Friday Sermon | Mercy by Bryan Wolfmueller

frisermon

Today’s sermon was preached back in June (06/19/2016) by Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller at Hope Lutheran Church in Aurora, CO. This sermon was preached shortly after the horrific terror attack on a nightclub in Orlando, Florida. I’ve listened to this sermon several times now. This is how we ought to respond to such tragedies, this is how the Law of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ serve to inform us in how to understand the fallen world around us and to comfort us in times of distress and sorrow.

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

Luke 6:36-42 (ESV)

Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.

 

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

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

Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 18

bibleLet us continue our walk through the Gospel According to Matthew. Last week we worked through Matthew 17.

Last week’s look at Matthew 17 ended with a short demonstration of God’s provision for His people. I debated stopping short of that portion so that it could serve as the introduction into today’s, but decided against it since chapter 17 is such a short chapter already. Today, we’ll start with what today would seem to be a deep theological question of who would be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Matthew 18 (ESV)

Matthew 18:1-6 (ESV) | Who Is the Greatest?

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

Notice how Jesus addresses the question… He didn’t answer “who is the greatest” He instead charged them to focus on who will even enter. That should be a sobering thought for each of us. Now, usually when I read this passage, my thoughts go to exploring what it means to have a child-like faith, and what I need to do to cultivate such a faith (notice how the flesh is so bent in on itself always looking for works to perform to gain faith)… but this time around, my thoughts focus more on verse 6. When we talk about the dangers of false teachers and wolves in the church, maybe we should start emphasizing the need to protect the children first and foremost. My kids are 5 and 3, and right now nothing scares my wife and me more than the idea of allowing our kids to falsely indoctrinated in a public (pagan) school system… or in a Sunday School class that mishandles Scripture for the sake of entertainment.

This is a bible study, but I hope you’ll allow me to share some personal application. Last night at dinner, my 3-yr-old daughter prayed for the blessing on the food. Immediately after the Amen, she said, “Daddy… you wanna know something about God? He never sins. You wanna know what God has? A Holy Spirit. And God is Jesus.” So at dinner, my wife and I discussed with our 5-yr-old and 3-yr-old the definition of sin, the nature of God, and the Trinity all while gobbling up some delicious arroz con pollo (chicken and rice). Now sure, I had to say several times, “I know it can be hard to understand, so for now we say that God is One in three persons, God the Father, God the Son Jesus, and God the Holy Spirit.” I was so moved by the experience, and the weight of the responsibility as their father and the priest of the home is heavy, particularly with what Jesus said in verse 6 above. Thankfully, it is not by my will or intellect… but by grace through faith that I can walk humbly and faithfully in my responsibility to the children God has placed in my care. This is why we don’t entertain fantasies such as santa, the tooth fairy, or the easter bunny. We refuse to bear false witness to our children about these lies and we fear causing the little ones who believe in Christ to stumble.

Matthew 18:7-9 (ESV) | Temptations to Sin

“Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.

Temptation will come… and it is necessary. It was necessary for Jesus to be tempted, we know this because the Holy Spirit led Him into the wilderness for that express purpose. But woe to the one by whom it comes. There is really poor argumentation out there that suggests that the ends justify the means. Christians should know better, but we are weak. The ends are in God’s hands… He allows the means, but He is the only Judge over all. God doesn’t tempt, but He allows it for our good and His Glory.

James 1:12-14 (ESV) 12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.

Part of remaining steadfast, is knowing when to flee temptation. Knowing that we are sinful creatures for sin yet remains in our flesh even though we have the Spirit of God working within us, Paul was clear in his writing of the war that rages within between our sinful flesh and the Spirit. Jesus graphically depicts the need to avoid temptation by any means necessary. Resist the devil, yes, and that includes fleeing youthful lusts. But we don’t blindly run away, James tells us to draw near to God and He will draw near to us (James 4).

Matthew 18:10-14 (ESV) | The Parable of the Lost Sheep

10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. 12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

This parable should be held in close connection with Jesus’ charge in verses 5 and 6. The Father takes special notice of the little ones who have gone astray. Remember the millstone. He actively seeks out the one who is lost. Woe to the one by whom temptation comes! The Father rejoices over the lost that was found more than over the 99 who never went astray.

Matthew 18:15-20 (ESV) | If Your Brother Sins Against You

15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

This is how we are to deal with fellow members of the Body of Christ. This is how Church Discipline is to be administered. Sadly, steps 1&2 are often skipped and people jump straight to shunning and excommunication. What follows is a parable that reinforces what Jesus was teaching above, but from a different perspective… one of stewardship of God’s forgiveness, grace, and mercy.

Matthew 18:21-35 (ESV) | The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him,“I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Fellow Christians… be good and faithful stewards of God’s grace and mercy and extend forgiveness in Jesus’ Name. This isn’t a matter remedied by mere lip service… for God looks at the heart. We are to forgive our brothers from the heart… and repent of the sin of falling short of that standard.

Until Next Week

Next week we’ll be working through some tough topics such as marriage, divorce, celibacy, works-righteousness and idolatry. 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

CTT | Pleading the Blood of Jesus?

