Flemingsburg Baptist Church Youth Group

Love God, Love People, Serve the World Starting One Home at a Time.

Category: The Gospels

Easter Sunday School Lesson

Outline of Message

Apologetics simply means defending  the faith.

We Need to defend our faith for two reasons.

  1. So that we are strong in our faith and will not be easily deceived.
  2. So that we are able to give a good  answer when others searching have questions for us about our faith.

Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus:

  1. The Origin of the Disciples Belief in the Resurrection
    1. What brought about the change of attitude?
    2. What caused them to be willing to lay down their lives to tell others about this Jesus?
  2. The Post-Mortem Appearances of Jesus.
    1. It could not be their faith that caused a vision because they had none.
    2. It could not be a Dream because they all experienced him and touched him.
  3. The Evidence of the Empty Tomb.
    1. Those that opposed the disciples did not say the tomb is not empty, but accuse them of stealing Jesus’ Body.
      • Why would they steal it?
      • Where would they put it?
      •  Why would they get themselves killed over a lie?
    2. Some say he was not really dead.
    • Romans were proficient killers.
    • No one is going to believe Jesus resurrected if he is limping around bleeding everywhere.
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Good Friday Bible Study

Growing up I would often wonder, what is so good about Good Friday?  It is the day that my Lord was brutally murdered on the cross.  What is “good” about that?  I would wonder.

However, after growing in understanding, I have come to realize that this has to be one of the greatest understatements of all-time.  A “good” Friday is one in which Kaley & I get to go to the park together and walk Bella.  A “good” Friday is one in which we get out of school or work.

However, calling the day that Jesus bore the weight of sin so that I & other sinners just like me might justly stand before a righteous God is unspeakably more than “good”.  With my limited vocabulary, it is unfathomable.  The best I can come up with is that it should be called, really really ridiculously awesome good Friday, but of course, that would not fit on anyone’s calendar.

Who Are You in the Passion Story?

 

Are you Peter, passionate and a leader, but sometimes find yourself being a coward when it matters most and needing forgiveness,Are you Thomas, you want to believe, but you are skeptical, if only you could place your hands on His scars too, then you would believe.Are you Judas, you feel the weight of what you fill like is an insurmountable mistake and are looking for any kind of relief from your pain,Or are you the Pharisees, who on the outside look like they have it all together, but on the inside are corrupt and have murderous intentions,

Or maybe some of you feel like you are Jesus, not that you think you are God, but that you know what it feels like to be accused of a crime that you did not commit,Or do you find yourself resonating with Simon Cyrene, always carrying other peoples burdens,Or are you Pilate, you want to do the right things in your life, but those around you are  crying out for you to do the wrong thing, and you fear what they might do to you if you do the right thing?Well, I will tell you exactly who God wants you to resonate with in this story.  We get his story two chapters back in chapter 18 starting in verse 38.Pilate went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him. But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.God tells us that we all are Barabbas.  Here we see that Barabbas was a robber, but in the other Gospels, we also see that he was a murder.So why would God want you to realize that you are Barabbas in this story?Because compared to God’s Holiness we are worse than Barabbas.  Matthew 5:21, tells us that anyone who hates his brother has committed murder in his heart.  Therefore, it is safe to say that all of here have committed murder in our hearts.And same holds true to being robbers.  We have all taken something that did not belong to us or at least coveted something that we did not have.  Therefore, we all are robbers.Too often we get caught up in our own self-righteousness and we like to compare ourselves to others and think we are alright.  As long as we are better than someone we feel safe in our eternal security.  However, God is not comparing you to others he is comparing you to Himself.That is why he compares you to murder and a robber in this story.  But guess what there isgood news.  Barabbas was set free, because Jesus took his place.And that is what Good Friday is all about.  We deserve death, we deserve Hell, we like Barabbas deserve punishment because we have fallen short of the glory of God.  But just like Barabbas we did not do anything to deserve it.  But it was a gracious gift given to us.But this gift was not free, it was paid for, Jesus Christ took the punishment full force that we deserved.  Now all you have to do is repent and believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord, Savior, and Treasure and you can be set free from your punishment just like how Jesus took Barabbas spot on the cross.

The Condemned and the Accepted (Matthew 11:20-30)

            Today we will be dealing with a very difficult passage.  In this passage, we see that there are people that are condemned and some are accepted.  We will be looking at the warnings the condemned receive and the promises that the accepted receive, and then discussing the importance of making sure that we are in the accepted crowd.

First in verse 20, we will be looking at the Condemned.  Jesus gives a very stern warning to the cities in which he had ministered.  Woe to you, literally means warning of doom upon you.  Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum were the cities in which most of Jesus’ miracles were performed, and yet their occupants rejected Jesus’ mission and remained unrepentant.  Jesus did not denounce these cities for their vicious opposition, but because they had not repented.  These cities are where most of Jesus’ miracles occurred, miracles that demonstrated that Jesus was the messiah, yet they still chose not to respond.

The people in these cities had seen Jesus, they had been amazed by Him, they had even admired Him, but they did not turn from their sin in response to His summons, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Think about this, the city where Jesus did more miracles than any other place during His earthly ministry.  The people of Capernaum had seen Him give sight to the blind, deliver demon-possessed men, heal paralytics, He had brought the dead back to life, they had seen it!  And yet, in the end, they did nothing in response.  And Jesus says that is worse than the immorality of Sodom, for they would have turned from their sin and they would remain to this day.  Oh, their hearts were so hard, spiritually indifferent to Jesus and unrepentant in their sin.

This was a shocking statement, first of all, because if you remember the story of Sodom and Gomorrah from the Old Testament, they were destroyed because they were cities of wicked and great sinners (Gen 13:13) that practiced sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desires (Jude 1:7).  This would have been shocking for a group of devout Jews to be compared to Sodom and Gomorrah.  Secondly, this statement is shocking because if God knew Sodom and Gomorrah would have repented then why did he not spare them, rather than wiping them from the face of the earth?

We get the explanation of these shocking statements in verses 21-22, we see that Jesus reminds us that not everyone has the same exposure to the Gospel.  This is an indisputable fact.  Jesus indicates that some would have repented had they had more light.  The question is why do some repent and others do not?  That is why in this passage we see that there are three theological intentions that are accepted by Jesus for the day of judgment.  First, is that the Judge has knowledge: he knows what Tyre and Sidon as well as Sodom and Gomorrah would have done under different circumstances.

This knowledge by God has a big fancy theological term called providence.  Providence is God’s holy, wise and all powerful preserving and governing of all His creatures and all their actions.  This passage is about a special kind of providence, the providence of God in Salvation.

Do you think that this doctrine is very popular today?  It is not very popular today, because people tend to think if God is in control of actions and outcomes, that interferes with our freedom.  The assumption behind this thinking is that our freedom is an absolute reality.  So you are left with three options, believe that God has some influence but not in control, or that God is not in control at all and is adjusting things as he goes, or you can believe what the Bible teaches that God is Sovereign over all things.

Now you might ask the question, is it important for us to learn about such theological terms like providence, sovereignty, and man’s responsibility.  Well, the answer is yes, it does matter.  Jesus taught about it and thought it was significant enough for His disciples to believe.  In fact, in this passage we learn five things about the providence of God:

  1. God’s providence is sovereign (v. 25-26).
  2. God’s providence is constant (v. 20-24).
  3. God’s providence evokes praise (v.25).
  4. Jesus is the steward of God’s providence, including the saving knowledge of God (v. 27)
  5. God’s providence is consonant with the free offer of the Gospel (v. 28-30).  (Duncan, 2001)

The second theological intention of this passage is that God does not owe revelation to anyone, or else there is injustice in withholding it.  We do not want what we deserve, because what we deserve is Hell because of our Sins.  God would still be just if he sent all of us to Hell.  However, because he is gracious (meaning that he freely gives to us what we do not deserve) and merciful (withholding what we do deserve) to us we can come into his presence through his son Jesus Christ.  And third, is the punishment on the Day of Judgment takes into account opportunity.  There are degrees of torment in hell.  Basically, when God comes to judge, things will go worse for the cities that have received so much light than for the pagan cities.

