproval. The Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) Industry is very excited about Natalie Grant’s new album. Releasing this single just before the Christmas season is a smart marketing move. She’s been on morning talk shows and performed this first single a few times on TV (I saw the one on Fox and Friends). It’s a Law-heavy song urging the listener to good works. For any good to come from this song, we must do the work of reminding ourselves and others of the Gospel and Christ’s work in us that produces good works the song is calling for, and we also need to address some of the wording. I simply ask you , the reader/listener, to do the work of a Berean in this case and decide for yourselves.

Natlie Grant Official Lyric Video

Lyrics (via KLove)

Be One

We don’t feel ready, we don’t feel steady
Question what we really have to give

Stay where it’s safer, claim faith but waiver
Is this how we’re really meant to live

We pray but never move
We say but never do

(chorus)
It’s time to get our hands dirty
oh oh, oh oh
Be love – there’s a whole lot of hurting
oh oh, oh oh
Calling all hearts, Calling all hands
Calling all feet to take a stand
Why sit around and wait for a miracle to come
When we can be one, When we can be one , When we can be one

A little somethin’ might feel like nothin’
But in His hands it’s all we’ll ever need

To speak life to the broken
Watch the blind eyes open
It’s who He’s calling you and me to be

We can be the change – be the hope
We can be the arms that don’t let go
We can be a light in the dark
We are we are where it starts

(chorus)

We can be the light in the dark
We can be the arms that don’t let go

Publishing: © 2015 SeeSeeBubba Songs (SESAC) (admin. by Music Services)/ Maxx Melodies (SESAC)/BMG Platinum Songs (BMI)/Takin It To The Maxx (BMI) All Rights Administered By BMG Rights Management (US) LLC/ WB Music Corp./ Thankful for This Music (ASCAP) All rights admin. by WB Music Corp. (ASCAP) All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Writer(s): Natalie Grant / Sam Mizell / Becca Mizell / Emily Weisband

Discussion

The resounding theme of this song is be a miracle for someone else. Let’s start today’s discussion by first acknowledging the ways this song can be good. Our first challenge will be to reshape the notion of “being a miracle for someone else” into something more Biblically sound. Let’s look at how Jesus summarized the Law.

Matthew 22:36-40 (ESV)

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him,“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.

So, the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. This song is an attempt to call the listener to keep this commandment, to love our neighbors as ourselves. This is a good call, for it is Lawful. It is indeed a good work to love our neighbor as ourselves… the only problem is that we fail this commandment continuously. For this song to have stood on its own, it needed a clear reminder of the greatest commandment and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Okay, so we’ll address some problems in the target audience of this song in a minute, but for now let’s assume the intended audience is professing Christians. One could connect the thrust of this song to the Epistle of James.

James 1:16-27 (ESV) | Hearing and Doing the Word

16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

James 2:1-17 (ESV) | The Sin of Partiality

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ,the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Faith Without Works Is Dead

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

Now we need to address where the song falls short. Notice that the focus of Jame’s writing is on the faith of the reader. Is James talking about creating a cascade of miracles throughout society? No. He’s saying that a genuine faith will produce works… the faith will produce works. If it doesn’t, whatever faith is being claimed is a dead one. The core of the problem of a lack of works isn’t effort, it’s faith. James rebukes the sin of showing partiality within the body of Christ, and then he makes the case that a genuine, saving faith will produce good works. James goes on to warn us to control our tongues and to avoid worldliness. He doesn’t come back around to any notion of being a miracle for other people in order to shore up your faith… because that would be works-based righteousness, which is NOT in keeping with the Gospel of Grace.

The biggest problem with this song is that anyone could meet the call of the song (on occasion) without having any positive impact on their faith or in preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Every false religion teaches a works-based righteousness, and most of them push something akin to the good works being promoted in this song… the idea of being the miracle for someone else. Even atheist humanism preaches this sort of good work, while denouncing those who sit around and wait for a miracle to come. This song isn’t pointing to God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, it is pointing to the listener saying “be a miracle”… “do something good”. Frankly, I debated disapproving the song because of this… and my only rational for not doing it is because I could see the attempt at echoing the Epistle of James in the song, though it didn’t quite make it.

Another problem with this song is the odd call to be a miracle for someone else. God isn’t calling you to be a miracle, but to be a neighbor. The idea of being a miracle is doing something out of the ordinary, something supernatural, but that simply isn’t our charge nor calling. We are called to be set apart by the Spirit of God, and to love and forgiven our neighbors as Christ first loved and forgave us. I’m so sick of the purpose-driven, prosperity drivel that denigrates everyday living and serving our neighbors in our mundane jobs as something “less than”… God’s word tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves, not “be their savior”. You don’t have to be a super star, or do something really big… love your neighbor as yourself. Sure, there are times when God places a need before us that calls for something big, but His desire is that we love our neighbor in between those big events, too. Instead of waiting for an opportunity to give your neighbor a car or a kidney… begin by extending grace, a word of comfort, and encouragement, or forgiveness. Our good works must point others to the Grace of God… for the moment it points to ourselves it ceases being a good work.

Conclusion

Dear Christian, you were called to repentance and forgiveness by the blood of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. He loved you, He lived a perfect life where you could not, He gave His Life to pay the price for you that you couldn’t pay, and He rose again so that in Him you might have everlasting Life. It’s Christ’s work for you and in you and through you. Place your faith and trust in Him, and love others as you have been loved by Him, forgive others as you have been forgiven by Him. God isn’t asking you to be a miracle for someone else, He’s asking you to share the good news of the miracle of Salvation with your neighbor… preach the Gospel, love your neighbor, repent and be forgiven in Jesus’ Name.

Ephesians 2:1-10 (ESV) | By Grace Through Faith

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge