Walking Like Jesus (from Gospel of Mark series: Walking With Jesus)

How are you liking our study of the Gospel of Mark?

We are “WALKING WITH JESUS” and that is what we need to learn to do more and more. I like looking in depth into the “Greatest Story Ever Told.” And, truly, it was told for 30 years before written in the form of the Gospel of Mark.

The written Gospel would have been seen as an innovation at that time.

Most of Paul’s letters had been written at this point, and they were even in circulation. As well, people relied upon oral preaching, but now, people could read the story of Jesus, too. While some welcomed Mark, others may have said,

“Oh, I don’t need that new book by Mark, just give me the old oral tradition.”

Some don’t like change and innovation. You (River of Life), on the other hand, do receive change and innovation.

Jesus’ message was also an innovation…a new teaching, as people called it. Yet he was fulfilling the Old Testament.

Jesus viewed the law differently, seeing it through eyes of GRACE. His view of the Sabbath was not religious, and this challenged the establishment.

Just as we discussed last week, Jesus elevated people. One of the ways He did that was to put things in their proper place.

In today’s reading, we’ll see how Jesus gave a proper perspective to the Sabbath.

It’s something we take for granted, today, but in Jesus’ day, keeping the Sabbath had evolved into LEGALISM.

God’s law instructs us in our need for a savior, but in Jesus’ day, it was used to control people.

Today’s reading traverses chapters 2 and 3.

The first few verses discuss “work” on the Sabbath, and Jesus’ subsequent explanation.

The second part, we will read later, tells the story of a man being healed on the Sabbath.

Here is the first passage (Mark 2:23-28):

23 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain fields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

25 He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”

27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”         Mark 2:23-28

The title of my message is,

Walking Like Jesus

Let’s pray.

Father, thank you for Your Word, today, and help us to walk with Your Son, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

  1. Walking and Working

The disciples were walking with Jesus, and the Pharisees saw something wrong with their “walk” and their “ways.”

They accused them of working, and they accused them of not fasting.

The Pharisees couldn’t understand Jesus and his disciples.

  • First, why did he eat with sinners?
  • Then, why didn’t Jesus’ disciples fast like others?
  • Now, why are they working on the Sabbath in order to eat?

These have centered around eating and fasting.

And these have to do with the Law.

  • First, not to associate with sinners;
  • Second, to maintain certain disciplines;
  • Third, to strictly follow the law

I had invited our church to fast last week. I didn’t want us to be legalistic about it, but to fast as we could.

  • For some, this meant reducing diets to only fruits and veggies.
  • To others, it meant fasting one meal, daily.
  • For some others it meant not eating at all.

Not all of us have the same abilities.

Fasting is not the masterbut it is a tool for our spiritual growth, and by fasting, we find ourselves, often, able to focus upon God better.

All of God’s law points us to our need for Him. It was shows our need to serve Him.

Yet, when we serve the tool rather than the Lord, it becomes idolatrous.

The traditions of Jesus’ day had also become the master over people, blocking them from the True Lord.

Consider Psalm 1, which talks about how we walk:

Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.  
Psalm 1:1, 2

WHAT WAS THE MATTER IN THIS STORY?

The Pharisees considered themselves to be the righteous ones who walked according to God’s Law. They so obscured the purpose of the Law that when they saw people walking with Jesus, differently than how they walked, they were bothered.

The Pharisees didn’t want people working on the Sabbath.

The Sabbath is actually Saturday.

So, we are in violation of the Sabbath laws, too?

The disciples simply picked grain and prepared it to eat, and the Pharisees accused them of working.

It was a minimal amount of work, and the Pharisees were trying hard to present Jesus as a lawbreaker.

They were threatened by Jesus’ popularity and his lack of submission to them. This became for them not only a religious matter, but a nationalistic concern, too.

In His defense, Jesus appealed to the Law, itself, referring to a story in which David ate bread that was only for the priests. Not only did David eat it, but he gave some to his men who were walking with him. Then, Jesus made an important statement:

“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”                 Mark 2:27

The Sabbath was to give man rest. But what kind of rest is there if the man is hungry and not able to take care of himself?

Jesus saw religion is a tool to lead people to God, but not to block them from God.

The Pharisees not only boxed God in, but tried to box in everyone else.

And, Jesus, also, sets Himself up as Lord, saying He is “Lord of the Sabbath.”

To the Pharisees, this was unacceptable.

But, it is the Simple Gospel.

“Rules must be followed, they thought. And Who Is Jesus, really? If He were a righteous man, he would

  • not spend time with sinners,
  • would follow our laws, perfectly,
  • would submit to us.
  • Yet, he calls himself, ‘Lord,’ and forgives people of their sins. This is blasphemy,
  • and besides, he’s gathering such popularity that we will lose our position if we don’t stop him.”

[to the Congregation]

I need to ask you, today, what is this building?

It’s a church building.

It’s a tool.

It has a new roof, Praise God, but our ministry is not made by this building. We could meet anywhere and still be the church.

What about meeting, on Sundays?

We don’t have to meet, Sunday, but we do.

Are we in danger because we don’t meet on Saturday?

No. And if we say otherwise, then we have misunderstood the Gospel.

In some settings, a church cannot meet on Sundays and chooses to meet on Fridays or Saturdays. That’s ok.

ILLUSTRATION WITH NATIONS CHURCH, ISTANBUL

The church we started in Turkey met on Sundays.

While we were on furlough, two years ago, the church was able to move locations.

They moved to a neighborhood that is traditionally conservative and very Islamic.

In the Fall of 2016 just before I transitioned as pastor here, Clover and I visited this church in its new setting.

On our last of three Sundays, a Muslim teacher walked in, and unrelated, a local couple walked in, too.

The teacher was gentle and calm and he and I sat and talked. My Turkish wasn’t very good, but good enough to understand him.

The couple, however, was angry. Through an interpreter, she said,

“Who gives you the right to open a church in our neighborhood? How would you like it if I opened a mosque in your American neighborhood?

I smiled and said,

“there are two mosques in my neighborhood.”

(I’ve since learned that there are four mosques within 3.5 miles of our church).

The Muslims in that community wanted to get rid of the church.

So they made a petition, but legally, that didn’t work (Yes, there are laws in other countries that work in our favor).

So, the community pressured the owner of the building to close the building on Sundays. That would stop this church, they thought.

And yes, due to people’s work schedules, it cut church attendance in half, but they began to meet on Saturdays.

The community was surprised and asked,

“How can you meet on Saturdays?”

“We can meet on any day, according to Jesus,” was the answer.

It is interesting that some Muslims are like the Pharisees that opposed Jesus.

And some Christians, too, who are blinded by a religious spirit and even by nationalism.

We must follow the Simple Gospel in a way that welcomes others, even those different from us. We must WALK LIKE JESUS.

We must submit to the Lord through the Gospel and follow Him. Recognizing that He Is Working for Our good.

Let’s look at the next part of our reading:

Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there.Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”

Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.

He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.

Mark 3:1-6

  1. Walking and Talking

Our mouths can get us in trouble.

As well, our silence.

Jesus was not politically correct in His day, and He might have been tempted to keep quiet.

Being politically correct is not measured in secular society, only, but in the Church, too.

Some people are so afraid of Muslims that they consider me a heretic to reach out to them.

It’s funny, when we lived overseas, people used to say,

“you could do a lot of good here in America,”

and now that I’m here, people say,

“this is America, not the mission field.”

I am vocal about reaching internationals, but not political, yet some Christians would rather I not speak about reaching the Muslim.

In some cases because they believe the lie that all religions are the same (if that were so, then why did Jesus go to the cross?);

Or they believe that others are cursed and beyond help and hope.

Or they want to preserve American Christianity that is sometimes seen as “white.”

In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees had no power, except what they made for themselves as authorities in society, but Jesus left His throne in order to give us hope.

And Jesus has REAL HEALING POWER.

The handicapped man had a great need, and no one could help him.

Instead of bringing the man to Jesus, they refused and waited to see if Jesus would heal, which would be “work.”

Their desire for power meant that they would rather show Jesus as a lawbreaker than to invite the handicapped man to be restored.

Jesus healed the man, but instead of rejoicing (which the crowds did), they complained and joined with their enemies, the Herodians (a secular and political party aligned with Herod and the Romans) in order to make a plan to kill Jesus.

The spirit of the Pharisees and Herodians is still alive today.

When a person, in the Name of Jesus, does good, but people are either jealous, fearful or angry, they criticize the person.

We must be careful.

Instead of assassinating a person’s character, we need to go to the person with whom we have a disagreement and sort it out.

As well, we need to be careful with WHOM we ally ourselves.

Are we walking LIKE Jesus?

The Pharisees were stubborn and not willing to change.

Some did, like Nicodemus and later even Paul who had persecuted the Church.

How could they change?

They could not add a patch of the Gospel, but they needed a New Life in Christ.

[Illustration of Nations Church, continued]

Remember the story of the church in Istanbul?

Since the church began to meet on Saturdays, the conservative community became even more upset, and they threatened the church’s landlord, saying,

“If you don’t evict this church, we will beat you up, and we will beat up the people in the church, too.”

People in our community have treated Muslims in similar ways, too.

But we are a more open society, especially, today.

Had this been the 1950’s, I think we would have seen much worse actions.

All have sinned, and some have added the spirit of the Pharisees to our sins.

Let Jesus be our example

We need to WALK LIKE JESUS.

We need to welcome those who are different.

And that begins in our hearts.

We need to ask God to break prejudice and love as Christ loved.

He healed a man, even though he knew the religious leaders would become angry and even plot his death.

Our church in Istanbul moved to another neighborhood, that was more Secular, and they have been ok, ever since.

They still are near the conservative neighborhood, and they are able to minister to people from there, but they are not in harm’s way anymore.

I met with a new friend, Chris, on Thursday, and we took a brief tour of multi-ethnic Richmond.

We stopped at a few places and engaged Muslims from India, Bangladesh, Iraq, and Palestine.

One of them gave us a free snack for lunch, while he told us of some persecution he has received.

When we meet people who are different from us, let’s do the following:

  • pray for them in our hearts
  • if possible, ask them where they are from
  • lovingly contact them (handshake or POSSIBLY even a hug…of course, male to male and female to female)
  • If they need English assistance, tell them about our ESL café and beginner class (take some cards with you). Maybe their family needs help.
  • If you are able to converse with them, learn their name, where they are from, and pray for them (even with them).

We are not only interested in reaching the growing international community, but the whole community.

Let’s pray and ask God to guide us before we go out of our homes to be ready to reach out to anyone who needs our help and assistance.

Local children aged 6-12 could become part of K4C on Wednesdays, and their parents could come to Bible Study.

Earlier, we looked at Psalm 1, verses 1 and 2, now let’s look at them, again, but with the addition of verse 3:

Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

Psalm 1:1-3

What does it mean to prosper?

The answer could come in many forms.

But for us and our vision here at River of Life, it is that we grow, and become the best church we can be for this community.

Let’s learn the art of conversation, and talk with people.

Let’s learn the art of listening and hear the needs that are around us.

Let’s share the gospel with Everyone…well that is an enormous task…Let’s share the gospel with Someone, this week.

Let’s walk with Jesus!

Let’s Pray.

 

 

 

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New Life in Christ (Mark 2:13-22)

We are continuing in our focus upon the Gospel of Mark: Walking with Jesus, today.

Remember that the Gospel is Good NEWS, and it was very New when Jesus began to proclaim it.

Remember how the people were amazed in chapter 1:

27 The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” 28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee. Mark 1:27, 28

Jesus was and still IS good news.

Jesus established the Church to spread this Good News, and we’re not here for any other reason than to declare God’s goodness, love and praise.

Whatever we do, Let’s be connecting our changing community with the unchanging Gospel:

The world is changing around us, and they would like us to change our message to fit their plans and feelings, but the truth is the world needs the UNCHANGING GOSPEL!

The Gospel was Good News in Jesus’ day becauser there had been about 400 years of prophetic silence.

During which time,

  • the Scriptures were read and taught
  • Holy Days remembered, and
  • Tradition followed

…And Israel focused upon God during this silent time.

Sadly, however, the religious leaders didn’t recognize Jesus nor did they welcome Him.

As Jesus’ reputation grew, they were challenged.

QUESTIONS

  • Do we follow Jesus or not?” They must have thought.
  • What would they lose?
  • What about their status?

Up to that point, God’s Faith community was exclusively among the Jews.

Yet God’s heart is for ALL Nations.

The Old Testament had been translated into Greek, so many non-Jews began to learn of God.

The Teachers of the Law partially welcomed these “Gentiles,” only allowing them space in the outer courts of the Temple.

If the teachers of the law were to accept Jesus, then who else would they have to accept?

They followed the law and traditions, but Jesus claimed to fulfill said law, BUT yet He was so different from the other religious leaders.

Consider the original readers of Mark:

They were Middle-Eastern, Greek speaking Gentiles, who were familiar with the Old Testament and with the oral proclamation of the Gospel from the Apostles.

They were new creations because of Jesus, but would have remained pagans were it not for Jesus.

As they read about Jesus calling people, they could reflect on their own calling as well.

Let’s read Mark 2:13-22:

13 Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.

15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”

19 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. 20 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.

21 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. 22 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”

Mark 2:13-22

Today, I want to talk about:

New Life in Christ

Let’s pray.

Heavenly Father we thank you for Your Word and the Lessons that it teaches us.

We submit to You, today, Our Heavenly Father, and we want You to change us and make us new in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

  1. The Unchanging Gospel

Ordinary people loved Jesus’ new teaching, but the religious leaders didn’t.

When Jesus proclaimed the Gospel, it was for all, from the educated to the outcasts.

But the religious leaders couldn’t see themselves on the same level as tax collectors and prostitutes.

Yet, everyone needs a Savior and the compassion of God.

God’s good news welcomes the imperfect, and forgives the penitent.

For several months we’ve been looking at our Mission:

The Mission of the River is

to connect our changing community with the unchanging Gospel.

I want to flesh this out a bit more, and show what we value at the River:

Core Values of the River:

  1. Biblical Authority
  2. Love & Truth
  3. Outreach
  4. Multigenerational/ Multicultural Community
  5. Worship
  6. Innovation

These are more than wishes, but based upon how we are actually operating.

  1. Our Changing Community

We must realize that our changing community IS the continuation of change since the beginning of time.

Change was the norm in Jesus’ Day, too.

Jesus came to a changing world and instituted great change.

He valued people, and elevated sinners, as well as women and children.

Jesus was visionary. To Him, tradition is good as long as it doesn’t block someone from God.

He called…

the upper class and the working class, the criminal, and the lesser class.

Jesus instituted societal change.

While this was NOT His main goal, it was a tangible result of His Gospel.

And because of his changes, he was seen as a

  • threat,
  • accused of being a drunkard and
  • even demon-possessed.

Jesus changed the community in order to share with them the unchanging gospel of change:

  • from death to life,
  • from selfishness to selflessness,
  • from nationalism to the family of God.

The Church saw everyone as equal, and Paul wrote the Ephesians that we are to submit to each other unto the Lord, and James, wrote that there must be no favoritism toward the rich over the poor.

Jesus’ Gospel was understood by Paul as meaning

11 Here there is

 no Gentile or Jew, 

circumcised or uncircumcised, 

barbarian, Scythian,

slave or free, 

but Christ is all, and is in all.

 Colossians 3:11

Mark’s audience was different from Jesus’ audience, but they are we are the fulfillment of Jesus’ mission to reach the world.

Through Jesus we have new life and join God’s family.

This message flourished in an immoral age (worse than today).

The Church thrived under intense persecution, growing even though Christians were being burned to death by Rome.

What did the early Church have?

  • The Holy Spirit
  • Old Testament and early letters of the New Testament
  • Closer fellowship with the Church than with the world.
  • Dedication to believe even to the point of suffering.

As Jesus said that fasting would take place when Jesus would not be among them, the readers of Mark then, and even today, are people who need to fast.

Thus, we will be fasting as a church over the next few days because we have great need.

As Christ’s Church grew, God raised up reformers to call the Church back to repentance, just as Jesus and John the Baptist did.

Martin Luther did this 500 years ago, and started the Protestant Reformation in which the Church began to see the power of the Scriptures, again, and the priesthood of all believers.

The Church had forgotten to elevate people, and instead, elevated the Church and her leaders.

Had it not been for the Reformation, the United States would probably not exist, because the Reformation led to tremendous change in Western society.

Many of the changes we see in society today were started by Jesus. He gave dignity to women, children, and all who had been excluded. He commissioned his followers to do the same in all nations.

Even the inclusion that we see today in politics is an indirect result of the inclusion that Jesus started, but whereas liberal politicians want us to include all of society, they do not offer them change or salvation.

Jesus said to the adulterer, go and sin no more.

Jesus offers a NEW LIFE.

  1. New Life in Christ

Jesus met with a religious leader named Nicodemus, and immediately told him that man must be

  • born again,

In today’s reading, we see that we must change. We cannot simply add the gospel to our lives, but we must be transformed by the Gospel.

We cannot simply add the Gospel to our old ways, like we cannot patch old clothing with new material…nor can we store new wine in old skins.

What we need is NEW LIFE.

Though Jesus fulfilled the law of the Jews, the gospel could not thrive in Jewish society without change.

Jesus welcomed Levi (aka Matthew), but not like those who say, “it’s ok if you are a sinner, to each his own.”

Jesus said to Levi,

“I see you, and I am calling you out of your sin and into a new life.”

Levi left his old life and began a new one, and right away, he invited his friends to meet Jesus.

  1. Does God call Americans today?
  2. Yes, but He calls us to leave our sinfulness, selfishness and pride.
  3. Q. Does God call Muslims today?
  4. Yes, but He calls them to acknowledge His Son, Jesus.
  5. Q. Does God call adulterers, pornographers, embezzlers, homosexuals, murderers, gossipers, transgender people, liars, thieves, slanderers today?
  6. Yes, and He calls all of us to repent and to follow Him, and He makes us new.

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

2 Corinthians 5:17

God doesn’t call us to be old creations with patches of the New.

He wants to make us new, so He can fill us with His Holy Spirit.

He wants to draw more into a relationship with Him through Jesus.

  1. Application

As we approach the communion table, today, we must remember that this table is not only for Jews, but for non-Jews, too. It is not only for men, but for women. It is not only for the educated, but for the uneducated, too.

It is for the sinner who says, “Lord, I am sorry for my sin, and I don’t want sin to be my lord and master, I declare that You Are My Lord!

Let’s prepare our hearts for communion, today.

23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night 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, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Gospel of Mark New Life in Christ Mark 2-13-22

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Gospel of Mark: Walking with Jesus–The Heart of God

Today, we continue our series on the Gospel of Mark.

I appreciate the brevity of this Gospel, and that its action-packed.

Even though Mark is short and to the point, he occasionally shares details that the other writers didn’t mention.

In the last couple weeks, we’ve read 28 verses, and considered

  • the Voice of God and
  • the Call of God.

Today, we will look at the

  • Heart of God.

Scriptures teach that God loves all,

if He didn’t, we would have already been destroyed.

But, He loves us so much that He gave His One and Only Son, Jesus.

Look at the actions we’ve seen so far in Mark:

  • Preaching of John the Baptist
  • Baptism and Temptation of Jesus
  • First Preaching of Jesus
  • Calling of the first disciples
  • Deliverance of a demoniac

Today, we’ll see more action, specifically, healings and prayer.

Today, I’ll divide the Scripture verses into several portions, and not read it all at once:

Mark 1:29-34:

29 And immediately after they came out of the synagogue, they came into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law was lying sick with a fever; and immediately they spoke to Jesus about her. 31 And He came to her and raised her up, taking her by the hand, and the fever left her, and she waited on them.

32 When evening came, after the sun had set, they began bringing to Him all who were ill and those who were demon-possessed. 33 And the whole city had gathered at the door. 34 And He healed many who were ill with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He was not permitting the demons to speak, because they knew who He was.

Mark 1:29-34 NASB

The title of my message today is

The Heart of God

Let’s Pray

Lord, we thank You for showing your love through Jesus 2000 years ago. We thank you that you are still concerned for us, even, today

Thank You for revealing Your heart to Your disciples.

Help us to live as people who know Your heart and love you!

In Jesus’ Name, Amen

God’s heart in these verses are shown in the ministry of Jesus.

We see a heart of Action, Communion, Compassion.

  1. A Heart of Action

Jesus’ had a heart of action, and the Gospel of Mark is called the Gospel of Action. Not as much teaching is recorded by Mark as see in the other Gospels.

But there is some teaching, don’t get me wrong.

In fact, Jesus was the master teacher who not only used words but actions, too.

He often explained his actions for greater clarity.

Jesus’ heart is still a heart of action, today.

I mentioned, earlier that Mark shows some details that the other Gospel writers don’t mention. Like in Mark 1:33:

 And the whole city had gathered at the door.

Mark 1:33

Jesus’ heart of action drew people to him.

People wanted to be with him.

His heart of action had already

  • Proclaimed,
  • Called and
  • Delivered,

now we read that His Heart of Action was

His healing reputation drew the whole city to him. A few verses later, and we will read that people came to him from all over Israel.

Matthew has a parallel passage that connects this heart of action with past prophecies.

Matthew’s Gospel was written with a Jewish audience in mind, thus he annotated Jesus’ ministry with Old Testament prophecies.

16 When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

“He took up our infirmities
and bore our diseases.”

Matthew 8:16, 17

Jesus’ heart of action had been foretold.

QUESTIONS

  1. Who else has walked the earth with the same heart of action?
  2. With whom can we walk, and whose example can we follow other than Christ’s?
  • As we study Mark, we learn how to walk more closely with Jesus.
  • As we walk with Him, we will learn to walk LIKE HIM.
  • As we walk like Him, then we will act more like Him.

Paul, the Apostle, walked with Jesus, and his heart reflected this in that Paul had a heart of action, too:

I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 

1 Corinthians 9:22

We can develop a heart of action by

  • praying, daily, and listening to His voice.
  • His voice calls us to serve Him, and
  • His heart calls us to reach out to others.

Clover and I heard His call to serve overseas.

In Kazakhstan, we had opportunities to meet the types of people with whom we did not meet often in the US.

It was great!

We met with artists, journalists, musicians, and lots of university students.

We went as ourselves, and loved serving there (as we love serving here)

Paul’s statement to become all things to all people in order to reach some has been an important part of our mission.

In 2001, just before 9/11, I began to teach in a small, private university.

I had colleagues who didn’t share my enthusiasm about this ministry, but this was the first time I had ever worked with an ESL Café.

That job led to me being hired to teach in the top state university in the country

But, I was involved with a group of students with “Work and Travel, USA.”

We had several students from this group with us in the Summer in our ESL Café.

Once, I was invited to an event in which about 300 university students gathered to make plans for “Work and Travel.

I was asked to perform. I didn’t want to, but I saw how important it was, and in fact how God was leading me to “be all things to all men.”

God wants us to have a Heart of Action toward the world in order to draw others into a relationship with God through Jesus.

Jesus’ Heart of Action came from a Heart of Communion.

  1. A Heart of Communion

A Heart of Action is not enough, as there have been many in history who have had hearts of action, but we need hearts filled with communion with God, too.

We can take action on numerous things from saving the whales to saving the unborn, but really, we must have a relationship with God.

Yes, we have a relationship with Him, but I want to increase my relationship with Him.

Let’s look at a few more verses from the passage:

35 In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.36 Simon and his companions searched for Him; 37 they found Him, and *said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.” 38 He *said to them, “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for.” 39 And He went into their synagogues throughout all Galilee, preaching and casting out the demons.

Mark 1:35-39 NASB

Jesus’ Heart of action

  • called,
  • healed
  • delivered
  • proclaimed

It did not rely upon human strength, but upon communion

with God (remember Jesus was fully man and fully God).

He spent time i relationship with our Heavenly Father.

His Heart of action needed recharging, and so do our hearts.

He loved and healed people, but He loved His Father and communed with Him.

Without communion with God, we have no hope for living in peace, daily.

Being with God enables us to have a “good day” whether we are on top of the world, or down in the dumps. Whether we are in the “Poor House” or the “White House.”

Matthew records Jesus’ teaching on this:

33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Matthew 6:33

Seeking God’s Kingdom, first, means to make it the first thing we focus upon, daily, but also, it should be the last thing we focus upon, daily.

It should be the lens through which we see the world and the filter through which our minds feed our tongues.

Seeking His Kingdom is NOT political, but it IS TRANSFORMATIONAL.

You’ve heard it said, “Make America Great, Again,” but I tell you, we should not aim so low.

[pause]

Let our slogan be,

“Make My Relationship with God Greater than ever!”

No politician nor pastor, no building nor program, no amount of money or poverty can do that, but only our most precious commodity,

time,

spent in the presence of God…

hearing His voice,

heeding His call,

honoring His way.

Spending time with our Heavenly Father, praying as Jesus taught us,

“Our Father in Heaven,

Hallowed be Your Name;

Your Kingdom come

and Your will be done

on earth as it is in heaven….”

Commune with God, and God communes with us. As Jesus had a heart of communion for His Father, He also has a heart of communion towards us.

Let us

  • spend time with Him.
  • Learn of Him.
  • Take his yoke upon us, for it is not a yoke of bondage but a yoke of togetherness with the Holy, Almighty God of the universe!

Jesus’ Heart of Action and Heart of Communion was also a Heart of Compassion.

  1. A Heart of Compassion

Mark tells us that Jesus was “moved with compassion,” but really, the text doesn’t have to tell us that, because He showed TREMENDOUS compassion to an outcast: a leper.

Being filled with compassion means that Jesus understands our frailties, and therefore, reaches out to us with help and assistance.

Let’s continue reading…

40 And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” 41 Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and *said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. 43 And He sternly warned him and immediately sent him away, 44 and He *said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” 45 But he went out and began to proclaim it freely and to spread the news around, to such an extent that Jesus could no longer publicly enter a city, but stayed out in unpopulated areas; and they were coming to Him from everywhere.

Mark 1:40-45 NASB

In this story, we see Jesus’ heart of compassion.

I believe in the healing power of God. I believe that God heals today, as He healed in the time of the Bible.

It has been said that every sick person who came to Jesus was healed, and that is probably true. But this gospel was written during the time of the early Church.

Some say, during the early Church, miracles happened every day.

But you see, some of the letters of the early Church were written before the Gospels were written. While the Gospels cover the beginning the first century, the letters cover the time from the middle of the first century on.

They reveal that people in the early Church didn’t always get along, and that healing was not automatic.

Yes, God did heal through the Apostles, in such a manner that on at least two separate occasions, people thought that Paul was a god.

And yet, Paul suffered from illnesses.

To the Galatian church he stated that an illness brought him to them

(it’s interesting that a former colleague of mine just wrote this week that due to an illness he and his family and ministry team will relocate to a city on the mission field that has few missionaries and never has had Assemblies of God missionaries).

As well, Paul had an illness of some sort that Jesus would not heal:

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:8-10

We see that Jesus was truly moved with compassion, whether Mark wrote it or not.

But this verse could be read differently.

In the newer New International Version instead of “compassion,” we read,

“Jesus was indignant.”

This means angry.

How can Jesus, who by nature IS full of compassion, be indignant at the time of this meeting with this leper?

I think it shows us more of God’s heart.

The leper approached Jesus saying,

“If you are willing you can make me clean.”

The leper had faith to believe that Jesus could heal, but had to qualify it with a statement about Jesus’ willingness.

Perhaps that bothered Jesus, for if he clearly as powerful enough to heal even leprosy, then he was clearly compassionate enough, too.

Perhaps Jesus’ indignation was due to the fact that Jesus wanted to do MORE than just heal.

You see, Jesus healed a lot of people, right?

But how many of those whom He healed followed Him?

He died alone, basically, and even after the resurrection, only 120 people were following Him.

Where were the 5000 and the 4000 who had been fed, miraculously, by Jesus?

Where were those who had been delivered from demon possession, or freed from blindness, or healed of deafness, leprosy, etc.?

Jesus never said,

“I have come to make healing the priority in your lives,”

but he said:

If you remain (abide/commune) in me and my words (teaching) remain (abide/commune) in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

John 15:7

Jesus’ heart of compassion was not merely for healing, but for restoration.

He sternly warned the healed leper to follow the Scriptures and go to the priests to be officially declared “Healed/Clean.”

However, this man, IGNORED JESUS’ TEACHING,

AND LIVED FOR THE MIRACLES

The first thing he did after healing was to DISOBEY Jesus.

HE TOLD EVERYONE WHAT JESUS HAD DONE, WHICH MAY SEEM NATURAL AND GOOD…WASN’T HE PRAISING GOD?

BUT HIS ACTION PREVENTED JESUS FROM BEING ABLE TO GO INTO TOWNS WITHOUT BEING MOBBED.

HE WAS SEEN AS THE MEDICAL SANTA CLAUS INSTEAD OF AS THE GIFT OF GOD FOR ABUNDANT LIFE.

I DON’T WANT TO SUCCEED AT SOMETHING JUST BECAUSE I THINK IT IS GOOD AND RIGHT,

BUT I WANT TO BE OBEDIENT AND

  • HEAR GOD’S VOICE,
  • HEED HIS CALLING SO
  • THAT MY HEART WILL BE CHANGED BY GOD’S HEART!
  1. How Are Our Hearts?

Jesus has a heart of action, communion and compassion, but do we share that with Him and with each other?

Do we reflect His glory and His will in our lives by our obedience to Him and to His Word, or do we reflect a pale version of God’s glory because of our disobedience and our selfishness?

As we listen to the

  • Voice of God, and we
  • heed the Call of God, may we have
  • the Heart of God pumping in our lives.

Just before Christmas, we sang a song that went like this:

“I am not alone,

Your heart is my Home.”

Let that be our cry, our prayer, our direction for today. Let that lead in our walk with Jesus.

Let us stand, together, and recite this blessing today:

24 “‘“The Lord bless you
    and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face shine on you
    and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord turn his face toward you
    and give you peace.”’                                                                       Numbers 6:24-26

May the Lord give to us hearts of action, communion and compassion.

Let’s pray

INVITATION

Gospel of Mark

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Gospel of Mark: Walking with Jesus–The Call of God

Last week, we began our series on the Gospel of Mark: Walking With Jesus and considered the voice of God.

Mark presented the Voice of God in the following forms:

  • Prophecy (Old & New Testament)
  • Apostolic Proclamation
  • Audible Voice of God

In today’s message, let’s look at the Call of God.

God has called people throughout the ages, and the Bible records many of those times of calling, but God CONTINUES to call people, even today.

We had the honor of hearing about the call upon the Miller family.

We’ve seen their calling in action serving with us in our ESL ministry.

We recognize the call.

People must be able to hear God’s voice so that they know the call of God on their lives.

I mentioned last week three gifts that help us hear God’s voice; they help us understand His Call, too:

Three Gifts to Distinguish God’s Voice/Calling:

  1. The Holy Spirit, Himself, though prayer
  2. The Written Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit
  3. The Body of Christ with the presence of God’s Holy Spirit

So, with prayer and on the authority of God’s Word, I participate with the Church by declaring the Call of God.

All of us are called by God

…PERIOD

Sometimes a statement like that is followed by the word,

“BUT.”

For example:

“All of us are called, BUT we are called to different things.”

Sometimes we consider particular “call” as greater, and therefore miss the most important.

All of us are called.

Remember, Jesus IS God in the flesh.

Mark knew this and referred to Him as the “Son of God.”

Such a term is different than “child of God,” since Jesus is “THE” Son.

So, what comes from the mouth of Jesus is God’s Word.

Jesus IS the Final Revelation of God to man.

Let’s read the next several verses and lookout for the call of God and how this relates to us:

14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him.

19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

21 They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. 23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, 24 “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”

25 “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” 26 The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.

27 The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” 28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.              Mark 1:14-28

The title of my message today is

“The Call of God,”

Let’s Pray

PRAY

Our Heavenly Father, we thank you for sending Jesus. We thank You that Your kingdom has come in Him, and that we are invited to belong to Your kingdom through Jesus.

As we grow in our relationship with You, we offer to You the throne of our hearts. We believe in You and follow You.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen

  1. All Called to Follow

vv14, 15

  1. Kingdom of God

What is a kingdom?

It is the realm or territory that is controlled by a king or a queen.

There are about 25 kingdoms around the world from Saudi Arabia to Great Britain and from Bhutan to Denmark.

In some of these kingdoms the king is only a figurehead, but in others, he has absolute rule.

Jesus, too, is from a Kingdom: God’s Kingdom.  He began his ministry with this declaration:

“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Mark 1:15

Kingdom has come near…in Jesus.

Therefore, God calls us to respond and our response to the kingdom of God is repentance and belief.

Can you imagine going to Saudi Arabia and insulting the king? What would happen?

Probably you would be deported.

But what if a citizen insulted the king? He would be severely punished.

God calls us to come into His Kingdom.

Actually, he warns us that God’s Kingdom and rule is coming, really, whether we like it or not.

The kingdom came in Jesus, but when we die, we will either enter His kingdom in heaven, or we will be punished in hell.

Thus, let us be people who welcome God’s kingdom and rule, rather than to rebel against it.

  1. Repent

Instead of rebelling against God’s kingdom, we must repent and continue to repent.

How do we know what is rebellion? We must hear the revelation of God’s Word.

God calls all to repentance.

In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.

Acts 17:30

Today, powerful men are being held accountable for sexual misconduct…

Our response out to be looking deep into our hearts and repenting of what we’ve done, rather than cheering and judging.

All sin is rebellion away from the kingdom of God.

  • Sin declares

I am the king of my own kingdom!”

  • Jesus calls and declares,

“The Kingdom is near, repent and believe.”

Sin separates us from God

Jesus went to the cross because of our sins.

When we excuse sin, we rebel against the kingdom of God.

  1. Believe

What are we to believe?

That the kingdom has come near.

Mark was writing to a young church that was about 30 years old at this time.

The Church did not have much of the New Testament, but they did have the Old Testament.

Can you imagine what church gatherings were like in the first 30 years of the Church?

They met in homes and read from the Old Testament.

Letters from James and Paul were circulated, but the only Gospel was most likely the preaching that the apostles and their associates and followers.

I Timothy has an example of the Gospel that was preached:

15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. 

1 Timothy 1:15, 16

Christ came to save us, and display His love in and through us.