In verses 2024, we see that God’s providence is in agreement with the most urgent calls and warnings of judgment.  Bible-believing Christians will not deliberately oppose two clear teachings of scripture, in order to argue one against the other.  We must be the supreme examples of believing in God’s sovereignty and being urgent in pleading with sinners.  God’s sovereignty is not an obstacle to evangelism; it is the vehicle of energy for it.  It motivates.

In verses 20-24, we saw how Jesus described the condemned, now as we look at verses 25-30, we will be looking at the accepted.  In verse 25, we receive another very surprising statement to these first century Jews.  This is because the wise and learned were considered to be the Pharisees and teachers of the law, but Jesus says the accepted are like little children.  The contrast is between those who are self-sufficient and deem themselves wise and those who are dependent and love to be taught.

Also in verse 25, it is clear that God remains the one who reveals and conceals.  Is this a problemIs God revealing himself to some, but concealing himself from others a problem for youDoes that sound unjustGod is just because he is dealing with a race of sinners, whom he owes nothing.  Therefore, to conceal “these things” is not an act of injustice but of judgment, the very judgment we all deserve.  Therefore, the astonishing part is not that God reveals and conceals, the astonishing part is that He reveals Himself to us at all.

However, God’s predestination is not at random, there is a pattern.  Those who pride themselves in understanding divine things are judged, but those who understand nothing are taught.  However, it is not us that seeks to be humble, but Christ working through us to make us humble, so our salvation is of no merit of our own.  Now this does not mean that education and intellect are unimportant, but that these are not what qualifies you to know the Father.  The only way to know the Father is through the Son.

Therefore, we can conclude that we do not come to the father through our self-righteous religion or prideful intellect, but in the humble trust of a child, acknowledging our total dependence on the Father.  This is salvation, and it leads right into this last portrait of Jesus.  He is the promised Messiah, the authoritative Judge, the sovereign Son, and he is the gracious master.

How does Jesus respond to God’s revealing and concealing, does he find it unfair?  No, at the end of verse 25 we find him rejoicing in it.  Jesus thanks God the Father for hiding the truth from some people.  However, Jesus also invites all to the table.  This balance mirrors the balance in scripture.  Jesus could simultaneously denounce the cities that did not repent and praise the God who does not reveal; for God’s sovereignty in election is not diminished by man’s stubbornness and sin, while man’s responsibility is in no way diminished by God’s good pleasure that sovereignly reveals and conceals.

Verses 25 & 26, emphasizes God’s sovereign power.  Jesus emphasizes God’s sovereign power.  He says God has hidden spiritual truth from some (those who are proud) and has revealed it to others (the humble).  This is because of God’s good pleasure.

However, objections may be raised.  Some would say this interferes with our freedom, God concealing and revealing is not fair, it is not loving.  Think, though.  Christians FIRST need to deal with the question, “What does the Bible teach?”  before asking, “How can that be?”  Behind the thought that God may be unfair or unloving is the suspicion that WE are more fair and loving than God.  But this is not a possibility.  We know, however, that we ourselves are unfair and unloving.

In verse 27, we see that Jesus is the steward of God’s providence, including the saving knowledge of God.  This verse is a introduction to an evangelistic call to accept the Gospel.  In this invitation, Jesus is asserting His authority to issue the call.  He is making it known that the Lord of providence is Jesus Christ.  Without this being true, Jesus saying come to me, makes no sense.

Now in verses 28-30, we also see that God’s providence is in agreement with the free offer of the Gospel.  I want you to imagine the person that you are the most afraid of.  Whether it be a terrorist, a gang member all inked up, a big bad biker dude, or a teacher, or your grandmother.  Whoever it is, imagine yourself sharing the gospel with them.

Are you still afraid, are they beyond reach?  No, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is powerful enough to save even the most fearful of people and in fact often that is who God calls us to share the Gospel with is those that are outside of our comfort zones.

Do we underestimate the gospel’s ability to change what we think are the worst of sinners, the hardest of hearts?

I am afraid that we fall failure to this all the time.  Is there a reason that most of look alike, come from a similar background?  We have to assume two things when we become a church that is very similar in age, race, and in social class.  We can either assume that God is not powerful enough to reach people that are different from us, that we are his favorite kind of people.

Or, we should rightly assume that we are doing something wrong in our evangelism, because God is a God that calls all people, not just white middle class people.  He calls poor people, rich people, white people, black people, Hispanics, Asians, rednecks, Yankees, geeks, freaks, nerds, athletes, tall people, short people, intelligent people, dumb people, and even people with mental health disabilities.  God has the power to save Samaritans, prostitutes, homosexuals, drug addicts, alcoholics, people that have committed adultery, murders, rapists, farmers, lawyers, doctors, teachers, government officials, firemen, and policemen.  God has the power to save anyone and there is no one that we should not witness to because the gospel is powerful enough to reach them all.

We are to be no more restrictive in our offer to unbelievers than was our Lord.  Christ promises rest, spiritual rest, to all those who come to Him, rest from the burden of sin, with a peace of conscience in a sense of God’s love.  Are you experiencing that rest?  The only place you can find rest is in Christ, by believing Jesus is who He says he is, by repenting of your sin and turning from trust in yourself to trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord, Savior, and Treasure.

Christ calls us to service.  Christ’s heart is called humble.  Though rulers will position themselves before Him, He humbled Himself even unto death for you.  Unburden yourself from your attempts to make your own way and take His yoke.  Why?  Because Jesus is gentle and humble, and He will give you rest.

We must put these truths into practice. Labor to know that you may do.  Do not merely speculate on God’s providence, Do not wonder if God is revealing or concealing himself to you, run to Him.  Jesus is the one who invites.  Not the wise and learned, but the weary and burdened.  The Son reveals the Father, not to gratify learned curiosity or to reinforce the self-sufficiency of the arrogant, but to bring the little children (v.25) to know the father (v.27) and to introduce the weary to eternal rest (v.28).

In verse 28, we receive an invitation.  Jesus says, Come to me.  Jesus wants for you to know him personally, not merely to believe historical facts about him.  All who labor and are heavy laden refers in the immediate context to those oppressed by the burden of religious legalism imposed on people by the scribes and Pharisees.  However, the wider application is that Jesus provides “rest for your souls” (v. 29)—that is, eternal rest for all who seek forgiveness of their sins and freedom from the crushing legalistic burden and guilt of trying to earn salvation by good works.

In verse 29, we get an image of what this eternal rest looks like.  The yoke was a wooden frame joining two animals (usually oxen) for pulling heavy loads was a metaphor for one person’s subjection to another, and a common metaphor in Judaism for the law.  The Pharisaic interpretation of the law, with its extensive list of proscriptions, had become a crushing burden.  (Carson, 1995)

Now in a shared yoke like this, one of the oxen would most often be much stronger than the other.  The one was stronger, more experienced, more schooled in the commands of the master, and that animal would then guide the other according to the master’s commands. So by coming into the yoke with the stronger ox, the weaker ox could learn to obey the master’s voice.

This is exactly what Jesus does for us, he invites us to rest through simple commitment to him.  This yoke is a welcome relief to legalistic understanding of the Old Testament.  The rest Jesus promises is not only for the world to come but also for this one as well.