Have you ever heard someone giving a testimony and in their details of what they did in response to the situation or spiritual warfare they were engaging in was to Plead the Blood of Jesus over the situation, their surroundings, or themselves? Once again, we will be addressing a popular Charismatic / Pentecostal practice of “pleading the blood”. If you’ve never heard of this practice, this charismamag article will explain their teaching on this practice.

Where are we taught to include this in our prayer?

The CharismaMag article doesn’t say. That’s because it cannot be found in Scripture. Nowhere do we find any reference to pleading the blood of Jesus Christ over a situation, person, or place. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, there was no mention of declaring, decreeing, or pleading anything.

Matthew 6:5-15 (ESV) | The Lord’s Prayer

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them,for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Notice Jesus’ teaching here about the purpose of prayer. He warns not to pray like the hypocrites that they may be seen by others (decree / declare / plead?). We don’t pray to demons, or principalities or powers, or schemes of the devil… we pray to Our Father in Heaven. In fact, the closest example of invoking a plea / command in an attempt to exorcise a demon went horribly, horribly wrong for those doing the invoking.

Acts 19:11-20 (ESV) | The Sons of Sceva

11 And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” 14 Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. 15 But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” 16 And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. 17 And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled.18 Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. 19 And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.

They confessed and repented of their mysticism (don’t think it was only pagan mysticism, Jewish mysticism is included here), and burned their costly implements. The Word of the Lord, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is what increased and prevailed, not invoking the name of the Jesus Paul preached… if the Name of Jesus didn’t work for these mystics, neither will invoking His blood in this way.

But how can this be wrong for Christians?

First, I go back to the critical point that we are never instructed in Scriptures to pray that way. Second, there is a lot of convoluted philosophical rationale based on proof texting that starts with idea that Jesus has been given all authority… which is true… but ends with an odd notion that we are deputized to decree the blood of Jesus over ourselves (as believers), others, situations, and places to expand Christ’s Kingdom here on earth. For starters, let’s go to the Great Commission (a passage not quoted in the article):

Matthew 28:16-20 (ESV) | The Great Commission

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Indeed, all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus. Jesus gives us our charge here… to make disciples, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them all that Jesus has commanded us. Were we given all authority? No. We were given a charge by the One to whom all authority in Heaven and on Earth resides.

Here is where the philosophical rationale comes in… by first limiting the understanding of the authority of Jesus Christ coming only from His shed blood. The blood He shed on the cross He gave as payment for our sins and unrighteousness. He laid down His life for the sheep, His body was broken for us, and His blood is the new covenant. If my wording seems familiar, you’ve probably guessed by now where we are going to look next.

1 Corinthians 11:23-34 (ESV)

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

27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another— 34 if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come.

This is for believers, those who are by faith adopted into the Kingdom of Heaven. This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the New Covenant, that He laid down His life on the cross for our sake, so that in Him we might be justified by faith. This is a serious matter, one not to be taken lightly by any means. I really wish the phrase “pleading the Blood” was connected to the communion cup… but it isn’t.

The next step in the logic train, is to confuse our charge of preaching Law and Gospel pointing the lost to Christ with some self-aggrandizing theology of expanding the Kingdom of God by exploring new lands and claiming them in the Name of Jesus. I don’t know if this comes from dispensationalism or post-millenialism, but it’s self-focused and works-based. God saved you when you were dead in your sins and trespasses… He doesn’t need you to expand His Kingdom. By Grace you get the opportunity to preach the Gospel. This is an important distinction to grasp. For the purpose-driven folks reading this… I’m sure there is a lot of resistance to this idea. We’ll continue working through that barrier as the weeks progress.

Finally, the end of the logic train is the notion that (despite it NOT being taught in Scripture to do so) the “pleading the Blood” thing is taught as spiritual warfare. As deputies of Jesus Christ, the logic goes that it’s somehow your job to pray against demonic forces a certain way to secure peace, reprieve, health, and even salvation for another who is imprisoned in darkness. What we should be doing is preaching the Word of God to those who are in bondage while praying to God the Father for their salvation.

 

Conclusion

There is no Scriptural basis for praying this way. This is at-best, a bad mysticism-driven alternative to preaching Law and Gospel, Sin and Grace, Repentance and the Forgiveness of sins. We pray to God, not to the enemy. We Preach the Word of God, not our desires mixed with an invocation of the Blood of Jesus Christ to give our desires validity. It is natural for the flesh to want some measure of control over any given situation… even if it has to invent those measures and proof-text the philosophy behind it. This natural, fleshly desire is to be submitted to the Scriptures along with every other temptation. Pray to God, not things, situations, nor spirits. For additional thoughts on this matter, the folks at GotQuestions? covered this. Their focus is primarily on the Word of Faith (WoF) movement.

Instead of attaching some form of pleading the blood to your attempts at commanding authority over spirits, Preach the Word to the lost and hurting. Also remember that Christians still need to hear both Law and Gospel. We need to hear that our sins have been forgiven by the finished work of Christ on the cross. How wonderful it would be to redefine “plea the blood of Jesus” as a reminder of the communion cup, the sign of the New Covenant of Jesus Christ!

Jude 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.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge