Friday Sermon | Three-fold Work of the Holy Spirit

frisermonIt has been a while since we shared a good sermon on Friday. This summer we packed in too many trips in too short a time frame, so the blogging and the yardwork have both suffered greatly. I’d like to get back to sharing sermons on Fridays, though I don’t have a lot of time to research sermons from pastors I don’t already listen to.

Today’s sermon is an older sermon from back in April. While on road trips my wife and I usually listen to sermons while the kids sleep or watch movies in the van. This latest trip we caught up on some great sermons by Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller.

Bryan Wolfmueller is a pastor of Hope Lutheran Church in Aurora, Colorado (www.hope-aurora.org).

He has a number of theological hobbies, including:

Bryan, his wife and four children live in Aurora, Colorado.

Bryan has a pipe, and it trying to start smoking it, but just doesn’t have the discipline. He enjoys walking around outside, reading the first ten pages of all kinds of books. He has a curious interest in productivity blogs.

(source: http://www.wolfmueller.co/)

Sermon Audio

 

Sermon Text

John 16:5-15 (ESV)

But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Friday Sermon | “The Hope That Overcomes the World” by John MacArthur

spriteToday’s sermon comes from John MacArthur via Grace To You. The sermon was given on November 29, 2015. John MacArthur takes a look at Jesus promise to send the Holy Spirit so that He would remind His Apostles of all that Jesus had taught them, and indeed to guide them (and us by means of the Written Word) into all Truth. There is some good stuff in this sermon, I pray you find it a blessing.

Sermon Audio

Sermon Text

 

John 16 (ESV)

16 “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.

The Work of the Holy Spirit

“I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine;therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

Your Sorrow Will Turn into Joy

16 “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” 17 So some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?” 18 So they were saying, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” 19 Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’?20 Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. 21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. 23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

I Have Overcome the World

25 “I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”

29 His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! 30 Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.” 31 Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? 32 Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Grace To You Website

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

CTT | Maturity in Discerment

CTTToday, let us take a some time to consider the idea of Christian Maturity and how it plays out in our discernment. For starters, I’d like to point out that discernment isn’t limited to quality assurance and quality control in theology, or a certain type of blogging that tells everyone that they are wrong. Discernment is both a gift of the Holy Spirit for the edification of the Church and a sign of maturity in a the believer who is walking according to the Spirit. We’ll start with the obvious topic of the Spiritual gift of discernment and work toward the individual responsibility of growing in maturity and how that is reflected in our discernment on a personal level.

Spiritual Gift for the Church

1 Corinthians 12:1-13 (ESV) | Spiritual Gifts

12 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit

When we consider discernment ministry for the common good, we are focused on the gift of discerning what is of the Spirit of Truth against the spirit of error, whose source might be either our fleshly sinfulness or unclean spirits of demons. There is no other option. Notice the focus in Paul’s writing, it isn’t to get smart on all of the spirits of error; rather, it is to anchor everything according to the Spirit of God. The better you know the genuine article, the easier it becomes to identify counterfeits. Not everyone who claims a gift of discernment actually bears it… just as not everyone who claims to preach the Word of the Lord actually does so. It is the Holy Spirit who gives the gifts as He wills. Similarly, I’ve met some who think (or maybe truly desire) they have the gift of hospitality… but end up making others uncomfortable in their attempts at serving in hospitality. It happens. We should all grow in hospitality in loving our neighbors, but not all of us are called to that specific ministry. Discernment ministry is the same way. We are called to be discerning believers, but not all of us should consider it our primary ministry to the Body of Christ. The call of discernment ministry is primarily to identify spirits of error, false doctrines, and doctrines of demons. It falls to Overseers, Elders, Pastors to exercise church discipline for those who reject rebuke, correction, reproof and who refuse to repent. The shepherd drives away the wolves to protect the sheep. The overseer is a steward under the Great Shepherd, Jesus Christ. We hope that our pastors are gifted in spiritual discernment, but that doesn’t mean the sheep cannot also be keenly aware of the wolves and alert the shepherd to their presence. The problem comes in when our immaturity and fleshliness leads us to separate wrongly… as we see Paul address next.

1 Corinthians 12:12-31 (ESV) | One Body with Many Members

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

More excellent way that what? Discernment? No. Discernment is a Gift from God. Paul is about to go into a more excellent way of dealing with the other members of the Body of Christ than what was highlighted as wrong. Those of you who are familiar with 1 Cor 13 may know what is coming, but I want to park that train for a moment. We’ll get there, but let’s take a short detour and examine the concept of Spiritual Maturity… what does it look like to be a mature Christian? Before we get to that thought, let us take a quick peek at something Paul wrote to the Corinthians in ch 3.

1 Corinthians 3:1-3 (ESV) | Divisions in the Church

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?

Ouch. He’s talking to Christians. They are still Christians… but they are immature, infants in Christ.

Walking in Spiritual Maturity

As individual believers, our biggest struggle isn’t against demons, it is against our own sinful flesh with its corrupted, self-seeking, desires. Paul exhorts us to die to our flesh, to that which is fleshly in us, so that we might live according to the Spirit. There is actually very little mention of the devil beyond resisting him… but we are routinely exhorted to flee lusts and the temptations of the flesh. The truth is that while we have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ our Lord, our flesh remains and is sinful. The Holy Spirit does work in us, sanctifying us… but the biggest component of that sanctification is that we are literally being put to death. Should the Return of Jesus tarry, you and I will die. There is no way around that. Our fleshly bodies are condemned under sin.

The life of the believing Christian is caught in between sinner and saint, the already(forgiven) and the not yet(sanctified). That means that we live in such a way that our works of the flesh are always sinful, and we must, by faith, remain in humble submission before God in repentance. We sin. Our flesh craves it. There are many who preach advice on how to reduce sin in your life by “avoiding pitfalls” or “following key principles” or … but the danger in this is the implication that if you are “christian enough” you’ll eventually stop sinning and finally be free from sin. That’s a lie. Your flesh is corrupt to its core. Even if Jesus returns today, your current flesh will be done away with, and in Christ those who are of faith will be granted new bodies. It has to happen. Only then will you be truly sanctified in the flesh… when He has given you a new body.

Now, here is where we get to the point of Christian Maturity… your greatest good work performed for your neighbor while on this earth, is stained by the sin of your flesh. Praise be to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, that our forgiveness, our adoption as sons and daughters of the Most High is in no way contingent upon the righteousness of our good works, but on His. So, when an opportunity to serve your neighbor arises, God is using you to bless your neighbor… but at the same time your flesh is involved so there will be sin at some level. Christian maturity is dying to the flesh to minimize the impact of your fleshliness on your neighbor, as well as learning to discern the good work from the sin of your neighbor and forgiving their sin as your sins are forgiven.

Galatians 5:13-25 (ESV) | Keep in Step with the Spirit

13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.

This is the war that wages in our bodies while we walk as sojourners in this life. By faith we know that our home is not of this world, but until we are finally set free from these corrupted bodies of sin, we must daily contend with the flesh and its corruption. But Paul isn’t just directing this teaching to one group of believers. He isn’t just addressing “discernment bloggers” or “pastors”… he’s addressing the body of Christ, brothers and sisters in the household of faith. We often come to this passage for the rundown of the fruit of the Spirit and set that as some positive goal for “becoming a mature Christian” by working on the fruits. But I think that is missing the bigger part of this section… we need to discern the works of the flesh (within the church) and see them for what they are and crucify the flesh with its passions and desires through repentance. Notice the wording of keep in step with the Spirit. We stumble and fall in sin. Repentance and forgiveness is how we are to keep in step. You are not sinless. You sin. I sin. For us to keep in step with the Spirit, by faith we humbly ask forgiveness and repent from sin. Daily. It’s in the Lord’s prayer. And we forgive others. Daily. That’s also in the same prayer. Reflecting back to Paul’s rebuke to the immature Corinthians above, their conduct was fleshly, and were not yet ready for meat, so they had to continue feeding on milk.

A Call to Maturity

Recently, my wife and I threw a big party for my daughter. The whole day was dedicated to her, starting with having her grandparents in town to watch her in gymnastics and swim class, followed by costume party at the house with a huge bounce-house and actors pretending to be Disney characters who sang songs and played games with her and a bunch of her friends. There was a fire pit with s’mores afterwards… it was an awesome day. When it came bed time, I let my son lead the bedtime prayer because he volunteered first, and you’d have thought the entire day was ruined by my daughter’s response… oh the waterworks, fat bottom lip, and hurt feelings. My daughter just turned 4… and she was beyond tired. As a child, she lives emotionally in the moment. As an adult, I know that the entire day wasn’t wasted simply because she took offense at the end of the day for not being chosen to pray. She had a wonderful day. She’s 4. As she matures, I will expect more from her… I will expect her to weigh the events of the day against the single disappointment at the end… to consider how excited her brother was for her throughout the day that was planned for her, and not for him. But for now, she’s 4… and she was super tired and delirious.

Our culture isn’t fond of maturity. In every way it seems to insist on living the Peter Pan in Neverland fantasy where we never grow old, grown-ups are the enemy, and we can all fly and have fanciful adventures if only we hold onto our one happy thought. “Grow up” is hate speech and to uphold God’s Written Word as an objective standard is bigotry. And the church hasn’t done a good job of remaining set apart. The visible church in modern-times needs to grow up.

2 Timothy 4:1-4 (ESV) | Preach the Word

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

Reprove and rebuke with complete patience and teaching. We are still both sinner and saint… even our pastors. Their good works will be tainted by their flesh. As they submit to the Spirit, so we must acknowledge the work of the Spirit in them and in His Word that they are preaching. Sure, we may cry like children and scream, and pitch a fit to punish our pastor for DARING to rebuke us in an imperfect manner, in what we deem to be less than patient teaching. Children live in that emotional space. Infants employ the same scream for every desire, and it falls to parents to discern the true need of the infant. However, as they grow and mature, we teach them to discern needs from desires and right from wrong. Paul is warning Timothy that the church will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. He is charging Timothy to preach the Word, reprove, rebuke, and exhort. A mature Christian hears the Word of the Lord being preached and humbles himself in repentance to the Word… even when the preacher’s flesh causes an offense. It’s going to happen. We are sinful creatures saved by grace. Know that your pastor is held accountable to God at a higher standard than those who are not called to the teaching ministry. Communicate with your pastor, point out the offense or error in love, being ready to forgive him as your sins are being forgiven you by God.

More Excellent Way

1 Corinthians 13 (ESV) | The Way of Love

13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Don’t confuse Love with the selfish emotion your flesh conjures up in its sinful desires and passions. Love is a fruit of the Spirit of God.

Conclusion

Whether you are exercising biblical discernment in speaking/writing a word of rebuke do what you can to remain substantive, rooted and grounded in the Word of God, and filled with love. Do not let your fleshly tone or word-choice be a stumbling block to your brother. When not speaking, be ready to discern substantive rebuke and correction even when delivered in an offensive tone. Learn to address tone without using it to overturn a substantive rebuke. Do not let your childish offendedness become a stumbling block to your own repentance. We will spend the rest of our earthly days maturing until at last we are set free from these mortal bonds, and born again into the Promise of the Resurrection.

Hebrews 13:20-21 (ESV) 20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus,the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

CTT | Don’t Narcigete Your Church, Either

CTTToday’s Completing The Thought (CTT) post should be fairly short. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, I trust you are familiar with exegesis and eisegesis. If you are not familiar with narcigesis, it is the conflation of narcissism and eisegesis.  There is a great definition of Narcisgesis available at Apprising.org, the work of the late Ken Silva.