These last 3 verses, verses 28, 29, 30, I am convinced give one of the clearest, most powerful, most compelling, most beautiful pictures of Christianity the way Jesus designed it to be.  And at the same time, these verses give one of the most clearest, most powerful, most forceful rebukes of what we have created Christianity to be today.  I want you to see two simple life changing truths that emerge from this text that I believe sum up what Christianity is.  That depicts the radical nature of Christianity and what separates Christianity apart from every other religious system in the world.  And I want for us to see two simple life changing truths that I am convinced that we have a dangerous tendency to completely miss out on their meaning in the church today.

Truth number one: We give up all we have to Jesus.  In this passage, we see a people who had a religion that was dominated by all the things that they were supposed to do.  And that is what he is talking about with this burden that is heavy that has made them weary.  You had people who were living under all these rules and all these regulations and they felt like they never could measure up. And they were constantly getting more laws and more rules and more regulations put on them.  The Pharisees made rules to keep them from breaking rules.

However on the contrast, Jesus takes the full weight of our sin. This is what it means to come into the yoke.  We give up all we have to Jesus. This is something we want to give up to him.  We give him the full weight of our sin.
This is the beauty of Christianity.  We do not have to bear the weight of our sin anymore.  And this is what Jesus is calling us to, but this is not where Christianity stops.  I am convinced it is where most of our Christianity has stopped.  Most of us view Christianity as giving Jesus our sin and that is it.  The only problem is, what do you do now?  I have said a prayer, been dunked in the baptistery, what now?  Now that you have given Jesus your sin, how are you going to live your life?  How do you live the Christian life once you have given Jesus our sin?

If you stop there, we have still got a lot of questions unanswered. And we are missing out on a lot of what Jesus is calling us to.  So I want you to see that when we talk about giving up all we have for Jesus, being a follower of Christ, giving him the full weight of our sin, that is not where Christianity stops, it is where Christianity starts.
Besides our sins, we also give Jesus our complete and utter inability to obey God.  The yoke in this passage that Jesus is talking about, that he is contrasting his yoke with, it all revolves around the Jewish law. You have got the law on you, he is telling them.  But here is the deal, Jesus is not saying that the law is a bad thing.  Jesus believed the law was a good thing.  In fact, he said back in the Sermon on the Mount, remember, I came not to abolish the law, but to what? To fulfill it.
The law is a good thing.  Remember the illustration of the game of baseball and how without rules, the game of baseball would be total chaos.  Therefore, if we are going to get the most joy out of life we have to play by the rules, just like how we get the most joy out of the game of baseball.

Jesus is not saying you come to me because the law is not important, so you come to me and live however you want.  That is not what he is saying.  What Jesus is saying is you come to me because you have got his law on you and there is no way that you can fulfill the law on your own.  He says you have come to me because without me you will never be able to obey God and you will never to be able to please God.

However, the danger of contemporary Christianity, is that we think we can.  We think we can obey the law.  We think we can please God.  I am convinced the majority of us who have come to faith in Jesus have taken it upon ourselves to try and live the Christian life on our own to the point that we are in danger of missing the point of Christianity altogether.
To prove this point, How do you define the Christian life?  Most often we define the Christian life based on what we do.  If you are a Christian and you pray, you study the Bible, you share the gospel, you watch decent movies, you do not smoke, you do not use profanity, you do not have sex outside of marriage, you do not get drunk or high, you do not do all the things the world does, this is what makes you a Christian.  And the majority of us begin to believe that God’s pleasure in our lives is based on what we do or do not do for him.

And if we do enough then God will be pleased with us and if we do not do enough or we fail him, then we have this sense that God is disappointed in us.  However, the truth is that we will never be able to please God with what you do. You will never, ever be able to please God with what you do.  Legalism is living as if you can earn the grace and forgiveness and pleasure of God with your personal performance.

The religious man or woman in this room who is trying to please God by going through a checklist is just as far from God as the atheist is.  Let me give you an example of how this thinking creeps in.  Let me give you two scenarios.

The first scenario: Your alarm clock goes off in the morning and you wake up immediately because you know you have got quiet time ahead of you.  And so you get out of bed and you go and you spend some time in prayer and you spend some time in the Word and things are going good from the very beginning of your day.  You are off to school from there.  It seems like everywhere you go you have got things planned out.  The presence of God is so real in your life.  Things are going well.  You are walking with him, living in communion with him, and you get to the end of your day and on your way home, you have the opportunity to share the gospel with somebody else.  That is Scenario Number 1.

Scenario Number 2: The alarm clock goes off the in the morning and you hit it about 6 or 7 times.  Snooze, snooze, snooze until there is not chance you are having a quiet time, the morning is anything but quiet for you.  You get up, rush, get ready, and you are off to school and everything is disorganized.  Nothing is working out the way it was supposed to.  You are going throughout your day and you do not have anything planned and the presence of God seems anywhere but near your life at this point.  It is nowhere close.  You are running through trying to get things done.  Finally you get to the end of an exhausted day.  You get to the end of your day and you head home and you have the opportunity to share the gospel with someone.  Now with those two scenarios, in which of these scenarios is God more likely to bless you in leading that person to Christ?

Our tendency is the majority of us would say definitely the first scenario.  But why do we even think that?  Here is why we even think that.  Because we really believe that God is blessing our lives is somehow based on our performance during the day.  Why would God be more likely to bless here than there?  And our answer might be because over here, I was walking with him. Over here, I just would not feel worthy.  I have ignored Him all day.  I would not be where I need to be spiritually in order to be ready for that, so he probably would not use me as much.  That is uncovering the hidden truth at the core of our Christianity.  We have got to weed out this idea that God’s blessing is based on our performance.  It is not.  It is not based on our performance.  God’s blessing in either one of these scenarios is based on His grace and nothing else.  It is not based on what you and I have to bring to the table.  The whole point of Christianity is the best that we bring to the table, is still not good enough.

The whole point of Christianity is that we have given Jesus our complete and utter inability to obey God.  We cannot do it.  So stop believing that you can measure up and do enough to please and obey him.  Stop fighting the battle that you will never be able to win.  Even though you fight it your entire life, you will never be able to win.  Stop fighting the battle.  Praise be to God, He has already won for you!

You do not have to measure up to the law because Jesus measures up to the law.  You do not have to learn to obey God, and try to obey God and try to do all the right things because Jesus has already done that.  Jesus has accomplished it for you.  And the whole point of Christianity is coming to Him and giving up all we have and saying, “I cannot do it.”  And as a result, we no longer have to come into this setting and ever think that God is disappointed in us because God has taken all of your sin and all of your inability to please Him.  He has nailed it to a cross and when he looks at you, He sees you, not disappointed in you, but He sees you and delights in you.

Not because of one ounce of your performance this week, but all because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ his Son.  This is what Jesus is saying.  He is saying come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I give you rest.  It is not about what we bring to the table.  It is about what He brings to the table.  We give up all we have to Jesus.  We cannot do it.

And the beauty of it is the second truth: Jesus gives up all he has to us.  Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you. Learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart.”  This is the part that has always confused me about this text.  If Jesus is trying to free you up, then why is he putting another yoke on you?  The whole point is that we do not need anything else on us.  Right?  Remember back to the picture we have got of the yoke and you have got the stronger ox and the weak ox.  Now see you have got the one whose strength is infinite and perfect and the one who knows intimately the commands of the master and the one who is experienced in obeying them to the very end.  Jesus is the one who is inviting you to take His yoke upon yourself.  You come into the yoke with Jesus and see that the stronger ox now makes it possible for the weaker ox to produce all that Jesus does.  It is all based on Jesus being in the yoke.  Jesus gives up all that he has to us.

We are learning to trust in Jesus and not in ourselves.  And as a result, slowly, surely, we are relaxing in the yoke and learning to let Christ do in us what all along we have been trying to do for ourselves.  Now, rest in Christ is becoming a deeper and deeper reality on a day-by-day basis.  Why?  Because we are learning to let go of the strain of trying to do this Christian life on our own and we are learning to let him do it for us.