When the Gospel of Mark was first published, it was helpful for building the belief of the original audience, as it is in building our belief, today.

Belief and Repentance must go together, as James described that Faith without works is dead.

Yet, belief without repentance is the norm, today.

There are many who believe in God, but they don’t repent, and they don’t follow.

Faith must have evidence in order to be real.

As we believe and as we repent, then we are following Jesus.

If we stop repenting, we will stop believing.

So many times, when I’ve counseled people, they’ve admitted to something sinful that they began with which then led to something else, and in time, they even stopped believing.

  1. Are we following Jesus?

Q      How do we know if someone is following us?

A       We turn and they are behind us

Q      How do we know if we are following Jesus?

A       We should see Him in front of us

Q      If Jesus turned to look, would He see us following Him, or are we not following Him?

In addition to begin called to follow Jesus, we are all called to serve

  1. All Called to Serve

vv 16-20

  1. The call to service is specifically shown in the lives of Simon, Andrew, James and John
  2. They left their nets and even their family to not merely follow Jesus, but to serve with him.
  3. But, we are all called to serve…and in serving, people will hear Jesus’ call, and repent, believe and follow.

The initial call is TO all

All are called to follow.

But the call to SERVE is FOR ALL, meaning, when we answer the call to serve, then we are serving so that all may know. So that the Gospel may be displayed in us and in our service.

The Call is to Serve All by Serving God.

In our reading, today, of these four men, notice how they responded:

18 At once they left their nets and followed him…20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

Mark 1:18, 20

Immediately,

at once and

without delay.

We who have walked with Jesus for a while have developed a

“lack of immediateness” when it comes to serving God.

This requires us to wait, pray, and postpone.

Let us NOT delay.

Perhaps Jesus called others to serve as his first disciples, but they delayed.

Where would the Church be, today, had Andrew and Peter, James and John delayed, and no one else took their place?

How much can be done in our city and in our church if we didn’t delay?

I don’t mean we need to be haphazard in our work, and I do believe in counting the cost,

but Jesus is calling all of us to SERVE, not to be served.

Jesus washed the feet of those disciples on the night he would be betrayed, the eve of his crucifixion.

Jesus served, and He calls us to serve with Him.

QUESTIONS:

Q      Have we heard God’s call to serve?

Q      Are we serving God through Jesus?

Q      Are we serving as He wants us to serve?

Or have we compromised?

Q      Are we serving in the ministry that God has called us to serve in?

Every church can use more people to serve with them.

  1. All Called to Holiness

In addition to Jesus calling us to follow Him, and being called to serve With Him, we are called to Holiness

vv 21-28

The university ministry CRU, formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ use the terms

Believe,

Belong and

Bless

to explain their mission.

Today, we’ve looked at the calling to follow, which centered on believing and acting on that belief.

As well, when we looked at the call to serve, we see that we are to bless others.

The call to holiness is the call to belong.

Holiness is so often misunderstood.

I am holy because of Christ’s declaration in my life, therefore, I need to act on that holiness…otherwise, I don’t belong.

God’s kingdom IS Holy, it is set apart from the rest of the world.

We should not try to walk in both worlds. But when we are in the “world” per se, let’s be in the world but not of the world.

Jesus calls us into holiness.

  1. Jesus Calls with authority 

Jesus is the Son of the Holy God.

He calls us into His Holy family, to separate from the world, the flesh and the devil and to belong to Him.

He is in authority over all, and we need to recognize whether we are serving and following under HIS authority or under our own.

QUESTIONS:

  • Are we hearing and obeying His calling and stepping out of wickedness, and stepping into His Holiness?
  • Are we stepping out of complacency and stepping into participation?
  • Are we stepping out of our kingdom and submitting, fully, to His kingdom?

I believe that is what Jesus is calling all of us to.

Yes, we need to be held accountable for our actions, and Jesus wants us to be careful in our thought life, too.

  1. If we are following and serving Jesus, are we remembering that He has all authority?
  2. Are we living as someone who lives under someone’s authority?

We are not to live under our own authority, that is the temptation of Satan to us.

  1. Jesus delivered with authority 
  2. Notice that there is a great contrast between the Holy Spirit and the Impure spirit…yet, the Impure spirit recognized that Jesus was God.
  3. Jesus took authority over the impure spirit. We should apply Jesus’ authority to impurity and unrighteousness in our own lives.
  4. When I pray against something and recognize Satan’s presence, I pray in an authoritative manner
  5. As well, I pray as the Book of Jude describes, and say, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan.”
  6. Jesus calls us to walk in His Holiness

 

  1. He called out to the spirit, sternly, “come out of him.”
  2. The authority was recognized.

Throughout the Gospel of Mark we see many occasions in which the demons respond to the authority of Jesus.

  1. Jesus not only called to the demons and cast them out, he calls to his children, and invites us to come to him in wholeness and holiness.
  2. Satan tempted Adam and Eve to live under their own authority and to ignore God’s call in their lives.
  3. Yet, God called out to Adam, and asked, “where are you?”
  4. Jesus is calling to us:

“Peyton, where are you?”  

“Sue, where are you?”

“Terry, where are you?”

  1. Let’s look at where we are:

4. Where Are We?

  1. Are we following Jesus? Or are we excusing our sins?
  2. Are we serving Jesus? If so, how? Do we have room to follow him even more closely?
  3. Are we walking with Jesus in purity? Are our minds and hearts pure? Are we thinking about what is right and holy? We need to think on the good and right things of life, and not on what would separate us from God.
  4. Bad thoughts come into our minds, and we need to immediately rebuke those thoughts and think about something else. Otherwise as we think so we will do (Prov. 23:7).
  5. God offers us His Grace, and His Grace is not a license to continue to sin, but an opportunity to learn to say, “no.”
  6. Our sins and unholiness sent Jesus to the Cross, His Grace wants to save us from hell, which we deserve, but also from a life of sin.
  7. 11 For the graceof God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.   Titus 2:11-14

 

  1. Jesus call to us to walking in his holiness

 

With authority he called out to Adam in the Garden…he calls out to us, too….Adam, where are you? Peyton where are you? Sue, where are you?

 

The Mission of the River:

 

Connecting our changing community with the unchanging Gospel

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The Gospel of Mark: Walking With Jesus Series–“The Voice of God”

This week we begin our study of the Gospel of Mark.

It’s fast-paced literature, and quite possibly the first gospel to be written in Greek.

In fact, the term “gospel” in Greek is Euangelion, meaning “good news,” and from which we form the terms “evangelist” and “evangelism.”

In Jesus’ day, a gospel was a proclamation of happy news, like a royal birth or a battlefield victory.

Mark uses this literary form to write about Jesus.

The beginning of the good news <εὐαγγελίου> about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God…                            Mark 1:1

Mark announces that Messiah, the Son of God, has come.

Today, we will read the first 14 verses of Mark:

The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way”—
“a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”

And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” 

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.                                                

Mark 1:1-13

The title of my message today is,

“The Voice of God”

Let’s pray

Heavenly Father who broke through the heavens declaring Jesus to be Your Son, we call on You, today, and ask You to speak with us.

Thank You for sending Jesus; as well, we thank You that You will send Jesus, again. Help us to be ready for His return.

As we serve You, together, we will listen to Your voice both, as individuals and together as a family…as Your Church.

…in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

  1. God’s Voice

Without the voice of God, there is

  • no salvation,
  • no Word of God and
  • no Church.

God spoke in the beginning of time, saying,

  • “let there be light,” and
  • there was LIGHT.

Before Adam and Eve sinned, they had regular/face-to-face conversation with God; yet, when they sinned, God’s voice became obscured.

In fact, they sinned because they listened to Satan TWIST God’s Word.

Thus, for all of us, it’s harder to distinguish God’s voice from the voices of

  • the world,
  • the flesh
  • and Satan.

But, God is speaking to us….

It’s imperative that every Christian learn

  • to hear AND
  • distinguish

God’s voice from all others.

Today’s reading shows us several ways in which God’s voice was heard, then, and even today.

  • Old Testament Prophecy

Old Testament prophecy speaks to us, today. God speaks through the Old Testament.

  • Mark quotes Isaiah
  • There are 300 Old Testament prophecies that were fulfilled in Jesus
  • What are the odds of someone fulfilling just 8 prophecies?

1 in 100 Quadrillion

1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000

The Probability of 1 Person Fulfilling 8 Prophecies

 

But in Jesus’ case, he fulfilled 300 prophecies.

What is the probability of that?

    

1 in 10 Unquinquagintillion

1 in 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,

000,000,000,000,000,000,000,

000,000,000,000,000,000,000,

000,000,000,000,000,000,000,

000,000,000,000,000,000,000,

000,000,000,000,000,000,000,

000,000,000,000,000,000,000,

000,000,000

The Probability of 1 Person Fulfilling 300 Prophecies

There’s 157 zeroes in this number.

 

I had to look online for what that number is called.

Perhaps slang is better:

 

Jesus had a

1 in a Gazillion Bajillion

The Probability of 1 Person fulfilling 300 prophecies.

This mathematical probability is staggering.

Mark begins with one prophecy and its immediate fulfillment.

It’s from Isaiah that a forerunner would precede the Messiah, and this was fulfilled in John the Baptist.

As well, we are exposed to the voice of God in New Testament Prophecy.

  • New Testament Prophecy
  • John the Baptist prophesied, too, that the Messiah will come
  • So, Mark shows that prophecy is still active.

Prophecy and Words from God that speak to specific situations are active and available, today, too.

Our faith is based on God’s revelation, for faith comes from hearing the Word (Rhematos–Declaration) of God.

In addition to prophecy, Mark presents…

  • Apostolic Proclamation
  • Mark, though not normally considered an apostle, was the close companion to the apostles Barnabas, Peter and Paul
  • Mark presents Peter’s Proclamation in his GOSPEL.
  • The Apostles were appointed by Jesus to represent Him….,
  • We, too, share in the Apostolic task proclaiming the gospel around the world.

God’s voice is proclaimed in the gospel, and in Old and New Testament prophecy. As well, God’s voice is proclaimed…

  • From the mouth of God, Himself
  • We hear from God, Himself in these verses.
  • He spoke later at the Transfiguration of Jesus
  • He spoke other times, too (even in the Old Testament)
  • Jesus is Emmanuel, meaning “God with us,” and therefore, what he declares IS from the mouth of God.
  • And the first words that Jesus spoke in Mark (which we will look at Next Week) were that the “Kingdom of God is near, repent and believe the gospel!”
  1. Enemies of God’s Voice

Mark briefly mentions the chief enemy of the Voice of God in these verses,

but as we walk with Jesus, we need to be aware of those who want to misdirect us from God’s will, plan and direction.

God’s voice is revealed in the Law (both the Law of Moses and the Law of Christ), so the enemy of God’s voice is LAWLESSNESS

The antidote for Lawlessness is not legalism, but it is REPENTANCE.

Because God loves us, He calls us to separate from wickedness, just as a parent separates their child from what can harm them, so God shows us that we need to be separate from lawlessness.

Another competitor for God’s voice is our sinful flesh.

We gladly listen to God’s voice when we have no conflict.

The greatest enemy of God’s voice has been dismissed in the modern age:

Satan.

In Mark’s gospel, we don’t see many details about Jesus’ temptation, only a brief mention.

Matthew and Luke’s gospels give more detail.

We see that Satan’s strategies haven’t changed since he tempted Adam and Eve.

He challenged the Voice of God, directly.

Here is a moment when I want us to see more in depth in the story.

Let’s look at Matthew’s account (I underscored the part of the story that is covered by Mark.)

 4 1Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

Matthew 4:1-11

Matthew reports Satan tempting Jesus about His divinity:

  • 3 “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
  • 6 “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down (from the highest point of the temple). For it is written…”
  • 9 “All this [the kingdoms of the world] I will give you, if you will bow down and worship me.”

Satan, also, twists God’s Word when he tempts us.

  1. Hearing God’s Voice

To each of Satan’s temptations, Jesus answers with clarity:

  • 4 “Man doesn’t live merely on bread, but by every word of God.”

God the Father had just 40 days prior spoken, audibly, that Jesus IS the Son of God.

God speaks to us, too, saying:

“I sent my Son that you may become my child, and NOTHING Satan says can ever change this reality!”

  • 7 Jesus clarifies

“It is ALSO written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Satan tested Jesus, who IS the Lord, as well, he tempted Jesus to test His Heavenly Father.

Jesus reminded Satan of Who He Is,

Yes, Jesus IS the Son of God.

As well, Jesus was clarifying what is Written.

Can we, too, point out to Satan what is written?

Satan wants us to lose our place in God’s kingdom, but we must remind him of his place.

Satan has told us

  • to be ashamed…
  • we’re not good enough…
  • we don’t measure up…

Like in the song, “Simple Gospel” that we sang today.

But Scripture declares us to be a New Creation in Christ!

 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!    2 Corinthians 5:17

Satan says we are worthless, and because we’ve failed too often, so what’s the use in following Jesus?

Scripture says I’m a new creation, but I feel like an old and weary soul.

Why is it that we are more prone to listen to Satan’s voice rather than God’s voice?

Finally, Satan offered Jesus something that Jesus really wanted: The kingdoms of the world.

Remember, God sent Jesus because He “so loved the WORLD…”

Yet, the price was too high…

“bow and worship me,”

Satan said.

The voice of the Father had spoken 40 days before that Jesus Is God’s Son, and I don’t know what Jesus was hearing during his 40-day fast, but during that time, he resisted every temptation from Satan because He understood that the voice of God the Father is RIGHT.

I HAVE A QUESTION:

WHO SENT JESUS INTO THE WILDERNESS?

Did you notice Who sent Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted?

12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness

Mark 1:12

It is interesting to me, that the term “sent” is actually a stronger term in Greek, and it means “drove.”

God’s Holy Spirit DROVE Jesus into the wilderness.

Those who first read the book of Mark may have recognized the same term IN THE GREEK TRANSLATION OF THE OLD TESTAMENT

when God DROVE Adam and Eve out of the garden:

22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

Genesis 3:22-24

The Holy Spirit sent Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted, and to succeed.

And Jesus, therefore, sends the Holy Spirit to the Church; as John the Baptist declared,

“I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Mark 1:8

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, acted according to the Spirit and showed us that we need the covering and the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives as we live in the wilderness of this world.

We need to hear the voice of God, and listen to it, rather than to listen to our flesh or the world or even Satan.

God has a plan for all of us.

He wants us to listen for His voice.

He wants us to distinguish His voice from others.

But how?

Three Gifts to Distinguish God’s Voice:

  1. The Holy Spirit, Himself, though prayer
  2. The Written Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit
  3. The Body of Christ with the presence of God’s Holy Spirit
  • We need to spend more time in Prayer…How much time can you give to God in prayer?
  • We need to live according to the Word of God, and stop compartmentalizing our lives, saving parts of our lives for ourselves, BUT need to offer our whole lives to the Lord. How much time can we give to reading God’s Word?
  • We need to spend more time as Church, both at this address and in our homes and other places, too.
  • We will be stronger as we all work closer, together, and as we welcome others to join us. Think of how we can meet outside of this building.
  • Can we invite people into our homes or to places outside of the church?
  • Can we call and message each other for fellowship and prayer?

I think we can do these things!

INVITATION

  • If you would like to know the Holy Spirit more,
  • If you would like to draw closer to God
  • If you would like to walk in the gifts of the Holy Spirit
  • If you would like to put your faith in Jesus for your salvation
  • And/or If you would like to be baptized in the Holy Spirit…

Then I invite you to come to the front, and we will pray together and seek the answer from our Lord and God.Mark series

CONCLUDING PRAYER

Posted in Gospel of Mark: Walking With Jesus Series, Sermons | Leave a comment

The Word to Refresh

Good morning!

Today, we begin our Advent series and celebration.

For some of us, this may not seem too strange, but for others it might seem very different.

Ernie and I were at the Lakeside Area minister’s meeting last month, and there was discussion about a community Lenten service for next year.

During the discussion, I interjected that in the AG (that is, the Assemblies of God), we don’t have much liturgy.

But then I chuckled,

“I’m the most liturgical of any of my AG friends.” J  I like the Advent Season, because Christmas is too secular and too commercial. It is too busy, too frantic, and too stressful.

And because of this, many in our community don’t EVEN know the CHRIST of Christmas.

If we celebrate Christmas only one Sunday a year, then what about those who miss that Sunday due to travel or illness?

Therefore, today and the next three Sundays are

Advent Sundays…think of them as Christmas Sundays!

Here are a few vocabulary terms to help us with the season:

Advent= (Latin) coming; particularly an important arrival

 Incarnation=(Latin) God taking on Flesh in Jesus

 Immanuel=(Hebrew) “God with us”

Messiah=(Hebrew) Anointed One

 Christ=(Greek) Anointed One

 Christmas=(Latin) The Mass of Christ, thus Christ+mass

 Prophet=(Greek) To speak before, to speak for God (interpreting the past or present or pointing to the future).

Today, in our Advent reading, we considered the testimony of John the Baptist.

This is found in the Gospel of the Apostle John.

It may be confusing that there are two Johns, but not as confusing as when we see that there are at least 5 Davids among us J

John the Baptist came from God, and he was a prophet. His purpose was to speak God’s Words to others.

He enjoyed an immense following, and in fact, in Ephesus, there had been disciples of John the Baptist who seemed to be Christians.

John’s influence was great. Even today, in Iran and Iraq, there are still those who follow John the Baptist.

They are called the Madaeans, and some have emigrated to the US.

They get baptized many times in their tradition. Clearly, they see the act of baptism as an actual cleansing, whereas we see it as a statement to illustrate the cleansing of Christ.

John prepared people for Christ and he testified that he was NOT the Christ.

People asked him, who are you?

John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”

John 1:23

PRAY
Lord, we, too, want to be a voice calling in the desert.

 First, help us to be able to hear the voice in the desert.

 Help us to answer the voice, and to welcome the Lord.

 Let us accompany Your voice as it makes a way and a path for the Lord.

 Please empower us, again, with Your Spirit and for Your glory.

 In Jesus’ Name,

 Amen.

  1. Calling in the Desert

John said he was calling in the desert.

Can you picture that?

What is a desert? It is a place without civilization, … without convenience.

Deserts can be beautiful, but they are harsh, and deadly, too.

When John quoted Isaiah, the people were familiar with the quote, so let us look at the quote in its context:

A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord[
a];
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.[
b]
Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Isaiah 40:1-5

When we wonder, what is God doing in the world, we need to remember Isaiah’s words.

  • God is building a highway
  • He is raising up the valleys and
  • leveling out the hills and mountains
  • He is doing this so that the Glory of God can be unobstructed.

Today, in the news, we see many men are being leveled.

Matt Lauer & Charlie Rose are two news anchors who’ve recently lost their jobs.

John Conyers and Al Franken are two congressmen under scrutiny.

And Michael Flynn, too.

In the last several decades, others have been leveled:

Pastors & Presidential candidates; Dictators and Teachers;

Innovators and Movie Directors.

The mighty are falling, and someone will have to take their places.

In the case of leaders in our society, mountains are being leveled and valleys are raised up.

God is calling us to look at our own situations, too, and to repent of our sins.

We need to turn away from what separates us from God and turn toward Him.

Bring down the mountains in our lives, and in humility we need to let our valleys be raised up.

For many of us we feel that we live in a spiritual desert, and we are afraid to speak out.

Who am I to speak for God?

I need God to Speak to me.

Who will listen to me, anyway?

What if I say it incorrectly?

What if ________? (fill in the blank)

Let us be people who are able to call out into the desert and help God make straight paths.

But you ask, “how can we?”

The simplest way is to seriously live out our repentance.

Don’t just say you will, but will that you will.

Ask God for the help to strengthen our wills.

So that we will Delight in the Law of the Lord…letting God’s Word fill our wills.

Let us follow the example of Jesus who declared,

“Not my will but Yours be done (as He prayed to Our Heavenly Father).”

And call upon your church to help you to hold on, tightly, to God’s Word and His Will.

In John 1, we know that Jesus is referred to as “The Word.”

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.        

 John 1:1-4

This is referring to Jesus.

He is from the beginning, and through Him all was created.

The Scripture continues…

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.                                 John 1:14

The awesome Word of God, became flesh and lived on earth.

John writes that we’ve seen his glory.

He saw this, literally, in Jesus, but we see it, too, as Jesus reveals Himself to us.

We can see glimpses of His glory in many ways:

  • When someone asks forgiveness in a sincere manner.
  • When someone forgives and lives in the benefits of that forgiveness.
  • When someone gives sacrificially to help others.
  • When we hear God’s voice in our hearts
  • When we see God act on behalf of us and our situations
  • When people choose to live morally according to the Scripture, even though we live in a world that is really a desert with crooked paths.
  • When we begin to move debris from the pathways that block people from Jesus.
  1. Make Straight Paths

Often, we have a great view of someone else’s path, and we can see that they are on a difficult trajectory. They will most likely fall, unless they listen to our wisdom.

Honestly, we ain’t that wise.

God knows the way to help us to straighten a path, and while we need to participate in straightening the paths of others, YES,

we need to look at our own paths, too, and straighten them out.

As we took communion, today, we were saying that we believe.

As we sang today, we declared our faith.

As we prayed, today, we affirmed that we trust only in God through Jesus.

Now, as we conclude this time of worship and focusing upon the Word of God, let us ask God to straighten our paths.

Let us ask Him to make us more like Jesus.

Jesus is the Word Made Flesh.

He wants us to take the Word of God into our flesh, and make Him known to those around us.

  • Why in the flesh?
  • Why not by Twitter?
  • Why not by a letter?
  • Why not just by giving money into the offering so that someone else can tell about Jesus?
  • Isn’t it enough for us to just let Kendal and Camryn serve and tell others, and we can send them our pocket change each month?
  • Why does He want us to take His Word into our Flesh?

Because our flesh will destroy us.

Flesh is destroying the careers and lives of people who have been bigger than life to us, and think of the victims whose flesh, also, had been injured and destroyed.

We need a Savior, Who can ACTUALLY SAVE.

We need a LORD, Who is ACTUALLY GREATER than all other lords in the earth.

We need the Word Made Flesh to Live among us…as God With Us.

The Word to Refresh

God’s Word came in flesh because our flesh needed to be refreshed.

We needed a transformation, and sin constantly battles against God’s will for our flesh and our lives.

Our feelings get hurt, even when our flesh gets hurt.

Our flesh affects our feelings and our feelings affect our flesh.

Stress causes us to grow fat, wrinkled and gray (like me J), and so I cannot save my flesh, nor can I save the soul that is connected to my flesh.

God came in the flesh so that He could show us that the human body is not inherently evil, but it IS corrupted. And through Jesus’ resurrection, He showed that the corruptible can be made incorruptible.

The stale, the destroyed, the diseased can become REFRESHED…

….by the Living, Breathing Word of God, Jesus, the Messiah.

He came because we need a Savior, and without Him, we have no hope.

This Christmas, let us wrap His Word in our Flesh, and let it make a difference for us.

Clover and I just watched the movie, “The Man Who Invented Christmas,” which is about Charles Dickens.

By “Inventing Christmas,” the movie means that Christmas had previously been one day a year, and not so big a holiday.

Dickens, who himself had known poverty first-hand as a child, wrote “A Christmas Carol” as a result of his own understanding of how sad his times were, and people were reluctant to give to the poor.

But after his story of Ebenezer Scrooge, who changed from being a miser to becoming generous, charitable giving significantly rose.

His story is about change.

It is about repentance.

So was the ministry of John the Baptist.

So is the purpose of Christ coming to earth in the flesh, that he would know the pain of the impoverished and would put to death the power of sin over our own flesh.

Let our story be about change…A life that is DIFFERENT from one without Christ…a Life that Honors Him.

Let us, take some time to pray, and ask God to straighten our paths.

Posted in Sermons, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Thankful for the Unshakable Kingdom

We celebrated Thanksgiving last week, and by now we are tire of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and sweet potato casserole J

For some of us, we had a wonderful opportunity to visit with family. For some of us, we were either alone, or with fewer family than previously.

For me and my family, most of us were able to be together, and it was wonderful. I was actually very touched to have my parents and my in-laws and our two daughters and their husbands and grandchildren. Our son and daughter-in-law face-timed us.

Before we ate, I gave thanks, and in doing so, I was overwhelmed with thankfulness for my parents and Clover’s parents.

I thought of how wonderful it was that we have been blessed by God, and He blessed us through our parents, who have in turn, blessed others around the world in many tangible ways.

I am thankful.

Have you noticed how that we are often reminded of what God has done in the Bible. People complain about the repetition in the Bible, but repetition is a tool for memory.

Memory is a key for thankfulness.

Thankfulness is the antidote for stress.

I was considering the amount of times that Thanks and thanksgiving are mentioned in the Scripture:

The word “thanks” or “thanksgiving” occurs about 100 times in the Bible in both the Old and the New Testaments. The holiday is truly American and rooted in our American history and heritage, but the real roots go so much deeper.

I want to share about how important it is to be thankful.

In some cases, thankfulness is the antidote to anger, fear, confusion, frustration and doubt.

When we are able to give thanks, rather than to give in to fear, etc. our lives are changed.

Have you met a grumpy old person? I’ve met them, and at times, I’ve resembled one J But, no one wants to be around grumpy. Even though that was the name of one of Disney’s Seven Dwarfs.

We must be people who give thanks.

There are several Bible verses about giving thanks, and today I want to present a couple of verses.

28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”

Hebrews 12:28,29

PRAY

Heavenly Father, we thank You for Your Word, which we read today. Help us to consider it, to heed it, and to share it with those whom You dearly love, and who truly need You. We remember that You love the world so much that You gave Your One and Only Son, Jesus, to be the sacrifice for our sins.