NARCIGESIS [nahr- si -jee’ -sis]

[(From: narcissus; 1540–50; < Latin < Greek nárkissos plant name, traditionally connected, by virtue of plant’s narcotic effects, with nárkç numbness, torpor; probably from a pre-Gk. Aegean word, but associated with Gk. narke “numbness” (see narcotic) because of the plant’s sedative effect.) (From: eisegesis; 1890–95; < Greek eisḗgesis, equivalent to eis- into + ( h ) çge- (stem of hçgeîsthai to lead) + -sis -sis {C19: from Greek eisinto, in + -egesis, as in exegesis}.)]

Common Examples of Narcigesis

furtickWe’ll start out simply with Steven Furtick. If you want a case-study on how NOT to exegete a passage of scripture but instead narcigete it, go to any book written by Furtick, or sermon preached by him. The dude wrote an entire book (and sold lots of church bible-study paraphernalia) and preached several sermons based on the narcigesis of Joshua 10:12. One. Verse.

Joshua 10:12 (ESV) At that time Joshua spoke to the Lord in the day when the Lord gave the Amorites over to the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, “Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.”

Furtick then encouraged Christians that they should all pray “Sun stand still” prayers. It wasn’t a prayer, we are never taught to pray that way, God had already promised Joshua that battle, and the text itself in (verse 14) clearly states this was a unique and isolated event.

But even if you haven’t heard of Steven Furtick, I’m sure you’ve heard Hillsong’s “Oceans (where feet may fail)”, right? That song narcigetes the story of Jesus walking on the water, suggesting that God is asking each of us to walk on water. He isn’t. Many times the Story of God defeating Goliath is told in such a way that the listener plays the role of David and needs to find his 5 smooth stones, or master a skill in his “down time” doing menial tasks of watching sheep until “such a time” as the LORD would call them to use their skill (sling) to defeat the Goliath in their lives…. see where this is going? Narcegisis points to people… the Scriptures point to Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God.

The heroes of the Old Testament point us to the Messiah, God’s Anointed One, Jesus Christ. While we should seek to emulate their faith (Hebrews 11), their actions are not always commendable, nor are they a prescription for getting the same results they got. Because their actions didn’t make them chosen, their actions didn’t curry the favor of God, it was their faith. And faith doesn’t come by copying the actions of one of the heroes in the Bible, faith comes from hearing the Word of Christ (Romans 10:17). We’ve said it many times, don’t read yourself into the heroes of the Old Testament. Read yourself into the sinner that needs the Savior, sure… but not at the expense of missing the Truth of Scripture when Jesus rebuked the Pharisees by telling them, “For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.” (John 5:30-47)

Corporate Narcigesis

It happens with churches, too. The most common area where I see this happen, is whenever a church does “a series in Acts”. This isn’t always the case, but it happens a lot more than you’d think. Even in churches claiming to engage in expository preaching. Yes, it is possible to work through a text verse by verse and still engage in Narcigesis… by having a preacher chase rabbit trails and share personal or even corporate anecdotes throughout a sermon. Even if a passage is read aloud in-context at the beginning, a preacher looking to “deepen the congregation’s understanding of the passage” can engage in narcigesis by skipping around proof-texting verses to emphasis a point that isn’t even being made by the text. In the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, many a small church preacher will read in Acts 2 how 3,000 men were added to the church and how more were being added every day and think that the key to being a blessed church is to grow in numbers. Others will look at the miracles God performed for the lame beggar in Acts 3 and think that the reason the church isn’t seeing such miracles is that we don’t have men of great faith (dare I say audacious) like Peter and John, or that we aren’t all of one heart and soul (ch 4:32) so as a church we need to focus on being more Unified and then the church will be blessed. These are all false-readings. Let’s look at how Luke introduced his work.