This is huge.  Does putting on Jesus’ yoke mean, “that we just sit back and do not do anything?”  That we just let God and let go?  Absolutely not.  It is not a passive picture, it is learning, it is following, it is going after the law.  It is not because the law does not matter anymore which is what many people have done.  And the emphasis that the church has had on legalism they say we do not have to follow the law.  On the contrary, we are not free not to forget the law; we are free to obey the law.  And now we have in us, Christ himself who enables us to follow the law.

Here is the beauty.  What makes Christianity not just another religion, not just another ethic that we live up to, is the picture of Christ Himself in us, enabling us to follow the law, enabling us to please God, enabling us to obey God.  And now when we live our lives and it is Christ in us living through us, then we bring great glory to our Father because Jesus is doing it in us.  And it is all saturated in Christ and the one who is giving us the grace moment by moment, day by day, there is nothing, absolutely nothing in your Christian life that you are intended to do on your own.  It is all intended.  Every single prayer we pray, every single step we take, every single thought is intended to be saturated with Jesus Christ. (Platt, 2007)

And that is exactly what we learned with the beatitudes, remember?  We said that the beatitudes were not a check list that we had to make sure that we were doing to become Christian.  Nor was it a list we could pick and choose what we wanted.  It was a list of things that we should be seeing in our lives, if Jesus Christ is truly living in our hearts.

In conclusion here is Christianity explained, We give Him the full weight of all our sin.  These people were so burdened because they had failed over and over again to keep the law they carried.  And as leaders poured on more laws and more laws, the people felt more guilty and more shameful, and the weight of their sin became heavier and heavier, and they could not stand up under it.  And Jesus says, “Give to me the weight of your sin—not just some of it, but all of it—and not just the weight of all our sin.

However, that is not the whole picture, but also We give Him our complete and utter inability to obey God. Our utter inability to carry out the commands of God.  It is not that the commands of God are bad, they are good, but they cannot be carried out by men.  We are imperfect, sinful people, and we cannot, we do not obey the Master’s voice.  This is huge.  The call to come to Christ is definitively NOT a call for you to try to reform your life and do better in your life and be a better person.  That is not Christianity!

We give Him the full weight of all our sin, and He gives us full pardon for all our sin.  Enter into the yoke of Christ, and you, in all your sin, will be counted as righteous in Christ. He has carried the burden you could not carry. He has obeyed the law you could not obey. So come to Him, and rest in Him with… We rest with peace before God. Jesus says, “I will give you rest” – literally, “relief from bearing the load.” Praise God in Christ, we are free from self-effort, self-improvement, and a constant struggle to overcome the guilt and shame of our sin. In Christ, we are free to rest with peace before God. But that’s not all! That’s not where Christianity stops…there’s more!

Jesus not only gives us full pardon for all our sin, He gives us His complete ability to obey God. So we give Him our complete and utter inability to obey God, and He says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.”  That word “learn” is huge – is the same word that is translated “disciple” in the Great Commission later in Matthew. Jesus is literally saying, “Learn what it means to be my disciple, and you will find rest for your soul.”  Why?  Because “My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  What does that mean?  Don’t miss it, Jesus alone knows the Father, reveals the Father, and Jesus alone perfectly obeys the Father.  So come into the yoke with Him, and He will lead you in how to walk with the Father. “Come to Me,” Jesus says, “and I will enable you to do what that which you could never do on your own.”

And in the yoke with Christ, We work in peace with God.  In other words, we now live in obedience to God not by our own strength, but with the very strength of Christ.  Everything we do, it is Christ who is leading us, guiding us, enabling us, teaching us, literally living through us.  Martin Luther said: “Here the bottom falls out of all merit….Christ must do and must give everything.”

This is not about what you and I can do in and for the kingdom in our own effort.  That is a recipe for failure and burden.  It is about Jesus the Christ living in and through and for us on a daily basis.  In our struggles with sin. In our battles with temptation.  In our suffering in trial.  You are in the yoke with Jesus.  And the One who calls us to righteous living is the One who lives righteously through you.  The One who beckons you to trust the Father is the One who enables you to trust the Father.

So here’s the invitation, The invitation of Christ: When faith is hard and the burden is heavy, First and foremost, Repent of sin.  Be not indifferent, and be not unrepentant.  You do not need to bear the burden of your sin any longer.  Renounce yourself.  Like a child, come to the Father, throw aside your pride! And Rest in Christ.  Come to the One who is gentle and lowly in heart, and find rest for your soul.  And as you do, Rejoice forever in Him.  (Platt, 2012)

Doubts about God (Matthew 11:2-19 & Luke 7:18-35)

Have you ever had doubts about God?  Have you ever had doubts about his power or even if he is real?  Is this OK to doubt Go?  Is doubt allowed?  Can you be a strong Christian and still doubt?  Well, that is what we see happening in this passage today.

The greatest prophet to ever exist, John the Baptist, has doubts about Jesus.  However, we see that the reality is that even for those who seem to be the most faithful, faith is sometimes hard.  Doubting does not prove that a man has no faith, but only that his faith is small.  And even when our faith is small, the Lord is ready to help us.

Doubt is natural within faith.  It comes because of our human weakness.  However, there is a difference between doubt and unbelief.  Unbelief is the decision to live your life as if there is no God.  It is a deliberate decision to reject Jesus Christ and all that he stands for.  However, doubt is something quite different.  Doubt arises within the context of faith.  It is a thoughtful longing to be sure of the things in which we trust.

Doubt is natural, right?  And God does not leave us hanging.  God does not want us to have a blind faith, but an educated one.  So if someone walks up and tells you that someone was raised from the dead, you’re naturally not going to believe them.  And if someone tells you that they were born of a virgin, you’re naturally not going to believe them either because that’s physically impossible.  But that is what the Bible calls us to believe, but since God knows how unbelievable those events are he makes sure that he gives us ample proof to show us that these things are impossible, unless the God of the universe intercedes for nothing is impossible with God. (Platt, 2012)

Look with me in our passage today starting with Matthew 11 versus 2-6.  Here we see that despite John the Baptist’s doubts, Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah.  Look at verse three, John asks the question, are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone elseWhy is this question surprising?  Read Matthew 3 verses 13 through17.

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

 

It is surprising because John was there when the heavens opened up and God declared that this was his son, whom he was well pleased and show the spirit descend upon him like a dove.  So if anyone should live without a doubt that Jesus Christ is Lord, it should be John the Baptist, right?  So what caused his doubt?

Well, the answer is the same things that cause our doubts.  First being difficult circumstances.  When we go through discouragement, we forget that God is God and God is good.  John is probably concerned because his present imprisonment does not match his understanding of the Coming One’s arrival, which was to bring blessing on those who repented and judgment on those who did not.  John probably thought that he was going to have a miraculous release from prison, but instead he has a prolonged imprisonment and his disappointment that a baptism of fire had not yet occurred.

This leads us to our second reason why we doubt God and that is unmet expectations.  After all, this is the Messiah of whom it was prophesied in the Old Testament, “He will proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.”  On a broader level, it was becoming clear by this point that Jesus was not meeting many of the expectations that many Jewish people had for the Messiah.  John had prophesied, “Judgment is coming with the Christ,” but the Roman system was still in place.  And John was in jail because of it!  Roman authority still reigned, sin was still rampant, political and religious corruption still ruled, everything seemed like it was the same it had been the same for generations, and John is thinking, “Isn’t the Messiah the one who is going to deliver us from all of this?” Instead, He is spending time with irreligious sinners, teaching them about forgiveness, and he is not fasting.  (Platt, 2012)

As John the Baptist waits in his jail cell, it reminds us of Elijah in chapter 19 of 1 Kings.  We see similarities because John the Baptist just like Elijah yearned for one thing and one thing only, as far as we know, through the whole course of their existences as  prophets of the Lord—they wanted to see God glorified in Israel.  They wanted Israel to turn back to God.  They wanted repentance.  They wanted conversion.  They wanted to be the instrument of conversion and restoration in Israel so Israel glorified God.  Then they get a message saying they are going to be dead because of their message that God had given them.  They realize: It is not going to happen the way they dreamed.  It is not going to happen.

Difficult situations, unmet expectations, and in the midst of it all the third reason why we doubt is because of our limited perception.  John simply did not understand everything that was going on around him, so he sends these disciples with the question.  Sometimes we only see one piece to the puzzle and it does not make sense to us, but God sees all the pieces and knows the beautiful picture that it is going to make when it is put together.

Just as John the Baptist had no idea how this story of Jesus the Messiah was going to play out…He had no idea all that God was doing to usher in a totally different type of kingdom that was more than just a political regime change; God was ushering in redemption of the entire world.  But John did not know that, and his perspective was small. And we must remember, whenever we go through trials, through difficult situations with unmet expectations, and questions begin to rise up within us, “Is God real?  Is God great?  Is God good?”  we need to remember that our perspective is always limited, and we have no idea what God is doing. (Platt, 2012)

Now look at verses 4 through 6 in the book of Matthew.  Look at what Jesus says,

And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.  And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

What is Jesus appealing tooSigns and Wonders?  No, he is appealing to Old Testament prophecies.  Here we see that Jesus responds to John’s doubt.  How does Jesus assure John the Baptist that he is the Messiah?  The same way that we should be assured that Jesus is the Messiah, by looking at the prophecies in the Old Testament and how Jesus is fulfilling them.  Jesus points us to God’s Word for reassurance when we have doubts.

John is probably concerned because his present imprisonment does not match his understanding of the Coming One’s arrival, which was to bring blessing on those who repented and judgment on those who did not.  Jesus’ ministry, however, is in line with prophetic promises about the time of salvation, as seen especially in these descriptions that recall the words of Isaiah: the blind receive sight (cf.9:27–31Isa. 29:18; 35:5), the lame walk (Isa. 35:6; cf. Matt. 15:30–31), lepers are cured (Isa. 53:4; cf. Matt. 8:1–4), the deaf hear(Isa. 29:18–19; 35:5; cf. Mark 7:32–37), the dead are raised(Isa. 26:18–19; cf.Matt. 10:8Luke 7:11–17John 11:1–44), and the good news is preached to the poor (Isa. 61:1; cf. Matt. 5:3Luke 14:13, 21). Jesus’ deeds gave sufficient proof of who he was and that the prophesied time of salvation had come (“the year of the Lord’s favor”; Isa. 61:1; cf. Isa. 62:1).

This is crucial for us because when we have doubts we too should turn our focus to the Bible.  God’s Word is living and speaking to us and is the only measure of truth that we have.  Therefore, if you doubt God’s love, go to the Bible, if you doubt his goodness, go to the Bible, if you doubt his very existence, then go to the Bible.  The Bible will speak for itself, and God is incapable of a lie.  Therefore, we can glorify God during our doubts by putting our trust in his Word.

And the next way that we can display God’s glory in the midst of doubt is by Joyful submission.  After alluding to these verses in the Old Testament, Jesus ends this section by saying, “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me,” basically, “the one who trusts in me.”  Amidst difficult situations and unmet expectations, even when it’s not easy and seems contrary to reason and everything you think about the way it should be, based upon biblical revelation, trust in Me, Jesus says.  And you will be blessed, that is a promise, blessed is the One who trusts in Me. (Platt, 2012)

Now as John’s disciples leave to take that message back to him, Jesus begins to talk about John to the crowds, we see what he says in the passage in Matthew in verses 7 through 15.

It appears that John the Baptist might be showing signs of fickleness or undisciplined weakness.  However, Jesus speaks out to disarm any suspicion by pointing out that the man people went out to see was neither unstable nor faithless.  His question arose not from personal weakness or failure, but from misunderstanding about the nature of the Messiah, showing John’s place in salvation history.  (Carson, 1995)

Sometimes our doubts make us feel like less of a Christian, but here Jesus makes clear that although John the Baptist has his doubts, he is still the greatest prophet to ever live and is still worthy to be respected.  However, not only does Jesus defend John the Baptist, but he gives us very good news as well.  We get this news in the second part of verse 11.

Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

What does that mean?  Do not miss what Jesus is doing here.  Jesus is making a shift from all the people, from the days of Abraham, who have pointed to Christ, and says, “John is the climax of them all,” but none of them, not even the highest of them who came before Me, can compare to the position and privilege that is reserved for all who will come after Me.  The picture here is powerful, all of these men, including John the Baptist the greatest prophet of all time  had an incomplete picture of the Messiah.  What they had was a limited perspective of what the Messiah would do and they spoke about it.  But we, even the least person who comes into the kingdom after Jesus, has a greater understanding of the Christ, the Messiah, than everyone who came before Him.

Do you realize what Jesus is saying?  John was the greatest prophet, and for that he is to be celebrated and commended, but brothers and sisters in the kingdom since the coming of Christ, We have [an even] greater privilege.  And position than he did!  Think about it!  As we just saw, even in all of his greatness, John was unclear on all that the Messiah would do, but we know all that the Messiah has done. And we have the privilege of proclaiming the crucified and resurrected King to the ends of the earth, what a position in redemptive history that we have!  Even the least Christian since Pentecost, would have greater spiritual resources than John due to the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Take hold of this, let us be faithful to our task, a task that is greater than all the prophets of the Old Testament. D. A. Carson wrote:

“So often Christians want to establish their ‘greatness’ with reference to their work, their giving, their intelligence, their preaching, their gifts, their courage, their discernment. But Jesus unhesitatingly affirmed that even the least believer is greater than Moses or John the Baptist, simply because of his or her ability, living on this side of the coming of Jesus the Messiah, to point him out with greater clarity and understanding than all his forerunners ever could. If we really believe this truth, it will dissipate all cheap vying for position [in this world] and force us to recognize that our true significance lies [simply] in our witness to the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Platt, 2012)

 

Do you understand what that means?  You are more privileged than even John the Baptist, the greatest prophet ever to live, so when you witness, when you read scripture, when fast, when you pray, and when you are making disciples, you are doing so with more of an advantage than John the Baptist had.  However, it will not be easy.

In verse 12, we see that we will be opposed by this world.  In other words, as we are advancing the kingdom of heaven, we just like John, Jesus, and the rest of the disciples will face persecution.  This greater privilege of proclamation comes with a price, a promise of opposition.  Just as John’s message provoked opposition and Jesus’ message provoked opposition, so our message of the Messiah will provoke opposition.  We will be opposed by this world, and We will be criticized in this world.

Remember this is not the only place that we get a promise that we will be persecuted.  Look back at chapter 5 of Matthew.  This is where we received the beatitudes, and remember, we said that if you are a true Christian that you will naturally display the beatitudes.  So what does the last beatitude say?

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 

Remember it was the only beatitude that received any explanation, and Jesus went on to explain why true believers will face persecution by saying:

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Now in our final section of the passage today we will see even more of reason why it is that our message of hope will not be accepted.  We see this in verses 16 through 19 of Matthew that many people will reject the Gospel message because they will act like spoiled children and refuse to play either a sad or a happy game, there is no pleasing them.  They whine like children because John and Jesus had different styles: one ministered in the desert frugally, while the other roamed freely among the people and approached the rejected and sinful of society.

Indeed, the response to John was a test of one’s response to Jesus.  To reject one was to reject the other.  In addition, John’s rejection was not because of his style, but because of his message.  When the style changed, the message was still rejected.  The passage argues that one should take note because after Jesus there is no other.

Many in the world will act in hardness to the Gospel, but wisdom, right living before God, will be justified in the end.  In this passage, we see that the people reject the gospel because John and Jesus do not conform to their expectations, so the people continue to do what they want.  Therefore, we are to accept the Gospel and we can take confidence without a doubt that the Gospel saves because we will display wisdom and fruit of the spirit.

So the question needs to be asked, where do you standWhat do you think of John and Jesus?  Are these messengers of God to be followed?  Will you side with wisdom?  Or, Will you be like the complaining children, wanting God to play by your rules?

Jesus is the promised Messiah.  And even in the middle of difficult situations, unmet expectations, and limited perception, He is worthy of your trust.  And it is worth it to give your life telling people about who He is.  So fight doubt in this world and fight fear of this world with faith in the promised Messiah.  He is the promised Messiah, AND…He is the authoritative Judge.

Resuscitation of a Widow’s Son (Luke 7:11-17)

The main point of our passage today is not only can Jesus overcome disease, as we learned last week with the Centurion’s slave, but he also has the authority to override death.  This account is focused on Jesus’ care for the needy ad his power over death.  Jesus takes the initiative and acts compassionately, choosing healing over defilement.  The event results in awe for God’s work and a public perception of Jesus as a prophet.  As a result, news about Jesus spreads.

In this passage, we learn four things about Jesus.  First Jesus demonstrates his compassion and willingness to reach out and meet the needs of those in distress.  Jesus takes the initiative in this account, he comforts the widow; he restores the boy to health.  Why was this so important that Jesus did this?  This is because she was a widow and her only son had just passed away.  Therefore, she had no one left to support her.  Benjamin Franklin once famously said that God helps those who help themselves, however, in the Bible we see that the opposite is true.  God helps those who cannot help themselves.  God loves to show his power through those who are weak and downcast.

Second, we see that Jesus displays great power with great ease.  The comfort that he offers the widow is real, because he can overpower death’s nullifying effects.  The extent of his authority reaches to the limits of personal existence.  This account, then, represents Jesus’ most powerful display of his connection with God. (Bock, 1994)

Third, God displays His power over death and displays to the Jewish community that He is greater than the prophet Elijah.  Why is it important for Jesus to display his power over death?  Because Jesus wants his people to understand that when he goes to the cross, it is because he is choosing to do so for a reason.  Also, so that when we hear of his resurrection, that it should not be too unbelievable to us because we have seen him raise people from the dead before.

And fourth, the raising of a widow’s son is very similar to the story of Elijah and the widow in 1 Kings 17:17-24, and it was on purpose.  Jesus is trying to display his power and knew that this healing would remind these Jewish people about the great prophet Elijah.  See the Jewish people are known for their discipline and knowledge of the Torah, so this image was without a doubt to display to them that a prophet like Elijah is amongst them.

Why is this important to know?  Let us look at the passage in 1 Kings 17:17-24.  Does anything stand out to you?  Look at verse 24, And the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is truth.”  I believe that is the message that he wanted the Jewish people to receive that, Jesus was sent by God and the very words that came from his mouth were God’s.  Here we see that message that Jesus was trying to communicate was not just for the woman or for the Jewish people, but that it is a sign that God has visited all of us to overcome death for us.

Therefore, the main point of our passage today is to point us to the power of God, specifically his power over death, and that Jesus is revealing more and more of his true identity.  And we know that we were once like this widow son.  We too were once dead in our sins.  Because of our sin, we are fully separated from God and we cannot come to life on our own, but only by the gracious work of God.  A vulture in a cornfield is going to starve to death although there is plenty of edible food.  However, it is against his nature to eat corn, he desires flesh.  The only way to make him eat corn is to give him a new nature or new life.  That is what Christ does for us.  We are dead in sin and the only way to get us to desire anything good is for God to give us a new nature, to bring us to the newness of life.  Therefore, we are to live confidently with our lives because the God that we serve has power over life and death and if live it should be for the glory of Christ, but if we die, then we consider it a gain, for we will spend eternity with Him.

A Centurion’s Faith (Mt. 8:5-13 & Lk. 7:1-10)

What do you notice different between these two texts?  Is it OK for scripture to say two different things?  Does two different accounts mean that one author was wrong?  We know that the Bible is without errors because it is the inspired work of God and God is perfect, so how could we justify the differences?

First, by knowing the differences between the two authors.  Matthew has a tendency to condense and second, to write topically rather than chronologically.  Therefore, we could say that Matthew left out the middlemen in this this story in order to condense it and to magnify the main point of the passage that even gentiles can come to Jesus.  That race does not matter to Jesus.  This passage shows us that racial differences should not be an obstacle, since Jews intercede for a Gentile here and Jesus responds to the quest.

Here once again, as we have seen in previous passages that although our natural inclination is to look at the miraculous wonders of Jesus, the main point is less concerned with the miracle and more concerned with the faith of the man who requests Jesus’ aid.  Therefore, the story is more a pronouncement on commendable faith than it is concerned with Jesus’ power.

So remember this is the story right after the sermon on the mount, so what God is doing here is showing us what it looks like for a man to build his house on the rock, and how that man responds to Jesus with concrete faith.  What is faith?  Faith in this passage is defined as a plea to Jesus to offer his aid in the form of his power, even though one is unworthy to receive it.  (Bock, 1994)

Jesus is a picture of power, a man in authority- authority that the centurion understands and describes in Matthew 8 verses 8 and 9.  In verses 8 and 9 of Matthew, we see that the Centurion knows the power of God.  He knows that although he is just a man, he can make things happen across the Roman Empire just by his words.  How much more could Jesus heal someone, without having to be physically present?  This passage reveals to us that Jesus needed neither ritual, magic, nor any other help; his authority was God’s authority, and His word was effective because it was God’s word.  Just how the centurion’s commands were effective, because his words were under Caesar’s authority, so are Jesus’ command because they carry the authority of God.  (Carson, 1995)

In conclusion, we see that the healing of the centurion’s slave foreshadows the expansion of Jesus’ ministry to the nations.  The Centurion senses that he is unworthy of receiving Jesus’ help.  Jesus commends his insight as unique and offers the faith of this foreign soldier as an example to all.  His combination of humility, dependent request, and trusting awareness of God’s power is the essence of faith.  (Bock, 1994)

Outline of Sermon Given on 12/16/12 (Matthew 5-7)

Capture Capture CaptureCapture

1

Salt and Light
[13] “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
[14] “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. [15] Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. [16] In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Christ Came to Fulfill the Law
[17] “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. [18] For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. [19] Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. [20] For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

2

Anger
[21] “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ [22] But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. [23] So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, [24] leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. [25] Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. [26] Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
Lust
[27] “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ [28] But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. [29] If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. [30] And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
Divorce
[31] “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ [32] But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Oaths
[33] “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ [34] But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, [35] or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. [36] And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. [37] Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.
Retaliation
[38] “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ [39] But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. [40] And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. [41] And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. [42] Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
Love Your Enemies
[43] “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ [44] But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, [45] so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. [46] For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? [47] And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? [48] You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Capture

Giving to the Needy
[6:1] “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
[2] “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. [3] But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, [4] so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
The Lord’s Prayer
[5] “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. [6] But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
[7] “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. [8] Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. [9] Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
[10] Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
[11] Give us this day our daily bread,
[12] and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
[13] And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
[14] For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, [15] but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Fasting
[16] “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. [17] But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, [18] that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

3

Lay Up Treasures in Heaven
[19] “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, [20] but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. [21] For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
[22] “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, [23] but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
[24] “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
Do Not Be Anxious
[25] “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? [26] Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? [27] And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? [28] And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, [29] yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. [30] But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? [31] Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ [32] For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. [33] But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
[34] “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

4

Judging Others
[7:1] “Judge not, that you be not judged. [2] For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.
(Matthew 7:1-2; Matthew 7:3-11 ESV) [3] Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? [4] Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? [5] You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
[6] “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.
Ask, and It Will Be Given
[7] “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. [8] For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. [9] Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? [10] Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? [11] If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

5

The Golden Rule
[12] “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

6

[13] “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. [14] For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

7

A Tree and Its Fruit
[15] “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. [16] You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? [17] So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. [18] A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. [19] Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. [20] Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
I Never Knew You
[21] “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. [22] On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ [23] And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

8

Build Your House on the Rock
[24] “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. [25] And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. [26] And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. [27] And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

9

Things are Changing (Matthew 9:14-17, Mark 2:18-22, Luke 5:33-39)

Looking in Matthew starting in verse 14

Why Do we Fast?

What is fasting?  Fasting is probably the most feared spiritual discipline.  We are afraid that it will make us suffer dreadfully and give us a generally negative experience.  For some Christians, fasting for spiritual purposes is as unthinkable as shaving their heads or walking barefoot across a fire pit.

However, fasting is a Christian’s voluntary abstinence from food for spiritual purposes.  Fasting is more than just the ultimate crash diet for the body; it is abstinence from food for spiritual purposes.

Now that we have answered what is fasting, now let us answer, why should we fast?  The main reason is because Jesus both practiced and taught fasting.

In Matthew 4:1-2 we see that, Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.  Here we see that in preparation for His temptation with Satan, Jesus prepared himself spiritually by fasting.

And in Matthew 6:16-18 we see that Jesus instructs us to fast when he says,

And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Here Jesus does not say if you fast, he says when you fast.  And we can pretty much assume that Jesus wanted fasting and prayer to be connected since our instructions to fast comes right after the Lord’s prayer.  We also see that fasting is important by how many times it is mentioned in the Bible.  Fasting is mentioned 77 times and Baptism is only mentioned 75.  Although I would not go as far as to say it is more important than Baptism, but I would say that if God mentions something 77 times, we should take notice.

Now that we have answered the what and why of fasting.  Let us answer the question, what does fasting do, or what is the purpose of fasting?  It is important to have a purpose when fasting because without a purpose, fasting can be a miserable, self-centered experience.  Fasting is not to be a legalistic routine, but a privilege and an opportunity to seek God’s grace that is open to us as often as we desire.

“Self-indulgence is the enemy of gratitude, and self-discipline usually its friend and generator.  That is why gluttony is a deadly sin.  The early church fathers believed that a person’s appetites are linked: full stomachs and jaded palates take the edge from our hunger and thirst for righteousness.  They spoil the appetite for God” (Plantinga, 1988).

We see that Jesus fasted forty days and forty nights in order to spiritually strengthen Himself and to dedicate Himself to God for the beginning of His public ministry.  In the spiritual strength of that prolonged fast Jesus was prepared to overcome a direct onslaught of temptation from Satan himself, the strongest He would face until the cross.

Jesus privately dedicated Himself during this fast to the Father for the public ministry that He would begin soon thereafter.  Therefore, the first purpose of fasting is to dedicate ourselves and to help us grow spiritually in order to overcome temptation.  We are in spiritual warfare and sometimes it is good for us to weaken our physical bodies in order to strengthen our spiritual ones.  Personally, I think that if Jesus prepared himself for his transition into ministry by fasting, it might be wise for us to go through a season of fasting since we too are preparing ourselves for transition into ministry under new leadership.

The second purpose of fasting is to strengthen our prayers.  When we fast, we should be like Jesus and say that we desire God and hearing His word, more than desire fulfilling our fleshy desires.  Therefore, when you feel your hunger pains use it as a reminder that 1.) that you love God more than you love food, and 2.) to remind you to pray for whatever you fasted for.  For example, I am praying for the Pastor Search committee, the new pastor, the new principal, the new super-intendant, and VBS.

Now that we have addressed the what, the why, and the purpose of fasting, now let us look at how to fast.  There are different ways to fast.  What I am doing is called a normal fast.  A normal fast involves abstaining from all food, but not from water.  To abstain from food but to drink water and fruit juices is the most common kind of Christian fast.  I will be drinking fruit juices during my fast just to have some calorie intake and to keep my blood sugar up.  However, I will not be doing anything that curves my appetite because I want to use the hunger pains to remind me that I desire God more than I desire food and to remind me to pray for the pastor search committee, the new pastor, the new principal, the new superintendent, and VBS.

How long should we fast?  It is up to you and the leadership of the Holy Spirit.  In the Bible are examples of fasts that lasted one day or part of a day, a one night fast, three day fasts, seven day fasts, fourteen day fasts, a twenty-one day fast, and forty day fasts.  So I would suggest that if you have never fasted before, start with a one, two, or at the most three-meal fast.  But start somewhere.  Do not look for loopholes to avoid it.  Look for ways to experience God’s grace through fasting.

Of course, for some of you a normal fast, for medical reasons, should not be attempted.  For example, it would not be wise for Stuart Hurd to do a normal fast since the strenuous exercise he gets at basketball would make his body fail if he would to attempt it.  However, those of you that feel like you cannot do a normal fast; you can do a partial fast.  A partial fast is a limitation of the diet but not abstention from all food.  For ten days Daniel and three other Jewish young men only had vegetables to eat and water to drink in Daniel 1:12.  John the Baptist only ate locusts and wild honey.  So for a partial fast you can either eat smaller portions, cut out all drinks except water, especially if you are used to only drinking cokes or sweet tea.  Or you could cut out a certain type of food, like Daniel did when he cut out all drinks except water and only ate vegetables.

For another example of a partial fast look with me at Daniel chapter 10 verses 1-3,

 

In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a word was revealed to Daniel, who was named Belteshazzar. And the word was true, and it was a great conflict. And he understood the word and had understanding of the vision.  In those days I, Daniel, was mourning for three weeks. I ate no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, for the full three weeks.

I would love to see this church mourn.  That called quits on getting angry at how dumb things where and how much the kingdom was not being advanced.  And got on their knees and fasted, eating no delicacies, passing by the ice-cream after lunch praying to God and asking God to do amazing Kingdom advancing things.

Not only for the praying for a new pastor, but some of you are in places in your marriage where it seems like it will never get better.  It feels insurmountable and you just fill your life with multiple little pleasures that sort of make it bearable, when really the lack of intimacy and the lack of kingdom growth in your marriage is driving you crazy, but you can kind of make it bearable.

What I think the Lord would like you to do is to be like Daniel and not to numb the mourning, but to intensify it for a season with fasting and prayer.  And by passing by the delicacies.  This is a fast that everyone can do.  Some of you cannot go without eating because of health concerns.  Daniel was eating food just not delicacies.  Daniel was going through a time of severity to increase the mourning and pleading with God, for the advance of God’s kingdom.

Like Dr. Stansbury said a few weeks ago, that men need to be fighting lust by getting an accountability partner and getting a program for your computer like covenant eyes.  Well, I want to go a step further than that.  If you are fighting something like lust or anything else that you want to battle together in prayer, I will fast with you.  I just want to make myself available for anyone that is battling sin; I will fast with you anytime you want.  It is not just good enough to take something bad out of your life, you need to take something bad out and replace it with something good so that when temptation comes back there is no room for it and fasting can play a role in figuring out what that is.

We have ignored prayer and fasting and we have wondered why we know and experience so little of Christ and why the kingdom does not advance with power.  And I am here to tell you that the response from God will come from a response of our work, to our prayers, to our morning, to our fasting.

?As a work through which we earn his favor?  Absolutely Not!  The Bible does not teach that fasting is a kind of spiritual hunger strike that compels God to do our bidding.  If we ask for something outside of God’s will, fasting does not cause Him to reconsider.  Fasting does not change God’s hearing so much as it changes our praying.

We have been given access to God through the Spirit, we have been made children of God by the cross, and we have had our sins paid for.  There is no guilt in life there is no fear in death.  Now we can approach God, but when you look at this world and you see its fallen nature and how it is starting to affect the families in this community, we would be better off to let ourselves mourn than to talk about what a healthy church we are.  And deny the delicacies for a season, and to seek our God for greater display of our Lord Jesus Christ.  And I have news for you, he loves to answer prayer.  Our fasting will not go in vain.

Verse 15

If fasting is so important why would Jesus encourage his disciples at this point of time not to fast?

The arrival of the kingdom of heaven is cause for a time of rejoicing, similar to what is experienced during marriage ceremonies

They will then return to the practice of fasting to seek the presence of God, but they need not do that when Jesus, the Son of God (see Mark 1:1; 15:39), is with them. “Taken away” is an indirect prediction of Jesus’ death (see Isa. 53:8).

Verse 16-17

What is Jesus getting at when He uses the illustrations of an unshrunk cloth and the new wine?

Rather than patching up the traditional practices of righteousness within religious Judaism, Jesus has come to offer real growth in kingdom righteousness, which is like when new wine is put into fresh wineskins.

Basically, Jesus did not come to replace Judaism, but to fulfill it.  All of the Old Testament was pointing us to Christ and now that He has arrived we have now entered into a new covenant.  So trying to patch Jesus into your old way of thinking will cause a bigger whole.  And trying to fit the new covenant with the old one would make old one bust.

Just as new, unshrunk cloth cannot coexist with an old garment, the kingdom of God cannot be regarded merely as a patch over the regulations of the Mosaic law and extrabiblical traditions. New wine vs. old wineskins illustrates the same truth—that Jesus brings a new era with new ways.

The main point of this passage is not on fasting, but that one cannot mix the old and the new covenant, and that the new covenant era inaugurated by Jesus’ coming will require repentance (Matt. 4:17), regeneration (cf. John 3:3), and new forms of worship.

The Calling of Matthew. (Matthew 9:9-13, Mark 2:14-17, Luke 5:27-32)

Why would Matthew just up and leave to follow Jesus?

As we have seen previously that Jesus’ ministry was getting a lot of attention.  Matthew would have most likely had been in the crowds that were following to Jesus and if not he defiantly would have heard about the teachings of Jesus and about the miracles that He has been performing to authenticate his teaching.  The was by no means a rash decision, but a decision that showed that Matthew had believed in Jesus’ teachings and was willing to walk away from everything to follow Him, because he was worth it.

Why would it bother the Pharisees so much that Jesus was hanging out with Tax Collectors?

They viewed Tax collectors as sinners, not just because of their reputation for being thieves, but also because of their association with the Roman Empire.

Why would this be especially bothersome to the Pharisees?

This was especially bothersome to the Pharisees because they were to law makers and interrupters of the law.  They hated that the Roman Empire ruled over them and wanted to be a free from their rule so that they had all of the power.

What does Jesus mean in verse 12?    “But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.”

Jesus is pointing out that of course He would be found hanging out with the tax collectors and sinners.  He came to forgive sins and to heal the broken relationship between God and man.  Just like if you do not know you are sick you will never go to the doctor.  The Pharisees thought they were ok with God, therefore, it was those that knew the debts of their need to be forgiven were the ones that sought out Jesus.

What does Jesus mean in verse 13?    “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Sacrifice= Religious Rituals

Mercy= Steadfast love= Loving Sinners

Pharisees thought they were ok with God because they kept the commandments and made sacrifices.  However, Jesus is telling them that God desires mercy more than He desires religious rituals.  Jesus came to call everyone to repent and believe for the Kingdom of God was near.  However, the Pharisees believed they had nothing to repent of, which hindered their acceptance of Jesus.  Jesus came for sinners, those that needed the burden of sin to be lifted off of them, not those that were trying to oppress people, with more and more laws to keep from breaking laws.  Basically, Jesus came to set people free from the bondage of sin, while the Pharisees were to busy trying to make sure everyone else stayed in bondage of their religious rituals.

 

Based on this passage and previous passages

Who does Jesus call to be his disciples?

Fisherman and tax collectors.  People that if you were trying to change the world, you never would have picked.  However, because chose people that no one else would have ever picked.  God got the most glory, when He did change the world, because it would not have been possible any other way without the work of God.

Who does Jesus call to repent and believe?

Everyone, Jesus calls the Pharisee Nicodemus, the highest of highest, the most educated, and respected, and he calls the Samaritan woman, the lowest of lows, the most despised person.  Jesus calls demon possessed, handicapped, and terminally sick.  He calls everyone no matter what their race, background, social, or economic status.

So based on the answers to these questions

Who should we witness too?

Everyone, since Jesus calls everyone, we should witness to everyone.

What kind of friends should we have?

We should strive to be like Jesus in this area.  Jesus had  his 12 that were like minded and that encouraged each other to grow stronger, and supported each other when one was weak.  However, we also saw that Jesus had friends from all walks of life.  That is also how we should be.  We should not have friends that only look like us, talk like us, and do the same things as us.  That is exactly what the world does.  It is safe for you to be friends with people like you because you know what to expect.  However, Christ loved everyone and we should be also looking for ways to love everyone, even those that the world deems as unlovable.

Teaching in the Synagogue of Capernaum Authenticated by Healing a Demoniac (Mark 1:21-2 and Luke 4: 31-37)

The main point of this passage is to display to us Jesus’ power and authority.  In this passage, we see that Jesus has authority in the teaching of God’s Word and Jesus has authority over demons.

The people were astonished at Jesus’ teaching because His word possessed authority.  In contrast to their rabbis, who merely cited the opinions of other rabbis, Jesus’ teachings had inherent authority, the authority of God himself (cf. Matt. 5:22).  His authority is authenticated in the following verses as Jesus casts out a demon.

We also see that even the demons know who Jesus is, and the power that He has over them.  The demon recognizes Jesus as the Holy One of God who has come in the power of the Holy Spirit to triumph over demonic powers.  This is a messianic confession that Jesus silences.

So if Jesus is truly God’s Holy One, Why would Jesus silence a demon for telling the truth?  This is because, although the statement was true, the intentions behind it was false.  The demon knew that the Israelites had a misconception about how the messiah would return.  They thought that the messiah would return in full power as a military leader and over throw the Roman empire and establish Israel as a national power once again like in the times with Solomon, King David’s son.

Therefore, Jesus does not want these people to be hindered by a false misrepresentation of him.  Jesus did not want people to believe and worship Him because of what He could do for them, but because He was God and deserved all honor and praise.

There are two comforts that we can gain from this conversation between Jesus and this Demon:

1.) Demons cannot do anything apart from God’s sovereign permission

2.) Demons are not free to do more than our loving father permits, and God will turn it for our good.

 

The first rule that demons cannot do anything apart from God’s sovereign permission is the most relevant to these passages in the Gospels.  We see this when the demon has to listen to what Jesus says for him to do.  Furthermore, demons cannot even speak without the permission of Jesus:  “He would not permit demons to speak” (Matt. 1:34) how much less may they do anything more harmful without permission.

The second rule is that demons are not free to do more than our loving father permits, and God will turn it for our good.  Although the demon meant for his recognizing Jesus as the Holy One of God, to cause people to accept him as a messiah that will lead with military power.  Jesus uses it to display not only his power over God’s Word, but his authority and power over unclean spirits.  Therefore, the people were wondering where this man’s authority to teach the way he teaches comes from and the demon provides Jesus with a demonstration of his power.  As a result, Jesus’ teaching did not stay in the Synagogue of Capernaum, but went out into every place in the surrounding region.

Therefore, we know that demons will mean things for evil against us, but God will use it for our good and His glory, because He loves us.

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