 Through Your Son, we are receiving an unshakable kingdom, and for this, our response is awe, reverence, humility, holiness and thanksgiving.

 We thank You, in Jesus’ Name,

 Amen

The Unshakable Kingdom

According to this verse, the original readers of the book of Hebrews were receiving an unshakable kingdom (and so are we).

Those who originally read this letter would most likely have heard about Jesus’ teaching regarding prayer. This is because the gospels of Luke and Matthew which present what we call the “Lord’s Prayer” were already written and being circulated among the churches.

I find that I so often am thinking of the Lord’s Prayer in life.

So specifically, I want us to consider these words from that prayer:

“This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, …     your kingdom come, …                on earth as it is in heaven …

for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’”

Matthew 6:9, 10, 13

The first readers of the book of Hebrews were already praying this prayer and understood that the unshakeable kingdom is already here.

And let US continue to pray since we, too, are receiving this kingdom.

As we read this verse, we need to notice the term, “therefore?”

“Therefore” is there for a reason. It tells us that what precedes this verse is related to this statement.

In the verses immediately preceding this verse the writer draws a distinction between what the lives of the previous believers and holy people compared to our lives.

Here are some examples:

By faith [Abraham] made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

 Hebrews 11:9-10

Abraham lived in tents but was looking forward to something that God would build.

Tents are nice and they are mobile, but have you ever been in a tent during a storm?

I have several times, and it is not easy.

As a child, my family and I were camping once and the wind was so intense that I went back to the car to sleep through the night.

When I awoke, I saw that the tent had fallen on top of my brother and my father.

Another time we were camping in the mountains and a tent actually blew away in the wind (it was empty). We never found it.

Here is another verse about those who were before us:

13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth… 16 …, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

Hebrews 11:13, 16

They were longing for something unshakable and followed God for this.

Abraham and all of the others were searching for this, and they saw it from afar. We see this kingdom, now, as we have found Jesus.

Those who had gone before: Noah; Jacob and Joseph were looking for the unshakeable kingdom of God.

Jesus began his ministry announcing this Kingdom:

Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Mark 1:14, 15

This kingdom is what all were looking for, previously. Kingdoms were established, but they ended: Saul’s; David’s and Solomon’s.

What they sought,

we have.

What they were looking for,

we have found.

What they predicted,

we know has been fulfilled.

-Though we must receive it by faith, just as they did.

Imagine if we were able to go back in time and could sit with one of the Old Testament prophets: We could tell them that we have seen what they foresaw, and that we live, now, according to the power of the Holy Spirit alive in us.

God calls our church, The River, to share His unshakable Kingdom with the shakable world, hence our mission is stated this way:

Connecting our Changing Community with the Unchanging Gospel.

The River’s Mission

For NOTHING can Shake the Kingdom of God, and Nothing can shake His Church.

In 2001, a friend of mine was preaching in his church in Pakistan. He stated that he will follow the Lord even to the point of death. The next week, grenades were thrown into his church, and several people killed or wounded. He, too, was wounded, and all he remembered was seeing the grenades pass by his head. The next thing he remembered was waking up outside of the church. His hand was bleeding. People told him that as he exited the church, he prayed with those who were injured, and helped them out of the building.

His local church was shaken, but not the Spirit of God that fills the Church.

Another friend of mine ministered in Libya. He had a church in his home, and conflict from ISIS and others surrounded him.  Yet, people were having dreams about Jesus and coming to him for baptism and repentance. A mortar slightly damaged his car, so he moved it to a body shop. Another car parked in his place, and was destroyed by a second mortar blast. Even his apartment was hit by mortar fire, but my friend continued on as long as God allowed him. He with his wife and three children, declared the unshakable kingdom in the most shakable of kingdoms, Libya.

Dear brothers and sisters, this is Who We All Are. WE are members of God’s unshakable Kingdom through Jesus Christ. It is NOT the same as other kingdoms for Jesus is the King of kings. It is not the same as other religions for Jesus is the Lord of lords.

When John the Baptist spoke of the coming Messiah, he spoke of One who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with Fire.

The Consuming Fire

When the Hebrews were at the base of Mt. Sinai, they were afraid of the cloud on the mountain that looked like fire.

15 When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, 16 and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the Lord called to Moses from within the cloud. 17 To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain.

Exodus 24:15-17

The glory of God looked like consuming fire.

Who wants to see God’s glory?

Yet, there is an awesome and awful nature of His Glory.

This “consuming fire” caused fear in the Hebrews’ hearts, and they didn’t want to come near God.

As well, God doesn’t want sinful man to come near him.

He allowed Moses, but there were limits. When Moses asked God to show him His glory, God agreed to a point, as God said to Moses:

But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”

Exodus 33:20

When the people were afraid of the cloud in which God was, and they saw it as a “consuming fire,” they were afraid, and yet Moses, went into the cloud.

I cannot imagine anyone wanting to go into something that looked dangerous. Yet, firefighters and police are trained to enter dangerous places.

In response to the fear of the Hebrews, God promised prophets like Moses to come from among them, because they were afraid of God’s Awesome/Awful voice and His Consuming fire on the mountain.[1]

Because God’s presence is too difficult to be tolerated by sinful man, God promised to send a greater prophet than Moses and God’s Word would be in Him.

Jesus, the Consuming Fire and the Unshakable Kingdom

Jesus is known as “the Word of God.”

Jesus is shown by Scriptures to be greater than the angels, even Gabriel; and greater than all of the prophets, even Moses.

He is the greatest High Priest of all.

Referring to the previous prophecies about himself, Jesus said,

56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”

John 8:56

There was an occasion that is referred to several times in the Bible known as the transfiguration.

This was when Jesus and three of his disciples, Peter, James and John, when to the top of a mountain.

While they were there, Jesus was transfigured, which meant that his divinity was shown and his glory was revealed. Certainly, they couldn’t see all of his glory, or these disciples would have died, but they saw something.

And they heard the voice of God the father declare that Jesus was His Son.

While this story is told in three of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), John, also, refers to it as he refers to Jesus as the “Word:”

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14

Peter referred to this event, too, when he wrote his second letter:

17 He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” 18 We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.

2 Peter 1:17, 18

We follow Jesus because there has never been and there will never be anyone greater than Jesus.

Jesus is not only the One Who proclaimed the unshakeable Kingdom, but He IS the unshakeable Kingdom.

About Jesus and His Kingdom, Paul wrote:

13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God,

Colossians 1:13-15

Our Response

How do we respond to this information?

The Scripture we looked at to begin with today tells us how to respond:

28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”

Hebrews 12:28,29

Let us respond by thankfulness and by reverence.

Thankfulness

How do we thank people?

We tell them.

We give them a card.

We buy them a gift.

We hug them.

How do we express thanks to God?

By telling Him, and following Him.

There are those who look at a glass as though it were half empty, we call them pessimists. There are also those who look at a glass as if it were half full, they are the optimists.

But it may just be our feelings at the moment that we are looking at a glass. Are we thirsty?

Are we frustrated?

Are we satisfied?

But, I find that those who see the glass as half-full are really those who are thankful for the half that is full, rather than disappointed or cursing the part that is empty.

I need people who see things “half-full” around me to help me see what I have so I can be thankful.

Let us come to God with a “glass half full” kind of thinking rather than the “glass half empty.”

Reverence

And with thankful hearts, let us be people who out of fear and humility have hearts of reverence for God.

Let us revere Him in worship.

Standing, kneeling, with arms raised, clasped, folded, with eyes closed or open, with hearts open and receiving of Him and His grace and love.

Let us walk through life on pilgrimage, giving thanks for each place that our feet step. Giving thanks for each breath and heartbeat. Giving thanks for each second a baby giggles or cries.

Let’s worship acceptably and in awe.

God is greater than we can understand and yet, He understands us and IS concerned with us.

God is the most powerful force in the universe and yet, He withholds His wrath from us and does not destroy us as our sins deserve.

God chooses to love us, and He reaches out to us, but let us not forget that He is a consuming fire.

Jesus sent His Holy Spirit, and this makes us freer to worship, but His Spirit is with us that we would be with Him. That He would be able to correct us and we would hear it.

His Spirit is with us so that when we hear something that goes against God’s Will, we would not applaud it, but we would speak a loving word of correction.

When someone confesses their sins to us, and then says that God understands and excuses it, we need to remind them of the cross, by which the consuming Fire of God was displayed.

We, too, should look at our own lives and see if we are in need of repentance.

God calls us into a relationship with Him, to be Holy, since He Is Holy.

God calls us into a relationship with him, a relationship of worship. This is acceptable, and pleasing.

[1] 15 The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. 16 For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.” 17 The Lord said to me: “What they say is good. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him.”  Deuteronomy 18:15-18

 

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