Acts 1:1-8 (ESV) | The Promise of the Holy Spirit

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me;for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Yes, we call the book the Acts of the Apostles… but their acts, clearly defined by Jesus, were to be witnesses of Him. When the Apostles cast lots to select a replacement for Judas Iscariot, they narrowed the field to only those who were fellow witnesses from the beginning. The Apostle Paul was an undisputed witness of Jesus, since his encounter with Jesus produced immediate repentance. Jesus began the work, and He continued the work through His Apostles who were promised the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Promise of the Holy Spirit wasn’t limited to them:

Acts 2:38-41 (ESV)

38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself. 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying,“Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

Had Peter done anything special to earn his calling? No. Was Peter the head of the church? No. Christ is the Head of His Church, and He gave us His Apostles, the last of whom was the Apostle Paul. Don’t read your church into these texts hoping to discover some formula for building a successful church… men do not build Christ’s Church. Peter rejected these notions even as he addressed the men of Jerusalem after God miraculously healed a 40-yr old lame beggar

Acts 3:1-16 (ESV) | The Lame Beggar Healed

Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

Peter Speaks in Solomon’s Portico

11 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s. 12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk?13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.

Conclusion

We need to start scrutinizing the rabbit trails and personal anecdotes that have overrun our sermons and bible studies. The occasional anecdote can be helpful in as much as it points to the Scriptures. Too often, however, these anecdotes merely engage the audience in a bit of humor, or tend to highlight the creation rather than the Creator. This needs to stop. It is my sincere belief that the vast majority of those who are guilty of this form of narcigesis do so honestly; meaning they are so caught up in poor methodology and worldly ecclesiology that they’ve bought into the lie that it is up to them to make the Word of God relevant for their hearers. Men, if you start to recognize these trends in your pastor’s sermons… remain humble and gracious, and grant him the benefit of the doubt and ask to speak with him. Women, first speak with your husband and ask him to speak to the Pastor. If you are an unwed woman, ask to speak with the pastor’s wife or the wife of an elder. To everyone, walk in grace and humility, and engage the text, the Word of God. Trust in God the Holy Spirit to open the eyes and ears of His servants. They are your overseers, after all, and they will have to give account for their stewardship.

Romans 15:1-7 (ESV) | The Example of Christ

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 19

bibleLet us continue our walk through the Gospel According to Matthew. Last week we worked through Matthew 18.

Last week’s look at Matthew 18 ended with the parable of the unforgiving servant. In this parable, Our Lord Jesus Christ is demonstrating the proper framework or perspective from which we should view the call to forgive our brothers who have sinned against us. That framework being of one who is fully aware (by faith) of the insurmountable debt of sin of which we have been forgiven by God for the sake of His Son, Jesus. In light of what we have been forgiven, we have no right to withhold forgiveness from our fellow sinful man. I think it is extremely important that we maintain this proper perspective, since the very next topic that presents itself in the Gospel According to Matthew is that of divorce and marriage.

Matthew 19 (ESV)

Matthew 19:1-12 (ESV) | Teaching About Divorce

Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. And large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

10 The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” 11 But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”

There is a common teaching that takes verse 9 to indicate that Divorce is allowed in cases of adultery, but not in anything else. I think that is a poor reading of this text. The Pharisees had their own laws regarding divorce, and some had gone so far as to make the slightest infraction (burned dinner) capable of warranting a divorce. They sought to draw Jesus into their dispute, to get Him to weigh in on their laws with their initial question, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?”. That is the opening question. The question is open for a fully open “yes” meaning that any cause is lawful or a limited answer of “yes” in which they would debate to establish the left and right limits of lawful divorce. I don’t think they were expecting Jesus’ answer, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate”. His answer was “no”, there is no lawful case for divorce. What does that answer mean? It means that in all cases, divorce is a sin. The Pharisees were white-washed tombs, on the outside they were clean… this is an “on the outside” question. They wanted to establish a way to divorce their wife while still coming out the “good guy”, the “clean” guy… or in our modern-day language, the “innocent victim”. According to the Law, the punishment for adultery is death. Death ends the marriage covenant. A widow or widower is free to remarry without incurring the sin of adultery (provided the new spouse is free from adultery).

The Pharisees then attempted to refute Jesus’s answer by pointing to Moses and the certificate of divorce. Jesus points out that it was a concession made as a result of their hardness of heart, from their sin. Jesus is directing the Pharisees beyond Moses and the Mosaic covenant… this is an important distinction, one that the author of Hebrews conveys wonderfully in chapter 10:

Hebrews 10:1-10 (ESV) | Christ’s Sacrifice Once for All
1 For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? 3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
    but a body have you prepared for me;
6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings
    you have taken no pleasure.
7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

8 When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), 9 then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

That Moses granted a certificate of divorce does not indicate that God was in any way pleased by divorce in any circumstance. King David rightly understood that it wasn’t the sacrifices that pleased God; rather a broken and contrite spirit were pleasing sacrifices to Him (Psalm 51, specifically vs 16-17).

So, by the time we get to verse 9, Jesus isn’t presenting a get-out-of-marriage-lawfully card, He is saying that every case of divorce and remarriage is the sin of adultery. The case of adultery is a different case under the Law because the adulterer is put to death. Under the Law, there is no lawful case for divorce, because even if there was no adultery and both divorcees lived, if they remarry they are committing adultery. What does this all mean? Sin. Those who are under the New Covenant must repent of their sin and be forgiven… the sin of divorce is the sin of adultery (as is the sin of adultery). Does this mean we are to place the burden of the Law on the necks of Christians and deny them remarriage after having repented of the sin of divorce? I don’t think so. In fact, I believe we are called to forgive as we have been forgiven and extend Grace. God is not mocked, He disciplines His own. All cases of divorce is sin… Christ’s Finished Work on the cross is sufficient for all sin. This takes discipline, discernment, rebuke, repentance, grace, and forgiveness. This is the role of the church, to build up one another in the faith that was once-for-all delivered to the saints. Marriage is not to be taken lightly, neither dare we take sin lightly. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).

The permanence of marriage is so strongly conveyed here by Jesus, that the disciples decide it’s better not to marry at all, then. Jesus doesn’t disagree… but He does make clear to them that not everyone can live that way, for such a life is a call to celibacy, since sex is only lawful within the covenant of marriage. I find it very interesting that Jesus (through Whom everything was created) declares that some are born eunuchs. Some people are born without a driving sexual desire, and that is by design. Now, the world perverts this idea by insisting that everyone has sexual desires that need to be satisfied, so those who God designed to be born a eunuch are tempted to seek gratification in sinful ways. The world is all to eager to push us into sexual immorality, even those for whom sex isn’t as strongly wired as others. Just a thought that has no bearing on what is sin and what is righteous but the church should remember that Jesus plainly taught that some are born eunuchs… by design. Then there are those individuals who are made eunuchs (castration) and still others who choose celibacy for the sake of the ministry of the Kingdom. Not all can accept this life, so as Paul will teach later, better to marry than to be burned up with passion.

Matthew 19:13-15 (ESV) |  Let the Children Come to Me

13 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” 15 And he laid his hands on them and went away.

This was a major theme in last week’s posts, and here I think it is important to remind parents that their children are their first ministry. We are called to bring our children (even infants as we see in the language used by Luke) to Christ… for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 19:16-30 (ESV) | The Rich Young Man

16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments. 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me. 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” 27 Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

What a passage. In the first part, we see a man seeking to be commended for his good deeds. He was prepared to demonstrate his righteousness and was awaiting the approval of Jesus. Jesus crushes that notion with His first comment, there is only One who is good. His actual answer to the question of what goo deed, is keep the commandments. God is the only One who is good, and Jesus (the God-Man) is good for He is the only One who kept all of the commandments. God is One. The next question from the man is diagnostic question… leading to the “what do I still lack?” Jesus’ response is a picture of repentance, dying to self, and following Christ. This lesson is further given to His disciples. We generally refer to this notion by quoting a different passage:

Luke 9:23-26 (ESV) | Take Up Your Cross and Follow Jesus
23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

How wonderful it is to see the Gospel message remains the same across writers and circumstances. Eternal Life is found in none other than Jesus Christ.

Until Next Week

Next week we’ll be working through chapter 20. We’ll see a parable about the Kingdom of Heaven, and we’ll see Jesus give a third warning of His death. I look forward to continuing our trek through the Gospel According to Matthew. Until then, continue walking in faith and growing in knowledge of Christ through the reading of His Word.

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